Monday, November 30, 2009
I would like to share with you an excerpt from "Experiencing God" by Henry Blackaby.
What is God's will for my life? is not the right question (to ask). I think the proper question is, What is God's will? Once I know God's will, then I can adjust my life to Him. In other words, what is it God is purposing to accomplish where I am? Once I know what God is doing, then I know what I need to do. The focus needs to be on God, not on my life.
When I want to learn how to know and do God's will, I can find no better model than Jesus' life. During his 33 years on earth, He perfectly completed every assignment the Father gave Him, He never failed to do the will of the Father, He never sinned. (see John 15:17-20)
Jessu watched to see where His Father was at work and joined Him. Jesus' approach to knowing and doing His Father's will can be outlined like this:
1. The Father has been working right up until now.
2. Now the Father has me working.
3. I do nothing on my own initiative.
4. I watch to see what the Father is doing.
5. I do what I see the Father doing.
6. The Father loves me.
7. He shows Me everything He is doing.
This model applies to your life personally and also to your church. It is NOT a step-by-step approach for knowing and doing God's will, but it describes a LOVE relationship through which God accomplishes His purposes. I sum it up this way: watch to see where God is working and join Him!!
When I read and studied this, the Holy Spirit really moved me to start thinking in a different way. Instead of a me-centered prayer, I need to be praying a God-centered prayer. What is your will LORD? Help me to open my eyes to what you are doing around me so I can join in. How many times do we go about our daily lives oblivious to those around us, or at least not focused on how God could be using us in a situation or relationship?
Lord, your mighty hand is at work all around me; in my home, in my church, in my town, in my social circles. Open my eyes to what you are doing so I can join in your plan. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Time away is wonderful! I have been blessed to be in Texas visiting a very dear friend of mine who is down here on a one-year internship with Texas A&M’s strength and conditioning coach. She is a phenomenal woman and has a heart for the Lord that is tough to find in this day and age.
As I was preparing to come down, AJ told me she had a book for me to read while visiting. For those of you that know me, I LOVE TO READ! It is one of my favorite hobbies. So, the mention of a good book to read and discuss got me super excited. I started the book yesterday morning and my goal was to catch up to AJ, who was on chapter 11. I did not heed God’s warning as I began to read this book. I should have known it would be intense and stirring since AJ was recommending it. Now and Not Yet is a book about “making sense of single life in the twenty-first century” and it has hit home with my heart.
I want to share some of my initial and on-going thoughts with you all. This is a glimpse into my heart, my struggles, and my desires. I tend to fight when I feel God pushing me to share, but I know he pushes for a reason. My prayer, as I write this, is that you would be blessed in knowing that we all struggle at times in our walks with Christ. But, we must learn to rest in HIS love and HIS truth as we go through those times. Just as James tells us to “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance,” we must push through the struggles. Push through the struggles knowing that we will come out stronger on the other side.
“Our highest calling is to love God and to live in obedience exactly where he currently has us.” This truly is my heart. I want to be satisfied right where God has me. But, shouldn’t I be allowed to have desires and hopes and dreams WHILE living in the satisfaction of where God currently has me? I mean God says his plans are to “prosper us….to give us hope and a future.” So I find myself wrestling to find balance in living obediently in the present while trusting that it’s okay to hope and dream about the future. I can’t find the middle ground. So I go from high to low – highs of the joy I have in where I am in life and lows of thinking my hopes are selfish and God doesn’t care.
Yes I am blessed as a single woman. I have more “freedom” in ministry. I am able to go visit people. I have one agenda to consider. I am so grateful for where I am. But I also don’t think it is wrong to want something else. I look at marriage several ways: 1) an opportunity to share life in an intimate relationship with another believer 2) the ministry doors that are opened 3) the opportunity to live as an example of Christ and his church 4) levels of intimacy that can only be shared by two people who have committed themselves to one another for LIFE.
Being so driven by relationships and constantly desiring depth, marriage is very appealing. And I don’t feel it is wrong to want that. I know I have to keep myself in check so that I am not consumed in negativity of being single. I know that I have to be ready when satan twists words of my married friends and throws daggers at my heart. I know that I need to be living out this time to deepen my relationship with Christ. But knowing all the “right things” doesn’t automatically make life easy.
It can be overwhelming to think of all I desire or don’t have right now. But, I am rich. I am rich in the love of Christ! And I am being reminded of that often lately. Sometimes I get so me-focused that I take my eyes off of that eternal reference point. Every little bump in life causes me to over-correct and veer onto a wild roller coaster. Perspective is skewed and satan attacks. This trip has been refreshing. It has put my perspective back in line and the eternal reference point is back almost to clarity.
