Sunday, December 22, 2013

The God of Every Story

He's the God of every story.  2013...I have friends who this year have lost a parent or a baby.  I have friends who have separated from their spouses.  I have friends who have gotten diagnoses that were unexpected.  Friends who have lost a job and their income.  Those are big things.  Hard things.  God is in the middle of those things...and He is carrying them - or He's available to carry them if they choose to let Him.

In a county outside of Charlotte on December 1st, a man, Marcus, was shot in the head when he arrived home while burglars were there.  His wife, pregnant with their first child, and family updated their facebook page, 'Praying for Marco,' with this on Friday after they had to make the decision to take him off of life support:  "Marcus burst into heaven at 12:52 p.m. Our loss is so painful, but we know this was gain for Marcus. Tears and grief are eased by the gentle hand of God, holding us, carrying us, wiping our tears. 'As for God, His way is perfect.'"  What a testimony to so many...He's the God of every story.

What about the friends who have a child who has left home for college or military, whose kids are rebelling, a parent in poor health, who have struggled with physical pain, who are trying to determine whether to go back to work or not, who have wrestled with anxiety or depression this year..  What about those who feel like there just isn't a way that ends are going to meet?  Every single thing we go through...we can trust Him.

At the beginning of the month, I was blessed to be able to go to a girl's night out that Renee Swope and Laura Story were at.  Laura sang a song that really made me think a lot.  "God of Every Story" has examples of real people woven through it. (click on the title to hear it)  It also talks about Laura's husband, Martin, and his brain tumor diagnosis seven years ago.  She sings, "You're the God of every story, You see each tear that falls.  We may not understand but one thing is certain.  You are faithful, You are faithful."  As she gives example after example and I sit and think over my friends and acquaintances and what they've faced this year alone.  What Jeff and I've faced this year.  I know for certain... "His ways are higher than we could ever comprehend.  When our world is shaking,  He holds us in the palm of His hand."  It is frustrating beyond belief sometimes that we don't have understanding of 'why' things that happen happen.  But faith is faith because we don't have all the answers!

This morning at church, Pastor Geoffrey taught out of Isaiah 7.  God sent Isaiah to tell Ahaz, who was scared because of the circumstances around him,  "‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart." (Isaiah 7:4)  And in 7:9 God says, "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all."  God then says that He will send Ahaz a sign...verse 7:14 says, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."  Immanuel means 'God with us.'  God has given each and every one of us a sign that He loves us and is with us - that He is the God of every one of our stories.  Jesus.  Because of Him, we have hope.  We can believe and trust that there is more.  More than this.  We have hope.  Even through the pain and the tears and hurts of this life...we have a hope - His name is Jesus...and in Him we have eternal life in community with the Creator of the universe and all other believers, in a place (heaven) where there will be no tears or pain or hurts.

If your story isn't going the way you thought it would...if you are scared or frustrated.  Ask Jesus to be with you.  Let Him know that you need Him, that you can't do this life without Him.  That you are sorry for trying to do it on your own.  And allow His power to enter in and guide you as your story in this life plays out and you draw nearer to eternity.  Celebrate the gift of Jesus, Immanuel, 'God with us' in your story.

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, December 13, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Kissels!

Dear Family and Friends,

Wow!  Has it been another year?  I can hardly believe the end of 2013 is approaching!  As you think of a tree, this year has been one of sending down roots and growing outward for our family.  We were planted here in North Carolina 2 1/2 years ago now.  The ties and stakes have been taken off and our surroundings have become home.  Here is the 2013 Kissel Family Update:

We began the year owning two homes still!  But in March we were so excited to end that 19 month trial in our lives and close on the sale of our Indiana home.  God was still in every detail of our move here - even though our house didn't sell quickly.  He used this time to grow each one of us in our faith and trust of Him as Provider, to teach us a little about His timing, patience, and to be generous - as others had been to us.  It was not a fun time, but we are better for going through it.



This summer we were able to take a fun family vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  First we took a small? detour up the coast to Delaware to see our friend Scott.  We visited Dogfish Head Brewery, ate blue crab, walked the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach, and saw wild ponies at Assateauge Island, Maryland.  We also drove under the ocean in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  Eek.  The Outer Banks were perfect - just sitting on the beach listening to the waves.  Jeff and I snuck out early one morning and watched the sunrise.  We saw the Wright Brothers museum, Roanoke Island, and one of the many lighthouses.

Jeff and I spent a night in Asheville, North Carolina after dropping the kids off in Indiana this summer to spend a week with the grandparents.  We visited several microbrews and did some shopping and driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mountains.






In August we were blessed with an unexpected trip to Hilton Head Island for a few days.  Again, the family enjoyed the beach...until Evan was stung by a jelly fish many times and minutes later sharks were sighted in that same area!  We enjoyed the pools after that!  This trip was one of relaxing, but we did eat at The Salty Dog Cafe - which you can't not do while there.  Beautiful island...wonderful memories.


Miss Emily turned 11 in February, got braces in April, and 'graduated' grade school in June.  She started middle school in August and didn't skip a beat... adjusting within a week.  She started band this year, taking after her mama and playing the flute - quite well I might add.  She is enjoying her Cadette Girl Scout troop this year...it's almost cookie time - you'll be hearing from her soon!  She also is loving Wednesday night youth group at church - there are many other sixth grade girls and they are doing a great job building wonderful relationships with each other.


Little Evan turned 9 in May.  He is finding that third grade is a little more serious and is learning how to put forth his best effort in everything he does.  He...and thus Jeff... joined cub scouts this fall.  So far the boys are enjoying this time together.  They've even gone tent camping..something I never thought I'd see Jeff do.


Jeff still enjoys rooting on his Hoosiers...we meet people from Indiana here often because he's always sporting his swag.  Still my chef, baker, joker, and love of my life...can't imagine life without him.  This year he and some buddies started a podcast, Charlotte Beercast, which is a 'talk show' about craft beer.  He's enjoyed this and getting to know the Charlotte brewers.  This fall Jeff and I launched a new Life Group and have been so blessed already as we've grown to love these five other families.  Jeff spent a weekend somewhere in the NC mountains being manly this fall for a men's retreat and had a great time too.

In January I began cleaning homes a few times a week and have continued to all year long - it's been a blessing for us and I've met some special families through this!  Still involved at school, but not as much. This year I've loved getting more plugged into our church family this year - through a leadership group, a Bible study, our Life Group and serving I've made some awesome sister friends.  Around August it was like a switch was flipped for me and I suddenly found myself feeling completely at home here as the mourning was over!  In October I shared up on stage for about twenty minutes during a women's event...willingly - If you knew me in high school - that is a shocker! ;)  It was a neat experience, allowing God to work through me.  I'm still enjoying writing my blog (which now that you've found your way here I invite you to keep up with us here all year!), crafting and landscaping when I have the time.

