Sunday, February 28, 2010

When You Can't Find the Right Words To Pray

Earnest prayer. Deep requests. Heartfelt praise. Sometimes my heart feels things so deeply – there are just no words. I don’t know how I can possibly convey to the Lord what I’m feeling inside.

I love where in the Bible it says,
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Rom. 8:26

God prays on our behalf.

Oftentimes, when I have found that words escape me, I’ve made this simple request of Him. I’ve asked Him if He would pray on my behalf. I know that the prayer is in line with His will then and my heart fills with complete peace.

I’ve discovered something kind of cool this year. I’ve discovered that sometimes when I’m feeling something really profound inside of my heart and I’m searching for the right words to present before the Lord – I get tears in my eyes. That fact may not mean much to you, but to me it means everything.

I strive to let the Lord know how passionate I am about things. How grateful, how much something means to me. And as I sit there pondering my feelings and seeking to find the words – tears fill up in my eyes. To me, that’s all I need. I think those tears tell God everything I want Him to know. Those tears tell Him everything my heart is trying to say. Those tears show Him the full extent of my heart and in a way…. Those tears ARE my prayer.

I think sometimes we feel we have to be really grandiose in our prayers with lots of flowery, big words. Maybe we feel we have to be really Holy or our prayers have to be very long in order to be passionate. I think we’re wrong.

I look back on God’s example in the Bible and He never did anything grandiose or flowery. He always did things simply, with a genuine, loving heart.

I don’t know why we have to make things so complicated all of the time! Maybe it’s in the fact that it continues to be so hard for us to simply accept what He’s offered us without having to earn it somewhere along the way.

All I know is that sometimes when words escape my tongue, they form in my eyes with a glisten and I think that is perfectly acceptable to God. He knows my heart anyways and He knows that I’m not always eloquent. I think my tears are the perfect prayer sometimes.

So if you, like me, struggle at times with the deep emotions in your heart and you can’t seem to find the right words to bring before the Lord, remember that He sees all and He knows all. He can see and feel your heart. And if your tears should come at times, as mine do – know that if our God is a God who chooses to pray for us and on our behalf when words escape us, that He too will accept and value your tears with the weight and meaning which comes behind them.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

When God Sees Fit To Move Us Along


Some of us are very blessed. We just live “blessed” lives. We have homes that we feel so “at home” in, children who we adore and love to hang around (and who enjoy us as well!), marriages that are vibrant and thriving…. Do you feel ready to throw up yet? No one has it that perfect do they? Well, yes, sometimes it seems that way. Some of us are just very blessed. We know we are blessed and we are thrilled. We are so comfortable with our lives. Our lives are comfortable with us and we are comfortable with them. What happens then, when we realize that we may be comfortable with where we are at, but God is not?

Sometimes I think we’re taken unawares by God. We forget that it is HE that is in charge of our lives – not us. Even if we may feel like we are running them like a smoothly oiled machine. We can get so comfortable that we forget that we may not be chosen to sit there indefinitely!

God has a purpose for our lives and at times, He sees fit to move us along. We may need motivation to shift and change things when we have gotten so comfortable with where we have been at. In these cases, I’ve found that we can either go willingly as God directs, or He can force us – which is much more painful and uncomfortable!

I don’t think we’ve done anything wrong when God sees fit to throw a curveball into our otherwise neat plan of a life. I don’t think He’s necessarily disciplining us for getting complacent. It may just be that He has some special things to show us or work through us. It may just mean that He sees our potential and we need to do some growing! I liken it to when you see a really smart kid start to coast in the classroom because the work is too easy for them. They need to go to the next level – as do we at times.

While I often find myself complaining when I think God wants to stretch my character or do hard things in my life, I think it’s truly an honor to be felt “worthy of the call” in His eyes. I think if left untouched, I would regret not learning and seeing the deeper truths and closeness that only He can show me. And to be honest, sometimes God just asks more of us for His reasons alone.

I believe that God wants me to be better, stronger, wiser, deeper, happier, and more content. I think He wants me to try and see what He sees…. Not just in my life but in the life of those around me and in the life that He’s created for me. I can never do that if I sit “comfortably” in my self-run life.

