Thursday, December 30, 2010
I love Jesus. Which means I don't laugh. If you love Jesus too, you're not allowed to think anything is funny. My Heavenly mansion will be much sparklier than yours because I do not laugh.
Unfortunately, I have! And I can't say I agree. After all, He wove into us the longing to laugh, the ability to see things humorously. Not that all things that are considered funny are for us to take part in (obscenity and coarse joking are out of place for us as believers - Ephesians 5:4). But I grew up in a home full of laughter. Pure, joyous laughter! And to this day, it's dangerous for me to sit next to my best friend sometimes because we always tend to get the giggles. Shortly before I met my husband, I briefly dated someone with the "Laughter / Loving Jesus do not coincide" mentality, and in this absence of laughter I found how precious humor is to me. Thankfully, the man I ended up with definitely loves humor as well!
There are lots of things for which to be thankful--maybe things that seem to be more "spiritual" than laughter. But I think pure laughter is a delight in our Father's ears. And I am overwhelmingly grateful for the blessing of laughter!
Enjoy a little video clip that made me laugh this week. :)
Monday, December 27, 2010
Their simultaneous answers?
I think that if we only focus on "God loves me," we can forget that God so loved THE WORLD. That many of His children are suffering, hungry, or in need. That God loves the 23-year old dying of AIDS or the 9-year old starving child as much as the 38-year old pastor in Dallas. That He sent His son for the ones this world has discarded. That we are to have compassion for others because they are His beloved.
And I think that if we only focus on "God loves everybody," it's easy to forget that His love is so personal, so individual, so specific while being so broad and all-encompassing. That His love is so "for me." That He called me by name and went to the cross motivated by His love for me. It's personal. His love is mine.
God loves me/God loves everybody. All at the same time. :)
Saturday, December 18, 2010
The reminder that God is always at work around us, and that His opening our eyes to what He is up to is our invitation to join Him in His work. The fact that this invitation brings us to a crisis of faith--what do I believe about God? How will I readjust my life to His invitation? And last but not least, the fact that it all begins with His pursuit of a love relationship with us.
With the invitation to watch to see where God is working, my eyes have been far more open to His activity, the burdens He's placing in hearts, the way He is preparing, and the invitation He is extending to me.
And the list is growing longer of things I am understanding that He is revealing. Back in 1996 I spent an atrocious 6 weeks working away from my family for a ruthless boss, and the testing had me ON MY FACE before God. But oh, how much clarity resulted. I came home with certain elements of my future that were just crystal clear, things the Lord pressed into my heart that I am walking in today. And I feel like this is another season of some real clarity, real direction. Believe me, plenty of it is still vague. It seems He is unveiling the "what" but we'll have to wait for the "how" to unfold. But that list is growing of things the Lord has been unveiling--simply because of His invitation to look to see where He is already moving.
This study was the one I had planned to facilitate in the Spring, until it began to be more and more clear I was to take a season off. As that decision was being made, it seemed this was the time to reevaluate some things, and that this study was to be a part of that process. I had already purchased the book for my upcoming study, so I just pulled it off the shelf and jumped in. I really highly recommend this study if you haven't ever done it. I have heard of lots of ministries (and by ministries, I don't mean all big ones that you would know, but ministries on a smaller scale, though every bit of God-breathed and significant) that were birthed out of simply watching to see where God is working and joining Him there. Even Proverbs 31--the ministry that puts on the She Speaks Conference I've attended the last two years--came out of one woman going through this study and seeing very clearly what God was up to around her--and joining Him in it.
Rather than dreaming up all the things that we'd like to do for our God, what if we considered how He is moving and how He wants us to be in on it?
Who is seeking--asking questions? We don't seek the Lord on our own. He draws us to Himself. Might be a neighbor. Might be a co-worker. Might be our own sons and daughters.
Where is there a need?
Where does suffering need to be alleviated?
Where is there confusion that needs clarity from His Word?
What ministry needs to be established to meet the spiritual, physical, or mental needs of people?
Who needs us to just plain listen?
Has anyone seemed to need a moment of our undivided time and attention? Again, this could be our own family.
I've been mindful that, quite often, I'm seeing Him at work in my family. And why not? It's where He has strategically placed me, after all. It can be really easy to be ministry-minded and assume that it takes place somewhere outside my four walls. But there are times when the best way to love and serve is to put down my Bible study or close my computer and just go make breakfast for my family. And those aren't interruptions to the work of God--they are the work of God.
And it's all throughout His Word, too...
"Moses, I have seen the misery and suffering of my people, and I am going to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians. I want you to bring them out of Egypt." Exodus 3 & 4
"Noah, I am going to put an end to all people. Make yourself an ark and though all else will perish, I will establish My covenant with you and your family." Genesis 6 & 7
"Joshua, I have promised a land to my people. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit this very land." Joshua 1
God is up to something. He reveals His plan and uses His servants. He did it then. He does it now.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Recently I was out with a friend when we saw a mom with her three boys. My friend (whose only child is a sweet and docile non-boy) said wide-eyed to the lady, "Oh, wow--Your life must be just crazy!"
The lady replied, "No, my life is blessed." And she walked off with her three sons.
Now even though there was a teeny, tiny bit of "M.Y.O.B." in her reply, I loved what that woman said! Even more, I loved her perspective.
