Monday, February 28, 2011

Is Your Faith Still in Kindergarten?

I love this video. It reminds me of how we are in life sometimes. Stuck in the "Samo-samo" because it's comfortable. We feel safe there.

The thing is...we never know what we're truly capable of if we stay with what we've always known. Sure, sometimes things are tougher or more challenging if we let ourselves be taken out of our comfortable spot in life. But they are also more exciting.

Watch this video. And take a minute to think about it. Think about your life and your faith. Is your faith growing...or is it still in kindergarten?

Take a chance on yourself. Take a chance on God.

~ Dionna

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A "No Fuss" Kind of Woman

I remember my first date. The sweet guy was going to take me somewhere very fancy to eat dinner, as I recall. I convinced him to detour to a local pizza parlor instead. I remember my family chuckling at me and the fact that I’d opted out of an expensive dinner.

But that’s me.

I’m a jeans girl. I like to eat in the living room instead of at the kitchen table and I much prefer a casual get together over fine dining. Now don’t get me wrong. I love a good elegant meal. Especially when it’s with my husband and it’s a special treat. I savor every moment. But on the whole, I’m a “no fuss” kind of woman.

I think mainly, I was born that way. But I also kind of like simplicity because I think God enjoyed simplicity when He walked on earth. I think simplicity often brings out the best in people instead of people bringing out their best to “show off.”

When I got married, I never specified a “china” pattern. I have no “fancy dinnerware.” It’s our daily stuff or paper plates, if you have a choice! I do have some stemware that my grandma gave me when I turned 13. The girls and I enjoy drinking sparkling cider out of them on Christmas morning. But on the whole, I’m just an everyday, American girl.

I think it’s great to celebrate. I think it’s awesome to enjoy the “good things” in life. But I just think that we’ve forgotten how to enjoy the common, as well.

I never want to be someone who “expects” fanciness in life. If I get it, what a blessing and how much fun I will have enjoying it! But if I don’t? I will relax, laugh, and enjoy the moment. I will feel freedom in the normal things that bring my heart such joy. For I don’t think I will ever not enjoy pizza, taco’s, or denim. I don’t think I will ever raise my nose at “down home” instead of “uptown.” That’s just not me. In fact, sometimes I think I will prefer it. I will prefer the genuine and pure feeling that comes with it.

Life seems to be focused more and more on image these days. I care about my image. But I also care about being authentic. Sometimes there is just too much “fuss” over things when they need to be presented instead, with simple honesty and lots of love.

No plate of nacho’s could ever taste better when given like that. Wouldn’t you agree?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Get A Hold of Your Attitude

How often do we complain in a day? In ONE day? You’d probably guess a couple of times – but I venture to say it’s much more than that. A LOT more.

For one thing, I’ve caught myself on more than one occasion, complaining, whimpering, whining, and uttering grievances more often than I’d care to admit. It shames me, actually. For another, I’ve caught others. All you have to do is go out in public to hear and see people’s utter contempt, disdain, and frustrations in general.

The thing is – most of what we complain about is so small. Maybe it’s having to wait a little longer at a red light. Or that new employee making a mistake as they ring us up at the cash register. We complain about our food not being prepared how we wanted it, or someone not responding to US the way we wanted. We gripe about our housework, the weather, schools, and churches. It’s there and it’s constant.

I’m just wondering what it was….that caused us to be so discontent? Why are we so quick to mention the bad?

Is it because we live in a society that has taught us that “we” are more like a “me?”

It saddens my heart – and I’m a part of it.

I’ve been trying to bite my tongue a lot more often. I’ve been trying to find out what true contentment is and feels like. When a sports practice runs late….I need to close my mouth and take it instead of griping about it. When I’m neglected to be noticed or appreciated in something I’ve done…I need to offer it up to God instead of offering it up to the masses.

I want to have a happy heart. A thankful heart. A contented heart. To me, that means I’m going to have to let A LOT of things go. I’m going to have to lay them down at God’s feet and let Him deal with them. I’m going to have to acknowledge that a heck of a lot of things will be unfair. Unequal. Rude. Bitter. Unkind.

I do believe there is a time and a place to put on our battle gear. I don’t think we should take everything lying down. But it’s the day to day minor nuisances that we need to start overlooking and forgiving.

I know that probably for everything I’ve complained about, someone could say the same of me doing that very thing myself at one point. And that’s humbling.