This year has been filled with highs and lows...obviously I've written all about the good parts of 2013 and left out the melt downs, bad attitudes, hurts, tears and pain.  Please don't be fooled into thinking our life is perfect.  Our circumstances aren't always good ones, but we have hope and joy in our Lord Jesus Christ. Our attitudes aren't always good ones, but we have forgiveness because of Jesus.
One day He will arrive to gather us home...we hope and pray that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. Time is short.  As we celebrate this season, take some time to think about Who we are celebrating.  He gave us a way out..a replacement...someone else to pay for what we've done.  Why?  Because He loves you and wants to save you.  As you think on these truths, please contact us if you have questions about them.  Celebrate and sing, "Joy to World, The Lord has Come!" and enjoy the moments of 2014!

Love,
Jeff, Amy, Emily, and Evan


Thursday, November 21, 2013

You'll Come!

Seems like as of late, I carry around in my head a tune - it is a constant song in there...and it is typically a song that we sing praising the Lord at church the prior weekend.  Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."  So, having a good, true, and lovely song stuck in my head is a good thing!  I just hope that my kids don't start singing "What Does The Fox Say" and mess my peaceful head up!

This week it is "You'll Come" by Hillsong.  This morning I sat down and looked at the lyrics closely and it was such a comfort and reminder to me in this season.

The first words in the song - "I have decided, I have resolved to wait upon you Lord."  - Yup, need to work on this.  Still.  We seem to always need to be reminded to be patient and wait on the Lord's timing.  Why do we always try to do it ourselves.  We've got it.  We know best. Scoot over, because I'm in a bad spot and I want my way - NOW!

"We are not shaken, We are not moved, We wait upon you Lord."  - Again, I don't want to sound like things are bleak and hopeless, but the season that our family is in is not a pleasant one.  And as I look around and listen to prayer requests from our brothers and sisters, I see the pain and struggles that others are shouldering right now.  Wow.  This life is not fun sometimes, right?  As a friend reminded me gently yesterday, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." (Isaiah 43:2, emphasis added).  One of these years I hope to get better at walking above our circumstances - to be like the tree that is rooted by a stream whose leaves never wither with drought. (Psalm 1:3).  I'm certain we will continue to have opportunities in the remaining years on earth to exercise this skill of being content in all circumstances and not letting the circumstances bring us down - and not being bitter or surprised when things aren't going smoothly.  He says we will pass through rivers and walk through fire, but He tells us plainly that we will not be hurt by the outside chaos around us (IF we have our eyes on Him and not on that chaos.)  Blink long.  Refocus.


This song talks a lot about waiting for the Lord - and I am relating it to our preset situation that we don't necessarily want to be in...BUT, I think that the overall message is we're waiting on His perfect timing for Jesus to come back and gather His sheep up.  "As surely as the sun will rise, You'll come to us, Certain as the dawn appears, You'll Come."  "Spirit rain, flood into our thirsty hearts again.  You'll come, you'll come."  -Ahh!  A begging to God to rain His Spirit down and overflow our parched hearts...again.  To be filled to overflowing, flooded.  Yes, please.  It makes it all better.  Like I said, man, this life is hard...for so many.  This song is so encouraging to me- so much hope...He is worth having our hope in and He will come!  We must have faith that He will respond to us (answer us) and fill us up while we are living life here - sometimes feeling as we're barely hanging on.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17)

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18) 

So, while we are here.  Rejoice that we have a hope and an eternal glory!  Have faith.  He'll come.  This too shall pass.  Share the good news...there's something better than this...

"Chains be broken, Lives be healed, Eyes be opened, Christ is revealed."

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sharing a Snapshot

I've always wanted to get some outdoor family pictures taken by a photographer.  We finally did it last weekend!  I've been talking to my talented friend, Maura, about it for over a year.  The process of coordinating the outfits, slicking down the hair and instructions began.   "Evan, don't touch the cats...and don't lean your head back."  And as I noticed that Emily took the opportunity to experiment with blue eye shadow with ten minutes left to spare, I suggested that I help her blend, which caused hysterical tears.  "God help us!"  Jeff had a headache and I insisted that he was mad about something.  The drive there revealed that Evan's shirt was actually falling apart.  There were threats of turning around and going home if attitudes didn't improve.  That always helps - demanding that everyone be happy...  We arrived so that Maura could capture our 'happy and relaxed' moments together as a loving family.  Sigh...

Pictures have never been relaxed for me.  I spend way too much time preparing and making us look just perfect and instructing everyone on what to do and not do.  Then we all paste our smiles on and look like the perfect little family.

I started thinking this morning about what would happen if we framed the moments that aren't planned and perfect, but the everyday moments - the moments leading up to the one that has the camera on us.  Taking a snapshot of our everyday life - what would that look like?  Ouch.
Um...no?  Not cute.
In Matthew 5:16 Jesus wants us to represent Him well:  "let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."  We need to remember that our actions, both good and not so lovely, are on display - like pictures - for others to see.  People are watching us, watching us to see how we handle completely frustrating situations and moments when our kids take us to the end of our rope.  When we do mess up, what do we do afterwards?  Do we scramble to make it look like we didn't?  Or do we humbly and truly ask for forgiveness from others?  How do we represent Christ in the everyday moments?  When we don't think anyone is looking.  Something I need to think about!  If my candid photos/videos (the informal snapshots taken without my knowledge) were posted on facebook could I be a good witness for Christ?  Ouch again.

Ok, let's switch gears a bit and look at this in a totally different way:  we are pretty good at displaying the professionally edited portrait of our lives -- the "everything is going well, our family is perfect, we don't have problems." (as in picture below!)  It's the candid snapshots that we aren't as willing to reveal because they are messy.  But...people are relieved to find out that you don't actually have it all together but struggle the same as they do.  All of a sudden you become real and approachable because no one is perfect.  I don't know about you, but I'd rather spend time with someone who is honest than someone who insists that she has it all together and everything is great - when it isn't.


A few weeks ago, I nervously shared my own messy snapshots to a group of women at church, revealing my weaknesses, my sins, and my imperfections.  God wanted me to do this because as I purposefully shared my 'messy,' I was also able to share how God uses the messy and the broken to make beautiful things.  He is in the business of making beautiful things out of the dust.  He was gracious in allowing me to see that my obedience in sharing touched a few and made them stronger by not feeling alone in their own struggles.

This week the Kissel family was under spiritual attack - this is all I can use to explain the darkness that entered into the house and the hopelessness felt.  I could have pasted on my edited smile but I was real and said, 'we need help' to my friends in Christ.  It's hard to display this type of picture to others - the one of weakness.  Prayers from our army helped us come through stronger and unscathed.

Sharing the 'imperfections' in our lives, in the right way mind you, can help God's Kingdom grow in number and become strengthened.

