Oh, the holidays.....what to do!

This is probably my last blog entry before the holidays. The calendar is filling up, and with all we have going on I hope to share some brief thoughts, well wishes and such here and there but if I'm being honest this is the best timing for some words of encouragement before we bulldoze our way through the next several weeks. Life is enjoyed more fully personally when I have carved time intentionally out of my life for what matters most. I had a wonderful, much needed yoga class yesterday and it just put me in the center of some much needed peace and awareness. I want to go into these holidays valuing my time with my family most. My best and favorite holidays growing up were spent just with my immediate family-Mom, Dad, my brother Mike and me. We didn't travel over the holidays usually because with my Dad being a Pastor meant we had a number of special events and obligations that required him to be available. In one way or another, it taught me to appreciate making the best memories of the holidays with my family. I love spending time with our relatives, family reunions and gatherings of extended family but-my greatest treasure is time with my husband Ryan, and my four babies, Rylee, Bailey, AJ and Chloe. The value of making our own memories was instilled in me early on, and now I am passing that on to my own children. I am looking forward to time with our extended family, but I am even more excited about time with my immediate family-the Freeman's Six. Ryan and I decided early on in our marriage that we were not going to join the majority of people who run themselves ragged going non stop through Thanksgiving and Christmas from one place to the next, ensuring we've spent an equal amount of predetermined time with our extended families. We are thankful for whatever time we can enjoy with our families, but we want our time with our immediate family to take priority. I want my children to have the same appreciation that Ryan and I have of recognizing the importance of their own family time before time with extended family. There is immense value and appreciation for both, but the priority should always fall to our immediate family. Nothing is more important in life than family. Our relationship with the Father is our foundation, but our family is next and most important in shaping who we are, our confidence in life, our ability to cope with any given situation that life throws our way. Family is the greatest gift, something I am most thankful for this holiday season, but truly year round. Friends will come and go, but family is forever. I don't know what I'd do, looking at the ups and downs life has thrown my way, if I didn't have my family to support me. I am the person I am today not only because of how God has grown me and provided me such a foundation of faith, but because my family has always been there for me. I want that to be true for my own family too. I have had the joy of hearing my daughter Rylee say to me and Ryan already how much she appreciates the love and support she has received from us. I look forward to hearing my children say this and seeing this portrayed by all four of my children as they grow and one day have families of their own. It breaks my heart to watch as families we know, and families whose lives are being chronicled through the media outlets, are falling apart. I realize I cannot protect my children from that, because the reality is they have a free will. They are going to be influenced by the world no matter how I attempt to shield and protect them. At some point I have to recognize my influence only goes so far, and at some point they will exercise that free will and make their own choices. They are going to make good and bad choices, and I will hope and pray that God will protect and provide so that they choose to make wise choices. I am thankful to see a growing, thriving faith in my two oldest children, and my heart's prayer is for my two youngest children to find faith in Christ one day too. I hope and pray that as we enter this holiday season, we are mindful of how truly blessed we are. We have more freedom and luxury than many, and we take far too much for granted. I hope you'll take a moment to consider what you can say 'no' to this year, to open up some more time to enjoy being with your own family. I hope you'l take a moment to instead of doing the usual gift exchange, consider taking your family to sing Christmas carols to the residents of your local nursing home or serve a meal at your local homeless shelter. I hope you'll consider taking your family to church and making it a habit, a beautiful new habit for your family to establish time with God in worship with a church family that will love you, live life with you and support you. I hope you'll consider how you can make an impact on your community by doing something unique and extraordinary. God has given us a world to meet, to meet with His likeness exuding from us! We are to be like Christ, and expose the world to something far better than anything it can provide. More than anything, take time to be selfless. Throw away your wish list and start a wish list for others instead. God is calling each of us to be His hands and feet. We can always do more, so what does that look like for you today? Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and New Year's blessings to you! God is good!

Speak Peace, Demonstrate His Love

I'll admit it. As I have aged, as life has hit me this way and that way, as I have learned to live with people I love and people I would just assume avoid altogether in this life, I find it difficult to control my tongue in the best and worst of situations. Let's take the latter of those two. I have joked with Ryan and a couple of friends over the years, that I could have probably been a lawyer or a politician in another life because of my strong opinion about a variety of subjects. I was raised to be confident, independent and to approach life with the best I have to offer. I like to do things a certain way, I like my life to be organized and predictable, everything in its place. I am okay when it comes to surprises, once the initial shock of it has worn off, and despite my need to know what is coming up and have everything well in place, I am and will always be open to something new and changing, especially if it will improve my current circumstances. As I am getting older, and as the pace of life is speeding up and threatening to run me over if I don't keep up, I find I am easily sucked into this cranky, I refuse to put up with your nonsense type of attitude. I prefer a quiet night at home with my family, watching a movie and snuggling on the sofa, rather than going out or to a big gathering. I'm a home-body, cherish my time on more simplified terms and will defend it passionately. Like some of you, in my own little world, as I absorb what is taking place all around me and the injustices that are unfolding, I could very easily get caught up in the politics, the passions expressed unendingly and uncensored through any number of public forums and social media outlets. There have been moments when I have participated in some of these discussions and there have been moments that I have chosen to heed that nudge inside me that says to be silent, think before I speak. Ever been there? As much as we'd like to voice our concerns, our outrage over any one given situation that has been blasted on the nightly news or the headlines in our newspapers and online, there is something to be said for wisely stepping back and holding our tongues. How many times, in the heat of the moment, have we lashed out without a second thought to what that tongue lashing could do? Do we stop to consider at any point the damage that we can do with our tongues? In my devotional a few moments ago, I read this scripture, so timely for this subject:

The wise are cautious and avoid danger; but fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence. Proverbs 14:16 NLT

Something that has occurred to me today, as we consider how we can serve one another, help those who are hurting deeply right now. Before we offer the Scriptures, the quotes, the songs, the solutions that seem to come to mind so quickly when we are in that moment, listening to someone pour out their heart about a need--stop and consider that the best help you may be able to offer at that moment is to LISTEN. Don't get me wrong, God has called us to be salt and light in a very dark world, but sometimes the greatest comfort we can give someone in need is a hug and the words, "I am here for you. I am listening." Consider carefully and choose wisely what you will say to someone who may come across your path today. I want to offer my hands to hold another's and pray for them, my arms to hold them in a comforting hug, and my ears to listen to whatever may be pouring from their hearts today. There is a world out there, some of the people we need to help are right in front of us. A friend you have known for years, a family member, or it may be a perfect stranger we pass at the gas station. Your willingness to stop and say hello, look them in the eye and offer them some help, or even asking them, "May I pray for you?" could be the difference in their entire day, perhaps a turning point in their lives. I want to live my faith with confidence, and I will speak up for what is right in these days of great injustice, but I will choose to lean on the wisdom of the Father to determine what comes out of my mouth first.

The biggest impact we can have for Christ often may come without speaking a word, but by opening our eyes and our hearts to the needs right in front of us.

Trust, the Lord is good!

Why should I feel discouraged
Why should the shadows come
Why should my heart feel lonely
And long for heaven and home

When Jesus is my portion
A constant friend is he
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches over me
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me

Words by Civilla D. Martin, 1905/Music Charles H. Gabriel

We know God is able to deliver us. We know He will carry us through he deepest, darkest valleys. How easy it is when we are in that valley, to walk heavy hearted, feeling the weight of the world and its demands upon us, and somehow we let our weakness determine our path rather than reach for His strength to determine to walk on into His light! Why is this hard? Why do we seem to cherish our struggle? Why do we hold so tightly to what the world tells us is going to make us feel happy, safe and secure? Why? Goodness, the bombardment we are faced with every day! There is a battle raging on and on, and we can choose to be crushed by it or we can fight it and grasp to the only strength that can pull us through-Jesus! When words cannot be formed, when our hearts are broken, when our trust is shaken, and when we cannot see with our physical eyes the light at the end of the tunnel let's choose to reach up and hold on to Jesus! Catch this that I read today:

You are not going to understand why God allows storms and heartache in your life but that should not make you doubt his love. During those times when you are stopped by the furnace of affliction, the sea of trouble and the mountain of despair, remember that it is not a holding place but a resting place. God is keeping you near to his heart and revealing more of himself to you. Only there can you understand that at the end of your weakness is his limitless strength.
(Faith that Defies Understanding, http://mvbernard.com/tag/trusting-god-in-hardship/)

Psalm 28:7, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped.”

He is more than able! We are blessed beyond measure, even in this moment that would seem impossible and insurmountable! I want to know and trust and cling to the Father more today than any other day in my life. How will you approach your circumstances-with fear and anxiety, or with joy and praise for His goodness in your life? We have a Savior, and that alone is worth throwing off every care we could ever have in this life. Trust Him, fling aside the burdens that have shadowed your day today and give Him praise for Who He is and for Whose you are!

Praying for you my friend, today, and every day on this journey of life.

