Sunday, September 29, 2013

Putting It All On the Line

Three years ago. After 12 years of being in Idaho, I was done with the bitter, cold Winters. Ice, snow, fog, negative degree temps – I was done. DONE.

But there was something called the economy. And a house. The timing wasn’t right.

It took 3 years of talking, looking, dreaming.

We finally put our house up for sale in June and it sold in two weeks. We had a huge garage sale, sold some stuff on Craigs List, packed up, and moved into a tiny apartment – the four of us.

We continued to look and seek where God might have us go and He altered our plans a couple of times.

Then in August, my husband found out his company was laying people off for the 4th time in the 15 years he’d been there. Knowing we wanted to head out before winter of this year, he took one of the biggest risks of his life. He stepped forward to take the voluntary layoff with a severance package.

Yes. He quit his job.

And we found ourselves again. Packing up. Only this time, it wasn’t going to be just across town. It was going to be to a new life. A new state. New school. New home to live in. And hopefully, without too long of a wait, a new job.

We risked everything.

It was exciting. It was scary.

But what better way to exercise your faith than to trust God with all you have? To trust Him to provide a home, a job, a church, friends…a life?

That’s exactly what we did.  For we concluded it was better to try and fail, than never try at all and always wonder.

And we saw God amidst all the details.
Sometimes we may have walked blindly, but I don’t think we ever walked alone.

… be continued

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Road To Our New Home

It happened in the Winter of 2010/2011. I’d just had enough. Enough snow, enough ice, enough rain, and clouds. I’d had enough of feeling a bit on the “outside.”

I longed for warm weather. Sunshine. Palm trees. Tank tops.  Dinner on the porch. Instead, it was the second spring in a row that I sat in my office working by a little space heater running furiously.

I’m not sure if God’s hand was in my feelings, or if my feelings God decided to have a hand in. But either way – a hunger started to grow in me for something different. More.

I didn’t want to stay in the “it’ll do.” I wanted to thrive. For me, that meant sunshine.

I talked to my husband and he had some similar feelings. Some of his were for different reasons. Mission trip after mission trip had grabbed hold of his heart, as well. He wanted a change. Something more.

There were many moments where I felt like nothing would ever change. And I felt bad for wishing that it would. Certain situations and circumstances I knew were blessings from God and I was afraid to jeopardize them. To jeopardize my kids in a new place. Would it affect their lives negatively forever?

Then I’d hear a podcast. A quote. Read a devotional. And once again my heart would be renewed. I’d be encouraged to not settle. I’d be reminded of who lived inside of me and who gives me my dreams.

The road - although in retrospect seems quite short, it felt like it took forever. But my God is so BIG. He is so amazing.

I believe I will look back and see how God wove a perfect path for our family as we began this quest to a new life in a new place.

… be continued

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Vacation For the Soul


Worn Out.







What word describes you when life takes it’s toll on your heart? Where can you be found? One of these words….all of them?

I often hear people talk about how they need a “vacation.”  I know what they mean. They mean life has gotten too huge – too fast – too busy. They can’t keep up and they feel like they are spinning their wheels. They feel overwhelmed, worn out, tired, exhausted, spent, broken, lonely, or misunderstood. They just want to collapse and stop. STOP.

I know the feeling of wanting to stop. You feel like you’re on a ride and you can’t get off. It just keeps going and it won’t even slow down long enough for you to catch your breath.

For me – I’ve found that a vacation often doesn’t fix things. For one thing, I’m a mom. Vacation isn’t really a “vacation.” It’s simply relocation for a few days or weeks. Mom still has to be on duty. And you have extra “duty” when you return! No – vacation is simply time in a different locale for the most part.

I HAVE found a place to get vacation for my heart and soul though.  It’s with the Lord. I know – I can hear some of you groaning. But you know what I’ve discovered? Sometimes the last thing we want to do, is the very thing we need the most.  There have been nights where I have literally dragged my tired body to church for ladies Bible Study only to leave recharged and touched to the core. It was the place I needed to be the most. And God knew that – so He spoke to me.