My prayer out of all my ramblings this morning is this:  that we will have more candid, behind the scenes, everyday snapshots that are a great witness for Christ.  That we aren't afraid to share the messy photos if it might help a brother or sister or ourselves.  That we would have big smiles, not because everything in our lives are perfect, but because God is shining through us.


Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:5)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Christ Alone; Cornerstone


This has been playing in my head since Sunday morning when we sang it at church.  It's a powerful song. Click on the words to hear it!  But I also wondered a bit about what I was singing.  What is a cornerstone?  A cornerstone is a stone at the corner of a building uniting two intersecting walls.  Such a stone, often inscribed, laid at a ceremony marking the origin of a building.  It was very important in ancient days - being a large stone, the beginning of the structure, that held up the whole building.  So, that stone had utmost importance - everything else was dependent on it being correct and strong.

I love analogies/word pictures.  I love the picture of us (weak stones) held up and made strong by Jesus, who is of utmost importance, correct, strong, level, the origin of us.  The storm called life is blowing all around us, but that Cornerstone will support us.  We can completely depend on Him.  He is our Rock, our Love, our Shelter, our All.

Recently I, and many others, have noticed how 'under attack' Christianity and the church is.  Is the attack getting worse or are we getting worse?  Probably both.
Paul wrote, "There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5)   
Paul also warned, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Tim. 4:3).
We are here for a short time.  Now is the time to link arms with our brothers and sisters in Christ, lay aside our emotions which can not be trusted, believe that Christ is our Cornerstone supporting us in the storm, and run this race together until the day of His return .
"Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord."  (Eph.2:20 NLT, bold type mine)
 "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Heb 10:23-25)
Image courtesy of George Stojkovic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, October 21, 2013

Enjoying This Moment He Gave Me

I've gone and done it again...  One day I will learn that not all 'good' activities are necessarily the 'best' for me to participate in!  Overwhelmed with the amount of entries on my calendar.  And reflecting on how the past six weeks or so have been a blur - what a waste!  Each day I wake and vow to 'get through' it, falling into bed exhausted each night.  For a few weeks I have repeated, 'something needs to change.'  And so now, after praying - "Lord, please help me to know what to prune, the activities that aren't necessary - and especially the ones that aren't pleasing to you." - I scaled back my commitments.

Am I a bad girl or a failure because I can't keep all the balls in the air that I'm trying to juggle?  No.  In fact, when I decided last week what needed to 'go' - a weight was lifted and I was lighter and freer and more at peace.  Ah!  Confirmation that this was okay with God - that this was pleasing to Him - even though it was a good-God-activity that I eliminated!

My friend Jenny sent me this that she wrote years ago:
Are you a “super server”?  Are you involved in any and every service you can find?  This is a good way to burn out on serving the Lord in any capacity.  Service looks like a good thing, and it can be, but if your hyper active system of serving God is simply for the sake of being involved and not for the purpose of furthering His purposes, then you’re in the wrong place.  He will accomplish his purposes, but he doesn’t need YOU to do it.  He LETS us be involved so we can get glimpses of who He is in the lives of others.  Do not be mistaken by thinking that you’re doing Him a favor.  It is so the other way around.  Before you do anything for God, pray earnestly about what his purposes for that activity are and how and if he wants you to be involved.  If he does, he’ll make the way clear and provide both the opportunity and the energy to do the task right.  
My overwhelming desire right now may sound corny to some, but it is truly my heart's desire.  It is to enjoy each moment.  To be thankful for each moment.  To not let life pass me by.  To not wake up each morning just hoping to get through the day.  To wake up expectantly looking for all the ways that God is blessing me each moment.  To thank God for the little things - the way the dust is glittering in the sunlight in the air in my living room right now.  Stuff that I don't notice when I'm on a dead run to get each thing done that I've signed up to do.  To have the time, or should I say, use the time in my day for purposeful, Kingdom things - to encourage my brothers and sisters and lift them up, to be the wife and mom I long to be, to be usable to my God.

God, what do you have for me today?  I need You.  Shape me, mold me, use me - for Your glory today and Your's alone.  Less of me - more of You.  Fill me right now with your unfailing love so that I might sing for joy today.  Help me to live in this moment, right now.  Lord, help me to come to You before I give a 'yes' and before my flesh cries out "I want to be a part of that activity!"  I give myself to You as a living sacrifice for You to use as You need to further Your Kingdom and to bring You glory.  Amen!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I am Not "All That"

Nothing like being humbled.  Being stopped in your tracks and shown that 'no, I am not all that and no, I do not have that mastered!'

I do have these mastered.  #allthat
I like to think of myself as a humble person - since I think that does that make me not humble?  Anyway, I don't typically walk around saying 'Oh, I've got that mastered.  I'm a pro at that.'  Well, except when it comes to making chocolate chip cookies - I will say that I am very good at that!  I like the reminders that tell us to not brag about not sinning in certain areas because we are all human and can fall at any time in any way.  Don't put it past us to suddenly sin in a way that we never thought we would.  We are all human, sinful, deceitful, and fall short all the time.  That's why we need a Savior!!  Thankfully when we do mess up, Jesus is standing with His arms wide open waiting for us to admit our shortcomings and return to His arms.  And He always has a way out for us so that we can endure it.

Paul wrote to the church of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 , "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

A sin is a sin is a sin in God's eyes, but humans tend to put a level of badness on our sins.  No, I have not killed anyone, but I have harbored bitterness and nasty thoughts toward others.  I am a sinner.  I am not homosexual, but I have committed sexual sins.  I am a sinner.  No one is any better than the next.  And for us to walk around and say, 'I can't believe her.  I haven't cheated on my husband and I NEVER would' (probably with a copy of  "Fifty Shades" in our hands) always waves a red flag to me.  Please don't say that.  First, it is up to God to judge and He will.  But second, you never know what may happen tomorrow and unfortunately we are all capable of horrible things.  Our attitude should be that of compassion - loving that person and accepting them while not approving of their sin.  It's hard though - I know!  But, I want to be treated that way!  I want my friends to love me even though I have sin issues with putting people before God and speaking hateful words to my family and having envious yet judgmental thoughts towards others.  I want them to help me through my sin, not excuse it.  Our attitude should also be that of humbleness - it is not past my sinful heart to entertain temptations which lead me to sin in ways I never would have guessed I would.

I am humbled each time the Spirit shows me another way that I'm far from God and not like Jesus.  He showed me a few weeks ago that I'm not bold and honest when I need to be - when it may be hard.  He showed me that I was still valuing man's opinion more than His.  It's not like I walk around thinking I'm all that, but I do tend to think that I'm 'good,' that I have things under control and figured out.