Peeling off the layers

I was reading my devotional this morning and it was about letting God heal us when we are broken hearted. This one line stuck me and it was enough to make me wince a little.

'Trust the Lord with everything-even with your pain.'

I had to stop and consider, have I held on too tightly to the wounds in my soul? Have I even gone so far as to hold on to my pain like a toddler with his favorite blanket? Have I allowed myself to wear my pain, my suffering like a badge? Ouch. I think it is safe to say, yes, to every one of those questions. Yes, I have let my wounds become like the clothing I wear. There are some deeper than others, and instead of completely trusting God to heal me and take it from me, I've chosen to wallow in it for awhile. What a horrible feeling, a terrible realization. And what is worse-have I allowed that to distract me from helping someone else who is dealing with a hurt of their own?

The depth of God's love and mercy for me, well, it is nearly tangible today. This past week or so, I have chosen to release a lot of "stuff" to God that I've held on to for far too long. I have grown so weary, so physically and mentally ill from the worries and burdens of this life, that I couldn't take it anymore. And, what is worse? The breaking point has come most recently in watching it manifest in our two older children. What better test of your trust in God, and just how evident your reflection of Him is than to see your worries and concerns weighing down your children. Try as we might, we can't fool ourselves into thinking our kids are oblivious to what we are experiencing. On some level, they know. We have always been open with the kids, we talk about everything we are going through because at some point they will know something is going on. We can try and shield our kids from what we going through in an effort to protect them from harm, but I am a big believer in being real with my kids and getting on their level so they can understand how both the good and the bad are going to effect them. It is a harsh world out there and I want them to be prepared, I want them to have a healthy outlook and ability to handle what is thrown at them. Let's face it-our kids are exposed to so much more than we ever were. We can candy coat it, we can deny it and paint it all like it's daisies and roses all the time, but how does that help them? I choose to make an effort to include my kids in the fullness of joy in this life and teach them how to deal with the harshness of life as well. Whether we realize it or not, we are teaching our kids all the time so all the more reason to equip ourselves and know how to respond to them when the time comes. Several years ago when Rylee was younger, we watched her go through a very dark, anxious time in her life and as time passed we saw that our sweet daughter needed some outside help. All the love and support of her family and friends, and her relationship with God were a beautiful foundation for her to draw upon, but at some point we realized that we needed some professional help. As we went through therapy with her, watched her learn to deal with her condition, and how to cope with life and all that she was battling inside, I found myself feeling so helpless and inadequate as a parent. I found myself feeling very angry, grieved for my child that it appeared God wasn't enough for her hurt. I have found myself feeling the weight of that myself for several years now, some moments more so than others. In recent months, I have been in a place of deep longing, searching to know God more than I have ever known Him before in my life. I have been seeking out time alone with Him, not just for myself, but first and foremost for Ryan, for Rylee, for Bailey, for AJ and even for Chloe as young as unaware as she is. I struggle like any parent with being able to provide everything my children really need, not in the sense of the basic needs like food, shelter, etc. but in comforting them, answering their questions, telling them with absolute certainty that it is going to be alright. I have struggled slowly but surely to peel off the layers I have built around me over the past few years, because of how "comforting" my hurt, my wounds have been to cocoon myself into. I don't want those wounds, those hurts, those struggles, to distract and prevent me from being Jesus to someone who is struggling. I want to resolve to let go of all that would weigh me down, to be at peace and rest in fully trusting my God to truly supply ALL of my needs. I want to be better because of what I've been through, and not let it define me. I want to approach each day pain-free, trusting in God who knows what is the very best for me, and not second guessing Him because what I may see or hear seems so great for me! It comes to this---I must resolve to be comfortable in a state of longing to know God more! The life long obssession with loving Him, eminating His goodness, thoughts and words of hope flowing through me and from me, knowing that no matter how that dirty dude downstairs digs at me I wil not be crushed! I will not be moved! I will stand firmly, confidently on the promises of a great and powerful God!

We cannot save ourselves, we cannot save our children, but we can turn it all over to the One who can! He is ready and waiting to welcome us into His arms, free us from our pains, our struggles, our darknesses and love us into His glorious light! Here's hope:

Psalm 34:8 NIV Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Psalm 147:3 NIV He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

I know that You are for me....

I know that You are for me,
I know that You are for me,
I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness.
I know that You have come now
Even if to write upon my heart….
To remind me of who You are!---Kari Jobe, “You are For Me”

Are you weak today? Are you in need of a fill, mind-body-spirit feeling depleted? Life is tiresome isn’t it? I have read countless stories, spoken with and shared heartache with dear friends, and experienced it ourselves personally: what we can only interpret as an unexpected, devastating blow to our so-called “life plan”. This has been an on the edge of our seats kind of year. We took the leap, moved to Missouri in search of a better job for Ryan and a fresh start for our family just a little over a year ago. As we enter year 2 in this new season, we find ourselves in an exciting yet nerve wracking season. God is good, all the time! He has provided for our every need, every step of the way and at times just in the last moments when we thought we just might not meet a particular need. We knew coming out of what Ryan experienced in Indiana, the struggle to find a good job and decent wage for him, that the road to recovery would not be a quick and easy one. Recovery, particularly from job loss and an extended period of temporary or minimal paying jobs, is a long, hard process. We have been watching and praying over the past month or so as God has opened several doors for new opportunities for Ryan.

We are experiencing a mixture of emotions today, and I have to admit we are shaken but not completely crushed. God has provided an amazing ministry opportunity for Ryan as part time Worship Pastor at The Crossing Church in Springfield. We are thrilled, humbled and blessed to have been provided with this position of service and ministry. More recently, this past week has brought another answer to Ryan in the secular work world. The doors to two different positions at MSU closed as they chose to go with another candidate and passed on Ryan. There is a struggle then, between two things—the blessing, the joy of seeing God’s provision in one way, but the anxiety and stress of uncertainty in another area. The reality of our situation, is that we are still in recovery financially. As we approach another year, a new school year, the rising cost of living for our family with four growing children, and we see what our needs are and work our budget to the bone trying to figure out how we can make what we have work just a little bit longer---we can choose to do one of two things:

1. Panic
2. Pray

Go has called us, loves us, and desires for us to approach Him with confidence, with a bold and eager attitude to simply throw every care we have down and trust him fully and completely! Do you know what freedom there is when we choose mentally and physically to say,
“I will not be consumed by the things of this world! I will not be overwhelmed! God is MORE than able! He will provide and provide ABUNDANTLY! Lord, we need You, and we trust You to take care of it ALL!”

The song “You are For Me” has been flowing in my heart and mind for several days now. He knows me, He loves me, He wants and desires for me to praise Him, sing to Him, honor Him at all times! Can we say that when trouble comes, our first reaction is to praise Him? Probably not, because our natural reaction is to recoil, cry out “Why!” and “Help me!” So, what if we did something different? What if we choose to in that moment, immediately praise our God for being Who He is even when we have no clue why something has happened? These are difficult days for so many of us, and as I type this I am thinking of a number of sweet friends who are seeking, desperately seeking what God would have for them to do today. I know you are struggling my friend, but I know your struggle is unnecessary! I know, that somehow, in some way, my God will supply precisely what you need. I say that not only for you, but for me as well. I don’t know exactly how, but I know that my God is more than able—and that knowledge alone must be enough, because I want Him to count me faithful and obedient at all times. I am inspired to make a choice to approach these difficult times, moments of uncertainty with far more hope than I’ve had in the past. Make no mistake, we are in a battle daily, throughout our day, and if we allow human nature to win, we are giving Satan a victory he does not deserve. Take heart and have hope!

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.---Psalm 121 NIV

A Heart Set Apart

I have been anticipating this blog entry for several days now. The excitement, the expectation at this time, this very season of our lives, is almost tangible for me. I get a bit of a tingly feeling, flutter in my soul to think about what God is doing. I can't see it, or hear it, but I sense He is allowing the next best thing to unfold. For several years now, Ryan and I have struggled, walked and at times, crawled through some very dark moments. God placed a call upon our hearts for ministry a long time ago, but we were hesitant in answering it right away. When we did, we were helpless, completely at the mercy of His will because we knew deep down, the time was ours and He had a ride ahead for us! Little did we know the twists and turns that ride would take, but oh, how He has taught us, walked with us and carried us through! The joys of seeing the fruits of our labor for the Kingdom, and the agony of watching what we thought were best laid plans crumble right in front of us. Do you know what resounded in my heart, in my soul, through my joy and through my sorrow? God Is Good! No matter the circumstances, no matter what we saw happening in our own perspective, He came through. He delivered, He provided, He comforted, He restored.

Next Sunday, October 13, we find ourselves once again in a position to begin a new season of ministry with The Crossing Church of Springfield, Missouri. I can honestly say, looking back over the last two years, seeing the hard work, the painfully hard work we had to put in to endure what we thought was a "wilderness", waiting for God to provide the worship ministry job Ryan had been wanting so desperately, wondering how many more closed doors we would have to face......somehow, beyond what we could see, God had a plan then, and He has a plan now. Yes, it is hard not seeing it in its entirety, but where would the lesson be if we could? God has His reasons, and it is usually because we have a lot to learn. How often we find ourselves being such poor students.

