Friday, November 30, 2012

Blog Break

It's really not a lack of things to write.  It's really not a lack of desire to do so.  I think of things to share.  So much really.  Yet, words and time escape me.  Lacking direction.  It's become a source of frustration for me. 

So today I announce a break.  A break from writing on my blog until the message is more clear.  I will take the time to focus in on the One who compels me to write...and seek His direction on what comes next for me and this blog. 

Best wishes to my reading friends.  Thank you for your patience. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

He is faithful! (follow up from previous post)

Sometimes the only words that explain something are "He is faithful!" 

In my last post, I shared about some of the trials my family has faced this year.  The most recent one being a fractured leg for our little Noah (2 1/2).  I asked my blog friends to pray. 
Well, I need to give you an update. Yesterday we took Noah back to the doctor for more x-rays.  Guess what they found.  He is all better!!  No fracture.  Although his leg was a bit stiff (from not using it for 10 days), he was able to walk.  Like me, all the nurses in the nurses station held their breath and let out a gasp as they saw him walk stiffly from the doctor's office to the sticker station.  He left there without a splint or cast.  Amazing!
There's really only one explanation for it...God's healing hand!  The doctor couldn't explain it.  And I have to admit, although I had prayed for it to happen, I was so surprised (God never ceases to amaze me!).  My heart flooded with joy and praise to the Faithful One
"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!  His faithful love endures forever."
Psalm 118:1
I spent the rest of the day watching with delight as my little boy enjoyed walking and even running around the house along with his big brother.  Both of them giggling.  Admittedly this is something I most often took for granted before.  My heart rejoiced for all that we, health, joy...the list goes on and on.
I realize that God doesn't always answer prayers this way. This time He did.  He is faithful no matter how He answers.  He deserves our praise for all He has done and all He has given.  Every good thing comes from Him.  And He helps us through the hard times. 
God answered our prayers.  He continues to show Himself faithful.  ALL praise, glory, honor and thanks to Him!  His faithful love endures forever!
P.S. Thank you to those of you prayed!  I pray this increases your faith and strengthen your prayer life. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Faithful in the Hard Times

Sometimes you wonder why trials seem to come "all at once"...

This has been quite a year for me and my family.  Starting last December with an ER visit for stitches for our oldest and gluten intolerance tests that lead to 7 months of a gluten free diet for my youngest, to my husband's ER visit and appendectomy in January, to my Dad's brain tumor diagnosis in February, to my miscarriage and d&c in March...STICK WITH ME HERE...this is not a pity party.  Just stating some facts so you know where I'm coming from....Then, there was my Dad's surgery and a few trips to a fertility specialist (since we'd had 3 miscarriages) to get meds that ended up making me sick.  After that another ER visit in July, this time for me...I had an unidentified infection that made me very sick.  All of this in the midst of the worst drought our farm has seen in over 20 years.  Last month (September) I got very sick, and ended up having my gallbladder removed.  

Now it's October.  What is it this month?  Well, it's a fractured leg for my 2 1/2 year old.  Goodness gracious!! 

As you can see, he's in good spirits.  Poor little fella!
It was such a simple thing, I stopped the swing, he hopped off, grabbed his leg and said, "Oww! Leg hurt me."  I thought he was fine, but later that evening he couldn't bear any weight on it.  I felt terrible...and still do!!

This brings with it more complications than just a splint on his leg (although that's hard enough) Mommy (me) needing to carry him (35 lbs of solid boy) everywhere...while still under weight restriction after surgery.  Active little boys should be able to run, play and ride trikes.  We've had to be creative to find ways to keep him busy, without being up.

You know, after a while, you really do start to wonder why so many trials come "all at once".
Today I found solace in I Peter 1.  Verse 6 says, So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.

I'll admit some days it is hard, but I remind myself that I must keep eternal perspective.  This life is but a vapor.  This world is a fallen, imperfect place where "stuff" happens...and sometimes those things happen all at once.  This place is not my home.  Something better is coming.

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold -though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.  So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (vs 7)

The question is, is my faith genuine?  It's easy to say we have faith, but what about when the hard times come.  Faith is taking God at His Word. 

He says He has good plans for us (Jer 29:11). 
He says He works all things together for good for those who love Him (Rom 8:28).
He says that if we trust Him and seek Him, He will direct our paths (Prov 3:5).
He says He is faithful and will do what He says (I Thess 5:24).

Do I believe it?

You love Him even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls. (vs 8-9)

Oh, I believe...Lord, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24).  Although I have never seen Him, I have seen Him.  He has proved Himself faithful time and time again.  Yet, I long to know Him more.  To trust Him more whole-heartedly, undivided and unwaveringly.  Yes, I love Him.  I know He loves me.  So, I choose to walk in faith.  I know that often circumstances are not what they seem on the surface.  I believe He will see us through this fire...and whatever lies ahead!  And, I believe, afterward, we will have a deeper level of trust in the One who made us (I'm praying this for my husband too). 

"When you are in the midst of your trials, your Lord will reveal His character to you in ways you never knew. You will experience His strong and comforting presence. Like Job, you will learn that your Lord will remain, even when everyone else abandons you. You will see God more clearly as He takes you through the dark times. Then you will experience God in ways you had previously only heard about from others." ~ Experiencing God Day By Day ~ Blackaby

As I choose to trust and lean in on Him for strength and hope through the craziness, He reveals Himself to me in new ways.  I praise Him for all that's going well...and it's a lot really.  Truly we are blessed!  When I remember to see, I rejoice with a "glorious, inexpressible joy".  When I practice faith I am filled with the peace that passes all comprehension.  God is good...all the time! 

When this year has ended, I pray I remember how faithful He was, especially on those days when this life's unavoidable trials come again.  Then, I pray that, one day, when I stand before Him, He will find that I also was faithful!