In September I joined Community Bible Study (CBS).  CBS is a group of all different aged women from churches all over the area who come together every Thursday morning to study a book of the Bible.  This year we're studying the book of John.  I've been placed in a Core group of ladies who are blessed with amazing insight to the Word of God.  And I've been completely humbled.  I thought I was really far along in my walk and pretty knowledgeable about the things and ways of God.  There are layers upon layers to the scriptures.  When I answer a question with the obvious sentence right out of the text there are usually so many other things that can be shown to us in those verses.  As I've spent the last month in my group not saying much, I am thinking back to eleven or so years ago when I got involved in my very first Bible Study at CFC, a Beth Moore Study - "Jesus, The One and Only."  There were so many ladies in that group that had so much to say and I was like a sponge, absorbing things from them - flat out amazed at what I was learning.  God spoke to me through that study as I sat back and 'didn't know much,' He taught me.  I'm so there again.

I have had to fight off some nasty self talk, and attacks that say - "Really, you don't know the tip of the iceberg, girl - What business do you have ministering to others!"  But then I remember the truth of the matter - we will not have 'arrived' until we are face to face with Jesus!  So, it is awesome that I'm continuing to learn.  None of us could learn as easily as we do if we didn't have those around us who are further along in their insights and understandings.  Praise God for how He places us in the communities that He does!

So, thank you Lord for reminding me that I have so far to go, but You are right here with me...that I am not 'all that' and am capable of sins beyond my belief.  Thank you that I can lean on You and the Holy Spirit to give me strength to resist temptations and that You give me a way out because You love me.  Thank you that I can be confident that You began a good work in me and will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phl 1:6)  Amen!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why My Dead Yard Draws Me Closer to God

If you live in Charlotte, you know that we had a very wet summer.  It was uncommon.  Many complained about it.  I really tried not to because - my grass was staying alive!  Yes, I get really wrapped up in the way our lawn looks.  Our grass in the back yard was planted on top of rock with about 6 inches of dirt on it.  It remained pretty green this summer because it rained every couple days.  Recently Charlotte has experienced a period of several weeks of 90 degree sunny days with no rain.  Stepping on the brown, spotty grass in the back now sounds like stepping on crackers.  I walked around outside for a while this morning and these verses came to mind:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
    they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
    in a salt land where no one lives. 
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:5-8
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.   Psalm 1:1-3
Obviously our backyard has some issues.  The several weeks of hot sun and no rain did not help matters - the root system is just not deep enough to get enough water.  There are roadblocks in the way.  The circumstances in the environment around our grass recently has caused it to wither and not produce what it is made to produce - which is green, plush, manicured goodness that makes this girl very smiley!

The above verses are comparing ourselves to trees (or plants).  Mostly though - the root system of those plants. Have you ever seen an older tree that has some roots as large as trunks?  Amazing.  These huge root systems give the tree nourishment, but also stability.  Both passages want us to realize that when we attach ourselves to, remain in, delight in, and trust in God - the Living Water - we have sustenance no matter what our outside circumstances bring.  It allows us to remain stable, healthy and alive and bearing fruit (good and righteous works).  I think some of this comes with maturity - just like it does with giant plants.  But a lot of it depends on us.  The place where you've been planted might not be the best (just like our extremely rocky back yard) but we must persevere and keep digging for the Truth.  I recently repotted a plant and when I removed it from the smaller pot, the roots had curled totally around the drainage rocks I had placed at the bottom.  It is possible to get through those rocks!  There will be roadblocks like rocks that pop up but God provides a way through or around.  May our roots reach around those boulders!  If we go weeks without being in God's Word - we will whither.  And if we depend on other people or things for our sustenance then we might as well be living in the desert - parched - where no one lives.  We would not even recognize good when it came!

I would rather live like the healthy trees described in these passages - with my leaves always green and never withering, bearing fruit - than my crunchy back yard!  Most are drawn toward the soft and plush rather than the hard and crunchy!!  And when tough circumstances came my way, I wouldn't hardly notice and just keep on doing what I was doing.  I tend to reveal how shallow my roots are curled around the Living Water, when circumstances get crazy!

Even though I can't delight in the plushness of our yard, and tend to look longingly at our neighbor's instead, I can delight in God and that will give me the type of root system that REALLY matters.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ouch! Growing Pains!

God's been working on me these past few weeks.  It's always exciting to realize but sometimes it is a bit painful.  Just like when my little Evan wakes up grabbing his legs at night crying from the growth pains, I sometimes want to grab my heart and cry out!!  But it's necessary for his little bones to grow bigger and stronger and for my heart and spirit to grow more like Jesus.  Let's face it though, when it is pointed out to you glaringly that you are not doing what you should be doing, it hurts!

My 'aha' moment was two-fold over the past week.  Through the book I've been reading, "Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life" by Emily Freeman, God opened my eyes to see that I have a false sense of entitlement or 'right' to certain things.  It's been torturous to me for as long as I can remember to find out that I've let someone down, hurt someone, or that someone doesn't like me for some reason.  The thoughts surrounding any of these circumstances have driven me to some dark places in my past.  As I've learned about and accepted who I am in Christ - how HE loves me, accepts me, wants me, is proud of me - a lot of these circumstances that come up do not lead to obsession on my part.  But yet it still is something I struggle with and I still get a sick feeling and my heart skips a beat when I find out that someone has said something mean about me.  Why?

I have held myself to a standard that even Jesus did not attain on this earth.  Jesus was not liked by everyone.  I am realizing that I think I have a 'right' to these things:  a good reputation, to be accepted, to not hurt anyone or let anyone down, to be liked by everyone, to not have conflict.  Another way to look at it - I should be able to control these things.  I should be good enough to have these things.  Um, well, if I did not have the Holy Spirit living in me I might need to work so incredibly hard at these things.  But since I have Him I can release these burdens I've put on myself...  I am not a failure because I unintentionally hurt someone.

I do not need to run and hide back to my old way of life, much like Peter did after betraying Jesus.  Jesus will be standing on shore of my life every time I mess up ready to feed me - just like He was for Peter who felt like a failure and felt like he couldn't measure up.  Read this story about Peter in John 21.  "The Restoration of Peter"  I'd never really heard this story before and it was told to me twice this weekend.  Not by coincidence.  He wants me to relate to Peter I'm sure.  Peter denied Jesus (failed) three times.  Yes, on my own I can not attain 'like Jesus' status.  I can not keep a good reputation or not hurt others or have everyone only have rosy things to say about me.  But, if I let go of these standards and surrender these things to Jesus, He can take care of it.  He can act through me.  I can be at rest.  I can say, 'it's okay' - and mean it - when something is said about me that's not positive.

Jesus also did not live here on this earth without saying some hard stuff.  I imagine it even hurt some people. I know a lot of people didn't want to hear some of what He said and went the opposite direction.  But He didn't wring his hands and obsess about those who didn't accept Him.  He had a job to do and He could not lose focus!

