Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A few of my favorite things...

Well in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, the heir of being thankful, and feeling blessed, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite things. A few things that cause me to pause, take a deep breathe, and appreciate the small things.

a 4-year-old that wants to marry the "hot" boy Dominic at school. For real! This makes me both giggle and panic!
the smell of cold, yet not the feel of cold
the smell of skunks and coffee
a perfect mocha for breakfast and after dinner too, why not.
chai tea
looking forward to a full polish meal tomorrow along with some pumpkin pie and probably a glass of Kahlua, so rich and yummy!
fire in the fireplace
an upcoming celebration with friends
single friends that are now married friends
kids who get great grades
twins that adore each other
a clean house
a to do list that has nearly everything crossed off
some holiday shopping with the hubs today
spending a gift card I got for my birthday
getting a good deal
I'm super excited to buy the gifts I know will surprise my kids and make their eyes sparkle too
a secret gift for mom
a much needed break from a busy photographic season
family photos
daily devotions
connecting with bloggy friends
healing from prior hurts
remembering past holidays in the old house and not shedding a single tear
ahhhh! the comfort of healing and peace
knowing the Lord is in control
His presence
laughter, lots of laughter
flowers the hubs brought home from the grocery store, even though, I should have been the one apologizing
it's a feel good day, a feel good season, and Jesus is the reason for the season!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bring the Rain Part IV

The tail end of Hebrews began to cover the idea that we need to combine our faith with action. We need to read God's word and be obedient to it as well. As I continue to read on from Hebrews into James this idea, this lesson, only becomes more clear. I'm not sure how any person can sit and read through the bible and not know there is a God. How can one book that I believe to have been written by Paul so easily lead into the teaching from James? Because, the Lord is the author! I'm in awe of his many facets and talents and how a giant puzzle that makes no sense can be pulled together and all in the perfect timing of when I/we need it. Wow!

As I grapple with the idea of forgiving a friend for a very painful event and trying to forge ahead to somehow save what is left of our friendship at the same time, my direction comes from James.

James 2:12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

First of all, let me point out that it doesn't say if he judges you, it says when. We will all be judged, even believers. I have been accused of being judgemental or "riding a high horse." One thing I want to clarify is that I do not pass judgement on this friend or any person based on their actions or the things they do with their lives. I know all too well that I will be judged as well. I have no place pointing the finger or throwing stones at others when I am fully aware of my own faults and sins. Even more so, the bible promises that those who do judge will be judged greater! I've got enough that I need to answer for, I really don't need to make it worse by adding to it by worrying about someone elses faults, actions, or mistakes. I wish I could say that I'm perfect and I never look at a person and draw my own conclusions. But, I can't, I'm not perfect.

Not only am I not passing judgement on this friend for this situation or any situation, I am offering mercy. I am offering forgiveness. I remember the condition of my heart, mind, and soul before I surrendered to Jesus. I was lonely, suffering, tormented, and angry. I was and still do struggle with anger. Now, I'm not accusing this friend of feeling lonely or tormented or anything of the like. I can only assume because even Christians are lonely. Even Christians get hurt, feel betrayed, get angry, and feel sad. We will never be truly fulfilled on this earth, it isn't our final place. None of us will feel completely fulfilled until we reach eternity in heaven with Him.

James 2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?

James 2:17 So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

James 2:19-22 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can't you see that faith without good deeds is useless? Don't you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.

I provided the previous scriptures as a baseline just to talk about James 2:22 His actions made his faith complete.

Now my friend and a few others can attest to this. In previous times of misunderstanding I would fly off the handle in anger, pointing fingers, accusing, and making excuses for my own actions. My faith is very important to me. Doing the right thing, being obedient to God, and doing what he would do is very important to me. This current situation has been building for some time. I have forgiven each time I was hurt, each time I felt betrayed as others would relay to me things that she had said and/or done. I didn't go running back and demand an explanation or an apology. I just forgot it and went on loving. I was only trying to put my faith into action. Though there were others that told me I was merely behaving like a doormat. So I tried to behave like a servant but didn't fully understand all that meant. I was still asking myself "what about me, what about my needs, why aren't you there for me, and how can you say or think that about me, do I mean anything to you at all?" But, being a servant is one-sided. My purpose here is not to collect people to serve my needs. My purpose here is to be a servant to those people.

I a reminded of scriptures that speak of Jesus being a servant. Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

(The next few words are a synopsis from a teaching from

Love of a humble servant: John 13:1 This verse talks about Jesus knowing his ministry on earth was coming to an end. That he loved his disciples during his ministry on earth and now he loved them to the very end. Jesus knows he was about to be put through a torturous death and yet he was overcome with love for them, unconditional, eternal love. He knew before the betrayal that he would be betrayed, yet, he still loved unconditionally! Forgave even before he was betrayed.

You can read the rest of the sermon here:

My point is, I'm at a place in my life now where regardless as to what I have to gain or lose by sharing my life with those I love, I will love them and be there for them regardless. I am not going to try and settle every score or even discuss with the people why they do certain things. Sure, I have questions. I'd love to know why so-and-so said this and why so-and-so did that but that is my purpose here. The bible talks about in John:13 during the Passover meal how Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. He put himself in the most humble of positions to demonstrate his unconditional love for these people. Jesus calls us to do the same. To serve others. To share his love with those around us at all costs so that they might one day find the truth and surrender to Jesus. Our whole existence is for the sake of the gospel. Getting as many souls as possible into the realm of heaven where we were created to be, with Him for eternity in his presence.

