Monday, January 31, 2011

Buried Treasures

My parents are getting ready to move from their home of eighteen years. My sisters and I are helping them sort through a lifetime of stuff...stuff that's been transported from one house to another over the last 40-plus years. There's a storage room that is filled with books that bring back childhood memories. There's a closet that holds toys from when I was a little girl. So many things.

Many of the items we're sorting through are being thrown away or given away. Some are being held out for a garage sale. There are quite a few things we're going to sell online. And amidst all the books, toys, furniture {stuff}, we've found some treasures. Like Mom's vintage fine Christmas china that she's had for years. As I was preparing to list it for sale, I did a little research to find its value. Mom wanted to list it for $75. I found that she should list it for $400! Then there are the vintage records...lots of them. The more we research their value, we are finding that those old records that we haven't listened to in years are worth a good amount of money.

Back in November and December, I participated in Sarah Markley's 100 Joys. That started me thinking about all the little treasures in life that I take for granted, pushing them to the back corners; for instance, my children's laughter; my husband's desire to make me happy; my friend's encouraging words. Those are the priceless things in life, yet somehow it's the trivial things that make priority in my life; i.e., laundry, dishes, tv.

Another treasure that I take for granted is my Bible. In America, Bibles are readily an abundance of translations, prints, sizes. Yet there are people around the world who are killed if found with one in their possession. The Bible, God's written words to us, holds the answers to all of life's questions. Yet there are days when mine sits unread.

Treasures are things we find valuable. And when we find value in them, we are certain to take care of them, to make sure they don't slip away.

I want, everyday, to treasure the people God has placed in my life. I want to treasure His words to me.

What do you treasure?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

For Such A Time As This

You think your world a scary place to be
Nation fighting nation, man killing man
It's all over the news for you to see
The world has chosen not to follow My plan

But I have placed you there for such a time as this

Your nation revels in sin
Your leaders have silenced voiced prayers
The church has numerous problems within
The lost are wondering if anybody cares

And I have placed you there for such a time as this

Your community is searching for the answer
Your neighbors are strangers in their homes
Abuse and addiction are spreading like cancer
Orphaned children are left to wander and roam

And I have placed you there for such a time as this

Your house is a home which I created
You've allowed chaos to enter in
All the busyness for My peace you have traded
Where, dear one, have you been?

I have placed you there for such a time as this

In your life, be My hands and feet
I will be your ever-present Guide
Allow Me through your voice to speak
Then under the shelter of My wings you may hide

For I have placed you there for such a time as this

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Knew Better

My husband and I like to watch "I Shouldn't Be Alive," a show about people who get unexpectedly caught in precarious situations, and shouldn't have lived through them. More often than not, the survivors are folks who ventured into some deserted area without telling anyone where they were going. Hardly a show goes by when I don't say, Well, what were they thinking? That was just stupid.They should've known better. As I said that last night, I thought...I knew better too.

We set off on big adventures, searching for excitement. We're aware that danger is ahead, but we risk it anyway. Even though we've seen the hurt it causes in others, we're sure sin won't effect us in the same way. We know what we're doing.

Even so, it never fails: sin takes us farther than we ever intend to go, and at a much faster speed. We eventually end up at a place where we ask ourselves how we ever got there. We never imagined we'd go as far as we did.

Back to the show...

Many survivors tell how they reached a breaking point. Their resolve to live started to fade. It was usually the point when they had given up and were prepared to die that they were rescued.

When we are trapped in the web of sin we've created, it's usually then that we give up. We realize there's nothing we can do to make our sin go away. We need someone to come to us, right where we are, and rescue us. We need someone to lift us out of our mess, and give us a chance for a new start.

