Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One moment at a time...

This Christmas is hard. For so many reasons...

I just found out my dad has been diagnosed with cancer again. My world was devastated for a moment. For a moment I imagined the worst and fell apart. But then I remembered...things have been hard for a while. Not just in my life - in this world. And though I live in this world, I do not operate as the world would have me to. I am a child of God. My heart is protected and filled in an unending deluge of love that causes me to overflow to others. Not just love - but hope. And though hope seems to be thin at this time, the reality is that it is not.

The Connecticut shootings and all of those babies being killed is rending hearts everywhere. Whenever I think of those parents and put myself in their place I fall apart...for a moment.

The life I live is on a moment by moment basis. If I have learned anything the last several years, it is that we have grace aplenty for the moment. What draws us to the next moment is the living hope we have in Christ...

I Peter 1:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you...

This world is a broken cup. It does not function as it was initially intended. Quite honestly - the United States is still one of the most blessed places to live - in spite of all of the ick. There are these types of horrors going on in other places, everyday, to others babies and yet we are so surprised when it happens to ours. We take so much for granted.

But this is not surprising - or shouldn't be. We live in a world that is groaning...in pain as it waits.

Romans 8:

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

All of this to say...my endurance is spurred by hope and that hope lies in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it all started with a young girl who gave birth to a child who is the Messiah - what fellow believers are celebrating this season and where this hope springs from.

And though I don't know what to pray for sometimes, I am so overwhelmed and despondent, I can know that God knows my heart. I must take the next step - for the next moment is full of hope and God will complete the work he has started...both in us and this broken world. So until he returns, I must seek the face of God, help where needed, love others well, and rest when I am tired then get up and start over again .

Because...

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6



Sunday, December 2, 2012

Home

For a long time I have felt out of place. It was my fault. I must take responsibility for my state of bewilderment and feeling of loss.

For years I have counseled others about how you cannot compare your present church to others you have been to in the past. The reason is, there are different dynamics. Fine tweeks of human nature and personality as well as focus makes each church a gift to it's community. A place that more than likely will not be duplicated anywhere in the world because of each different personality and talent at play in the body of Christ. So many wonderful parts that make up the whole is each church that calls
itself a part of the body of Christ.

It has been my pleasure to be a member of two such wonderful places. Dauphin Way Baptist Church was my previous church home. I claim many beloved family members there, My mom and my dad are still members there as well as precious friends I consider brothers and sisters in Christ. I have seen my childhood church struggle mightily over the last few years. I have cried and prayed and been burdened by each difficulty it went through. But God has seen it through each hard time. He has grown his kingdom  - not always in ways I would think he wanted but in the end, he would be glorified. I dearly love Dauphin Way. My life was shaped and my struggles moved me into the places God would have me be. I used the hard times to fuss at God for my other hard times. But God knew all along that he was getting me where I needed to be. Though my longing for my old church and the way it used to be followed me.

 I ended up in Birmingham, AL. I am now a member of a Presbyterian church. The funny thing about this is that I once thought Presbyterians borderline cult. Of course I was wrong. The problem is I was blown about by doctrine. I had struggled with the questions of doctrine that caused me to question my faith and lose sight of God in microdisecting philosophies of thought. I made it through that only to find myself a member of a church that believed the very things that shook my faith years before. I settled on being a Baptist in the middle of a bunch of Presbyterians and have been quite content for the most part. I missed my music at the baptist church. I missed being a big duck in a little pond. I loved being the go to girl for the singing and for serving but I shied away from it at my new place of worship. Mainly because I was afraid of the burnout I had brought upon myself by being all things to all people. That is just not good for you!

I was fine in my new church home. It was time for me to worship and be nominally involved. There is no doubt that I have an excessive personality. It is all or nothing with me. I cannot find a happy medium to save my life. I will work myself to the bone or sit on the couch and do nothing, allowing things to crumble around me. Part of that may be connected to the natural lows and highs I have acquired through genetics (a tendency toward bi-polar disorder it seems - nothing crazy. I am not directing traffic naked or anything - as my doctor said.  He's not worried, I'm not worried). And the fact that I had three babies in three years probably didn't help. Excessive. But so me.

All of this to say I had begun to miss engaging in the body of Christ. And to be quite honest, because of my struggles with excess, I was afraid of burnout again and I kept a distance. But I missed the fellowship that comes with working with others. I missed singing in the choir. I missed teaching Sunday School. I needed to do something. Not everything. I cannot do everything I love. But slowly and surely I started engaging again. I keep nursery. I am now back in the choir. I hung the greenery yesterday and made bows out the wazoo. All the while developing those sweet friendships with sisters in Christ that I have sorely missed. I love that. It may take a while...find a church that preaches the Word and the rest usually follows. Home sweet home. (smile)





Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hanging of the Green

We put up our Christmas Tree last night. And every year I put garlands around the house. Holly in the bathroom, wreaths on the door. We have evergreens everywhere.