I may be the only source of God's love that may friend will ever see. I lay down my feelings and my hurts and forgive. It is what Jesus would do to share his love. It is what he does for me daily to share his love with me. I truly want the very best for my friend. I have in recent weeks spoken many loving words over her and I meant every single word of it. She will always hold a special place in my heart. I will always think of her and pray for her. If and when a time should come that she has need of me for anything, I will be there. It is my purpose in this life to worship my Lord. It is my purpose to allow him and his word to renew my mind. To be made more in his image every day. To allow his love that resides within me to overflow onto those around me. If I weren't full of him, full of his word, full of his love, I wouldn't be able to proceed this way. I wouldn't be able to hold my tongue and resist trying to defend myself, my reputation. I wouldn't be able to resist the temptation to demand and explanation. This is the time in my life where I finally can say I have faith. I truly do believe in what I say I believe in. So much so that I will lay down my flesh and do the right thing. Do good deeds. Show mercy, love, and forgiveness. I can honestly say at this moment I have no hard feelings, only peace, love, and hope for a future that is bright for her. I have tried to my core to be the best, honest, loyal, giving, and supportive person I can possibly be. I can't even begin to fathom how that got twisted but it must have. I just pray that blinders be removed and the truth be revealed. That my intentions, my pure motivations, my heart, and my love for her be shown in truth.

I would love to call and talk it out but I'm certain it will only mean excuses and say to each other only what we think the other wants to hear. So, I am in the process of prayerfully writing a letter. Not one where I will attempt to defend my name. There is nothing to defend. Not one where I make excuses. There is nothing to make excuses for. But, one where I try to explain that it is as if none of it ever happened. I don't care how or why. I'm drawing a line in the sand. Hopefully not one that separates us but one that separates the bad from the good, with both of us standing on the side of the good, together. In a way, some things will never be the same. But my love and loyalty to her will never change.

In closing, what was really a super long post divided into sections, two songs come to mind. The first is Love Is Not a Fight. Love is not a fight but worth fighting for. May the angels always keep the doors barred when either of us tries or wants to quit. Todd, you're stuck with me for eternity! You were created just for me! The second song is Call My Name by Third Day who has to be one of my favorite bands. This is a song I can certainly still relate to from time to time. It's purpose today is for those who haven't yet surrendered. You wander in sadness, loneliness, and pain. There is a savior for you. There is relief. You have a place in his arms and he longs for you to be with him. He loves you! Just call his name. The sweet name of Jesus. Maybe you aren't without love but still something is missing. Peace still evades you. Jesus is the cure. I know it once sounded ridiculous to me. We often say and hear "Jesus saves." You won't understand all those two words truly mean until you have a revelation of his love for you in your life. "Saves" doesn't even begin to articulate what he does for us. But, it is what he does in every capacity, in every area, in every facet possible he saves us. Call his name. Whisper it even, Jesus. Every hair on your head is counted and every tear caught by his loving hand. Jesus.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bring the Rain Part III

I left off yesterday in an spot where I feel like, according my flesh anyway, I have a right to my feelings and a right to decide to no longer subject myself to continual hurt. But, there is always this part of me that asks what Jesus would do. I know certainly he wouldn't fold his arms and go stomping off like a two-year old. I know for certain he wouldn't retaliate, seek revenge, or point blame. But, what would he do? I know for certain he would forgive. But after forgiveness, does he continue to befriend one that he knows will betray him again in the end? In at least one instance, the answer is yes. So is that what what I do? I'm certain I dropped subtle hints regarding my lack of happiness over the situation which means a conversation will have to be had. How do I communicate my feelings without causing offense? Should I have to? The first part is easy, forgive. Okay done, check that one off the list. But, how to proceed then. Is there a way to combine all of God's truths and sort things in a loving way without offending? I would like to have one of those to go then please. Anyway, moving on...

Okay, now I'm just going to list a few things that give me hope and make me feel better.

James 1:12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

And imagine my astonishment when I read Hebrews 1: 13 after learning last week that the very thing that Satan tries to do in our lives is bring about crap in our lives that will make us blame and accuse God. It says And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, "God is tempting me." God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.

I am being tempted in several areas at this time. I'm not being tempted by God but God is allowing me, like Job, to be tested. For so many reasons. To reveal my weaknesses, where I need this presence and divine intervention and so much more.

The rest of my reading in Hebrews is rounded out with a command to be a quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. It continues by advising that we not only read the word and listen to God but that we do it. It isn't enough to read the command "slow to anger." I must read it, get it, understand it, and do it. So here is where the message on Sunday comes in. I love how the Lord just weaves it all together for me. I'm confronted with temptation, how do I overcome it? Like David who took out Goliath by compiling smooth stones and smacking him dead in the forehead with it, I need to create my own pile of stones. Scripture. The scripture I need depends on the temptation. The biggest thing I think God is trying to do in me recently is enhance my patience, learn to control my moods, learn to patiently think things through, pray, process them, and not just jump quickly to anger and react. I need to grab one or two scriptures that will help me overcome this particular temptation of mine and start speaking them aloud, testing the word. I will have to do this with many kinds of temptation while gathering many different kinds of stone and having to test each stone. So when a major battle comes up again, I will have a full satchel of good proven stones in my artillery to combat any situation. Only God can take three completely disjointed circumstances, messages, and lessons and combine them together with one simple direction to answer all three. Find the scripture you need, meditate on it, and start to speak it aloud. That one little direction will give me all I need, if I do it, to keep my anger in check, grow more patient, forgive others, and prepare me for future temptation and trials.

