And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5

I haven't blogged in awhile, Spring Break. I jumped into my quiet time this morning and all day I have been going over in my head this scripture from the message our pastor gave at church yesterday. What does that mean? All? All my heart, all my soul, all my strength...can I even comprehend what that means for me as a human being or is it easier to grasp on a spiritual level? I think it means very simply choosing each day, very deliberately to be like Christ. He was not a predictable man, and he did not follow anyone's rules other than God the father. He came with a purpose, to seek and save the lost and Oh my gosh, how much He loved them! Every single person who came to him He was more than willing to help if they simply believed. I have always found it odd that He told many of those He healed to keep it to themselves. I don't understand that completely, still working on that one. I can practically feel the excitement, the edge in the air as He had healed someone from demon possession, a physical ailment, or an addiction. Did every single one of them go on to embrace the scripture, to love Him fully with heart, soul and mind?! I wonder. I wonder how the rest of their life stories played out. I hope mine will speak for me that I embraced His call, that I took risks for the sake of the call, that I did not hesitate to help someone in need, that I took time to love the Lord as much as I encouraged others to do so. I hope my life speaks for me, what a testimony that can be for someone in need. I never tire of what the Word has to tell me. Scriptures I have read over and over again, somehow they become fresh and new to me as I come across them and renew my sense of trust and faith in God. It is enough to believe, it is expected of us to live it, and I hope to strive toward achieving that daily.
"He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come." Luke 4:18b-19

In my quiet time today I read about when Jesus returns to Nazareth, where he grew up, and spoke over the scrolls in the synagogue. I cannot imagine the mood in the room, the hush as he spoke, everyone listening so intently. Whether they realized who he was or not, his very presence must have left everyone with some sort of edge knowing there was something about him. He was the Word made flesh, God's Son come to save us. This Scripture is so inspiring, to know His purpose, to know that truly God is on our side. More than anything remembering what Jesus did for us on the cross, His death and resurrection gives us reason to celebrate our freedom in salvation, our joy and our greatest peace. There are those in the world who would love to prove it all myth, or just a story, and question how we can have such faith, such strong belief in something unseen. I can remember a time when I would have argued til my face turned red over the validity and strong evidence of Christ's life, death and resurrection. As I grow in my faith and embrace the Scripture before me, I know it is enough to believe and tell it to others, pointing them to the Word and to talk to God. In their search, I know the Holy Spirit will break through and shatter their unbelief. Only He can do that, we cannot save or convince anyone that they need to be saved: that is the Lord's job. We are messengers, tools to be used in the process. Some of us will be the first to share, others will fall somewhere in the middle of their journey, and a few of us will be blessed to be present when someone chooses to come to Christ. We cannot take the credit for any of it, we must look to the Lord and give Him all the thanks He is due. I hope I am convicted more each day to be useful for the Kingdom, stripping away my pride, my own agenda, my selfish motives and lay my life before the throne to be used by Him.
I realize my blog yesterday may leave some wondering what my point was or worry I simply don't know who I am at this point in my life. Over the course of the past few months I have had a few conversations with several women I know either at work or at church, and strangely enough like myself they too are wondering what is next at this point in their lives. I listened to comments like, "I just don't know what I want out of life right now", or "I don't know what I want to do with my life", or "I am not sure where I am headed next". At some point in the conversation I agreed with them cause I am in a similar place. Ten years ago if you had asked me where I would be at this point in my life, it would not be here. I would not have expected to be starting over for one thing, particularly going back to work full time. I would have easily predicted having several kids cause that is something I have always dreamed of. I admit I would have expected us to be a lot better off financially and for Ryan to be comfortably settled into a "job" somewhere in the music industry. Life has a funny way of dealing out surprises, and some of them are downright unfair. Our choices have not been great though, so we cannot blame life and must carry the weight of those bad decisions now. I think if I could talk to myself now, the person I was then face to face with who I am now, I would be very upset, disappointed, and angry. I find myself there many days, and it is a battle for me to deal with it. I know I must release it all to God, trust Him to give me the wisdom and strength to step forward into something better. I am already doing that, but the battle will rage on. Some days I am downright depressed, upset, would love to remain angry and resentful toward someone or something who should be responsible for where we have ended up. But then I am reminded that somehow God has purpose for it all, it all has meaning for my life in the long run. I just keep thinking someone out there is going to benefit from our testimony of how we survived this battle, this wildnerness. We all have a story of some kind to tell, the story of our lives. Hopefully our story will be a benefit to someone in the same situation one day. Hopefully I will continue to push forward, claim the promises God has for me and reach toward His goal for my life.