God is revealing to me how saying the hard stuff will get me further in relationships than ignoring it or skirting around it.  And by further I mean either a stronger, healthier relationship or the assurance that I was honest even if the relationship is wounded.  I avoid confrontation like the plague...I always have - because IF I say 'that' to them (even in love) I may lose a friendship or hurt them deeply.  There is my perceived control and my self-made standard that everyone needs to like me.  I do have a few spiritually mature friends who are close enough that I don't have a problem saying the hard stuff - even if I shake uncontrollably the whole time.  But in three weeks time God has shown me in three separate situations that my lack of trusting God, my fear of man and my perceived 'rights' to a good reputation, not hurting anyone, and everyone liking me has damaged some relationships. If I would have been honest and said some things that may have stung instead of worrying so much about how to actually do it without hurting her, maybe things would have ended differently.  If I would have said 'Is something bothering you?  Things don't seem to be moving on the way I'd hoped and I think I may be hurting you?'  instead of just remaining quiet and letting the relationship fizzle things may be different now.  If I would have communicated the things that were bothering me instead of just retreating silently, maybe I wouldn't have been unfriended, on the receiving end of the silent treatment, and things would be different.  Ouch.

He so clearly opened my eyes this weekend and told me - 'Amy, if you are going to claim to be the transparent, open, and honest individual that you are, then you have got to be these things when it is uncomfortable and the threat of hurting someone with honesty is there.  You've got to be honest and transparent in all circumstances, not just the easier ones. You've got to let go of control and your idea that you must be liked by all.'   Agh!  Ouch!  Again, fear of man, has tripped me up - and He is teaching me even more facets of how it affects things.  And in two areas that I am most passionate about and want others to 'get':  who we are in Christ and how the world longs for real/transparent/honest people.  God taught me an important lesson in these last few weeks.  Yes, it hurt.  I hate that I didn't realize I was being that way - especially since it hits home in the two areas I'm most passionate about.  But - I am not perfect (another 'right' I apparently need to let go of!)  But praise Him that He gently showed me the truth and is refining me and preparing me for the future!

Image courtesy of  adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Gift of a Good Book

I've always loved reading for as long as I can remember.  My all time favorite story from childhood is "The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher" by Robert Kraus.  Do yourself a favor and read it.  In elementary school I loved Nancy Drew, Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary books.  Then in high school I got into Danielle Steel books - I think I'd read every one of them at that time.  Once Jeff and I got married I decided to get rid of all of them because I noticed that as I read those perfect-fairy-tale-tear-producing-love-stories I became pretty dissatisfied with my own knight in shining armor!  From there I discovered Christian fiction authors such as Karen Kingsbury and Francine Rivers.  Jeff teasingly calls them Christian Harlequin Romance books.

I have loved reading Christian non-fiction books ever since I've known they were available after I became a Christian.  I appreciate different opinions and views and what the author's sharing on what she has learned in her walk.  Reading these books are never to replace reading scriptures though!

We must keep up reading the Bible and praying that the Spirit would reveal to us what God is trying to say to us.  The Word is alive and speaks to us differently during different times.  Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires."  It's truly amazing and can not be replaced.

Still, I love devouring a book written by a fellow brother or sister in Christ, who has been transparent and real enough to share his or her struggles, failures and victories - published for the world to see.  Being able to relate to the author and saying 'me too!' every few pages, wondering if she was in my head when she typed her book - I love it!  Being convicted by something written a while ago, but read at just the right time - God speaks to me through author's written words often.  He offers me peace and reassurance and tools to move forward or to tweak a bit of 'me' to become more godly. If you've read my blog for any length of time you've noticed that I've shared many of the things God's opened my eyes to through books.  I thank God for gifting these teachers who have written books to add to our learning more about Him and ourselves.

Proverbs 1:5 "let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance"

Apparently others share my passion of reading Non-fiction Christian.  Christian Living.  What do you want to call it?  I'm very excited about a new venture that God put on my heart months ago and is coming to fruition now - with two awesome, godly friends, Angie and Karyn!  We are launching a monthly book discussion/fellowship group at our church in less than two weeks!  It's been fun planning it and praying about it and watching God bring it together.

For this first month we chose to read, "Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life" by Emily P. Freeman.  It was neat to learn after we chose the book that the author lives in North Carolina and grew up in a small Indiana town.  After two chapters I've been hooked.  Relating with what she has to share.  Learning from her.

I've so related to the 'good-girl' mentality.  My past is riddled with wearing masks and hiding instead of receiving and believing who God says I am.  Hiding behind performing well, a good reputation, a fake 'fine', my acts of service, my strength and responsibility....anyone??   I especially relate to Emily Freeman's words about how she no longer hides as a good girl - "Now, I hide in the completeness of Christ.  I rest in his shadow.  I am hidden, but not behind a paper mask of false identities and try-hard religion.  Now, I am hidden in Christ:  safe, secure, and complete.  And when I hide in him, it is no longer I but Christ who is seen."  This scripture has come alive to me this week:  Colossians 3:3 "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."   I am safe.  I am hidden.  I am confident.  I do not have to make up ways to hide.

I won't go into any more detail about this book - you'll just have to get it and read it for yourself!

Feeling thankful for good books and for the gifts that God gives us; how He has blessed us with talents of many kinds to use to further His kingdom.  I pray that as He leads me in my writing and sharing that hearts would be softened and a little of Him would shine!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Changing the Way I Think...One Thought at a Time

A picture outside the house I grew up in. Summer 1987
I played outside all the time while growing up in St. Wendel, Indiana, barefoot until late fall.  The ice cream truck visited, the neighborhood kids created our own Fourth of July parades, we caught lightening bugs and put them in jars, we played with crawdads from the creek, we made pottery out of mud and baked it in the sun.  I can smell the laundry detergent off of the clothes on the clothesline and remember the sounds of the attic fan pulling in the night sounds with the breeze at night.  I remember my mother scrubbing my black tarred feet after a long day of running back and forth over the chip and sealed road.  Eating berries off of the vines and sucking the 'juice' out of the honeysuckle. Swinging high in the shade out over the creek on the rope swing with the wood seat my daddy made me and riding my pink Schwinn with the banana seat, tinsel streamers on the handlebars flying.  

Lovely thoughts from the way back past.  Things to think on.  Do I have other memories that don't make me smile and relax from my years of growing up?  Oh yes - and I can remember them in as much detail!

What am I thinking about from just this past week?  Well, I'm dwelling on how I let a friend down and hurt her.  Even though she's forgiven me, I am choosing to replay it in my mind.  What could I think about instead from the past week?  Maybe how God arranged a divine appointment with a new friend and gave me joy for that afternoon?  Or how Emily and Evan are happy with their new teachers and are enjoying school so far?  Or how I felt so blessed to be back at a Bible Study group after the summer off?  Those things sound better.