It really doesn’t make the situation “okay” when we let it go. It still will probably be frustrating for us. But it does make US better. It makes us better on the inside AND on the outside. It stretches us and teaches us how to give grace to someone else. And to them, they experience getting it.

It’s a win-win.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Didn't Notice

I was reading a blog post by someone today who was praising God for something big He’d done in their life. And rightly so. They’d gone through a pretty significant trial (okay – huge!) and God had restored them when the odds were against them.

I was praising God with them and it got me to thinking about how worthy He is of our praise. We praise Him far too little. He does SO much for us. All those big things He’s done for us – the big prayer requests we’ve brought before Him, He’s done. But He’s also done a million small things for us that we probably forgot about or didn’t even notice.

Think for a minute.

Think hard.

I bet there are some things you could come up with that at the time, you didn’t realize was God. It wasn’t coincidence or “happenstance” or luck. It was God.

I bet there are even more things that you can’t think of at all that He’s done for you. Those things were God too. Those things He’s protected you and I from without our even being aware of it. Those blessings He’s brought our way. Those prayers He’s answered before they were on our lips. Because He knows us and He loves us. He longs to bless us!

Right now, I feel so loved. And I feel so humbled.

I want to notice. I want to notice when God sends a cool breeze my way so that I’m not overheated working in the hot sun. I want to notice when He protects me from a car accident or shelters one of my kids from harm. I want to notice it all. And I don’t.

We don’t.

So how worthy is He? How much praise does He really deserve? For He is a GREAT God. He not only does the BIG things in our lives but He does much more than that. He does bigger things and smaller things that we never even notice.

May I sing of His praises all the days of my life – even if I feel like God is being quiet in my life and no grandiose prayer or blessing is being lavished on me. Because He does more – all the time.

I just may not notice.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is Your Home a Safe Harbor?

I often tell my girls that I want to be their “Safe harbor.” When they are going through struggles and difficulties, I want them to feel safe with me. I want them to feel like home is a haven against the rest of the world. I repeat it to them time and time again because they need the reminder. They need to know that they aren’t alone and they have somewhere where they can be themselves – even if that means acknowledging when they’ve messed up and made a mistake.

I expect a lot out of my children. I believe in them. But at the same time, I want them to know they aren’t going to be perfect and they will fall and mess up. That’s part of growing up, learning, and maturing. It’s part of discovering who you are and who you want to be.

The world is full of criticism. We all get more than our fair share of it. That’s why I don’t want my kids to get it from me too. Sure, I have to apologize sometimes for being harder on them than I ought – I’m human. But I try really hard to relax the pressure they feel on their shoulders of having to “have it all together” all of the time. I know I need more than my fair share of grace and mercy, so I need to be able to extend that my kids’ way as well.

Is your home a safe harbor for your kids? Do they feel like they can tell you things and let you know when they’ve done something they’ve regretted? If not, then maybe it’s time to take a look at your expectations and how you are portrayed in their mind’s eye.

Everyone needs a safe harbor. For me, that harbor is my Lord. And ultimately, I want it to be for my kids too. But when they are growing up and they also need that “tangible” here and now kind of protection – I want to be the one to offer it to them as well. I want them to feel comfortable and free in their own home and with their own family. In fact, I want them to long for it. So, as long as I’m able; this dock will be open to them and will be a safe place to run to.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

There's Nothing You Can Do

That lump in your throat and pit in your stomach. You know the feeling, don’t you? The feeling that you’re going to cringe over an answer that you don’t want to hear. For me, it was the realization that hours and months of work of transferring audio of my kids as toddlers had been lost forever.

I spent so much time. I was so proud of myself for thinking of a way to savor the precious moments caught on cassette. Then, in an instant, I realized a mistake in transferring files over to a new computer might have erased and eradicated all of that.

I felt sick to my stomach.

I still had the audio on cassettes, but with a home that didn’t really carry cassette players anymore – nor the time to re-run and re-play all those tapes and again only edit the pieces I wanted to save and transfer to a computer….well….the result was the same. Feeling heartsick.

I really felt like crying.

But what can you do? The damage is done. You can’t go back and fix that mistake. You just can’t.

As I was sitting in my computer chair letting it all sink in, I realized how people must feel when their homes burn down or when things are stolen. It’s not the item so much as the memory that you hold close. The memory that is attached to the item. In the case of photos, videos, and audio – well, it’s even more personal.

