Saturday, December 28, 2013

Coming Home





Two days ago we made the 545 mile trip down to my hometown, Irmo, SC. Me and my little family. Every time it amazes me how well our boys travel. They watch movies. Jaden plays with his Mobi-go. They make imaginary monster truck tracks on their arm rests and legs and have a rally full of sound effects. They are my seasoned little travelers and take the extremely long trip in stride. Until we hit the last hour. Then all bets are off.

Even though we've done a lot of moving since we got married, when I come back to SC it always feels like home. I can rummage through the refrigerator and make a feast out of the latest snacks my mom has prepared. A drive through downtown does not ignite annoyance of the fear of getting lost or stuck on a one-way street. I sit and enjoy the ambience of the Christmas tree, which is always a 9 foot beauty which dominates my parents' vaulted ceilinged den, filled with ornaments commemorating their many trips, anniversaries, children's milestones and events, some older than I am.

Over the past month since my mother's stroke, which you can read about here, I've reflected on the love of family and how special that bond is. Differences between us and conflicts will rise, but the relationship that unites us will always be there. Sometimes it's placed on the back burner and expected to stay alive simply because it's there. Many of us develop the same sort of assuming behavior with our relationship with God. After all, he'll always love us, right?

But I don't want to live that way. As if I'll always have one more day, one more moment to make experiences and memories which will live in my heart and mind forever.  I know that one day, in God's perfect timing, my parents will be face to face with their Heavenly Father.  And even though I don't spend my time dwelling on that fact or in fear of it, I am certainly aware of its reality. For that reason, let me live in this day.  Not missing an opportunity to tell my Mom and Dad that I love them. That I appreciate them and everything they do to show they care.

As I watch my boys play with their Pa Pa's model train set and run around the house without a worry in the world, I remember what Jesus said during his earthly ministry. "Let all the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these." My silly, adventuresome boys who hug and kiss people they barely know. My little Jaden who instilled excitement in my nieces and nephews over saying the prayer before dinner.

I have no doubt my spirit will dwell with them in eternity, but we are given this one life here on earth to live, breathe, and let the Spirit of God shine through us. Let's not go another day taking it for granted.

"Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."  James 4:14

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Is God Enough?




I've walked the road of trying to fill myself with things other than God many, many times.  And every time, I have failed.  Whether it be staying busy, shopping for clothes I didn't need, or having one more drink, nothing sustained me and filled me like the grace and love God poured into my life when I sought Him for the first time.  It is a daily commitment and oftentimes, struggle, to keep Him at the center of my life, but as Paul writes in Galatians, "I have been crucified with Christ so I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."  It is only by the Spirit that I can live the life God has planned for me.  I make the decision to live by the Spirit instead the flesh moment by moment, day by day.  And when I fail, He is there to pick me up again when I return to his loving arms.  Although in this life we only catch little glimpse of his glory in comparison to what awaits us in Heaven, it is in those moments when I sense his presence and know I've done his will that I feel most complete.

Only Jesus, the name that is above all names and by which every knee shall bow, is enough. He is sufficient to cover my sin, to pay the the debt which I never could.  "For if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Gal. 2:21)  Even though there are times I try to perform, behave, or meet some arbitrary standard of worthiness, I always find myself at the foot of the cross, the only place where I am righteous in the sight of God.

I believe many women spend their lives searching for that special friend or soul mate who truly "gets us." Who understands our little quirks and nuances.  Who doesn't get angry when we fall short because they understand we are only doing our best.  I spent much of my life trying to find that person as well.  But the truth is, God is in the only one in this universe, or any universe, who truly understands the depths of our being.  He made us and knows things about each one of us that we don't even grasp ourselves.  As in says in Psalm 139:1, "Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me."  

Searched me.  Wow.  I don't know about you, but that statement blows my mind.  When I look up the word search in the dictionary some of the definitions which are listed are, "to examine thoroughly in order to find something," and some synonyms are "look through, forage for, seek, leave no stone unturned."  Is there anyone one this earth you can say has searched you?  My guess would be no.

I'm eternally grateful that I have a God who knows every aspect of me and my personality, yet loves me anyway, to walk through this life with me.  We will not leave this journey here on earth without battle wounds, some of us more than others.  But God's endless love and provision is enough to get us through to the finish line.  One of my favorite books in the Bible is Philippians, and it remind us that, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:6)  When I remember this promise, I am filled with peace in the midst of the storm.



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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Why Worry?



Sometimes I imagine myself physically tossing my worries and 
anxiety into the ocean, to be swept away to a distant land.



Earlier this week I was practicing an act I've been prompted toward by some spiritual leaders in my life.  I was praying God's word and speaking his promises out loud.  This action is also mentioned in the opening chapters of a Bible study I've been doing, A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. I spent weeks resisting the idea because I felt silly walking around my house talking, seemingly, to myself, but the more I engaged myself the more I realized what I'd heard and read was true.  I wasn't distracted.  My mind wandered less frequently.  I felt conviction in what I was praying.

One of the verses I prayed during my time alone with God was Philippians 4:6, which gives a prescription for worry and anxiety.  Instead of feeling anxious, we are to trust God. We present our requests to Him.  We surrender our circumstances to Him and thank Him continually.  Then the peace of God will fill our hearts and minds, and we will be free.  Although the instructions are fairly simple and straightforward, often the practice of them is not as easy.  Or so I discovered as the day progressed.