If you are one of the “blessed” that God has chosen to recently “shake up” – don’t fear and don’t despair. He loves you and He holds you and your agenda safely in His hands. The risks that He might ask of you may bring more to your life than your comfort ever could, so step forward with great faith and trust. I promise you won’t fall.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Learning To Be Resourceful


It’s no secret that a lot of us are feeling the “squeeze” of the economy. Even those who may not have felt any effects from the downturn in the beginning; are now feeling a punch here and there. It’s hard to deny the fact that grocery prices have increased while food packaging has decreased. “Extras” are being dropped from companies and even airlines aren’t feeding you anymore without charging you.

I’ve always been one to try and put a spin on negative circumstances and look at them in a positive light. I guess because when I do, it motivates me. It helps me make an internal choice to make the most of my life instead of wasting a day grumbling about it.

I’ve discovered a “positive” in this tough economy right now. That positive is that people are learning to be resourceful. I think when materialism became easier to acquire and you could get “more” for “less” people became accustomed to not having to work for things. People would – in general – not have to get creative, or think outside of the box. In a way, that was sad. We were given such bright minds! To think that we’d let those go to waste is senseless and frustrating. Now though, I’ve seen people get in touch with that part of themselves again. They have to learn how to be resourceful to make ends meet and I think it’s simply wonderful.

It doesn’t matter if being resourceful for you is simply digging deep into your pantry and coming up with a week’s worth of meals to avoid going to the grocery store and spending more, or if it’s learning how to do your own car maintenance. Maybe being resourceful is coming up with some small odd jobs to bring in a little extra income to pay the bills. Whatever it is, it’s a good thing. The economy will eventually pick up again and what you have learned by being resourceful will stay. When we learn how strong we can be and what we are capable of – you just can’t put a price on that kind of character-growing experience! It makes who we are as people wiser, stronger, more compassionate, and generally just better people.

Life is hard. There is no arguing that. But I think it’s through the hard things that we sometimes only learn the true value not just in life itself, but in who we ourselves are as people. We learn to value one another and each moment and gift we are given. There is just no equaling the treasure that is found in that.

If you are having a tough time right now, I pray that you will be encouraged. Know that you can pass great meaning and lessons on to your kids so that hopefully they will have the internal tools it takes to navigate the unfortunate and uncontrollable things that life will guarantee to throw them someday. And know that there is purpose in the pain and always cause for joy.

You are alive and you have something to give this world. Yourself. If you didn’t know that before, maybe it’s time today to dig inside and find out what you can do. You just might surprise yourself.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

When We Need To Be Humbled

I don’t know about you, but God is constantly keeping me humble. Any time I get anywhere close to feeling too big for my britches or get a little high on myself – God brings me to my knees quicker than you can blink.

My pride gets sore and wounded at times – so how do you balance having a healthy pride in yourself and still remaining humble? A good question and one that I don’t have the answer to. It’s a goal that I constantly strive to seek. A lot of times my own personal “good intentions” or my tendency to be naïve and not know the “real deal,” can end up turning around and biting me. I think it’s a good lesson that we can’t be blind in life. We can’t simply go about our business and expect not to be informed or have knowledge about things… people…. Life.

Maybe we steam forward on our own too often without consulting the One we say is in charge of our lives. So we grow haughty on our own feet thinking we are capable of more than we really are – or we end up in a mess that gives us a painful “ouch” and dose of reality with humility in tow.

I believe God wants us to be healthy emotionally, physically, and spiritually. In order to do this we need to stay in His Word, take care of our bodies, and take care of our emotions. We need to be in constant “check” of what we are thinking, how we are acting, and what our motivation is concerning issues. So often we can get fueled by the wrong things.

It can be embarrassing for God to decide we need to be humbled. But if that’s what it takes to get us back on the right track, then it can be something to which we can be thankful for, in a strange way. No – no one wants to be embarrassed. I’d love it if my humility came naturally, but often it is only by God’s grace and mercy (and insurmountable love) that keeps me in a humble state. It’s certainly not of my own doing!

