Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas in the Real World

I shared this quote in our Christmas letter in 2008.  It has remained with me and I wanted to share it with my blog friends this year.

"Let us avoid the temptation to make our Christmas worship a withdrawl from the stress and sorrow of life into a realm of unreal beauty. It was into the real world that Christ came, into a city where there was no room for Him.


He comes to us, not to shield us from the harshness of the world but to give us the courage and strength to bear it; not to snatch us away by some miracle from the conflict of life, but to give us peace - His peace - in our hearts, by which we may be calmly steadfast while the conflict rages, and be able to bring to the torn world the healing that is peace." ODB

Into the real world He came, to save us.
When we make room for Him,
our real lives He changes.

I wish for you, real reading friend, a peace-filled CHRISTmas...
the kind of peace that is a gift only He can give!

"I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart.
And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.
So don't be troubled or afraid." ~ Jesus
(John 14:27)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Let's Get Real! ~ Repost

This is a repost from March 8, 2011.  Read it myself this morning and felt the urge to repost it...

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to look at someone else’s life and think they have it “all together”…that they’re so happy…so “perfect”…doing so much better than us? Looks are often deceiving!

A friend told me a while back that she sees me and my life as “perfect”. I gasped and almost laugh out loud when she said it. “What? Get real!” I said.

My friends comment bothered me because I thought she knew me better than that. She knows my past (because she was there with me through some of the worst of times), but I guess she doesn’t really know my present.

She sees the thankful and cheerful Facebook posts, pictures of me and my smiling family. She sees the yearly Christmas letters and Christian blog posts. She doesn’t see the in and out, everyday life that I live. The dirty diapers, wiped tears and toilet scrubbing. She doesn’t see the messes. She doesn’t see me tired and weary. She doesn’t see my bad attitude and temper flare up like (it pains me to say) my husband and little sons do. These aren’t things that we tend to post on Facebook or put in Christmas letters, now are they? Nope, we tend to only put the best “out there” for the world to see, don't we?!

Although I’m very, very thankful for all God has done in my life, for His salvation and blessings. And although I continue to grow, learn and draw closer to Him as the days pass, I am not “perfect” and life is not constantly bliss. And I certainly hope that I’m not giving that ‘fake” impression to people. I want to be real! I want my friends to know that they are not alone in their struggles! We may not have the exact same struggles, but we all have some. If I'm always giving off this "better than thou" impression, it makes it difficult for others to be real with me. I don't want that!

I AM forgiven. I AM loved. I AM free in Christ. But, perfect I am not. The only perfect one is God and anything that is good in me, comes from Him.

The day I surrendered my heart and life to the Lord all of my struggles did not vanish. It is a daily process. Life is hard at times. I am all too human. There are times when I don’t feel very “Christian” (mainly when I take the focus off of my Savior and put it on myself). Have you ever been there?

There are days when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders even though I know it’s not a weight I have to bear alone. Times when I don’t feel like praying although I’ve learned that’s when I need to pray the MOST! Sometimes past habits, thought processes and feelings rise up within me. There are areas where I feel like I should be stronger, more mature, yet I am not. I want to do better, but I battle my sinful human flesh. That’s because I haven’t “arrived” and the truth is I never will. And neither will anyone else, on this side of heaven. My friend is comparing what she sees on the "outside" of me with what she knows is on the "inside" of her.


Let’s get real! Life is not easy. God never promised us that life would be easy.

So what’s so great about being a Christian? God did promise us that if we choose to follow Him, He will be with us and give us the strength we need . Because I know the Savior, I know who IS good! God is good and I know He lives within me! The “old me” didn’t have the reassurance and peace that I now know. The “new me” wants to do better!

Today, despite what I feel or what struggle I’m facing, I know where to turn. When I feel those bad attitudes rising up inside of me, I know WHO can help! No matter where I am or what I have done, I know He is good and will forgive me when I sincerely come to Him. I know He is faithful!

When I feel unlovable, He loves me anyway. He is my loving Father who will never leave nor forsakes me…so in reality I have no need to be lonely or to give into my fleshly desires. When I am weak and weary, He will give me the strength I need. I have no reason to worry, I can cast all my cares on Him. Although I am not perfect, I am covered by His blood. There is hope for me because He is sooo good! Isn’t it reassuring to know we don’t have to be perfect to be forgiven?!

Let’s get real! My life is not “perfect” and I am not "perfect" (whatever that is)! But, His love IS perfect…and that’s what is real!

Do you know where to turn when you feel so much less than perfect? Do you realize that you’re not alone in your struggles? Do you know you are loved? Let’s get real with one another! Let’s turn to the one who IS perfect…and let Him change our lives forever!  Let's love each other through all the imperfection...and grow together!

God is love, and all who live in love live in and God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, 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… I John 4:16-18

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rise & Shine ~ He did it again!

It's hard to believe it has been a whole week since Rise & Shine Women's Retreat '11!  After a full year of planning and praying, the day came and went.  But, OH, what a day it was!!  

I wish I had the right words to express the praise that is in my heart.  I wish I could tell you just how thankful I am, how faithfully God answered our prayers, how powerfully He worked that day!  I was, once again, blown away by all that took place there.  But, this time it was different for me.  And I can't put words to it yet.

The Rise & Shine Leadership Team with Susie Larson
(Leanne, Tammy, Susie, Judy, Rachel/me. Not pictured: Polly)

I thought I would have time to sit down this week and "hash over" my feelings.  I thought things would slow down a bit once Rise & Shine had passed.  Yeah, not so much!  I must have been in denial. :)  Life is busy (in a good way) and my days are full.  So, today, I sat down with my notes.  I honestly couldn't write fast enough while Susie Larson spoke last Saturday.  I have scribbles everywhere.  So many Holy Spirit filled words of wisdom to take in...and to pray will sink in deep!  The way God spoke through her was absolutely AMAZING!  How do I sum it up?!  I don't know if I can.  Thankful for her!

So, today, I write this blog post to tell you that I don't know what to write!  Sorry to disappoint.  On second thought, pehaps I do have something to write. 

I serve an absolutely AWEsome God!! 

10 praise points (in random order):

1. Susie Larson: absolutely the right speaker for this event!!  One scripturally ground, Holy Spirit filled speaker!  Such a delight to work with her.  She is the real deal!
2. Answered prayers!  Glory, glory, Hallelujah!!  Too many to list!!
3. Twenty to thirty women made a decision to follow Jesus Christ...at a Christian women's conference, ya'll!! 
4. God gave us a word as we prayed for R&S, emancipation.  I believe that word fit the day very well.  Lives truly were changed and women were set free.  One of my favorite things from the day was praying with women up front.  A powerful time.  Praise the Lord!
5. Hannah Burkle from Rapha House did a great job educating us on sex trafficking and how we can help.  
6. A personal one: I was sick an entire week before R&S.  The night before I coughed and coughed, even kept my husband awake coughing at bedtime.  On the day of R&S, barely any coughing...and I didn't cough at all when I prayed and introduced our speaker.  That's an Ah-mazing answer to prayer! 
7. Fabulous volunteers, including a wonderful worship band that blessed our socks off!  And a production team that got the volume just right!
8. Can anyone say, Scratch Cupcakes?!  Wowsers!
9. Sally Baker wrote (just for Rise & Shine) "Conversations With God", a devotional/prayer journal that we gifted to each woman who attended.  What a terrific way to help women beyond just that one day!  It is so cool to me how God brings so many talented people together to make all of this happen.  I love the Rise & Shine leadership gals!
10. Getting to spend the day with so many (almost 400) of God's girls.  Wow, what a blessing!!