I sat down later and began studying chapter nine of A Confident Heart, which is entitled, "When Doubt Whispers, 'I Can't Stop Worrying'" and was just finishing up a blog post when my Dad called.  He started the conversation with our normal small talk and then blurted out that my mom was in the hospital with symptoms of what she thought was a minor stoke.  The only word I heard in the entire summary was the word "stroke."  My independent, stubborn, seemingly healthy mom.  My mom who hasn't spent a day in a hospital since the birth of her children.  I tried to mask my nervousness by asking tons of questions.  Questions which he didn't have the answers to.  Tests and more tests were needed.  The ones they'd already conducted were inconclusive.  By the end of the phone call I realized that I could only do one thing.  Wait.

Like most people, I do not like waiting.  My parents live over five hundred miles away so my natural instinct, which was to jump in the car and race to the hospital, was not feasible.  My five-year-old was still in school, my youngest was napping, and after I called my husband and relayed the news, I was left alone in a quiet house with my thoughts.  Thoughts which, unless they are focused and filled prayer and God's Word, can become very dark and negative in those types of situations.

I believe that when I prayed from Philippians and read the chapter about worry that morning, God was preparing my heart and mind for the coming news.  As I waited for more information and test results I recited that verse again and again, focusing on the words and trusting that God would protect my mom.  I thanked him for all the blessings in my life.  As I focused on everything I had to be thankful for, the dark thoughts became less overwhelming.

My mom is being released from the hospital today, and although she will have to undergo physical therapy to regain function of her right arm and hand, which were affected, her spirits are high and her brain alert.  I am amazed not only by her strength and determination, but by God's provision and the many people who prayed, visited, and called.  She was surrounded by people who loved and supported her both near and far away.

Being given a stark reminder of your parent's mortality is heart wrenching.  As a child, you want to protect them from harm in the same way they watched over you as you were growing and return the act of love they communicated throughout life.  But when circumstances spin beyond control, you can turn inward or reach outward.  Toward the God who is sovereign and holds the whole world in the palm of his hand, toward friends and family who love you and love the people who mean the most.

As I look back on the past few days, I am amazed to see God's hand and how he cared for each of us.


"You go before me and follow me.  You place your hand of blessing on my head." Psalm 139:5 NLT


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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

From Daydream to Reality


Exploring God's creation always offers excellent opportunities for 
daydreaming.



A couple of years ago when my family was living in northern Utah I took a creative writing course at a local arts council which was taught by a published author.  On the first day he gave us ten steps to be an effective writer and make writing a part of our lives, and one of the steps made me chuckle and think to myself "Yep, that's me." Daydream.  This is a step he'd personally added to a list of others which were commonly used by those in the field.  

I found it interesting because many would argue that daydreaming is not an effective use of one's time.  But yet here was an award-winning writer telling me that I should make this habit part of my daily routine, as it would help me better achieve my aspirations.  If I would allow my mind to wander and my imagination to soar, my thoughts would become words on paper, which would in turn become stories, novellas, and novels.  It was a revelation which I pondered for several days.  As a person who often is torn between a side of me that is creative, artistic and imaginative and another side which is very practical and down-to-earth, the practical side often overshadows the other when I feel the constant need to check items off my to-do list.

"Slow down," I often sense God saying.  I have things I want to tell you.  Plans I want to reveal to you.  Could this be tied into daydreaming?  Could an infinite God shape the thoughts of my finite mind and use his Spirit to place dreams within my thoughts, my heart?  I believe He can.  I know it.  I've experienced it.

Many times, my daydreaming has led me to hopes of becoming a published author, writing novels and books for ministry which would help transform lives and lead women to Jesus.  And then doubt will whisper, "That will never happen.  You're not good enough.  There are many writers out there who are better and have a more intriguing story to offer."  Over the years and the course of several Bible studies, I've realized there is also an Enemy who rules this world who would like nothing better than for me not to fulfill the plans God has for my life.  Spiritual warfare is not just a concoction made up by people who have wild imaginations or extensive paranoia.  It is a reality.

The truth is, when it comes to God's plan for my life, my knowledge isn't even at the tip of the iceberg.  He reveals little pieces of it day by day when I immerse myself in his Word and prayer.  Other days, when I fill my day with mindless tasks and neglect my relationship with Him, I feel lost.  It is a daily struggle but when I earnestly seek Him he never hides his face from me.  One thing I do know is that the dreams and desires within my heart were put there by God.  As it says in Psalm 139:1, "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me." 

As I continue this journey on earth before moving to my eternal destiny, the times that I feel most alive are those when I am embracing the personality, gifts, and dreams my Creator gave me.  Not when I'm comparing myself to others, conforming or competing, but accepting my role in the body of Christ.  I am still discovering what that role is, but the more I more He reveals to me, the more complete I am as the woman God created me to be in Christ Jesus.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Wonder of Christmas






As the holiday season approaches, it can be easy to get lost in the clamor of finding the right gift for everyone on your list.  I remember when I was little, it used to seem as though Christmas would never get here and now that I'm an adult with two kids I often find myself saying, "It's Christmas again already?" The years seem to fly by at a lightning fast pace and sometimes I wish I had a pause button or could slow things down a little.  That is one of the reasons I love to take pictures.  There's something magical about being able to freeze a moment, to capture it and be able to look at it again and again, even though that small capsule in time will never repeat itself.

Christmas is a very special time of year and ever since having children five years ago, it's become more important than ever for me to remember the true meaning of this holiday.  I want my kids to see that it's not about the tree or the gifts or Santa Claus or reindeer.  All of those things are lovely and bring wonder and delight to the season as well, but they should not be our focus.