And I wondered why. I think it is just pretty and it is part of our celebration of Jesus's birth. But where did this tradition come from?

I did a Google search and was lambasted (great word) with scads (another great word) of reasons, traditions and claims both Christian and Pagan.

But it seems that most of them center around 16th century Germany and the shortest day of the year. There are legends of St. Bonaface and also of celebrations of the Winter Solstace. It seems the shortest day of the year was observed and clung to by lighting fires and bringing evergreens into the house to symbolize eternal life. Candles were put on them and lit and when the new year came with the sunrise - celebrations began.

It is not a far stretch for me to see that others would adopt such tradition and work it to their own advantage. Seems the Romans celebrated the New Year around December 25th so it is understandable that the captive converted Jews would adopt their own celebration to go along with the others.

Now - I will be the first to tell you - that I am no historian. And the Google search overwhelmed me. I would like to research further.

The one that made such great sense to me and jived with my own belief - is the evergreen signifying eternal life. No matter how you believe - there seems to be a need for the belief in an afterlife. And it seems like no matter how you believe, we still long to know that this life is only the beginning of the adventure. We do.

And so we celebrate. The miracle of a baby being born to a virgin fortold by angels is extraordinary. It is awe inspiring. That a baby came to earth through human birth - to live as we do, experience what we do, to understand the trials of this life in human form, well - it is an amazing thing to me. That this baby was God incarnate blows my mind.

But I believe...

Philippians 2

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death
even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
 
So those of you who believe that this is the reason we exist and our hope for the future, it is indeed a glorious time of year! Regardless of where these traditions came from, it is lovely to hang the evergreen to remember our eternal hope in Christ.
 
There is not a day that goes by that I don't marvel at our existence. Nature itself gives glory to its Creator and I love that I can join with it and glorify God.
 
Luke 2:
 
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,



14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests'
 
Glory to God! Let's celebrate! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Overthinking it...

I woke up this morning to pouring rain and thunder rumbles. It was lovely. Made me wish I could stay in my bed and enjoy it just a bit longer. But - instead I immediately started worrying. I can "what if" a situation to death.

When I was a little girl and my family would plan to go to the beach for the day, I would be sick with a stomach ache and pray over and over again that God would protect us. The whole night before I would be rejecting scenarios of harm and asking God to keep us safe. I would be exhausted, and fragile feeling the next morning. But being a kid...once I got there  - the joy of the sand and the Gulf would totally erase the worry from my mind. Thankfully.

I have done this my whole life.

So this morning I immediately started wondering whether I should wait and take the boys in later to school...because we all know folks forget how to drive when it is raining.

And I stopped myself.

I am overthinking it again.

The fact is, we have no guarantees in life. This world is broken and imperfect. And no matter how hard we try we cannot always keep the ick from happening.

Romans 8:37-39

English Standard Version (ESV)
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 

Psalm 18:31-33

English Standard Version (ESV)
31 For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
 
Yesterday I was watching a show about the end of the earth and it showed a man (Nichlas Cage) gathered with his family. They had no fear. Right before their destruction the dad looked at them all and said, "You know this is not the end", and his son looked back at him and said, "I know".
 
Now I am not placing any spiritual meaning on the movie. But I LOVED the end. If we all had that security would we not do more? Would we not try something GREAT for God?
 
I am going to do my best to practice the following:
 
Philippians 4:
 
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 
I am going to do my best to quit overthinking it all...it's exhausting!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Mirror, Mirror

I had a conversation with a sweet sister a few weeks ago. And in that conversation I said something that upon reflection I think it is sort of a belated epiphany.

I am secure in my place as a daughter of the King. Now anyway. My heavenly Father loves me and there is no doubt that I am secure in that. I have struggled with this before though...for years. And it has come across in my behavior and my relationships. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to look perfect, to be admired, to be the best at whatever I put my hand to...and when I was not, it caused a horrible desperation inside of me. I was needy and would lash out at whatever made me feel insecure.

But during the last couple of years, my heavenly Father has assured me time and time again that no matter what state I am in, I am well loved. I am cared for. I am provided for. I have never been more secure.

As my sister in Christ and I were chatting I said, "If I never saw a mirror again, I would be great".

I am not talking about slovenliness, never taking showers, or giving a rats petoot about what I look like. I mean - by not seeing myself I am quite content with the physical me. I do not worry about my hair or my makeup or that zit that popped up on my chin unbeknownst to me that would cause serious mayhem if I see it in the mirror.

I love that without a mirror I think I am quite lovely. I see myself as I did when I was 19. When I happen to see a mirror or a picture I am always slightly shocked at the 46 year old looking back at me.

But most happily, what I have found lately is, when I am most content with my Lord - I am most content with me and all of my foibles and oddities. It is a lovely thing....the mirror is no longer of consequence.

Of course the mirror is a good thing, as long as I am not obsessing and using it to determine my value. That is a total waste of time.