Then another thought flashed through my heart and mind. Maybe it wasn’t even my own thought. Maybe it was the Lord whispering to me. It was that when it all comes down to it, it’s still not material things that matter the most. You can’t take them to heaven with you.

Material things – no matter how personal, touching, and sacred – are still just material things. No one can ever delete the memories in my heart, soul, and mind. No one can replace the mood or the feelings that reside within me; those things that I carry with me every day of my life.

Yes, it’s sad when we lose things that mean so much to us. But it’s also a good reminder that time and life can’t be bought or replaced. A moment is a moment. Once spent it is gone forever. We might be able to hang onto it for awhile via photo, audio, or video – but we still can’t replay the scene in a different way. It’s done.

I think God wants us to invest in those moments. In those people. I think He wants us to hold on a little more loosely to the material things we treasure so tightly. Not because He doesn’t care what matters to us. I think He realizes we are human and understands that we will have special places in our hearts for things. But because those “things” shouldn’t replace the “here” and “now.” They shouldn’t replace the people that are in the room with us today.

We can’t live in the past but we can live in the moment and make the most of it.

I am still feeling really bummed about the loss of my audio recordings. But given a little time, I’ll move on for there is nothing I can do about it. I will carry those sayings with me always and if some are forgotten in time…then I’ll simply replace them in my heart with new ones. For my loved ones surround me – and that’s what is most important.

*Note: A few days after I wrote this – my husband found a backup copy with the lost audio on it. I was so thankful! But what a lesson God taught me in the process.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

To Go Forward Sometimes You Have To Go Backwards

It became so apparent to me today. I was watching and listening to little Rhema Marvanne online. If you don’t know who she is – visit my blog here.

Rhema was talking and singing and it reminded me of when I was a child. When everything seemed so clear. My life seemed like it would always be so simple. After all, right was right, wrong was wrong, and I was very free to be who God had created. I didn’t worry about how I came across to others. I was just “me.” I explored my interests, loved the things I loved, and disliked the things I disliked.

How come growing up muddies the waters so much?

It’s so obvious to me why the Bible lets us know that Jesus loves children. I’m reminded today, as I was listening to Rhema, why the Bible also tells us in Matthew 18:2, “ And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

God wants us to have the heart of a child. Always. Not the immaturity of a child – but the innocent, pure, genuine heart of a child. For children have a way of simplifying life. They don’t make it complicated – they see things as they are.

It’s occurred to me that sometimes we can’t move forward in our lives because we’ve lost something back “there” – back in our past. In our childhood. We’ve forgotten. We’ve forgotten what it means to dream and not care if the odds are stacked against us or not. We’ve forgotten how to skip and twirl just because we’re happy to be alive. We’ve forgotten how to simply walk up to someone who catches our eye and say, “Do you want to be my friend?”

We’ve left behind the ability we possess inside to dream big, love large, and hurt – but then forgive and move on.

We’ve tried to be bigger than our own britches at times, instead of simply humming and enjoying the place God has us in. We don’t trust blindly anymore. We don’t like everyone until they give us a reason not to – instead we size them up the moment they walk in the room… and we judge. We lose the ability to be friends with just anyone. We don’t enjoy life as much because we worry too much and fret too often.

Children have so much to teach us. They truly often are – the smarter bunch. They call a spade a spade. But the thing I love the most? Is how open their hearts are to the world. How giving, loving, and compassionate they are.

Sometimes we sit on the turf God has given us, and we wonder why we can’t move forward. Why we can’t seem to catch a break. We get frustrated over our lack of progress, blessings, or adventures in life. Maybe it’s because we need to go backwards in our past a little bit and reclaim what we set aside along the way? Maybe it’s because we forgot that we already knew how to dream, take risks, believe in the impossible, and love the unloveable? Maybe we need to remember how it felt to pursue life with abandon?

If we want to go forward, we might just need to go backwards a little bit. It might be scary at first – but I think we will find the freedom we’ve been searching for all along as we rediscover how it feels to have the pure and genuine heart of a child.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

You Wished Yourself Away

A profound moment and line in the “Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader” movie keeps floating around in my head. Ever since I watched it, I can’t get this one scene out of my head. It’s the scene where Lucy is wishing that she were more beautiful. In fact, she is wishing that she was as beautiful as her sister, Susan. She tries a spell to turn herself into Susan and Aslan stops her. He tells her that he realizes she is questioning her value, but in doing so – she wished herself away.

She wished herself away.

