Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Center of It All



This.

This is what I want you to know:


"When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God."
~Eph 3:14-19 (NLT)

On each letter I send to my Compassion child, Ndungutse, in Rwanda, I include these words from scripture.  Each and every time.  Because if he gets nothing else from our correspondence, I want him to know this:

God's love.  It is overwhelming.  All-encompassing.
Deep.
Powerful.
And never, ever, ending.

It is the center of our very being.
The source of breath in our lungs.
And the answer to every question uttered.

And if we allow ourselves to fully surrender to the knowledge that we all are:
Relentlessly
Passionately
Shamelessly
Loved by the Almighty God of the Universe

We CAN change the world.
Because we, ourselves, will be forever changed.

It eliminates greed, envy, hatred and bitterness.
It cultivates generosity, compassion, and forgiveness.

It is a life-altering Love.

So, if you get anything from knowing me.
From reading my scattered words.
From seeing my face from time to time.
Or hearing my voice on occasion.

Know this:

YOU
are 
LOVED

Infinitely.

PS - In his most recent letter to me, Ndungutse referenced this scripture back to me.
Heart = Melted

Never forget.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Conclusion

What is it about the last day of the year?
The first day of a new one?

Maybe it's the anticipation of fresh beginnings.
Clean slates.
New.

I know that I love it.
Deep inside I know that tomorrow is simply another day.
But it is also, always a new day.

Whether it is January 1
or August 17
Each new day is just that:
New.

And that is what I am embracing.

The last two years since I began blogging have brought a lot of change
In life and in me.
And God has laid heavy on my heart a change of focus these last two months.
I plan to spend my next year taking a more deliberate attitude toward each day.

No more taking life as it comes.

Deliberate Action.

to "Live It".

That being said, I'm taking a break from blogging.
You may be thinking, "Weren't you already on a break?  You've not blogged in a while."
True.
I've stepped back to pray and ponder and let God lead.

This is a deliberate choice.

There are a lot of voices out there all competing to be heard.
Many of them wonderful voices who need to be heard.
Saying wonderful things and challenging others to be better than they are.

I just don't want to do this as a competition to be heard.
I've questioned my own motives and contribution in this venue and God has led me to step back.
For a while at least.

Maybe only for a while. I do not yet know.
But IF I do sit back down at this computer to journal my heart to share with the world, it will have a different title and focus.  
I do feel that I am the Favorite:  The Beloved of God.
But my purpose has changed.
So, I will still my pen.
For a while.

Thus, I want to leave you, for now, with this:

You
Are
The
Beloved
Of
God

Never doubt that.
Never doubt his unrelenting, passionate, pursuit of YOUR heart.
It's true.

My prayer
For all of you:

"...I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."~Eph 3:14-19

God's Love
Wide
Long
High
Deep

For you...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Slavery




I am a slave.
Profound.
Yet, inherently obvious.

I've spent the last couple of years focused on what I've termed 'cleaning up financial messes' and trying to get on track by paying off debt that accrued over the past 8 years and getting back into good credit status.
My ideas were good.
My goals realistic and worthy.
But something was lacking.
Months ago I lamented to God how weary I was of the same struggles, over and over again.
And I asked "How long?  How long will I face the same issue with no reprieve?"
And He simply answered, "You're not ready yet."

I knew His answer.  I didn't like it.  I didn't understand it.  

Now, I do.

The last couple of months I have reached the point of
Enough.

I've.  Had.  Enough.

But possibly not in the sense you may think.

Decluttering my home.
Being diligent with money.
Paying bills.
Eating away at debt.
Good things.  Honorable things.
But annoying me immensely because I realized how
E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G
I do revolves around this one thing.

Money.

I am not materialistic.  I do not have expensive tastes or desire fancy things.
But I am a slave.
Because of debt.
And I sat on my couch and realized how much energy, sleep, time, and effort are spent on that
And NOT on serving God by serving others.

I sat on my couch, looked at the beautiful home around me and thought,
"If this is what it takes to stay living in this house, then I'm out.
Life is too short and there is too much need in the world around me to be expending this much energy on four walls."

*That* was the point God was waiting for:
For me to reach the point where it was no longer about the money.
It was now about Him.
Living for Him.
Serving Him.
Wanting more of Him and wanting to do more for Him.
My love for my house and my stability and my 'security' had eclipsed my love for Him.
And as I began to realize that, my love towards my belongings began to turn to hate.  I began to despise what I own.  It has begun to sicken me.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also...No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Mt. 6:19-21, 24

Despise.  Hate.
Strong words.
Powerful.
And becoming true for me.