More later.  Now, I will sign off with one last sentence.

All glory and honor to Jesus Christ!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rise & Shine: Emancipation


It's hard to believe that after a year of planning, Rise & Shine Women's Retreat '11 will be here in only 8 days!  I am getting excited!

We've been praying for the retreat all year, but recently a small group of us started gathering to pray together.  And this week we started praying for every woman who will attend by name.  It's an amazing privilege to pray for these precious gals...and, in the past, it has been awesome to see how God faithfully answered!  We're anticipating great things again for the third Rise & Shine Women's Retreat.

BUT something hightened my anticipation last week.  When we were praying, one of our prayer warriors, Betsy, started crying as she prayed, then she shared a one word vision for Rise & Shine '11:  EMANCIPATION!

e·man·ci·pate  (/iˈmansəˌpāt/)  Verb: 1.Set free

Synonyms: liberate - free - release - deliver - set free

This excites me!  I love it when God gives us glimpses into what He is doing, so we can sit back and watch Him at work. 

I am anticipating women being released from self-doubt and insecurity at Rise & Shine Women's Retreat...delivered from condemnation...set free from the strongholds of the enemy...liberated by God's abundant love...to "Rise" up and "Shine" as ordinary, yet extraordinarily loved women in a dark world, all to the glory of God! 

Yes, we're praying BIG for Rise & Shine '11 and we're believing BIG too...because we serve a GREAT BIG wonderful God who faithfully answers!   

Later, Betsy shared this verse with me:  Isaiah 61:1b-3a "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

You still have a chance to join us, get your registration mailed in...the cut-off is tomorrow (October 22nd).  Click here to learn more.  We would love to see YOU there!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Another Lesson from my 4 year old...Forgiveness

Oh, the things I learn from my children!

A few days ago I raised my voice at my 4 year old.  Yes, I know, I shouldn't do this.  And, yes, I know how important my words are...and that it's not Christ like to yell...and that I wasn't setting a good example for my children.  Yes, I know.  I am ashamed of it.  But, the truth is, I did what I know I shouldn't.

I'm sure you didn't assume I was perfect.  Of course, this all out proves that I am not.  As much as I love my boys and as much as I want to be the perfect mom, I still blow it more often than I'd like to.  Thankful for God's grace...and for continued growth. 

After I raised my voice, I felt terrible.  I asked the Lord to forgive me.  Then, I went with a repentant heart to ask my little Andrew for his forgiveness.  I said, "Andrew, I'm sorry for raising my voice at you.  That was't right.  Will you please forgive me?"  He said, "Yes, I forgive you, Mommy.  It's okay."  I said, "No, it's not okay, I shouldn't have raised my voice at you."  He looked surprised as he replied, "It's okay, Mommy.  I forgive you."  I told him thank you and out of my own shame said I was sorry again.  He said, "I forgive you, Mommy.  It's okay.  I already forgave you before you even asked."     

Did you catch that?  He already forgave me before I even asked! 

Wow!  Tears flooded my eyes...unmerited, undeserved forgiveness before I asked...just because he loves me!  What a relief!  What joy flooded my heart!   

I need to take a lesson from my 4 year old!!  Do you also?

Instead of taking offense, holding a grudge, and critically looking at another's faults; how much better to overlook and forgive...without being asked...not because it's merited or deserved...just because of LOVE!

Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.
Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 
Colossians 3:13

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Potential

This summer we had an impromptu MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) picnic at a local park.  Five of us moms and our children gathered together for a little fellowhsip time.  I took this picture during our time together.


A couple of weeks ago I was looking at this picture and thought about each of these kids - each so cute, so uniquely created by God (knit together in their mother's womb), each such a blessing, so loved and so special - especially to their mamas and especially to GOD.  They have so much potential!  One may grow up to be a doctor, another a teacher, or a missionary or the president of the United States (Lord, help them!)...and most likely many of them will grow up to be moms and dads.  They could grow to be very influential people!

Then, the thought came to me, they're not the only ones with potential.  God has a plan for each of our lives...and part of that plan for us moms is to be the best mom possible.  MOPS Internationals slogan is "Better Moms Make a Better World" and it's so true.  But, whether you are a mom or not, God has a plan for your life and you can make a difference in this world by touching the lives of those around you!  You have so much potential in Christ!  You can grow to be an influential person!

I only wish we could see ourselves, the way our Heavenly Father sees us.  Our face doesn't blend in with all the others in "the picture".  He loves each of us personally.  He knows just why He created us the way He did.  He cares about every detail of our lives.  He KNOWS we have so much potential IF we will surrender our lives to Him and follow His lead.  He has big plans for His children, plans that might surprise us...but we must look to Him or we will never fulfill them.  We don't have to worry, He will give us all we need to accomplish these world changing feats if we follow Him closely day by day and moment by moment!

Now, let's live up to our potential!!  Seek Him and His will and nothing will be impossible for you!

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
 Philippians 4:13

"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those
who love Him"
I Corinthians 2:9

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11 

P.S. There is a registration GIVEWAY over on the Rise & Shine Women's Retreat blog.  You could win a FREE registration for you and a friend!!  Rise & Shine is a great place to learn more about growing to your full potential.  The theme for this year is: "Making An Ordinary Life Extraordinary"!  :)  CLICK HERE to find out how to enter to win!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Equipped

I am the wife of one busy farmer. I am the mom of two energetic little boys. I am also a women's ministry leader, helping to organize a yearly women's conference. I am currently leading a women's Bible study. And recently I took on the role of coordinator for our local MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers) group.

Last week as I thought about all of my roles, I started to feel a bit overwhelmed. Especially as I looked at my to do list for the rest of August, September and October. As I have been facilitating a book about “Balance” for our Bible study, I wondered how on earth I was going to balance it all. I felt ill-equipped and unsure of myself.

But then, I remembered the call to each of these roles. I know with out a shadow of doubt in my mind that God called me to each of these ministries.

He gave me my wonderful husband and precious children. To be a wife and mom is a high calling indeed! He knew I was the right wife and mom for them...and no other can fill that role like I can. I take this role seriously because I know God does too. No other ministry tops this one in importance!

Recently I shared here about how the Lord clearly called me to be on the leadership team for Rise & Shine Women's Retreat. What an honor to be on this team for a third year!

A while back I felt Him prompting my heart to start a new women's Bible study. I have seen confirmation after confirmation that it was the right choice and am incredibly thankful.

Then, about a month ago, I again felt the lord pricking my heart to step up to the role of coordinator for our local MOPS group. A role I said “no” to at first. I thought I was too busy and had too much on my plate, but as I read “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby, I felt the Lord stirring my heart that I had said “no” too quickly and that He wanted me to join Him in His activity there. Funny, I was praying that leadership for MOPS would rise up to fill the call. He answered my prayer...just not the way I expected! I stepped into the role and gave up teaching Sunday school for a while.

STILL, I wondered if all of this was too much! Why did God call me (little ol' me) to fill all of these roles? Did I hear Him right?  Could I handle it all?