Back to the situation with Todd for a second. We've come to realize that something regarding our future is brewing. Doors are about to open. Opportunities are waiting. More importantly, what ever it is, God is at work. His hand is over us, over our future, and there is a path ahead that the Lord would like us to pursue. I thought it was one thing but I'm truly getting a sensing that I was totally wrong and it is something all together completely different and I'm completely clueless. But, I do know that when strife starts to stir in my marriage it is Satan's first line of defense. It's his game plan to get our eyes and ears off of what God has coming for us and distract us into something different. In circumstances passed, we'd fall for it, make a wrong move, and figure it out later, after it was too late. This time, we're on to you buster! This foundation isn't shaking and there isn't a move we're making until we are sure it is exactly what God has in mind. So bring on the strife, the rain, and the calamity because what I know is my character and my endurance will be strengthened. My faith will grow. I will obey anyway and in return my family will be blessed. It takes rain to make the grass green, so bring on the rain!

I have some final words on the situation with my friend and how I feel led to proceed. I'll share my direction from the Lord tomorrow and how I plan to try and resolve things with this person as well.

Bring the Rain Part II

I left off yesterday with the notion of forgiveness, so let's continue...

So this is the part where I smile, clenching my teeth and speak like a ventriloquist through my clenched teeth and say, "I forgive you" knowing my ability to endure has grown a touch. Okay, really in the grand scheme of things I do really understand exactly where He is going with this. I understand. I know exactly what I'm supposed to do. Yet, it can be so hard to just let things go. To forgive. So today I will stretch my faith a bit further and proclaim my forgiveness toward this person. I may not feel it now, but in faith I forgive and the feelings will follow.

There are a couple of things I'm taking from this though, one is I'm sure there are things that I unknowingly and/or unintentionally did to hurt this person also. I also understand that the people of this earth are all human. None of us is capable of being all that we need each other to be. People will hurt us. We will have our feelings hurt and we will disappoint others as well. So are we really supposed to just continue to subject ourselves to the hurt that we've come to expect if the source is constant? Is there ever a time when we are allowed to draw a line in the sand? There are times when I often ask a question and follow it with scripture or my opinion but not this time. This time I'm really looking for some advice, preferably biblical. When is enough, enough?

Here is where I'm going with this, 1 Corinthians 12:4-8, these verses are not just for marriage but for every person who loves another. Love is patient, kind, not jealous boastful or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Okay, I think I got my answer actually but I was really hoping for a loop hole here. I have done the whole be patient, kind, not jealous, boastful or rude thing. This person says things to other people and I've had so many of them repeated back to me. I have washed it away, forgotten. I am aware of the scriptures that tell us to forgive, not seek revenge, and not to waive my finger at another and say "but you did this, this, and this." I have heard the words but taken the high road, ignored them, and opted to not get others involved as well. I am aware of so many things that this person has done to betray my trust. This is not about jealousy. It is about lack of trust and lack of loyalty. So if this person has so clearly demonstrated their lack of value for my friendship, then is it okay to fold in the towel? When it comes to my marriage I will hold fast to never giving up, never losing faith, staying hopeful, and enduring all circumstances. But, what about friendships? There is much that has never been discussed because I have tried to uphold my values and forgive and not confront. At this point, I'd like to continue to forgive but no longer put myself out there to have to endure more that I will have to forgive again. I think I'm just going to have to keep praying until I have peace with exactly how to proceed.

The conclusion tomorrow...

Bring The Rain Part I

Today, what I really wanted to do is blast those who have offended me. But, then I open my bible, flip back to Hebrews and find Hebrews 12:14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. And, Hebrews 12:1 which says Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. And slowly, while my mind is still screaming and gripping to anger, the notion of forgiveness starts to seep in. How can I not forgive when I have so freely been forgiven?

And in a way that is now true to God's form with me, he uses circumstances from my own life to demonstrate. So this time, he has recalled to mind a time, well it was Sunday actually, when I behaved like a belligerent idiot (toward my husband). Then he reminds me how the person (Todd) I offended handled it. Then, I repent for both the time I acted like the belligerent idiot (which is the situation where I was needing forgiveness) and for the unforgivenness I've now been harboring for days (which is the situation where I'm supposed to be the forgiver, but not toward Todd, he's great). Following me? In one case, I'm really upset with someone for something they did. In another case, Todd should have been really upset with me for how I treated him. I'm the one needing the forgiveness that I do ultimately receive. This is the part where my husband would typically request I say the following, "My husband is so smart and I should just listen to him." I'm still rolling my eyes though, just like I would if he were here.

Hubby and I had an argument, I lost control, completely. Ridiculously. He gave me space, let me cool off, which is Todd's code for praying that I get a revelation of how wrong I am. Well, the revelation never came so we tried talking it out instead. This went okay, some minor areas of frustration came up and things were almost resolved until, I refused to cave. So we're both back to angry again which is only my attempt to keep him at bay because really, how long can the guy really tolerate me for before he quits on me? Not logical, but it's where my mind goes when things start to get a bit shaky. But, instead of staying angry and providing the hoped for silent treatment, he climbs into bed with me and wraps me in his arms. He tells me "I don't know what else to do but love you." Yes, your hearts can all melt now. I know mine did! Do you know the kind of selflessness and self sacrifice and level of forgiveness that requires? I do, only I've proven to be too stubborn to go there. He loved me, he forgave me, all things are good. Except, that when he gets home tonight, I need to apologize because I never did. Gee, I must sound real appealing by now. You do really get the good, the bad, and the ugly when you visit me here.