What kind of everyday thoughts are in my head right now?  I'm tired.  I'm still feeling alone here.  My spirit is downcast.  Jane Doe down the road doesn't like me.  

I just reread one of the verses I think God wants me to remember each hour of each day.  
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8
A few years ago I spent some time looking up each one of these words.
True: reality and fact, accurate, genuine, real
Noble: set apart, superior, high moral character
Right: beneficial, desirable, convenient, good, correct, being in accord with fact, reason and truth
Pure: without faults, clean, without impurities, inappropriate or unnecessary things
Lovely: full of love, inspiring love and affection, attractive qualities
Admirable: having wonder or delighted approval
Excellent: exceptionally good, superior, excelling
Praiseworthy: meriting praise and exaltation

I was surprised at how 'good' all of this was.  I mean, seriously, how am I supposed to think only on this stuff?  Have you seen what goes through my mind in a given hour, God?  The answer...yes...He has.  Verse 9 goes on to say, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you."  Wow, that's exactly what I need...peace.  Romans 8:6b says, "The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace."  

These everyday thoughts that I just wrote down definitely don't line up with what God wants me to be thinking on.  It is not lovely, right, or true...  Here's what He'd like me to think about:  I am tired - God will give me rest.  Thank you God.  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)  I feel alone - God says I'm never alone. Thank you God. He also says He will give me the desires of my heart...might just need to be patient...  "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)  and "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)  My spirit is downcast...just think about what He has done for me!  The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." (Psalm 126:3)  Jane Doe...first of all this is my perception, it is not truth.  But then I need to remember that Jesus, perfect Jesus, did not gain approval from everyone so why do I think that I should?  "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." (John 15:8)  Why do I think I've failed when someone does not like me?  It is okay that others do not like me.  I will live at peace with everyone as far as I can and then leave it into God's hands. "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18)

Here is what the goal is - "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:15)  Yes, a lot of my 'changed' thoughts above were scripture.  But I know that it is truth.  Sometimes it's hard to judge what is and isn't truth in my confuddled brain of mine.  But I know that God's word is true, so I will start there.  I will allow God to transform me into a new person - one thought at a time.  And intentionally choose to think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy .  And the God of peace will be with me.

"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." (Romans 12:2 NLT)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

He is Doing a New Thing!

Don't you love this time of year?  I love getting back into a routine after school starts.  New school supplies, new Bible studies, new opportunities, groups, clubs.  God's all about changes and seasons and newness, too.  He may let us stay in one place for awhile, but He'll usually at some point pick us up and turn us around and pat our back in a different direction.  'Ok, you've done what I want you to in this place, now I need you to go over here for awhile.'  Or 'Girl, you are spinning your wheels and I never even told you to go that way...how about you go this way now.'  (Just so you know I have a picture of a wind-up toy stuck up against a wall in my head right now!)  Sometimes it is a big relief when things finally change.  Sometimes you know it is the path He wants you on, but it is one of the hardest things you'll ever do.

Visiting with a few of my sisters in Christ in Indiana this July!
As those parts of my heart have healed mostly from moving away from my family, friends, work, church, and community - I was finally able to have a relaxing visit in my hometown this summer and call upon friends to meet up and I didn't feel like my heart was going to be shredded to pieces while doing so!  But other places in my heart are still raw.  Over the past two years He's had me on a few different roads and I've stopped and started and trudged along and recently really felt lost on the foggy road.  Disconnect and loneliness was really taking a toll on me.  The rabbit trails I had taken on my own since being here were not filling the void - even though I tried hard.  This summer was full of fun family time but it was also hard on me emotionally as I felt so alone.  Depression.  God was always there though.   Sometimes waiting on God to change our season is so hard!  Here is what to remember during the wait though!   2 Corinthians 4:17:  "For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!"

The last few weeks have been lighter, my outlook has changed.  I'm looking forward to so much!  I'm a part of things - not just in them - but a part of them.  He is directing our family on a few different paths than what we were on.  He's pushing me out of my comfort zone in a few ways that makes me have butterflies in my belly and a smile on my face at the same time when thinking of actually doing what I've said I'll do!   He's providing blessings of uplifting conversations and new friendships and connections - encouragement.  Maybe it was all there before - it probably, actually was.  The eyes of my heart may have been hardened and closed.  Yes, Lamentations 3:22-23 says "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  His compassion, love and faithfulness is always with us - new every morning for us.  He remains the same.  I just was not in a place of recognizing it.

God encouraged me this morning with Isaiah 43:19 while doing a Bible study.  "See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."  I've read it before, loved it, was encouraged by it.  But it came alive and personal again this morning.  It's a promise.  And it was Him talking to me.  I can sense the change lately.  I can sense the newness.  I can sense the excitement.  And the hope!

Do I feel happy all the time?  Is everything just peachy in my life?  No!  But to have hope and a promise of a new thing...and a promise that seasons change and don't last forever...  To have a God who is personal enough and loves me enough to point out to me this morning that it is He who is taking care of me and changing things - "See??  I am doing a new thing!"  To give me hope...

Thank you Jesus...thank you...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bein' Real, Bein' Blessed

I am an open book.  I value authenticity big-time!  Realness is endearing - it makes people want to be around you.  So much pretending goes on in this world, even 'reality' shows are staged.  Why would anyone want to spend time with someone who insists that everything is one way when it is totally not?  Those first steps of surrendering a bit and letting it 'all hang out' can be really scary.  When I share the scary stuff though,  most of the time I get a 'me too!' reaction from the majority instead of a 'you're weird!' reaction from the majority.

One of my favorite things to do is have a deep conversation with a girlfriend.  Real = feelings and meanings and situations and hurts and struggles and victories and how God is moving and what He is saying.  Talking about the weather and our calendars is okay for a few minutes, but if that is all that is talked about in a two hour conversation...it disinterests me quickly.  Talking about other people is even worse...  Every conversation is an opportunity for growth and we're missing out if we're never breaking the surface.  The bond that is formed when we share the real stuff is amazing...all walls are down...we see that we are made so similarly and we stop seeing one another as competitors, but as friends and allies in this broken and hard life.