Because I am sure she does have crazy, chaotic moments. I'm sure the noise level in her house can get pretty high. I'm sure some days she reaches her limit.
Or at least I'm guessing, because this all describes my life with only two! :) But it's still such a blessing. I'm not saying I don't need to get a breather in from time to time. I'm not saying I don't feel defeated. But there are times I feel people look at what I have and think, "Wow. Craziness."
Perhaps a little crazy. But if we're going to reduce it to one word, I'd prefer blessed.
Lord, let me take full inventory of what You have given me--all of it--and have the perspective and gratitude to call it blessed.
Monday, December 13, 2010
So go on, little one. Live the life for which He made you. Go give Him all the glory.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Thank you for praying for these little girls.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
1. Having my quiet times by the light of the Christmas tree. LOVE this so much I just may leave up the tree all year if only to be able to do this all the time!
2. Taking the Christmas cards each day and, during our dinner prayer, lifting up each family who sent cards that day. It's especially fun this year when both our kids can be in on this.
3. Driving around and seeing all the "Ho-Ho" (the Nelson family term for Christmas lights).
4. When the little kids sing in church this time of year. You're bound to see a child who doesn't sing a word but waves to Mom and Dad the whole time, one who is just waaay too into it, one with stage fright, and--let's be honest--a nose picker. But in all of that, these young ones are singing words of truth, and that is just awesome. And hilarious!
5. Seeing a nativity scene on a front lawn.
6. Advent calendars with something fun to do each day, like "Stay up late watching a Christmas movie." FUN!
7. Speaking of Christmas movies, "The Christmas Story." Fra-jeel-lay! Love it!
8. The fact that even though my kids have already encountered 3 different Santas so far--all who looked absolutely nothing like each other (except for the bright red suit)--by some miracle they still don't question the whole "Santa" deal yet.
9. Hot chocolate topped with whipped cream with crushed up candy canes stirred into it. Ohhhhh myyyyy...
10. Just knowing that even with the Christmas movies and the cocoa and even the Ho-Ho, our hope is in so much more even than our treasured memories and Christmas traditions. And that, by far, is my favorite thing.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
A few days later I gathered the box up with the other trash up to put out on the curb, but as I lifted it, it didn't feel quite empty--like something else might still be in there.
I looked into the box and saw one more present. I tore open the bright green paper and held one of the most treasured gifts I have ever received.
It was a scrapbook my grandmother had made for me.
It was full of photos--many I'd never seen before. It held letters I'd written to my grandparents when I was in Kindergarten and stick-figure drawings my tiny hands had scrawled.
To this day it's still so very precious to me. And I almost tossed it out with the crumpled up wrapping paper and empty boxes.
This time of year it is so easy to be so aware of everything that has to be purchased, baked, or accomplished during the month of December. We charge up our video cameras for our childrens' Christmas programs at school, we put stamps on Christmas cards, and we breathe a sigh of relief with the crossing off of each name on our shopping list.
But it's easy to forget the most tremendous gift that has ever been--or will ever be--given...
The God who became flesh and dwelt among us.
The King who submitted to a pauper's birth.
The sinless One who endured a criminal's death.
His name is Jesus.
When you take down the lights and the tree in a few weeks, will you have remembered Jesus?
Or will He be the Christmas gift you miss?
Saturday, December 4, 2010
So I kept reading. And a few verses later, my eyes rested on Psalm 20:7: "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."
And what's my memory verse in my "Experiencing God" Bible study this week? Psalm 20:7--"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." The Holy Spirit keeps drawing me to this truth!
And yet even though if someone asked me, "What's the reference for the 'Some trust in chariots" verse?"'-- I could tell them it's Psalm 20:7--but I wasn't even thinking of that verse as I opened up to chapter 20 today! And even as I prayed it, I still hadn't made the connection that this very verse was coming up in my reading. But there it was, and it just made me smile to see it there.
I love the Word of God! I love how it is yours and it's mine and it's real and it's personal, and is illuminated for us by the Holy Spirit who indwells us! I love how things line up like this. It's not the first time that has happened, either. And by His grace it won't be the last. I just believe He is hungry to communicate truth to us in His Word.
Oh, that we would show up for it!
Friday, December 3, 2010
Strange, huh? But it's like they just trust me to drive and end up somewhere.
I've been trying to live similarly--especially these days. It seems there are lots of question marks in lots of areas of life. Some seasons in life are more settled, some are brimming with potential change--seems like we're in the latter. And so we've been along for the ride--asking questions at times, but ultimately trusting our God to get us where we're going.
And at each stop, things are unfolding. It's like we've gotten a piece of the puzzle at each stop along the way. Do you know that one of your blog post comments was even one of the pieces? You just never know what God will use along the way to reveal where you're headed!
I won't say I never find myself hollering from the backseat, "Are we there yet?" or "Where are we going?"...I do! But over time there's grown more and more peace in just being still...
...and simply being along for the ride.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
In the best possible way.
Your love has ruined for me any pursuit apart from You. It's made less palatable the things I thought would make me happy. You've made going my own way unsatisfying. You've allowed me to be disappointed in the things I thought were sure. You've allowed me to come up short when I tried in my own strength.
Everything is ruined...