This is not only true for me, readers.  This is true for you.  No matter what you're going through you can choose to trust Him through it.  He promised He would go with you (Is 43:2), that He would never leave nor forsake you (Heb 13:5).  Will you take Him at His Word?  Choose to see all of life's blessings and praise Him today.

P.S. Friends, will you please pray for my little Noah as he goes back to the doctor on Monday for additional x-rays?  The x-rays will show how bad the fracture is or is not and the doctor will decide whether he needs a cast or not.  I appreciate faith filled prayers more than you know! :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Religious Holes ~ ReNEWed Life '12

Where did the past month go?  I meant to write this post much sooner.  I can tell you that I haven’t written because I had gallbladder surgery 10 days ago, that it’s harvest time on the farm and that I have many (perhaps too many) irons in the fire…including homeschooling our big kindergartener.  All of that is true. 
Yet, I think the real reason I haven’t taken the time to write is because I promised a post about “empty religion” and how it once limited and defined me.  I knew this one would be a hard one for me.  One I’ve wanted to write for a long time, but haven’t because words escaped me.  Today, I hope to keep it simple, to the point and free of trying to show my thoughts from every angle.

On August 11th, I was privileged to be at ReNEWed Life Women’s Event, a women’s conference I was blessed to help organize in our rural community in northeast Iowa.  National speaker and author Lisa Whittle challenged and encouraged us, sharing three messages that day.  The second message she shared was titled, “Holes Bring Hope”.   Lisa said, “While holes keep us from some things, they also provide us a way to God, an opportunity to move toward God…If we’re desperate enough, our lives will change.”
Lisa Whittle also said, “Holes limit and define us.”  She talked about the holes of empty religion, roles and experiences.  While I have let roles and experiences limit and define me, it was the holes of religion that stood out to me as Lisa spoke.  Because, you see, I once had some major religious holes.

I grew up going to church, went to Christian school from kindergarten to graduation day and knew all the “right” scriptures and religious answers.  It was a bit confusing because as a teenager I went to one denomination’s school, another denomination’s church and was taught yet another religion at home.  They were all very different, but they had one thing in common…they taught me (whether trying or not) to focus on my “performance” (as Lisa Whittle put it).     
In my early twenties I became so discouraged.  I had tried and strived and felt I had failed. There were so many rules to follow.  I ran toward religious perfection and fell flat on my face.  I saw it happen to many of those around me too.   I believed I could never measure up, that I would never be good enough.  So why try?  Of course, those were lies straight from the pit of hell.  But, that was the hole these religions had left in me.  My focus was on performance ( what I could do),  rather than His grace (what He had already done).

I turned my back on religion, and God.   I paid the price.  I came to a place of utter misery.  One day I literally fell on my face before God.  It was right there in my bedroom, face down in the carpet, I cried out to Him.  Because He is gracious He heard me and answered.   I surrendered my life to Him that day, not to a religion, but to a relationship with the one true God, through His Son Jesus. 
“You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.” Psalm 86:5

The more I get to know my gracious LORD, the more I understand His love.  The more I understand His love and grace, the more I love Him.  Religion most definitely can limit and define you.  But relationship, oh sweet relationship with Him, it sets you free…and fills holes.
As Lisa said, “…holes can also provide us a way to God, an opportunity to move toward God.”  I’m so thankful I didn’t stay stuck in empty religion, that in my desperation I turned to a relationship with the one true God.  He changed everything! 

Today I am a member of and serve in my local church.  I am a women’s ministry leader.  But I know I am not defined by my religion or my roles or my performance.   Although I long to obey Him and see improvement year after year, it’s not about following a list of rules.   I know I’m not defined by what I do.   I’m defined by who I am…His!  And with Him as my constant companion, I am not limited.  Nothing is impossible with Him!
Have you ever felt trapped in empty religion, either now or in the past?  There’s a big difference between knowing  about God and actually knowing God.  Do you wish for a more fulfilling, thriving relationship with the one true God?  What’s holding you back?  Move forward today!  I beg you, friend.  Jesus did not give His life, so that you can live in bondage to man-made laws and hollow religious practices.  Too many people never move past religion.  Don’t be one of those people.  He wants a vibrant relationship with YOU!  He’s waiting…

Trade in empty religion for authentic relationship, you will find the one who fills your God shaped holes!
Have questions or need prayer?  E-mail me:
“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” Psalm 90:14
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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Your Story ~ ReNEWed Life '12

Recently I’ve been writing about my time at ReNEWed Life Women’s Event where Lisa Whittle spoke. Today I continue writing about what God showed me through Lisa’s messages. This is post 3 of 4. Read the previous posts here and here.
Last time I wrote about facing our truth. And I said: When we face our truth and are honest with others about it, it influences those around us. This goes right into Lisa Whittle’s third message of the day “Your Story Matters”. Lisa said that from our place of wholeness (once we’ve faced our truth and been made whole in Christ) we must move. She said our point is to make God famous. We don’t share for us, we share for them (so others can hear about Him).

She said there are two places where it goes wrong.

1. We think we don’t have a story
2. We emphasize the wrong person

We all have a story. Lisa said, “We have to understand our story is what happens between Jesus and us in the pages of our earthly journey.” Yes, we all have a story…and that story is about Him, not about us. We need to share our truth because “honesty makes others feel brave”, and it can nudge them to receive the Truth.

This message reminded me of something I heard
Lysa TerKeurst say before (my paraphrase), “People don’t care to hear about your God until they’ve seen the reality of him played out in your life.” In other words, people don’t care to hear you preach the gospel to them until they’ve seen the gospel of grace and love lived out in you. They want to see Him in you, to know that He’s real and that He works in your real life. Lysa TerKeurst also said this, “People want to know if He works.”

I’d say that’s why your story matters. Your story, the one that’s happened between you and God, shows others that He works…in a real way, in your real life. When we’re honest about where we’ve been and what He’s done in us, it proves He works.