Bible Study. Church. Devotions. Simply quiet time with God. These are the places where I have found a vacation for my heart and soul. I have been invigorated, encouraged, renewed, refueled, and revitalized. I have been given the strength and energy I sought to get through another day – another week. I have been given peace of mind. Support. Love.  A good listener. God has reached into my life and touched it with His perfect combination for that moment and time. Time and time again.

In fact, it’s the only vacation that truly has given me the tangible tools I’ve needed to focus on what is going on around me, what my priorities are, and what needs to be changed. Disneyland can’t do that for me – as much as I love it!

Our hearts need occasional vacations. The world is moving so fast and furious anymore. We need that breath of fresh air blown into our minds, our souls, and our bodies.  If we can just reach out for those things that seem like a little bit of effort – time with God, bible study, church, etc – the effort will disappear into reward as our parched bodies get the nourishment they’ve been hungering for.

Try it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

We're Not Living It

I get so frustrated. I believe strongly in the Lord, Jesus Christ. I believe in salvation. I believe a lot of things.

I love hearing about how people accept Jesus into their hearts. I’ll hear numbers after church camps, mission trips, or special events. “So” many people accepted Christ into their hearts.

But then I get concerned about the follow-up. Are they being discipled? Mentored? Is someone walking with them as they adjust to a new faith and belief system? Or are they left to fend for themselves? Are they floundering?

Belief is one thing. A faith-walk is all together another.

It seems to me that God did quite a bit of talking in the Bible about how we should live. And I get soooo frustrated when I see us turn our heads away from that. We ignore what God has laid out for us to do.

Christians swear. God specifically spoke to us about how we should use our mouths.

Ephesians 4:29
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Christians drink, smoke, and do things to their bodies. God specifically talked about “causing a brother to stumble” and about how our bodies are “temples of the holy spirit.”

1 John 2:10
Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.

Romans 14:20
Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.

Matthew 18:7
Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!

1 Corinthians 6:19
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

Christians are sexually impure before marriage. God specifically spoke on purity for marriage. He actually, also spoke about purity with our eyes, hearts, and minds!

Hebrews 13:4Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Christians gossip. Again – the whole “how we use our mouth” thing.

Christians dress immodestly. God spoke on modesty; which is a form of purity in my opinion and also a part of using our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Christians are lukewarm. Not choosing one side over the other but walking the line. Going to church on Sundays but living life with the rest of the world Monday through Saturday. God specifically said that if we are lukewarm he would spit us out of his mouth.

Revelation 3:16
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Christians have idols. We do. We worship our career, our image, our “things”  - our dreams and wishes. God specifically told us to lay everything down and worship none other but Him.

Luke 4:8
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ ”

Christians have a hard time forgiving. God told us to forgive.

Matthew 18:21-23
New International Version (NIV)

 21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

I don’t know how it can get any clearer than that. And I get so frustrated when I see us as believers having this beautiful gift and we are not using it to its fullest potential.  It is no wonder that the world calls us hypocrites and God does not answer our prayers!

We have issues.

We are failing to make a choice. We say we believe. We say we love. But we aren’t choosing the One that we love. Not really. We give half to Him and half to the world. Never fully engaging one or the other.

What kind of a life is that? Always feeling kind of guilty but never wanting to fully depart from our faith because of our fear of God’s wrath and discipline. (Which are good things to fear!)

I say, “Choose you this day whom you will believe.” CHOOSE! Choose wisely.

No more compromise.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I Think God Likes To See Us Happy

I think God likes to see us happy.

I was thinking that recently as I had a fantastic day. Nothing phenomenal happened. It was just an ordinary day, with ordinary errands.   But there was sunshine. And I love the sunshine. And I had “me” time (which I also needed.)  I treated myself to a lunch. I got things accomplished.

I felt good.

I found myself singing in my car, looking up at the sky and envisioning God smiling down at me.

Yes, I think God enjoys it when we are in a good moment and we know it.

