31 Jan

Running from Me

happy birthday baby girl feet

She was but a few days, weeks maybe, old. Her soft skin and tiny fingers weren’t even a memory yet, more of a dream still. I had carried her, given birth to her, held her, loved her and now she was gone.

Gone.

And I was looking for meaning.

 

I know he was well-intentioned  this man who I shared my new dreams with. I know he and his family cared deeply for me. They had supported me and loved through a process that made me a woman…a mother…brokenhearted. I shared with him that I wanted to become a social worker. That no one would be able to help other birthmothers the way I could, having walked their road. I was excited. There would be meaning to my emptiness. There would be a reason for all this heartache. (There were MANY reasons I had chosen adoption…mainly wanting the best for my sweet baby girl…but mired in heartache and feelings I didn’t know what to do with I couldn’t grasp those reasons I needed my own. Something that I didn’t give away.)

But there in the face of my excitement came these words, “You don’t want to do that. You don’t want this to be what defines you.”

Those words. Changed. My. Life.

From that moment on I began to run from being a birthmother. I pushed away feelings of love for my daughters. I carried anger and resentment towards their parents. And while I was fairly open with people about the girls I still wore shame. I was busy filling my life and my heart with things to help me forget I was (am) a birthmother.

He was right. I didn’t want to defined by this moment…I didn’t want to be known as the woman who slept around, who kept giving up her kids, who despite being smart made dumb life decisions over and over again. I didn’t want to be a movie of the week kinda girl.

And yet, the harder I pushed to forget where I had been, to ignore what I had chosen (both bad and good), to prove I wasn’t that woman I was becoming that woman.My decisions were more and more erratic. My choice of men was, well let’s say, um, AWFUL! I bounced from job to job hoping for some kind of fulfillment.

And then, I met Jesus.

(I know it almost sounds cliche, doesn’t it? But the overwhelming, redeeming love of our Savior is never cliche, so stick with me!)

As Jesus began to work in my heart, I started to soften and see my life through a different lens. Yes, I had made many, many poor choices in my life, BUT God had a plan for two little girls, for two families to be complete, for my life to have meaning.

Something amazing happened as I began to see myself as a Jesus girl. I began to understand that what I was running from was me.My shame.

My guilt.

My heartache.

And when I learned to lay them down at the foot of the cross. God began to move in me.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to h
im are radiant; their faces are never covered in shame. Psalms 34:4-5

We’ve all made poor decisions,we all live lives marred with sin (sometimes mine was just more noticeable than others), we all need the grace and love of Jesus to help us put down our old ways and seek Him to become different, better women!

My sweet, amazing oldest daughter is 15 today. I knew her when her fingers were tiny and gripped my pinky, now those fingers play the piano and write beautiful poems. Her little legs that once kicked my belly button from the inside now make her a force to be reckoned with on the soccer field.

 

And I’m sure her eyes, so deep and beautiful are still gorgeous and carry a hint of an impish spark (after all she is related to me!!).

This past year, God took this busted up girl who spent much of her life running from herself and offered a tremendous dose of grace. I’ve gotten to know my amazing, loving, funny daughter via facebook, texts and letters. We have an amazing relationship that is hard to define, but is exactly what we both need. When I wrote a blog last year for her birthday I wrote to her, reveling in the memories of what it was to “know” her. This year, I know her and I’ve been able to tell her I love her (and receive her love). She has healed places in my heart that haven’t seen sunlight or hope in, well, 15 years. Through words of a very wise, very caring young woman (my daughter!!), God has offered me healing and hope.

But, do you see that if I was still running there would be no healing? The truth is God has a plan for us — to redeem our pasts (and our sin) and to use us in ways for His kingdom that we couldn’t ever imagine. But, not one ounce of healing, not one ounce of redemption can come when we refuse to set it down. When we try to ignore our pasts (locking it away) it leaks out like a dripping pipe…slowly eroding our hearts, our hopes, our dreams and changing who w

e are. When try to run from our pasts it is like trying to run from your shadow on a sunny day. Our pasts are what make us.

Oh, but they do not have to define us. Our past, our sin, our shortcomings only define us if we choose to let them. If we choose, instead, to be defined by Christ it changes everything. Christ takes that past and allows us to see where God was in it and how it can be used in the here and now. For me, part of God’s plan allows me to share my experiences as a birthmother with people (other birthmothers, pregnancy center volunteer trainings, and more). And for me, part of God’s plan was healing…a little at a time. I will never be the mommy who raised my two little girls (they have incredible mothers who God chose for them), but I do get to be a friend who loves them, prays for them, cheers them on and loves them in a special way that few will ever understand!

 

And that my friends is what Jesus’ plan for me looks like (well, part of it…).

What do you need to set down? Is God calling you to come to terms with your past (your sin) so that He can use it for His glory?

 

 

07 Dec

Cure for Christianapathy

cure for christianapathy

(My thoughts on how we can embrace our roles as Christians as whisperers of warming grace or how we can choose soul-deadening, Jesus stealing, Christianapathy….began here. You might want to start there…)

The list of verses lays on my desk. Weeks’ worth of emails and prayers, hopes and expectations, now nothing more than a piece of scrap paper. When the idea came bright and full of promise I knew it could be life changing. I handed them the challenge…memorize scripture. I handed them tools…dry erase boards and weekly emails. I even offered motivation (because for many of us being closer to God, fighting sin, comforting others, and conforming to Christ’s image is not motivation enough)…prizes.