That’s really the point of this blog, all of it not just this post…to share what He’s done and what He’s doing in me. That’s why I shared part of my story in my
last post. And why I try to be honest about my struggles, so that you will see you are not alone and that He works…really works in the everyday stuff of life.  It's about Him!

At the end of the day at ReNEWed Life Women’s Event we had time to reflect on the day and what we had heard. A question from Lisa Whittle’s “Your {w}hole Story” Guide was posed, I asked myself, “If I could spend the rest of my life talking about one thing, what would it be?” My answer: I would spend my life telling people that we don’t have to live stuck or broken or in empty religion. That, yes, heaven is coming, but we can also experience freedom and abundant life through Christ, here, right now, in this life.

Honestly, reading friends, He is the answer to every question. I know because I have looked for happiness and satisfaction in all the wrong places. When I surrendered my life to Him I found that He truly is the source of joy, peace and hope. It’s His love and grace that changes everything.

No, life isn’t always easy and carefree. We live in a fallen world. But life is better, much better with Him, than without Him. That’s the truth!

How can you share your story? Do you believe it matters?  It does.

“…Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
Ephesians 4:29

Next time, my thought on Lisa’s message “Holes Bring Hope”. I will share about how empty religion limited and defined me…and how that drove me to God.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Truth ~ ReNEWed Life '12

Last time I wrote a little about ReNEWed Life Women’s Event where speaker and writer, Lisa Whittle, shared. I knew I had too much to share in one post. So, here’s part 2 in this series of 4. (To read my last post, click "Last time" above) 

Lisa Whittle’s first message of the day was titled “Wholeness Starts in the Heart”. She pointed out how we tend to “put on masks and conceal our truth”. She said what God is looking for is truth in the heart (Ps 51:6,10). It starts from the inside out. Sometimes the devil makes us afraid to share our truth. She says when we face it, there is freedom.

My truth is not pretty. I will share a little bit about it with you in a moment. Before I do I want to share some other truth with you. Something that God has been showing me, that I didn’t hear at ReNEWed Life that day, but something that I think you might need to hear before you hear my truth.

The truth is, your truth isn’t that different than everyone else’s. For some reason most of us tend to think we are a “special case”. Unlike everyone else.

Guess what? Those people you think are so much different than you, are more like you than different. Think about it.

Most people want to be happy. Most people want a family. And those who have them, love them…especially their children. Most of us want our creature comforts to be satisfied. We like to be comfortable, and avoid situations where we are not. Most of us are insecure in one area or another, and spend a substantial amount of time trying to make everyone think that we are not. We want to succeed, and we want others to see us as successful. We’ve been hurt and experienced loss. We want to feel needed and important. We work, eat, sleep, clean, talk, listen, etc. Getting the picture? We’re alike.

We especially tend to think our dysfunctional family is unique. Guess what? Everyone’s family, even the most seemingly functional ones, have some dysfunction. We all have our things. Most of our families have quirks, disagreements, black sheep, secrets and even a shady present. Yet, no matter how dysfunctional, our family is we still love them. We can say what we want about them, but no one else better. A thought: perhaps what we label dysfunction is merely reality kept quiet by some.

No matter how we try to “pretty up” the outside, we have holes on the inside that leave us feeling empty. Whether we’re carrying a Gucci handbag or wearing flip flops from Dollar General, we tend to find ourselves stuck in unwanted ruts. No matter what our skin color or hairstyle, we are broken. No matter where we live or what kind of car we drive, we feel lonely, restless, and anxious sometimes.

The truth is: We’re all a mess! Lisa Whittle said it and so do I! 

As I said before, my truth is not pretty. It looked kind of pretty at times. Despite divorced parents and low income, I grew up in Christian school, church and home. I was the “good girl”, smiley, eager to please…everyone. I accepted Jesus at an early age and had a strong faith. I knew all the right verses and holy sounding words, and threw them around quite often.

I believed, but the truth was, this “good girl” had some real heart issues. I was self-centered (which led to insecurity), self-reliant and rebellious (which both turned me away from God). I hadn’t fully submitted my life to God.

As an early 20 something I tired of trying to be perfect. I felt I could never be good enough for others, for myself or for God. Instead of turning to the Lord for help, I turned away. Although I knew it was wrong, I ran after the things the world offered that I thought would make me happy. I could still talk a good talk in the right circles. But the truth was my heart was distant from Him.

One day I came to the end of myself. All of my striving for happiness had left me in a deep pit. Although I had gone looking for happiness, what I had found in the world was more brokenness and disappointment. I fell on my knees before the Lord, crying. This time, I submitted, really submitted, my life to Him.

Things didn’t change overnight. It’s been a process of growth. I keep learning. But I can truly say today, that life is so much better lived submitted to Him, than it ever was on my own. By giving up “my freedom”, I gained it. True freedom.

If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. 
But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 
Matthew 16:25
The truth is, I’m still a mess. But I know it…and it drives me to Jesus even more. I have given my messy life to Him, and I keep doing so over and over, day after day. It is a choice. I keep asking for His help, for His Spirit to fill me. Less of me, more of Him, I pray. I am a forgiven, deeply loved work in progress.

Your “truth” circumstances might be different than mine, but the truth is the same. We’re all messed up…and in need of a Savior. Not just once, but over and over, moment by moment each day. Your mess is not beyond His reach. You’re not that different than me. As Lisa Whittle said, when we face our truth, there is freedom. But I also believe when we realize that we are more like the person next to us than we are not, there is also freedom in that. When we face our truth and are honest with others about it, it influences those around us.

But more about that next time. J

Next time I will share my thoughts on Lisa Whittle’s message “Your Story Matters”.