I think, just as a parent feels good when they see their children excited, happy, or singing and dancing….so does our Lord.  He might just get a twinkle in His eyes, or have laugh lines show up when he laughs at our enthusiasm.  And more than that, I think He tenderly and lovingly looks down on us.

What a great thought.

So much goes on in the world today. There is so much to make us frown, stress about, and be serious about.  But if it’s one thing believers can do differently, it’s show joy. Joy despite pain, joy in spite of hard times, and joy in the midst of trials.

It feels good – to feel good. And it feels good – to know it. To recognize that you are having a good day. That you are feeling good. That things are going well.

Relish in it. Sing at the top of your lungs to your favorite songs, dance, skip, smile lots and smile often.

For God is good. ALL the time.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The "What If" Scenario

I believe that knowledge is power.  And ever since my children were very young, I have talked to them about situations that could happen in life. I’ve always hoped that none of these “what if’s” would happen to them – but if they should, I’d want them to be as prepared as possible and know as much as they could, to help them stay alive or be safe.

I talk to my kids about things I see in the news. If I see a news story on a child that died from the choking game, I talk to them about it. If I see a story about a kidnapping and how a child could have escaped (or possibly did) I talk to them about it. Other scenario’s I’ve talked to my kids about are:

*What if…..there is an earthquake? What do you do – where do you go?

*What if….you’re at school and a kid walks into your room with a gun?

*What if….someone sends you a pornographic picture on your cell phone?

*What if….we’re in a car accident and I’m unconscious?

*What if….you’re riding your bike and someone tries to grab you?

*What if….you’re at a concert and a fire breaks out?

*What if….someone points a gun at you and tells you to come with them or they will shoot you?

These are just a small sampling of the kinds of “what if” scenario’s I’ve discussed with my kids. Sometimes they roll their eyes at me if we’ve already gone over something and I want to talk to them about it again. But I know that in time, you can forget things and I want their responses to be quick and instinctual if they ever have to be put in an emergency situation.

I pray that IF something should ever happen to my kids and I can’t be there to guide and direct them, that they will know how to think, not panic, and use what we’ve discussed to save not only their own lives – but possibly a few around them as well. And that’s worth every rolled eye I get.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Worried About Our Image

Do you tend to worry about what other people think of you?  Sometimes, as a mom, we can let our image affect our choices as a parent.  If you volunteer for something out of peer pressure, if you say “yes” to your children in the presence of others so there won’t be a scene, if you let your children buy, watch, or participate in something because they tell you they are the only one who isn’t… you might be letting your image affect your choices as a mom.

It’s not easy to be the “bad guy” especially in front of others.  Just because we are grown-ups, doesn’t mean we don’t care how others view us anymore!  And sometimes mom “circles” or “groups” can affect our self-esteem just as much as our friends did in high school.

We live in an “image-conscious” world.  Styles, trends, and appearances can be valued highly.  But God values our heart.  And I don’t think we are pleased with ourselves when we realize we gave in on our morals and values just to save a reputation.

Our children look to us and watch us.  We can be such a powerful example to them when faced with caving in so that we’ll look good to others, or staying the course and standing our ground on our beliefs and convictions.  Our children will learn not to be swayed by the crowd.  And we want that don’t we?

I don’t know about you, but I want that for myself, as well.  I want to feel good inside knowing that even though someone else might have a bad (or wrong) impression of me – that I made a decision that I felt was not only beneficial, but important for my family.

We all want to have a good image.  And that’s natural.  Let’s just make sure we don’t compromise ourselves and who we are in the process – just to get it.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What If This Is It?

I was discouraged one day. I mean, we’ve all been discouraged right? On this particular day, I was discouraged about a certain dream of mine – a dream that just wasn’t coming to fruition for me and I’m not sure why.  What I AM sure of, is that I was frustrated, feeling “down” on myself and my abilities, and just plain feeling like a loser.

I have never questioned God. But I have asked him “Why” on many times and this was one of those occasions. I felt like God was being silent with me and that hurt.