And that, my friends, is where I am.
I am DONE being a slave.
To my 'stuff'.
To my debt.

Debt is not God's plan.
And He states clearly, 
"The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender." ~Proverbs 22:7

I have been a slave.
And now I am done.

And I am not approaching this with the wisdom of the world.
One way or another over the next few months, things will change.  I may have to move. I may not.  God has that already figured out and I trust His plan.  It has been nothing short of miraculous that I have stayed in this huge house for as long as I have-I know that His hand was in that.  His hand is in my today and in my tomorrow.  I just know this was where He was waiting for me to be before things could change.

That is why I purge.
Oops, I am jumping ahead of myself.
I may blog about that next.

For now, I will leave you with this:

What are you a slave to?
For you it may be different than my bondage.
Whatever it is, there are countless books and gurus and well-meaning friends with advice and worldly wisdom that may be bombarding you constantly.

For me it came down to this:

Where is my mind, and energy, and time being spent?
On living the Kingdom-Life Here and Now?

Or on things of the world?

Ouch.

Goodbye chains.



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Piles of Leaves



Blowing Leaves.
It is not profound work.

Today I taught class.
Hid from the world while I graded for three hours.
Taught class again.
Ran to the grocery store.
Filled the gas tank.
Picked up the crazy kids.
Cycled laundry.
Planned supper.
Bundled up.
And headed outside to blow leaves.

I have great trees.  A great many trees.  Thus...
Leaves.

And as I blew leaves from near the house to the edge of the woods, now and again I would mistakenly glance back towards where I had just stood.
Still...
Leaves.
It's like they breed while you try to move them.
It's not hard work.  But, it IS tedious.  And I work for an hour and don't think I've accomplished much.
Until.
I look at the enormous pile growing in front of me.
And I stood, as the daylight faded and my fingers grew numb from the cold,
And I stared at my huge pile of leaves.

I had worked hard on that pile.
When I look back at where I'd been walking, blowing leaves, I still see scattered leaves all around me.
But when I look at what all had been accomplished, I just breathed that in for a moment.

Sometimes, we need to stop.
And look at all we've accomplished thus far.
We can't look back at what's been left behind.
We can't look too far ahead at what all still remains to be done.
We must stop and see, truly see, what all we've already attained.
Correction:
What all God has attained.
Markers.
Remembrances.
Piles of leaves.

There are big changes coming in my life.
God has told me this.
And I am ready.
Because I trust Him.
And when I look back at the last two years,
It is truly a miracle what all has been accomplished. 
There is no other explanation for how this single mother, on her paltry income, could have maintained the mortgage for the last year; much less paid all other bills on time, fed her family, adopted a Compassion child, and provided birthday and Christmas presents.
I remember how a year ago, God provided nearly a year's worth of past due mortgage payments in one lump sum two weeks before Christmas.  
And there were still gifts under the tree.
I remember how He provided a vehicle two weeks after the previous one was demolished.
I remember the new roof in the midst of life chaos.
I remember never going hungry (unintentionally).
I remember writing checks to pay bills...on time.
I never ran out of gas.
I never received another foreclosure statement.
I never received late fees.
These are all miracles.
Of Jehovah Jireh.
My Provider.

So, as I marched forward, blowing leaves further on, I know that God's provision has not failed and it will not in the future.

Stop.
Remember.
Don't get so caught up in the defeats of yesterday 
Or the challenges of tomorrow.

That you forget where God has brought you

Today.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Treasure in the Quiet


In this time of persistent shouting over one another to be heard, 
I had decided I was in need of a little quiet time.
From myself.
I don't want to be another voice diligently striving to be heard over all others while living my routine little life.
Unchanged.

So, I decided to be quiet.
To be still.
To soak in life.
And my family.
And my Great Love.
And breathe.

And be quiet.

And then heartache struck.
And I lost my friend.
The one who told me to 'Do My Reason'
And it knocked me flat down.  And, I didn't want to get back up.
I was sad.  And I cried.
(Truth: I still do. Often.)
And I struggle(d) not only with not wanting to do my reason anymore.
But with no longer being sure of what my reason is.

Just another voice.
In an arena of screaming voices.
All making noise.
And none being heard.

It's amazing what can happen when we decide to hush.
Be still.
Be quiet.

It is then, we can actually hear.
And Listen.

And what we hear can be 
Life
Changing.