Check out this "truth": a couple of unposed photos snapped at ReNEWed Life Women's Event. Not quite as "put together" as the other posed photos, that's why I like them. They make me smile every time. Shows we're real women, in need of a real Savior. Perhaps we all need to be a bit more "unposed" more often. What do you think? :)


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Compelled ~ ReNEWed Life '12

Have you ever had something so big happen in your life that you have a hard time summing it up? I have…yet again. Too often I get caught up in writing the “perfect” words, in telling it all. Today, I’m going to be easy on myself, and simply write what I have on my heart. What better?

Last Saturday, August 11th I was at
ReNEWed Life Women’s Event. If you missed my last post, this is a little of what I wrote about it beforehand:

Just a few months ago, this event didn’t exist and, as far as I know, nothing like it has ever taken place in our small community. My friend, Jill, and I had helped organize a big women’s retreat in a larger town an hour and a half from home for a few years. Although it was such a blessing, at different times, each of us had felt God leading us to step off that leadership team. One day afterwards, we discussed a prompting in our hearts to “do something” more for the women right here in our rural community...As we prayed about it, the Lord clearly opened doors for National Speaker and Author Lisa Whittle to come to our rural area, small town Cresco, Iowa.

I’m leaving out many details and many displays of God’s faithfulness…I can hardly wait to watch Him display His glory (again) next Saturday at this women’s event that two farmer’s wives and others in rural Iowa envisioned at His prompting! And we will give Him all the praise and glory!

The ReNEWed Life Leadership Team with guest speaker,
Lisa Whittle: Kim, Teresa, Lisa, Jill, Rachel (me)

What a blessed day it was, from small details to big! His presence was strong and sweet. The words He spoke through Lisa Whittle were powerful. He also spoke through the two local gals who shared their testimonies. The worship music was harmonious. In fact, I still can’t get the song “10,00 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” out of my head. He even ministered to us through the food and d├ęcor.  He showed up, answered prayers and did His work, as I knew He would.

I have found myself in tears of rejoicing several times since. I am thankful that we were obedient and did the work He called us to. That we chose to step out in faith. We are beneficiaries. HE is exalted!

The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
I Thessalonians 5:24   

The joy of being part of something like this goes way beyond that one day. In the preparation and praying beforehand He displays His greatness. We realize that we can not exhaust His resources and the things that He does through us are so beyond our abilities without Him. We get to praise Him for all the things that the one attending never gets to see, His sanctification starts in us. Although it’s work, it’s the greatest joy to have a “behind the scenes” view, to see and bask in His glory! Afterwards, I stand in awe of all that just happened…in small town Cresco, Iowa!
The night before the event, we got to meet and sit down with the speaker, Lisa Whittle, someone I’ve respected through her blog and books. And, yet, I wondered would her words match her life? Turns out she is an absolute gem, someone who ministers to your heart both with and without words. Down to earth, personable, authentic, Christ driven. 

That night, we followed Lisa to a local rehab where she spoke. A foretaste of what was to come at ReNEWed. That night and the next, the words God spoke through her pierced my soul, left my heart aching in a good way. The words caused me to think deeper. They stuck with me beyond that day and God began to change me (again) from the inside out. He's still doing it, days later.

Before she left, she asked if the day met my expectations. I stumbled over my words, but the answer was "Yes!" You see, we did all of this preparing to minister to women in our community, to impact lives with the Truth. Turns out, I’m one of those women.

Lisa encouraged me to keep on, in a way that is rare. Then, she wrote in my copy of her book
{w}hole to keep being brave. I thought she was the bold one, now she calls me brave? I felt the boldness rise up in me even more. I need to be, want to be, must be brave! She leads by her example.

I have several things from the event that I want to share with you, my blog friends. Instead of trying to cram it all in one post, I hope to spread it out over several. My first series! :)

Lisa Whittle spoke to us about Holes and the God who makes us Whole. I want to share how God spoke to me through each message. And, yet, today for my first post about ReNEWed Life Women’s Event ‘12, I feel compelled to write about this (to be honest, it kind of surprised me):

After Lisa’s last message, she shared with us about
Compassion International, a Christian child advocacy ministry. She said something that spoke to me in more ways than one, God wants compelled believers, not just ones that are stirred. You can be stirred and never do a thing, we must be compelled to step out (this applies to so many things in our Christian lives...including starting women's conferences). She said we need to open our eyes to the things going on in this world.

The words of the Casting Crowns song instantly started ringing through my head, “Break our hearts for what breaks yours”. The truth is, it’s easier to live blind. I realize children wait in orphanages, ravaged with fear, head lice and disease, bellies empty and hearts hollow when they lay their head down at night. Other children get sold into sex trafficking and their little bodies are sold over and over, day after day. Some suffer in war-torn countries, barefoot, thirsty, hopeless…with no one to tell them where real hope is found. Others live right under my nose who mock His name with their words and actions. Does it break my hear, really?  What am I doing about it? What should I be doing? 

I already sponsor a child through a different organization. How often do I even remember to pray for her? Am I so busy building my happy, plush lifestyle that I forget how others blessed I spoiled really? That this life is not about me. I pour money into new furniture, paint, landscaping, yet another toy for my children who have an ample supply. Never thinking of the one without…or to give thanks to the Giver who supplies all of it, or at least not nearly enough.

It’s easy to get stirred up about these things at a women’s conference. How compelled am I? Enough to do something, something that might cost me something or push me beyond my comfort? Do I truly want to be His hands and feet? Not only to throw a little money at it, but to do the Jesus work, even when it's hard and not so glamorous?  

Break my heart for what breaks yours, Lord. Compel me to help. Then, make me brave enough to follow through.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress and
to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
James 1:27

Next time: what God showed me about facing my truth through Lisa’s message “Wholeness Starts in the Heart”.  