I am little tired and somwhat frazzled at the moment, but I am bound and determined to get in my blog today. Easter is approaching, and so I have been thinking since last Sunday how am I changed since I first came to know Christ. How am I changed? Who am I today that I was not before? Do I really know Him, trust Him, love Him? I find as I get older I am bombarded daily by so many expectations to be something I should be, but am I just being me? Am I finding my authenticity and living it, really and truly living it? If everything I have, everyone I know, all the stuff I have accumulated and accomplished in my life was stripped away Who would I really be? I don't have an answer. I guess I don't have it cause I don't want to have it. I feel like that would be saying I am done, content, uninterested in moving, changing, being renewed and refreshed daily. I do know I am God's, I am chosen, I am a holy vessel for Him to use, I am blessed, I am loved and I am a good person. I know I fail and will fail, I know I can make a difference for Christ, I know I can be even better tomorrow than I am today and I know God has a plan for every moment of my life. So I stand here today uncertain of what tomorrow will be, but certain of God and His plan for me. Jeremiah 29:11 will always be a permanent fixture in my mind and heart because I can find such comfort, confidence and joy in it. The Lord has a plan and purpose for my life, one of hope and not harm. I can stand on that, I can believe in that, I can find joy in knowing I don't have to have all the answers at any point in my life. God is good, and I want to fall at His feet daily to find freedom in releasing all my cares and concerns to Him.
We watched "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" last weekend and something he said has stuck with me. When he is explaining to Mahoney what matters most, he refers to Shakespeare's words in his writing, "He dies." I cannot recall which writing it is, but Mr. Magorium talks about how powerful those two little words are. The power is not in those words, or the sadness they carry, but the meaning of the life lived prior to those words. When you look at your life, do you feel sad? Disappointed? Wondering how you can go on or what is left worth living for? Mr. Magorium makes a great point. It is so important to be thankful for the life we live, every moment counts and hopefully it has been well lived. We cannot get bogged down by sadness, fear, worry, frustration, regret, doubt, anger, resentment...I could go on and on. The point is, life can be good if we live it and live it well! Jesus lived a life so brief on this earth, and although it was brief he made such a lasting impact on the lives he encountered. Think about all those he healed, touched, spoke words of joy and encouragement to, convicted deeply to change and follow His path, loved so deeply as a man as well as the Son of God. I have thought very long and hard since we have moved and started this new chapter in our lives in Indiana, and I have made a decision. No matter what we obtain in this life, jobs, homes, material possessions, accomplishments...I simply want my life to have meaning and to have mattered to at least one person. I hope my life has been lived well. There are moments I'd love to go back and re-do, but then I would not be the person I am today without having had those experiences. Each moment good and bad has shaped me, molded me into the person I am today. God has always been there, and although I have stumbled terribly from time to time He is always right there ready to scoop me up in His arms when I cannot go on any longer. In our weakness He is strong, and it is how we choose to live out those moments that will define who we are meant to be. He has purpose, but not always in the way we see it play out. We cannot have the mind of Christ or the understanding of God, but we can yield at that point of helplessness and just rest in the knowledge of Him. What is life and how will I choose to live it? Hopefully with a little more joy and thankfulness in my heart each day.
"Today is a new day." --Chicken Little

I love that line and for some reason it came to mind this morning. We should all have that outlook when we start each day. This movie is one of my son AJ's favorites, and Rylee and Bailey love it more for the songs. Chicken Little has it really tough in the story cause he yells that something terrible is about to happen, and when all the world is against him and he needs his Dad to support him, just believe in him--he doesn't. The story gets better and the dad eventually hears his son's hurt and disappointment and they resolve the situation, find closure as Abby Mallard (Chicken Little's friend) suggests. In the end his dad tells him he loves him, apologizes for not being there and show his support both verbally and by his actions. How many of us struggle to find that love and support we need and so desperately desire? In the beginning Chicken Little has made up his mind he will do something better, improve himself by starting fresh with a new day. No matter the odds against him, he chooses to be positive, give his best effort and move forward. Thankfully we can add to that our faith in Christ and knowing God will take care of us at all times. There is no greater power than first knowing God is on our side and second having the support and love of family and friends around you. There are so many people in this world who've had a less than positive example, support system around them. What a difference we can make each day to say, "Lord, give me the opportunity today to cross someone's path and make a positive impact on their lives." Whether we realize it or not, our day is filled with opportunities and it is up to us to see them. So many times our priorities get in the way of that goal. I hope today we will each clear our agendas and make more room for expecting those opportunities.