I’m hungry for more of Jesus! I’m desiring to dive deeper into him and grow. I need to get back down on my face from time to time. I need to pick up on the running again and exercise. I need a focus check.
Thank you Jesus for this time. It has been emotional and uncomfortable, but it has been good. Please help me to stay focused on you and the truth that you breathe into my life every day! AMEN
Friday, November 27, 2009
However today I am focused on the fact that because of what time of the year it is: The Holiday season has begun. You have started to see Christmas decorations go up, candy, decorations, and Holiday scents for candles have been out in the stores for weeks now, people are starting or finishing their shopping... I think as Christians we have to be careful about how caught up we get in that part of Christmas. I want nothing more than for each of you to have a blessed Holiday sesason, surrounded by family and loved ones, experiencing that fulfillment of a person opening the perfect present, getting some things you have been waiting all year for, but mostly I pray that today and each day this Holiday season you will take time to be surrounded by God, to remember what present He sent so many years ago to each one of us. It's time to prepare our hearts to remember that Christ was born on Christmas...afterall, He is the Reason for the Season. And what a better way to start than being Thankful for all that He has given us.
I thank you so much for all that you have blessed me with, I am certainly not worthy. Thanks for sending Jesus as a little baby to grow and save the world. I praise you for this time of year: a time to focus on family and to focus on you. Please help us each day of the year and especially in this time remember that you love and care for us. Prepare our hearts once again to remember the birth of Jesus. You are an awesome God and we love you! Amen
Monday, November 23, 2009
Anyway, I have been thinking about my blessings this week. As a family, we have been writing down something we are thankful for each day and putting it in a pumpkin basket on the table. On Thursday evening, we are going to read all of our blessings. It is fun to see the kids write (or draw in Caroline's case) what they are thankful for. Today, Caroline drew a sun on her sticky note as the rays shone in through the window, warming us as we sat at the table. It reminded me that it is not the material "things" that God has blessed me with this year that I am most grateful for, but the more basic items that I take for granted: Clean water to drink and bathe in, fresh air to breath, the ability to walk and use my five senses, the privilege to write to you about my faith in God on this blog. Also, I thought about how the Pilgrims, even in the midst of their dire physical and mental circumstances, managed to set aside a day of Thanksgiving. I live in the lap of luxury compared to them, yet am I as thankful? Do I give thanks to God even for the difficult experiences in my life, because they made me stronger in my faith and perserverance?
I found a few quotes I would like to share with you today as you prepare for Thanksgiving. I hope you all have a wonderful day full of celebration and find some time to reflect on the blessings God has given you this year. I am so thankful that I serve a true, living God who loves me so much that He sent His Son to die for me, to take away my sins, so I can spend eternity with Him. Thank you Lord!
"The pilgrims made seven more times graves than huts; nonetheless set aside a day of thanksgiving" H.W. Westermeyer
"Not what we say about our blessings but how we use them, is the true measure of thanksgiving." W.T. Purkiser
"Oh Lord that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness!" William Shakespeare
"Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord! Praise ye the Lord! " Psalm 150:6
Friday, November 20, 2009
She was an only child, went to Catholic school, her mother died when she was a teenager. When they were first married, my Dad was in the service and he wasn't even in the states when I was born. My Mom always told me with tears in her eyes that I seemed to recognize him (I s'pose from pictures) and went right to him when he came home! I am the second to the oldest of eight children. My Mom was a stay at home mom, as most mothers were at that time. We went to church every Sunday and as I remember how crazy it was getting my four kids all ready to go to church, I can't imagine my Mom getting all eight of us around. Back then, too, my sister's and I all had the frilly Sunday Sch dresses, white tights or socks and black patent leather shoes.
My Mom has always encouraged me and shown by example how to live a life following Jesus. We were always involved in church and youth activities at the churches we attended. When she married my Dad she changed to his families denomination of Methodist which we have been all our lives. But she wouldn't have cared if we changed as long as we were going to church somewhere. I don't remember her words from my childhood as much as I remember her and my Dad's priorities.
I think one of the most important lessons my mother taught me and has continued to reteach me is about the way God would have me relate to my husband. She has at times scolded me if I was complaining about him. Then and at other times, she would tell me about the positive she saw in him and the kind of husband and father he was which I knew but maybe at the time needed to be reminded of. She told me early in my marriage to Mike when we couldn't make it to a family get-together (and my sisters were making me feel bad cause we didn't think we could come) that my family was with him and we had to make decisions for 'our family'. She always wanted us to be there but she would understand. That always helped me and I shared that with my son and his new wife a few years ago because I felt it was so important. Even tho, there was a time my son had to remind me of it when they couldn't come to something. (Boy, am I a slow learner! Even when I'm the teacher!!)