Until then, live compelled, be brave and do the work!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Wasting Time

If there’s one thing I hear every day, many times throughout the day, it’s, “Mom, watch this!”  Sometimes it’s, “Mom, look at this.”  Either way, it’s often and coming from both boys.  The two year old follows after the five year old, watching his every move and seeking to imitate it.  He even calls me “Mom” (rather than “Mommy”) just like big brother.  They are busy, rarely sit still, and they want me to take notice, “Watch this.”  Sometimes they mess up that cartwheel, perfect move or rock throw.  That calls for a “do over”.  I watch again.

(My boys throwing rocks in the creek)

There are days when I almost get tired of hearing, “Watch this” yet one more time.  But I remember how fleeting these days are, these days that these two precious little boys are most often under my feet,  wanting my every attention and seeking after only my approval and admiration.  They are growing quickly.  In a blink they will be out of the house, spending time with others that interest them more than dear ol’ mom and entertaining a much larger audience.  This season, my time with them as little boys, is slipping by.  So I watch and admire and say, “Wow, good job!”  I’m not wasting time, I’m building relationships with them, relationships that I pray will last well into their adulthood.  And I am teaching them along the way.  It matters.

God’s been teaching me some things lately (when is He not?!) too...about time.

 I detest wasting time, yet I do it more often than I care to admit.  It’s so easy to spend time.  Once it’s spent, there’s no getting it back.  I have one life.  There are no “do overs”.  I need to be intentional.  I need to spend my time wisely, doing the things He’s called me to do. 

“…lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”  Ephesians 4:1

I make excuses.  I look at life circumstances.  I get caught up in the daily things of life and lose sight of heaven.  I waste the time God has given me.

Sure there is a time and place for relaxation and leisure.  But more often I want to be busy, kind of like my boys, full of energy and zest, rarely sitting still.  Not for busyness sake, nor for the world’s admiration.  I think sometimes in our culture people seek to be busy in order to appear fulfilled and in an attempt to prove their life matters.  I don’t want to be busy just to be busy.   I simply want to  live intentionally, doing the work He’s called me to.  I want to say, “Watch this, Lord” as I seek to obey Him, desiring to please and honor Him with my life.  I want to look ahead to eternity and the rewards awaiting there.  Not striving in my own power, but living in His. 

When I do sit, I want it to be in His presence, building relationship with Him.  Not only for our relationship sake, although that is important, but also so I can teach my sons how to do the same.  They follow in my footsteps, even more closely than my two year old follows big brother’s.  And I’m finding that my sphere of influence is even greater than I originally thought, reaching far beyond the confines of my home walls.  The world is watching…my friends, neighbors, loved ones, even acquaintances.   I want them to see Him in me.  I want to follow His every move, to imitate Him as I build relationships with others.  The only way I can do this is by getting to know Him intimately, being still before Him in prayer and Bible study.  It takes time.  But that is never wasted time.

I want to listen as He says, “Look at this” when I’m in His Word.  Or “Watch this” as He clearly displays His glory in my very ordinary day and life.  Then, I can give Him adequate thanks and praise. 
My time here is so short, fleeting.  It won’t be long before this season has passed.  I don’t want to just spend time, I want to cease every opportunity!  And I believe God takes notice of it. It matters.

Maybe this post is only for me, but I wonder if there are others out there who feel convicted about wasting their God given time.  How about you?  Are you living a life worthy of your calling, living intentionally?  Maybe it’s time to make some changes.  Maybe you need to let go of some excuses.  Maybe you need to take some time today to seek after Him and His best for you.  I will do the same.  Because that is never a waste of time!  

“…Stay away from believers who live idle lives…”  II Thessalonians 3:6

A short story: Next Saturday I will be at ReNEWed Life Women’s Event.  Just a few months ago, this event didn’t exist and, as far as I know, nothing like it has ever taken place in our small community.  My friend, Jill, and I had helped organize a big women’s retreat in a larger town an hour and a half from home for a few years.  Although it was such a blessing, at different times, each of us had felt God leading us to step off that leadership team.   One day afterwards, we discussed a prompting in our hearts to “do something” for the women right here in our rural community.   Normally, women around here would have to drive 1½ to 3 hours to attend a women’s conference.   As we prayed about it, the Lord clearly opened doors for National Speaker and Author Lisa Whittle to come to our rural area, small town Cresco, Iowa. 

I’m leaving out many details and many displays of God’s faithfulness.  But the reason I am sharing this, is to share this point: no matter who you are or where you are, God can use you if you are obedient and willing to do the work.  Do not waste time making excuses or looking at life circumstances, your lack of ability, resources or talent.  He will do things beyond your wildest imagination if you seek after His will and trust Him.  I can hardly wait to watch Him display His glory (again) next Saturday at this women’s event that two farmer’s wives and others in rural Iowa envisioned at His prompting!  And we will give Him all the praise and glory!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Control Freak

I’m a control freak.

There, I admitted it. They say admitting that you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right? Hmm…I’ve admitted it several times and still, change comes slowly.

I have been reminded over and over lately that I am not the one in control. God is. And, yet, somehow I seem to cling to this false sense of some type of control. I go along trusting God and following His lead closely for a while, and then, it’s as if I forget. I find myself beginning to fret and wonder, trying to plan out my life and seeking after my desires.  I believe many of us all too easily slip away from what we know to be true.  He is God, and we are not.

As I read earlier this week I was reminded that my Lord has all authority (Matt 9:6-7). Then, that I need to seek Him and His kingdom above all things (Matt 6:33). It’s all too easy to chase after the things of this world even when we think we are not. We try to plan our lives. We seek after satisfaction in things, activities and even our families. We get tangled up in self-promotion, recognition and what others think of us.

Matthew 6:33 says to seek after Him, His kingdom, first and live righteously, then we will be given everything we need. Everything we need. Not what we think we need…what we do need. That’s where trust comes in. He knows what we really need, we don’t. Not really. And we have to trust His plan for our lives, moment by moment, step by step. Even when it’s hard. Even when, especially when, it’s not easy to see why, and where that next step is going to take us.