And yet, nothing…reasons, excuses, life…stuff got in the way.

We who memorize songs, recipes, gossip, lines to movies, plots of television shows, breeds of dogs, clothing designers, punchlines and so much more. We who claim Christ only when we can look up His truth, because excuses block us from hiding it in {our} heart. (Psalm 119:11) Not even prizes or nudges to our competitive spirits can save us from this Christianapathy.

I growl and groan. My disappointment is audible, palpable. And yet, even as I sigh I’m not sure who I’m disappointed in. Them. Or me. Do I work to memorize the Word that lives and breathes…that Word that saves, corrects, shapes, molds, reveals, loves…the Word that is my Jesus? Not like I should. Did I really think that I could lure people into making an investment…into changing for their own good? Perhaps…a dangerous, unfulfilling game, really. If Jesus isn’t their motivation…if He isn’t my motiviation…then why?

This list lays on my desk….a new reminder of an old flaw…this indifference to the things of God. A nudge to an apathetic soul that chooses entertainment over the eternal.

And as we wait on entertainment and memorize the vapid, we waste our energy on so many things that aren’t significant…aren’t of or for Jesus. We find to do lists, tasks and stuff that needs our attention. We stand in line for movies but want to help or serve only when its convienent and easy. We hop online instead of kneeling to meet with Jesus. Commutes, cleaning, sports, work, shopping, tv, cooking, family and trivial wants top our to do lists when Jesus said, “only one thing is needed“. (Luke 10:42)

The dictionary says apathy is a lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern.

The Bible says it like this “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16)

Spit you from my mouth….you who are lukewarm…you who are apathetic.

That we would know the life abundant Christ came to give us. (John 10:10) The life that is full of Christ — full of the Word…full of Truth…full of service…of sacrifice…of love. That life…that Christ-life…is one that is to be embraced…pursued…lived. Not one that we sit through…wait for…or ho-hum our way through.

Abundant life is exciting life. But embracing that life does not mean comfort or ease…it means running hard after God into places that will challenge, that will require us to grow (in wisdom and knowledge that come from Christ and the Word), that will require us to take a stand and speak up. Abundant life is vibrant and full….like spring full of flowers, buds, green grass and emerging life!!

The cure for soul-deadening, Jesus stealing, Christianapathy comes like all things great and glorious that God offers us…it is a choice. A choice to follow God.

A choice to invest in the things, the people, and the habits of our Savior. A choice to embrace this Jesus-filled life of abundance with enthusiasm, passion and worship…after all that’s what we were made for!

 

05 Dec

Christianapathy

christianapathy

From deep under a pile of blankets I stare out the window. Winter pushes on the windows and walls…cold air rushes through cracks and closing doors to gnaw away at our warmth and comfort…no snow, no beauty. The trees bare and lifeless against the backdrop of brown fields and life shriveled into crusty, crunchy leaves. Winter has arrived with its tale of bleak days and cold hands strangling dry, hard earth.

January will come…day after day…bare landscapes, cold weather and I will forget that spring will come. It is easy to forget when you don’t focus on the promise. It is easy to view life through windows and closing doors…safe, protected, shut away. The short days of winter, when the sun leaves too soon and the night lingers too long, bring an apathy that shrugs at life…that forgets that winter ends and new life begins….that accepts with no enthusiasm that new blooms wait for a whisper of warmth.

Winter will end, spring will come. Birds and buds…flowers and green shoots will remind us that winter ends…that hope lives. The warmth of spring sunshine and a sweet-scented breeze will warm us from winter blues.

But I begin to wonder about the apathy we choose….

 

I watch it spread, this soul-deadening winter…this place where we choose to wait…to watch life through windows and closing doors…this space where we choose inaction over Love.

She tells me of her loss…of her family’s loss and how the only expressions of sorrow, of sympathy and love have come in a form when one can push send. Her body language is tight, closed off, and cold…her sorrow looms large. “When did people stop caring for others?” her question hangs huge over my heart. When their souls are aching…shouldn’t we be the warm breath of Life?

The lines on her face tell stories of life and worry. The cigarette hangs loosely from her lips as she recounts the tales of those on the fringe of our midst. Tents, shelters, addicts, those without heat or lights. Referrals pour in, but the money is short…the doors always just barely staying open. A battle to help the least with but a little from a few. When there is hunger, homelessness, need…shouldn’t we do for them as unto Him?

With splashes and sputters the water pours from the tap. A sight, a sound, a precious resource I take for granted. Every. Day. As I wash dishes I think of the words on the radio. Water filters. (from Compassion) So simple this water…that quenches and cleans. How would we live without it? How do they live without it? And I wonder…when they are thirsty…shouldn’t we bring them water…Living Water?

So many stories of them…those people whose suffering seems distant and faceless through windows and closing doors…those people…those people…the ones we choose not to help…sure that someone else will send a card, open their wallets, share the Gospel…love.