Today I found myself studying the phrase, this thing that came to mind, "to be set apart". We are to be set apart. In its purest definition, the Hebrew word 'kadosh' translates to holy or sanctified, the Greek equivalent is 'hagios'. Important to note in the understanding of this phrase "to be set apart" is that we cannot choose it, God must designate it. Did you get that? Let's break it down to better understand what exactly it means to be "set apart".

First, through Declaration. He calls us to a specific vocation, to live in a certain region, to marry a certain someone, and so on. Whether you want to recognize it or not, there are elements in your life that you have been called to right now. What is probably making some of you question this right now, is the fact that you are unsettled where you are in life and in fact you are feeling a nudge in your gut that this is the moment when you realize you can turn it around. You are much more than you allow yourself to be, and God has a great purpose and plan for your life. Don't put it off, I encourage you to begin finding the path He has for you. Don't give up, go after your dream, follow your calling!

Second, through isolation. I have experienced the necessity of this more than once in my life. The greatest hindrance to our walk with Christ, growing my fully and completely in Him is how busy and distracted we've become. There is something to be said for stepping away, giving up some of the things in our lives and being still, being quiet, meditating on Him. It is hard to be quiet, to listen for long periods of time. In this day and time, there's such a push for everyone to make their voice heard, rise above the hum of all the other noises going on around us. Have we ever stopped to consider our best form of preparation for being "set apart" is to be alone with God? So I encourage you today, take time out of each day to be quiet, be still, listen. God has something to speak to you and you don't want to miss it. Find time to get away for a retreat with your church, and leave all of the world's distractions at home. Be filled with Him. Know Him more.

Third, through Dedication. We have opportunities time and time again in our lives to dedicate a number of things to God, as an act of our commitment to be set apart. We have witnessed this as we have joined with churches in building and dedicating new structures for ministry, the dedication of our children and witnessing the dedications of so many children in our church families, mission trips and missionaries commitments to service, the blessing of new homes, and the list can go on. We make it a point to physically commit what is important to us and as a result we have a tangible reminder of a very spiritual decision we have made. This is a powerful tool we can use to teach the love of God to others.

Fourth, through Commemoration. The decision to remember something before God, a prioritization and action. Committing to pray without ceasing for God's will to come alive in someone's life, asking God to fulfill the promises He's made in the Word, specifically asking God's presence be made known in and through a difficult situation in someone's life and giving Him glory at a time when someone else may be experiencing God's abundant blessing.

(Scriptural Concepts: Set Apart, "P'nei Adonai: Resources for walking in the presence of God", http://penei.org/concepts-set-apart.shtml)

By choosing to live out this phrase, "to be set apart", we can live a more abundant life, the kind of life God has always intended for us to live. God uses people, events, dreams, visions and even His own quiet voice to remind us we are to be "set apart". This past weekend, I experienced an awesome example of this, seeing our church come together selflessly and raise the funds needed for our missionary friends in Nigeria to build a well. A well that will not only provide water for the physical thirst of those who come to their church, but "living water" for a spiritual thirst to know the love of Christ!

We are to be set apart, we are the light of the world, and we have an amazing opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people we pass by every single day. Don't miss it!

Hebrews 12:14 NLT 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.

1 Corinthians 6:19 NLT Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself...

How lovely You are, Oh Lord!

I am reminded daily by what I see, hear and witness happening in the world, how vital it is to have faith, trust in God, lean fully into Him! I cannot and will not make it a day in this life without knowing I have a Savior. Many of you have followed my blog and walked with us through some very difficult days, and I stop breathless, unable to speak except to say the name "Jesus!" when I hear of another dear friend's struggle in this life. How do we cope? How do we move forward? How do we rise above what seems to be insurmountable, impossible, inescapable? I received this wonderful passage of scripture via email today and it was like cool water to my soul, needed refreshment!

Psalm 84:1-2 (NLT) How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.

In the worst of times, in the best of times, let's enter His courts with praise! No matter what we must face today, embrace the Lord fully and determine to shout joyfully throughout your day! He is good, He will take care of You, He will provide, He is our Hope and Salvation! Where is our hope if not in Him? How lovely He is!

Somehow the hardest times are softened, muffled when we choose to let it fall away and fall into the arms of the Father! I need that every day, don't you?

Ryan and I have been on a journey, and as we have come away with lessons learned, experiences worth cherishing and some otherwise unforgettable, we choose to move forward, embrace the calling He has placed upon our lives from the beginning. There were days I honestly was ready to hang up my hat, walk away from church, and I told God, "I am so weary, so tired of being hurt, disappointed, disillusioned by what Your people are doing with what You've entrusted them to do as Your Bride! I can't do this anymore, ministry-it's just too hard. I don't want to be part of something that is so broken." So, you know what God has been speaking to my heart in response? I hear Him saying, "I get it. I know your hurt all too well. I understand what you have experienced and endured. But I also know far better than you do, what you are capable of, what you are called to, and what you are destined to become! Embrace the calling that I've placed within your heart from the very beginning! I am not finished with you yet!"

Life is hard, we are going to be hurt, disappointed, disillusioned, and we will reach what feels like the very edge of our endurance. It is at that edge, we have a choice to step out into the great unknown, risk it all and for what? For Christ and for His Kingdom. For my brothers and sisters, who some I may not like very well sometimes, and I may not get along with every single one of them, but I can let go of my inhibitions and expectations and embrace the attitude of Christ. I can love and care for even the worst of humanity, because Christ does. I can give above and beyond what I think I am capable of, because Christ did. God didn't send His Son to die on the Cross for a select few-He did it, He died for all! We have a brief time on this earth to impact the lives of so many so that they can know and embrace salvation in Christ. I am thankful, despite my inadequacies, my failings, my stumbling through life at times, that God still has hope in me. Because He has hope in me, I have hope in Him! Because of how much He has given to me, I will give all I can for Him. Let's make a choice daily to dwell in His courts, make the most of our time in this life! It won't be easy but I guarantee it will do your heart good!

Living life with a bit more hope today than yesterday. Let's get out there and give God our best!

2 Chronicles 16:9 NLT-The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

This blog entry comes in the midst of some particularly challenging days for me. I am not sure why but for some reason God has allowed circumstances, stresses in my life to come to a boiling point and my heart, my mind are weary. I know the grit of it, is simply my inability to find a peace with myself, with my life. I have been extremely unsettled and unhappy for a very long time. It is hard to say that but I am. I have come back to this realiziation on several occasions over the past two years. My work life has taken some interesting twists and turns. I have chosen each one for better or worse, and rode it out as best I could. I knew God intended for me to be in each one for a reason, and no matter how good or bad it was I made the best of it. I have found a certain level of satisfaction with each one, but never truly felt any one in particular was the career of a lifetime for me. I came into each one and through each one knowing in my heart and mind that I could do it, I could do it well, and it was right for the time being but I didn't see any particular one being a life long career for me. The only thing I was certain of and what kept me going was, this could work for me until the time is right, and God provides for me to have the freedom and blessing to be at home full time. That was my goal, that was all I wanted. God has provided some very interesting opportunities for me and I have worked toward it and attained more than I thought I would. I am proud of what I've achieved, but when I set that aside, I'm not where I want to be. My greatest achievement is my family, my pride is in being the best me God intends for me to be, and the jewels in my crown are my sweet husband and my children. It doesn't matter to me what my resume shows I did in life, because what matters most is my family. I am at another point in my life, a crossroads you could say. I know what awaits me, the realm of possibilities and I am excited to see what may unfold in the next few months for me professionally. It would be easy at my age, at this point in my life, the experiences we have had to say, "What is the point of changing anything now? It is better, it is safer, it is smarter to go with the expectations that have been placed upon me. It is better to settle and make the most of what has been granted to me now. It is better not to take any risks. It is better to put aside any lofty ideas, dreams of something different and the creative freedoms that may come with taking a less predictable road."

I don't like feeling unsettled, and I am tired of being unhappy. Don't get me wrong-I am very thankful for where I am today, but it is possible to be thankful for where you are and yet be unsettled, unhappy and itching to do something more! Don't you think? Some life lessons I stumbled across today:

Slow down. Rushing is rarely worth it. Life is better enjoyed at a leisurely pace.

Goals aren’t as important as we think. Try working without them for a week. Turns out, you can do amazing things without goals. And you don’t have to manage them, cutting out on some of the bureaucracy of your life. You’re less stressed without goals, and you’re freer to choose paths you couldn’t have foreseen without them.

The moment is all there is. All our worries and plans about the future, all our replaying of things that happened in the past — it’s all in our heads, and it just distracts us from fully living right now. Let go of all that, and just focus on what you’re doing, right at this moment. In this way, any activity can be meditation.

If you find yourself swimming with all the other fish, go the other way. They don’t know where they’re going either.