Everything but a life of abiding with You, and walking in Your ways. Your perfect, free, unconditional love Has ruined me for anything else but a life of seeking You. I used to be content with lesser things, but the more You reveal Your love for me, those things are ruined for me, and I can't be content with less any longer.
A gracious friend gave us the chance to go out to a fancy restaurant, and we were so excited. We had a lot of fun and ate fabulous food.
I'm not really a drinker so I just ordered a coke to drink. And throughout the dinner, two different men stopped by and casually asked if they could pour me some more soda. "Yes, please--thank you" I replied each time.
Now, they knew what I did not know--NO free refills. Aaaand the cokes were 6 dollars each (no price listed on the menu). We found this out when it was time to pay the bill. With tax and tip it came to over twenty dollars worth of coke.
Now, I am extraordinarily careful with our money. I weigh every purchase--even at the grocery store--really carefully. And because I coupon, I know I should never have to pay more than 79 cents for an entire 2-liter of coke. So the thought of shelling out twenty hard-earned dollars for soda really got to me.
The waiters never told me how much it was going to cost me, and I never thought to ask.
One of the waiters gave us his card at the end of the evening and said he would be happy to serve us again. Well, who wouldn't want to serve the crazy Coke girl?!? The guy made a couple bucks in tip just off my drink order!
Merciful Lord, let our eyes be wide open to perceive the one who seeks to trick us in this way. You are the One who gives freely and openly--when You give, it's not as the world gives, with ulterior motives. You give out of love, not out of desire to trick or ensnare us. Thank You Lord.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I'm grateful for different seasons of life.
Sometimes I'm loving the season I'm in, and I'm thankful. And sometimes I'm thankful because it's just a season, and will give way to a different one.
Last year this time, I was entering a season of plenty with opportunities to speak--and this "plenty" came after a multi-year drought. This week last year, I received my first invitation to speak at a church, and I was elated. Then it continued. This summer felt like a monsoon of opportunity, and it was awesome to finally feel that these words the Lord had spent years pressing into my heart were finally coming out. And yet within days of my last speaking event this summer, I journaled what was stirring in my heart--a preparation for another drought I sensed was coming. It was as though He prepared me for a stretch of--once again--not speaking. A deadline just passed for the churches in our area to book an event speaker, and no one from our team was booked. So now this is a season of being still, and simply being obedient to prepare as He leads me to do so. I'll be honest, the monsoon season was much more fun than the drought, but there's been no lack of peace. He has been lavish and gracious in giving peace in this dry season. I think knowing it was coming helped, and He was gracious to give me a bit of a "heads up" in my heart--and I think it helps knowing that, by His grace, another season will come. No worries in a season of drought.
This is a penny-pinching season. My work load has diminished, and it has brought strain for us. I hate being in a time of financial drought. Hate it! But it's not without worth--the invaluable worth of waiting on the LORD for provision, for seeing Him faithfully make a way time and time again. It won't always be this way (Hallelujah!)-- We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, even though the tunnel is dark. But while we're in it, I am peaceful--and so grateful for the way we've seen the LORD hold us up in it. No worries in a season of drought.
And God has been revealing for a few months--though way more obviously in the last week and a half--that the women's ministry in which I have been serving is to take a back-burner to my family. I have taken one season of study off from facilitating, and it was a decision that brought first a flood of tears, and then a flood of peace and assurance that the decision was the right one. And fruit will still surely result.
And I'm grateful for everything else in this season--like my husband of nine years. I love being "nine years married" to him. It means knowing well and being well known. It means laughing over inside jokes and anticipating what the other will say and do, and delighting in the trust we've built and are building. And I love having a son who is old enough to have some really awesome, really funny, really real conversations about faith and life. I love that in this season, he's not too old to hold my hand or kiss me goodbye in front of his friends. And I love having a little peanut of a little girl who is bursting at the seams with joy and dance and song and radiance, and whose tiny little voice cracks me up no matter what she says. I'm thankful for a season of health for family and friends. I'm thankful for our home--I never want to leave this place--including the living room where we have Family Movie Night or the bedrooms where I'm rocked my babies to sleep, or even the bathroom where I saw a plus sign on the pregnancy tests for all three of my children. I'm thankful for our friends, and that even if the LORD brought us here semi-"kicking-and-screaming" eight years ago, we were meant to do life with these people in this season.
And I'm thankful for the WORD of GOD. It is my food. And through whatever season I've been in, am in, or will be in, His Word is constant.
BLESSED is he whose delight is in the law of the LORD, who meditates on His law day and night. That person will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither--everything he does prospers.
BLESSED is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
* For more musings on giving thanks, visit Rachel Olsen's Thanksgiving post and visit some of the links!
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I mean, tending sheep? Seems pretty ordinary. Highly unspectacular. Boring, to be blunt.
Over the summer I read Psalm 78 and verses 70-72 jumped off the pages at me:
"He chose David His servant
and took him from the sheep pens;
from tending sheep He brought him
to be the shepherd of His people Jacob,
of Israel His inheritance.
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he led them."
He went from living as a simple shepherd to reigning as King David. And that lowly beginning herding sheep around a pen equipped him to shepherd the people of God. His hands were skillful because of his background.
Then last night I was reading back through Moses' life. And one day after living in exile, he was out in a field doing nothing more significant than taking care of his father-in-law's flock of sheep.
Riveting, I know.