I am thankful for my epiphany because I realize that I am finally (for now) free of that bondage to the mirror and my previous burden of what I think I should be.

If you have had a similar experience let me know how you handle it. I would love to hear how you manage the hurdles that come to us all. Have a happy weekend and God bless!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

They will know us by our love...

I have long been convicted of our behavior. I am talking about the behavior of Christians. I suppose I should say of my behavior but this is something I have observed of us as a whole.

Followers of Christ, folks who identify themselves with Christ, those who believe in a Savior that came to earth, SACRIFICED himself, became as a servant to save ANYONE who would believe. He did it all because of love.

I know that is me. I am anyone. But something bothers me. And I think it is a maturity thing as much as anything. I remember telling someone they were going to bust hell wide open. I was 19 years old. I will tell you - that the person I said that to - knew I loved them. But I would rethink my language now. Pretty sure anyway. Because I have matured. And I have learned that making others agree with me is no longer my goal. It really should never be part of the Christian philosophy. Loving well should be what we are known for. Not this "holler til they hear us" mentality that seems to pervade the news media every time we are transgressed against.

Christians, from the worlds standpoint, tend to be mean. We tend to think we need to fight. We think we have to prove we are right. We do not love very well. Or sacrifice very well. There is no turning of the cheek - as a whole.

And it has hurt our reputation. Instead of being people that folks are drawn to...not for our beauty, or our charm, but because we display an unspeakable love that comes from Christ, we tend to repel, and to make others hate us. We belittle, and are snide. We tell others that God reviles them because of their sin. And unfortunately we - many times - are connected with conservative radicals that bomb clinics and spew hateful words. The fact is - sin is sin - my sin is no better than the doctor who performs abortions. So if I can say it's okay to bomb the abortion clinic for their sin, I am in essence saying I deserve the same thing. That is - if I believe God's Word and am truly a follower of Christ.

That is not Christ's example. His example was to eat with publicans and sinners. He turned the other cheek. He asked other people's opinion. He spoke with people that it was not looked well upon to speak with. He loved others so well.

Am I generalizing? Absolutely. I am just seeing Christians as a group - and  as a whole from a non-believer's viewpoint. I have the good fortune of being part of an online community that are a group of sweet folks. But they do not think well of Christians as a whole.
This makes me sad.

I am sure our example lies here:

Philippians 2 English Standard Version (ESV)

Christ's Example of Humility

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Lights in the World

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. 

 

I am sure our example should be one that is in standing with this scripture. I think we should love others, and "shine as lights in the world". Love well, sacrificially, putting others before ourselves. Let the Spirit do his work on the hearts. There is no need for us to prove we are right. That is pride.

After all....

John 13:35

35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

*****An aside - I know not all Christians are loud, obnoxious and argumentative. I do believe we take a stand and are firm about it. I am talking about our language that sounds uncompassionate and our need to debate ad nauseum. My new favorite thing is to ask questions. If I can leave someone with a thought and a pleasant memory of me and any gracious thing I shared, then maybe the Holy Spirit can find root in a heart. Which is my desire in all I say and do. (smile)

 


 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Solving the problem...

I know. We worry. I worry.

So much.

Things don't go the way we want. We think, "If this would just happen then everything would be okay".

Plug in: My candidate becomes president then America would prosper. My husband would get a job or get a better paying job, we could finally breathe. My kids would just make the team, they would be happy and that would make me happy - I can't see them be disappointed. My parents health would improve I could finally rest. And the list goes on.

So many things. Important things.

The problem.

I do not know. I do not know what is best. I cannot see the future. I don't even know the right decisions to make over things that don't matter sometimes. And yet, I find myself winding myself up into a fine tizzy. I think we all do it.

The bigger problem:

I think I know. I want to control it all. And I despair when I cannot.

The answer.

Matthew 6:24-34

New International Version (NIV)
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


It is a blessed relief to read these words and to believe them, accept them and to practice them. I have had moments of actually exercising this small faith of mine and seeing glimpses of the glorious thing it will become. The release and rest that comes from believing God's Word and practising it is a blessing. And one we resist - crazily enough.

I want to tell you a story. It is mine. And I have shared parts of it before, but today, as we prepare for the Thanksgiving Holiday and share our thanks each day for how we are blessed, I am particularly overwhelmed and thankful for how God has worked in my and my family's life this past year.

A year ago I was working a hard job. It was a lot of work and not enough people and I had to make hard decisions every day. I had to put what I could into it and then leave it at the end of the working day and then serve my family. I had to leave my kids by themselves until a certain time every day and it felt wrong. My anxiety levels were through the roof. I had to have a tooth pulled from an abcess that occurred from the constant jaw clenching. I even had to go to the emergency care facility because I thought I was having a heart attack. Turned out it was anxiety attacks. I finally came to a point where I asked God if this was right. Something I had never really asked because the job came so easily to me that I thought it had to be his will. He said no. He said leave it. I tried to stay because I was scared. We needed that job. I thought. I finally obeyed and - peace and provision were ours.