Mistakes are the best way to learn. Don’t be afraid to make them. Try not to repeat the same ones too often.

Failures are the stepping stones to success. Without failure, we’ll never learn how to succeed. So try to fail, instead of trying to avoid failure through fear.

Rest is more important than you think. People work too hard, forget to rest, and then begin to hate their jobs. In fitness, you see it constantly: people training for a marathon getting burned out because they don’t know how to let their straining muscles and joints recover. People who try to do too much because they don’t know that rest is where their body gets stronger, after the stress.

The destination is just a tiny slice of the journey. We’re so worried about goals, about our future, that we miss all the great things along the way. If you’re fixated on the goal, on the end, you won’t enjoy it when you get there. You’ll be worried about the next goal, the next destination.

Let go of expectations. When you have expectations of something — a person, an experience, a vacation, a job, a book — you put it in a predetermined box that has little to do with reality. You set up an idealized version of the thing (or person) and then try to fit the reality into this ideal, and are often disappointed. Instead, try to experience reality as it is, appreciate it for what it is, and be happy that it is.

Gratitude is one of the best ways to find contentment. We are often discontent in our lives, desire more, because we don’t realize how much we have. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, be grateful for the amazing gifts you’ve been given: of loved ones and simple pleasures, of health and sight and the gift of music and books, of nature and beauty and the ability to create, and everything in between. Be grateful every day.

Get some perspective. Usually when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. In the larger picture, this one problem means almost nothing. This fight we’re having with someone else — it’s over something that matters naught. Let it go, and move on.

Don’t sit too much. It kills you. Move, dance, run, play.

Do less. Most people try to do too much. They fill life with checklists, and try to crank out tasks as if they were widget machines. Throw out the checklists and just figure out what’s important. Stop being a machine and focus on what you love. Do it lovingly.

Fear will try to stop you. Doubts will try to stop you. You’ll shy away from doing great things, from going on new adventures, from creating something new and putting it out in the world, because of self-doubt and fear. It will happen in the recesses of your mind, where you don’t even know it’s happening. Become aware of these doubts and fears. Shine some light on them. Beat them with a thousand tiny cuts. Do it anyway, because they are wrong.

("38 Life Lessons I've Learned in 38 Years", Post written by Leo Babauta, zenhabits.net)

I"m no expert on life, and I believe we are each one destined for greatness but-that destiny is in God's hands, and it is up to you how you choose to navigate the path He lays out. I want to breathe life in, and not miss what may be right before me, the chance to tap into some hidden potential just waiting to break free! I am excited, hopeful, ready to see where this new direction in my path may lead. I don't know what lies ahead, but I know there is the possibility of something greater than what I have today. I do not want to leave a single stone unturned, and I am looking forward to seeing what God has for me.

Be my Everything....

Yet another Monday has smacked me clean in the face and I am slowly getting into a groove today. This weekend I had a meltdown, and it was brought on by several things that had piled up over the course of the week. I stumble daly, in particular with my OCD need to somehow be in control of my life, when in all actuality none of it is. My Father in heaven orchestrates every moment of my life without my knowing and understanding it the majority of the time.

We are still in somewhat of a holding pattern this season, several open doors for Ryan with new job possibilities. The new reality we are finding is that a full time worship ministry role is hard to come by anymore. A lot of churches, the majority of churches have had to improvise in this tough economy and go bivocational unless you live in an area that is thriving with several mega churches that can sustain a larger, more diverse staff. Ryan is still trying to find his niche, and rather than take a position where he feels he must be boxed in and conform to what a church thinks he should do as a worship pastor, he is waiting to find a position where he is able to truly spread his wings creatively, while being supported in his ability to do the job with excellence as well as not being burdened by a board's unrealistic and inexperienced list of to-do's for the day. I am thankful for the chance Ryan has had to share in ministry with both of his brothers, and experience worship leadership in some other venues where he's had a taste of what a healthier ministry and staff environment can provide for him. I admit there was a time and there still is a lingering thought that I'd rather Ryan not ever take a worship pastor job again. I watched and experienced the pressures and demands that come with being both a pastor's kid and a pastor's wife. I saw my Mom do it so well, but I am finding I am not cut out for it. Being under that microscope is a difficult task, and I am constantly amazed to watch how churches handle the admitted flaws of their pastors and reel in shock when something happens. Wake up churches! You are all human, your pastors included, and here's a given you better come to expect--at some point your pastor is going to make a mistake and hopefully that same pastor will do the right thing from the get go and tell you he is accountable to God first, and to the church body second. The same goes for our governing boards, elders, deacons, etc. With accountability in place, we can ride out the storm better than if there were no accountability in place at all. I am praying this for Ryan, as we continue to maneuver through this season of life, that he finds a position with a church that has a healthy and well-rounded expectation of the Worship Pastor and truly is unified as a staff team to not only do ministry well but do it in ever changing, transforming, and creative ways. This Summer and Fall have turned out to be seasons of real change for Ryan and I. Opportunities are coming and going, and progress is being made in this time more so that the length of time we waited while we were in Indiana. It is more evidence that our move to Missouri was God's plan all along, and He continues to reveal to us new and interesting possibilities.

This is only part of what set me on a course to a meltdown last weekend. We have been managing two aging vehicles for years now and out of necessity and the lack of funds to secure a newer vehicle, we chose to make having older vehicles and no car payments work for us as long as we could manage it. Several hundred dollars worth of repairs in the Spring and a lot of prayer and research led us to look into purchasing a replacement used vehicle. God provided, the stars aligned, however you want to look at it and a local and reputable used dealership had a used minivan that turned out to be just what we needed and could afford. Going from two vehicles to one was not easy but we could make it work because of the close promixity of our jobs, and the kids not having a hectic extracurricular schedule. What we didn't anticipate was the repairs that would come less than 2 months after and as I type this blog entry Ryan is taking that lovely minivan into the dealership today after having a lengthy conversation with their service department supervisor over the weekend of what we've had to do.
It keeps getting better-as the school year has begun, our son AJ has been having some issues with his attention span, getting his work complete, following basic directions, etc. Several phone and email conversations with his teacher and not even 3 weeks fully into the new year we are disappointed and uncertain as to what we need to do. At first glance it appears he is simply unmotivated and doesn't feel like doing the work, enjoys twirling his pencil and pretending it's a rocket ship rather than following the teacher's directions. One particular day, they had to get out their dictionary and workbook, and when he was asked to find the words on the list and write down the definitions, he said he didn't do it simply because he decided he could come up with more creative words. Anyone care to dig into this 8 year old third grader's mind and see what makes him tick because I can't seem to figure out other than he is simply bored and hasn't found the outlet for the creativity that he possesses! Awesome! Further into the talks with his teacher we noted he'd had some issues with seeing the board and being a bit slow in writing down what was given to him to copy on his paper. We made an appointment for the eye doctor, discovered he does in fact have issues seeing far away, and he came home proudly wearing a new pair of reading glasses. This morning I got a brief email from his teacher stating he is already showing signs of improvement, taking greater interest in his work and very proud of his new eyewear. We are hopeful the good reports will continue as the week progresses so he can earn back his priveleges at home in terms of play time on the XBox, tv time, etc.
To wrap up the week, I had a particularly challenging couple of days and it boiled down to a project that I have struggled to tackle. I am slowly getting it down, but it is just another one of those things that I have had to learn, and it is not coming as quickly as I'd hoped. Again, the OCD kicks in and I struggle with wanting to get it done right/perfect the first time, and if I don't get it right away, it can make me physically and emotionally ill. Add that struggle to a storm that began to brew late afternoon Friday and is still going but for the moment seems to be handled. I like my job, but I do not love it. I know, I know, most of you would say yep, know what you are saying and that is just how it is. Well, there's a depth to that small statement for me that has lingered for years and when I heard the messsage at church Saturday night it re-ignited some "stuff" that I've been wrestling for years.
I know what my calling is, I know what I am good at, I know what my gifts are, but how do I find a way to make that translate into my work life? Bottom line-I never wanted to work full time and never intended to. My dream was to be a wife and mother, be home with my children, possibly do some part time work/projects here and there but I never, ever intended to be in the position that I am now. My struggle is not with that so much as it is the necessity for me to have a full time career, then I want it to be something that I truly find worthwhile, enjoyable, and an investment in me and my best that I have to offer. I know what I am capable of, I know what I can do and what I am able to accomplish, but why does this question keep lingering in my mind: Is this it? Is this all there is? Do I really have to settle for this for the next 20 years or more of my life?
My heart says no, but my mind says yes--do what you have to do because you don't have a choice.
As I gulped tearfully through a difficult conversation with Ryan on Friday night, limped through the weekend emotionally and physically, back and forth between waves of certainty and uncertainty, all I could think was I must stop thinking about what God could have for me and focus on what He has provided for me today. I somehow have to force my thinking to relax and center in on how good God is. Somehow that has to be enough, I just need to let it all go. Why is this such a hard lesson to learn and why is it a neverending life lesson? All I know is I was confirmed in this very certainty as I came upon this scripture, and a song I heard for the first time years ago but was fresh in my heart this morning:

Psalm 63:5-7(The Voice) My soul overflows with satisfaction, as when I feast on foods rich in marrow and fat;
with excitement in my heart and joy on my lips, I offer You praise.
Often at night I lie in bed and remember You,
meditating on Your greatness till morning smiles through my window.
You have been my constant helper;
therefore, I sing for joy under the protection of Your wings.