Humility is there for our own good. It’s there to keep us leaning on the Lord and allowing Him to be in control. It’s there to keep us focused more on “others” and less on self. It’s there to teach us, and help us become better people.

I pray that whenever I need a little “talking to” that God can bring me to my knees in private. I’d much rather have this happen than anything publicly humiliating. But if that should happen – I pray I will remember it’s for my own good – because somewhere along the road, I have lost my way.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pajama Clad

I was thinking this morning how much I’ve relaxed as a mom over the years.

I used to see women in their pajamas with no makeup on and think, “Could you at least get dressed?” That was until this year when my daughter had early morning volleyball practices and bus stop pickups. I became one of those mothers. I get in the car and drive in my pajamas. I even have no makeup on and (gasp) often haven’t even brushed my hair or teeth! I will, however, say that I don’t get out of the car. I do draw a line somewhere!

I refuse to go into a grocery store pajama-clad or enter a school building in a slovenly manner. But, I have relaxed my standards about driving a car in a perfectly made-up manner. Sometimes the point is that I just get my daughter somewhere on time.

I still feel pretty strongly about looking nice. I think if you look nice, you will act nice and be more courteous and respectful to those around you. Plus, I don’t want to be an embarrassment to my children. But there are times, (6 am volleyball practices) where it’s okay to not get up at 4 just so you can be perfectly pulled together to drive your child when no one will really even see you.

How about you? What are your views on being “pajama-clad?” Do you think it’s okay to go grocery shopping or fly on a jet in your pajamas? Would you never get caught dead without your makeup on?

However you feel about it, just remember – people are always watching us – especially our kids. And how we behave sends huge messages to them… whatever we’re wearing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Dream is a Wish the Heart Makes

My husband and I were having a conversation recently about life. Where we’d like to live, what we dream of doing, etc. And the subject came up as to why people waste their whole lives living somewhere they don’t like. People who like warmer weather live all their lives somewhere cool or people want a different job but stay stuck in what they are doing. We were kind of speculating together and wondering… “why?”

We only get one life. Why do we stay somewhere we don’t enjoy? Sure – there are logistical reasons at times that could give us reason to pause. Things such as a stable job, a good church, family, or our kids. But there are jobs everywhere. There are churches everywhere. If that is really our excuse, why don’t we start looking for a job first to see what is even possible?

It seems like a lot of people talk about wishing to live on an island somewhere or dreaming of one lifestyle or another. So why don’t they do it? Is it just finances holding them back or is it fear? Are we afraid of change? How many of us truly have the courage to start applying for a job somewhere else while we continue on with our lives….only to get it and be able to move to our dream location? How many of us truly love where we live?

I think those are really interesting thoughts and questions.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Difference Between Love and Control

Love hurts. Truly it does. Love isn’t always pretty, especially when you’re raising children. They can get angry and say the meanest, most hurtful things sometimes. Maybe you’re one of the lucky moms who is fortunate to never hear anything sour hurtled at you through the air. Then again, maybe you’re not. Maybe you’ve found yourself crying on your bed when your child angrily looks at you and says, “You’re mean!” This comment is from the same child who adored you at the age of 3 and wanted to be your best friend and companion forever. Oh how years change things!

It’s hard as our children grow up to loosen the reigns. It’s hard to find that perfect balance between love and control. Because love hurts. And love is tough at times. It’s so hard to love your child by doing the exact opposite thing than what they want – than what YOU want to do! But you do it, because you love them and you see the bigger picture, the one where what they need at the moment doesn’t always coincide with what they want.

Love is hard. It’s hard to stand back and love your child instead of controlling them when you know they are making poor choices in their life. But you do it because you know they need to learn some lessons, even if they hurt.

It’s hard to not put guilt onto your children especially when they become young adults. But to simply let them follow God’s leading (or not) even if that leading or lack of it doesn’t include you. That’s true love. To let a child go when your heart feels like it will break because you miss them so much.
Control never wins. Even if it wins in the short-term by buying a child’s attention or time; in the long run you don’t have their heart. Some moms (and dads) find such value in parenting and in raising their children that they continue it on into adulthood. I was talking to a woman once and she mentored young mothers. She said that was the number one complaint she had – that these young women still felt “mothered” by their moms even though they were now parents themselves.