Shortly after leaving, I was having lunch with a friend and I confided in her that my greatest fear after leaving that job was my husband losing his. It was something I thought I could not handle.

A few short weeks later he walked through the door and he told me, he was sorry. His job was gone.

Seriously. It felt like a dream. No way. I rejected it. I felt the horrible panic and what felt like my life falling apart all in the matter of about a minute. My reaction to him was ugly. It shames me to remember instead of showing faith and confidence, I pushed him away.

But within an hour, I felt something that was not of me, pass through me. I accepted the fact that we were where I thought I could not live and I was still living. God instilled the vision of a moment by moment grace. I thought about what was the worst that could happen. We could lose the house, we might have to live with family, it could be humbling, embarrassing even at times. This was not unbearable to me. I did have to disengage the control freak within me, but when I locked that beast up, I felt I could take the next step. And I did, along with my family, holding onto the hand of God.

And I spoke to God. And he brought me to the scripture. And I listened. He gave me the understanding and the ability to say when I felt the panic rising, "We have everything we NEED". He even gave me the ability to be thankful, "Thank you Lord for giving us everything we need for today". And I would wake up the next day and do it all again.

Interview after interview...several times there would be three interviews and my very capable, experienced and certification laden husband would find that he did not get the job. Questions? I had them. But the Spirit would prompt me with remembering to stop my imagination and to be grateful for everything we had. And our provision was overwhelming. Money - a huge amount given from a young couple that had a limited income and a new baby. Humbling? Yes. Encouraging? So very! We tried not to accept it but were reprimanded by them for not accepting what they freely gave. We were overwhelmingly provided for. Gift cards and prayers - the most amazing, heart lifting, unbelievably, generous folks gave. And they taught me what my response should be. Gratitude. Following their example. Trust. Greater faith. My heart is about to bust just recounting it all.

Five months later, I am working pretty steadily. I am substitute teaching in as many Special Education classrooms I can as a teacher's aid. I love it. It energizes me. And I am asking God to provide me with a teacher's aid position so that I can be there every day. I come home and am here with my boys the same time they are. I will be home with them in the summer. My husband just got contract work and is making a very good salary. It is not permanent. But it is through the holidays and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Worry? Worry is an absolute waste of time.

Matthew 6:  33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

It is true. I am a different person. I know I will always struggle with worry. But I am so grateful for this experience and seeing how God has provided through friends and family. I felt the prayers, and love and am thrilled to have learned so much from the precious generosity - sacrificial generosity of others and it makes me want to do the same.

My heart is full. I pray that God will continue to grow my family and I. I pray that we will give generously in return and find ways to serve others.

I pray that my fellow believers will find the peace in the midst of difficult times. That we will trust moment by moment in God's provision, for our families, our friends and our government. I do pray we will humble ourselves and pray for others...especially our leaders. And that we will learn to trust and give control to the One who knows.

It will always be an issue - worry - but we do not have to. I hope we learn to live more often than not without it.







Tuesday, November 6, 2012

You can have Church anywhere!

This past week I had nothing on the books. No sub jobs. Not a single one. I have had my weeks full long before the day actually gets here so this was perplexing to me. But I did not worry for some strange reason. Not at all like me - but praise God for change! Anyway - before Monday got here I had a call from someone who needed me at the High School and then another from a friend who works at a trade show downtown called Christmas Village.

Christmas Village is an amazing show where artists and crafters gather to sell their wares each year before Christmas. It is vast and amazing what you can find. People are so talented! I worked Cotton Tails which is a smaller version of the same thing put on in the Spring. So I met a couple of sweet folks last year and was thrilled when some other folks called me to help out this year. It just so happened that it was in the middle of my non-scheduled work week! So I worked Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of that week as well as Sunday.

I worked two different venues and loved each one. The one I worked with for a few days was an artist from Georgia. Her name is Pam Coxwell. http://fromtheheartart.com/catalog/. Here is her link so you can see the inspirational and lovely prints and things she has to offer. Pam and her husband Terry, have an amazing entourage they bring with them to help out. Not only did my heart immediately find kindred spirits, but I had work. It was a joy to be there. It didn't feel like work at all - until I got home and had to soak my feet - which is a typical issue when you work those trade shows!

One day while I was eating lunch I had the privilege of sitting with Peggy. Peggy went to church with Pam and Terri and is a beautiful lady that is a joy to be around. I was amazed at how easy our lunch together was (I can be awkward at times - go figure) but I loved hearing what she had to say. She shared her story which was heartwrenching, but such an encouragement. How God used her past to encourage and comfort me - right where I was that day -  was a wonderful thing to be a part of. I left lunch feeling like I had just been to Church. I was uplifted and encouraged and full of joy that God provided such a huge encouragement in the middle of my day. I got two hugs from her when I left that day. One from her and one from our heavenly Father. For she and those I worked with that week were truly part of the family of God. I love seeing God's Word in action.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-11

9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you.