"Everything" by Tim Hughes

God in my living
There in my breathing
God in my waking
God in my sleeping

God in my resting
There in my working
God in my thinking
God in my speaking

Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything

God in my hoping
There in my dreaming

God in my watching
God in my waiting

God in my laughing
There in my weeping
God in my hurting
God in my healing

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
You are everything

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
Be my everything

Christian lyrics - EVERYTHING LYRICS - TIM HUGHES 2007 Sparrow

I can't be my best me, I can't be fully in Christ if I am weighted down by all of this, so somehow, some way in my daily struggle to be the me God intends for me to be, I have to lay it all down and let Christ flow through me. I am so thankful for his mercy, for his grace because I am such a mess and I get it wrong so much of the time.

Thank you, Lord, for loving me! Be my Everything!

The hope that pushes me forward....

It is hard to believe another Summer is coming to an end and the Fall season approaches. It makes me sad how much faster time passes as I get older, and when I look back my first thought after reflection is, " I hope I never forget.." and simply linger in a moment of appreciation. I don't want to lose that sense of wonder, carefree and uninhibited youth that I once experienced. I'm approaching 42 and quite frankly I am so tired, so worn from how life has "handled" me. I feel like the last two years have aged me more than any other time in my life. The struggles Ryan and I have been through with jobs, in our marriage, in our spiritual life, have left us with some very deep, slow healing wounds. We know and have never lost belief in a God who has always been faithful, always provided, and will never let us down. I have struggled with trust in my husband, in God to restore what has been broken because of how hard it has been and how much He has allowed us to endure. I am still not certain of His purpose for so much of the loss we've experienced, and the only thing that enables me to move forward and not linger on it is the unwaivering truth that He has His reasons and knows best for me. I don't understand it, I don't agree with it, but at some point I let go of what control I think I have on my life and throw my hands up and say, "Okay, God, do something because I give up!" So I've been purposefully disconnected for awhile now to get focused, detox my heart, mind and soul and not have any distractions interfere with this process. I'm not done, and I know God is not done working on me, but I know where I stand for the moment. I've finding my way back slowly to trusting Him more fully, with our finances, with our marriage, with my unending need to be in control. I have had to face and I am still facing some "demons" from my younger years, the pressures I felt that I faced and had to endure. Combine that with what we've experienced in recent years, and I find myself waivering between quitting church altogether and the other extreme of cutting myself off from the world and checking myself into a monastery. I recognize the need for community in my walk with Christ, but I am so disappointed by how the body of Christ has behaved. I don't care about denomination, I don't care about what programs you offer and what you label it, and I don't care what kind of services you may or may not offer and when. All I care about is being in community with people who love God and want to impact the world for Him. It makes me sad to read and hear about churches that are struggling to survive, and I'm sorry to point it out to those of you who think the church is doing just fine-we are not and we have a lot of work to do. Two simple truths I've come across many times but are blaring like a news headline when I read another article about another church scandle, or another pastor let go, or another church closing its doors:

It's not about the building, it's about the people.

We don't come to church to be like other Christians, we come to be more like Christ!

There is a need in this day and age for every single one of us, Christ followers, to embrace the simple truth that is our faith: Love God, love others, and show the world who Jesus is! What is our priority? Strip everything you are doing away, let go of your opinions and expectations, and ask God what you need to do to plant the seeds and influence others for Christ. The packaging does not matter, the substance does.

I want to be a participant for change, and not simply go with the flow. If you find yourself struggling to be part of a church or one reason or another, then I encourage you to take time to be alone with God, immerse yourself in quiet meditation and find the peace that only God can provide. I am on that road, I am getting there. I have so much to learn, and I know I won't be nearly perfect until I am in His presence one day.

Scripture for reflection today:

Romans 15:13 (ESV) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

There is something to be said for letting something or a few something's go for the sake of getting re-focused, centered, and finding an all encompassing wholeness and healing in the mind, body and soul. A couple weeks ago I hit a low point, some things I can't share in specific detail because it is too raw, too personal and I am likely to do more harm than good to put it into words at this point and time. There will come a day when I can verbalize it, and do it in a way that reflects how far I've come, lessons learned, healing well underway. I am choosing to dive deeply into a meditative state, lose the distractions of this life that may hinder my ability to find peace and wellness in my being. I want to be in a better place mentally, spiritually, physically and I have put so much of what I need to deal with internally for the sake of getting so much handled, taken care of externally. I have found for a long time now that there is comfort in avoiding losing it by launching myself fully into work, or just the busyiness of life. There is to a degree comfort in the non stop chaos that is life for me and so many of you. I am finding the result of that is my time with God is not as deep and fulfilling as it should be. I spend time with him, but not as much as I need to, and I know I need it because the hurt and heartaches of life are starting to get in the way of the peace that He gives when we are all out surrendered to Him. The stresses and disapponitments of life and the pressures of keeping so many people "happy" have caused me to become somewhat bitter, more angry than I've ever been, and certainly very cynical. I am starting to feel it physically with more headaches, more aches and pains than I've had in my entire life. It has manifested itself in me both mentally and physically. I have known how to deal with all of this from a very early age, because I know God is by my side, ready to help and heal me, loving me unconditionally, providing all I need. I am finding there are wounds in my heart and soul too deep to overcome in a short amount of time. I am choosing to immerse myself in a state of meditation and in my searching today I found some great comforts.

I listened today to Christy Nockels "You Revive Me", and oh, it was just what I needed to hear. I also found precious reminders in the Word:

Phillipians 4:13 The peace of God...guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus

I know I have so much to learn yet, so much to understand, so for this moment I will choose to linger and love His presence. I will choose to let some things go for the sake of healing that must take place in my mind, my heart, my soul.
Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”
― Mother Teresa

We are just a week away from another move. Thankfully it is one of our easiest moves, but as I get a little older and because we've moved several times now, I am just plain tired of and do not enjoy it at all. As we are staring down the year ahead and see our one year anniversary in Missouri coming ever closer, I find myself reflecting on what we have faced and what we have yet to accomplish. I love the quote I found by Mother Theresa which is noted above. I believe wholeheartedly that God does not expect us to sit and wait for Him to magically orchestrate our lives without our faithful action. When a door opens, which can be interpreted many ways, I hit the pavement in hot pursuit until the door slams in my face. An open door can be in many forms, but this is just my opinion. First question we have to ask ourselves after a difficult time in our lives, is "Am I making an effort?" Are you setting any goals for yourself? Are you looking into any and every opportunity in the area you are most passionate about? Are you connecting and nurturing relationships with your family, friends, pastors, mentors, etc. who can help the process continue to move forward? We all have key people in our lives, people who can help connect the dots, keep the motion moving forward. The action we take to pursue these open doors will boost our confidence and enable us to keep moving forward if one thing doesn't happen, well, then something else may very well come along. In our most stressful days when Ryan had more than one worship ministry job lead and none of them came through, do you know what I said to him? "I know it isn't the answer you may have hoped for, but it is an answer." Don't give up, and don't lose momentum in the waiting, but actively continue your pursuit, dig deeply into Your time with God and absorbing His Word, and trust that another door is going to open. Mother Theresa's words are a great way to help me get refocused, because bottom line is when life hands us something good or bad, we have the choice to act on it or not. We can draw from the confidence inspired by Christ within us and keep moving forward, inching our way toward the next chapter of our lives. Be inspired today and embrace His Truth. Here's hope!

So what should we say about all of this? If God is on our side, then tell me: whom should we fear? If He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over on our account, then don’t you think that He will graciously give us all things with Him? Can anyone be so bold as to level a charge against God’s chosen? Especially since God’s “not guilty” verdict is already declared. Who has the authority to condemn? Jesus the Anointed who died, but more importantly, conquered death when He was raised to sit at the right hand of God where He pleads on our behalf. So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing. As the psalm says,

On Your behalf, our lives are endangered constantly;
we are like sheep awaiting slaughter.

But no matter what comes, we will always taste victory through Him who loved us. For I have every confidence that nothing—not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, height, depth, nor any created thing—can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 The Voice Translation)

Some decisions made, some will come later...

It has been an eventful week since my last blog entry so here's a brief summary.