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, who gave up all the beauty and glory of heaven to become a baby who would grow into a perfect man and die on our behalf.

During the past five years as this time would approach I constantly questioned myself and pondered how Chris and I would keep our kids centered as parents.  Do we tell him there's a Santa or immediately dismiss the idea?  How many gifts should we get the kids?  Should we tell the grandparents to limit the number of gifts they get?  And on and on.  I nearly exhausted myself, forgetting in the midst of it all that Christmas is also about joy.  Family.  Enjoying each other and the gift of relationships.

The truth is that the biggest way my kids will see the true meaning of Christmas is through me and Chris.  If we show them the happiness and love we have over the coming of our Savior, that joy will translate to them.  Worrying about it will do nothing but add to my wrinkle lines.

Every family is different and it's important to remember what works for some may not work for others.  Some choose not to introduce Santa at all.  Some do extravagant gifts and some don't.  Stockings hang from the mantle in some homes and others don't have them.

As fast as the past five years have moved, I am sure of this.  My kids will not stay small for long.  And even though Santa is not our focus during the holiday season, seeing my kids faces light up when they see their video message from Santa or hear his bells when he enters a room truly melts my heart.  Their imaginations soar and they are allowed to enter into a enchanting place in their minds which for me was cut far too short.  

I have no intention of ending that place any sooner than necessary.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Would You Do?


Today I am participating in Proverbs 31 Ministries' blog hop as we study Renee Swope's book, A Confident Heart.This is an online Bible study which will take place over the next four weeks.

For today's topic I'm writing about some of my God given dreams.




As I state in my bio, writing has been a passion of mine for a long time. Although I've been writing poetry and fiction for many years, non-fiction is a relatively new endeavor. I've been amazed at the support and encouragement I've received from the online community since I started my blog this past summer. I never imagined that God could use people I'd never met to help me realize my potential in Christ. It is truly overwhelming.

When I think about my dreams, more than anything I simply want to encourage women. I want to write, yes, but I want the Spirit to speak through me, to glorify God, and to show women that they are invaluable to their Maker. I especially desire to reach mothers, as I am a stay-at-home mom, and I know that this audience needs daily reminders that what they are doing is praiseworthy and significant.

I know that being a new mom can be especially challenging, and as one who battled postpartum depression for a long time I would love to uplift mothers during this isolating time. To let them know they are not alone and offer support. 

My desire is to reach a larger audience and author a book one day, and plan to attend the She Speaks conference in 2014, Lord willing. I trust that if this is in God's plan, it will happen.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

I Am Not

Today I am participating in Proverbs 31 Ministries' blog hop as we study Renee Swope's book, A Confident Heart.This is an online Bible study which will take place over the next five weeks.

For today's topic I chose an experience where I felt like a failure and responded with a resounding #IAmNot.



I am a far better writer than speaker. I once heard a preacher quote the statistic that on average,  people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death and I believe that 100%. However, a week ago felt God pushing me to share some of my testimony with my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, and since I was very inspired by this online Bible study, I volunteered to do so.

I serve as Co-Coordinator on our MOPS Steering team this year, and our theme for the year is called A Beautiful Mess: Embrace Your Story. My testimony, along with the short devotion and verses I planned to share, would be the perfect opportunity to highlight our theme.

After days of rehearsing what I was going to say in my head and preparing an outline of the points I wanted to share, I believed I was somewhat ready. Or, as ready as I would ever be. My story contained several experiences which are extremely personal to me, which I'd only shared with a handful of people until that point, but I knew there were women in that room who needed to know they were not alone.

Until that day I never realized how much more difficult it is to stand in front of a large group and share your heart, to reveal things  which are deep and caused you pain, than it is to simply make announcements and talk about everyday matters. I was shaking like a leaf. It was painfully obvious that I was nervous. When I sat down after five minutes, I needed to throw up. I was sure that half of what I'd said didn't make sense.

I felt like a failure. Why did I think I could do this? I wasn't a speaker.

About ten minutes after I floundered through my speech, a fellow mom approached me. She told me how much she could relate to my words. She said how we shared similar experiences. She told me she was grateful  I shared.

I sensed God's still small voice saying to me, "If what you said spoke to even one woman, you have accomplished what I sent you to do." I knew somehow, despite my nerves, despite my mouth becoming unhumanly dry a minute into my testimony, He had spoken through me. I couldn't have done it on my own.

Although I don't have the burning desire to speak in public again any time soon, I know that I did not fail. Do I have room for improvement in the public speaking realm? Absolutely. But I am not a failure. That I am not.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Unpacking John 1:12


Today I am participating in Proverbs 31 Ministries' blog hop as we study A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.  This is an online Bible Study which will be taking place over the next six weeks.

For this week's  topic I am unpacking John 1:12. In other words, taking a closer look at this verse and telling you what it's meant to me.



Although I've steered away from the verse mapping so far during this study, I couldn't resist the urge to unpack this verse because the book of John has meant so much to me since becoming a follower of Jesus in 2009. John 1 is, to me, one of the most powerful passages in scripture.

It's important before we look at the actual verse to keep in mind what John is trying to accomplish in writing this Gospel. Each book of the Gospel had a specific purpose, and John's was no different. Others were to show Jesus was Messiah, Savior, and King. John's was to show Jesus is God.

In the verses leading up to John 1:12 the author is establishing the fact that Jesus was both fully human and fully God, and He always has been, even before the foundation of the earth. He is the eternal source of all light and truth.