Then, I read this, “When Jesus asks us to get involved (calls us), He already knows how He will accomplish His work through us. What we need is faith and vision – the ability to see that God wants us to be His instruments, and the He will supply what we need.” Randy Kilgore

Then, this, “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your cause like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:3-6

Then, I read this, “Jesus stressed a daily reliance on the Father, who provides for His children day by day...As the Israelites wandered in the desert, they had no way to get food. Miraculously, God provided manna that appeared on the ground each morning. God's provision was sufficient for one day at a time...God wants us to trust Him...it keeps our relationship with the Lord in its proper perspective as He reminds us daily of our dependence upon Him.” Henry Blackaby

THEN, (only one more!!) I remembered hearing Renee Swope speak these words at Rise & Shine Women's Retreat '09, “God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called.”

I am CALLED and, therefore, I am equipped! The truth is: I can't do it, not on my own! But, through Christ's strength and the Holy Spirit dwelling within me, I (along with others) can accomplish His will. As I submit myself to Him, He will give me what I need from day to day, reminding me of my utter dependence and constant reliance on Him. If I will trust Him and commit all that I do to Him, I will see a righteous reward...spiritual fruit. Thank you for that promise, Lord!

The same is true for you, my friend! Each of us are called to fill certain roles in this life. Although we DO have to be careful about overcommiting ourselves, we also have to be open to what He has for us. What is God calling you to? Are you willing to join Him in His activity? If you don't know where He is leading you, ask Him. Then, be prepared to follow. Do you feel ill-equipped? Get in His Word and spend time in prayer. Remember He will equip the called...and go forward in faith!

One more Henry Blackaby quote, “God is looking for absolute surrender. We must have a willing heart to do whatever He asks, and then trust Him to enable us to do it...He loves us enough to involve us in His work, and He refuses to leave us where we are when He knows we could be experiencing much more of Him...” SOOOO TRUE!! Looking forward to experiencing more of Him, how about you?!

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of His call. May He give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.
II Thessalonians 1:11

AMEN!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fresh

As my young sons nap, I sit her at my table, now up from my knees beside my bed.  Revealed sin confessed. Tears flow from a newly refreshed heart. 

Forgiven.  Set free.  Renewed in Christ. 

A fresh anointing of His Spirit came like a wave crashing over me, unlike it had in a long time, and I had wondered why.  The barrier now gone.  Tears. 

Then, His words to my heart, "I love you, my daughter.  I love you with an everlasting love...don't forget.  Never let go of that love."  More tears.  Then, overflowing joy!  I still can't stop laughing.  Hands held high to Him. 

Freedom.  Peace.  Unspeakable joy. Change! 

A mile marker in my spiritual walk, no doubt.  His refining work in me.  Still basking in His greatness!  My heart filled with overwhelming thankfulness that He chose me.  That He loves me...always.  That He met me here today.  For the pause.  The moments that time stood still just for me and Him.  Together

More of His words to me, "You are mine.  Yes, you are mine and I am yours."  Oh, thank you, Lord!  All else in this house can wait.  In this moment I bask in Your greatness.  In Who You are - MINE.  In who I am -  YOURS, your beloved daughter!

Joy.  More laughter of joy.  Tears and smiles and praise.

Fresh revelation and a new beginning.  Now, time to turn.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I Love You More

Have you ever read the little book “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney? Such a cute book. Little Nutbrown Hare wants to show his daddy just how much he loves him…as high as he can reach, as high as he can hop, as far as he can see. But, no matter how far his love reaches, his daddy tell him that he loves him further…reaching further, hopping higher and seeing beyond what he does. It soon becomes clear that our love is hard to measure. It’s a great book to share with the special children in your life

Sometimes I’m like Little Nutbrown Hare, I want to show my Father just how much I love Him…I reach as far as I can, do more, strive harder. But, no matter how far my love reaches, my Father tells me that He loves me more! He sees further and loves more perfectly than me.

This morning I wrote in my journal, “Oh Lord, I want more of You.” As soon as I wrote it something stirred within me. I walked away for a moment to care for one of my little ones. When I returned, I reread what I wrote…and realized what was wrong with this very “holy sounding” statement. I wrote, “Wait a minute, I already HAVE all of You!” It’s ME who has to submit all of myself to Him!

Jesus gave His life for me, what more could He give?

He chose me, I didn’t choose Him. (John 15:16)

I love Him because He first loved me. (I John 4:19)

I can never out-give, out-do or out-love Him!

It’s not about how high I can reach or how much I do. He loves me because I am His…and I love Him because He is mine! He’s given me all of Himself, all of His love. And I want to return His affection.

His love doesn’t give me the right to do whatever I want.  This also doesn’t mean I should sit back and do nothing to further His kingdom. It simply means that:

He love me…

all the time…

no matter what…

always and forever.

And everything that He has is mine!

It’s not about what I do, but who I am…HIS!

Today I needed this reminder. Thought someone else might too.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by brining us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:3-8

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Friday, June 24, 2011

My Rise & Shine Testimony

Maybe you've wondered how a small town Indiana girl turned Iowa farmer’s wife became a member of the Rise & Shine Women’s Retreat Leadership team. Well, here’s the answer.

A good friend of mine, Jill, felt the Lord leading her to start a women's conference. She had felt this prompting for about 2 ½ years, but wasn't sure how she could ever pull something like this off. She kept praying about it, until it came to a point that she knew that it was definitely His idea and not hers. She shared the idea with her husband and a few close friends.

Long story short, Jill and her friend/mentor, Leanne, decided to take the idea to Orchard Hill Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa in 2009. Leanne had just recently started attending OHC. They were thrilled when the church agreed to host the event.

Although Jill and I only live a couple of miles apart, go to the same church and even share a last name (we’re married to cousins), we really only became friends months before Rise & Shine began when we connected at a Bible study. During that same Bible study, the Lord started stirring up thoughts in my mind and heart, especially ones about what my role should be in women’s ministry. One day, I mentioned in the study that I wanted to do something “radical for Christ”. This started a personal conversation between Jill and I, our friendship blossomed from there. Later, when told me about the idea of starting a women’s conference she said, “How’s this for something radical?”

Unbeknownst to Jill, also about 2 ½ years before this, I was at a women’s conference when I felt the Lord speaking to my spirit. It wasn't an audible voice, but I knew Who it was. It was like He said to me, "You're going to be part of something like this someday."

Yet, there I sat, I was pregnant with my first child, a farmer's wife living in rural Iowa…in the middle of “no where“. I thought, "What? ME? How could I ever do something like that?" I have to admit that I questioned the Lord. Did He get the right girl?! Still, joy rose up within me and I remember praying in my mind, right there in the midst of this huge conference, "I don't know how, but I believe that you will make a way, Lord."

I never told anyone about this. I actually filed it to the back of my mind. Every once in a while I would recall what He said, but still didn't see a way. I would say a little prayer about it and shove it back to it's little corner in my mind.

So, even though I know she expected me to be, I wasn't shocked when Jill came to me with this idea. I knew that I was suppose to be part of it, but I didn’t tell Jill. I just told her that I would pray about it...which I did. I was thrilled a few weeks later when she asked me to be part of the Rise & Shine team. Isn't this just the way that the Lord works? He opens doors where there doesn't even seem to be a door!!!

That first year was a real leap of faith for our team. None of us had ever planned a women’s conference before. We didn’t have any funds available when we started (not even to pay the speaker we had booked). We didn’t even know if anyone would sign up to attend . But, we prayed and felt the Lord prompting us on. We chose to step out in faith and obedience. We’re so glad we did! God answered one prayer after another, opened doors and showed us His faithfulness time and time again…and has continued to do so. This year we are planning our third Rise & Shine Women’s Retreat.