Now I know this might not seem like a lesson we all need, if you aren't married but in a way it is...she always sees the good in people and loves no matter what. I try to do that most of the time but occassionally hear my Mom's words and know that Jesus would see things just abit different and aren't we glad He does. We need to do that for others. The cool thing is He will help us to be more like Him if we call on Him. Which I do quite often!
Dear God, I thank you right now for my Mom and the example she has shown me thru the years. Help us all to see people the way you do and to love them as you would. AMEN.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Well, all of the things pulling at me, which were all good things by the way, got priority
over time with God. The cooking, cleaning, homework, kids'activities, Upward planning, grocery shopping, laundry, traveling, catching up with sleep, and reading other books took over my life. These things ARE my life right now. But what I keep failing to realize is that in order for me to stay in the center of God's will in all of these parts of my life, I have to seek Him FIRST. If I start my day dedicating that day to Him, He will show me what His will is that day. If I end my day with Bible Study, He will show me through His word what His will is for my days to come. When will I learn this? I know it, but I seem to keep forgetting it!
Thank goodness that I serve a God that doesn't give up on me! He is still there, welcoming me back. And those few weeks that I did not open my Bible? I didn't realize until after the fact how out of sync I felt. Disconnected, not seeing the JOY in my life. Focused on ME, instead of Him and others.
So, what now? Well, Jason and I talked about doing a Bible Study together for a while, and we finally decided to do "Experiencing God" by Henry Blackaby. I just started, but I already feel like a new creation, infused with the Holy Spirit once again. Ready to seek His will for my life once again. How do you stay in the center of God's will? How do you not get diverted by life's stresses?
"Seek first His kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Three amazing girls taught me how to bring Jesus home with me. I didn't grow up in a Christian home, so Jesus was never really "at home" with me. Jesus was like the guy that I would sneak around to see - at church, at my friend's house, at my youth pastor's, but never at home. I had a great home don't get me wrong, but Jesus was not a part of it.
In April of 2004 I moved to Goshen. I moved into the upstairs apartment of a house. Downstairs lived Darcy, Alice, and Erin. I had known Darcy from school and met the other 2 through her. I had been up there to hang out and was attending their small group (which on any given night could have anywhere from 10-25 people). Anywho.....the upstairs apt. in their house was vacant so they convinced me to move up there.
I loved it! I was on my own for the first time. I had 3 friends to hang out with. I was involved in being young and single. Life was good. And it just got better. Jesus was a part of that house. We would pray together, talk about God, keep each other accountable, host small groups, sing worship songs, laugh, and just share what God was doing in our lives. Sure, it wasn't always easy with 4 females living in the same house, going to the same church, sharing the same group of friends, but it was a time in my life that I am forever thankful for.
I learned SO much from those 3 girls about myself and about Jesus. I decided after living with them, that no matter where I lived, Jesus would be in my home. And he has been.
This summer I bought a house, MY VERY OWN HOUSE! The first thing I did was pray over each room. Why....because those 3 girls taught me too. There is a ton more that I could say about each of them. Shoot, I could dedicate one post to each of them. But, for now, this is what I'm remember about their influence.
Jesus, thank you for living with me. Thank you for Darcy, Alice, and Erin and the impact that each of them have had in my life. Thank you for their love and amazing friendship through some great times and some not so great times. Thank you that you place them in my life! You are amazing!
Friday, November 13, 2009
I can not fit the words into a post on how thankful I am to my parents for teaching us what it means to serve. As I look back over these mission trips I can now see that my parents were teaching not torturing. They embodied the idea of teaching by example. Some of my most treasured memories growing up have happened on mission trips and these are memories that my immediate family as well as my church missions family will be able to share forever.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
I met Ram soon after Jason and I moved from Indiana to Dallas, Texas. Jason was busy with graduate school, so I was on my own quite a bit. I met Ram at the school where I taught- I was a paraprofessional in special education, and she was a student teacher in English. I helped one of the students in her class. We found out that we were both taking the test to get our licenses to teach English in the state of Texas. So we decided to ride together to take the test, and the rest is history, so to speak. We hit it off right away. I remember being able to laugh and be silly with her. At a time when I was a bit overwhelmed being newly married and living in an entirely different world (yes, Texas is like living in a different country!), I needed some female companionship-- a shopping buddy, a reading buddy, a movie buddy, a walking buddy.