Sometimes we need to step out of the way. Sometimes instead we need to get on our knees and ask God, “What next?” We need to look inside and see if we’re at fault of not being a good “letter-goer.” I don’t think it’s easy for anyone but love isn’t always easy.

We will never let go of our children. Nor should anyone have the right to ask us to. But when you choose to let God be in charge of their future instead of yourself, you’re letting go of the “say so” and control in their life. You don’t let go of the love, the bond, the right to advise (if asked). You just let go of the “say so.”

That’s the goal of a parent anyways, isn’t it? To raise our children so successfully that they no longer need reminders from us? They no longer need prompts, hints, or gentle teasing about something. They can handle their own finances, make their own mistakes (and learn from them) and know when to ask for advice. They don’t need a “shadow” from mom or dad telling them what they “should” be doing. And as parents, we need to accept the differences of our children. We need to understand that they may choose to celebrate holidays differently, express thank-you’s in a different way than we do, and pursue their faith at a different pace or way than we would choose for them.

Love accepts that. Love knows how to step back and wait for God to do the hinting, the prompting, and the gentle prodding in their lives. Love prays, looks, and listens for the right timing to let God speak.

We’ve had our chance to say what we wanted to say, teach what we wanted to teach. Now it’s time to say goodbye to the brief period of control that God let us have. Control will only chase away those we love instead of drawing them near to us. Don’t let it lie to you or tell you any differently. Just be patient and be faithful. Believe in God and believe in your children.

And love.

For love never fails.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Are We Coming to Your Neck of the Woods?

The summer before last, my family took a road trip that lasted almost 4 weeks. We had always wanted to do that and had a fabulous time. We went to Tennessee, Kentucky, Chicago, St. Louis, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, Arches National Park, and Minneapolis. We saw beautiful country and made some great family memories.

Well - we're doing it again! We won't be gone as long this summer - only 3 weeks this time. But we're making another cross-country trek and we're so excited. We are in the "research and planning" stage at this point and that's where you come in. We'd love some help. First of all - here are some of our major stopping points -

Atlanta, Georgia
New Orleans, LA
Grand Canyon (North Rim)
Houston, TX
San Antonio, TX
Cortez, CO


We will have brief stops (1/2 day or a few hours) in:
Nashville, TN
Las Cruces, NM


So - what I'd like from you is suggestions. If there was only one or two things we could do in each place- what should we do? What's your best restaurant suggestion? Beautiful spot to take pictures? Discount tips? Anything you can think of that would make our stop in each city memorable. We'd love to save money here and there, but aren't opposed to spending on something that is exceptional.

If you'd like to read about our last trip so you can get a feel for what we like as a family here are some links:

The Great State of Utah (Arches National Park) and Day 2

Kansas and Missouri

Memphis

Nashville

Kentucky

Chicago

Minneapolis

South Dakota & Mt. Rushmore

Yellowstone & Jackson Hole, WY

Road Trip Slide Show Recap


We do have some ideas and things in mind already of what we'd like to do at certain points along the way. So please don't take it personally if we don't end up using your suggestion. It may be a time restraint or some other logistic that keeps us from doing it.

And yes.... I will be blogging from the road again this year.

Thank you so much for your help and insights! We are so excited to see more of the U.S.

In the meantime, if you'd keep us in your prayers. I need to find someone to housesit and/or watch my two precious cats while we're gone and get ministry work done ahead of schedule.

Summer may seem like a long ways off but it will sneak up fast. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Courage To Be Free

I think sometimes we don’t know what we’d do if we were truly free. I don’t think we’d know where to go, how to act, or what to do. If we were free from that illness, free from that long-drawn-out spiritual battle, free from whatever it is that we claim holds us back - how would we act?

Sometimes in kidnappings they talk about how the victim grows attached to the abuser. A lot of us looking from the outside may be perplexed by this. We wonder how that could possibly occur in a situation that seems to be so horrible. Yet, it does. I think the same thing can be said for people getting attached to the very hardships they claim they are trying to overcome or would love to be without. They become attached to them.