After a lot of prayer, searching, stress in the house hunt, whether we should buy or rent, we have decided to rent a 4 bedroom apartment and stay in our same community. It was really an easy decision to make after we considered all the options before us and where we stand in our "recovery". We are not quite a year out from our move to Missouri. Recovery from a significant job/income loss takes a long time, and we knew going into this recovery that nothing would be fixed overnight! We are thankful to have good jobs and that we are making slow but steady progress. Some additional factors as to why we chose to rent rather than buy:

1. Down payment-we simply don't have the funds saved to put down 3-5% for a home purchase.
2. Credit score/history-we have not built enough longevity into our improved credit scores/history.
3. Home ownership/added costs-With home ownership comes additional responsiblities not expected when renting. We would have to pay property taxes, and the added expenses that come with owning a home: repairs and maintenance, lawn care, etc.
4. Consolidated monthly costs-Unlike home ownership, our rent includes utilities, internet, cable and trash services as well as the use of on site amenities like a fitness center, game room, pool, and movie theater.

We are blessed to have this option because it keeps our costs down and more manageable, and it gives us time to continue recovering, building and growing our finances with time. The bottom line for us: we are not in a hurry to invest in a home. We want to wait until we are fully prepared to invest in a home we can enjoy and live in for a very long time. Every move, every life experience for us this far has taught us how important it truly is to wait and be patient, God's timing is perfect!

Ryan has continued to find additional sources of income to fill the gaps still existing in our budget. It is hard to lose a job, lose that income that you thought would be there and that you've worked so hard for, and face having to take on multiple jobs to make up for it. This is the reality many people are facing even today, so it is a comfort to know we are not alone. We know God is not finished with Ryan and that only good things lay ahead, and as the doors of opportunity open we will wholeheartedly seek after God's will for our lives and embrace what He blesses for us to do.

I believe somehow God makes good of every life experience we have, but I battle daily with my need to understand it. At some point in my search for understanding, after I've released my frustration and anxiety to God, I am able to rest in knowing He has my best in mind and He loves me deeply. That should be all that matters, but my OCD-control-freak nature doesn't fully grasp it. Like I said, it is a daily battle and all too often I feel like I am losing. It only gets harder as I get older, so I must choose to trust and rely on Him, let go of my grip on life and let His love and grace be sufficient for my needs.

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
The Eternal, the Everlasting God,
The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary.
His wisdom is beyond understanding.
God strengthens the weary
and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care.
Young people will get tired;
strapping young men will stumble and fall.
But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength.
They will soar on wings as eagles.
They will run—never winded, never weary.
They will walk—never tired, never faint. Isaiah 40:28-31 The Voice Translation

Patience in the waiting: Week 3---Help me, Lord!

Why is it so hard to wait when in the end, when the time is right, we see from the other side it truly makes sense? Stupid human nature! Oy. I find as I get older, I have less and less patience with the things of this world, the reality we live in. There are moments I can see listed in my mind, experiences I have endured that I still don't fully understand God's purpose and I have every intention of asking Him when I am there one day, "Why?" The funny thing is, I will probably not even get the words out of my mouth because when I stand before Him, when I am no longer bound by this wretched body, feeble human mind, and burdened by the weight this world has placed upon me--it will be clear and I will be at peace. Anyone else longing for that day? Yes! It can't come soon enough. Thankfully God does not think like we do. Thankfully He is more patient, more loving, more gracious than we can possibly comprehend and is willing to wait even for just one more person to come into relationship with Him. Mind-blowing! I read a familiar passage this morning and just struck by how the events played out and God's hand truly orchestrated it for Jacob's good.

Genesis 29:20-28(NIV) So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her." So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant. When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?" Laban replied, "It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work." And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife.

Can you imagine how he must have felt? Here's something that crossed my mind as I read over this passage several times, letting it sink in. How many of us have asked God that question Jacob posed to Laban, "What is this you have done to me?" How many of us have found ourselves in a life experience so hard, so difficult, so painful, that it left us in a crumpled heap on the floor, crying out to God? Can you relate? Feeling battered, beaten up by life, and wondering if just one more thing happens then you're forever doomed and there is no hope? What is it that makes the difference, what can lift us out of this state, give us the supernatural ability to stand up and then put one foot in front of the other? Jesus, and His deep, unending, unconditional, abiding love for us! Do you know why we find ourselves going through what seems to be a cycle motion? This life is a journey, not an easy one at any given time, but because we are human, and because life is unpredictable it is all the more comforting and amazing to consider God is constant, He never changes, He is always near to the brokenhearted, the worn down, the mistreated and forgotten. He will never fail us, and He is always near to us! All we have to do, when we find ourselves at the very rock bottom of our situation, thinking there is no way up and out--we can reach up and find His arms open wide to help us.

Life is going to hand us a multitude of choices, good and bad, so what we do with what we've been given does not have to be simply up to us alone. When we choose to lay our lives before our God, consider how deeply He loves us, present our needs and our dreams to Him, and trust Him to provide according to His good and perfect will for us--we can somehow rest in a patient state because of His peace within us. I am so thankful for that. This truly is a lifelong lesson for me, and I am certain for many of you.

Whatever you are facing today, whether you are riding high in an amazing and fruitful time in your life, or maybe you are in a desert right now and in need of nourishment--God will certainly supply all that you need! Call on Him, and He will comfort, heal and restore you. I am prayng for you today and I am thankful we are on this journey together!

Patience in the Waiting, Week #2

Week 2 on my journey, starting off with a limp. Illness struck several members of my family over the weekend and as they are still recovering into this week, I am battling what most Mom's do--exhaustion on both a physical and emotional level. When someone gets sick, I step up the pace and clean like crazy, pull out my home remedies, make sure everyone is taken care of, and when I feel that somehow my world is at peace--then, I sit down and try to find some rest time for myself. That ended up equating to a 45 minute nap before I jumped back up and was at my nonstop Mom pace once again. My fb post on Monday summed it up well-felt like Monday slapped me in the face. Oy. So here we go with week #2 for Patience in the Waiting.

Psalm 40:1 (NLT) I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and He turned to me and He heard my cry.

Read that a few times, speak it out loud, sing it out, and see if it really sinks in to you heart. I must admit I found it hard to sink in. Why? Well, honestly...I may appear to be patient but deep down my humanity and my fiercely organized/OCD nature screams, "Lord, I have some great ideas, and a really good plan here, so could you pick up the pace?! I am ready to move on this sooner rather than later!" For those of you who have known me the majority of my life, you know that I am a generally patient person and manage stress well but truth is....it can only be attributed to the good Lord above and the strength He provides and peace that passes all human understanding! If I relied soully on my human ability, well, we can all imagine how my life would have likely ended up. God is good, and prayer is powerful, and I am so thankful for so many family and friends who stood beside me, encouraged and mentored me all these years and still do, because I could have truly screwed up my life if I hadn't given over to God and said, "I'm Yours! I cannot do this on my own!"

By now, you all know our story. Ryan has fought a battle with unemployment and underemployment for nearly two years, and by the grace of God and a lot of tears, prayers and God's good provision we were given a new and fresh start in August 2012. We can read online, in print, and watch the media's reports of so many lives turned upside down because of the hand they've been dealt by life. Just when you think life is good, things are progressing as you'd hoped, God has placed you somewhere that is ideal. We had this vision of finally settling down for a good long time, our kids growing up in one place, finding and maintaining lifelong friendships, and finding a home to live in and grow old together. We found out we were pregnant with Chloe, started looking for a home to purchase and felt the timing was finally right...and then it all began to change in the blink of an eye. Here we are, Chloe is 2 now and it is hard to believe we are essentially starting over. For whatever reason, God chose to allow us to endure that difficult season in Indiana, and He is still teaching us today. There was a time in my life when I thought what most people thought. Life would be ideal, perfect and as I had dreamed it would be when Ryan was finally in the perfect job, I was home enjoying being a wife and mother, and we would be enjoying amazing ministry and fellowship with our church family. Since our fresh start in August 2012, our arrival in Missouri has been nothing short of hitting the ground running. We are thankful for the jobs God has so graciously provided, and to see our hard work paying off. As God has opened the doors and the details have fallen right into place, we see our efforts coupled with His divine purpose for our lives has become a reality. We have a lot of hard work yet ahead of us in every area of our lives-financially, emotionally, spiritually. Recovery is not easy and is often painful, but it is necessary.

For those of you struggling even today, let me be among the first to tell you not to give up on your dreams! It may not have gone the way you'd expected it to, but your dreams are still within reach and God is not finished with you yet! There is hope and peace in the Father, who will certainly guide you with the decisions you have to make today, for you, for your family, for what lies ahead. Something I have told Ryan over and over in this whole process, which he is probably so tired of hearing by now....

Leave no stone unturned!