I love this verse...not only for it's implication of extending our love of the family of God as far as we can...but also for the practical no nonsense advice at the end. Mind your own business and keep busy. I need to hear those words! Over and over again... 

I just wanted to share my blessings from last week....hope you find church in unexpected places as well. (smile)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lowering the bar...

for others. Yeah...I am not talking about my own high standards. If anything I am horrid at all the "soccer mom" stuff. I cannot live that existence. When it gets stacked with one activity after another I start getting a little wiggy. I am not made of the stern stuff of so many women that surround me these days. I love to sit at home and just go slack jawed watching a movie. And quite frankly - this embarrasses me to some degree.

Because I live in the age of Super Woman.

I am so not Super Woman.

That would be the reason for the name Pajama Mama. I am GOOD at that. Fer sure.

So maybe this is my way of rebelling....just a little bit. I do have that wonderful trait in spades. I am kidding - not about having that trait - about it being wonderful. It is horrid. There is a fine line when setting boundaries as to why you are setting the boundaries. When rebelling and thumbing my nose at something comes into play- I have to think it through carefully. There are so many good things I need to submit to. I am constantly fighting the battle of suck it up and be nice as you do this for pete's sake.

But this - I have thought through.

I want to lower the bar. Just a bit.

I think that we think we have to be Super Woman everyday. We will disappoint someone. Or, we are trying to maintain a facade that gives us our worth. And our activities should never be where our worth comes from. Those activities ebb and flow and ebb to death. They become less and less as time goes by. We will be frustrated, cranky, unfulfilled, old women if continue to keep up the Super Woman facade. Because we just can't.

Our value as followers of Christ should be exactly where we look to find worth; Our adoption into the amazing familiy of God. We are daughters of the KING. He has given us simple rules to follow. They free us and allow us to be who he made us. That is with flaws and all. Wow. Now - of course we seek to overcome those flaws. He is in the process of sanctifying us day by day. But there is REST and FREEDOM in relaxing in Christ.

I think that is where lowering the bar comes into play. It is actually a setting the bar higher but in that amazing flip God uses - it is like losing your life for the sake of Christ to find more abundant life (Matthew 10:39  Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it).

So in my setting the bar lower - I am just saying that I am freeing myself to be who I am with all of my flaws and personal problems. Seriously. I love the idea of not having to pretend that I am perfect. God is in the process of doing that for me. One day - I will be like him. A reflection of his glorious grace. That is what my goal and purpose should be everyday. To be a little more like him. I am going to do my best to lower the bar for my sisters. Because being Super Woman every day has GOT to be exhausting.



Thursday, October 11, 2012

Be Creative - B-E- Creative!

I have neglected writing my thoughts. They are in there - believe it or not - bumping around in my thick skull. But for some strange reason - putting them into words escapes me.

I cannot say that it has been a hard few months. Seems to me that I have learned that life in general is just hard. For everyone. In one way or another we struggle, daily. The days we don't - well - those are indeed banner days.

It has caused me to think about how I look at life. I have posted about this before - but I know this world is hard. We are promised that we will find trouble here. So - we are to put our hope in the Lord, and trust in his care for us. He has overcome the world and it's darkness. But meanwhile - we carry on with business as usual. (John 16:33)

It reminds me of the story where Jesus went to Jerusalem with his parents for a feast. On their way back, Mary and Joseph noticed that Jesus was not around. Of course they panicked. Worried what had happened they rushed back to Jerusalem and found him sitting amoung learned men listening and talking. And of course these men were amazed as how much Jesus knew. When Mary and Joseph rushed in and rebuked Jesus for allowing himself to be left behind, he said, "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?(Luke 2:49)" Of course Mary and Joseph didn't understand but in the midst of life - Jesus knew there were things that were more important.

I am starting to get that. What things seem important - like making lots of money, making sure my kids get every opportunity so they will be successful, these things - though they are good - should not be my goal. Life is so much more than all of this effort spent on things that sometimes just do not matter. Of course I am exxagerating - but truly - my goals have been so out of wack for so long. I have missed enjoying the life I have by trying to make it the best in the world's eyes. Off target.

My husband lost his job in May. I know it is hard for him - but I have been encouraged and find this schooling - though uncomfortable at times - enlightening and life changing . My husband's faith is amazing and I have been so thrilled at God's provision for us. I have been certified as a substitute teacher and I love it. I am so thankful I get to come home and be with the boys and take them to school in the morning. I feel a definite direction and see it as a reward for taking a path that has less money but certainly is more profitable in other ways.

There are other things I am feeling God's hand and direction in that I have been dragging my feet on for some time. But it is going to be one small step at a time. But I love, love, love that I am getting to be with kids during the day and that my creativity will be used.