When you come to know a way of life and get accustomed to living life that way, it can be hard to readjust your thinking to a different way of living. It can seem overwhelming. It’s almost as if you experience “loss” all over again because you are simply at a loss to know a different way of life! And it’s okay --- as long as you acknowledge it, give yourself time, and pray for guidance.

I believe that God wants to give us freedom. It’s not possible for everyone to experience that freedom here on earth. Not everyone will get the blessing of being cured or the miracle of a child after you’d been designated “unable to bear children.” Not everyone gets the chance for a fresh start at life free from an abusive spouse or alcoholic and verbally abusive parent. Yet the sad thing is, those who do, often remain victims even after they are free. They don’t grab hold to what God is offering them.

We all go through “stuff.” Some of us go through VERY painful stuff. But if you are offered a shot at freedom – take hold of it with everything in you! It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to feel alone. It’s even okay to revert back to old habits… for a time. But God has set you free. How much more loved can a person feel?

I know that there is courage in you. I believe that you have something special to offer the world and God was waiting for just such a time as this. I know that you can overcome what you’ve been through. You are a gift. You are a survivor. You are valued and you matter. How blessed you are to be one of the few to have been chosen – hand picked – by God to make it through to the other side of pain and be able to have a great witness and testimony from it! How fortunate you are that God pulled you though and felt you worthy of being an example, a source of help and support to others!

It’s time to let those old attachments go. It may seem scary at first but you can do it. You can become that person you always observed from the outside and dreamed of being. That person is inside of you – dancing, laughing, loving, and running…. Free. All you need to do is grab onto it. Hold onto God as He brings you out of the darkness and into the light.

The time is now. The time is yours.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Distracted Out of Concern


I’m very distracted today. I’m concerned about a friend. By the time I print this article, the concern and distraction will probably be resolved. But for now, I’m having a hard time “busying” myself with other things that need to be done.

I’m that kind of person. When I invest my heart into someone and something is going on – I have a hard time compartmentalizing it. I can’t set my concerns for someone aside when they are going through something pretty big or concerning. Nope – I’m pretty much invested. All of me.

The thought occurred to me that maybe that’s how we are supposed to be. Maybe we’re not supposed to throw out a simple “I’ll pray for you!” without being consumed in love and prayer for that person. Maybe we’re not supposed to go on with our day as if everything is fine. Maybe that’s why God doesn’t allow certain people to leave our hearts and minds at times.

We’re supposed to be there for each other. How can we be there for each other if our heart isn’t invested in someone else’s cares or concerns? How can we be truly “there” if we just check in when the thought crosses our mind? No, I think maybe we are to dedicate ourselves to prayer and physical support or words of encouragement when times call for it.

The next time you find yourself distracted and having a hard time focusing on the tasks at hand, consider the reason. Is it because someone is on your heart? Are they going through a tough time? Then fall on your knees in prayer for them. Pick up the phone and see if you can do anything. Get the word out and start a prayer chain. Devote yourself to doing whatever you can to help and lavish love on your friend. Your distraction may just be God prompting your heart to action.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Flawz

This is a great video. What a great visual representation of the unique differences in people. We were made to be individuals - not to look and act the same. Not to feel the same. What some people may call flaws, God may call beautiful because it's helped mold us, shape us, grow us. Sometimes convicting, sometimes motivating, sometimes stretching us.

If only we could all stop trying to attain something that is unattainable! We are who we are - and we are each beautiful in a different way.

My prayer is that you can learn to love how God made you.



Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Are You Hungry?


I have this hunger and thirst inside of me that is never quenched. It’s a hunger to learn. But not just learn about anything.

Do you remember how when you were first engaged and about to be married, how you would pick up marriage and relationship books? You probably got premarital counseling too. It was because you were eager to have a good marriage and to give it your best - your all. The same usually happens when you’re expecting a baby. You pick up pregnancy and parenting books.

I have that same hunger to learn. I STILL am eager to learn how to be a better parent. I’m constantly making mistakes and so I listen often to parenting pod casts or read articles that catch my eye. This is also true for my marriage. It’s because there is a hunger inside of me to be the best wife and mom I can be. But, there is also a deeper hunger inside of me.