Like the bleakness of winter we surround ourselves in this sad, dark envelope of Christianapathy. We shrivel and whither like late season leaves and think that going through the motions of showing up at church, singing when the praise band strikes a tune or praying over a meal make us glorious and life-filled.

I watch as beautiful, talented, passionate women sit by and wait for someone else to plan, someone else to encourage a hurting friend, someone else to stand up for Jesus. I, too, am guilty of indulging in this Christianapathy….warm Bible studies, over steaming cups…the world rolls on outside the window…suffering women search for friends, for security, for Jesus….

The world is cold, the darkness presses in on all sides, and here we sit holding the Word…the Light; we hit send instead of speaking the Word to souls drowning in meaningless noise; we choose comfort and waiting on someone else to do it when Jesus said, “whatever you did for one…you did for me; and whatever you did not do for one…you did not do for me.”

We choose this soul-deadening practice of comfort zones and wasted opportunities. We choose winter and bleak landscapes, when the promise of Hope and new Life was His breath into our lungs…breath pours out Words and grace…a whisper of warmth for blooms that await.

We are the promise of spring. We are the promise of new Life…we breathe grace and love. We can embrace our roles as Christians as whisperers of warming grace or we can choose soul-deadening, Jesus stealing, Christianapathy.

07 Nov

Take Off Your Cute

Shoes

Have you ever bought a pair of shoes because they were cute, no matter how they felt when you tried them on? Come on, admit it…I know I’m not the only one.

We do this with more than shoes, you know. We do this in life. We think that we need to put on the cute. The fashionable. The easy to look at.

Photo courtesy of http://www.stockfreeimages.com/

I’m talking about the persona we put on.

We all do it. When someone asks, “How are you?” We say fine. Fine.

I don’t know where these unreal exteriors come from – I don’t think it is from tv or magazines…I think it is something deeper. Was Eve like that after the garden? She and Adam trying to carve out a life in a desolate area after being evicted from God’s glorious garden. Adam asks Eve, “How you doing honey?” Does she say, “fine.” Meanwhile screaming in her head…how do you think I’m doing we live in a desert, I disappointed God and these animal skins make me look fat!

We take on these unreal expectations that we can’t say things like, “times are tough” or “I’ve been better.” Or “God’s working something out in me.” Nope, we’re fine…just ask us.

We had an event to go to earlier in the year and I needed a pair of new black heels to go with the dress I was going to wear.  So, I bought these these super high, super cute black heels. So trendy. High heels. Barbie shoes, they are.

I put them on and tried to walk through my house. Channeling Marilyn Monroe I stood up straight and tossed my hips a little when I walked. Oooh, I was gonna turn my hunky hubby’s head with these. But in two or three steps I realized I was not Marilyn Monroe, heck I wasn’t even Marilyn Manson in these things! In order to stay up right I had to take tiny little steps and concentrate with every move.  It wasn’t going to happen. I was not meant to wear Barbie shoes.

We are not meant to wear Barbie shoes.

When God calls us into relationship with Him, he calls us as we are. He knows that we are all just hot messes looking for a place to happen. He knows that our truths – the realities of our sin, our hurts, and our lives aren’t pretty. He knows we are more like our feet than our shoes.

I think there is some comfort in that, when I really stop to realize that I don’t have to tell God my reality. He knows it. He knows the anger I struggle with and my love-hate relationship with food. He knows the world’s expectations for wives and mothers, and the realities of trying to raising a family while working full time. He knows the difficulties and stress of caring for an elderly parent while we are raising our family. He knows the difficulties and loneliness of being single. He knows our struggles to put down the labels of our past. He sees who we are under our cover of “fine”.

When we put on our “fine”, our Barbie shoes, we are covering up who we are, how much we need a Savior, and what Jesus is doing in our lives. Our fines not only distort our realities, but they discount the character and work of God.

The Words I speak about God’s good news mean more to someone who can see that my words are true because of the way I live, the way I behave. Letting people see God’s truth at work in my life means letting them into my life. (paraphrase from the book “Missional Mom”) Sharing God’s truth in my life isn’t about having a perfectly clean house, this season’s fashions, the “right” words or having my stuff altogether.  Sharing the truth of my life, being authentic, is an invitation for others to join into my life, no matter how messy my house may be, literally or figuratively, may be. It is about dropping the fine…and getting real.

It’s about understanding that underneath our cute we are all feet.

Let’s start getting real, today. For one day, ban the word “fine” from your vocabulary when someone asks how you are tell them the truth, the messy, real, this is who I am truth. And be prepared to ask real questions, not “how are you?” (Cuz we aren’t gonna let fine be the answer)…ask “how can I pray for you” or “what is God doing in your life?”

Take off your cute…your fine…you’ll find deeper relationships and chances to share Jesus lie underneath.

02 Nov

Blessed is the Woman who Believes

path

(repost, but struck me a new this morning….maybe you too??)

 

A sweet song of worship rings in the air as my alarm goes off. The house is still and in the whisper of time before the day begins it is easy to remember God’s promises, to believe that every step of my day is covered in His plans, and to live like I believe.