God has given you abilities, gifts, skills that can and will be put to use but you have to choose to explore every open door before you. God is not going to control you like some puppet on a stage! You have the free will, the ability to go, seek, explore! We are finding out very quickly that sometimes that means you take a job, start a career that provides the income and benefits you need for life but doesn't necessarily fit with what you'd dreamed of doing with what you are gifted for, passionate about. Sometimes, God gives us a career opportunity which enables us to provide for our needs, and still be able to enjoy what we are passionate about. A great example of this, my brother Mike. He has been a great teacher to me, interesting perspective and wisdom from my little brother! He has been with a company for many years, doing an amazing job and so blessed because of it. If you ask him, "Is this your dream job?" He'll probably say no, he'd rather be on the baseball field in a sports related profession. Either that, or in my opinion following in my Dad's footsteps and going into full time ministry. I appreciated his insight when we had this very conversation not long ago, because it is so true. He can do both. He can have this great professional career and also enjoy doing what he's passionate about. Would he prefer it to be different? Sure! How many of us would much rather get a paycheck doing what we are most passionate about? Yep! Me too! Sometimes, God's plan for our lives, to take care of what He has given us-our families-is to take on something that isn't necessarily what we had in mind. I am proud of my brother for what he has accomplished and finding that balance, making the choices he has professionally which enabled him to provide for his family, have more freedom to enjoy what he is passionate about and also serve in numerous capacities in ministry and missions through his church. The most beautiful part is to hear him say they are truly blessed and it is all thanks to God! So, check your focus, ask God to provide what you are dreaming of but recognize He may throw you a curve ball. What will you choose to do when that curve ball comes at you?

We all have so many choices before us every single day. I am praying for you to consider them all carefully. God has a plan for you, I have no doubt! I am eager to hear your story! I hope you are inspired and encouraged today!

Patience in the waiting

I am sure I've blogged on the subject of patience before, so this can perhaps go down as yet another entry. We enter into a season of life that seems to be going well, good things happening, and patience is farthest from our minds and not really an issue. Wham! Bam! Something of a challenge slaps us in the face, life hits us hard with a difficult season and we find ourselves faced with the necessity to be patient. Patience in the waiting, this "in-between-time", is not an easy thing for any one of us. We have a lot of questions for God, and it is inevitably out of a heart that is deeply wounded, perhaps betrayed, bitterly disappointed by what life has handed us thanks to man mishandling our circumstances. Now that is not to say everyone is to blame but me for what happened and for the result of how things went down. There is a part we all play in our present circumstances. Whatever occurred in the past, it is done, can't be changed or rewritten, and we must move forward. What is taking place in my present circumstances, well-that is something I have to coordinate rather delicately and weigh very carefully with respect for the ultimate plan of events orchestrated by a great and powerful God.

This past month I have been working at a faster pace in trying to square away our standing with finding a home. Whether we rent or purchase, that is the question but ultimately it matters most what God has purposed for us in terms of our physical dwelling space. It has been extremely exciting and stressful all at once--and this past week it all came to a spike especially on an emotional level. It didn't help that I was so intent on ensuring my first born had the most amazing, memorable and blessed 16th birthday celebration! I put a whole lot upon myself and now my body, my senses are in overload as a result!

The past 48 hours I believe the seams on my psyche have been splitting open a bit, some of my emotional overload and overkill has spilt over. I found myself searching the scripture, soaking up His Word, and digging into very informative articles on the subject of "patience in the waiting". I have been praying unceasingly, "God, You are God, You alone can handle it all, and I know You have my best in mind! I know I must let it go, and let You do a work in me!" I found comfort and necessary accountability in the words of family and friends, and last night came home with physical, visual reminders in my hands to display to set myself on course over the next two months for a lesson in patience. I plan to save this lesson to utilize every time I find myself in a season such as this.

Week 1: Wait, Trust and Pray!
Psalm 27:14
New Living Translation (NLT)

Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Count Your Blessings! See what God has done!

I have this posted, bright and colorful on my closet door to view before I go to bed and when I rise in the morning. I read two articles this morning, excellent sources on the subject of "patience in the waiting".

An excerpt from the first article, "Continue in Patience" by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April 2010 (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/continue-in-patience?lang=eng)
'... patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!

...eventually I learned that God’s promises are not always fulfilled as quickly as or in the way we might hope; they come according to His timing and in His ways. Years later I could see clear evidence of the temporal blessings that come to those who obey the Word of Wisdom—in addition to the spiritual blessings that come immediately from obedience to any of God’s laws. Looking back, I know for sure that the promises of the Lord, if perhaps not always swift, are always certain.'

Interesting to consider most of us picture ourselves, in our moments that necessitate patience as sitting on our butts, looking up at God and going, "Okay, waiting on You, Lord." In fact, we are to be active in that state of patience, not idle, not unmoving. Even in our state of patience, we must continue to be active in our hope, our seeking out the desires of our hearts, a form of spiritual exercise! Bottom line, our efforts are not loss if in fact we are patiently enduring and our focus is intensely on Christ--His will be done. It may not come in our idea of the end result, but we can be certain it will come in God's time and as He intends for the end result to be.

An excerpt from the second article, "Practicing Patience When God Has You Waiting", by Barbara Erochina, (http://powertochange.com/experience/spiritual-growth/practicingpatience/)
'...Patience as listed in Galatians 5 is often called longsuffering. The original Greek word is makrothumio, meaning “long temper”. We are to keep a long and slow temper towards God, others and ourselves. This spiritual posture calls for grace. It is grace that compels us to trust God, grace that we can extend to others when they hurt us and grace to forgive ourselves when we stumble and fall.

...Standing patiently when we wait on the Lord does not mean being stuck at a standstill. Consider Ephesians 6 which instructs us to “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then.” To hold ground by remaining obedient to the Lord while waiting is not passive. Note that the word stand is repeated three times. Patience is an act of the will to claim ground for the Kingdom of God, and is rewarded richly by Him. Revelations 3:10-11 tells us of God’s care for those who persevere through the battle.
Whether we feel we lack patience to wait on God, or to continue to love those that may be hard to love, we do in actuality have access to all the patience we need. We can trust God to give us the strength to bear our circumstances and instead use the time of waiting to grow in intimacy with the Lord.'

Imagine how patient God has been with us, with His people from the beginning of time! How can we not give Him the same respect in terms of patience? This is nearly mind blowing for me to consider when I look at my ability or inability to be patient. Thank goodness, as stubborn, selfish and utterly idiotic we can be that God has not chosen to wipe us off the face of the earth in the blink of an eye! We are so fortunate, so unworthy of the grace He has extended to us. We must humbly embrace this gift God has given us, and ask Him to strip away all pride so that we can truly be filled with the knowledge and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and then when that peace and rest fills our hearts and souls--extend that to others. When we choose to embrace the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we can truly say there is joy in the midst of this "in-between time". I can't imagine and don't fully get the concept of enjoying patience but I am on a mission to do just that. Join me in this lesson. I will be blogging about it weekly as I go through this season.

Have a blessed day! Let me know your thoughts and experiences.


'Anointing, as described in the Bible, can be defined as "God on flesh doing those things that flesh cannot do." It is God doing those things only He can do, and doing them through a flesh-and-blood, earthly vessel...' (Understanding the Anointing, Kenneth Copeland Ministries, kcm.org)

2 Corinthians 4:7 AMP However, we possess this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and not from ourselves.

Anointing. It means we are far more than what we appear. It means God has blessed us with an ability to convey His power and love to others in a way that can be attributed in no way to ourselves. We cannot take credit for it, we can only direct all our praise and adoration to our God for the work He is doing in and through us. How remarkable, amazing it is to think He sees us as able to do this and thank goodness for His Spirit at work in us! I am filled to overflowing, to look back at the last two weeks and see how God's hand is moving in our lives. We have seen doors open, doors close, and we are still watching as other doors begin to creak open even as I am writing this entry. God is good, all the time-that will most certainly never change! Even on the worst of days, that certainty rings true in my heart and soul, when I am helpless and emptied out before Him, I can truly acknowledge that He is always good!

This coming weekend is the start of something new for us. Ryan has accepted a part time worship pastor position with Altar of Praise Family Church. It is a small church family that meets in a store-front location in north Springfield, and we are so thankful to be part of the potential, the opportunity to see God move and grow this church and reach many lives for Christ! We know and expect great things will happen and we are so thankful, so humbled to have this opportunity to go and serve. The worship ministry is pretty much non-existent and we will essentially be 'it' for awhile. We are looking forward to the task set before us to build this ministry, to allow God to use us and the gifts He's given us to meet the needs of this church body and encourage others to join this loving body of believers. We know God has destined this church for great things and we are so excited to be a part of it! Please pray for us as we begin this new adventure. I am thrilled beyond words to be joining Ryan in worship leadership once again, and I have been waiting and praying for God's timing--and here it is! I am thankful for lessons learned in this time in between, the necessity and blessing of rest and allowing the heart and soul time for restoration. As we prepare our hearts for service this weekend and in the months ahead, would you please pray for us? We know God has purposed us for this very moment, and we want to follow His leading in all we say, sing and do!

Thank you, Lord, for this moment, right here, right now. Prepare us, lead us, and guide us and we will do what You've called us to do.

Thankful for His promise to me

Jeremiah 32:40-41 The Message
I’ll make a covenant with them that will last forever, a covenant to stick with them no matter what, and work for their good. I’ll fill their hearts with a deep respect for me so they’ll not even think of turning away from me.