In verse 12 we read, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

The following words stood out to me while reading and meditating on this scripture:

All:  every, any. Jesus is not just for the Jew but for the Gentile also. For everyone who accepts Him. Just as Adam and Eve were given the choice of whether to obey God or go their own way, we are given free will. The Holy Spirit will pull at our hearts, but the decision is ours.

Received:  accepted, to take into one's possession, as in gifts. The freedom and life we have in Jesus is a gift. We do not have to work for it or earn it.

Name:  identity, designation. Accepting Jesus also means believing in who he is. He is the Son of God, the only way to eternal life.

Children:  son, daughter, family. When I become born of God I am a new creation. I have been spiritually reborn. Although I will still have fleshly desires and temptations, because of the Spirit in me, I no longer am a slave to them. 

When I let these words and their meaning resonate in my heart, I am overwhelmed by the grace and beauty of the simple message. God left his Heavenly home, his Father and all the unfathomable glories in his grasp to be a mere human and die for me, a sinner. All I had to do is receive the free gift extended to me to have freedom from the power death had over me. I am eternally grateful and will forever praise His Name, the Name above all names.


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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Moving Past Mom-Fail Moments


Today I am participating in Proverbs 31 Ministries' blog hop as we study A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.  This is an online Bible Study which will be taking place over the next seven weeks.

The topic I chose for this post is a #movingforward story.





This week I had one of those epic mom fail moments.  You see, for those of you who don't know me, I am a stay-at-home mom.  My oldest is five and started kindergarten this year.  I honestly never thought kindergarten could make a mom feel so unorganized and inadequate. When I was his age (yes, I said it), I spent a total of three hours at school and took a nap there.  My son is there a full day, has no nap, and comes home with homework and a folder full of flyers, papers for parents to sign and return, and announcements every day.  But I digress.

So on Wednesday I had one of those moments when all I wanted to do was find a hole to crawl into and bury my head.  I feel as though I've been in a fog the past few weeks and it finally culminated a couple of days ago when I was given a not-so-subtle alarm to snap out of it.

My haze started in mid October when our family faced financial difficulties as a result of the government shut down.  Later that week a long distance phone call to my parents revealed that my brother, who suffers from drug addiction, had been arrested.  A couple of days later our furnace stopped working, leaving me stressed about our already shrinking bank account.

In the midst of my haze, I somehow forgot that my son got out of school three hours early on Wednesday.  There was no flyer sent home and as a mom of a high maintenance two-year-old who relies heavily on reminders of dates and changes in schedules, I was out of the loop. So that afternoon I heard someone banging on our front door while my youngest was napping.  Of course, my first response was annoyance because I didn't want them to wake my son.

Imagine my surprise when I look out the window and see my kindergartner standing there with my neighbor and her two boys.  My neighbor with the perfectly manicured yard, who is head of the PTA and highly involved in the day to day activities of the school.  My neighbor who was kind enough to walk my son home from school when his oblivious mom forgot.

I thanked her repeatedly and my son, fortunately, could've cared less who walked him home.  So did I move on?  No.  I spent the next couple of days worrying.  Far too little time rejoicing in the fact that my son was safe, and too much time wrapped in my insecurity over what others would think.  I would be know as that mom.  The scatter-brained mom.

I am so grateful for Chapter 5 of A Confident Heart because Renee reminded me that what others think about me is ultimately unimportant.  What God thinks of me, however, is endlessly important.  And to God, I am a masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.  Yes, I will fail.  I will make mistakes.  But if I learn from them and confess my sins before God, He is just and faithful to forgive, to give me a clean slate and remember my sins and mistakes no more.  Thank you, Jesus.

As I move forward, I find so much freedom in praying and speaking God's promises aloud. I will continue to meditate on them each day.  Speaking aloud gives my mind less room to be distracted.  I spend far to much time feeling anxious about the opinion of others, and must move out of the shadow of insecurity and into the light of my Savior.  He is the God of second chances.  A God whose love is perfect even when I am not.  I will stop looking in the rearview mirror, dwelling on my past failures, and look to my bright and shining future.  A future declared by My Father to have purpose and meaning.  A plan to prosper and not to harm.


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Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Path to Surrender


Today I am participating in Proverbs 31 Ministries' blog hop as we study A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.  This is an online Bible Study which will be taking place over the next eight weeks.

This post's topic is the point when I fully surrendered my life to Christ. Renee talks about this experience in her own life throughout chapter 3 of her book.








Reading Renee's story, I found so many similarities between the two of us.  I spent much of my life looking to things other than a life surrendered to Christ to fill me and fulfill me.  Sex, drugs, alcohol, you name it.  I dated many different boys throughout high school and college, thinking that if I found the right relationship, I would be content.

Although I grew up in the church, I never fully understood that having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ also meant trusting him with my heart, relinquishing control, and having faith that his will for my life is always the best path. I left the church as a teenager because of anger toward God… anger because of the abuse that a dear friend had experienced at the hands of my childhood pastor, anger because of the drug addition my brother was, and still is, under the shadow of, anger at my parents for being enablers instead of enforcing consequences, anger at myself for never fitting into the cliques at youth group and school.

So I ran… I ran far away from God and tried to immerse myself into the college life, which for me mostly meant parties and boys. And drugs. Lots of alcohol. Some studying here and there.

One of the first major turning points in my life came when I met my husband. He reached his time of surrender a year before meeting me, and after going on only a few dates, I could picture myself marrying him. He was unlike any person I'd ever met. We married after about three years together and throughout that time I could feel God pursuing me. I began going to church every now and then. I sent up a prayer here and there. But I still wasn't ready. I was trying to behave, to stay clean, to live a life I felt was worthy. Of what? I don't know. I just didn't get it. I couldn't grasp what I was missing.