I have gone through periods of holding back who I am and what I'm struggling with.  Why?
  • Once you have shared vulnerable information about yourself with another person - there is always a possibility that the other person can use that information against you.  It happens.  We're all imperfect.  And whether the other person intends to or not, there's always a possibility of getting hurt.  Deeply.  I've been there.  When someone knows what hurts you and then decides to use that very thing to 'get you.'  Ouch.  
  • Another reason I've held back who I am - embarrassment - or the not so fun word 'pride.'  I don't want others to know what I'm really capable of.  I don't think God wants us to blast it around to everyone who will listen, but in relationships sharing is okay.  But pretending that I have it all together when I really don't - what good does it do?  My friend and I both miss out on an opportunity of growth when I answer her with an, "I'm fine," when I'm not.  My mind challenges me - 'Don't let her know ___ about you.  She'll think you're ___!'  Worrying about what others think about me is a pride issue.
  • I'm also afraid of becoming emotional, so that has discouraged me from sharing at times.  I hate to cry in front of others.  Some people are cute criers.  I'm an ugly crier!  I always appreciate when other let down their guard and show emotion though - so I just have to get over this and hope that others will appreciate my honesty.  
  • The devil doesn't want me to share sometimes.  He will tell me all kinds of lies and try to scare me out of sharing.  Because God uses our pasts and our hurts to encourage and comfort others sometimes, Satan does not want us to share! 
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Discernment is important!  I used to share everything with anyone who would give me attention, which is how I ended up hurt several times.  What I share on my blog is prayed about and usually run by my husband before posted in a place that the world can see.   As I grow closer to other sisters in Christ I can now discern whether it is a safe place to have these deep conversations.  So, in no way am I saying that deep conversations should go on with everyone you come in contact with.  Although, there is an awful lot that you can share with almost anyone, that will encourage others and will not hurt you - just maybe your pride a bit!  Take a deep breath and surrender to God and get real with someone!  As a friend and I walked away from a coffee date a few weeks ago we both said we felt re-energized, encouraged and spurred on.  
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24-25
I doubt that we can do this by talking about the surface things, gossiping about others and answering 'I'm fine'... Pray, grab a friend or someone you want to be friends with, have a cup of coffee and be real.  Be blessed!

Image courtesy of Apolonia / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Confessions of a Tween's Mom

My sweet Em
Emily tried out for the volleyball team for middle school last week.  I was super oober proud of her - I never did anything like that when I was her age.  She was brave!  She really hasn't played, but learned in gym class, then some open gyms at the middle school this summer and a summer camp at a local place.  She actually got pretty good quickly - got the over-head serve pretty good.  She didn't make it though :(  She handled it well - we prayed that it would be God's will if she made the team and if not He has something else in mind for her.

I, however, had a hard time with it!  It really hurt!  I really am struggling with wanting to 'prepare' her (actually control the situation - hm...never been a problem for me) for middle school so she doesn't have to go through some of the same hurts I went through!  Evidently one of the things I thought would make her sixth grade experience 'all that' was being on a school team. All my junior high insecurities are showing up with a vengeance.  I'm buying her shoes she hasn't even discovered yet so that she has what everyone else has and polling all moms on the time frame of when is actually the correct time to start shaving legs. I've spent how many years telling her to be herself and now this?  What am I doing?!  I need to back off and just pray!!  And be there for her when she does have problems...  But, does it really hurt to just ask her if she might want to check her braces for food or brush her hair before going out the door?  Just sayin'!

As parents, we want the best for our kids and we want to try to make things as easy as possible on them. We even want them to do things better than we did at their age.  But, we have to remember how we learned to do things better - we failed, we got hurt and we figured out solutions.  And as much as we want the best for our kids...God wants the best for them even more so. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 Thank goodness God doesn't give us everything we ask for.  He protects us from harm by closing some of these doors that we think would be best for our kids!

I think about how much I've messed up in my own life by trying to control things instead of letting God give me His best for me...I definitely shouldn't be trying to control other people's lives too.  I acknowledge that my children are 'fearfully and wonderfully made,' in His image.  They are precious and are His!  Releasing them over to Him, the world and themselves to make the decisions that they need to make in order to be formed into the adults that God wants them to be...this is a hard 'letting go' stage in a parent's life and one I imagine will be ongoing for a good few years in this house.

It's starting to get harder - the parenting thing!  My confused daughter told me the other night, "I don't know why I'm acting like this!"  Oh honey - I know!!  If only it got better after 11!  I still don't know why I'm acting like this!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rope Frame

I thought I'd try out posting about my craft projects.  I decided to order a nice picture from our family vacation to the Outer Banks, but when I went through my picture frame drawer, all I had was an ugly brown Walmart $3.97 special.  I had just bought some 2mm Jute cording (looks like little bitty rope and smells like burlap!) at the craft store, so I pulled out my hot glue gun and decided to wrap the frame in it.

It took about 20 minutes or so and it was done!  It was a bit plain, so I glued a piece of seaweed stuff from the beach to it.  You could use shells too.  Here is the final project!  Super easy, quick, and cute!


Monday, July 29, 2013

Playing With Fire

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.  Galatians 1:10

This has been a big struggle for years and years.  Seeking the approval of man, keeping man (or wo-man) happy with me at all costs.   It drove me nuts when I found out or even just thought that someone 'might' have a problem with me, might not like me, etc.  Even though I've been set free from the crippling addiction that I once had, Satan will throw arrows my way every so often to see if I will entertain them.  Some of what I worry about is very silly - embarrassing to admit.  "Why is it that she has not attempted any contact with me this summer?  Why does she comment on everyone else's facebook but not mine?"  (Let's just face it - facebook can just be a bad place to hangout when you aren't prayed up, huh?  Can I get an 'amen?!')  So does it matter that she's not contacted me at all?  The old addicted me would say YES!, obsess about the thought AND do everything in my power to get my 'fix.'  My approval fix would come in the form of making contact with this person...but not because I want to have contact, but so I can hear the magic words that make my world better for that moment - "no, everything is great, you're fine!"   And there's my high!  My world is okay for the moment.  I'm in control and everyone is okay with me.  There was a point in my life that I didn't even realize this is what I did and why.  Now, as a recovered approval addict, it's hard...still.  The minute a thought like these are thought, I have to put my foot down, like squashing a stray hot ash escaped from the fire.  If I entertain the thought, I'm fanning that hot ash and giving it what it needs to suddenly become an out of control, blazing inferno.  It's a lot easier to stop it with a squash than to try to battle a forest fire!  But I have to be honest, sometimes I just want to play with the fire...

The past few months I've been kind of blah...and since I was already down and really not doing much for God, I don't think I was necessarily a target for the devil.  This past week I've become excited about some opportunities to serve God and His Word has become alive again.  I've talked with a few sisters in Christ and was loved on by my leadership group at church.   I could tell the minute that I began feeling more joyful and hopeful that the attacks began again.  Thoughts that I should not be thinking, fanning the ashes...

The verse says, 'if I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.'  God knows that I used to try to please man and am still tempted often.  If I am STILL trying to, however, I am ineffective for God's kingdom.   I will continue to fight this battle - man's approval will get me nothing.  I want to be a servant of Christ more than I want anyone to like me.  

Help me Lord, to be a good fire fighter - to squash out the thoughts immediately and to focus on being a servant of Christ -- not a pleaser of man!