1 Oh, thank God - he's so good! His love never runs out. 2 All of you set free by God, tell the world! Tell how he freed you from oppression, 3 Then rounded you up from all over the place, from the four winds, from the seven seas. 4 Some of you wandered for years in the desert, looking but not finding a good place to live, 5 Half-starved and parched with thirst, staggering and stumbling, on the brink of exhaustion. 6 Then, in your desperate condition, you called out to God. He got you out in the nick of time; 7 He put your feet on a wonderful road that took you straight to a good place to live. 8 So thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves. 9 He poured great draughts of water down parched throats; the starved and hungry got plenty to eat. 10 Some of you were locked in a dark cell, cruelly confined behind bars, 11 Punished for defying God's Word, for turning your back on the High God's counsel - 12 A hard sentence, and your hearts so heavy, and not a soul in sight to help. 13 Then you called out to God in your desperate condition; he got you out in the nick of time. 14 He led you out of your dark, dark cell, broke open the jail and led you out. 15 So thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves; 16 He shattered the heavy jailhouse doors, he snapped the prison bars like matchsticks! 17 Some of you were sick because you'd lived a bad life, your bodies feeling the effects of your sin; 18 You couldn't stand the sight of food, so miserable you thought you'd be better off dead. 19 Then you called out to God in your desperate condition; he got you out in the nick of time. 20 He spoke the word that healed you, that pulled you back from the brink of death. 21 So thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves; 22 Offer thanksgiving sacrifices, tell the world what he's done - sing it out! 23 Some of you set sail in big ships; you put to sea to do business in faraway ports. 24 Out at sea you saw God in action, saw his breathtaking ways with the ocean: 25 With a word he called up the wind - an ocean storm, towering waves! 26 You shot high in the sky, then the bottom dropped out; your hearts were stuck in your throats. 27 You were spun like a top, you reeled like a drunk, you didn't know which end was up. 28 Then you called out to God in your desperate condition; he got you out in the nick of time. 29 He quieted the wind down to a whisper, put a muzzle on all the big waves. 30 And you were so glad when the storm died down, and he led you safely back to harbor. 31 So thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves. 32 Lift high your praises when the people assemble, shout Hallelujah when the elders meet! 33 God turned rivers into wasteland, springs of water into sunbaked mud; 34 Luscious orchards became alkali flats because of the evil of the people who lived there. 35 Then he changed wasteland into fresh pools of water, arid earth into springs of water, 36 Brought in the hungry and settled them there; they moved in - what a great place to live! 37 They sowed the fields, they planted vineyards, they reaped a bountiful harvest. 38 He blessed them and they prospered greatly; their herds of cattle never decreased. 39 But abuse and evil and trouble declined 40 as he heaped scorn on princes and sent them away. He gave the poor a safe place to live, 41 treated their clans like well-cared-for sheep. 42 Good people see this and are glad; bad people are speechless, stopped in their tracks. 43 If you are really wise, you'll think this over - it's time you appreciated God's deep love.
Psalm 107, The Message

Five To Go

Five followers away from the first contest!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Response To The Past Week

one instant, sameness...the next, chaos

all that was upside down

where I once ran for comfort, I now must give

what used to be secure is no more

treasures quickly slipping through fingers

changes occurring swiftly...can't keep up

mind is swirling...thoughts rapidly form, and just as quickly, disappear

no time to reminisce what once was

no knowing for what will be

stuck in a moment of harsh change

heart beating wildly, muscles tense, gut wrenching

time not waiting for me to catch up

mind grasping for things recognizable

too much unfamilar territory, beyond comprehension

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.
2 Chronicles 20: 12b

Growing Times of Marriage

The married couple is not without hard days, difficult circumstances, trying times.

days when tears flow, hearts are exposed, character is built

It's often in those moments of weakness, when my beloved wraps his arms around me, that I am reminded of the depth of love he holds for me.

His tender heart wishes my tears to go away.

His compassion wraps around me like a thick, warm blanket.

His words of wisdom wash over my heart's sadness.

My heart remembers the love of our younger days, and is overwhelmed at the growing that has taken place. The hardest days are where I find that our hearts have expanded together.

When I'm weak, He is strong...much like the love of my heavenly Father.

More than my partner in life, more than my soulmate...he is the completion of me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This Post Is Not For You

This post is for me.

It will serve as a reminder to me in the coming weeks.

A raw disturbance has occurred in my little world over the last few days, and I'm in processing mode. My mind has yet to land on one stable emotion. My emotional experiences over the last few days have been widely varied and intensely strong. Because I know me from the past, I fear the emotion I will eventually land on and stick to is anger. Therefore, I am writing this post with that in in the coming days, I will be able to clearly see what God's Word says about forgiveness.

Forgiveness because of love is the theme of the Bible; there's no lack of verses on the subject. But the one that reaches out and grabs my attention now is this: Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing." (Luke 23:34, The Message). This is the prayer Jesus offered (while hanging on the cross) on behalf of those who were crucifying Him.

I've often wondered about that verse. Those folks hanging out at the foot of the cross knew what they were doing...they were sneering, jeering and mocking the man they'd sentenced to death. Yet they had no idea what they were doing. They were beating and abusing the only One who could heal their sickened souls. They were viciously killing the very One who was willingly dying for the sins they were committing in that moment.

And still...Jesus prayed for them...that the Father would forgive them.

In essence, he was defending them, their ignorance.

If I am angry and hold on to unforgiveness, I will be making a mockery of the very grace given so freely to me. I must pray that I'll be forgiving towards those with whom I'm angry. And that God will forgive those who would make a mockery of the cross. I must pray for my own heart, as well as theirs.

My prayer must be: Father, forgive me; help me to forgive others; and forgive them because they don't understand the hurt they've caused while claiming Your name.

I hope I don't have to read this post again.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Unfaithful Folks

God is faithful. We are not.