So many amazing people have come on board to make Rise & Shine happen each year, people who have such a heart to honor and serve the Lord. We’re just ordinary people who have been blessed to be part of something so extraordinary, something so much bigger than us. To God be the glory! He is so great, and greatly to be praised!

This coming week I again have an opportunity to step out in faith, to do something so beyond me…I’m going to be on the radio! Leanne and I will be sharing about Rise & Shine Women’s Retreat on our guest speaker for 2011’s radio show “Live the Promise with Susie Larson”. The show will air live on Faith 1090 AM on Wednesday, June 29th at 3:00 pm. If you’re interested in listening online, here’s the link:
http://www.life1019.com/on-air/listen-online/

PLEASE PRAY for me and Leanne as we seek to promote Rise & Shine well and, most importantly, to glorify God with every word that we speak, to give Him praise for the way He has worked through this ministry. We’re so thankful for this great opportunity!

Thank you for your prayers, it means so much to me (us).

In what area is God asking YOU to step out in faith today? God will use you in ways you never thought possible, and will make a way when there seems to be no way, if you choose to trust Him, obey and follow His lead. I find that incredibly exciting!! How about you?!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mama Always Said (Repost)

Have been thinking a lot about my mom.  I didn't get to spend Mother's Day or her birthday, which was last weekend, with her.  So thankful that we remain close at heart...and for cell phones. :) 

I have also been thinking about my own parenting.  As I've thought about the kind of mother I have and the kind of mother I want to be,  this "old" blog post from February 27, 2010 came to mind.  Thought  I'd repost it in honor of my mom and with gratitude for all she has taught me.  Praying that I can remember and teach my own children well. 



As adults it’s easy to “pick apart” our parents. We often focus on the mistakes they made and the things that we want to differently with our children. We tend to forget that like them we are human, and our kids will find fault with our “perfect parenting” too (Ha! As if there is such a thing!).

Today I found myself instead focusing on all the things my mom got right. She’s taught me some things…some that I have applied, and some that I know I fall short of living fully. Still, I hope to pass on much of her wisdom, kindness and compassion to my children.

Thought maybe I’d share some her wisdom with you too. :)

Lesson 1: The golden rule, “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” She taught me this not so much in word, but in action! If someone was in need she was the first one to jump in. She gave of herself without reservation, without laziness, without expectation of receiving anything in return. She often did these things silently, without bringing attention to herself, and out of the abundance of her loving, compassionate heart.

Which leads me to the next things she taught…

Lesson 2: Love others. Mom always has tended to see the best in people. She loved some pretty unlovable people. She remembered many that others forgot. She even said to love that not-so-good-looking, mean, toothless bully at school! She would remind me that even he probably had a mother at home who looks at him through adoring eyes, and more importantly a Heavenly Father who loves him unconditionally. She reminded me that everyone has a soul, and potential as a child of God.

Lesson 3: Hold your tongue. Now, I must admit I have a lot of work to do on this one, but it’s not because my mama didn’t teach me! Mom would be the first NOT to tell you that you don’t have to say everything that you think. :) If it’s not nice, or uplifting, or really needed, maybe you should just keep it to yourself. Speak up when it IS needed, in kindness and love, and because of your reputation people will be more likely to listen. You don't always have to defend yourself, trust the Lord to defend and protect you.

I’ll be honest, there were times when I was growing up when I saw this as a weakness in my mom. I would often think, “Why doesn’t she stand up for herself?” or “Why didn’t she just tell them what she thinks?” Now that I’m a woman myself I see the wisdom in sometimes staying silent. Not that I want to be a doormat, or that I can’t share my opinions when appropriate (believe me I have plenty of them!), but there is something beautiful about a woman with a gentle and quiet, reverent and respectful spirit. God’s Word says so, I Peter 3:4, “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” My mom has an unfading beauty that you can not deny!

Lesson 4: Being a mom is the best job in the world. Tears came to my eyes immediately after I typed those words, emotions of gratitude for the mothering that my mom doted upon me, and the love that I have for my own child(ren). I remember my mom saying this to me when I was a teenager, and for the first time realizing the passion behind her words. She meant it!

My mom made sacrifices so that she could be home with me…even as a single mom (she did daycare in our home). She recognized the importance of her role in my life, and I never doubted her love for me. She took pride in and made being a homemaking mama her primary role (even in the midst of “bringing home the bacon” as a single mom). Our home was warm, inviting and a haven for me. Even though money was tight, there was always good food on the table, affection to be distributed and words of encouragement to be shared. I thank God soooo often for the example that she set for me!! (Note: I’m looking forward to her coming up to help me after Baby Beran is born, so that I can gain more wisdom from this child expert!) (Note: when I wrote this in February 2010 I was expecting our second child, Noah, who is now 14 months old)

Lesson 5: Don’t be lazy. That lady is a go-getter, I tell ya! For years, I thought she must be crazy the way she kept her house clean (even in the midst of watching everyone else’s kids!)…and kept herself busy. Like the Energizer bunny, she just kept going and going (hee hee) even when I know she must have been tired. She did her work joyfully, often humming the tune to, “Oh, how I love Jesus” as she went about her work. She gave me a real life model of the virtuous and capable woman described in Proverbs 31.

Hmmmm…come to think of it, all the things my mama taught me above are described in Proverbs 31...

“She is energetic and strong, a hard worker….Her hands are busy…She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy…She is clothed with strength and dignity...When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instruction with kindness…she suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her…a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” Excerpts from Proverbs 31:17-31

I could go on and on and on listing things that my mama has taught me, but I’ll stop here. I’m praying that I can be more like my mom because being more like her would mean being more like Jesus.

My mom was not perfect, God is the only perfect parent, but she sure was good…and still is!!

I LOVE and APPRECIATE you, Mom!!

Tell me, what did your mama always say? What did she teach you without words? I’d love to hear!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stop that Whining!

Noah (13 mo) is teething. His gums are swollen. His diapers are icky. His little bottom is sore. I feel bad for him.

A few days ago, our normally very pleasant little man was rather whiney. Not sure why, but Andrew (4) seemed to join him in his whining spell.

Although I felt sorry for Noah and I love my children more than words can express, by that afternoon, I was feeling, let’s say, a bit stressed.

I started talking to the Lord, “Do you hear these kids? I don’t know how much more whining I can take. I mean, I’m doing everything I can for them and it still doesn’t seem good enough. They don’t appreciate all I do for them…blah, blah, blah.”

You get the picture. Yep, before I knew it, I realized I was having a big ol’ pity party for little ol’ me, me, me.

Suddenly it occurred to me…I was whining to my Heavenly Father about my children whining to me! Oh boy! I know God isn’t a human like me, but I can just imagine if He were, He would have been rolling His eyes at me. (Glad He doesn’t do that!)

Honestly, what do I have to whine about?! God has blessed me and my family!! He’s done so much for us! Why would I grumble to Him?

It’s amazing how quickly I can let my emotions get away from me. When I get worn down, tired or stressed, I can too easily lose perspective. Something so very small can temporarily steal my joy. Have you ever been there?