So anyway, as the two separate instances begin to play back in my mind, I come upon James. James 1:2-4 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


As part of my journey through The Mystery of God's Will by Charles Swindoll, I was struck by two questions: What makes risk so difficult for you? Are you willing to make a major change in your life--assuming that it's the Lord's will? And, here are my responses.

Risk for me is difficult for fear of failure. I'm the oldest child, the only daughter, classic type 'A' personality. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of doing what I think is Christ's prompting and being wrong. And, unfortunately, I have to admit that taking a risk may mean doing something that others in my life won't agree with. So, fear of disappointing others.

Starting a business in photography or pursuing my hobby was a risk. Without the nudging and encouragement from my husband it was a move I never would have made. This often comes as a surprise to people for some reason, but I am the shyest person on the planet. What on earth would a person like me be doing in a business where I have to meet new people all the time, get to know them in a few short sentences, feel easy with them, and make them feel easy with me so I can capture intimate moments, family memories, etc.? My first few sessions, prayer was all that got me through. It was either test God to carry me, make my mouth move, and stop shaking or throw up on my clients. As much as I truly love what I do. I love the artistic and creative aspect of it and although I do even like meeting new people, it's tough for me. My personality has been stretched and super-sized in a few short months. Putting it in the hands of God was my only option.

Then there were always the questions I'd torture myself with: what if they don't like me, what if I take all bad shots, what if they hate them anyway, what if I forget what I'm doing. But, somehow God always saw me through. From hello, it's showtime and I'm fine.

It's been a crazy ride too. I didn't know how long it would take for me to begin to build a portfolio and then to receive phone calls from strangers who actually wanted to book me because they love my work. In truth, I'm not even through my first year yet. God has truly shown up, proven he is who he says he is and he does what he says he will do. I am blessed.

As a general rule, the difficulty with risk is failure. Making the wrong choice, doing the wrong thing, messing up, or disappointing others.

I am absolutely 100% committed to making a major change in my life if I know it's the Lord's will. I think I have already done so. I was my own biggest barrier and God managed to get me, out of my own way. If he can my mountain of a self, he can move any mountain. Todd and I have been seeking a major change, waiting for a door to open. We both believe that door will open then we just have to confirm that it's the right door, the one we are supposed to walk through. This new door, even though it is one we are hoping for will come with many blessings but it also will come with more pain and more tough stuff as well. Nothing God ever asks us to do is easy is it? He always manages to stretch us in some capacity. To continue to build our character.

I have owned this book I'm reading for years and I don't find it a coincidence that I've chosen now to read it. Each day of reading is a segway into the next day and it all flows like a big story and the story is weaved between my life, this Charles Swindoll book, the bible, and the decisions that lay ahead.

Yesterday, in my yearly bible I read Hebrews chapter 11. Later while reading my book I underlined this verse, Hebrews 11:6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Yesterdays reading began giving instances of faithful men and woman in the bible who did what they did for God by faith and how he rewarded them. Noah, Abraham, and Sara. And this morning as my reading in Hebrews continued I read about the faithfulness again of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses' parents, Moses himself, the people of Israel who went through the Red Sea and did not drown, Rahab, and the people of Israel who marched around Jericho and made the walls crash down.

God calls his people to a place or a task, he asks something of us. Accomplishing what he has asked of us requires faith. He will often ask us to pull off things that are impossible without him. Our faith is honored by the fulfilling of his promises.

I know that around the corner, I will be called upon to do something. I will have a decision to make and I will have to call upon God to accomplish it. I love it when a good story comes together! Of course, all of this is immediately following a series at church on faith, different kinds of faith, with a full demonstration through the bible of the men and woman who were full of faith, and the different ways their faith was used at different times. God is awesome and crafty!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Changes ahead...

This song was playing in my mind when I woke up this morning. If you don't know Christ, or even if you do, if you aren't consistently seeking his presence then you will never truly know the purpose of this life. The peace. The joy. "My soul must sing." When you know Jesus intimately, your soul must sing. His joy covers your every pour, every cell, and exudes out from within. Even in the midst of a journey that isn't going so well, you find peace and joy. Lots of joy.

My background is different again. I love having options and changing things up, but I wanted to find something that really represented me. I recently gave my friend Christy a gift at her bachelorette party, she is getting married Friday. The card I gave her had this black and white damask print on the front. As soon as she opened the card she knew it was from me. (I'm adjusting to the revelation of my transparency as well). So I thought this background would be fitting.

I'm in the process of creating a new blog for my photoblog on my own domain which will have a custom background and I'm really struggling with which direction I should go in. My new blog has to tie in with the rest of the vision I have for my marketing plan, it all needs to tie together and I'm just having a tough time committing. I know how I will use my marketing plan, but I don't know yet what I want it to look like. I started with chocolate brown and baby blue and really love all things filigree, baroque, and damask as do many of my clients. This style is classic and timeless and can easily be mixed with the modern and contemporary. I began to toil with the idea of black and white and perhaps a touch of a vibrant yellow like my favorite flower, the sunflower, or even a teal type color. But, black and white is just to harsh for me. At the same time, the center of my blog really needs to be black so my images stand out. So whatever I go with, should also coordinate well with black.

I want something that "says" style, class, high fashion, sophistication, glamour, and drama. Something that is vibrant, yet down-to-earth, approachable, fun, and casual. Something that represents who I am, my personal style, and my style as a photographer. I'm looking for colors and patterns that personify who I am but also appeal to my current and future clients as well. So if anyone has any suggestions, please send em' my way!