I am hungry for God.

I don’t think any hunger or thirst inside of me equals the hunger I have to please my Lord; the thirst that I have to know Him more and to know how to hear His voice when He speaks. I crave it – I long for it! I cannot just go to church on Sunday and expect my hunger to be satisfied for it doesn’t last me a whole week. I need more. That is why I listen to Christian pod casts weekly. I read Christian magazines and books. I go to Women’s Bible Study and I listen to Christian radio and music. I am hungry.

I am so confused why people say they are Christians and yet they don’t do anything with their faith. They don’t try to learn more. They don’t pursue God. How can that be? How can you say you love something and yet not try to be better at it? It’s like saying you love burgers but yet never eat them! It baffles me.

It’s no wonder why so many believers feel lost and empty. They are not pursuing God. So when they sit back and expect a sermon on Sunday to fill them up for the rest of the week (or for those who don’t attend a church; expect God to do all the work while they sit back and live life as normal) – they lose their hunger. They no longer feel thirsty. They no longer feel fulfilled. It brings me to tears because they are missing out on so much.

I know people are busy. But that is an excuse. If you don’t have time to read, there are phenomenal Christian radio stations out there that you can listen to in your car or over your computer. They have great Christian programming and even the DJ’s bring scripture and inspiration to a life that gets little else in the way of Christian input. And most people have Ipods. Great Christian shows and speakers can be downloaded FREE at Itunes so they are with you everywhere. You can access them anytime and anywhere.

It’s time for Christians to get hungry again. We have gotten so apathetic. So blasé. So casual about our faith. It pains me. It seriously brings me to tears. Just one taste – just one drink…..it’s something you can never taste anywhere else and it will leave you hungering and craving for more.

Our God is an exciting God. He is not boring. He is not outdated. He is real and relevant and personal. He wants to love you where you’re at and show you phenomenal things, but you have to open the door. You have to move your feet.

God can help you be a better parent. He can talk to you about that work issue you’re dealing with. He can whisper to your heart and minister to you about that marriage issue you struggle with, the financial squeeze you’re feeling, and the frustrations on your heart. He can guide you in your choices and decisions helping you make wise ones. Pick up that Bible. Read that Christian book. Listen to those pod casts and hear Him. Seek Him. Crave Him.

It’s high time you get hungry.

Monday, February 1, 2010

What Do You Value?


When I was a little girl and we would go on family day trips – I remember my dad often asking us questions like “If you had to lose your eyesight or your hearing, which one would you choose?” Or, “If the house was on fire and you could only grab two things as you run out the door – which two things would you grab?” I always found everyone’s answers to be very fascinating.

My husband and I have done this a couple of times too. It always amazes me how these moments clearly come down to what someone values in their life. It often isn’t what we strive for on a day-to-day basis.

My oldest daughter was doing homework for school last night and she asked me this question, “What is something I value that other people may not find valuable?” I explained to her that it meant something she valued in her heart that may not actually be worth a lot of money – like things she’d gotten after her great grandpa passed away. The same is true when it comes to a house fire or when an illness befalls your family. Your values shift and change…. Or maybe they just become really clear for the first time!

When we choose to live a life serving the Lord, our values are going to be different than the rest of the world. Our values and also WHAT we value. I think this gives us an added benefit over the rest of society in the fact that a lot of what we hold dear to our hearts is because of the meaning attached to them from the relationships in our lives. I cherish the carving I got from my grandfather not just because it’s a beautiful carving, but because of who he was and what he meant to my heart. I value the Africa mementos my husband brought back because they represent a place and a people that are special to my husband’s heart. Yes, they are beautiful things – but it’s the meaning behind those things that gets me the most. Even still, those things have their place because when I have a child in the hospital or bring them back from an appointment that discussed a fainting spell or a near-miss eye accident, those things don’t mean nearly as much. It’s all about my children. They are the priority and the focus.

It shouldn’t take disasters, tragedies, or scary events in our lives for us to be reminded of what is truly important. Things are just things. It’s people that matter and the relationships we have invested with them. I believe it’s the whole reason we are here on earth.

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