But what happened next really was riveting! A bush fully engulfed in flames, yet not burning up? And the voice of God coming out of it? With an invitation to be used by God to free the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, and to lead them to safety as a shepherd leads his flock?
And in both cases, they were just ordinary men tending sheep.
I don't know about you, but that means something to me today. It means that as we go through this day simply tending to the tasks God has given us to accomplish right now, Almighty God can show up even in the mundane and invite us to get in on what He's up to. AND these seemingly unspectacular tasks of today could very well be equipping us for the call--fashioning our hands into skillful tools capable of doing the will of God!
So as you nurse your newborn baby or teach a room full of students or package boxes to ship out or cook dinner or work the late shift, or even tend to the flock living under your own roof, you are doing the work--and perhaps even the groundwork--of God. And consider that He may one day appear in these seemingly unspectacular places and say, "I've been readying you all along. Join me. All of this has been to prepare you, that you may join Me. You've been faithful in these things. Now I'm trusting you with more."
Where will you be when He calls?
Sunday, November 14, 2010
At night after my children are asleep, my husband and I slip in to tend to them. We brush the hair off of Ailey's face and give Trev extra smooches. We straighten their blankets and reposition them in the center of their beds so they won't fall out. And we always whisper lovies into their ears.
And they sleep right through it.
I can't help but think of how our God tends to us as we slumber--after all, we know that while we're sleeping, He is still ministering to His children. Our Guardian--the one who keeps us--does not sleep. No nights off. We're out like a light, and He's busy loving on us.
I love that.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
I did start to think something of it when the waiting room lights shut off and I heard the office staff packing up their things to head home for the day.
"Pardon me--" I said gently as I stood in the darkened room and tapped on the glass partition--"Is the office closing? I think we still have an appointment to see the doctor today."
The women were mortified that they'd forgotten about us. They ran back and got the doctor, who hadn't left yet, thankfully. We had our well visit. No biggie. Better late than never!
There are times in life when we're stuck in a waiting room. There might be a stretch of time without answers, or seemingly without any progress. And after we've been in there for a while, it can be easy to wonder if anyone even remembers we're still in there waiting. We're sitting there watching the time, twiddling our thumbs, and wondering if we've been forgotten. And really, a 45-minute wait in a pediatrician's office is nothing compared to three years of infertility, or nine months of unemployment, or a decade of praying for a prodigal child.
And before we know it, we're putting our time constraints on God. We hold up our agenda to Him and demand, "What is taking so long?" Trust me, I know. Because I am right there, right now. Were it not for the truth of His Word, I would be nearly slam-dunk convinced that He has totally forgotten that I am desperately waiting on Him. It's frustrating! But our God is faithful. Always faithful. And when we find ourselves in these circumstances we can hold to Psalm 27:13-14:
Oh, that we will trust He hasn't forgotten us in our waiting room, and that we will wait for the LORD. Not for an outcome--but for the LORD!
Monday, November 1, 2010
Typically when a child makes a mistake on a problem--even though they're told to just keep going--most of them can't mentally "just move on." Most will continue to think back to the mistake they made, wishing they could fix it. They'll shift nervously as their eyes dart back and forth between their current problem and the one they know they messed up on a few problems back.
And all the while, the timer is ticking away. And with every moment the child thinks back, a moment is stolen from the problem they're on currently. They're only allotted a certain amount of time to get through all the problems, and they can waste an extraordinary amount of time looking back.
It is distracting to dwell on the past.
But time is ticking. I've got things to accomplish today, and so do you. And we're allotted only a certain amount of time in which to accomplish them. And what an extraordinary amount of time can be wasted by looking back. We can allow what happened or what we did in the past to consume this day, to steal from the current task at hand. Or we can leave those covered-by-grace things in the past--and fully focus on where God has positioned us today.
Friday, October 29, 2010
I was touched. Even though at least one of those things is probably still a few years off, and one of them ain't never gonna happen.
But those insurance companies sure are wise. They want their insurees to be taking really good care of themselves because they know one thing:
Preventative care costs way less than curative care.
It's why my dental plan totally covers routine cleanings twice a year. They'd rather foot the bill for that than for a root canal down the road.
And isn't there wisdom at preventing what can be headed off at the pass--rather than trying to clean up shrapnel from a situation that eventually blows up?
I happen to believe that the Word of God is perfect...sacred...God-breathed. The inherent and infallible utterance of Almighty God. But afford me a moment of referring to the Bible as a Preventative Care Manual. If you think nothing more of it, at least consider its ability to steer us away from that which will be costly down the road.
Proverbs is full of references to our words--nagging, gossip, slander--and when we yield to the truth spoken about the effect of words, we can actually head off broken friendships and relationships.
Proverbs also speaks to the snare of debt--by avoiding it now, we are kept safe from financial obligation down the road.
Proverbs, once again, warns the simple youth from being enticed by the wayward woman. I don't even think this one requires further explanation of the disaster that can be avoided by heeding this.
And yet, for many--Believers included!--this book gathers dust on a shelf. We forego the small investment of being in the Word daily, and then wonder why we end up with such costly catastrophes later down the road.
Our God can redeem even our disasters and bring healing in the devastated places in our lives. But He longs to see us sidestep the traps that will lead to long-term effects of sin. A little preventative care of being daily in prayer and in the Word is our insurance of being kept safe from certain pitfalls.