I talked to Him and I cried out to Him. I told Him I would not lose heart even though at that moment, I felt like I had.

It wasn’t until a few hours after my conversation with God that He prompted my heart about something. “What if this is it?” What if my dream never happened? What if I never was “great” in my own mind – only “good?” How would I handle that? Would it be good enough for me or would I never be satisfied in my life… never content?

Those are very loaded questions, to which I’m not sure I have the perfect answers to.

I do know this. Ever since we are children, we are told that we can be anything. A lot of us are told how special we are and built up to do great things. But what if we don’t? What if we can’t? Do we feel “less than?”

I think God wanted me to truly ponder these questions that particular day. I think he wanted me to realize that sometimes His dream and my dream don’t always line up. But it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t think I’m “great” or “really special.”

I don’t know where you are in life or if you are struggling with wanting more for yourself.  If you are anything like me, I’m sure you have many dreams and wishes unfulfilled in your life. I think dreams are great. But for the first time in my life, I think sometimes they can also be harmful if they cause us to feel uncontented with where God currently has us in life. Because what if that is “it?” What if that is THE destination where He wants us? Can you handle that? Can I?

It’s up to each one of us to look within our hearts and search for peace and acceptance. We can be “great” no matter where we are. It’s all a matter of attitude and choice.  It doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams, merely be “content in all things.” That way if the ultimate prize that you have in your head DOES happen…..the blessing will only be felt deeper – for you – and – for me.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Actions Behind Words

“You’re so special to me.”

“I’m so lucky to have you in my life.”

“I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Words. They mean something.  But sometimes, the actions behind those words mean more.

We need to be careful with how we toss around words.
People might think we actually mean something with them. (And of course, we should.) But oftentimes, people say something and their actions totally discount or discredit what they have said.

If you tell someone that they are special to you, that they are important in your life – you should show them by your actions! Take their feelings into account if you know something you might do or say could hurt them; invest into their lives a little bit, and stand behind them, supporting them when they need it. For if you don’t, in due time they will begin to disbelieve you when you say how much they mean to you. And that in turn, will start to damage the relationship.

Actions are so powerful. Intent doesn’t really stand for anything in life if you don’t carry it out. I “meant” to tell you that ….. I was “going” to do that for you, I “wanted” to tell you --- meaningless. You didn’t prioritize that intent by actually carrying it out – so it really doesn’t stand for much or weigh much in another person’s heart.

We live in a culture that can easily discount actions. Rationalizations, casual attitudes, etc wave away the lack of actions in an attempt to make people feel better about themselves and what they did or did not do. But that doesn’t make it okay.  People have feelings and they need to have genuine friends and family in their lives who do more than say pretty words but who really stand for something and are there when it counts.

Don’t minimize your life to mere words. Your word is important but the importance of it is less if you don’t back it up with actions. Show others by how you live and what you do for them or about them that your word means its weight in gold and that you truly value and prioritize their place in your life.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sometimes There Just Aren't Any Words

There are those times in life where my heart is so overwhelmed with feelings that no words will come. I just don’t know what to say. My heart is full of compassion for someone, grief for someone, love for someone.

The words won’t come.

What do you say to someone who just lost everything in a tornado or a fire? What do you say to someone who just lost a child?  What do you say to someone who just found out they are terminally ill?

You can say, “I’m so sorry.” And I have. But those words just don’t seem to be big enough to wrap around a moment as big as these. They don’t seem deep enough. Heartfelt enough.

Yet, they are heard. And they ARE felt. I know. For I have heard them at times when I needed to hear them. When I was going through hard times of my own. And they do matter. They do count.

I also believe that when your heart is so enlarged by emotion that it has a choke-hold on your words – that expressions of those feelings work just as well (if not better) than words.  Make a meal. Give a hug. Write a check. Do something. Even if it seems so small and so little in the big scheme of things.