And for some reason beyond my understanding, He loves us and keeps His promises to us.

Take Abraham as an example. God cut a covenant with him. In that covenant, God promised Abram that He would give the surrounding land to his descendants. At the time of the covenant, Abram and his wife, Sarai were aging and still had no children. And (fool that he was) Abram heeded his wife's decision to let him take her maid and conceive a child. (Did I put that as nicely as I could? I hope so!) God didn't intend for Abram to take matters into his own hands (literally)...He was going to provide Sarai and him with a child from their own bodies. Abram wasn't faithful to wait on God's promise. And, really, he wasn't faithful to Sarai either. Yet God eventually gave them a son, and as promised, Abraham became the father of many nations.

Another example is David. Wonderful King David...a man after God's own heart. This was a young man whom God selected from the fields of sheep to become a king. How exciting! Surely David thought that he was so blessed. He must've been so thankful, and surely doubted that he'd ever be unfaithful to his God. Yet he was the same man who committed adultery and murder, among a list of "lesser" sins. Still, even with all the consequences David had to pay in his lifetime, he is among the lineage of Jesus.!

Our flesh so easily succumbs to doing the things we never thought we'd do, to being unfaithful to the very One who called us. Paul says in Romans 7:15, What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise (The Message).

And yet...

God is faithful.

Our failure doesn't surprise him. His love for us doesn't change. He will fulfill His plans for our lives, no matter how unfaithful we are to Him. That's His way...

And for that I am thankful!

On Gossip and Grace

Do you often start conversations with Have you heard about...? or I'm not supposed to tell you this, but... ? I'm definitely going to step on my own toes here. I've started plenty of conversations with those phrases.

Our society thrives on gossip. The nightly news is often nothing more than gossip. The grocery store check-outs are lined with gossip magazines. We scour the internet looking for the latest "news" on people.

I've often said that much gossip is shared in churches in the form of prayer requests. I'm guilty. And I'm disgusted. I've sat in many groups where a fellow Christian's sin has been openly discussed, judged and sentenced (whether it's that of a fellow layperson, church leader, or public figure).

But I want to share a little word in the Bible that I discovered several years ago: covers. That one little word implies God's grace. It means to conceal or hide.

Remember the story of Noah? Remember when he became drunk and "uncovered himself in the tent," and Ham (his son) saw him? Ham had a choice to make. He could choose to cover his father's nakedness; or leave him exposed, and gossip about him. He chose the latter. He didn't bother covering his father, and he told his brothers about it. His brothers, Shem and Japheth, were the ones who went inside the tent, with faces turned away, to cover Noah's nakedness. Where Ham had no respect for his father, Shem and Japheth showed great respect and love for Noah.

We are faced with the same choices almost daily. Do we choose to conceal a matter, cover a sin; or do we choose to leave those caught in sin exposed, and worse, gossip about them? There are consequences for the actions we take. When Noah awoke and realized what had happened, he spoke blessings over Shem and Japheth, and a curse over Ham's son, Canaan:

He said, Cursed be Canaan! A slave of slaves, a slave to his brothers! Blessed be God, the God of Shem, but Canaan shall be his slave. God prosper Japheth, living spaciously in the tents of Shem. But Canaan shall be his slave. Genesis 9:25-27

We must choose wisely. Our decisions may leave a legacy about our lives: we will either be a person who is known and remembered for wisdom in offering quiet grace and mercy; or we will be known and remembered for being the gossip who showed no grace or mercy.

He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends. Proverbs 17:9

He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter. Proverbs 11:13

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:20

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1Peter 4:8

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday's (Unmerited) Favor: Taking Out the Trash

Friday is garbage day in my neighborhood. The folks who empty out the garbage come really early on Friday mornings, so everyone puts out their garbage and recycle bins on Thursday afternoons. I like to run in the evenings, so on Thursday evenings, I'm usually dodging garbage bins. Even though I try to avoid it, the stench of garbage still drifts through the air. It's a nasty smell. Leftovers. Things that are no longer good. Rotten, spoiled. Of no value or worth.

I have a lot of garbage in my life: the leftovers from accepting everything I was ever taught as truth, and not questioning it. I'm in the process of sorting through my beliefs, and throwing out the junk. Anything not aligned with God's Word needs to go. This process began several years ago, and has taken intermittent hiatuses, then returns with a vengeance. Currently in the process, I'm finding a need to verbalize all I'm filtering through. Unfortunately, I don't run in circles where that can take place. Is there such a circle?

Family's too close, too familiar with what I believe. Friends are busy, just tyring to get through their own days. Sunday School is the place to listen...where I'm infused with more stuff to weed through. Church service...same thing. Bible study groups are limited: too much talking makes one "that girl who won't shut up;" not enough talking makes one "that girl who must have a lot to hide." There's a delicate balance in Bible study groups.