The control freak in me wants to see the plan laid out before me. To know how things will turn out and what that will look like. That’s not faith. So I submit again to the One who has all authority. The One Who called me to seek after Him, first and only. And in faith believe that He, the source of all we need, will provide at just the right time and in just the right way, always.

The control freak in me wants to please everyone, have the perfect family, to know that all of my needs will be met. But He asks us to trust Him. To seek after Him first. That means to seek to obey and please him first. That means to find satisfaction in Him first. That means letting go of our "perfect" plan to rely on Him, the One who knows the perfect plans He has for us (Jer 29:11).

What consumes your control freak thoughts? That next step. Marriage. Children. Safety. What others think. Your job. A ministry opportunity. Rain. Fear of failure. Whatever it is, submit your desires, dreams, plans and wants to the Lord of all authority. Trust Him. Seek His kingdom and live righteously. When you do He promises to provide all you really need. And He never breaks a promise!

Great Quote:
"This is the blessed life--not anxious to see far in front, nor eager to choose the path, but quietly following behind the Shepherd, one step at a time....The Oriental shepherd was always out in front of the sheep. He was down in front. Any attack upon them had to take him into account. Now God is down in front. He is in the tomorrows. It is tomorrow that fills men with dread. God is there already. All the tomorrows of our life have to pass Him before they can get to us."  Rev F.B. Meyer, Streams in the Desert

Friday, June 8, 2012

Don't Cry Over Spilled Lemonade

It had been a long day. Believe me, one of the last things I wanted to do that evening was deal with that sticky mess.

I had worked all day at our MOPS yard sale. As I was transporting some things that afternoon, I took a turn too sharp. Three gallons of lemonade fell over in the back of the van, and gushed over my flip flop wearing feet on the driver’s side. What a mess!

My first reaction was not one of poise. I grumbled a bit, and more than a bit on the inside. I decided to finish what I needed to do, then tackle the mess when I got home. Andrew’s feet went “squish, squish” on the carpet and my left foot stuck to my flip flop.

When I finally arrived home later that afternoon, I dreaded this sticky, messy job of cleaning up the lemonade. I was giving myself a pep talk in my head. I knew it had to be done and that I needed to just do it, and stop thinking about it. I prayed in my heart, “Lord, I need your help.”

I looked around and this thought stirred in my heart, “give thanks in all circumstances”. I started to list some of my blessings. Sunshine. Chirping birds. Two healthy boys running around in the yard. A borrowed shop vac. I had so much to be thankful for! I praised the Lord for each of my blessings.

I thought of more blessings: We just ended a very successful fund raiser for MOPS…and I got to work along side some ladies that I love. Blooming lillies near my work area. Working limbs and a healthy body, so I am able to clean. It was lemonade, not milk!

I cleaned. Yep, it was a sticky mess. The wet/dry vac sucked up at least a gallon of lemonade. And I had to scrub, scrub, scrub. It was work, but I hummed most of the time. I even laughed at myself!

I quote these verses a lot because they have been a good reminder for me through many sticky messes in life:

"Always be joyful. Never stop praying. 
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Through my lemonade circumstance, I was reminded that life sometimes gets sticky, and we have to deal with it. We all have our messes both big and small. Yet, no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in, God is good all of the time! There is plenty to be thankful for. We can grumble and complain or we can choose to praise through all of life’s stickiness. We can even find joy in the midst of the mess. It really is a choice.
What will you choose today?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Renewed Treasure

I like yard sales. I like them a lot. I like finding bargains. I like finding treasures among the trash. I’m teaching my boys to enjoy them too.

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of going to quite a few yard sales, good ones where I’ve found plenty of cheap treasures. They may not look like much to someone else, but I love taking them home to renew them and put them to use.

Today, I stopped at a sale. I found an old wooden chair for a dollar. Nothing special. It has it’s dings, obvious wear and tear. But I love it. I sat it on my front porch. I sat an old, metal watering can on it. The watering can has a hole in it, so I filled it with potting soil and plopped in a flower.  It’s nothing special, but it is a treasure to me. It makes me smile.
The saying is true, one man’s trash truly is another man’s (or…ahem…woman’s) treasure!

I think this must be how God feels about us, His people. He likes to take us in, dings and all. He sees the treasure in us when others don’t. We may not look like anything special to others, but we do to Him. To Him we are special. We are His treasure. He renews us and gives us a new position…right out there where everyone can see. We’re His…and we make Him smile.

We are a lot more special than an old wooden chair and a holey watering can. He has plans for us that reach beyond our wildest dreams, if we will merely trust Him and follow His lead. When we belong to Him, and we continue to seek after Him, He just keeps renewing us!

He renews our spirit (Psalm 51:10) daily (II Corinthians 4:16).
He renews our mind (Romans 12:2).
He renews our strength (Isaiah 40:31).
He renews our whole life! (Colossians 3:1-11).

I love this verse, “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him.” Colossians 3:10

Although he accepts us dings and all, we don’t have to stay an old wooden chair or a holey watering can! He will make us new and just keep renewing. The more we get to know Him, the more we will want to be like Him, the more He will do in us. Isn’t that amazing?!

Do you need to be renewed today? Remember you are His treasure, dings and all. Seek after Him. Talk to Him. Trust Him. Follow Him. Remember He loves YOU. Let Him renew you today!

Thank you, Lord, for seeing the treasure in us even when others don’t. For accepting us dings and all. For loving us, and making a way for us to have new life. For renewing us daily, when we turn to You. Help us to put on our new nature, as we learn more about You and desire to become more like You. Make something beautiful out of our lives. Amen.


Need a day of renewal?!  Join us at ReNEWED Life Women's Event featuring national speaker and author Lisa Whittle! I am thrilled to be part of the ministry team working to bring this exciting event to small town Cresco, Iowa.  I would love to see YOU there on August 11th!