But…
…there’s juice spilled on the carpet.
…there is a mountain of laundry and only half a cup of detergent.
…there are screaming children in the playroom.
…there’s eye rolling, back talking and timeouts.
…traffic.
…long lines with unhappy people at the checkout.
…even longer waits at the doctor’s office.
…there’s wondering if we’ll make ends meet at the end of the month.
…there’s family conflict.
…sickness.
….death, loss, grief.
…there’s the heart ache of the past.
…the uncertainty of the future.
Somewhere in the hail storms of life my belief becomes dented and beat up. And I find that I am not living like a woman who believes God loves me and He is working all things for my good.

Yesterday, my Facebook status said, “How would your life change if you woke up every morning BELIEVING that God works all things for your good and that He loves you?” My sweet friends over at Proverbs 31 posted it as their status too. Reading the responses was fascinating to me.

There was a large segment of people that answered “my life is different because I already believe that.” Interesting. I hadn’t thought of it in that light…the faith of salvation changes lives immediately. But how do you exercise that faith daily? What do you do to not lose sight of God’s love and plans for you in the midst of life’s moments?

There were a few “I needed to hear” that kind of responses, and to God be the glory on that one. If my fb status is being used by God to whisper to the hearts of His children…. Don’t even have words for the end of the statement…just WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I had asked the questions hoping for concrete answers…my life would be ____ . And I got some of those — joy was probably the top thing people said they would have. JOY!!

In the final days of 2010 I was struck by a Bible verse in a way that I can’t even begin to fully explain. I am drawn to it in a new way. It has become the basis for our women’s ministry theme this year. It is the reason I started blogging again. It is the fresh wind in my sails as I look into 2011.

Midway through the first chapter of Luke is the story of Mary coming to visit Elizabeth. In her sweet proclamation of faith and excitement over Mary’s visit, her greeting and the news of her pregnancy Elizabeth says, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

Let that wash over you for a moment.

That is where my fb status question came from. That is what I’m driven to find out…to teach…to embrace…to live. I want to be that woman. I want that written on the last page of my life here on earth – “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Because that, my friends, is what real life here is all about.

If I believe – I’m saved.
If I believe – I’m the daughter of the King.
If I believe – my heart is changed.
If my heart is changed I live a life that the King designed for me.
If I am living the life the King made me to live then I am living in victory, in joy, in love.
And out of those places spring the works of my faith – service, missions, worship, prayer, teaching, giving, parenting, loving.
And if my days are filled with the works of my faith, then my life will be a reflection of my God.
And if I am reflection of my God, others will be begin to believe…

So my question, rephrased this time, What would your life look like if you lived every day BELIEVING that God works all things for your good and that He loves you no matter what the circumstance?

Not the I know somewhere in the back of my head God loves my kinda life. The life that says in the face of every circumstance, “My Father’s The King and oh how He loves me.” A life that says to every traffic jam, rude cashier, hard-to-love family member and frustrating moment, “God is strengthening me in this moment, and for this I will rejoice.” A life that shines in the darkest moments of humanity and says, “This is tough. And I’m hurt and scared, but God is strong and steady and His light will shine in this darkness.”

Blessed is the woman who believes….
Blessed is the woman who is living like she is believing….

31 Oct

Learning to be Still

He bounces up and down on one leg.

He bounces up and down on one leg and starts singing.

He bounces up and down on one leg, singing in his made up language, and tapping his pencil on his notebook.

I want to yell “stop it” “quiet”!! But I don’t. I watch.

He is a constant little noise machine, this little man of ours. (And to think he was known as the quiet one not so long ago.) He is wiggling, moving, making noises, thinking, watching, observing, going…ALL THE TIME, I tell you.

I bit my tongue and watched him. Isn’t this one of the freedoms of homeschool?  I tell myself as I watch him.

Within minutes he has brought his workbook to me…all answers correct and neatly done.

And while I cherish this freedom he has to work and move, to make noise and think…I know there are skills we need to work on with him.

To be still.

An art all but lost in our society.

Still.

 

No phones, no tvs, no computers, no radios, no games…no noise. No distractions.

And as I watch this boy child move through the house with his whirling noises and flailing arms, I smile.

He is not the only one who needs to learn to be still…I know.

Radio on and phone(s) within reach…I’m just as guilty where I stand.

Be still…

No phones, no tvs, no computers, no radios, no games, no noise, no books, no talking….no distractions.

What does being still before God mean?

An audience with the king…don’t speak until He speaks to you, wait, listen, observe.

Even when I pray, am I still?

Do I wait upon the Lord? Eyes and heart open…mouth closed. Listening. Do I seek a place to bow low before God where phones don’t ring, where all is turned off and out-of-the-way? Do I stop talking at Him, listing my needs, and worries? Do I ever get to a place where the only sound is my breath as I breathe His name…my silent invitation to fill up this space around me emptied for Him.

Oh, how I need to learn to be still. To immerse myself in the space where heart and Spirit meet…drenched in the fullness of silence where Jesus whispers.

It is a process, a learning curve this seeking silence. Even as I type I wonder what that looks like — the place, the space, the habits yet made. These are things I must work on.