I need to think out loud. I sit...silently verbalizing on a keypad.

It happened that God poured grace into my life a few years ago. And it was so completely different from what I'd always been taught. And I've been scrambling ever since to find out why my experience was so different from what I'd always believed grace to be.

There was an incident a few years ago that happened in my then-church. At the time, deep in my spirit, I thought I had an idea of what grace might be. But the actions that leadership took and the opinions of my peers were contrary to what God was whispering to me. I thought I must've been wrong, that God wasn't really speaking to me. I believed the leadership knew best, that my peers were more godly than I. And, here I sit, all these years later, with my own experience of God's grace as my insight, and I realize that it really was God speaking to me way back then.

And I'm wondering how many other times have I silenced His leading, His whispers because I trusted what someone else was teaching me, believed what I'd read in books by well-known authors. I was programmed to keep quiet, not ask questions. And God is ripping me away from the mold. He's showing me parts of Himself that don't fit the box that I've willingly been led to believe He fits in.

And I don't know what to do with that information. Grace (God Himself) abounds in me, around me, all about me...and I am ecstatic yet completely baffled. I don't understand it. I have tons of questions that I'm not even sure I can put into words. And the circles I am a part of would think I am nuts if I even tried to verbally make sense of it all.

But this I know...God is sovereign. I've held on to the beliefs I've held for this long for a reason. And I'm tossing them into the garbage for a reason. The only thing I know is God is creating something new in me, and the old, the spoiled, the rotten, the vile and disgusting has to go to make room for the wonderful new that God is revealing.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Change Happens

I'm not a fan of change. I don't know many people that are. Despite all I try to do to keep things the same, changes have been abundant over the last 5 years:

I stepped out of my twenties into the thirties, and am now over halfway through them.

My marriage underwent some drastic changes...some bad, many good.

My family changed churches, more than once.

We've seen friends come and go. (We're so thankful for the ones that stayed!)

We moved to a new home.

We quit public school to homeschool.

God led me to share my personal business with the world...thus, this blog.

And now, the possibility of yet another change...

Change happens. And the uncertainty of it leaves me with unanswered questions. I think that's probably the case for most people. And in the midst of the questions, a somber mood fills the atmosphere. The unknown is scary, intimidating.

In last night's choir devotional, my friend Lisa talked about keeping our eyes on God. She pointed out that He knows the end of the story. I know probably know that. Yet we forget. The story has already been written. The ending is for our good and His glory. And all good stories weave a tale of change before the ending is revealed. It's in the change, the waiting for the ending, that reveals where our eyes are focused. They're either focused on that one little changing page paragraph of the story, or they're focused on the Author, who wrote the ending.

Where are your eyes focused in the midst of change? 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Little More, Please

Husband out the door to work early.

Just me in the quiet, early morning, doing my Bible study, then strolling through blogland. My favorite hot coffee next to me. My favorite waffles, hot with syrup on top, and fresh strawberries to the side, sitting right in front of me.

Little girl with sleepy eyes bursts into the living room, asking if she can get puppy out of her crate.

Big girls still blissfully asleep.

Isn't this what life is about? Isn't it?

Yet...I sigh. I know the day's about to begin. And I want more.

Just a few more minutes alone.

Please, oh please, let them sleep a few more minutes.

Just a little more coffee. A few more strawberries.

Always more.

And when I get more...I still want more.

I've discovered I want more of the wrong things. More of anything on this earth isn't going to make me content. Only One can do that...more of Jesus.

And somehow, when I get more of Him, I still want more of Him; yet in my wanting more of Him is where I find contentment. And the wanting more of everything else falls away.

He is where I find less of me and more of Him.

He is what life's about.

Nothing more.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kicking Our Own To the Curb

I am troubled. There's a message that desperately needs to be shared with the church that I fear many in church leadership do not share. It's the message of love, forgiveness and grace.

We, Christians and non-Christians alike, know that Christians frequently fall into sin. Christian leaders in the public eye experience falls. And, what does the church usually do? We watch them fall, then kick them on out the door. We fear their association with us. We don't want them to ruin our image. And, what happens in the process? Non-Christians see us beating up our own, and they want nothing to do with us.

See, we as Christians so often say of our own who have fallen: it's people like that who cause the lost to want nothing to do with Christianity. I've said it. But, is it true? I've been mulling over that statement for quite some time, and I'm not sure it's always true.

I remember when I'd just asked God for forgiveness, and was beginning the process of recovery. It wasn't one of my close church friends who came to me to offer me comfort. This person didn't go to church at all. But for over an hour, she poured out her heart, her experiences, and gave me hope that God could redeem what I'd done. (Allow me to insert here that she had no idea what I'd done, but just recognized the fact that I was hurting and needed comfort.) How is that? Why wasn't it one of my church friends? I don't have an answer for that, but I have an idea.