At the time, Jason and I just started attending a Methodist church in Dallas and became a part of a Sunday School Class (which was also one of the biggest influences in my spiritual walk). Even though she went to a different church, Lynn was a great role model to me. She never pressured me to attend her church, but she invited me several times to go with her. She spoke often about her Bible Study group and shared stories of her family. Her father was a Christian writer, and she gave me several of his books to read. She listened to Christian (and country) music, which I had never heard in my life! She gave me my first study Bible, which I still use to this day.
Most importantly, Ram was such a supportive friend to me those six years I lived in Dallas, and even though we live far apart now, we still keep in touch. When we talk, it is like we never were apart. When we get to visit each other, we can pick up on all of the silly things we used to do way back when. We reminisce about all of the fun times we had teaching together, coaching 170 8th grade cheerleaders (yes, 170!), how she would spend the night with me when Jason would travel, and how she painted my toenails for me when I was pregnant with Alex.
She lived her life with Jesus in her heart, and she gave a piece of that to me. I wanted what she had---a love for Christ. I know God placed her in my life at just the right time. I surrendered my life to Him in Texas, and my dear friend Ram was instrumental in who I am as a believer today. Thanks Ram!! Love you!!
Sunday, November 8, 2009
I would have to say the person who has impacted my life for Jesus the most is my best friend, Karissa (aka...Cheez). I have known her since the summer before 6th grade. We met at band lessons. The funny thing is, I didn't really care for her too much when I first met her. She was super good at the clarinet and I wanted to be the best. Plus......she went to Syracuse!
But, God had a bigger plan. As we went through middle school our paths continued to cross through sports and our classes. There was something about her, something different, something that seemed to bring her joy. But I was not going to seek this out. At least, not for a little while.
I have several favorite memories with Cheez. The first one happened the summer before our Junior year of high school. By this time we were great friends. We spent TONS of time together and talked all of the time. It was 4th of July weekend and she invited me over for fireworks. She also told me to bring clothes for church the next day. I tried everything I could think of to get out of going to church. Needless to say (and boy am I thankful she didn't let me off the hook) I went to church. Thus changing the course of my life. She introduced me to a Jesus I had never dreamed of. Sure I knew of him and had heard stories at VBS when I was little. But this Jesus was AMAZING!
From then on I started going to youth every weekend. Cheez's mom Kim (another woman who has had a profound impact on my life) and her best friend started a Bible study. I went. I was hungry to learn about Jesus and all this stuff I was hearing at church and youth. Cheez was so patient with me, my questions, my frustrations, and my absence from church for a few months. Through the next year and a half she loved on me.
As I shared before, I accepted Jesus on October 30, 1997. I couldn't wait to see her at bball the next day and we celebrated and hugged and laughed and cried! She was the one who baptized me later in November.
Today, she is married to an amazing man. She is a missionary. She is one of the most godly women that I know. Though distance has separated us for most of our adult life, she is not far away. I can email, text, or call her anytime. We can spend countless hours laughing or walking and talking. She knows me better than any other person and keeps me accountable. She has taught me that its okay to ask questions and have struggles and cry out to Jesus. She has also shown me the love of Jesus for almost 20 years, even before I really knew who Jesus was.
I cannot express my gratitude for her invitation to church 14 years ago. Or her willingness to deal with my stubborn-ness. Or her love that she reminds me of at the perfect time....just when I need to hear it. I don't doubt that God knew exactly what he was doing when our paths crossed almost 20 years ago.
Friday, November 6, 2009
I am crazy busy today trying to get all my maid of honor duties completed, and make sure when I leave this afternoon, I have everything I could possibly need, and I have to finish making my gift.
I don't have much time to post, but was thinking how great it would be if we all joined in prayer surrounding Marc and Jillian, as they start their lives together.
Thank you for who you are. I praise and thank you for the friends you have made for me in Marc and Jillian. I ask that today and tomorrow would be blessed days in your eyes. May their marriage be something that brings them so much joy and blesses your name. Help me to be an example of your love to my friends. Oh yeah, and could you add a few more hours to this day? :) Ahmen
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
It's absolutely crazy to look back over the 12 years and ever fathom having spent the previous 17 without Jesus. I grew up in a great home, with loving parents, good morals, and was overall and pretty good kid. But, there was an incompleteness....something was missing.
Jesus is my all. I have grown so much over these 12 years that it blows my mind. I would not and could not be doing what I am today if it wasn't for the relationship that I have with Him.
I don't know if you remember the exact day, hour, or minute that you proclaimed Jesus as your Lord for life. Regardless, I would love to hear your story. It is always so encouraging to me.
Be blessed today knowing that you belong to the King of kings!
Jesus, thank you for rescuing me in all my stubborn-ness. Thank you for calling me your own. Thank you for using some pretty awesome people to get me where I am today. I love you!