Everyone is amazing. Have you noticed that? All of the writing and craftiness and artists...foodies and just such clever people - EVERYWHERE! It has made me hesitant to move forward with my own gifts. But I have come to see that that is wrong thinking. I am comparing  myself and that is wrong. There should be no comparison. I think the old addage that says if you don't use it, you lose it is true to some degree. We must practice our God given talents and use them in whatever way we are led to. The first step. Do it. Put feet to your desires. Paint the picture, write the song, cook the food...whatever your hand finds to do - do it well!

Ecclesiastes 9:10
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.

Find a way to do what you envision. If it does not turn out as planned - it is just the one try. Do not give up!

Now - this may seem like a cheer session for the poor in heart (like myself ) and it absolutely is (and the reason for the cheer in the post title). There is no doubt in my mind that we are made to create just like our Creator. So go! Carry on with the business of living life - it does not have to be anything other than what it is - making something - anything. Find what makes your heart happy and see it realized. So yes - this is me - telling myself - and sharing with you - that it is time we put feet to our ideas. Find a way to live what you love. Use the gifts God has given and fill your day with busy-ness! Such a blessing!



Saturday, June 30, 2012

Free

So the Fourth of July is in a week. Next Wednesday to be exact. How blessed we are to live in a country that still (for now) allows us the privilege of worshipping as we feel is right and saying what is on our hearts and minds. We are a free people.

Freedom is an amazing thing. It is usually bought with the price of blood. America's freedom had a huge price tag. Thousands of lives were given to purchase it. And that freedom has to be repurchased and laid on the altar of service and aid for other countries as well. Men and women - give of themselves so that others might be able to live without fear of being killed for being weaker and unable to defend themselves.

I could expound on this ad nauseum. As I started writing I continually had to restrain my fingers from typing of all of the blessings we receive in the US and how amazing it is. And of course how our constitution has been infringed on lately....BUT that is not the point of my writing today. There is a freedom that has been purchased that tops even the freedoms we enjoy in the United States.

Galatians 5:1
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Christ came to purchase my freedom. At great cost. His life and the anguish of carrying every sin that was laid upon him to settle that cost. The life he laid down was so that you and I can be free. He laid it down for everyone who would believe. And that freedom stands in spite of what happens in our government. It surpasses anything we have heard of in any of the wars that have been waged.

The fact is - I do not always feel my freedom. There is always something that binds me and causes me worry. My behavior is atrocious. I need to do this and that and the other to please and serve and make things right. I must do a better job of making myself behave in the way I feel God and Family and Friends need me to.

Those burdens I carry alone. And I am not meant to. I chain myself to them every morning. And I am not meant to.

I am not meant to.

My insistence on that is totally discounting the sacrifice that was made so I can live free.

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The more I read, pray and love - the more free I become.

Of course that doesn't mean I can go and rob a bank, or tell lies and live contrary to the Word. I tell my kids every day - "Obedience is your ticket to freedom". The more they obey me the more I can trust them. That means they can go and do and I will know that they are doing what I have asked - what they have been taught. If they can do that - they get to do more. The reasons I ask them to obey is to protect them. To keep them safe. To guard them from harm - physically, mentally and spiritually. So it is simple - when they do not do as I have asked...their freedom is restricted.

It is the same with God. He asks the same of me.

Galatians 5:19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

My protection from heart ache, from physical harm, from mental torment - is in mind when he asks me to abstain from the acts of the flesh.

His desire for me to prosper and live well are the rewards of abstaining from things that will harm me. And the reward is freedom.

I am rebellious by nature. If you tell me I cannot do it - I am going to do my best to prove you wrong. But this is my sinful nature. It is something I should fight against to continue in my freedom. I need to crucify that desire so that I can avoid the heartaches that insue because of my rebelliousness.

There are many people that I have grown to love and respect over the years. They do not agree with me. They think I am weak and use my faith as a crutch. I am okay with that. I don't require their approval to love them and to want them to find the same freedom I have found. But I have also found freedom in not feeling the burden of making them understand. They will do what they are called to do. And of course because I love them, I want them to understand and believe as well. But I do not have to defend God. I just have to live well before them and love them well. That may require a hard conversation or two. It means I have to stand up for what I believe. I may even have to deal with hearing them say things that may hurt. But remember - I am a people pleaser. Part of my freedom is releasing myself from that as well. The hard conversations will just be knowing that I am saying things they find offensive. I don't like to offend. Ever.

But - I find joy in knowing that I am living faithfully. I find that I am happy in the simplicity of seeking to please God and knowing that in doing that I will be serving many well because of it.

I thank God for this.

I am free! It is an amazing feeling. I pray I relate it well in all I say and do.





Thursday, June 28, 2012

Change

I have probably written about change as much as any subject. I personally would love to pick a place and stay there. Physically, spiritually, mentally, however you can stay the same.

BUT that is just silly.

The reason change is so hard is that the future is uncertain. It comes back down to control. I cannot control the events that occur when change presents itself. I don't mind change when things go smoothly and I have a good handle on everything. It is when it is all out of my control and I feel like I am fishtailing down a slippery highway and things are coming at me fast and hard that I am totally freaking out.