P.S. See, God can use old, dinged up “treasures” like me (and you too!).   ;)

Friday, April 27, 2012

How to Help the Hurting (Miscarriage)

Previously I shared about my most recent miscarriage experience here. In the comments of this page and through personal messages, I received requests for more advice on how to minister to the hurting.

I hardly feel like an expert. I am certain that I have let hurting loved ones down in the past. And although it is my heartfelt desire not to, I know I am all too human and will most likely fail others again in the future (and may be letting someone down right at the moment). 

However, I have learned a few things through my time of grief, and would love to humbly share a few of those insights with you, knowing that I still have a lot to learn myself.

I think it’s so important that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, reach out to one another, in good times and in hard times alike. We are to be “Christ in the flesh”. We need to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” He would love on the hurting and so should we.

Some things you must realize before we start: In my case we are referring to miscarriage, the loss of a baby in the womb. However, this advice could certainly apply to other kinds of hurt as well.

It is interesting to me that Christians often say they believe that life begins at conception (I DO!), and yet when someone has a miscarriage they act as if it is not a real loss. Miscarriage is a real loss! It is the loss of an unborn child that was wanted and loved. It is the loss of hopes and dreams. It hurts. It is okay for the person experiencing this loss to mourn. In fact, it is healthy and normal. Let them grieve and don’t minimize or ignore their grief.

Before approaching any hurting person pray for that person. Then, pray for yourself. Pray for God’s guidance, and for His words to fill your lips…and even for His wisdom to know when to close your mouth (to either listen or avoid hurtful words) when necessary. God filled His believers with His Holy Spirit. Ask Him to minister through you and He will!

  So now I am giving you a new commandment.
Love each other. Just as I have loved you,
you should love each other.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that
you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35 (Jesus speaking)

A few tips:

Say something: Acknowledge their loss and their pain. I think often times people say nothing because they don’t know what to say. Don’t get held back by your own lack of words. To me, it was really helpful to hear something like, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m sorry…and I’m here for you…and I love you.” Even after 3 miscarriages I still don’t know what to say myself, and I have no idea how I’m “suppose to” feel. There are no magic words to make the hurt stop and there is no “one size fits all” expression of sympathy. 

However, saying nothing is never the right option. Saying nothing makes it seem like you don’t care, even if you do. To the person going through it, it can be all consuming. Don’t ignore it. Be sincere. Don’t say things you don’t mean or can’t follow up with actions. Say you’re sorry. But my heartfelt advice is: don’t stop there because it’s hard for the grieving one to know how to respond to that. Follow it with more words like, “I’m praying for you” or something similar. Often times the hurting one doesn’t care as much about what you say, as they do about the acknowledgement of their hurt. Of course, you should avoid hurtful words at all costs. If you are in doubt, don’t say it.

Certainly, Jesus would say something.

Be willing to listen: Grief is lonely. Even as a Christian, you can feel very alone in your grief. Yes, God is there and you can pour your heart out to Him and that is absolutely amazing. Still, there are times when you feel like you need someone else, someone you can see, touch or even just hear on the phone to talk to. We need others. 

Sometimes people get so wrapped up in what they’re going to say or how they’re going to help the hurting person by saying or doing something grand, that they forget to simply take the time to listen. Sometimes the hurting person needs to talk and cry. I know dealing with loss, grief and tears makes some people uncomfortable, but you should remember the golden rule. Ask yourself “What would I want others to do for me, if I were in that situation?” The hurting person simply needs to process through their feelings and various stages of grief. It truly is a process! 

If you say, “I’m so sorry” one day, then the next time you see them you don’t even ask how they’re doing, you appear cold and uninterested. Ask questions and be willing to just listen. Not only will the person hurting get to talk, you will also learn more about how to help them and how to pray for them by listening to what they say. Reminder: there are also times when the hurting person does not want to talk, respect that too. Ask again later.

Certainly, Jesus would listen.

Remember to follow up: Don’t just say a few words then forget about them or act as if they should be “over it”. There were just a few people who continued to check up on me beyond the “I’m sorry.” It was nice to hear someone say they were praying for me (us). Yet, I felt like I needed more than a one time prayer or pat on the back. It was those few people who would check up on me from time to time who helped me the most. They showed they really cared. It was obvious to me that they really were praying, and therefore thought of and felt invested in me. 

In this modern day of cell phones it is easy to find time to make a call. And most people these days have either e-mail, texting or facebook. Drop them a message to ask something like, “How are you today?” or “I’m thinking of you. How can I pray?” An old school snail mail card or note is nice. A little gift is appreciated. Take a meal to them.  Each of these things are a reminder that they haven’t been forgotten.

Certainly, Jesus would remember.

Direct them to the LORD: No matter how much you do or what you say, there will be times when the hurting person will feel alone. That’s why it’s so important to direct them to the One who can help in ways you never can. The One who never fail, who never leaves nor forsakes them, who is the God of all comfort! 

Pray. Send them scriptures. Remind them that He is good and can be trusted and loves them more than they can comprehend, etc. Fill them with His Truth!  Tell them that He listens and cares 24/7. Don’t neglect to remind them of the hope they have in Him, and Him alone. In the lonely times, those things will come into their minds and will help more than anything else. He is the giver of peace.

I had four different women who prayed with me over the phone.  What a blessing!  They didn't just say, "I will pray for you", they prayed right then and there, when I needed it the most.  As they prayed I felt strengthened...and their words, reflecting on His power and goodness, encouraged me.  Pray with them or write out a prayer and send it to them. 

Certainly, Jesus would direct them to the Father.

A dear friend of mine gave me a book that was quite helpful as I grieved the loss of our baby. It’s called “The Art of Helping: What to Say and Do When Someone is Hurting” by Lauren Littauer Briggs. 