How often do we “wish ourselves away?” How often do we forget our own value and worth? I’m guessing; often.

Every time we wish we looked like someone else or got the attention and accolades that someone else gets – we are basically saying we don’t want to exist as ourselves but as them. Every time we strive to be or do something as someone else does – we are wishing our own selves, our own uniqueness… away.

The thing I loved most about this scene was how Aslan looked at Lucy. He looked at her with such love and gentleness yet wisdom. He saw what she didn’t see. He saw her value and worth. He loved her – just as she was and it pained him to think that she would no longer exist. Just as it pains me as a mother to think my children would ever contemplate being someone or something they are not. I don’t ever want them to think someone else is better than them. For they are just created differently.

I know – without meaning to – there have been times where we have all wished ourselves away. We feel unnoticed, forgotten, or of little value. But we ARE of value. Great value. We are each here for a reason. We have a calling that no one else can fulfill but us. No one else can BE us. They can’t speak as we speak, look as we look, or love as we love. They can’t fill the needs that maybe are revealed only to our eyes.

God finds great joy in who we are. He sees the bigger picture and knows what we ourselves, can’t yet see.

Trust Him. Serve Him where you are. And don’t ever “wish yourself away.” For you are greatly valued.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Being Built

The more I feel ill-equipped to do something – the more God calls me out of my box. The more I feel ready to tackle something and take it on, the less He asks it of me.

Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s God wanting to keep me humble. I don’t know. Of course it’s not always this way…but I have found that God loves and delights to use me in areas where I am very nervous and where I feel inadequate.

I think He’s building me.

In a way, I look back and I see how I’ve gained confidence. How I’ve grown. How I’m “readier” than I’d originally thought because of those things He’s taken me through on His terms.

And I love that about Him.

I love that God knows what I need more than I do. I love that He’s never led me in the wrong direction. And I love that He takes me where I need to go – not always where I want to go!

That’s my God.

I’m so glad I’m on His team.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Whisper Your Heart

When was the last time you shared your dream with someone? When was the last time you whispered your heart – to another?

It sometimes can be hard to do. To be so vulnerable. The fear of being ridiculed, scoffed, or laughed at – is great. The fear of being taken seriously and going down the road you desire – sometimes is even greater because we feel so inadequate and unprepared.

I believe God gave us dreams for a reason. I believe He put inside each one of us a gift. A gift that needs to be shared with others. We are less than what He called us to be when we stifle that dream or tuck it away on a shelf because we’ve simply decided that it’s too much for Him to fulfill.

Sometimes all we need is someone to believe in us.

Take a risk. Share that dream with someone you trust. Whisper your heart to someone who will carry it with great love. Ask that they pray for you and that God will give you the courage to take a step into becoming the person that He created you to be.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I Can Do This

That thing. That thing you dread doing. It’s something that causes fear to rise up in your heart and throat. You’d rather go to the dentist or have an annual exam than have to do this “thing.”

Name it. What is it? Is it confrontation? Is it reaching out to someone who is hard to love – let alone like? Is it something tangible like flying, staying home alone at night while your husband is away traveling, going on a missions trip, letting someone see you without your makeup on? What is it? And why is it that particular thing?

I’ve decided to tackle my fears, phobias, and dreads. Okay – well, sort of. I really would rather avoid them. So when I’m faced with the fact that there is no way around them and I MUST do them – THEN I’ve decided that I will tackle them with strength and gusto. Because I’d rather muster up courage then whimper like a helpless waif.

Plus, it does me good.

Each time I conquer something that once conquered me – I feel stronger. My faith grows because – trust me – I do a LOT of praying while I’m going through my deep-seeded fear moments! I love seeing just how good my God is to me. How tender He is, never laughing at my ridiculousness, but simply putting an arm around my shoulders and gently prodding me through it.

“I can do this.”

I can. I have.

It’s amazing what you can do when you put your heart and mind to it. It’s astonishing how much we can be held back by letting something grow too big in our minds. It can rule our lives. It can overtake us. Sometimes, we will hardly recognize ourselves if we let too much time go by with that ‘thing’ in charge of us.

“I can do this.” And so can you.

Whatever that ‘thing’ is in your life – that thing that terrifies you? Take a baby step the next time you are faced with it. You may stumble a little, but trust me, it will feel so good to walk that walk. It will free you and make you stronger.

You just might even smile while you go through it for God has given you all the tools you need to make it out on the other side – better.