There were two major events which catapulted me into the realization that I needed God in the deepest way. That I would seek Him and find Him when I searched with all my heart. 

The first was a cross-country move to Utah. I had lived in the same place, Columbia, South Carolina, my entire life. Utah is very different culturally than the "Bible Belt" of the south. The second was the birth of my son, which coincided with the death of my grandmother, and sent me into a long battle with postpartum depression.

Anti-depressants left me feeling worse and unable to sleep in my already zombie-like state. Exercise helped my mood but couldn't fill the void in my life.

God continued his pursuit of me. A series of messages entitled "God is Bigger…" at the church we'd been attending really resonated in my heart. A friend and follower of Jesus reached out. She didn't look like the typical "Christian" that I'd stereotyped them to be. I finally admitted I needed help with my depression and began seeing a Christian therapist. 

I was sitting on the living room coach of our home in Utah, after putting our son to bed, reading "The Purpose Driven Life" with my husband when I made the decision to follow Jesus with everything that I had…heart, soul and mind. To live a life surrendered. It was time. There was a chapter where he extended an invitation and I took it. 

I made the choice to leave my life of ruins and come to the living water which never runs dry.

I remember the first chapter of that book hitting me like a freight train.  "It's Not About You." Wow. How convicting. How liberating. How freeing to not have to think about myself so much. To get over my own neurosis. To realize that I have a purpose that has nothing to do with my self-loathing and everything to do with glorifying the God of the Universe. A God who loves me and cares for me so much He sent his son to die in my place.

Since that day on November 10, 2009, I've realized that God is sovereign even when I don't understand my circumstances. That despite my control-freak tendencies, my life is in his hands and there is freedom found in knowing He's at the wheel. He is a big God who will reveal Himself to me when I earnestly seek Him.

It is a day by day process. There are so many distractions begging to divert my attention from the One who gives me peace. But I'm learning. Each step. Each leg of the race. I will keep my eyes on Him. I will let him mold me to become the woman He made to be.



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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

At the Well



Today I am participating in Proverbs 31 Ministries' blog hop as we study A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.  This is an online Bible Study which will be taking place over the next nine weeks.  

For today's blog hop topic I read chapter 2 of Renee's book and looked at the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter 4.  As I read the story, our study leader Melissa Taylor challenged us to ask God to meet us in the story, see if there are areas of our hearts that need repair, and identify similarities between our story and the Samaritan woman's.



image courtesy of wikimedia.org


The story of the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4 touches me on so many levels.  From the way Jesus gets straight to the heart of the matter to the way he seeks out this woman who had probably been rejected by her community for years.  I love how Renee Swope points out in her book A Confident Heart that while most Jews simply traveled around Samaria to avoid having anything to do with this loathed people, Jesus was very intentional about going through Samaria.  He knew his Father had work for him to do there. 

I can identify with the woman at the well because like her, I often try to avoid the issues which most deeply affect my heart.  As Renee talks about in chapter 2, I often would rather tell people I'm "fine" than delve into the problems of my life, fearing that the burden would be too heavy for most or that I will push people away.  Other times, I feel as though my troubles are trivial in comparison to what's going on in someone else's life.  I begin thinking about those living in third world countries who struggle to provide food and clean water to their families, and wonder why I can't seem to handle all the resources and blessings God has given me in a responsible way.

I believe the Samaritan woman deeply desired just to be seen.  To be loved for who she was.  She was with her fifth man, a man who didn't even want to commit to being her husband.  Often, I struggle with the desire to be seen also, and lately, what I feel God pressing repeatedly onto my heart is "I see you."  I believe it's a lifelong lesson but it's one I've really been in the trenches of lately.

Being a stay-at-home mom is often a thankless job.  I love my children with all of my heart and I do not question my decision to devote my time to them, but often I just want more of…something.  I started blogging about four months ago because although I've been writing since a very young age, I felt as though God was pushing me to share my writing with others.  Often, when I look at my statistics, I wonder why I continue.  And then I hear God gently saying again, "Keep going.  I see you.  I will complete the work I started in you."

My dream is become a published writer for Women's Ministry.  I believe this is a God-given dream that he has placed in my heart, and that He will see it to fruition.  But like so many women, I often doubt myself.  I am hoping through this study, I will replace my doubts with confidence.  I know that God's timing is always perfect, but as humans we often want to just get to the finish line, get the next item checked off our list, and see instant results.  But this boxed way of thinking is not how an infinite God operates.

God, help me to see that your plans are always better than my own.  You cause all things to work for good for those who love you.  I love you so much, God, and although I often feel weak, because your power is made perfect through my weakness, I am strong.  Thank you so much for this promise.  In Jesus name, Amen.




P31 OBS Blog Hop

Monday, October 14, 2013

Anything But Ordinary



It's Friday. (Well, actually for me it's Monday) Where hundreds of writers come together every week over at the lovely Lisa-Jo Baker's blog to spend five minutes writing about one thing. One word. No hyper-editing. No getting in your own way. Just writing, flat out. The most important rule: encourage the writer who linked up before you. Won't you join us?


I believe the closest glimpse I will ever get to God's love is what I feel when I look at my children.


