Wednesday, February 22, 2012

He says, "Test Me in this"

Friends and Neighbors - Latasha, Mary Kay, and I at Bunco Night on Monday
I haven't really talked about what I've been up to lately. it is...  Evan has been sick two times in the past two weeks.  Emily had her birthday, basketball games, and Girl Scout outings - cookies just came in too.  I have been working on Spring Fling auction donations, my Initials, Inc stuff, painting the house some, and helping my neighbor, Latasha, at her children's consignment store...  Mary Kay and I try to get our 3 mile walk in most days - it has been fantastic winter weather!  God has blessed me with great neighbors and wonderful girlfriends!  Evan is getting ready to start an after school Taekwondo program at school this week and will start baseball practice next week.  Emily finishes basketball this week and starts soccer soon.   We've loved every minute of our new church - it is so awesome to look forward to going and then be surrounded in such joy and celebration while there.  We feel challenged by the messages and are growing. We are meeting more and more people through our LifeGroup, some Impact Classes we are attending, and my monthly women's night.  It is so nice to recognize faces there and feel more and more comfortable each week.  

Speaking of Southbrook...Pastor Rob did a sermon series on generosity for a few weeks.  I have never been as convicted during a series about tithing and giving of ourselves.  Jeff and I had pretty much been ignoring the tithing here.  I mean, geesh, we have two house payments, right??  We were reminded during these sermons that tithing is an act of worship and obedience and one that will grow our faith.  

Is our allegience to God or to money?  Quickly we say, "God, absolutely!"
Matthew 6:24  No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Do we ever think though, "if we could just have a bit more money, a little raise, things would be so much better - and then we'd be in a place to give more" ?
Ecclesiates 5:10  Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.
Our possessions are His.  When we chose not to give Him what is His with our tithe we are robbing God.
Malachi 3:8-10 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.  “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it."       Yes - this is from the OLD testement.  But, check out a few verses before this:  Malachi 3:6  "I the LORD do not change."
This is the only thing that God asks us to test Him on - He wants us to give and ust see what He will do for us.  SEE IF I WILL NOT THROW OPEN THE FLOODGATES OF HEAVEN!!  We hear about those who give and are repeatedly blessed and He always provides for them.  Why is it so hard to trust Him?
2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
He says we will be blessed in all ways so that at all times we can be generous and a blessing to others - thus showing others God's love and leading them to Him!  I will give God my first and my best so He can bless the rest!  If God does not get my first and my best - who or what does then??  Matthew 12:30 "He who is not with Me is against Me."

So, Jeff and I were gripped with conviction.  Yes, we have two house payments.  No, I have no idea how we are making ends meet.  But we will increase our faith in God by being obedient and giving Him what is His.  He will be first in our lives.  I have always done the finances and when it comes to tithing in the past - I really have not loved to do it.  I do it, but not with a joyful spirit.  I can honestly say that I enjoyed writing the past few checks - knowing what is in store for us.  Knowing that He will provide for us and will give us what we need in order to be a blessing to others!  And, evidently a lot of the congregation feel the same - during Sunday's tithe and offering a cheer broke out.  God smiled.

If you are interested, you can listen to Pastor Rob's Genome series here:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Unconditional Love

Our first picture as parents!  2/13/2002
10 years ago I was changed forever.  I became a mom!  Sweet Emily Madisen made her appearance at 11:30am on February 13th after about 11 hrs of labor.  I remember some of those first moments in the hospital with this little creature that they said was mine.  It was hard to imagine having another human being who was mine.  She was so tiny and so snuggly and so sweet.  It may have been the good drugs, but I kept having dreams and thoughts that she and I were one...and that we were seperating in those moments - now that I could see her and stare into her sweet face.  Don't you just love remembering those precious moments?  Ahhh...and the smell - loved to bury my nose in my babies heads...mmmm.

This morning I woke Emily up in her twin sized bed that she fits quite well.  She was tired and grumpy and snapped/sassed at me several times.  It was a pretty rotten morning for us actually - she stomped off to the bus without even a goodbye.  Do I love her less?  Not at all.  She nor Evan could not do anything to make me love them less.  Unconditional love.   I understand it now that I am a mom.  And I understand it more with every day that passes as a parent.  But, I probably only have a glimpse of the intensity of the love that God has for me and you.  He loves us with a love that surpasses knowledge - one we can not grasp fully.  But one, that if you can grasp a bit - you will never be the same!  My prayer for each of you reading this is this - first that you allow God into your heart and second that you grasp how much He loves you!
Ephesians 3:16-19  "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
Happy Valentine's Day, friends! 
Emily Madisen - age 10

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Getting Off the Plane...and Confirmations