Moving on. Mallory woke up this morning and told me about a dream she had about our "old house." She wanted to go swimming but she couldn't because "no one was outside to watch her." I guess I must have said that to the kids a lot. This was the first time any of the kids have mentioned the house and it didn't sting and bring tears to my eyes. I told her it was okay to remember the house, we had a lot of fun there and made a lot of memories. We will always remember the house. She then asked "can we get a new house?" I just laughed and said "of course, but it isn't time yet. God is still working on things for us." My answer seemed to please her and it pleased me to know that it no longer hurts. Still ringing in my ears though, "it isn't time yet."

So I'm reading this book by Charles Swindoll about finding the will of God for our lives. My husband and I are praying about making a change in our lives. I won't yet go into the details because the door hasn't yet been opened. But, should it open, we will be considering this change quite seriously.

The trouble is, there are certain things that are outside the will of God for our lives and these are obvious like murder, sexual immorality, judging others, etc. and the list is long. Then, there are things that are clearly defined as being within his will for us such as tithing, giving to others, trusting God, seeking his Kingdom, etc. and that list too is long. On both sides of the coin we will find things that we know we should do and we shouldn't do without having to ask or pray about it. We know because it is written in his word. However, the scripture will not tell us, don't marry Susan, you should buy that house, or this is the college you should attend. So how do we know if these decisions are within the will of God?

We have to be willing to pray and wait. Pray about our options and consider them with common sense, combined with his guidance, then follow the peace. When we are within the perfect will of God in our lives we will find deep peace. Even if the decision defies what our family wants, even if the decision doesn't look like it's going to be easy to pull off, there will be unshakable peace if God is behind the plan. Often times, the very thing that God wants us to do looks bleak to us because God is looking for people to do things that glorify him. God gets the glory when his people pull of something that could have only been done with God's divine intervention. The outside world has to recognize that God was involved. That has risk and uncertainly written all over it. I'm a planner. I like to know exactly where I'm going, what time I'm going to get there, what I'll do and say when I arrive, how long I'll be, etc. So this seeking God thing and agreeing to go before I even know where I'm going is um, challenging. Still, I'm committed and I'll go. I must believe that God is who he says he is and he will do what he says he will do. Plus, if I'm within his will then there is no better place to be. Regardless as to what life has ahead good, bad, painful, easy, no matter what it is, if I accept that it is all part of Gods plan and trust him then it will all be okay.

I was also then reminded of a couple of scriptures. One I gave yesterday.

Mark 4:24 Then he added, "pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given-and you will receive even more.

And the second is one that has been my favorite scripture since January when I came upon it during my process through The Purpose Driven Life.

Romans 12:2 And do not be confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

I like The New Living Translation even better. Romans 12:2 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.

The closer my walk becomes with Christ, the more secrets he will reveal to me, his will. The decisions he wants me to make will become clearer. The same is true for you too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to...

Much revelation has occurred in my life in the last several days. My understanding of the many things my family has endured in recent months has come full circle. I can so clearly see exactly what happened, when, and even why. I'm not certain as to how God will use it in the future but I'm certain it all will be used for good to glorify his name. I can see every decision that was made and the effect each of those decisions would bring. I can see the full story and all that I was meant to gain from it.

Last week the Lord started to speak loud and clear to me about where I have been. All the perspective I gained last week came full circle at church on Sunday. I'll explain in a second. First, I want to mention, now that I know exactly where I have been and how it all came to be, I'm so excited to see where he plans to take us. Giddy!

Anyway, last week I started to see all the puzzle pieces come together and my role in the process. Then, things went a bit further at church. We studied out of Mark 4 and Job. In Mark 4, after teaching, Jesus begins to explain the parable to his disciples. This particular parable is an explanation of what happens to the word of God (seed) after his has been preached (planted) depending on the condition of our hearts and our level of maturity in our spirit life.

The parable is this (Mark 4:3-9), a farmer plants seed. As he spreads it across the field, some seed falls onto the footpath, and birds come to eat it. Some seed falls on the shallow soil with underlying rock, it sprouts but quickly but dies in the hot sun because it doesn't have deep roots. Other seed fell among thorns, grew up, and choked out tender plants so they couldn't produce. The seed that falls upon the footpath (Mark 4:15) represents those who hear a message or teaching only to have Satan come at once and steal it. For me, this used to be when Todd and I would start to discuss the message and get caught up in the parts we disagreed with and forget all about the message and just argue. Seriously!

We eventually progressed past that part of life and began to actually receive God's word, it became planted. But, we were not "deeply rooted" (Mark 4:16-17) so we were easily distracted in and out of church and in a bind the word was not deep enough to be brought from our spirits to be used in life to combat trials and temptation.

Still, we managed to eventually overcome. To be consistent. To commit to church and other ministries at church. I volunteered in the nursery and Todd taught children's church. Which brings us to the seed that fell among thorns (Mark 4:18-19). The message is crowded out by worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. The part that got us, the lure of wealth.

In 2004, we owned this tiny house, less than 900 square feet and had just given birth to children numbers four and five. We lived pay check to pay check. Not because God didn't provide but because we were irresponsible. We started to discipline ourselves with our finances and as we grew stronger as Christians and became more involved at church we started to tithe and the blessings followed.

The lure of wealth mentioned above is false prosperity. There is true prosperity where God blesses you and fills your store house overflowing because we have proven ourselves faithful. Because we live righteous lives within his will. Because he trusts that what he blesses us with is just that a blessing, that we are not tied to it and we'd give it up in a heart beat if he asked us to. As in Job, if you read Job 1:3, he owned a lot! A day comes when Job's sons are before the Lord and Satan comes along as well. Read how God refers to Job in Job 1:8 that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil. God speaks highly of Job and even Satan admits that Job is untouchable in verse 10 saying God has set up a hedge (protection) around Job, his house, and everything he owns on every side. Satan continues by saying God has blessed Job's hand and increased Job's substance in the land. All that Job has came from God because he is perfect and upright and fears God and shuns evil. True prosperity does exist.