I think of Jesus who sought time alone with God — left behind the people and distractions of this world to bathe Himself in His Father’s presence. (Mark 1, Matthew 14)

In order to be more like Him, my Savior, I must adopt His habits and seek His presence.

Be still…and know that He is God….

Father God, thank you for the model of Jesus’ life. Thank you for wanting me to learn to be more like Christ. Help me, please, to learn to be still, to listen and be with You in a new way…a beautiful, soul-quenching space to breathe You in. Help me teach my children to be still…to lean into you and be still myself. Help me to put away, and get away from, all the distractions and give you the best moments of my day. Amen.

26 Oct

A Postcard From Nineveh

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“Arise, go…

The words sound electric when he sings them. Arise and go…his voice fills the theater and my heart beats a little faster. Yes…that’s it I want to go where God says “go”, but……………….

~~

Plants, murals, high ceilings. Whirligigs, stuffed creatures and brightly colored everything for sale in every corner. Sight and Sound theater (in Lancaster, PA) was a delight to the senses already and we hadn’t even gotten past the disney-esque lobby.

 

 

Mouth open, camera out I stood very touristy, just trying to take it all in. Whew, I thought this show will be great. And then, the words came, “I get it,” my hubby said, bright greens eyes dancing, “We’re at Jonah, and you keep telling me you want to be go where God wants you to go.”

Somewhere deep within me an alarm began to sound. Uh-oh. How in the world had I missed this? How had I missed the fact that I have been wrestling with God over where we go to church, what my ministry looks like, and more. And in it all I just keep saying, I want to do what you want me to do Lord, but…..

Now here we were, Jonah about to unfold on the stage before us. Uh-oh.

The show is fantastic. The music, the sets, the costumes…truly a delight. Watching our kids on the edge of their seats, mouths open, excited about this passionate (creative) portrayal of the Bible makes a mama’s heart happy. It all unfolds around us, above us, through the aisles.

I don’t have a Nineveh, God. There isn’t a place I wouldn’t go for you.

On stage, Jonah flees, runs, argues with God. I’m beginning to feel less like Jonah. My hunky hubby had me worried for nothing…I’m just here to enjoy the show.

Jonah’s words…in the show…this creative portrayal…suddenly they are mine. Literally the exact words I’ve used in our discussions lately, the exact words! My stomach began to twist. Inner alarms going off. Uh-oh.

Boats, winds, storms, whales, sinking….hiding from God…….And then Nineveh looms large on the stage. Imposing. Scary.

(photo courtesy of Sight and Sound Theater)

I don’t have a Nineveh, God. There isn’t a place I wouldn’t go for you.

And as I watched the rest of the show unfold I began to get it. I am in the place God told us (our family) to be and I complain, wrestle, argue and am generally a sourpuss out the whole thing. My words, Jonah’s words, they haunt me. And I know…it isn’t about how I feel…it is about God’s glory. And when the Sovereign Lord says, “Arise and go….” it isn’t to check to see if I want to or only if I feel like it. No “arise and go…” is a cue that He’s got some glory to shine and I/we are blessed to play some part. But our part in God’s plan requires obedience…requires faith, patience and a willing heart.

And I began to see, across the landscape of my life, many Nineveh’s…places I don’t want to go with the Lord. Places where it feels different than I want it to. Places where comfort and my plans aren’t the order of the day. Places that hold my fears, worries and possible failures…places I avoid.

Total obedience isn’t just about where my feet are pointed. Total obedience isn’t just about what I am doing on the outside. Total obedience is about my heart. THAT is God’s whole point in this process…taking this heart marred by sin and life and making it more like Christ’s. There’s no comfort in scrubbing out stains and reshaping my heart {thinking of how our children smash, mash, and punch play dough to get it into different shapes}. It’s not about  feeling comfortable, it’s about  becoming more Christlike.

Some of the hard truths I’m learning in Nineveh.

I don’t want to fail. God can succeed in my failures…His plan is about something bigger than my pride. God’s success is not contingent on our perception of win or lose, success or failure. No God’s success…His glory…lies in who He is. In grace. Mercy. Power. Justice. Love.

I want everyone to like me. It’s more important for people to know Christ than it is for them to like me.

I want to feel happy and comfortable. I have joy, through the Holy Spirit, in Christ…I need to learn that He is enough…the joy there. The feeling of doing what you are made to do far exceeds any comfort zone…hands down.

But I want, what I want. It’s not about me.

And there I sat. Tears pouring down my cheeks. Sitting in Nineveh in the middle of Lancaster. I didn’t want to run anymore.

I don’t want to be swallowed by a whale or darkness. I don’t want to be separated from my Jesus or disappoint Him. I don’t want to miss one chance to be part of the extraordinary with God.

And as you read this, perhaps you have exhaled thinking…God’s not asking me to go anywhere…I’m off the hook. But I challenge you, examine your life…God is calling you to something, to someone, to the hard stuff of love and life. Check your heart, what is your attitude like. Obedience is a heart issue…how’s yours?

My friends, I’ll send you a postcard from Nineveh….a postcard from a place where I let God grow, shrink or change this ministry He’s called me to…a postcard from places where I don’t fit in and they don’t do things how I think they should…a postcard from a stop on my journey to become more Christlike….a postcard from places where God has some glory to shine!