BUT whose fault is that?

Matthew 6:33-34(NIV)
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I don't really want to stay the same. That would be boring. Stagnant. I love life and the glimpses of Heaven we get here on Earth. So when the change comes that I don't want and I can't control - there is something I am given that will de-stress every given situation. Focusing on today. On this moment. I cannot worry about tomorrow. There is nothing I can do about tomorrow. But I have everything I need for right now. Remembering that and keeping busy are my best tools to make it through gracefully.

The comfort of waking up in the morning knowing that God will supply all of my needs (Philippians 4: 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.) is often discredited. Not believed. But I can wake up knowing he will.

I am not foolish enough to think that I do not have to work or plan.  (Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.) We do that day by day. That is part of the "keeping busy" (Proverbs 12:14 From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward.) Live each day well and rejoice in the unexpected that comes with it, knowing that they are part and parcel of your life.

I am looking forward to the day when the other shoe drops and instead of running around like Henny Penny shouting "the sky is falling!", I simply say - "alrighty then" trusting that it will be okay. Will it be any time soon?

Goodness I hope not. I really would like the other shoe to just hang in there.

But change is inevitable. Wishing it would never happen is not really what I want. My human nature just wants to control it. But that is not going to happen. My first reaction should be to turn my eyes on Jesus!







I love learning. The lessons are so hard. But what comes from them is so freeing!

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NIV)
16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Now that is beautiful - and something to be longed for.



Monday, June 25, 2012

He will EXULT over me with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

 The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing.

I am a people pleaser. What spurs me on is to hear praise. It is a simple, though oftentimes frustrating thing that makes me - me. I am also an accomplishment driven person. This too can be frustrating.

I have often given God the squint eye and asked him, "Why?".

Why would he make me this way? It seems to me what makes me me is also what makes me - dependent. And I don't want to be dependent. I am INdependent.  

Now that is a conundrum. ( a question or problem having only a conjectural or hypothetical answer - not that you wouldn't know that - I had to look it up to make sure I did)

But alas - my God desires my dependence on him. 

Colossians 3:16-18 (AMP)
16 Let the word [spoken by] Christ (the Messiah) have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness, as you teach and admonish and train one another in all insight and intelligence and wisdom [in spiritual things, and as you sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to God with [His] grace in your hearts.
17 And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him

Upon reflection and being quite honest with where I stand...my independence is exhausting. And so flawed. I truly need and seek a place of rest. I need a place that is higher than I can hope to aspire to. A place of rest and repose.

Psalm 61:1-3
1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth will I cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed and fainting; lead me to the rock that is higher than I [yes, a rock that is too high for me].
3 For You have been a shelter and a refuge for me, a strong tower against the adversary.

And God offers it - to me - to you - every day.

I find that I take on too much. My hopes and aspirations are too grand. My failures too huge. My insight too little. I am just not quite enough. And I sense it - everyday. I see my flaws. I am mightily aware of my shortcomings. And yet....

He will exult over me with singing. He will delight in me. And he really knows me - all the ick. All the failures. All the wobbling I do. And he loves me. It inspires my trust and complete reliance on him.

Recently my husband lost his job for the second time in 3 years. I will not blame the economy. I truly have no idea why it has happened again. I find myself perplexed and empty headed at times (far too often I am afraid)...but I know that it has made me practice my dependency on God. And I have never felt more complete and at peace than I do now. Do I know we will have a job tomorrow? No. Do I know my needs have been supplied - not only supplied but blessings heaped on me today? Yes. And I am thankful. Thankful to my God for seeing and supplying and giving me understanding. So I walk in light of today. This moment. And I feel strongly that this is God's way of helping me. I depend on him moment by moment. And this dependence has come more fully than ever before because of the place we are in. If we still had a job...I would rely on myself. It is my first instinct. Like a child I repeatedly say - "I can do this by myself".

I have found that is NOT such a good thing.

John 15:10-12
Amplified Bible (AMP)

10 If you keep My commandments [if you continue to obey My instructions], you will abide in My love and live on in it, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commandments and live on in His love.
11 I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing.
12 This is My commandment: that you love one another [just] as I have loved you.

Abiding in Christ - depending on him - is how my joy is complete. AND equally dumbfounding is that even though God knows me inside and out (no hiding from him my abilities or disabilities, flaws or failures) - he REJOICES over me. He is PROUD of me. He EXULTS over me with singing. And in this need of mine for approval (what I considered a flaw prior to) I can rejoice. For God gives it to me in grand measure.

Wow. Just - Wow.











Friday, March 9, 2012

The Call

I had a lunch date with a friend planned for today. Now I know if you follow me at all in this hit and miss thing I call a blog, then you know that I love people. People are always worth the effort. Somedays, I am not as sociable as others. I credit that to the personality that I have been given. I am (unofficially and certainly very mildly) manic depressive. I am a lunatic for weeks on end and then I hit the skids. You can look at my house and tell where I am in that particular cycle. Poor, poor husband.