False prosperity is a trick from Satan and one that I fell hard for. We had become more involved at church. We were tithers now too. But, we did not have prayer lives separate from church. We did not have our own consistent study time. We did not put much effort into praising him, thanking him, and praying between Monday and Saturday. Still, the blessings flowed. We thought they were blessings from God.

Later in 2004, we bought this great house, had new cars, our kids had everything they needed. Each step of the way brought us farther away from God. What we did do with our prayer lives slowly began to slack even more. God didn't seem to get mad or take any of our "stuff" away so he must still love us. Slacked even more, and even more, until we weren't even bothering to attend church anymore either. Still, we had our stuff, God has tremendous provision for us, and he loves us. No?

This is the part where Satan rubs his hands together and says "muaahhhh." My daughter Faith personifies this evil laugh really well when she's up to something. Satan is thinking Ha! I have them right where I want them! He is about to pull the rug out from underneath us and guess what he is counting on. He is counting on us waving our finger at God, blaming him, and asking "how could you do this, how could you let this happen to us?" Much like what Satan tried to do with Job. (Job1:11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.) Satan promised God that if he removed his hedge of protection and allowed Satan to bring great calamity against Job he would curse God. So between verses 12 and 21 God grants Satan permission to bring about calamity and calamity he brings but, Job didn't curse God. He never wavered. Job 1:22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

I don't think God granted Satan permission to bring about calamity in my own life. I think I did a fine job of cracking that door open all on my own. When you step out of the will of God, you step out from under his umbrella. Satan no longer has to go through Jesus to get to you, you just let him in. So Satan did indeed pull the rug out, if your a follower you know we lost our house this year, and I've had a long pity party but thank you Jesus I knew all along where the blame should lie. I'm grateful that I knew enough about the character of Jesus and the character of myself to not angrily point my finger at God. Instead, I did an awesome job of feeling sorry for myself.

So there was a big scheme at work in my life. I still made the decisions to follow that path every step of the way but still, in the grand scheme of things, it was a trick carefully played out by Satan. The best news of all. I've passed the first three stages. I've been in a place where the seed fell on the footpath and it was eaten by birds. I've been in a place where it was sweltered in the sun because it wasn't deeply rooted. And, I've been in a place for far too long where it was choked out by the cares of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things. So now I'm onto the place in Mark 4:8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!" Translated by Jesus in Mark 4:20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God's word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!"

He continues in Mark 4:22 For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. FYI, this is a one-sided conversation between me and Jesus right now and each scripture is a new "ah-ha" moment! So, if you're not following, I'm sorry but I know I'm getting it!

Mark 4:24 Then he added, "pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given-and you will receive even more.

Mark 4: 26-29 Jesus also said, "the Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he's asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.

For those of you out there that are not part of my immediate family and might not benefit from all I learned this morning there is still something to gain here. Satan is still after you. If you have been born-again for thirty days or thirty years, he is still coming for you. If your heart is tied to "things" he will steal those things from you to get you to blame God. Whatever door can be opened, whatever he can steal or destroy in your life that is precious to you, he will attempt. His very purpose is to get you to permanently turn your back on God. I am only thankful that his attempts on my life, my fate, only brought me close to my Lord and solidified my family and made us even more united.

Credit for much of the above goes to my Pastor Ron Raciti because although some of it was revelation this morning, much of it was Sunday's message. Credit for my relationship with Christ and the condition of my life and family today goes to Jesus himself and to every person who has ever uttered a prayer for me and my family.

I swear I'll try to make them shorter!

This is not the direction I intended to pursue today but I'm so glad I did. And, the pity-party is over!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Letting Go and Coming Home

As I type this post I am reminded of a sweet, anointed song we sing at church. I can't find the artist to add it to my player below though. Here are a few lines of the lyrics

I'm coming up
I'm coming in
Coming Close
Home Again

I can hear the echo of Rachel's voice as it is sweetly sung in church.

I had planned to have any easy day and enjoy the company of my twins for a full day. My Friday started as it typically does with laundry and cleaning house. I started in on Mallory and Hailey's dresser drawers though and once I get started, look out! It occurred to me that they have many sets of cute matching pajamas. The problem, they are more like halter tops and capri pants. They don't fit. I had been holding onto them because they don't have enough pajamas that do fit. It suddenly occurred to me that each room that my family occupies holds a few items like this. Things I'm holding onto "just in case." I can't do it anymore. I can't grip onto everything for fear of losing more.

So I'm letting go.

I refuse to live any longer in this poverty mentality. My God is Jehovah Jirah, my provider, he meets all my needs! I'm throwing out the old pajamas that no longer fit and it's up to God to figure out how to replace them. That's on his to do list. Now don't get me wrong. I'm knowing throwing my wisdom and wits out the window. Todd and are learning to respect our money, use money for it's proper purpose, and make wise decisions. If our children have need of something we need to accept that it is okay to spend a bit of that money to meet their needs and not continue to just make do with what we have. So today, I'm testing God. Testing his limits. The bible says that his dreams for us are far greater than what we are capable of imagining. It is my suspicion that if we limit him here, we limit him in other places as well. So I'm ripping off the roof, getting rid of the ceiling, and allowing God to have his will.