I have two GREAT kids! They’re healthy, precious and beautiful! They are a BLESSING from Him! It is an honor to be their mommy and to be able to stay home with them each day. Oh, and normally, they aren’t whiney children either.  :)

I have a fabulous, hard working, supportive husband...a nice home...great friends...clothes…food…even a sleep number bed.  :)  My list of blessings goes on and on.

The greatest blessing: I have a Savior! A Savior who died for me, so that I don’t have to. A Savior who loves me, protects me, blesses me. A Savior whose very own Holy Spirit dwells inside of me, leading me every day. I don’t have to navigate life alone.

All of the above are God’s abundant blessings! Reasons not to whine…ever. He has shown His faithfulness to me over and over. Now, to remember!

I knew that day that I needed to refocus, to stop the whining, so I could count my blessings! I changed my whiney prayer into a prayer of thanksgiving. Although our struggles and blessings are undoubtedly not the same, will you join me in thankfulness?

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances…
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Lord, thank you for all the blessings in my life and for loving me despite my whining. Please give me the patience that I need to lovingly parent my children. Please remind me that no matter what’s going on in my life, whether something big or something small that threatens my joy, that you are a faithful, loving Father. Help me to keep perspective, to recognize the blessings from You all around me and to be thankful. And I pray the same for my dear reading friends as well. Amen.

Tell me, what are you thankful for today? I would enjoy hearing from you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

He Gives and Takes Away

Last month, in April of 2011, we experienced our second miscarriage. I was 5½ weeks pregnant. We had spent the past 10 days rejoicing over our positive pregnancy test. Quickly, our rejoicing turned to heartbreak. I cried, “Oh no, not again, Lord!”

We had our first miscarriage in September of 2008, between our two healthy sons.That time I was 11 weeks pregnant. It was a long, hard process and, because my body did not go through the miscarriage process properly, I had to have a d&c surgery.

This time the loss was quick and no d&c was needed. I was thankful for that, but it was still hard. The waves of grief hit me and, although I knew it wasn’t the right question, I found myself asking God, “Why?”

My husband and I love the Lord. We live to honor and serve Him. We rejoiced over this pregnancy and gave Him much glory. We asked God to protect our baby. Yet, here we were, going through this AGAIN. It was hard to understand.

One morning I was doing my dishes, praying and listening to Christian radio. The song “Blessed Be Your Name” came on. “Blessed be the name of the Lord…you give and take away, you give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name.”

I even surprised myself when I whispered audibly, “Why DID you take my baby, Lord?” So clearly I felt Him speak to my heart, “He was never really yours in the first place.”

To someone who doesn’t know the Lord personally this may sound cold and uncaring. To me, it was comforting. I knew what He meant right away.

Although I don’t think he literally “took our baby away” from us, I trust that whatever He allows to happen in our lives, is for our best and that He will use it for good (Romans 8:28). I know that He has a plan for me and my family (Jeremiah 29:11). I know I can trust Him, even when I don’t understand (Proverbs 3:5). I know He gives and takes away (Job 1:21). I know His ways are so above my ways (Isaiah 55:8). I know He holds us securely in His hands (John 10:28).

He is God and I am not.

I must remember that even the two healthy children He’s given us belong to Him. What a gift! What an honor to be able to bring them up for Him! As much as we love them, He loves them even more. That’s almost inconceivable!! Yet, how reassuring to know that all four of our children, two in heaven and two here on this earth, are in His hands. There’s no safer place for them to be!

In the midst of our grieving, we celebrated Noah’s 1st birthday!

Look at our precious gift enjoying his 1st birthday:


The Lord GIVES life...and life most abundantly! 


Today I choose to rejoice in all that He GIVES!

No matter whether He gives or takes away, I will choose to praise Him. Even when I wonder why, I will choose to trust Him. In turn, He fills my heart with peace.
BLESSED be the name of the LORD!!

FOLLOW UP: Read about my 3rd Miscarriage HERE

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Find Your Purpose


When I was a young girl I believed God had a plan for my life…and that it would be something grand. That I would grow up, graduate from high school and that I would venture out to fulfill my calling. I didn’t know what it would be, but I knew it would be something BIG.

My mama told me that I was a promise. Teachers told me I had potential. I believed there was a great purpose for my life. Oh, the glorious possibilities!

Do you remember that little song, “I am a Promise” ? I sang my little heart out to that song. “I am a promise. I am a possibility. I am a promise with a capital P. I am a great big bundle of potentiality…”

High school graduation came. High school graduation went. Still I didn’t have a clue what “destiny” I should be seeking after. I had no plan. I had little confidence. And eventually the idea of being such a wonderful promise began to fade. I realized I was just like everyone else.

The thing is: God did (and does) have a plan for my life. The truth also is: He has a plan for all of us. Often times we spend so much time thinking that we have to find out calling; thinking that we need to do something big and important that we miss one simple truth.

Glorifying God is our soul purpose! That’s why He created us! Once this truth penetrated my heart, everything changed for me!! 

No matter what we do, where we are or how we get there, our purpose is to bring Him honor and glory! It doesn’t matter if you’re a school teacher, a stay at home mama, foreign missionary or a rocket scientist, as long as you do everything you do in His name.

Strangely, when we ask ourselves the question, “What is my purpose in life?” Hearing the answer “to glorify God” doesn’t really seem to satisfy us. We want more of a concrete plan laid out before us. We want to do something, to be something, to go somewhere NOW. We want to make a difference and we don't want to wait.

Not that it’s bad for us Christian to want to do something for Christ. As Christians we should have a desire to share Him with others. But, glorifying God isn’t just done in some big arena. We can glorify God in the everyday moments of life, no matter who we are or what we do for a living or what ministry we’re a part of.

God isn’t nearly as concerned with what we do as He is with who we are!

“I am the vine, you are the branches.
He who abides in Me, and I in him,
bears much fruit; for apart from Me
you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

I recently read some thoughts Henry Blackaby shared about the above verse, “In our zeal to produce ‘results’ for our Lord, we sometimes become so intent on fruit production that we neglect abiding in Christ. We may feel that ‘abiding’ is not productive or that it takes too much time away form our fruit production. Yet Jesus said that it is not our activity that produces fruit, it is our relationship with Him…If you will remain steadfastly in fellowship with Jesus, a great harvest will be the natural by-product.”

How do we glorify God? We must abide in Him. By getting to know Him personally. By loving Him (and others). By serving Him. By praising Him. By trusting Him. By seeking to honor Him with our every thought, word and action. EVERY day! In the ordinary moments of life. If we do this, the results will be great! If we don’t, our lives won’t amount to a hill of beans, even if we’re the most famous person alive. Apart from Him we are nothing!

God might send you somewhere grand, to do things that you think are way over your head, to fulfill a purpose that matches your wildest dreams. But, it all begins with abiding in Him...at this moment, every moment, of everyday. Don't underestimate the influence you can have right where you are today! Start there and the rest will fall into place. Be patient and ask God to open doors for you to share your talents. But remember, “fruit” doesn’t grow overnight! It is a process that takes time…and a lot of abiding! 

Are you searching for your purpose? Or have you lost sight of your purpose?  Start fulfilling your purpose today by seeking to glorify Him with you life. Wherever you go, whatever you do, whomever you speak to, be Jesus in the flesh. Live a life to bless God and others. It may not seem like a huge thing, but I believe the things we consider to be small things often add up to be the big things in the end. Just think of the possibilities!! No one else has your sphere of influence!  