Today's prompt: Ordinary

GO:

It would be easy to write my life off as ordinary.  I am a stay-at-home mom.  Most of my days look the same, with the same schedule and routine, and there are few variations week to week aside from the impromptu trip to the fall festival or a trip to see the in-laws.  I take my oldest son to the bus stop at the same time every morning and pick him up at the same time every afternoon.

Often, I daydream about white sand beaches and turquoise blue ocean waters whisking me away, with soft island music playing a sweet melody. A fruity drink in one hand and my lover's fingers intertwined in the other.

One day that may happen.  But that is not my day to day reality.

But you see, my life is anything but ordinary.  Because I am loved by a God who created the Heavens and the universe and somehow thought about me all at the same time.  He knows every worry wrinkle in my brow.  He knows the words on my tongue before I speak.  He is the source of the only perfect love in all eternity, and He has covered me, drenched me with it so that at times I feel as though I can't even breathe.

And that, my friends, if words can even be found to describe such a love, is extraordinary.

STOP.



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Welcome the Silence


The beach...one of my favorite places to enjoy silence. Just the waves and the breeze.



This tired mama has been sick for the past five days with some sort of viral infection which ended with laryngitis. So, for the past two days I've been unable to speak except for in a whisper or short, raspy spurts.  Somehow I've managed to escape this diagnosis my entire life, but my husband gets it every year.  He's been empathetic and gave me an interesting piece of advice: Enjoy the silence. (Mine, obviously, not my boys) Use the time to think.  Our mouths get us into trouble way too often.

At first, I became a little defensive because as a stay-at-home mom and somewhat introverted personality type, I do a lot of thinking already.  I've always been better at expressing myself in written form rather than verbally.  However, after giving what he said some time to sink into my exhausted brain, I realized he had a point.

It's something that God has been pressing on my heart more and more.  How every time we speak, we have the opportunity to give grace, to be a light in someone's dark place, to encourage and bring hope.  All to often, we instead use our mouths to complain, speak words of anger, slander others, and stampede over other's dreams. 

I want to be the grace giver.  And I'm trying.  Little by little. Step by step.  Do I fail?  Yes, all the time.  But I get up and try again.  Sometimes I beat myself up a little but I keep going and make every effort to keep my eyes on what's ahead instead of what's in the rearview mirror. 

I know there will be days when I simply need to vent. To find a person I trust and unload, to share my troubles and sometimes just empty into a listening ear rather than find a solution. But I pray that even on those days, I can reflect the peace and assurance I have in Jesus in the process.

Confidence is a trait I've struggled to embrace my entire life.  I've come a long way in the past five years, and that is mainly due to my relationship with God through Christ and seeing myself as He sees me.  But it's also because He gave me a supportive, incredibly loving husband, who builds me up and tells me I can when my natural tendency is self-doubt.

I want my children to believe in themselves.  More than that, I want them to know they are God's masterpiece.  On a couple of recent occasions I've heard people say that the voice we use with our children becomes their inner voice.  If we are constantly yelling, using exasperated tones, or telling them they can't do something, the voice in their heads will reflect constant defeat.  I don't know about you, but that is not what I want for my kids.  

I have the choice.  God help me, but I can decide.  

Being sick has forced me to choose my words more sparingly because of the effort it takes to speak.  Perhaps this is a practice I could use more often?

God, guide me.  Let me show others the grace you have shown me.  Give me your eyes to see them the way you do.  May the words of my lips honor you and reflect you love.  Amen.

"…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry,"  James 1:19

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Prayer for Just Legislation



Today I am joining Lysa Terkeurst and Proverbs 31 Ministries in 31 days of prayer to stop human trafficking.  Please join me.  Click the link above for details on this opportunity to come before God seeking an end to an awful violence which is taking place in our own cities.



photo courtesy of eofdreams.com


Our Father in Heaven, I come before your throne of Grace now in the name of Jesus.  The name that is above all names.  I ask that your angels come, that your mercy come, to enter into a battle which is taking place at this very moment.  

Father you have said in your word that your thoughts are higher than our thoughts and your ways higher than our ways.  But your rain will not come down to earth without watering the ground.  Oh Lord, rain down.  Do not let your word come to us and return empty.

Today I pray for just legislation in our country and in others where corruption is thick.

I pray that the leaders here and overseas would turn away from what is evil.  That scandal and exploitation of citizens and unnecessary violence would end.

I pray that a heavy hand would come down on those who use the bodies of helpless children, women and men for their own profit and personal gain.  I pray for justice, God, for you are a God who is just.

God, I know that with you all things are possible.   I ask that hearts and lives would be changed in these governments which so desperately need guidance.

In Jesus' name, Amen.


31DaysofPrayer_button-01

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Where is Home?

The place we now call "home"



Lately I've thought a lot about how a person defines home.  Many would say it's the place where they grew up, or the place they've lived their entire lives.  Some have moved all over the country from a very young age, whether it be because their family is military or other reasons, so there is no specific place they can say they spent their childhood.

I lived in the same area for the first twenty-eight years of my life, but almost immediately after I got married, my husband and I began moving.  A lot.  And although our moving was more out of necessity than want, it has taught me a great deal about who I am and forced me to redefine the word "home."

South Carolina, which is where I grew up and spent most of my life, will always call my name.

What's in South Carolina?  Well, you haven't tasted real BBQ until you've visited the South.  You may think you have.  Trust me.  You haven't. 

SC is also home to some of the juiciest, sweetest peaches I've ever tasted and boasts beautiful beaches and rich history.  And most importantly, it is where my family is.  My mom.  My dad.  My brother and niece.  Several of my cousins.  I miss being able to jump in the car and see them at a moments notice, sharing meals together, and spending the evening just talking and watching movies.