There are pieces within my bedroom that I was holding onto as well that represent certain people in my life, certain relationships. I've had to let go of a few relationships this past year but never let go of the objects that represent them. The proof that they existed with such fondness in my life to begin with. I am finally okay with these partings so I'm finally okay with letting go of these objects as well.

So today, I am satisfied with the appearance of full garbage bags because they represent just that, baggage. But, I feel like a weight has been lifted. I've shuffled through the things that kept me tied to a previous time and let them go.

I knew exactly how I was feeling and what I wanted to portray as these words began to rise up within me. I was looking for a bit of inspiration though, a confirmation that this is the direction I should go with my blog today and found this.

From a Max Lucado book that I once bought for my husband called Grace For the Moment. It's an inspiration book (duh, right?), one for each day of the year. November 7th reads like this:

God Loves You Dearly
We love because God first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Untethered by time, he sees us all. From the backwoods of Virginia to the business district of London; from the Vikings to the astronauts, from the cave-dwellers to the kings. From the hut-builders to the finger-pointers to the rock-stackers, he see us. Vagabonds and ragamuffins all, he saw us before we were born.
And he loves what he sees. Flooded by emotion. Overcome by pride, the Starmaker turns to us, one by one, and says, "you are my child. I love you dearly. I'm aware that someday you'll turn from me and walk away. But I want you to know, I've already provided a way back."

Wow! There are times when I have been overcome with emotion for my children or my husband and the sense of pride moves me to tears. To realize that even that is nothing compared to what Jesus feels when he looks upon me, when he looks upon you.

I began reading a book by Charles Swindoll this week about hearing the will of God. What I've gained so far is that it is less about that one thing we are supposed to do with our lives and more about the journey. What we do that pleases God. What we gain from each thing we do right and each thing we do wrong. God already knows each decision we'll make. May it be within his will or outside of it, he knows what we'll choose. Then he makes provisions to help us out of it. He prepares for us a way back to him.

The financial situation my husband and I found ourselves in was a series of mistakes, surely. It was also at which point we turned and walked away. When you begin to live outside of the will of God you have no choice. If you continue to submit to what you want instead of what he wants you can't have both. You can't live with yourself and continue to disobey. For me, it was an unconscious decision and one that I didn't fully understand until now. Yes, I made mistakes but more importantly, I realize now I pursued what I wanted and walked away from him. Until now.

I turned back toward Jesus months ago and each step of the way I have grown and there have been new revelations, but none like today. I know exactly what I did and when I did it. I know exactly how it felt. And, I know exactly what it will feel like again if I chose that path again. Will I chose it again? Will I submit to the yearnings of my soul that caution my disobedience and follow him or will I ignore them and submit to my flesh?

I will choose to follow him, to obey. I know all to well what it feels like to fall outside of his will. I know how slow and painful the road back is. I know that I am standing at the last turn of the bend in the road that leads to restoration and I'm not treading this road again!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Uh Oh! Followed by the sound of a loud swallow.

Sorry people, I try to write short posts. I swear I do. I promise it's worth while. While I did find peace and reassurance in God's word this morning, I also found something else.

I use the New Testament One Year Bible in the New Living Translation as my study guide. A way to break it up into daily edible peaces. I love it. I highly recommend it. I didn't study so much Sunday morning before church, I only read the short section. November 2nd is dedicated to Hebrews 4. (It is my personal opinion that Paul is writing not to the people of his time and to the church of his time but to the modern church; today's church).

In verses 1 & 2 Paul explains that through Christ we have a promise of rest but warns that we should have a fear of the Lord about us because there is a loop hole. Though God's love is unconditional, his promises are not, as pointed out in the old testament in Psalm 95 where God calls his creation to submit. He has called us to obedience and worship. He continues in Psalm 95:8-11 by promising that those who go astray in their hearts, those who do not know his ways...they shall not enter his rest. Obedience is always the loop hole. Disobedience is always the thing that knocks out from under his promises. That's where the "uh oh" comes in. Rest evades me at this time in my life. Something is out of whack. God has asked me to do something that I'm not doing or has asked me to stop doing something and I've continued. Trouble is, I may even know what it is. Which is way worse than ignorance, it's flat out defiance.

Oh when the pieces come together. I had planned to continue verse by verse with Hebrews but suddenly there is revelation. Literally, this is all coming to me as I type. I love that! Learn with me. I do want to add a little caveat here. I am not a scholar. I'm learning the bible. I don't know all these stories, what they say before I read them, and finish the scripture in my mind before I've finished reading it. I do have a relationship with Jesus though and I just follow the book and the little footnotes at the bottom. God fills in the blanks. Make sense? Just so you all know. I'm just like you. Unless of course, you do know the bible way better than I do which is also very possible and more likely.

I've been having a very difficult time with my children lately. A severe lack of obedience, from all of them really. Nothing is more frustrating then when they can't even manage to do even the small things I ask of them. I'm imagining a smug smile must be gripping at the corners of God's lips now. I can see his wavering finger, tsk, tsk, tsk. A taste of my own medicine.

For instance, I asked Tyler to be home for dinner from his friends house at 5:30 p.m. So obviously I had hoped he would show up at 5:30 p.m. However, he is thirteen, I can't honestly expect him to be early or anything. (I hope you all can sense my sarcastic tone here). Instead, he decides to call at 5:29 just to "make sure" I still want him home in less than one minute for dinner. The boy really dances on my nerves sometimes.