Sure, it'll cost a bit of time each day.
But better that than what it could cost down the road if we don't.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The process is a rough one for that tough cut of meat, though.
Someone dear to me, whose heart is already more tender than most, is going through a "one-thing-after-another" onslaught of trial and testing. And, understandably, she's weary of being hit over and over again. But she still longs for the glory of God in it all. And yesterday she saw one of the ways in which He is faithfully working: Her heart is tendering all the more.
It stinks to get hit from every side. And in the midst of it, we can easily wonder what good could possibly come from it all. But our redeeming God uses every hit, every blow as a tool to tender our hearts. Because it's when our hearts are most tendered toward the things of God that He can most do a mighty work.
Monday, October 25, 2010
What joy for a parent to see her children choosing the things of God--even when nobody's making them do so! Denise has sown and sown and sown into her three lovely children for years now.
And today was her day to reap a little bit!
I knew there was a gas station within about a mile. I also knew there was a cheaper one about 3 or 4 miles down the road. And I'm a girl who loves to save money.
But it seemed like a gamble. Should I trust that there was enough to get me further down the road? Or would I find myself stuck on the roadside, knowing full well that I'd driven right past what could have remedied the situation?
Sometimes we take similar gambles. Ever been on a path of trouble, only to wonder how much further you can go without everything falling apart? "I bet I can go a bit further without any problem," we think. And maybe it will be fine for a bit longer.
But maybe it won't.
I chose not to chance it, and began to head toward the closer gas station. And right when I pulled into the station, the car began to shake. I did make it to the pump, but there's no way I would have made it much further without a problem. I would have ended up stuck on the side of the road.
We may think we can keep heading down the road without trouble, but we just might be wrong. And catastrophe might be much closer than we even realize. Oh, that we would pull over from perilous paths and seek refuge in our God--before things fall apart.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
You were faithful to preserve my life at my birth when the cord was wrapped around my neck three times and things were precarious.
You were faithful to protect me when I was a toddler and I wandered out of the house and was found unharmed on the corner of our street and Golden State Boulevard, the busiest street in town.
You were faithful in guarding my heart through the break-up of my family, and for pressing into my parents' hearts the need to deal with one another kindly and graciously.
You were faithful to bring redemption when Dad remarried an awesome woman who knows and loves You. And it spilled over onto us all. And I gained a sister.
You were faithful to draw me to You in my Sunday School class as a 6-year old. I remember everything about the moment when I prayed to receive You. You were faithful to forgive my sins--past, present, and future--and to grant me salvation.
You were faithful to command your angels concerning us to guard us when we were face to face with someone who intended to harm us.
You were faithful to comfort me with Your presence when I was terrified to sleep at night for pretty much all of 4th grade. YOU were there with me, and I knew it. It's what helped me through.
You were faithful to bring my best friend Kelly into my life. I feel like words are insufficient to describe the way that You've used her in my life.
You were faithful when I hurt a friend in junior high and suffered for three straight years for it. It shaped a lot of who I am and how I treat people now.
You were faithful when I was an idiot as a freshman. I ran barreling down a boy-crazy path and You ran along with me, establishing a mighty protection around me. It is nothing short of a God-ordained miracle that I came out as unscathed as I did--especially since I didn't even really care to be kept safe. Your protection of me was even annoying to me at the time. But I am so thankful you spared me of nearly all of what I would not want to have to look back on now!
You were faithful to welcome your prodigal daughter home on November 1, 1992. I knew You and was saved years before, but this became the day when I took Your hand and said, "I'm ready to walk with You."
You were faithful to protect me again as a young single woman, even though I found Your protection to be annoying once again. I wanted to date and find "The One" but sensed Your hand blocking my efforts. Those things weren't what You held for me quite yet. But instead, all that time You were faithfully keeping me for what You really did have in mind for me. And in the meantime You gave me the most rich, wonderful, fun, blessed single years I ever could have imagined.
You were faithful to provide that mixer. As well as a glimpse into Your heart and Your plans for me.
You were faithful to order my steps to Mount Hermon. And then to Boston.
You were faithful to lead me to Justin--and him to me. And finally there was this big "Oh! I finally get why You kept me from what I thought I wanted!" moment.
You were faithful in leading us to Atlanta. I won't lie--I didn't really want to go. But You've had things for us in store here--all for Your glory.
You were faithful in providing our son, the one for whom we prayed. What a tremendous gift, Lord.
You were faithful in making a way for me to be home for our family.
You were faithful to receive our second son in Heaven--we'll meet him one day.
You were faithful in giving us a daughter--an unexpected blessing. And again, what a tremendous gift.
And You are faithful now. In the season I'm currently in, You are sovereign, good, glorious and holy.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
So I tried to slow down, but there was a car right behind him who also didn't let me in.
At this point I was off the official road and in the breakdown lane, driving over pieces of shredded tire, frantically hoping car #3 would let me in.
He didn't. He seemed equally as unaware of the fact that I was completely off the road and now headed for a ditch.
But finally I was able to get over. I slipped into the lane and breathed a sigh of relief.
And you know, I really don't think anyone was purposefully keeping me out. I just think that as long as they had a secure spot in the lane, they weren't really mindful of someone who didn't. Even if that someone was headed for danger.