Most of all I miss the time they are away from my children, who don't have the opportunity to spend the night and Pa Pa and Grandma's house unless it's during summer vacation.

As much as I miss all these things, I know that moving cross-country twice in the past seven years, with a couple of smaller moves in-between, was part of God's plan.  My husband and I learned to rely on each other and find strength in mutual love and understanding of one another.

One year after we made our first big move, I had my first son.  Two years after our move, I gave my life to Jesus.  Our faith has grown in leaps and bounds.  We've begun to trust God in the seasons of struggle and not lose hope.  

I moved past my awkward, shy, introverted self and met some amazing people who  stretched me in my walk with Christ.  I realized that relationships form and grow in God's timing and not my own.

Through all of the transitions and the growing experiences, I discovered that home is where my family is.  Not my Mom and Dad, brothers, niece and cousins.  But my husband.  My kids.  Me.  I slapped some paint on walls, hung pictures and kids' art work.  I filled several homes with as much love as one mother's heart can hold.  

Home is walking through the door to a warm embrace and dogs licking my feet.  Home is hearing shouts of "Mama" after an evening away and trying not to trip over little arms and legs.  Home is my Meemaw's shadow box hanging on the wall, a sweet memory of a loved one who is now in her eternal home.

One of the most important things moving has taught me is that the dwellings we call "home" here on earth are temporary.  My prayer is that no matter where the future takes us, my family will feel home in the very essence of their being, no matter the place... because of the security that they have in God and the love they feel when they walk through the door.

"In my Father's house are many rooms... I am going there to prepare a place for you." 
John 14:2

Friday, September 27, 2013

Five Minute Friday: True



It's Friday.  Where hundreds of writers come together every week over at the lovely Lisa-Jo Baker's blog to spend five minutes writing about one thing.  One word.  No hyper-editing.  No getting in your own way.  Just writing, flat out.  The most important rule: encourage the writer who linked up before you.  Won't you join us?



photo courtesy of www.afreshchapter.com




Today's Prompt: True

GO:


If we listen to lies long enough, we start to believe they are true.  We think we are too small to make a difference, that one person cannot make a positive impact, and we go about our lives trying to fill up the void in our hearts with material possessions, elicit television and relationships which cause more harm than growth.

For a large portion of my life, this is how I lived.  I believed I had wasted my life, missed my opportunity to fulfill my calling, and that I would spend the rest of my time on earth regretting the decisions I'd made. 

But my God does not relish in suffering or have a heart of stone.  He restores and redeems.  He uses the debris of my past to recycle into a story that is new and beautiful.  He loves me in spite of the mess. 

When I saw garbage, he saw a life which has meaning and purpose.  When I was filled with shame, he saw the blood shed by his Son to make me clean.  When I told myself I was only one person, one life, he saw the bread he used to feed over five thousand people.  

In every action I take, every word I say I have an opportunity to reflect Christ.  All I have to do is decide to let his love be transparent through me.


STOP.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

When Your Patience is Tested



My inquisitive five-year-old. He has his Daddy's engineering brain.



We had family photos taken the other day.  The shoot was on a farm out in the middle of nowhere, and although the scenery was beautiful and the weather was perfect, I found myself trying very hard not to get lost on the way there.  My husband works relatively close to the studio, so I drove separately with my five-year-old and twenty-two-month-old boys. After spending an hour getting them dressed and ready and trying to keep them from ruining their outfits, we climbed into the car.

 As soon as we pulled out of the driveway, the questions spilled out of the mouth of my oldest.  I also noticed the car was on E.

Where are we going? Why? Why are you slowing down? Why are you stopping here? What's the car in front of us doing? Where's Dadda? Did he take the blue car?

I wondered why I hadn't turned on the DVD player. Oh yes, because we created that rule. No DVD player for trips less than an hour. Why did we create that rule again?

The questions continued.  At the first twenty or so, I answer with calm.  Around question forty  I am losing my patience. 

Patience. It's a word I've thought a lot about lately. A characteristic I strongly desire to be present as I raise my children. Because not only is it vital if I'm not going to lose my ever-loving mind, but it goes hand in hand with love.

Cocking my head and yelling at him to be quiet, well, that's not love. Have I done it? Absolutely. Did I regret it? Yes.  Have I lost my temper? Yes, all to often.

I've heard several women in my life say that they never ask God to give them patience because they know the result will be a trial which tests this virtue. In other words, patience must be learned. And I agree that it is like a muscle which must be stretched and exercised in order to grow. Especially in circumstances when we are waiting on God. For an answer to prayer. For something in our life to change.

But in that moment, I didn't have time to learn a character building lesson.  I had time to mutter two words, "Jesus. Help."

I turned my head slightly and told my inquisitive boy, with as much serenity as I could muster, that I was trying to find my way to a place we'd never been and needed to concentrate. I told him to enjoy the drive and listen to the music.

To my complete amazement, he did what I asked. He was quiet for the remainder of the trip.

Now, will this always happen? I'm sure it won't. But can I call on the name of Jesus to give me the stillness I need? You bet I can.

Galatians 5:22 tells us that patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit.  Another words, a supernatural ability.  One that goes contrary to my flesh.  When we receive Christ and are given the Holy Spirit, this seed is planted.  Others include joy, peace, kindness and gentleness. The more I abide in him, the more these traits will grow and become evident.

In raising kids, there are times when I need the power of the Spirit right them and there. Sometimes, He simply tells me to step away for a moment if I am able. I know that a minute in the next room will not give my boys time to kill each other.