Before I chose the path of deep sin, I used to joke about the fact that I didn't have the gift of mercy. It makes me cringe now to think I laughed about that. I had no mercy for one who'd been caught in sin. I'd drawn an invisible line, and if you fell on the wrong side of that line, my association with you was limited, if not cut off. That was also the predominant attitude of my then-church.

Then I became the person on the wrong side of the line. And I felt the pain of being pushed away.

I think the church is great at going on mission, reaching the lost who are hurting. But we are also great at kicking our own when they're down. It's contradictory. We are to extend love even to those who hurt us the most. When we are truly loving our own, we'll want to extend mercy, grace and forgiveness to them when they choose the path of sin. We'll want to cover their sin with grace so that the outside world can see God's redeeming work. Love doesn't allow us to kick one of our own to the curb.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8

Monday, January 17, 2011

I'm That Girl

I was that girl
the one who gave into her lusts
that maybe you think you can't trust
the one you think deserves what she gets
the one who dug her own pit

I was that girl
the one who knows how to hide
the one who lost all sense of pride
the one who won't let you see the broken parts
that maybe you think doesn't deserve a forgiving heart

I was that girl
the one who falls to her knees in regret
that maybe you think her sin He won't forget
the one whose mind is constantly reeling
the one who sits in your church searching for healing

I'm that girl
the one upon whom He lavished His grace
the one whom He loves and showed His face
the one you just can't understand
the one for whom there is a scar of love in His hand

I'm that girl

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Friday's (Unmerited) Favor: Grace Instead of A Big Ole Adult-Sized Spanking

Two weeks before school began last August, God made it clear to me that I was to homeschool the girls. I was not prepared. I had no idea how to choose curriculum, how to set up a classroom, how to schedule a school day. I was clueless. Thankfully, we have some very good homeschooling friends who have been more than willing to direct and ecnourage us.


I will say this is one of the most challenging things I've ever done in my life! I don't have help close-by. I don't have anyone I can call to keep the girls on a moment's notice if something comes up. They are with me pretty much 24/7.

We spent the end of last week trying to catch up from Christmas break and from them all having the flu. They were still tired and feeling puny. I was tired from taking care of three sick children for a week. School wasn't going so well. To say I lost my temper would be putting it mildly. In essence, I threw my hands in the air, and decided to quit. I told the girls they'd be going back to public school on Monday.

We all had a break-down.

The girls cried. I cried. I didn't really want to send them back to school, but I felt I was fighting a losing battle. I was overwhelmed with the fear that I wasn't teaching them appropriately, and that they weren't learning. And I'd had enough of the whining and complaining.

After we all calmed down, I went into my bedroom alone. I prayed a frustrated prayer to God. I told Him if homeschooling is what he wanted from us, He'd have to do it through me. I couldn't do it anymore. A little while later, Grace came to me and reminded me of what I'd told them back in August: Jesus doesn't want us to go to public school; He wants us to homeschool. Those aren't the exact words that I'd told them, but she had understood that God had led us to that decision.

God used her to remind me that He called us to this challenge, and He will give us grace to do it...and do it well. He has given us some amazing grace this week. I've had more patience with the girls. They've had more patience with me. Schoolwork productivity has increased.

You might think I've dumbed-down grace in this post, or that I've misconstrued it. But what I know is that over the last few months, I've lost my temper more times than I can count. I've worried non-stop. I haven't been a good manager of the children He's blessed me with. All of those are sins. And instead of giving me a big ole adult-sized spanking, He's intervened in this homeschooling venture and given us a peace and calmness we don't deserve. And I believe that's grace.

Have there been challenges in your life this week that God has intervened in and given you grace to accomplish?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Warning: Pity Party

My best friend and I have a saying: Nothing is ever easy. You know, like when you just want to go pour yourself a glass of water only to realize all the glasses are dirty, and you have to stop to wash one. Or when you need to run a quick errand only to find that you have a nail in your tire. Suddenly the quick errand takes up half a day. Or when you need your three children (who are old enough to dress themselves) to put on their sock and shoes so you can hurry to get out the door, and they all start complaining that there are no socks in their you have to dump out the pile of laundry onto the floor and search for three pairs of matching socks.

Nothing. is. ever. easy.

I'm feeling like those kinds of days have become my every day. Since I started homeschooling the girls this year, there are constant "interruptions" like that. And I'm feeling quite overwhelmed. I used to feel a sense of when I would actually get the bed made.

My husband owns a business. It demands many hours from him. So it's become my job to tend to all things home-related: children (that alone is HUGE!), cleaning, shopping, cooking, finances, the list could go on and on. He helps when he can, but I feel a heavy weight on my shoulders because I know he has his own heavy weight with the business.