I highly recommend this book to the person wishing to help the hurting AND as a gift to someone who is hurting. It covers various life circumstances like aging parents, chronic illness, loss of job, infertility, etc. Real women shared their insights with the author on what helped them, what didn’t and what they wish others understood. There is a chapter covering miscarriage. It was comforting for me to read this chapter because it was confirming that I wasn’t alone in my feelings. It would, of course, also be a great tool for those who want to minister to the hurting people in their life. As I implied before there is no “one size fits all” manual, but this book could give you a place to start and trigger some good ideas.

It might show you what Jesus would do.

I like the Casting Crowns song “Love them Like Jesus”. Read the words of one of the verses and the chorus:

The gifts lie in wait, in a room painted blue, Little blessing from Heaven would be there soon, Hope fades in the night, blue skies turn to gray, As the little one slips away

You're holding her hand, you're straining for words, You're trying to make sense of it all, They're desperate for hope, darkness clouding their view, They're looking to you

Just love them like Jesus, carry them to Him, His yoke is easy, His burden is light, You don't need the answers to all of life's questions, Just know that He loves them and stay by their side, Love them like Jesus

Yes, love them like Jesus!

To the one hurting: Remember to extend grace to the people in your life who don’t seem to “get it”. Remember that sometimes they just don’t know what to say. I know it’s hard, but you can choose to overlook their offenses (Proverbs 19:11). You can choose to love THEM like Jesus too.  Run to the One who will never fail you!!

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort
others. When they are troubled, we will be able
to give them the same comfort
God has given us.” II Corinthians 1:4

Friday, April 13, 2012

Faith Continued

I’ve wanted to write. I’ve even sat down, wrote and erased. Words don’t always come easily. My mind has often been a fog. At the moment so many words flood my mind. They don’t translate well from my head to the keyboard. My thoughts are scattered. My sentences are sometimes incomplete. Perhaps that’s okay. That’s where I am today. It’s honest.

If you missed my last post, you can read it here. It applies to everything else I write here.

The days following the death of our baby, I waited. Cramping. Pain. Tears. Sometimes miscarriages come fast. Sometimes they do not. Either way it’s not easy. More waiting. Waiting is hard. I wonder why, but I trust the One who made me, the One who loves me. “Lean not on your own understanding.”

I was reminded of my own life verse, the one that graces the header of this blog.

“As for God, His way is perfect.  All of the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection.” Psalm 18:30

Indeed, His way is PERFECT. Even when I don’t understand. Even when it hurts. I believe it. I know it is true. His way is perfect.

ALL of His promises prove true. Not some, all! His promises are for me, and He never breaks a promise. I can trust Him.

And He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection. When you look for Him, you will find Him (Jer 29:13). In the midst of all of life circumstances. He is my shield of protection. My strength, because I have none without Him.

He shows me that He sees me. He puts people in my path. A hug. A tear. A gift. A phone call, text or message. An “I love you.” All at the right time.

More days pass. Tough decisions. Tough days. A 3rd ultrasound. A d&c. Obvious answers to prayer. 

Thank you, Lord! I lift my voice in songs of praise. Rejoicing. How do you explain that? Joy, in the midst of the mourning. Worship in the hard. Praise for Who He is, because He loves. Comfort from the God of all comfort. How do you explain peace, the kind that passes all comprehension, the kind that comes only from Him? I experience that, and I am thankful.

Another scripture given, this time in a Bible study. I’ve read them many times before, but this time they take on special meaning.

“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways! For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give Him advice? And who has given Him so much that He needs  to pay it back?  For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory. All glory to Him forever! Amen.” Romans 11:33-36

HE gives, and HE takes away. My heart will choose to say blessed be His name. Not because it looks like I wanted it to, but because I believe that His way is perfect. Who am I to give Him advice? He knows what is best. I do not. His ways are so far above my ways! How can I even expect to understand? All glory to His name!

Life keeps moving. Responsibilities and schedules persist. Sadness remains. Grief is a process. I feel alone. Yes, I have the Great Comforter. But, people. Oh, people. People fail, as people often do. As I do.

Our baby died, the one we named Faith! Miscarriage is a private thing, or so I’m told. I think it should not be. We need other people, Christ in the flesh. People don’t know what to say, so they say nothing. It appears they don’t care, even if they do. It hurts. Loved ones, who you think should care the most, say little. It stings. Even those who ask seem to want “Fine” as an answer. It's lonely.

Prayers are appreciated. Acknowledgement of pain is helpful. A few friends choose to reach out beyond the “I’m sorry.” It is good. I am blessed and I know it. I know Him and am so grateful for that. And yet, in the quiet moments I still feel alone. It’s a normal feeling. Tears come yet again. He brings me to another verse, just what I needed, again.

“I cry out to the LORD; I plead for the LORD’s mercy.  I pour out my complaints before Him and
tell Him all my troubles. When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn…

I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought!  No one will help me, no one cares a bit what happens to me. Then, I pray to you, O LORD. I say, ‘You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.’” Psalm 142:1-5

He reminded me that it is HIM that I really want. It is HIM that I really need. He is my place of refuge. He knows the way. He is my comfort. He is my hope. No one else. People fail. He does not! I pour out my soul to Him!

Last night a few close friends and I gathered for a Celebration of Life. We celebrated her earthly life, short as it was. We rejoiced that she is in His presence, eternal life. We celebrated friendship. We celebrated God's goodness, in all of life's circumstances.  I had no idea what to say. Words came as an answer to prayer. Tears flowed. Hearts joined in love, prayer and song. And I was reminded how truly blessed I am.  

Her life mattered. It mattered to me. It mattered to God, the Giver of her life. Her life affected me, changed me. Her life impacted others. God reveals His goodness in the midst of hardship. Beauty for ashes. He is real…and powerful…and personal. I praise Him for life. I praise Him for Faith!

Read a follow up post to this one: How to Help the Hurting

And a poem I wrote at the 1 year anniversary of the loss of Baby Faith: I Won't Forget