Sometimes there just aren’t any words that feel right.  When that happens, let your heart do the talking instead.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Being a Christian Takes Heart AND Mind

I have a simple mind. I think in simple terms. Yes, I believe I’m a deep thinker at times. I ponder and reflect on things a lot. But I’m not an “intellectual” thinker. Even in my deepest moments, I think in simple terms. Basic.

I’ve always lived life by my heart. I’ve struggled with that somewhat because when it comes to the heart, that means it comes to feelings. And I’ve learned over time, that I need to pair what I feel so strongly in my heart, with knowledge. You can’t defend your faith merely on passion. On the other hand, I also have witnessed “intellectual” believers and think that they miss out on a tangible part of faith as well…the heart.

To me, believing in God comes greatly from the heart and soul – not the mind. I know a lot of people would disagree with me, but that’s what I think. The mind can rationalize what it takes in and process it – but it’s the heart that chooses. Maybe that’s why we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts and not our minds!

I have seen how the mind is where I wage most of my battles in life. It’s with my mind, that my fears grow too powerful and it’s with my mind that I articulate how and what I want to say or convey to someone.  So the knowledge and power of the mind is very important.

I don’t think you can be a growing Christian with just one of these things. If you live simply by your feelings and heart – you need to know the knowledge of God and the Bible to give you that solid foundation and roots that you need to withstand the temptations, lures, and pulls of life. There are many religions, many beliefs. It’s easy to be swayed, confused, or twisted into thinking something is right when it’s not Biblical. Yet if you live simply by your intellect, you are missing out on one of the core principles of living life as a believer – the heart. Intellect alone won’t allow you to feel compassion, to empathize with another, to love greatly, or to show grace and mercy. Intellect doesn’t help you understand something from someone else’ s point of view. It’s simply knowledge – nothing more. The heart is what allows you to do something with that knowledge. Together, they are unstoppable. Unbeatable. Powerful.

It can be very stretching for a simple minded person (such as myself) to stretch themselves and dig into things that may be hard for their brains to grasp. But it’s good for us. It arms us for spiritual and physical battles that we can’t overcome on our own. 

It can be very stretching for an intellectual speaker and thinker to try and think simply. To use simple words – and basic principles. Yet it’s good for them. It grows their heart and soul, making them more approachable, warm, gentle…. And human. For no one likes someone who speaks above them all of the time.

God’s word is for ALL man. For all brain types. But applying what He asks of us – takes both the mind AND the heart. A slice of just one will never give us the kind of revelations in Him that we seek.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Where Is the Sisterhood?

We’ve all heard the term ‘mean girls.’ And for most of us females, we’ve even experienced it in one form or the other. If not us, then through our daughters. And just because we grow up, doesn’t mean things get better. Adult women can be very catty and cruel if they choose to be.

And the cliques. There is so much that can be said about the cliques! They are around all your life. Elementary school, junior high, high school, and into adulthood. Women ‘buddy’ up and stay in their little social circles. Someone is always included….and someone is always excluded.

I’m just wondering – where is the sisterhood? What happened to comraderie between women? I know in generations past, women would gather together to make quilts, sew, or bake. They would converge on one another in times of distress, or help each other get ready for big events.

There was no competition. Or at least not much.

No belittling one another.

There was sisterhood. Women were a team. Girls were a team.

What happened? Now it seems anything goes as long as it makes one person feel more powerful, beautiful, or successful than another. We do what it takes to rise above each other instead of holding each other’s hands along the way and finding satisfaction in being part of each other’s successes.

We’ve grown selfish. Ambitious. Prideful. Insecure. And whether we intend to or not, we often ruin special moments, looks, and feelings for one another.

I long for sisterhood to rise up and take over again. I see it in spurts. In small clumps here and there. And I see the difference it makes in women’s lives. It encourages, livens, emboldens, and reaffirms who God made us to be as females.

We were never meant to put ourselves a step up or over one another. We were made to step together. And we work best that way, as well.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

You Have to Make the Best Of It

When we are little kids, we are told we can be anything we want to be. When we grow up, we find out that’s not really true. We can’t be ANYTHING. Sometimes finances, health, location or other things get in the way of the dream.