All that to say...even with early mornings and late nights, I still feel like I'm on the spin cycle. I don't think I accomplish one thing well. I get a lot of things done, but they're all frayed at the edges.

So here's where I have to tell myself to stop the pity party. Quit whining. Nothing of value is ever easy (right??). Allow God to determine how my days go, and surrender to it. (Easier said than done.) But I must...because if I compare my frayed edges to the nice, neat edges of another mom with a different set of circumstances, I'm not measuring apples to apples. God has set me in this crazy life for a reason (some days I'd really like to have a glimpse of the results), and I must MUST realize He'll equip me for it. It's easy to forget that among the moutains of laundry, piles of dishes and three whining children who don't want to finish their schoolwork.

Have you found the ONE THING you do well, even if it isn't easy?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Prepared, But Disappointed

I live in Alabama. We rarely get snow. And when it's forecast, we all go a little crazy. We run to the grocery store for milk and bread. (That's always kind of baffled me. Why milk and bread?...I digress.) We make sure we have batteries for flashlights, propane for grills, wood for the fireplace, gas for the generators...all for a potential maximum of two days without power. We are prepared for a blizzard...even when the forecast is only for an inch or two of snow!

All last week our local weather forecasters told us to prepare for a major winter storm that was expected to hit the deep south. We were told that even in central Alabama we could get 4-8 inches of snow. Now the last time I remember getting a snow like that was in 1993. That truly was a big snow event for Alabama. This winter storm was to be somewhat similar to that one. We went nuts! The grocery stores were packed with people stocking up on food. My husband even spent an entire afternoon building a 3-person sled.

We were prepared for the snow event of the decade!

We went to bed with visions of snow-covered roofs and lawns swirling in our heads. We couldn't wait to get to sleep so we could try out the sled the next morning. We were prepared to spend an entire day playing in the snow.

What we woke up to find was not what we prepared for. We woke up to find a little ice on our steps and decks. That's it. No snow. Not even enough ice to try out the sled. Bummer. Now this is something all Alabamians should be used to. We know that our weather forecasters are dramatic. We know they prepare us for the worst-case scenario. And it rarely, if ever, happens. So I'm not really sure why we were all disappointed when we woke up to find something other than what we prepared for.

"Where's our snow?"

How many times do we prepare for life to go one way, then it doesn't turn out like we planned? We prepare to have the perfect marriage only to have it shattered by disappointments and failures. We prepare to have the perfect child only to have one born with disabilities. We prepare for our financial futures only to have them destroyed when the market dives south. We prepare to maintain life-long friendships only to have them ruined by silly arguments. We prepare.

And life doesn't turn out like we planned.

We're disappointed. We don't rebound easily. We sit in our disappointment and misery, and wallow.

God says He knows the plans He has for us. He doesn't say He's always going to let us in on those plans. His ways are higher than our ways. He allows disappointments, disasters and devastation in our lives for a reason. We don't always learn what those reasons are, but He has a hope and a future planned for us. And when we trust Him in this, we learn to ask, "What next, God?" We learn to look for His hand in our disappointments. We learn to see which way He's pointing us after a disaster. We learn to wait for His good when we've experienced devastation.

Photo by Molly Bridges Photography

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hopeless and Broken

I started a new Bible study this week by an author I've never read before. Honestly, I hesitate to use her name and study name for the simple fact that I don't want to discourage anyone from her studies. (She's very, very good!) But something she said in her teaching video, and referred to in her study guide has got me thinking. She challenges the group study members to get out of the church to go reach the hopeless and broken.

I know there are homeless people within just a few miles of where I live. I know there are financially desperate and needy people down the road. I know there are hungry people within a stone's throw of my church. Yet, I can't help but think of the hopeless and broken sitting right inside the church walls. I know they're there. I used to be one of them. And if they're like I was, they don't let anyone know it. They wear masks.

I sat in service after service, month after month, wondering if God was even real. Wondering why I was alive. Wondering. I went to church because it was expected of me. And because I didn't want my children to think poorly of me. And while I was there, I wasn't there. My mind was broken, hopeless, defeated, tormented. But from the outside, you'd have never suspected anything was wrong with me.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, we are called to take care of those outside of the church who are in need. And I'm not suggesting in any way that we neglect them, or not take care of them. In fact, we'd be disobedient not to care for them. But I think we sometimes overlook those in the midst of us who are in need. Just because someone doesn't need food, shelter, or some other physical need met doesn't mean they aren't in need. It doesn't mean they aren't desperate. It doesn't mean they aren't hopeless and broken. And when people are hopeless and broken, they aren't capable of being Jesus' hands and feet.