Father, oh how I want to be the woman you want me to be. But it’s hard and scary. I worry about failing, about not being liked, about our family having to love people who don’t like us or want us there. But, I know that I know that I know that I know that You have some glory to shine and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to be part of your plan. Lord, please forgive my unbelief and help me to lean into you! I want to “arise and go” with a heart full of Spiritfilled joy!! Amen.

 

 

 

22 Oct

Give Them Jesus

they need Jesus

“They need Jesus. That’s why we need you.”

She sits just a few feet away, this woman I admire. I look up to. And in casual conversation she says something that strikes a chord somewhere in me.

It is so much more than a reason for asking me to speak at a retreat {which is what the conversation was about}. It is about Jesus. About me.

And then a few days ago, I read this.

Now, I’m restless.

Restless I tell you.

Approachable words filled with Jesus. Words that live, encourage, lead, shape, mold. Can I find those words? No.

But, somewhere deep, God whispers…they are My words….give them My words.

A deep breath….over and over again.

Prayer…over and over again.

Writing. Rewriting. Breathing. Prayer.

Late into the night…struggling to write.

I’m not a speaker, I began to say {to anyone that would listen}, I’m a Bible study teacher. I’m not a woman gifted to stand in front of a crowd and tell them how to live the life of a Christian woman.

And then I felt it…I knew it.  I wasn’t called to be a speaker. Echoes in my head…they need Jesus…give them my words.

I began to craft messages around Bible study — when I dug into the Word I could speak for hours…how interesting, amazing, fulfilling God’s Word is. When we look into the depths of the Bible we find the stories of a loving God who wraps eternity around His beloved and expresses love in ways that will never be paralleled.

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-4

Give them my words…give them Jesus.

The Word is Jesus. When you teach the Bible…when you teach the Word you teach Jesus.

God had already given me everything I needed – a passion for His girls and love for the Bible.

My friend’s words had struck a chord because that chord plays the notes of my soul…what God made me to be….just a Bible teacher.

I struggled with nerves and worries of disappointing God, but I pushed through…obedience became a theme…this was bigger than me, my fears, or my nerves…someone needed to hear Jesus and God presented me with the opportunity to be the bearer of a beautiful gift. It was my choice — as the things of God always are. I could choose to walk away, but no matter how big the butterflies {or vultures} were in my stomach I knew this was going to be a defining moment in my walk with God…in me.

The words of that blog {linked above} ring in my ears like music…calling me…moving me. “We need Jesus.  We are seeking deep spirituality. We are seeking fellow travellers. We are hungry for true community, a place to tell our stories and listen to another, to love well. But above all, point me to Jesus – not to the sale at the mall.” SarahBessey.com

It is an honor and a weight this calling of teaching and bringing Jesus. That I’m looked at as anything more than a flawed and broken girl trying to figure it out seems scary and overwhelming. But when I lean into God, dig into the Bible and just be honest about how beautiful God’s grace is {even in the midst of my messy life} all the pieces fall into place. God is faithful to accomplish His purposes through His word {Isaiah 55:11}.

How can you honor God today?

What step can you take toward finding or stepping toward what He is calling you to do?

How can you bring someone just a little bit of Jesus today?

Father, thank you for Your Word. That in the beat up and worn pages of my Bible I can touch, read, and absorb the majesty of my beloved Creator. Whew. Thank you for making us for a future, for a calling, for being parts of the body of Christ. How blessed we are to carry pieces of Jesus to give to others. Help us to share Your Word, memorize Scripture and share it, study the Bible…Let us be women of the Word because that makes us women of Jesus. Amen.

 

31 Aug

Dust on My Sewing Machine

dusty sewing machine

I could write my name in the dust. It’s that thick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{Okay, yes my first thought was when in the world was the last time I dusted in here, but that doesn’t make for a good story and really I am not sure I want to admit that either in print or in my own head!}

There is dust on my sewing machine. There is dust on the machine that sews the dresses for the orphans. There is dust on a this mama’s drive to support the dreams of her children.

Sigh. {not too hard though, cuz that sends the dust flying…cough, cough}

When the summer began I had great plans of days filled with sewing, crafts, books and quiet moments with my children. Here it is, August. And there’s dust on my sewing machine. A haphazard pile of library books sits perched on the half wall; where they were dumped after a quick trip to the library last week. There are too many toys strewn across the breakfast table to use it for crafts. And my children didn’t get the memo on quiet….at all.

I sit and trace circles into the dust. I feel like a failure. Like I’ve missed the mark on the mama people think I am. On the mama I want to be.

But, yet….summer isn’t over. While the sun is beginning to set on the horizon of summer months, it isn’t over. We still have golden moments to live. To capture.

And being the mama I wanna be doesn’t last a few months. Yes, maybe it does last but a few years before they are out of the nest. But that is years away (and don’t roll your eyes at me and say they’ll be gone in a flash…that is a post for another day). For now, tomorrow is another day.

Another day to look into their eyes. Tickle their toes. Giggle with them. And dream while the world is huge and full of possibilities.