This past week Jeff and I remembered that we are parents.  Ok, yeah, that sounds very odd.  I guess we didn't forget we were parents - for heaven's sake we have been making meals, driving them to and from places, helping with homework, and correcting behaviors.  How could we forget?  Ok, we didn't exactly forget - we never left them anywhere or forgot to get them up for school or be home when the bus came.  Just forgot the huge responsibility of the job God has given us.  We have been trying to survive over the past six months as we work through weird, unfamiliar, scary, and overwhelming feelings that we never knew we'd be dealing with.  Jeff and I have been selfish and a lot of times very unavailable as we run off to be alone and lick our wounds - dealing the best we can.  As we've dealt with the changes in our lives, it has consumed us at times.  And our kids have not gotten our best from us.   And so, we are back on track, remembering that we are the only family the kids have right here.  Being available and approachable and attentive is a must.  As Jeff put it...we've been in 'maintenance mode' and not 'nurture mode' for awhile.  I was thinking about how while we were living at Tony & Sue's and waiting for our house to be done I compared our situation to a "holding pattern" that a plane has before it lands.   In regards to parenting, I think we forgot to get off the plane and continued on auto-pilot.  Good news though!  The plane landed safely, after a few tears we are off the plane, rejuvenated, and invested. And our God is forgiving...and so are our kids.

Today we went to church, then to our Life Group, then back to church for the 101 class that tells what Southbrook Church is all about - what their beliefs are, etc.  Enjoyed it all. We will be continuing on in these classes at church to get plugged in. Meeting such great people through the church who have come from all over the country.  I am finalizing plans on leading a women's Bible study through Southbrook in our home on Monday mornings beginning in March.  We're going to tackle a book, Discovering God's Will for Your Life, and will be done in time for the kids to get out of school for the summer.  I'm looking forward to building some strong relationships through this and learning His word together!  I can't wait to connect a bunch of women that need connecting!  Me included!

So...confirmation when you make a decision is awesome, right?  Someone to say 'look here, you did the right thing, see?'  Our decision to move here was not really our decision I don't feel.  I was certain before we left Indiana that God was directing us/leading us to this opportunity in North Carolina.  Well, this past week confirmation of a big kind come when Jeff's old team at work was unfortunately given their notices...   Jeff and I couldn't help but be in awe of how God picked us up out of one spot and moved us to another - saving us from a bad situation!  He obviously knew all of this beforehand.  We obviously didn't - or it would have been a lot easier to leave and a lot easier to explain to everyone why we were leaving everyone and everything we knew!  Faith is everything...  And we have every reason to praise Him for His lovingkindness and protection!!!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Impeccable Timing and Two Revelations

Have you ever just praised God for the timing of the perfect encouragement that He sent to you?

I had a rough weekend.  I was really missing our friends - especially those who we got together with as a family.  It is awesome to have friends that you can just call up and say "hey, want to hang out tonight" and not go to the trouble to clean the house up or make a perfect meal or worry when your kid is being mean and icky to their kids.  You can be yourself completely and sprawl out on the couch while you are visiting.  :)  Man, I miss them!!  Tears come still today thinking about it!  I am still mourning this loss.  As Kendra reminded me yesterday - I've had many losses, I have to work through the grief of each of them.  I keep thinking I'm done.  LOL!  I am so grateful that God is blessing me with lots of friends here - there are so many potential wonderful girlfriends here!  I am excited when I see that and He keeps introducing me to such amazing women.  But, I have only known them for short times - so that level of comfort is not there yet completely - but gosh, it is definitely getting there - I feel blessed today. Although this weekend my outlook on life just was very blah (for lack of better words.)
I got a note/package in the mail on Monday from my sister-in-law, Jenny.  She sent me something a friend of hers makes - a little bottle that has tiny tear shaped beads in it with the verse Psalm 56:8 on it.  The attached card says "The tears in a bottle remind us that God knows our every sorrow.  We all know or have known sorrow.  God promises that we are never alone and that He will wipe away every tear.  Revelation 21:4"   Jenny wrote me the most encouraging note to go along with it.  She reminded me Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Also 2 Corinthians 12:10 which says, "That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."    I of course, shed some more tears for His bottle.  I happen to love the verses about Him bottling our tears!  I was so in awe of His impeccable timing of when I needed this encouragement.  She lives away from home as well and understands  a lot of my struggles.  I wrote her an email and thanked her for her encouragement.  Her email back to me this morning that I read reminded me of a few things:  He is always there to pick me back up.  I am never alone even if I feel that way.  He uses these hard times for good.  Just to name a few.  So thankful for my 'sister' this morning!  So, then, I turn on the radio like I always do when I'm getting ready.  A song by Mandisa called 'Stronger' is on.  (Click on the words and just listen to it!)  I was singing along since I've heard the song a billion times and all of a sudden I heard the words.  More words 'just like' the ones from Jenny.  It was super cool.  Thanks God! 

So, I've had two revelations over the past two days.  First one was yesterday while I was enjoying the awesome weather and sunshine and doing some yard work. I of course have been thanking God for the beautiful weather this winter.  But, it is not typical here evidently for it to be THIS warm during the winter (I can always hope that this is the new typical though).  I know Indiana is having a very mild winter, as well.  I was struck how grateful Jeff and I need to be that it is mild because it costs a lot less to heat our two homes!!  So, praise God!   Second one this morning - if I can boast and brag and share about God's impeccable timing to encourage me at JUST THE RIGHT TIME...why would I not trust Him with the timing of everything else that goes on in my life?  Just sayin'!  Something for me to meditate on today.