I can relate. It is really, really easy for me to sit back and delight in the fact that I have found salvation through Jesus Christ. I'm in--and that can never be taken away from me. But I'm also prone to disregard those who aren't in Christ. I mean, my hope is sure and I know the One who gives me hope and a future. And I can totally "Kumbaya" on that all day long. I can sit in my chair at church, happy as a clam to be there--and not give a second thought to who ISN'T taking up a spot. Someone who is bumping along in life--and heading for a ditch. Someone who needs Jesus.
Thankfully, my family and I are part of a church that challenges us to consider those who aren't yet in the room on a Sunday morning. But I confess I have a long way to go--Do you, too? Because just like the drivers who didn't let me in, I really don't think we don't WANT people to come to know Christ. It's just that as long as you and I have found our spot in the lane, we can completely miss those who haven't--and are in peril right beside us.
Lord, I don't like to dwell on the fate of those who don't know You, but Your Word is clear on the matter. That should rend my heart and spur me on to action! I have found salvation in you. But it's been by Your grace, and due in part to the people who weren't so comfortable in their own salvation that they forgot about someone like me. Open my eyes to truly see people who need You.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
She tried to quit many times, but found the addiction had quite a grip on her. Finally, when she was in her forties, she gave up smoking--and as her concerned daughter, I couldn't have been happier.
You can imagine, then, how incredulous (read: peeved) I was when my mom told me she still has a cigarette now and then.
I could not understand. I mean, why (why, oh why) would you dare to dabble in something that once had such a hold on you--something you fought so hard to stand up under?
I know why. I get it now. Because I do it myself.
Not with cigarettes--I've never touched one of those foul things in my life. But I have my own way of returning to my broken chains.
I get too close to the things from which I've been delivered. I forget the weight of the things I used to wear. And once I'm close enough to the things that used to hold me, it's not long before I'm bending down to slip my hands back into the ties that once held them. And before I know it, my feet are wearing the shackles again, and I'm yielded to a yoke of sin.
Bound. And once again wearing burdens I was never meant to wear--all because I bent to touch my broken chains.
Anyone else guilty of getting too close to their broken chains?
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Because even while I think there's something sacred about Room 5 where my grandpa took his last breath here on earth, I know that soon thereafter, his name sticker was pulled off and another put in its place.
We're all passing through.
The thing is, some are passing through with pencils in hand. The stories of their lives will mean something while they're here, and maybe for a generation or two after that. But over time, names are forgotten and stories aren't passed down anymore.
Almost as if that person is erased.
But what is done for the Kingdom is written in indelible marker. The prayers said, the money given, the Word spoken. It's all scripted in something that never fades, even when memory does.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
"The eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him" (2 Chronicles 16:9).
Two sets of eyes searching with different motives and two very different purposes.
One's our adversary.
The other is our Advocate.
And both of their eyes are searching.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
"A wife and mom," I replied.
Trev snorted and said, "No, that's not really anything. What do you REALLY want to be?"
He couldn't believe that's really what I want to do. But he's not the only one. Ever had someone not get your passion for something? Like the whole wife-and-mom thing--ever felt like people begin speaking a little more slowly for ya when they find out that's "all" you do?
Maybe these things wouldn't mean much on a resume'--but I think there is something sacred about blowing bubbles, folding laundry, unloading the dishwasher, reading your kiddos their favorite stories for the umpteenth time, cutting the crust off PB&J sandwiches, and letting your spouse have the fluffier pillow. I'm not saying I always appreciate getting to do these things. I'm like every other wife and mom who gets grumpy and ungrateful, overwhelmed and depleted. But at the heart of it, I am truly happiest when I can focus on my family.
It may mean that nobody outside a 10-mile radius will know your name. And people may pity you or think you're missing out by being "just a wife and mom." But I doubt at the end of our lives God will say, "I'd love to hand you out a "Well-done-good-and-faithful-servant" badge, but I can't. Because you were just a wife and mom." I think it'll be something more along the lines of "What you did unto the least of these, you did unto Me."
Saturday, October 9, 2010
But what a legacy he has left. I truly have never met a man who so "got" the fact that this world was for a short time, but his home was waiting in Heaven. All my life I have heard my Grandpa speak toward Heaven and proclaim His trust in the Savior who was preparing a place for him there.
Because this isn't all there is. Heaven's waiting.
We went out to California to see Grandpa not even two weeks ago. We knew time was short. When we were all in the room, he was pretty much unresponsive--Mostly, I think, because his body just couldn't respond. But when I had a moment alone to say my goodbyes, I began to speak John 14:2-3 over him, and this man who was tremendously weak and withered and barely over 100 pounds, used every ounce of energy to sit up, his eyes opened wide and he gasped--then he sank back down. It was the only response his broken body would afford him, but it was the most beautiful thing. And it didn't even surprise me that he mustered up a response to the Word of God. Not to anything else, but to the Word of God.
This is my heritage. And my children's. And their children's.
And on a day when we're mindful of goodbyes, we praise the eternal God. For in Him it goes on...and on...and on...
Thursday, October 7, 2010
One of my favorites is the one when he is trying to unlock his wife's car door from inside, but she keeps lifting the handle at the same time he presses the unlock button and they offset each other. And it happens over, and over, and over!