“If you are walking daily with the Lord, you will not have to
find God’s will - you will already be in it.”
Henry Blackaby

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Note: I am a stay at home wife and mama. Who better to influence the 3 lives in my home than me? I go to a MOPS group with about 10 other women. I can bless other women there. I have 4 little girls in my kindergarten Sunday school class. Seeds are being planted in their young hearts that I believe will grow to fruition.

I also serve on the leadership team that plans Rise & Shine Women’s Retreat each fall. Last year there were 350 women in attendance. It is such a blessing to be part of this big event! It’s an honor to pray for these dear women, to be part of something that encourages so many on their walk of faith. Yet, even equally fulfilling to me is making personal connections with a handful of them. I love being able to pray with them and to have opportunities to speak truth into their hearts long after the conference is over. Ministry is there too...one on one.  It's so personal, just like God is so personal!

My point: it’s not about the numbers, it’s about planting seeds; seeds that produce lasting fruit. Glorifying Christ is never a small thing!

I like this quote from Jill Briscoe: “People often ask me, ‘What do you do on all your travels to faraway places?’ I answer, ‘I just try to make sure I am available to God and to the people on a moment-by-moment basis.’ That applies to what I do at home as well. In every part of my life, my job is to be ready to obey, ready to pour out.”

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Something Ugly...Something Beautiful



Jesus was mocked by the jeering crowd. He was beaten beyond recognition. He died a brutal death nailed to a cross. His side was pierced and He was laid in a cold, dark tomb. Yet we celebrate…because 3 days later He rose again!! He bore our shame and conquered death so that we could have life, life more abundantly! What boundless love!!

Isn’t that just like God to take something so ugly and turn it into something beautiful?!

That’s what He did with my life too! He took something ugly and made it beautiful. He did what I could never do.

I traded in my shame for His peace…my despair for His hope…my misery for His joy…my brokenness for His wholeness…my emptiness for his fullness…my sinfulness for His righteousness…

Life is good because HE is so very good!

That is why I celebrate! Rejoicing this Easter in all He has done for me. How about you?

HAPPY Easter!!

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Good Girl


Are you a good girl? I was the good girl growing up.

I was born to a godly mother, went to church every time the door was open and attended Christian school from kindergarten to 12th grade. I even asked Jesus Christ to be my Savior at only 5 years of age. I grew up with a strong faith and a great sense of who I was in Christ.

Somewhere along the way I became not only a Jesus pleaser, but a people pleaser too. I was the quiet one. Those who know me well now find that hard to believe. :)  I was the teacher’s pet because I didn’t cause any problems, made good grades and did what I was told. I had a teacher tell me once that I made her look good. I was definitely eager to please…everyone. I thought I was pretty good.

As the years passed I grew weary of being the good girl who felt she could never be good enough. As hard as I tried to be “perfect”, I felt I never quite measured up to everyone’s standards for me. And I thought that certainly must mean that I could never please God either. Looking back I realize I was trying so hard to live the Christian life…but I was doing it within my own strength, not relying on Him.

Before long I became the good girl who didn’t really want to be good anymore. The good girl looking for the next “good time”. I strayed from my faith. I quit going to church. I would think about God, but I wasn’t living for Him. I was doing what I wanted. Making friends, going to parties, etc. It seemed like fun…and a lot easier at the time. I’ve heard it said that sin takes you further than you want to go and keeps you longer than you want to stay. This proved to be true for me. As I tolerated one sin in my life, it led to another tolerance and then another. Before long I became numb to it all.

On the outside everything looked good. I had spent some time focusing on the outside, making things “look good”, all the while neglecting the inside, what really mattered. Oddly enough, through it all many of my friends still called me “the good girl.” Yet, often when I would lay my head down at night I knew that I was not good. I felt weary. I couldn’t get away from the truth I had been taught…the scriptures I had learned. I couldn’t escape the Holy Spirit’s convicting power. Unfortunately, most of the time, I chose to ignore Him.

One day I finally came to the end of myself. I knew I was't good enough. In fact, my life seemed to be falling apart all around me. I was 27, broke and had just moved back in with my mother . I had recently ended a long term relationship with a boyfriend who was battling a terrible drug addiction. I felt empty, broken, miserable, like my life was going no where…fast. What seemed like fun, didn’t seem so fun or at all easy now.

I will never forget that day. I fell down on my knees and cried out to God. Literally crying my eyes out with my face down in the carpet of my little bedroom at my mom’s house. I told Him I could no longer live life this way. I couldn’t live life on my own, I needed Him! I wholly surrendered my life to Him that day. Life has never been the same! My heart was flooded with joy. I cried until I could cry no more. I finally became the good girl who realized I could never be good enough…be He is!

It didn’t happen all at once, it has been a process and that process continues. But, as I’ve grown in Christ, life has become sweeter and sweeter. Despite all I did, He has forgiven me, cleansed me and set me free. I have a new life! A life lived to please only One. Don’t get me wrong, life is not always easy, I still face my share of struggles. The difference is: today I know where to turn in those hard times. I know Who gives me strength to move forward. What joy! What peace! What hope!

This Holy Week I have been reflecting on all the Lord has done for me. God loves me so much that He sent His Son, who humbled Himself to be born to die a brutal death on a cross. He rose again to give me LIFE, not only for eternity, but life more abundantly now! He gave His Holy Spirit to guide, comfort and convict me. Today I am clothed with His righteousness. Not because I am good, but because HE IS GOOD!

Jesus said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor - sick people do. I have come to call not on those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”
 Luke 5:31-32

Jesus said, “Only God is truly good.”
Luke 18:19

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10

I believe there are 4 kinds of people in this world:

1. Those who think they’re already good enough. Romans 3:10 says, “There are none righteous, no not one.” We all sin. We all fall short of Christ’s glorious, completely perfect standard! We all need a Savior. Yes, God loves us, but He also says, “If you love me, you will obey me!” Being “Religious” or “Spiritual” doesn’t cut it. Remember the people who wanted Christ crucified were religious people. They thought they were good enough…and didn’t want to be told differently.

2. Those who don’t want to be good. People who want to live life on their own terms. But, Luke 17:33 says, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.” It seems strange that in giving up your life, you can gain life, but it’s true. You can be made NEW.

3. Those who think they are too bad. People who think God can’t or won’t forgive them. But Romans 10:13 says, “ANYONE who calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved.” Anyone, everyone! It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, He will forgive you and give you a new life. Nothing is too hard for Him!

4. Those who know they’re not good enough, but He is! Those who have humbled themselves to accept His FREE gift of salvation and daily choose to follow Him. Even though life is not always easy, these people get to enjoy the abundant life! Not because they are good, but because they have put on His cloak of righteousness. And these people should not be judgemental of anyone else because they know how much they have been forgiven themselves!

I’m so thankful that although I went from being everything from 1 to 3, that now I am a 4! Where do you fall on that list?  It's never too late to become a 4!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hiding My Dirty Dishes

It was a Sunday evening. The dirty dishes were piled high in and around the kitchen sink. I’m a gal who likes to keep a clean house, but I tend to relax things a bit on the day of rest. A girl needs a day off, don’t ya think?!  :)

Wouldn’t you know it, some friends decided to stop in for a visit. Hear me out here, I enjoy having friends stop in - I was just a bit embarrassed about the heaping mound of dishes awaiting them right there in plain sight.