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, July 22, 2013

My Primary Concern

I grabbed the book "After The Boxes Are Unpacked" off of my shelf again this weekend.  It's been almost two years, so I felt a little weird...but there was a chapter tucked away just for me still.  Chapter 11 'A Place in Your Heart Called Loneliness' was just what I needed.  How many times lately have I said I'm lonely?  Ugh.  I'm so tired of it.  This little nugget of advice is what I needed to read:
Don't try to fill up your life with people, things, or activities to escape from loneliness.  The emptiness you feel should first be filled by God; then He will bring the right people into your life to ease the loneliness. 
Similarly, my sweet sister-in-law just suggested a month or so ago that maybe God was wanting more of me.  More of my time.  I think she was onto something there!  
My sweet sister
Advice that would have been helpful two years ago probably.  Did I jump in too fast?  I was afraid of becoming lonely when we moved here so I did everything I could to get involved, filling my life with people and activities.  I did what I do best and took control and tried to make things work.  Some of those activities proved to not be the best for me and slowly I'm seeing bit by bit where I fit in.  It is definitely slow-going though.  And I have to guard against comparing how others have adjusted in less time.  Now that my life isn't as noisy, I can tell I'm missing something.  It's not ice cream, even though I've unfortunately tried to fill it with that!  I can't live my life being dissatisfied with my circumstances and where God has me and longing for what I don't have.  I must take this pain to my Father, who knows what it is like to be lonely, and make Him my all...and He promises to give me what I need.  Luke 12:31 promises, 'He will give you all you need from day to day if you make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.'  

Father, please help me to believe your promise in Luke.  Help me to make You and You alone my primary concern!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reflections on a Small Part of God's Creation


We had a great time on the beach in the Outer Banks over the past few days.  Each time I've been to the beach recently, I am more and more in awe of God's amazing creation and just how big He is!

The way the waves just continue coming...over and over and over...and don't stop.  The quantity of itty bitty grains of sand on one beach...the way it feels on your bare feet.  The vastness of the water.  The continuous breeze and the sound of the water - the waves crashing.  The colors, the sounds, the smells, the emotions that make the 'real world' melt away...  The way the waves are SO powerful that it can totally pull you under or knock you down, even hurt when it smacks you in the back!

The trillions of grains of sand on the beach reminds me how He knows how many hairs are on my head and I don't doubt at all that He knows how may grains of sand are on the beach - He is all knowing.  It is purely amazing.  Psalm 139:17-18 (NIV) says, "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them, Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I am awake, I am still with you." His thoughts about me are more numerous than the grains of sand!!  He thinks about me constantly!!  (and you too!) Whoa...

This visit to the beach, Jeff invited me to get up with him for the sunrise on the beach one morning.  Which, on a side note, was such a romantic thing!  We looked it up online - what time to expect the sunrise.  Of course, it listed it to the exact minute.  We have faith that the sun will rise every morning and we know the exact time to depend on it to come up.  Sitting on the beach watching the orange sun peak just over the blue horizon I was struck with the beauty of it all.  God, even more sure than the sunrise, is dependable - showing up on time.  More so than the things we have faith in here on this earth -- the seasons changing, the sun rising and setting, our next breath and heartbeat without thinking about it -- God is worthy of our faith and worthy to depend on.  He is on time.  It is nice that we can pin a time on the sunrise, the tides changing, a flight taking off (sometimes), and the beginning of the school day...but sometimes we don't know the time of events.  We don't know when we will die, or when we will conceive, or when to expect the next storm in our lives.  But God does...and He is on time.   Always...

We can try to predict the sunrise time, a storm coming, and reactions of others.  But we can't predict exactly what to expect from God.  Although He is always dependable and has proven that He can be trusted, He is God and we do not know His ways - so he is unpredictable to us.  But He is in control fully.  Unpredictable to us yet fully in control.  Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." 

I had to sit down and reflect about the wonder and beauty of the ocean and how it allows me to draw near to God.  How it makes Him so amazing and so big in my eyes.  My hope is that I can find the same beauty and wonder in each and every day - because it is there - my eyes just need to be open and my heart needs to be looking for it.  A piece of Him - every day - every place.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Left Out Puzzle Piece, An Alien? Nope...a Woman

Have you ever felt like you just don't fit?  Am I the only one?  I'm like a puzzle piece in several boxes of puzzle pieces and I seem like all the other pieces - I hang out with them and enjoy them.  But when it comes down to it...I'm not one of the pieces of the puzzle.  Like, the puzzle can be put together without me.  If I was lost out of the box - no one would look for me.  Ok, so that sounds pretty bleak, huh?  I can't help but feel a little sad lately.  Overall I think I'm happy.  I feel blessed here.  It is just a new experience - moving away.  We are coming up on being here for two years.  In the past two years I have gone above and beyond 'getting involved' and making new friends.  And I've met a lot of people, had a lot of fun and made a few good friends.  I guess I assume that two years after moving you are settled in perfectly. I just don't think I am.  I still just can't shake the feelings of loneliness that overcome me every now and then.  I feel frustrated too, that I just don't feel a part of the things I'm involved in.  I literally feel like I could stop doing what I do all the time and no one would notice.   Bleak, huh?  Yeah, I know.

God has been encouraging me over the past week as I've been pondering this (even though I've spent the majority of the week moping).  Being patient would be to my benefit - no big surprise here.  Longing for what I don't have is not going to make things better.  Thanking Him for the gifts He has given me - my husband, my kids, my friends - new and old, and my relationship with Him.  Falling at His feet and repenting for my unhappiness with what I don't have.  Praying over what He is wanting for me, what He is leading me to.  The fact that I have not connected deeply in many of the things that I've been involved in and with the people I've spent time with, requires me to take a look at what I should be doing with my time.  Relationships are important.  We were created for them.  I pray that He brings me deep godly connections in my life and that I would shift my need for those to a more healthier thinking -- I do not NEED people (for my purposes), but I want to LOVE them (for God's purposes).

I am encouraged as I read the first chapters of  "Captivating" by John & Stasi Eldredge this morning.  Man and woman were made in God's image.  As women, we long for relationship, to be wanted, needed, chosen...to belong.  God does too - we were made in His image.  He wants these things too!  Mr. Eldridge says, "This is not some weakness or insecurity on the part of a woman, that deep yearning to be desired."  I was just simply amazed by this...and am somewhat relieved to know that it is 'okay' to desire relationships/to want to belong so much - that it isn't a weakness or insecurity.  It's how God made me and every woman.

I am reminded today that as badly as I want those things...God wants them, too.  When is the last time I showed Him the amount of attention that I'd like shown to me?   And when is the last time that I sought after Him fiercely?  "You will find me," says the Lord, "when you seek me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13).

I also am reminded that I do belong.  I may feel like an alien and have a natural hurt inside because I'm lonely.  But...my citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20) and when the Lord comes back for us, I will belong completely and my heart will be whole.

Image courtesy of Anusorn P Nachol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net