When I decided to hush, I was truly able to hear, so much more clearly, a call laid on my heart.
I've been on a journey.
Getting my life on track.
Providing for and taking care of my children.
Cleaning up financial disasters.
Making plans for the future.
And I would regularly worry, filled with anxiety.  And lament over the same struggle, time and time again.
Until I decided to hush.
It was then, I could hear.  And the message was so clear.  And beautiful.  And freeing.
It's all so simple!

How could I not see this before?

And I believe, with all of my heart, this is where God was waiting for me to be.

The fog has lifted.
The darkness is breaking with the dawn.
I know where He is leading me now.
And I am not sure when I have been this excited about what He has in store.

Freedom.
From worry.
From the ties of this world.
From the earthly strongholds that have chained me.
Freedom.
Is within reach.

And it all began.
With

Quiet.

So, I don't know how much more talking I will do.
I am still uncertain of my future as a blogger.

I just wanted to encourage you 
In a world of 
Voices
Shouting
Competing
to be heard

There is often great treasure in 
Quiet.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nothing New

This is not a deep post.
Truth:  My Great Love is percolating a strong, dark brew within me right now and it is not quite ready for consumption.  By me or anyone else.
And when it is, it will be 
Strong.
And Bold.
So, let's let it perk a little longer.

This post is a little lighter, but still relevant.
Here we go.

So, we are doing "Christmas" a little differently this year.

It's called a Nothing New Christmas; an idea I copied from a coworker who shared with me last season.
And I am so stoked about it.

I am, as are countless others around me, weary of the lack of focus on the true meaning of Christmas. We talk about it.
We lament on it.
We complain about it.
And we do little to change it.

So, I am trying to take baby steps (instead of following my deep desire to completely, radically upset the apple cart) to reboot my family into seeing Christmas a little differently this year.

A few of our traditions have always included:
Baking fresh pumpkin bread loaves for all the neighbors on my street on Christmas Eve which are hand-delivered by my little Elf Crazies.
Making a goody basket filled with homemade and store-bought goodies, fresh fruit and nuts and then hand-delivered to the Sheriff's Department on Christmas Eve as an appreciation for those working to protect us on the holiday.
When finances allowed (which hasn't been for last couple of years), adopting a needy family and anonymously giving to them on Christmas Eve.
Reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 as our bedtime story on Christmas Eve.

And we don't do Santa.
Never have.
(That's a big one that always gets raised eyebrows.)

This year, Nothing New.
No new gifts.
Sure, they can be new to us: thrift store, handmade, etc.  But, nothing brand new from a store.
My goals:
A. To get my children more involved in the gift-giving process.  I do not have extra funds most of the time to dole out allowance much less pay for them to give gifts to each other or extended family.
B. To get the focus even less off of receiving gifts on Christmas morning.

Each year, they begin giving me their 'lists' around this time because, quite frankly, I ask so that I can begin budgeting and shopping ahead of time.  Already, more than two months in advance, our focus is on receiving.

I want Christmas to be about:
Christ
Family
Gratitude
Peace
Focus

I want to take active steps to MAKE that happen instead of simply complaining that it doesn't.

I share these things, not to toot my horn, but because I want your ideas too.  What does your family do that is different, to take the focus off of presents?
Let's share and be creative and, together, work on raising a generation prepared to abandon the spirit of entitlement that Christmas has generated in years past.

Please share, won't you?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Anyway...

Sometimes

You just don't know why you try anymore.

This World

It is overwhelming.

You work.
You give.
You help.
You encourage.
You over-extend.
You sacrifice.
You listen.
You love.

You.Stand.Firm.

Every now and then your encouragement goes unacknowledged.
Your work is unappreciated.
You are ignored.
Passed by.
Or perhaps, even
*gasp*
Unfriended.

Two Things:

1:
A wise man who helped me through a terribly dark time in my life told me this:
You do these things:
These acts of service, loving gestures, share words of encouragement and share Jesus,
Not to BE ok, but because you ARE ok.

Christ has made you ok.
Right-standing with God.
And that right-standing is what equips you to go out into the world and share Christ
In Love.
Christ.  
All we need.
He is our Redeemer.
And Sustainer.
And ultimately all we need in the 'approval department.'

2:
"Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give upTherefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."~Galatians 6:8-9

Friends,
Don't give up.

This world is a negative dark place.
It is attacking our families.
It is trying to infiltrate the body of believers.

We must stay focused.
Encourage one another.
Keep our eyes on the prize.

We must not give up.

Not sure why  you do the good that you do?

Do it anyway.