My husband said, “Someone's pulling into the driveway.” As silly as it sounds, I rushed to the sink…and hid half (or more) of the dirty dishes in the nearby laundry area. I guess I wasn’t embarrassed that half of them remained. Things looked a bit more “presentable.”

We visited with our friends. The conversation was good and I was thankful they stopped in. Then, it happened, somehow the conversation shifted. My friend commented on how clean my house was. She even mentioned the lack of dirty dishes, noting that I didn’t have a dishwasher (seriously, she did!). She confessed that she can’t always keep up on things the way she wants to. Instantly, I felt like a fake. I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to be honest. I decided to confess.

With a little giggle I opened up the laundry area doors and showed her my dirty dishes piled on top of the washer and dryer. She smiled and extended some gracious words. We then talked about how hard it can be to keep with life and household.

Later, I laughed at myself as I thought about that evening. I like to think that I’m a pretty “real” and transparent person. Yet, I tried to hide my dirty dishes…or at least half of them. Why did I do that? Did I think my friend would have a less favorable opinion of me if she saw my mess? Was it pride? I suppose it was a desire to look good, to appear well kept and orderly.

Yet, the dirty dishes were still there all along. Hidden or not, I still had to deal with them later. How nice to know I’m not alone in my housekeeping woes!

This all reminded me of how often I want to hide the “dirty dishes” of my life - past sins and current struggles. It’s easier to hide these things away. Why do I do that? Maybe I think others will think less of me if they knew my whole story (I’ll just share half of my mess). Maybe my pride wants to overlook my shaky past and current failures. I suppose it is a desire to look good, to appear well kept and in control as all “good Christian girls” should.

Yet, the “dirty dishes” are still there. Hidden or not, I still have to deal with them at some point. How much nicer would it be to know I’m not alone on this journey and to help a sister know she’s not alone either?!

You see, I think we Christian women all too often fall into what I call “poser mode”. Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall calls it, “Happy Plastic People…with walls around our weakness and smiles to hide our pain.”

It occurred to me after our visit that once I was honest with my friend about my dirty dishes, she felt free to share her dirty dishes struggles with me. Not only that, she had been looking for my mess and, as most women tend to do, she was comparing it to hers. I’m glad I was honest because she may have went away feeling bad about her own housekeeping skills, thinking I had it all together and wondering why she couldn’t do that same. That might sound silly, but we women are like that.

Ah, that’s how it is when we share the “dirty dishes” of our lives with others. There’s so much power in a testimony. As we share our story, it frees others to share theirs. As we transparently share our struggles, it often frees others to “come clean” as well - or at least see common threads that bind us together and gives us hope for the future. It’s so good to know we’re not alone in our struggles.

No one wants to meet a “Happy Plastic” Christian - someone unrelatable and perfectly put together. It’s time to get real - and share our history (and present) with others. There’s power in revealing those “dirty dishes” for a purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should walk around airing our “dirty dishes” to everyone in sight. But, I do believe that being honest with God and others is freeing for us and influential on others.

I like this quote, “The only basis of real fellowship with God and man is to live out in the open with both.”
~ Roy Hession

Would you please pray for me as I’ll be sharing some of my “dirty dishes” for God's glory at our next MOPS meeting? I’ll be sharing my story with this group of dear friends on April 12th. Thanks so much!

Therefore, having put away falsehood,
let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor;
for we are members one of another.
Ephesians 4:25

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Great Human Epidemic

Me. Me. Me. Mine! I want things my way... 

Selfishness. I call it the “great human epidemic”.

Those who have had or have ever worked with young children know it’s true…we were born selfish. Watch two toddlers play together. It's all about them. What do they say? “Mine!” It’s one of their first words. Their little worlds are centered around themselves, their wants and needs. Learning to share is tough. Unfortunately, it’s not something we outgrow.

My 4 year old posing "selfishness" for me. :)

My own selfish tendencies irk me sometimes. Just think:

I have accused my husband of being selfish - for not being sensitive to my needs. Seriously now, who’s selfish? Now, that’s the teapot calling the kettle black if I’ve ever heard of it.

I have called a loved one to check up on them - then, been irritated when they talked about themselves and didn’t ask how I was doing.

I have felt irritated (and sometimes slighted) because my perceived “needs” weren’t being met. Because I was not acknowledged, served, noticed or appreciated.

I have had a virus and have spent so much time at my “pity party” that I temporarily forgot to pray for my friends who have cancer (or are facing other major life issues).

I have felt depressed and lonely because I was so focused on myself, on my own issues and my lack of ability to deal with them. So focused on self that I forgot the Truth of God’s Word and His unlimited power to help me.

Have you ever been there?!
I sometimes feel insecure because I’m thinking of myself. Have you ever recognized insecurity as a form of selfishness? This truth was revealed to me through Susie Larson’s words in her book “The Uncommon Woman”. (I highly recommend that book!!) Why are we self-conscious and overly concerned with what others think of us? Why do we want to be perceived well? Why do we make choices in an effort to prove our self-worth? Because we’re thinking of ourselves. That’s called pride! Ugh! What a hard truth to swallow. Don’t think it’s true? Think about it some more. What is at the root of insecurity?

“If anyone would like to acquire humility…The first step is to realize that one is proud…If you think you’re not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.” C.S. Lewis
 In my younger years I was shy and overly self-aware. I was so self-conscious that I didn’t want to say or do anything in fear of saying or doing the “wrong thing”. Really I was selfish. I wasn’t concerned about how this made others feel or about making them feel comfortable. I was concerned about myself and my own feelings of discomfort.

I still have feelings of insecurity creep up inside, but when I do I try to shift my thinking onto others rather than self. I ask myself what others around me might be feeling? How can I be a blessing to someone else? What words may those in my life (and sphere of influence) need to hear me speak today? Who needs to know I have a listening ear?

I use to experience internal anxiety when going to church or any group setting. I didn’t like this feeing…and it just didn’t seem right to me. I realized it was a form of selfishness (focus on self). I decided to start praying before (and even during) church (and other meetings) for the Lord to help me to be a blessing to someone else there that day. I prayed that He would show me someone I could encourage or “love on” in that place. He did. And it took my focus off of myself and onto God and others. I continue to pray these prayers often. These days when those feelings of insecurity and anxiety start to creep up, I’m a lot quicker to recognize it as selfishness and take it to the cross.

Self*ish: adj. concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.
Self*ish*ness: n. exclusive regard to one's own interest or happiness; that supreme self-love or self-preference which leads a person to direct his purposes to the advancement of his own interest, power, or happiness, without regarding those of others.

Selfishness is a form of pride. Selfishness and pride lead to many other sins and losses. Think about it: marriages end, families and friends are divided, there is church dissension and separation because of selfishness and pride.

I deserve better!” ~ “I deserve to be happy.” ~ Why should I have to say I’m sorry?” ~ “Why should I forgive them?” ~ “I’m right, they’re wrong.” ~ “They should try to see things my way.”
Jealousy. Arrogance. Criticism. All begin with selfishness and pride.

“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

God’s Word tells us over and over that we must humble ourselves. I believe if we were truly humble we wouldn’t think so selfishly…and humility is the opposite of pride.

Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble. Thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”


Wow! It goes on to say in verses 5-8, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to (or grasp or to use to His advantage). Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave…he humbled himself in obedience to God.” 