I thought of this one this week when I was caught in the same tug-of-war with my son. It'll about drive you batty to watch someone try to get into the car knowing you're trying to let them into the car, only what they're doing is only managing to delay the process!
A few months ago I wrote a similar post ("Click, Click, Click") about how my computer wasn't going quickly enough for me, and how I actually slowed the process by clicking on a million things just trying to make it do something.
When God brings the same lesson back around more than once, I consider it cause to sit up and pay attention. I'm just sitting here wondering if there is something the Lord is trying to accomplish--and in trying to "help God along" in the process, I am actually doing anything but. Now, Sarai tried to help God along by encouraging her husband to have a child with her maidservant. I'm not doing anything at all along those lines. But what if I am grabbing at some door handle somewhere when there's a God who just wants to let me into the car?
Please pray with me that Heavenly Father will bring to mind any way in which we're grabbing at door handles in our lives.
Father, You are sovereign and able and good. If there is any way in which I am trying to "help You along" or speed things up, bring them to my mind today and remind me that You are plenty faithful. Strengthen us to be still and to trust You enough to let go.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Ah, first love.
I can blink and we right back there. That season of life doesn't seem so long ago...but then again, it does.
I mean, I have to laugh at the idea of Justin and me leaning against the Tilt-a-Whirl, arms tightly wrapped around each other with the smell of fried food enveloping us. Because even though we were there together--and had a blast--there wasn't time to stop and gaze into each other's eyes. We were too busy trying to get our kids from ride to ride and from food booth to petting zoo.
And yet all the while, the love of my life was right beside me.
"I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. You don't tolerate wicked men, you have discerned the false apostles among you. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary" says the Lord to his church in Revelations 2.
Well, surely they have His favor for doing all of that!
"Yet this I hold against you; You have forsaken your first love."
They had forgotten where they'd been. They'd failed to remember the heights from which they had fallen. They had forgotten the love they had for the God that saved them.
Can't we all relate to this complacency of heart? In the chaos of life, we forget to stop and gaze into the face of our first love. We don't take the time to sink into waiting arms, nor drink in every detail of their character and countenance. Distracted by a million current things competing for our attention, we even forget what they've done.
Lord, You have called us to repent and do the things we did when our love for you was new. Help us to recount the things from which you have redeemed us, and to bask in our love for the One who did it all. Forgive us for forgetting.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
But I was flipping through and saw a chart that showed the lineage leading to Christ, and a name caught my eye:
Wait, Ruth's husband Boaz?
But that was kind of a fluke thing--because Ruth already had a life elsewhere--including a husband. But then he died.
I cannot imagine losing a spouse. Makes me shudder to think. My own stepmother lost her husband to cancer when he was only 34.
In both cases, God had redemption in mind.
Ruth found favor with Boaz as he saw her service and devotion. They married, gave birth to Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. As in David-and-Goliath-David, who grew to be King David, whose descendant was the King of Kings--JESUS.
Ruth ended up in the lineup.
After losing her husband, my stepmother worked with my dad, a divorcee' -- and they dated and eventually married. And as a result, a man and his two children began to go to church with their new family. And in a little Sunday School class, a six-year old girl gave her life to Christ. And while I know I'll never impact the world the way Jesus did (trust me, I dare not even draw the comparison), I want to spend my life impacting the world as much as I can with the truth Jesus brought.
Margaret Ruth (yes, that's my stepmom's name) ended up in a lineup--being part of something significant. God brought redemption through her loss, and if it only stopped here (which I don't believe for one second it will), her part in the lineup meant everything to a little girl in a Sunday School class, who is now a grown woman grateful for the grace God has given.
Ruth was positioned for the beautiful purposes of Mighty God.
Margaret Ruth was, too.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Okay, so maybe you didn't try to pull off turning in the words from "War and Peace" as your own college essay...
But maybe you pat yourself on the back for raising such flawlessly behaved children.
And maybe you looked at your last paycheck and thought of how you earned every penny.
And maybe you think back to the last time God used you and think, "I really rocked that."
No, YOU did not.
I was reading in Joshua 24 today, when God's people were being reminded of what He had done on their behalf.
The I parts and the YOU DID NOT parts seemed to jump off the page.
I took your father Abraham, led him to Canaan, and gave Him many descendants.
I gave Isaac to Abraham, and Jacob and Esau to Isaac.
I assigned them their land.
I sent Moses and Aaron, and I brought my people out of their affliction in Egypt.
I parted the sea and protected you from the Egyptians who pursued you.
You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians.
I brought you to your land.
Thought the Amorites fought against you, I gave them into your hands.
I destroyed them before you and I gave you possession of their land.
I would not listen to those chosen to curse you, so you ended up being blessed over and over again and I delivered you out of his hand.
I gave your enemies into your hands.
I sent the hornet ahead of you to drive them all out.
YOU DID NOT do it with your own sword and bow.
I gave you the land on which YOU DID NOT toil and cities YOU DID NOT build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive goves that YOU DID NOT plant.
WE DO NOT.
So maybe that pride over our earnings should be "Lord, thank You for providing this job and strengthening my hands to work." And perhaps we need to get on our knees and thank Him for His mercies and the way He has graciously strengthened us to raise up our children. And maybe it's time to acknowledge that if good has come, it is because our good God has been at work in and through us, and in and through our circumstances.
Because He does.