It's time the church, as a whole, quits promoting the masks, and starts sharing the healing grace of Jesus. It's time we start being transparent with the person in the pew next to us. It's time to dig deeper, get real and get personal...get past the masks. Because when the masks come off, healing starts to occur. And when the body of the church is healed, she is then better able to get outside of the church walls to care for others who are hopeless and broken.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Info About Contests

Once my blog reaches 50 followers, I will hold a contest for my first blog give-away.

And you are going to want this prize!

Encourage your friends, bloggy friends, family members, everybody you know, to check out my blog and follow along.

Friday's (Unmerited) Favor

I want to start off this series by going back to the day I began to have an inkling of what grace means. At this point, I only have a very loose grasp on it. There's still so much to be learned about this one little word. I hope you'll join me on this endeavor to learn as much about grace as possible in 2011.

By 2007, I had repented of my sin against God and wanted to live an obedient life. But I was constantly plagued with memories of what I'd done, of people I'd hurt. I felt like my mind was being tormented daily. I would read my Bible, and find short periods of relief. I began to believe that was the price I'd have to pay for what I'd done...a never-ending consequence. I knew that God had forgiven me, and I wanted to move forward with life in Him, but I felt stuck in my memories.

One particularly awful day, I sat in my recliner, reading my Bible. I don't remember what I was reading...probably one of David's psalms...but I became completely overwhelmed with memories images of what I'd done. I dragged myself upstairs to my bedroom, closed the door, dropped to my knees, and sprawled face-down on the floor. I began to weep uncontrollably. I begged God to take the images from my mind. I told Him I couldn't live every day of the rest of my life with my mind in such torment. I told Him I was laying down all those memories, images and hurt at the foot of the cross. I didn't care what He did with them; I didn't want them anymore.

In that instant, I literally felt a weight lifted from my shoulders, from my mind. I walked out of my room, knowing a transformation had taken place. God had taken what I laid down at the foot of the cross and cast them from me. He, in His merciful grace, gave me a new chance at life. In His grace, He freed me from the memories I deserved. I'd sinned horribly...I deserved deserve to be reminded on a daily basis of the horrible things I did. Yet He allows me to live in Him in freedom. His grace is greater than my sin. His grace is sufficient for me.

What was the moment in your life when you first began to have an idea of what grace means?

Thursday, January 6, 2011


In case you haven't figured it out yet, I L.O.V.E. to sing! Let me qualify that...I love to sing about my Savior. And last night at choir rehearsal was no exception. We're working on a song titled, I AM. I love the way musicians put words to music, and this song is one of the best combinations of the two I think I've ever heard! Read the lyrics:

I am the Lord, I’m the Almighty God,
I am the One for when nothing is too hard,
I am the Shepherd and I am the Door,
I am the Good news to the bound and the poor.

I am the righteous One and I am the Lamb,
I am the Ram in the bush for Abraham,
I am the Ultimate Sacrifice for sin,
I am your Redeemer, the Beginning and the End.

I am Jehovah, and I am the King,
I am Messiah, David’s offspring,
I am your High Priest, and I am the Christ,
I am the Resurrection, I am the Life.

I am the Bread, and I am the Wine,
I am your Future, so leave your past behind,
I am the One in the midst of two or three,
I am your Tabernacle, I am your Jubilee.

I am Hope, I am Peace, I am Joy, I am Rest,
Oh, I am your Comfort, and Relief from your stress,
I am Strength, I am Faith, I am Love, I am Power,
And today I am your Freedom, this very hour.

My favorite lines:
I am your Redeemer
I am your Future, so leave your past behind
And today I am your Freedom, this very hour

These words express my heart...He redeemed me, my story, my life. He is my future, and because of Him, I am able to leave the past behind me! He is my freedom. He is ALL I need. Friends, I hope you can say that I AM is all you need. Look back at those lyrics...if they're true (and they are), what else do you need?

He IS!

(watch/listen to it here)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Brutal Honesty About Dreams

Grace, my oldest, has this thing about telling me her dreams. Not dreams. I mean her nightly dreams. And, my husband will quickly tell you that I get easily bored listening to dreams. My mind wanders. I don't focus very well when someone is sharing their night-time dream with me. I get kinda bored. I don't know why. Maybe it's that I like to focus on reality, not something someone's brain thought up while they were asleep and makes no sense.

This morning Grace was telling me her dream from last night. Honestly, I don't have a clue what she told me. What did stick in my brain was what she said when she finished retelling the events of her dream: It just didn't make sense to me at all. I replied, Sometimes dreams don't make sense. Aha! moment.

God gives us dreams. He gave me mine about eight years ago. And still, for the life of me, I don't understand it. It doesn't make sense. Yes, He gave me a dream for something I'm passionate about. But I have no training, no this specific area except a love for it and for Him. Because of that, year after year, I ignore the dream. I don't look for Him to fulfill the dream. I contemplate it; I think how ridiculous it is; I imagine it; but it goes no further.