I woke up this morning to a grey day. I heard a bird outside and I swear it sounded like "and screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming". So bizarre. But it stuck in my head. I knew I had to hitch up my britches and get through it all. I physically shook myself and made myself get into the shower, go get the kids up, get them to school, come home and start cleaning.

I called my precious friend, and left a message letting her know I hadn't forgotten. I told her we could grab something somewhere or she could come over here. This was huge - because I am in the middle of a "skid", the house looks like it exploded. But - I know this friend and she would not be offended by this house and its messiness. She has three boys as well and a very young little girl. Anyway - I knew it would be fine.

I continued getting through my list, getting things accomplished (which is a miracle in and of itself) when I got the call. My friend called and said they had been sick all week long and that she had totally forgotten that we scheduled lunch today. This was not offensive at all since I live my life by the seat of my pants and don't know what I am doing from moment to moment much less day to day (I MUST do better).

Two weeks ago she gave me a book at church. Just out of the blue -for no reason - other than she had me on her heart (makes my eyes water just to write that). It is called "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young. It is a daily reading that is the most amazingly encouraging stuff I have read in such a long time. There are days when I am reading it that I am absolutely AMAZED at how it hits my emotional nail on the head. There is not one day that I have not agreed with it or been thankful for its direction in scripture for me. Anyway - her thoughtfulness has inspired me to do better when thinking of others  and to follow through with my desire to "do" for them. Her blessing on me has been so impactful that it has led me to do the same. I LOVE that. 

So the call - she just told me that she has been praying for me and has walked through her mind what my day must be like. The pressure of working full time and being amongst so many in my area that do not work full time must be difficult at times she told me (it is). She told me that as she did this she prayed for me. Wow.

What a precious friend to think of me in the midst of her incredibly busy life. I must confess that I struggle as I go to a church that has many of the "same type" of folks. And I love these folks. God is our mutual interest and they are a precious lot. They are a smart lot. I see wisdom and so many things I would like to be in this church of ours. But I am a roller coaster of emotions (so not steady), and I am goofy and liberal (yes - I am sure compared to many of them I am), I feel like God has placed this bizarre weed (me) in a formal garden that is fierce in it's disciplined beauty. And yet - I make sense there. I am needed. I forget that sometimes.

Thanks to my sweet friend, I caught another glimpse of that. Her care and thoughtfulness has made me better on this grey day. My heart is light and it has been encouraged.

Hebrews 10:23-25
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

What Kristy did for me, is exactly what we are called to do. I will be faithful to follow this example.

I had to share. That call, and those affirming words of hers, made such a difference in this day. Even though I didn't get to sit and eat with her, it was a blessed 5 minutes that had big impact.

I am so thankful!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

All wrapped up...in me

I will be the first one to tell you that I struggle with thinking of others first. As a matter of fact - I drive myself insane when I see how many times the conversation turns to something about me. I do it all the time. It's annoying.


But I have also noticed that I have a need to let others know I identify with what they are going through. Maybe not in the same way - but something I have gone through gives me an inkling of what they might be going through. I state it in either my post or conversation. But I have often wondered how helpful that really is. Is it truly just another way for me to talk about myself? Or - am I truly trying to help out? Is that me trying to be empathetic?

That got me to thinking about the two things. Narcissism and empathy.

If narcissism is excessive self love and empathy is the identifying with the thoughts and feelings of someone else...can empathy be a vehicle for the narcissism? A kind of closet narcissism?

I am sure we can make a vehicle out of anything to excuse our self-indulgence. Me in particular. But - I want to be more aware of how I live my life.

I have been thanking God in particular for a new revelation. I need a job. I have applied for two. I have heard nothing yet. It is getting to the point where I may need to put in for jobs less likely to make money and make me content. But we do what we have to. So of course in my seeking - I have been praying, asking God to guide and to protect and to make us content....but please help us with expenses. And then I find myself saying - if we had money, we could finally fix this and finally do this...the list is endless. And one day I realized that everything I wanted was selfish.

Of course we need money - but we could do with less to serve others. I wish I wanted money to serve others better. So I have asked God to change my heart. Make me more aware of others needs and how I can help - in a personal way. But I am so happy I finally SAW that. I thank God - of course realizing it is the first step to fixing it! Or making it better anyway.

So - back to my confusion - am I doing the same thing with my empathy? Am I being selfish?

Of course there is no one I love better than myself. But I want to be more like Jesus...

Philippians 2:
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

What an amazing son God has. I pray that as a daughter of the King that I too can call upon the added strength and desire to be that selfless. I know it is a process and that I will never see it happen fully in this life - but I pray I see it get better. I pray that God gives me the desire, the energy, the eyes to see how to help others better. Sacrificial love is no small feat. But I would love to see that in me.

But then - I get confused again. Pray for direction. discernment. determination.

God willing it will be so.