You know your are getting older when the body hurts a little more than it used to. I have been getting myself back into shape the past couple months in hopes that this is the real deal. I want to make these changes for life, really consistent about what I put in my mouth and living a more active lifestyle. So far I have had a great start, but it is the long road ahead that counts most. It is a daily fight for me with my mind and my body, starting when the alarm goes off. I wish I could have just fifteen more minutes, then I'll be good to go. It is that first initial step out of bed that is the starting point for my day, and I am off! Life is non stop with three kids, a husband, a house to take care of, a job, church stuff, extracurricular stuff, appointments, errands, etc. Where does the time go that I should have to get it all done? Why do I always feel like there is not enough time in the day to do it all? It is a bit unnerving to think going back to work full time will put even more of a crunch on my time. I had a great interview Monday and got the unofficial offer today. I am excited, but with some reservations. I worry about how my kids will adjust, especially Rylee. My daughter is very shy, anxious over little things and I am sure it will be hardest on her. I think it will be hard on Bailey at first, but once the routine gets underway he won't even notice the difference. AJ, my little one, will most likely bounce out of it like Bailey, but I know the initial separation will be tough on him. I hope I am not too hard on Ryan through this, expecting him to pick up some of the slack even though he is working too. Hopefully we can maintain some sort of balance, but we will have to do some rearranging. We will all have to make some adjustments, but we'll be fine. I know this will be a good, good thing for us. The Bible tells us not to worry about a thing, God has got it all under control. I believe that, and although I have my frazzled moments, I know more and more that I have a good God I can count on to take care of all our needs. Whether it is an achy body, a frazzled mom, an upset child, or changes in routine He's going to meet us where we need Him most. I am so relieved to know that and to be reminded of that everyday.
Although some people really thrive on feeling sorry for themselves, I find it benefits nobody and it is extremely tiresome to deal with. I have had friends over the years who have come across this way, life just isn't fair most of the time, they have what seems to be greater struggles than the rest of us. Truly I believe this is a need for attention, somewhere along the way that person has either had an unhealthy example of love and self worth or they have been a victim of some form of abuse. What an opportunity to share Christ, show love in a way that blows any example they've ever had out of their minds? We should be aware of these needs immediately around us in our friendships, families, work places, churches, anywhere and everywhere we are encountering someone who desperately needs a fresh outlook on life. I read in my quiet time today as God gave the Israelites the opportunity to see the land He'd promised through scouts who were sent out. As they returned and reported what they saw, even brought back a sample of the abundant food, the people's reaction astounds me. They have up to this point witnessed firsthand miracle after miracle that God has performed to prove Himself and His promise to provide for His people. They doubt, they fear, they literally ask to return to Egypt, to the slavery they have just been delivered from. The complaining, griping, desperate pleas must have been so hard for Moses and Joshua to hear let alone God himself. It angered God, and rightly so I think. I just cannot imagine having so much shown to you, right there seeing with your own eyes the power of God, and still doubting He could provide for them. It makes me feel sorry for them and just sad for the people of God and how far they had come, to hear God's command that they should wander the wilderness for 40 years and all those over the age of 20 would never see the land God promised them. It must have been a small comfort to know their children would, but still I cannot imagine the sorrow, the depth of despair they must have felt. Do we do this with God? Do we choose to complain, gripe, worry, agonize, stress out when something terrible happens in our lives? No matter the circumstance, somehow we've got to return to His promise to never leave us nor forsake us, that He will always provide for us according to His will. That never changes, He never changes, we need to choose to be unshakeable in our faith because of that alone. God cannot be knocked from His throne, and we cannot reduce His power or ability by doubting what He can and will do. Someone once told me in the midst of something horrible that occurred in their life, they somehow found the ability to laugh. Now I don't think this is a solution or appropriate reaction in every situation, but like tears it can be very therapeutic and comforting because we know God is still God, somehow He has a purpose for every moment of our lives.
My head is whirling with information this morning. I had a great weekend, and my week started off great today with a great job interview this morning. Since I have started this weight loss challenge my physical and mental well being are more in balance I think. In my quiet time this morning I read the familiar passage in Psalm, "Create in me a clean heart, O Lord my God, and renew a right spirit within me." Then when I got an email from my mom-in-law and she needed encouragement, I thought of the scripture in Psalm that says, "Why so downcast, O my soul, put your hope in God!" And finally I was just thinking over our small group study last night about the passage when Jesus walks on the water and calls Peter to do the same. I know that daily I need to make a habit of going through a kind of metamorphosis:
I see the weight of my circumstances and the worries of this world crashing around me like waves, and although my humanity is weak I know I can look to Jesus and have faith He'll carry me through it. As I walk through it I know I can have hope in knowing He will create something new in me, renewing me and refreshing me for something incredible today.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't have a dramatic event to report each day, but I think it is pretty remarkable to go through the day with the expectation that God has something good for me. I think He wants us to expect it, because I know He wants us to have the desires of our hearts. Although it may take more effort to do this each day, it is better than wallowing in the hum drum mediocrity that could overcome us in its place.