For me, it is easy to get paralyzed by the woulda, coulda, shouldas of life. It is easy to plan and when the plan fails or falls short it is over. As though it was a one time gig.

I came.

I saw.

I failed.

Now what?

I love to plan. I love lists. I love planning my lists and listing my plans. But often life grows beyond my list or outside of my plan. It is not a failure…it is life. And I have to learn to roll with the waves of life, and not abandon hopes and plans to dust and memories.

So, today, I’ll dust.

And tomorrow, perhaps we’ll read a book or start a dress. Or cuddle. Or watch the passing clouds. I’ll plan, and we’ll live…and years from now when the house is empty and quiet we’ll remember the living. The loving. Not the dust or plans.

22 Aug

Hear This

he who has ears

“Mom, hear this.” His small voice calls from the stairs. He’s asking me to listen.

How profound this request seems to me….so much deeper than asking me to listen to him. He’s asking me to see him. To take in what he has to say. To really be in this moment with him.

It is in his pleas for attention…for hearing…that I see myself…hear myself.

Longing to be heard I raise my voice. I shout. I rant. I talk over. I feel lost in this world of hustle and bustle.

In our world of: “pick that up”

“put that down”

“don’t do that”

“didn’t I tell you to do this”

“quit touching her”

“don’t ride the dog”

“use your words”

“stop yelling”

“speak up”

“sit still”

“hurry up”

“follow me”

“give me a moment”.

This ebb and flow of words. Of constant talking and giving orders to keep our world in order. I feel lost. Like I have no voice. Like beyond the mother-hen-isms of our day-to-day I have nothing that is heard….even when people are listening.

I suppose I feel that way of God too, now and then. When prayers (as the song says) feel like they are bouncing off the sky and there is no sign of acknowledgement or answer. When the Bible is words on a page that seem to be full of sayings I don’t get and rules that I can’t figure out how to apply. When God feels distant and I don’t know if I’m heard. I wonder if He really hears me.

Does He hear my dreams of big things for Him? Does He hear my anxiety over new curriculums, ministry, and losing friends? Does He hear when I’m tired and don’t feel like I can go on? Does He hear when I feel like I can’t find Him and the Bible seems like words written for someone else?

God, please hear this. Hear me.

I understand our son’s want to be heard. The younger brother of a very verbal, very talkative older sister. The son of a father full of life, stories and words to say. The son of a mother who talks, sings or seems to make noise all day long. HEAR THIS! He shouts. HEAR ME!

Oh, how I know those cries.

Hear me.

I had the pleasure recently to lead a ladies’ Bible study on the book of Matthew. Walking through Jesus’ life and words. Searching for Him.

And as we discussed the phrase, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” I thought of that little boy on our stairs. Of the little girl in me crying out to be heard.

Jesus whispers, Hear me, child

Enter into this moment with me. Hear me in this moment.

He’s asking me to see him.

Hear me deep in your soul…make my truth yours. Make me part of you.

Hear this.

Oh, how hard the hearing can be.

When the phone rings,

email pings,

texts vibrate,

the tv shouts,

the radio sings,

the dryer hums,

the washer swishes,

the vacuum roars,

the children recite,

the news drones on and on.

When everyone needs a minute or has something to tell me.

When there are lessons to be taught and studies to lead.

When there are relatives far away to catch up with and friends you never get to see on the phone tonight.

With noise. And stuff.

Where is the moment to listen? Let alone hear. Apply. Live.

The answer…easy and hard. Make time.

That little voice on the stairs pleading, “hear this,” stops everything for me. I pause whatever I’m doing…eyes and ears on him. Listening. Entering into this moment with him. It isn’t always easy or convenient, but necessary. That’s what love does. It pauses to engage. To listen. To hear and to know.

Oh, how much more should we be listening when our Savior says…whispers…calls…he who has ears, let him hear!! 

And there it is my friends. The truth of my life (and maybe yours?). I have to choose, daily — moment by moment — what I will listen to, what will capture my attention, my focus, my heart. I can’t hear Jesus if I am not listening for Jesus. Seeking Him. Studying, praying, praising, listening to a talk/sermon…being still and centering my life, heart and ears on Him.

Do you have a daily quiet time? Some time you carve out for you and God. A time to fill up with His words and listen. A time to hear?

I encourage you, start today…it doesn’t have to be long or involved — just you and Jesus. I’m willing to bet (if I was a betting kinda girl) that as you begin to develop the habit of listening for God, you’ll want more. You’ll pause more, lean in harder and your heart’s cry will become, “Speak Lord. I’m listening. I want to hear you.”

 

11 Jul

The Shoe is Supposed to Fit

cinderellas_step_sisters-1670

Clunk, clunk.

Wobble, wobble, wobble.

Clunk, clunk, clunk.

Do you remember trying to walk in your mom’s high heels when you were a kid? They made a ton of noise…clunk, clunk, bang…as you tried to walk. And keeping your balance meant sticking your arms out tight-rope-walker style and stopping to wobble every now and then.

Those cute little feet swallowed up by those big heels. A physical exercise in wishing and hoping, as you imagined your somedays when your foot filled the shoe and your gait would echo a quick “click, click” like your mom when she walked in the heels.