Oh, to be as humble and selfless as Jesus! Oh, how life would be different if we took the focus off or ourselves and onto His work - loving God and loving others. It sometimes feel like a lofty goal for this all-too-human human, but truly it’s within our reach. Later in Philippians 2 (vs. 13) it says that God is working in us, giving us the desire and power to do what pleases Him.

We can’t do it on our own. But, by God’s grace we can combat selfishness and live the Christian life - looking to Him, rather than to self, to do what pleases Him.

I do believe that selfishness is the human epidemic. But, there is hope! This epidemic has a cure. It’s called following Jesus. The more closely we follow Him; the more focused we are on Him (and not on self) the less room there will be for selfishness. Oh, and we can teach our children (even toddlers!) by living it in front of them. 
                                       
If any of you want to be my follower, you must take up your cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” Romans 6:14

Freedom and Joy...
Looks a little different, doesn't it?!

How can you take the focus off of yourself today? It starts with looking at HIM, then others. Pray first, then act. Who needs you to reach out to them today? Who could use an encouraging word, a helpful hand, or a listening ear? How can you help to stop the “Great Human Epidemic”?  
 
How can I pray for you today?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Let's Get Real!

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to look at someone else’s life and think they have it “all together”…that they’re so happy…so “perfect”…doing so much better than us? Looks are often deceiving!

A friend told me a while back that she sees me and my life as “perfect”. I gasped and almost laugh out loud when she said it. “What? Get real!” I said.

My friends comment bothered me because I thought she knew me better than that. She knows my past (because she was there with me through some of the worst of times), but I guess she doesn’t really know my present.

She sees the thankful and cheerful Facebook posts, pictures of me and my smiling family. She sees the yearly Christmas letters and Christian blog posts. She doesn’t see the in and out, everyday life that I live. The dirty diapers, wiped tears and toilet scrubbing. She doesn’t see the messes. She doesn’t see me tired and weary. She doesn’t see my bad attitude and temper flare up like (it pains me to say) my husband and little sons do. These aren’t things that we tend to post on Facebook or put in Christmas letters, now are they? Nope, we tend to only put the best “out there” for the world to see, don't we?!

Although I’m very, very thankful for all God has done in my life, for His salvation and blessings. And although I continue to grow, learn and draw closer to Him as the days pass, I am not “perfect” and life is not constantly bliss. And I certainly hope that I’m not giving that ‘fake” impression to people. I want to be real! I want my friends to know that they are not alone in their struggles! We may not have the exact same struggles, but we all have some.  If I'm always giving off this "better than thou" impression, it makes it difficult for others to be real with me.  I don't want that!

I AM forgiven. I AM loved. I AM free in Christ. But, perfect I am not. The only perfect one is God and anything that is good in me, comes from Him.

The day I surrendered my heart and life to the Lord all of my struggles did not vanish. Life is hard at times. I am all too human. There are times when I don’t feel very “Christian” (mainly when I take the focus off of my Savior and put it on myself). Have you ever been there? There are days when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders even though I know it’s not a weight I have to bear alone. Times when I don’t feel like praying although I’ve learned that’s when I need to pray the MOST! Sometimes past habits, thought processes and feelings rise up within me. There are areas where I feel like I should be stronger, more mature, yet I am not. I want to do better, but I battle my sinful human flesh.  That’s because I haven’t “arrived” and the truth is I never will. And neither will anyone else, on this side of heaven. 

Let’s get real! Life is not easy. God never promised us that life would be easy.

So what’s so great about being a Christian?  God did promise us that if we choose to follow Him, He will be with us and give us the strength we need . Because I know the Savior, I know who IS good! God is good and I know He lives within me! The “old me” didn’t have the reassurance and peace that I now know. The “new me” wants to do better!

Today, despite what I feel or what struggle I’m facing, I know where to turn. When I feel those bad attitudes rising up inside of me, I know WHO can help! No matter where I am or what I have done, I know He is good and will forgive me when I sincerely come to Him. He is faithful!

When I feel unlovable, He loves me anyway. He is my loving Father who will never leave nor forsakes me…so in reality I have no need to be lonely or to give into my fleshly desires. When I am weak and weary, He will give me the strength I need. I have no reason to worry, I can cast all my cares on Him. Although I am not perfect, I am covered by His blood. There is hope for me because He is sooo good! Isn’t it reassuring to know we don’t have to be perfect to be forgiven?!

Let’s get real! My life is not “perfect” (whatever that is)! But, it is so much better with Him because His love IS perfect…and that’s what is real!

Do you know where to turn when you feel so much less than perfect? Do you realize that you’re not alone in your struggles? Do you know you are loved? Let’s get real with one another! Let’s turn to the one who IS perfect…and let Him change our lives forever!

God is love, and all who live in love live in and God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, 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… I John 4:16-18

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cleaning Up

Being the mom of two young boys, I clean up a lot of messes.

Noah is in this stage, at nearly 10 months old, of flinging food from his highchair tray. He seems to take joy in seeing how far he can make it fly. He giggles and I clean up.

Some of you may remember writing about one of those messy days back in May, when I shared about Andrew writing on our light tan carpet with one of “the most washable markers in the world”. Yeah, not so much. That was a whale of a mess. A stain is still there.

On an average day at our house there is finger paint smeared, formula dribbled, and toilets misaimed (boys!). There is food dropped and bath water spilled. There are fingerprints on windows, mirrors and furniture. There are toys scattered about. There are runny noses and dirty bottoms to wipe. Not to mention all the laundry and dishes that never seem to end. Oh, and most recently, toilet paper rolls unrolled (over and over).

                                                                   
Thanks Noah. :) 

Hey, it’s all just part of having children.

BUT I’ve come to learn that it’s better when I “stay on top of things”. It’s best if I clean up the juice on the linoleum (or the marker on the carpet) right away rather than wait until it’s a dried up sticky mess.

Most messes can be cleaned up rather easily, if they’re dealt with right away. If I don’t let me guard down and keep on top of it, the house won’t end up in shambles. Nor will it be as overwhelming to clean a little at a time, as if it would be if I left all of it for later.

You know, sin is kind of like that too. I’m starting to learn that when I stay on top of things, confessing sin as soon as conviction comes, I’m much better off. They call this keeping “short sin accounts”…in other words, giving account to God for our sin as quickly as we recognize it as sin. This means dealing with it “head on”. Confessing and forsaking (turning away from) our sin as the Spirit convicts our heart.

Our sins can be dealt with more easily when they’re not allowed to take root. If I keep on top of things, confessing and forsaking my sin as the Spirit convicts, I probably won’t end up with a life in shambles. Nor will it be as overwhelming as dealing with all of them at once later. It could save us from some “sticky” messes.

Oh, and even if our sin caused a whale of a mess (like Andrew’s marker on my carpet), NO MESS is too big for God to clean up! Confess and forsake. He will forgive and forget. His blood cleanses us whiter than snow.  No stains!


Remember repentance is not a one time thing, it’s an ongoing process. We, as Christians, need to recognize sin in our lives as it comes. Confess and forsake. Keep things clean, friends.

But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness (or unrighteousness).
I John 1:9

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7

Do you have sin that needs to be dealt with today, friend?

If you've never repented, admitting your sin and your need for a Savior to cleanse you, this is the day for that too! Read the scriptures above.  He is faithful to forgive and cleanse us from ALL sin!  All you have to do is ask!  That's the BEST kind of cleaning up!  :)  And remember there's no mess too big for Him to clean!