There are so many ways to describe the "loves" of my life. I have an incredible husband, Ryan, whom I have loved more every day we have had together in our marriage. I have a daughter Rylee, who is such a great combination of Ryan and I but truly a reflection of her Dad's sensitive spirit. My son Bailey, is feisty, outgoing and very passionate about life. He dives head first into any situation he is faced with, has no fear it would seem. My son AJ, is a typical third child, wishing most of the time he could do the same things his older siblings do. He is like his brother, no fear and approaches life without hesitation. He is the most stubborn of my three children, and very focused on whatever is occupying his time at the moment. I love my children fiercely, and I would do anything for them. It is hard to imagine a love that goes above all of them. This is the love we are called to in our relationship with Christ. Above everyone and anything in my life, I am called to love the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. For a lot of people that is hard to comprehend, hard to do. The true test is what would you do if Jesus walked up to you like he did the disciples, and asked you to drop everything and leave all you knew and follow Him? Would you, or could you do it? In my daily time with my Lord I am seeking to know and love Him more, and as I grow in my walk I see how my priorities must shift. My first focus should always be on the Lord, all else comes secondary. How will you shift your focus today?
I know it can't just be me, but does time go a lot faster than it used to? I remember feeling like summer lasted a whole lot longer when I was a kid. Now I look at the calendar for my kids and think, they don't really have a full three months off it seems. I am amazed how quickly the day gets away from me. By the time I get going, get everything done that I can and reach the afternoon when it is "my time" I can't believe how fast it has gone, how little time I have left. I think God wants us to do two things with our time on this earth. One, cherish every moment we have as if it is our last. Two, considering how fast the time goes, what could we be doing with that time to further the Kingdom? God doesn't want His Son, Jesus to return before everyone, every single person on this earth has the opportunity to know Christ and choose salvation. It truly puts everything in perspective. I have been struggling for a couple days with the financial burden we are carrying right now. I know Satan would love nothing more than for me to give up, sink into depression and despair because it seems so impossible. I know God can make the impossible possible so I choose to daily guard my heart and mind with His word, prayer, and just spending time crying out to Him for the help that only He can give. I try very hard to cleanse my heart and mind and focus on the blessings, time with one another, a healthy family, a roof over our heads, food in our refrigerator, a church family who has embraced us and made us feel so at home. We cannot measure our happiness by what we have or don't have: we must find joy in the here and now because it may be all we have. This is a challenge for me, but I am reaching for it daily, knowing God has the hope and peace I need.
It is a rainy Monday and we all seemed to drag out of bed more than usual. I got up to get to the Y for my first weigh in. We are starting a biggest loser challenge so a friend and I have teamed up. It is just what I need to get myself really going on a necessary health makeover. It is a lifelong work in progress I am afraid. I guess I should be proud of myself for continuing to work toward improving myself. I have had some set backs, and I realize that stress has played a big role in my health. I know I turn to food for comfort. Some people have substance addictions, I have a food addiction. My greatest focus will be evaluating my moods, reasons for reaching for food especially when I am not actually hungry. I know I do it out of boredom, for fun, to relieve stress, or just because it is there and I might as well treat myself. I know there is strength in abstinence or making an effort to reach for something healthier. I know I can lean on my partner, and I have the encouragement of family and friends to keep me on track. My choice to follow through is the biggest factor. Nobody can force me to do it and nobody can hold me back from making bad choices so, it is really and truly in my hands. The whole weight loss thing has always been frustrating to me, and I have had success but it is finding the will to do it for life that I struggle with. I will continue to wrestle within myself and pray over this because for my sake and the sake of my family I want to be healthier, happier, and just be around longer! I also realize there is a greater reason: my body is the Lord's, his temple, a vessel to be filled and used. What good am I run down, overweight and grouchy? It is a direct influence on my example to others. I know the challenge I have ahead of me and I will be working daily to be the person God intends for me to be both physically and spiritually.

my Ebenezer...

“…Thus far the Lord has helped us.”-1 Samuel 7:12 There are moments in my life when I look back and can see how God in His perfect yet my...