Life is life. I think that’s what we should tell our kids. There are good and bad things about life. Hard and easy. Ups and downs. It’s all going to happen to us. It will all be a part of our story. And every story has curves in it.

I think it’s harder to adjust to changes in life when they are drastically different from our dream. It’s harder to be flexible and positive when life takes a left turn and we wanted it to go right. But it’s easier, if we can look at it all as an adventure. A ride. A part of our story.

We can fight against it every turn it takes, or we can make the best of it.

It’s attitude. It’s outlook. It’s emotions and dreams. All wrapped up together. And we have to decide to make a choice to find joy in our circumstances even if they aren’t what we’d prefer at the moment. There will be gifts to unwrap in those unplanned and undreamed moments….if we look for them.

If we can make the best of our pauses, stopovers, detours, and sidesteps in life – then maybe we somehow still tap into those dreams that we have for ourselves. Maybe we can ride through those “moments” and come out the other side into the wide-open space meant for us – instead of getting stuck in the detours and stopovers forever!

That’s what I’m choosing to believe.

Make the best of your today. For you never know what your tomorrow will bring.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Trap of Comparisons

Comparisons. They kill us. They kill us because they damage our self-worth. One day we might think we are doing pretty well at something but we can always find someone who is doing better and then that wounds our pride and our self esteem.

God tells us to do “everything to the glory of God.” What does that mean? To me, it means that I need to write my articles to the glory of God. I need to write the best I can. The best I can. It would be unfair of me to expect an article to come from me that is the equivalent of an article from someone who has been writing for 35 years and is a best selling author. But I can write an excellent article just the same.  

To do everything to the glory of God means that I need to take care of my home the best that I can and give it to the Lord. It doesn’t mean that my home has to be immaculate with designer cushions and name brand furniture. It doesn’t mean that I have to live in a large house in a fine neighborhood. It simply means that I need to live in my house thankfully and take care of it to the best of my abilities giving all that I have to the glory of the Lord!

You see how we can twist things so easily? Simply by comparing our lives, our looks, our things – with those of others?  It is a great tactic used by Satan to push us backwards, hold us down, and get us to feel sorry for ourselves. And it works.

I think that women naturally are curious. We naturally check each other out. We watch what other women wear, where they go to shop or eat, what they put in their homes, etc. And then if we admire them – we think that in order to be admired, we too, must adopt those standards. But we are not always necessarily correct. We do a huge disservice to ourselves and our families to place our lives on a rotation of comparison. For instead of living our lives out the way that God intended us to, with our own personalities, set of skills, desires, gifts, and direction – we relegate our lives to mere trends.  Someone new will always come in who has something different to bring to the plate. We will always be changing what we think and want when we offer ourselves up to comparisons. Because we will always fall short in our minds. And if we don’t, then we might think greater of ourselves than we ought.

If I can do everything to the glory of God – if I can be all that I can be for the glory of God – it takes me out of the equation. It puts the emphasis on God where it belongs. I can be happier, more satisfied, and more fulfilled allowing Him to work through me instead of me trying to do all of the work myself and expecting myself to live up to standards that He never set for me.

Comparisons are a trap. They simply set us up to fall because we rate who we are as people and compare that with someone else. It will never be fair. Let’s leave the comparisons behind and start embracing who we are and who God has placed around us. Let’s enjoy the gifts that He has given those who inspire us and thank Him for those blessings instead of coveting them.  And let’s allow our own hearts and world to be opened up for Him to bless us in the ways that He chooses – even if it’s not the way in which we would have preferred. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A True Friend

Are you honest with your friends? Or do you merely tell them what you know they want to hear?

It can be so awkward to tell the truth with those we rub shoulders with on a daily basis. It’s hard to say something that you know someone is not going to like hearing.

But if that person is someone we say we love – who deserves our honesty more?

A true friend is someone who says the hard thing – does the hard thing – and loves the hard way in gentleness, respect, and authenticity.