We do not.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Last week we headed to the airport for an adventure. Our flight wasn't until 10am, but my husband had to drop us off at 6am to be able to then get to work on time. "Three and a half hours until boarding--this should be interesting," I thought. But it was fine at first:
Sunday, September 26, 2010
I was frantically trying to get ready for a family photo shoot yesterday morning. I was tackling my nightmarishly curly and frizzy hair with my flat iron when I glanced up at the clock--It was almost time to go. So I thought maybe I would leave the back unfinished, since only the front of my hair would be the "seen" part.
I do that a lot, unfortunately. I get concerned with what's to be seen. I want things to look good and appear pleasant. Maybe you do it, too.
Maybe you don't want others to know how deeply you're hurting. Maybe you're scared others will know how sin has gotten a grip on your life. Or maybe it's that desperate need to appear to have it all together.
Jesus recognized this tendency in us and called it out in Matthew 23:23-39. "You spend your time shining up the outside of your cup while it is filthy inside," He said, exposing their motives. "First clean what is unseen, then what is seen will be clean."
I could flash my prettiest smile with a matted mess of hair on the back of my head. I could hide a secret that is allowing the enemy to gain an ever-tightening grip on my heart. I could grin and bear it while suffering in silence.
Or I could first take care of what is unseen. For then what is seen will be clean.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
We were headed to church this morning, and our visiting relatives were coming, too. We were traveling in separate cars, so my father-in-law pulled over so we could lead the way.
"Why did Papa pull over?" asked my son.
"He doesn't know the way and we do, so he's pulling over so we can show him which way to go."
Maybe I should take a tip from my father-in-law.
Because aren't there times when we inch ahead of the One who knows the way? Aren't there instances when we think we can edge ahead and sort of "help Him out" with some ideas of our own?
My father-in-law knows the general direction to our church. But without following us, he'd probably miss a turn he needed to take, or take a turn he shouldn't.
That's what happens when you don't know the way.
And we don't know the way! The general direction, perhaps. As believers, we know the things to do and not do, we know the things to pursue or not. But we're each walking a unique and divinely appointed path--and our reliance on the Lord to lead is critical. Of course our paths are laden with grace--but if we don't follow the One who knows the way, we will miss turns we were meant to take, and will encounter what He never intended for us. Period!
Search my heart, Sovereign God. Is there ANY area of my life in which I'm inching out in front of You? Any area at all? Reveal those areas in which we need to PULL OVER. They may not even yet be discernible to us, but to You, they are evident. So bring them to light for us.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Ministry at a stand-still.
Words of truth gone unshared.
So what happens when the inbox is empty and the phone doesn't ring? Does "No news" mean "No use?"
Back in 1997, a woman spoke over me that my words would be used to bring healing and blessing. I thought she was a little bit crazy. Maybe even a lot crazy.
But then in 1999 at the end of one of the worst, scariest days of my life, I was asked to speak at a banquet about God's faithfulness. The timing seemed laughable--not at all in a "ha ha" sort of way. But the Lord used that raw, real, terrible time to bring forth the words that needed to be heard. I remember wondering if maybe there was something to the so-called crazy woman's words a few years earlier.
And then came the 10-year desert.
And in the desert I prayed. And wrote. And prayed. And went to writing conferences. And prayed. And went to speaking conferences.
And waited. And waited. And waited.
It truly seemed at times that NO NEWS really meant NO USE--that I wasn't being used by God, that I was never going to be used by God. At least not in this way.
On November 18th, I woke up in the morning after weeks and months and years of praying and preparing for something I had absolutely no guarantee would ever even come. Normally I'm up early and taking care of the kids--but this particular morning I had just kind of hit a wall. Justin sensed this and got the kids their breakfast while I struggled to even get out of bed.
All I could do was pour out my heart to the One who made it: "What is there to show for all of these years? Will there ever be a chance to share what you have been burning into my heart for so very long? Were those words spoken over me as a teenager true? I know you're using me as a wife and mom and in other areas--and I am SO grateful. But will you ever use my words?"
And then I used this very phrase:
"I feel like I am in a wasteland! A land of wasted passion and wasted time and wasted words!"
When I managed to drag my pitiful self out of bed, I grabbed my Bible and half-heartedly opened up to the book of Isaiah where I'd been reading for several weeks. I took the bookmark out of chapter 43 and read these words:
"See, I am doing a new thing; now it springs up--do you not perceive it?" (v. 19)
"Um, sorry--but NO, I do NOT perceive it!" I thought to myself. I probably even rolled my eyes, to be honest.
But He continued.
"I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself, that they may proclaim my praise."
I provide streams in the wasteland, that they may proclaim my praise. That's all I wanted anyway!!
WITHIN THE HOUR of reading those words, I received an email from a dear friend. It was an invitation to speak at her church. I will never forget that moment--I must have read that email ten times. I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
Because, as it turned out, "No news" didn't mean "No use."
God has made a way to use what He has put on my heart. In the past year I have had some opportunities that have made me tremble with joy.
But I don't know what is next. I don't know what awaits. It may be another season of silence. And if so, then glory to God. He is faithful. Of course I want to be used, that I may proclaim His praise. But He's trustworthy.
And should I enter another "No news" season, I will know to rest in the One who was up to something when I could not perceive it--and fully trust the One who provided streams in my wasteland.