Oh how I’ll rejoice in them! Oh how I’ll delight in doing good things for them! Heart and soul, I’ll plant them in this country and keep them here!

If you are familiar with this passage, and I admit I had to read through this carefully to absorb again what took place, but this was a time when God allowed His people to lose everything in order to teach them how to appreciate what they had and honor the Lord their God. They weren't honoring Him, they weren't serving Him and devoted to Him as was expected of God's people, and so He allowed things to go very, very badly for them. Ultimately He finished His message to His people by acknowledging that His covenant with them would stand and He would restore them. Painful and promising all in a few paragraphs and so much had to happen for His people to learn their lesson. You know, we have to admit we are still learning that lesson today. I try to face each day with confidence that it will be a day I can look back on and say, "Hey, I did something good today!" but all too often, I hit my pillow thinking, "Good grief, what a day. I didn't get nearly half of what I needed to done. And I have to get up and do it all over again tomorrow." Anyone relate? Well, here's the hard reality: this is life. Life on this earth is never going to be perfect, no matter how we attempt to package it. Something, or several something's are likely to occur and send you spinning with stress, doubt, frustration, confusion...shall I go on? Life is full of surprises, so what to do? Face it with as much hope and joy as you can muster, and if your tank is low, then dig deep into His Word, sink it into your heart and mind, and go out into the world ready to be the best you possible! It sounds corny, but it is the way I try to approach each day. I find myself these days trying harder to let go of my thinking in terms of what I think God is going to do, and instead just realize He is going to do what He does without any help from me.

Ryan and I are nearly a year into a season of restoration, and it has been very hard but absolutely necessary. We are trying to throw our hands up at God more out of release than exasperation. Does that make sense? It seems like for too long we were losing our hope, that we felt life was beating us up to the point we were ready to throw in the towel. We felt like God didn't see or hear us, and we just wondered when, when is the break we have been praying for going to come. If you've been in a place of desperation, then you know, any ounce of patience and understanding you once had is pretty well fizzled out. When you don't know how you're going to meet the basic needs you are faced with, and it seems every avenue you have pursued is exhausted or the answer has come back as no-sorry we can't help you, well, the only thing left to do after you've had your pity party and hit rock bottom...is to throw those hands up to the Lord our God! Desperate times have made me do some really stupid things and some really brilliant things too. I am thankful, no matter what I do, stupid or brilliant, God still loves me and is still there for me. I don't deserve it, and I certainly can't earn it, but thank goodness for it!

As we approach the end of April, we have some good things to report. God is good, all the time!

*Ryan has accepted a part-time worship pastor position with a store-front church, Altar of Praise Family Church in Springfield. It will be an interim position for the first 60 days which is wonderful because we can truly "test the waters" and if it is something we feel like God is calling us to sink our feet into and the leadership feels the same, we'll move forward. If not, we can come away from it with the freedom to pursue other avenues.

*We have been approved to purchase a home. We have a couple of options, and we are gathering all the information we can to see what is going to be the best option for us. Option #1 is for an FHA loan which includes the necessity for us to put 3.5% down. Less than a year into new jobs and rebuilding our finances, you can imagine how much of a challenge it will be for us to come up with $4,000-$5,000 for a down payment. Option #2 is for a USDA loan which is a 100% financing program. Credit score requirements are higher but we don't have to come up with a big down payment. Early May we will work with our bank to see how our scores come out, and if it goes in our favor we can move forward with the USDA loan option.
Option #3 is for us to search for a rental home. The rental market here is great, but we will inevitably have to pay $400-$500 more a month in rent to find the space we really need. Time is ticking away, we have to give 60 days notice at our apartment complex which is June 8, so please keep us in your prayers as we head into the next month and see where God leads us to live. We are excited, stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted...need I go on?

Every day, throughout my day I take time to pray and think about the needs around us, what is going on in your lives, the needs we are all facing. Life is not getting any easier, and it is getting less and less predictable so all the more reason we need to cling to our God, embrace His Word and be a support to one another. I am amazed how God brings people into my life at just the right time, and for the opportunities He has laid before me in this season of restoration. I am excited to see some new and interesting opportunities take shape as we walk into the days ahead.

Timing is Everything

Timing is everything. God's timing, specifically, is perfect and just in time. Have you found this to be true in your life? I spent a lot of time last night in my quiet time, praying out of sheer exhaustion to God, we need Your provision now more than ever in this moment! God is doing a work in us, both of us, in this new season of restoration and purpose. We know what we are called to, that has never been in doubt. Ryan is making efforts to gain secondary income in worship leadership opportunities, and we hope to see the doors of opportunity open for him over the days and weeks ahead. God has provided what we need, and we are very thankful! Now that we've improved our financial footing, we are taking an inventory of what we need in the year ahead of us. We have two aging vehicles, and this seems to be the year that every little thing that could go wrong and needs to be repaired, is happening right now. We have been blessed to find a cozy 3 bedroom apartment that has worked well for us within the span of a one year lease, but 1150 square feet for 6 people is proving to be more than this family can take! The walls are starting to close in on us, and we are in need of more space, more breathing room soon! So, last night I took a hard look at where we are financially, what we have coming in and what we need to make two very necessary improvements in our lives this summer. We need more living space, so we will start looking in June for a 3 or 4 bedroom rental home. We also need to find a replacement vehicle, something affordable, fuel efficient and dependable for our family of 6. Would you please consider praying for us? Here is what I'd ask you to pray for:

1. Consistent secondary income for Ryan--We want to find something in a part time worship pastor role, but we will continue to share his promotional packet with anyone and everyone who can connect him with a need for worship leadership at any number of events such as interim worship pastor roles, retreats, revivals, concerts, camps, etc.
2. A 3 or 4 bedroom rental home--We need to stay in Willard school district. We have to provide 60 day notice so we will notify our apartment office June 8 of our intent to move. Our goal is to find something in June, move in July.
3. A replacement vehicle--We need something that will fit a family of 6, affordable and dependable.

Prayer is our lifeline to God, it truly is a conversation with him that He longs for throughout our day. I find myself praying without ceasing many times right smack in the middle of my busiest days because I know my limits, and I know I can't go on without my God intervening and supplying me with the peace that passes all understanding.

My heart is full to overflowing with thanks to each and every one of you for your prayers, your loving support and encouragement for us over the years. The journey is certain to be difficult, but God provides His perfect peace and love to help us carry on! Thank you for standing beside us, joining us on this journey.

What is Truth...How does this reflect Christ?

I was reminded today about the importance of testing what is before me to ensure it is an accurate reflection of what is truth, what is right, what is sound. I naturally fall into a deep seated desire to research something that leaves me stumped, and that is perhaps heightened because I want my four children to have only truth fed to them in terms of their faith journey. First and foremost, even our favorite pastors, musicians and authors who seem to have a direct connection with God and seem to spout pure gold from their mouths in terms of a message, worship song or novel--are all human and therefore flawed. We have a responsibility as Christ followers to stop putting these leaders on a throne anywhere close to the Throne of God. It is not right, it is not fair, and it certainly is not appropriate. We are reminded in scripture, as we study and grow in our faith, that this life is meant to make us stronger, better, far closer to what God intends for us to be: fulfilled in Him. The fact of the matter is we are not perfect, we are human. We are going to fail more than we succeed, and that is the intent in order for us to learn, grow and be better for it. As I consider the world my children are living in and what they must face every day, how their faith will be tested, their belief in God will be questioned and challenged, and they will ultimately have to discern not only right from wrong in secular settings, but also in religious settings--it is scary.

How is God's Word presented here? How is this individual who suddenly has their name in lights for doing worship a certain way that attracts thousands, or a book on the best seller list at the local religious bookstore, how will he or she glorify Christ in what they do and say when they stand on that platform? We as a community of believers have a responsibility and the privilege to stand beside these individuals we watch lead us in the name of Christ by choosing to be accountability partners with them. If they truly are seeking Christ first in all that they do, then they are pointing us to God first, and to ask questions, study the Word to check what they are saying is Truth and if it isn't, to lovingly and faithfully offer our criticism to ensure above all God is honored and glorified. What concerns me most as I am thinking on this subject today, is how vulnerable the younger generations are in some ways more so than mine was. Today they want it right away, quick as a text message, and they aren't interested in taking the time to truly study it for themselves, but would rather read a few notable reviews and make their decision based simply on the opinions of others in respected roles of leadership in our community, in our world. We are far too trusting of too many things labeled "Christian" today. Let's take a fresh look at what is before us in this new day and age, and consider how we can play a vital role in pointing to Truth and stand for what is clearly in black and white, rather than going along with the majority who think the grey is okay.

God has called us, each of us, to be light in a dark world. We have an important and sometimes uncomfortable role to play in each other's lives. I challenge you today to take the time, to know what you are participating in if it has been packaged up and labeled "Christian" in one way or another.

The bottom line is, how does this line up with what we know from the Word of God to be Truth, God-breathed?

Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 NLT

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...