Fast forward 20 years (or way more…hold that button down a little longer) and I have found myself trying on other shoes. This time there are no cute feet. This time, picture me Cinderella’s step sisters style, trying to cram my foot into a shoe that not only doesn’t fit…it isn’t even mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have the incredible blessing, and often envy inspiring curse, of being part of a terrific network of women’s ministry leaders, writers/bloggers and speakers. Cruising the interwebs and scrolling through Facebook I see update after update on book deals, speaking engagements, blog posts, hundreds of followers, retweets and more. Successes to be celebrated! Victories for the Kingdom! Reasons to envy.

And as this fire of envy begins to burn in my gut, what have I done? Oh, I begin to try to be someone I’m not. (picture me, step-sister style grunting and grimacing as I shove my foot into someone else’s shoe) I try to use more flowery language or write about things that don’t weigh on my heart (more from the weight of a should or keeping up with Miss Jones). I try to brag about the engagements I do have and turn them into grand plans I don’t have.

I work so hard at trying to be someone I’m not, that I forget to be the woman I am. I am blessed. God has called me to certain work for Him — marriage to hunky hubby, homeschooling momma to two little peanuts, and to love on and encourage His girls through opportunities He provides (blog, Bible studies, and now speaking/teaching). And, I begin to believe the whispers of lies (from the world, from Satan, from my own insecure lil self) — that I’m just a wife and mother. That 15 blog readers or retreat attendees is not enough. That I’m small potatoes.

Like that stepsister with her gigantic foot folded into Cinderella’s custom designed glass slipper, when I put on someone else’s calling I’m rendered ineffective. There is no walking or moving when you are desperately just trying to keep on this thing that isn’t you…isn’t yours…wasn’t custom designed just for you.

God has something to say about that…

walk in a manner worthy of your calling (Ephesians 4:1)

Your calling. Your calling.

My calling.

God made a calling just for me. And as sure as Cinderella’s slipper fit on her tiny little foot, you better believe God’s calling for me will fit just as snugly! Perfectly.

So here I sit, my sweet friends, humbled by the thought that you are reading my words. That you chose today to take time out of your crazy busy life to pause with me and look for God in our lives. I pray, that every time I put finger to keyboard it is with grace and love…in the way God designed me to do.

I am learning to let go of my comparisons. If the God of the Universe custom designed a calling me for…designed me for my calling…then shouldn’t I focus on that? Easy words to type, but what does that look like in real life…well….

It looks like a woman who prays for her husband (instead of complaining about him). Like a woman who now settles into the comfort of shared silence, working as a team, and hugs after a long day. A woman who studies her husband and with God’s help tries to be the woman who compliments the man he is in Christ!

It looks a like a momma who sees everyday with her precious peanuts as a new opportunity for discovery and learning. That relishes parenting and homeschooling for the God-sized gift stuffed into little bright-eyed bodies that wiggle, giggle and love that it is!

It looks like a woman that cheerfully writes what God lays on her heart (for the 15 to 75 that might click it). It looks like a woman who will pour over translations and commentaries and get all wound up in the meaning of one word, in hopes of teaching even a whisper of the Grace that lines the pages.

It looks like a Jesus girl that wakes up every morning, and before her feet hit the floor she whispers, let me walk with you today Jesus.

 

 

24 May

Living a Life, Leaving a Legacy

Grandmas bible

As I stare at the stained glass window and let the pastor’s words,wash over me. I begin to think of her.

I can hear her voice. I can see he face as she sings hymns of praise. I remember her Bible on the table next to her chair in the living room.

Time, age and,illness have robbed of us of who she is. Her shirt stained with today’s meal, her grunts and vocalizations instead of words, her ability to sleep and eat at the same time…these were the things of everyday life, now, with my grandmother.

But as I sat in that church and listened to her favorite scriptures, her most loved hymns, of her life, her marriage,and her faith…I began to remember my grandmother – virtuous woman of God.

And as so often happens when we ponder someone’s death I began to think of my own, someday. What will my children remember of their momma and their childhood? Will how I loved and served my husband be a story written of Jesus and my love for Him? Will my life of faith offer comfort to my family at my death?

My grandmother gave us a gift, perhaps not even intentionally, to help us celebrate her life, her faith, her love for Jesus and the Bible.

On the inside cover of her Bible she wrote a list of Scriptures that touched her life and heart, of hymns that moved her heart to praise. It was with this list that her funeral was planned…a glimpse of Jesus in her life.

And as if writing a love note to her broken-hearted family, the page starts out…

“Have no anxiety about…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And ends with…

Do not let your hearts be troubled. John 14:1

And as I think about my grandma dressed in robes of righteousness, face-to-face with her Jesus, I’m not anxious or sad or troubled. I’m moved to joyful tears. For she is where she was made to be…where her heart always looked towards…

So, my friends today I urge to keep your eyes on Jesus. When the work hours are long, when the kids are bickering, when you are stuck in traffic or in life. Just lean into your Savior, following Him. For each moment writes the story of your life…you are living a life and leaving a legacy…for yourself and for Jesus.

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