Other times, stepping away is not an option.  And while I know my patience will be tested and grown as I continue my walk with Him, I'm so glad I can call on his name in those moments when my exasperation is at its peak.


"....But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

Friday, September 20, 2013

Five Minute Friday: She


It's Friday.  Where hundreds of writers come together every week over at the lovely Lisa-Jo Baker's blog to spend five minutes writing about one thing.  One word.  No hyper-editing.  No getting in your own way.  Just writing, flat out.  The most important rule: encourage the writer who linked up before you.  Won't you join us?





photo courtesy of flicker.com


Today's prompt: She

GO:


She had never been the popular kid.  Quiet one.  Band chick.  Introvert.  These were words used to describe her.  Self-doubt was her constant companion.  Always afraid to speak out for fear of what people would say.  Fear of being teased or ridiculed.  Fear of rejection.  Always content with a small group of friends, she made little attempt to reach out.  Writing was her therapy, her catharsis, the words on the written page staring back at her in stark black and white.  Yes, this was all she needed.

Becoming a mom was like a bulldozer crashing through the thick wall of illusion she had built around herself.  The realization that she couldn't do this alone.  She needed community.  Women.  Encouragement and a pat on the back when she felt as though she was constantly failing.  In a new town with unfamiliar faces and surroundings, it was a stark reality, but she couldn't deny her yearning.

First one person reached out.  And then another and another.  She started feeling comfortable in her own skin and see herself for the woman she truly was.  There was something she could offer these women, and in turn they could walk the road of motherhood with her.  

Sometimes, it just takes one little push from someone who's been there before to get you to step outside of yourself.  Outside of your self-consciousness and doubt and into the light.  And once you do, you see the there's an entire world full of beautiful people waiting to greet you.


STOP.



Five Minute Friday


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

No Longer a Slave

photo courtesy of www.popscreen.com



Last Saturday I had the privilege of attending my first Beth Moore Living Proof Live simulcast.  After my experience, it definitely will not be the last.  There are people in this life whose anointing of the Spirit is so evident, so transparent, that it moves you to tears.  Beth Moore is one of them.  Although all of us who are in Christ have this anointing, the power in her speaking and the way she is able to illustrate things with conviction and humor is amazing.

This year's simulcast theme was called, "No Longer."  The subject was grace.  Many of us, including myself,  still live and think as though we are under the law even though we have accepted Christ as our personal Savior.  We confess our sin but do not believe we have been forgiven, or feel as though we have to confess it over and over.  We constantly think that God is disappointed with us.  We live with anxiety, fear, and jealousy.  We feel as though we must continue in close relationship with those who hurt, betray, and abuse us.  In other words, there are certain aspects in each of our lives which, once we belong to Christ, need to hear a loud "no longer."

As she was speaking, I found myself repeatedly saying, "Yep, that's me. Mmhmm." I struggle with many of these habits of carrying around my "old self." I compare myself too often to others and feel as though I don't measure up in some way, which leads to feelings of jealousy. I often become anxious when I am facing a major changes in my life or am preparing for a major project. I don't allow myself enough time, become overly stressed, and then lash out at those I love. This leaves me feeling remorseful, and I feel the need to repeatedly ask forgiveness. 

Did you know that in all of the translations of Scripture the word "disappoint" is only used a handful of times, and it is never used to describe God's feeling toward his children?  He is the beginning and the end.  He knows your story.  He cannot be let down or disillusioned.  In fact, in the few times it is used, the word "disappoint" depicts what we will not  feel once we belong to Him.  His hope will not disappoint.  His love will not fail.  He gives you everything you need to break old, damaging habits. 

I don't know about you, but all of this leaves we feeling rejuvenated, refreshed, and ready to put on my dancing shoes. But what is the next step? 

In order to live out a lasting "no longer" we must realize that we are not under the law, but  grace.  As Romans 6:6 states, "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might we done away with, that we should no longer be a slave to sin-because anyone who has died has been freed from sin."  Carrying around our old sin is like carrying around a corpse.  It stinks.  It weighs us down.  It keeps us from living a full, abundant life, which is what God desires for each of us.  As Beth stated, "Grace is not our permission to sin and stay in the same pattern; it is our permission to go."  God, through his grace, give us the ability to rid ourselves of habits of self destruction.  Anything in your life that becomes a stronghold is making you a slave to your old self.

Identify your what the strongholds in your life are. Some of mine are comparisons and jealousy, anxiety and guilt. When I begin feeling this things, I need to name it for what it is: sin, confess it to God and believe I have been forgiven. It's cast as far as the east is from the west.

 Another words, forgotten. Poof. Move on.

Also look for things in your life which trigger those feelings. If it's social media for example, take a break or turn it off when you feel your thoughts going in a harmful direction. If it's a person who constantly betraying or hurting you, you may want to distance yourself from that relationship. Forgiveness does not always mean maintaining close contact. (2 Thessalonians 3:14)

Sisters, we are no longer slaves, but heirs.  As Galatians 4:6 states, the Spirit God has given us cries out "Abba," Father. It is not a spirit of fear, anxiety, jealousy or self-condemnation.  It is one of peace, joy and comfort.  Earnestly seek God and he will fill you with what you lack.  Abide in his word.  Meditate on his promises.  He will never leave you or forsake you.  He is waiting for you to sit and talk with him, and tell him what's on your heart.

"We will see the face of Grace and need grace to bear the beauty." -Beth Moore