This is especially frustrating because he recently wanted a MySpace page. In the sweetest voice I could muster, I gently said "uh, noooo!" Fair enough right? I'm the mom, I don't trust his judgement or his ability to make good decisions so for now, it's a no. He begged and prodded and begged and begged and begged. Obviously hoping I'd give in. Well people, I created stubborn okay. I was not wavering. So he did what any normal thirteen-year-old would do right? He went behind my back and created one anyway! Urgh! Obviously, he got caught. I swear, I do reassure him all the time that I was once thirteen and I've already been there, done that, I'm writing the book (literally) for pete sake! You can't outwit me dude!

This led to a long conversation about obedience and trust. Much like the same conversation the Lord continues to have with me. Let's start with the small stuff first. When I ask you home for dinner at 5:30 p.m. Come home at 5:30 p.m. Don't call a few minutes early and check to ensure I want you home because I do. Home at 5:30, no exceptions. Just do it. If you can handle that for a while then we'll move onto something else. Maybe a sleep-over. Maybe. If his mother is home and I know her better than I do now. But, I do already think I'll like her. She can't be older than me for one which is fantastic if your thirty with a thirteen-year-old.

Tyler would love to go to the movies with his friends, unsupervised, or attend a high school dance in his future. I simply tried to explain the process of things. When I can trust you with the small stuff then gradually I will grant you greater freedom and responsibility and see how you do. But, if we can't ever move past the small stuff, we'll never get to the part where you get more freedom and more responsibility. "So if you want to ever see the inside of a high school dance, you better start coming home at 5:30 p.m. for dinner!" Ouch! Not so pleasant when you realize that you aren't the one speaking, but the one being spoken to. That at the time was for Tyler. Today, it was me getting the scolding.

But, there is hope. I just have to tweak a couple of things. Get into God's will, and this could be one thing or many things, and I will find the rest he promises.

Hebrews 4:6 So God's rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God.
Yeah, we already covered that part, no?
Here is the but...

Hebrews 4:7 So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: "Today when you hear his voice don't harden your hearts." (as covered in Psalm 95)

The story continues in Hebrews 4:8 and goes on to explain that Joshua was obviously unsuccessful in leading the people to God's rest because of their disobedience. If Joshua had been successful, God would not have spoken about another day, still to come.

It gets better. Hebrews 4:15-16 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Today I enter his presence and enter boldly before his throne. I humble myself. I repent. I am forgiven. I receive rest. I receive peace. I receive mercy. I receive grace. It's that easy. I'm sorry. I'll obey. I change my mind about that thing and I'll obey you and in exchange he lifts the load, the shame, the sin. It's gone. As far as the east is from the west, from one scarred hand to the other. It's gone.

I love it when a song rises from your spirit to confirm his word. His word that is alive and powerful. It continues to revolutionize my life and change me from the inside out. Into the beautiful woman he sees as he looks upon me. A woman I can barely stand to look at in the mirror sometimes. Actually, I even shudder at the thought of me even being a "woman." That doesn't yet seem possible. But, in there somewhere is the lovely person (person I can handle) he has called me to be. His revelation is sweet and his peace I am unable to articulate.

If you don't know him today. He knows you. He loves you. He is knocking on your heart. Open the door.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Find Me

Where are you?
I no longer feel you near.
No longer sense your presence.
Your peace.
Find me.

My eyes are blinded by the darkness.
Find me.

I hear only the sound of my own heart beat.
And the whimper that escapes with my tears.
Find me.

Do you still count them?
Do you catch every one?
Find me.

Find me.
Where ever I am.
I know you cannot be far.
Find me.

I long for the warmth of your love.
The safety that comes with it.
I've gotten lost.
Find me.

I know better in my heart of hearts.
To have pity on myself.
To hang in the shame of my mistakes.
And allow myself to succumb to the lies and disgrace.
Find me.

I know you are near.
I know your mercies are new each morning.
With a new day, new light, a freshness begins.
In the morning light, you will find me.

For now, the many facets of the circumstances of this life are more than this heart can handle.
Though your peace eludes me.
I know you are near.
Find me.

I know enough to apologize for myself. For the tone of this post. This blog is for those who read it, but it brings healing to me as well. I would love for every post to be full of life, light, and encouragement. But, in truth, life just isn't so, not all the time. In fact, the Lord promises with peace, prosperity, joy, hope, and every other good thing he has blessed us with that there will also be transgression and times of discomfort. I know enough to know that he is in control. To trust him in the midst. But, this is also a place where my heart lets out what is weighing on it and I am committed to being honest and true. If that means that sometimes my posts stink of self pity and shame than so be it. There is a part of me that is not okay with admitting I have weaknesses, my heart breaks too, just like everyone else. But, I know that there is a chance that one who reads my pitiful posts will also read when God replaces that empty black hole with restoration.

I have been taken by surprise lately. I thought I was good at keeping myself composed. Hiding my expression and putting on "a good face." Well apparently, not only does my expression give itself away but even my tone of voice betrays me. Todd takes one look at me and repeats my emotions back to me. I always squish my eyebrows together at him in confusion. I know we've been together for many years but I know he can't read my mind. But, he can apparently read my face. We had sort of a big situation at home today. My mother-in-law called and spoke her peace, whatever she intended to tell me. Then, asked if everything was okay. I said "not really" and she followed by saying "I can tell." Only to have my father then follow that up with, "I can tell we upset you, it's written all over your face." I never considered myself so vulnerable. I've heard the expression "where your heart on your sleeve." I guess I wear mine on my face. I'm so stumped by that. I'm okay with it. I feel blessed actually to be surrounded by people who know me so well.

So forgive my pity-party. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is love and will heal my heart.