As we are at the fresh start of a new year, I wonder again if this will be the year. Will I surrender and allow God to fulfill the dream He placed in me so He can get the glory? To be brutally honest: I want to, but...

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 ~ Year of Grace

2010 was the best year I've had in a very long time.

I'm expecting 2011 to be even better.

I've started preparing a mental list of goals for the year, and plan to get them on paper (and my blog) soon...(maybe I should list that as one of my goals...). As I think about the changes I want to make this year, one of them involves my blog. This blog has been such a blessing to me: writing and sharing my heart, developing a new community of friends, and reading your responses to my thoughts. I want to be more intentional about writing and sharing. One of the changes I want to make involves a theme that has become predominant in my life:

The one word that has deeply affected my life over the past few years is


That also happens to be the focus of my church this year, meaning...

for the entire year, my pastor will focus on grace.

I'm so excited, I thought I'd take it to a personal level.

I plan to look for moments of grace in 2011...grace received and grace extended.

On Fridays, my posts will be about personal moments of grace. From time to time, I will have guest bloggers sharing about their personal moments of grace. And if you have a story of grace, I invite you to send me your story at With your permission, your story may show up on my blog!

I hope you'll join me in this series, titled Friday's (Unmerited) Favor.

In addition, I'll occasionally be holding contests with grace-like products as prizes! Be sure to check back later this month for the first contest announcement!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Eve At The Shack

As of Thursday evening, Mark and I had no plans for New Year's Eve. We received a call from our friends, the Glovers (James and Angie), asking if we wanted to join them at the hunting cabin to ring in the new year. Since my husband is a hunter, I automatically knew we'd be going. Now I've never been to a hunting cabin, but I thought I had a decent idea of what to expect. I wasn't surprised when James warned me that the hunting cabin was "no cabin up in the mountains at Gatlinburg." But I was not quite prepared for the Pine Ridge Hunting Cabin (PRHC), which I affectionately named "The Shack."

After a long drive down a long, bumpy road, we arrived at the PRHC. Apparently James has the impression that I'm a city girl (little does he know!) because he kept asking if I was sure I wanted to spend the night there. Granted...I had envisioned drinking hot chocolate around a campfire while shooting fireworks. But that wasn't quite the way things turned out.

The shack, for lack of a better description, looked like it had not been cleaned in a really long time. The funny thing about it was that James' brother stopped in before leaving his hunt to tell Angie that he'd cleaned up for us before we got there! (Insert laughter so hard it makes my tummy hurt!...I learned how men would live if not for us women!!) I'm telling you, friends, I'm quite sure the shack has never seen a vacuum, mop or dust brush! James claimed that the dishes were clean, and would be fine to cook with. Thank goodness, Angie had the foresight to bring her own skillets! I'm pretty sure Angie scrubbed every utensil and dish in sight. Not to mention, she wiped down the table with some cleaning solution, but it never got quite clean. She and I determined not to eat any food that accidentally fell on the table!

The, deluge...started not long after we arrived, so we were pretty much banned to the inside of the cabin. The guys grilled our steaks in the rain. There was no campfire. Neither was there any hot chocolate...I blame that on two reasons: the weather was warm, and the water came from a well...and James warned us that it didn't taste good because there was iron in it. (Thankfully, once again, Angie had the foresight to bring a couple of gallons of bottled water to brush our teeth with.)

With all that said (and I hope I've given you a lovely mental image of the shack), we had a GREAT evening. We ate steak, salad, and baked potatoes. Angie baked chocolate chip cookies in the ancient oven. We shot fireworks between rain showers. We sat with all  the girls and watched Dick Clark count down the new year. We played our favorite card game, Phase 10, until 1:30 am (which, by the way, I kicked booty and won!). Angie cooked a fabulous breakfast for us this morning. Then we headed back to our sanitary homes. The funny thing about it was...we all could've stayed a while longer and escaped reality.

Maybe there's something to be learned from this adventure: good friends are great to be with wherever you are...cobwebs and all! Enjoy checking out the photos from our New Year's Eve at The, I mean...Pine Ridge Hunting Club.

The Shack...aka Pine Ridge Hunting Club

The Master Suite (insert laughter!!!!)

James SWORE the toilet was only looked like this from the iron in the well water. Hmmm...still not sure I believe him!

A Chef's Kitchen

Check out the zipties holding together the broken chair!

I told you that cabin had not ever seen a vacuum!

My dorky husband holding my "fru-fru" salad in Angie's clean skillet

The guys running away from the fireworks they were shooting

All the girls...they had a blast!

This makes us more attractive to our husbands!

The Glovers

Mark and me

Thanks, James and Angie, for a fun and entertaining New Year's Eve!!!!