Another birthday...2015 here I come!

43 today. I remember years ago thinking, "I wonder what my 40s will be like?" I recall asking my Dad on his birthday a couple years ago, "How does it feel to be ??" to which he replied, "Well, I don't know, how's it supposed to feel?" He shrugs it off like no big deal, it's just another birthday. It isn't that he doesn't care, but he puts what matters most into perspective. All my life, I have tried to consider at regular intervals (some of those intervals may have occurred a little further apart than others) what's most important to me? What am I doing right and what could I be doing better? At some point after hitting my 30s, I found myself feeling this deep sense of responsibility. Responsibility for my family, for my community, and to weigh carefully with every day of this life we are granted, how can I be a good example and a wise steward of what God has given me? He gives and He takes away, so how am I handling that? I know several people over the years who have let the crap that has happened around them in life determine their path, their sense of being in this world. I'm gonna be really candid here so apologies if you get offended: that's bullshit. Don't let the crap that has happened in your life define you, EVER! At some point, even in the worst moments of our lives, we need to stop and consider we are alive, we are not being persecuted, we are not enslaved, we are not in a place where we have had all of our choices taken away from us. We are incredibly spoiled in this nation. We are free. We have a hell of a lot more options that a lot of people in other parts of our world. And I think we get selfish and sink into our own little bubbles of pity and forget we can do something about it. We always have the power to step into something better. Always. So on my birthday, I'm reflecting on what I've done so far in my life, and how I've overcome much, have so very much to be thankful for.

1. I have been given life and have a relationship with my Father God and salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ!
2. I'm alive and healthy!
3. I have four healthy amazing children!
4. I have a faithful, loving and wonderful husband!
5. I have extended family who love and support me!
6. I have a church family here, and church family in other states where we have lived and served in ministry that I am so blessed to know and love!
7. I have a great job!
8. I have dreams and aspirations to do more with my life than I am doing now! Graduate School here I come.....
9. I have been blessed to serve on mission trips to many places near and far with amazing teams of Christ-followers and I can't wait to do it again!

This is just a glimpse, I could probably leave this open and add to it as the day goes on. I have always been the type person that looks at life with a positive outlook, the glass is always half full kind of perspective. I know there's a whole array of perspectives on that saying so I won't go on and on, to each his/her own. At some point in the midst of some of the hardest moments of my life so far, I chose to steel myself with determination to make the best of the situation. I'll be honest here, in some of those moments I questioned if my marriage would endure and if I could hang on and keep trusting in a God who didn't seem to be there for me. It would be very easy to allow that despair to set me on a course for being hard hearted, calloused and bitter for the rest of my life. For me, this would not have meant letting myself go, not eating, staying in bed, etc. but in fact leaving anyone around me in the dust as I walked on with determination to make it right no matter who got run over in the process. Anger and deep seated frustration can set some of us on a course for extreme solitude and obsessive work to the point of cutting off everyone around us especially our family and friends. I could have been that person. But I chose to stay with it, wait on the Lord even when it seemed he was silent and distant from me. I don't ever want to look back on my life with regret. Regret is unhealthy and can eat you up inside if you let it. I have had disappointments in life, but I don't dwell on them. We are responsible for our actions, and we are going to make mistakes. So, we have a choice: learn and turn-learn from it, and turn from it OR sink into depression and self-pity.

When I stop to consider how I can be doing this life better, how can I be a better woman, wife, mom, friend, child of God? Get out of my own way. That's the key right there. Simply get out of my own way. It doesn't always come down to a sin that's in between me and God, but simply me. I have my own idea of how my life can be done right, lived well, etc. but God knows best! Nothing I do matters unless I've started my focus on Him and His full and complete purpose for my life. Everything else will fall in line when I get that right. I think too many times we "preach" at each other that if we are stuck, making poor decisions, trying to figure out what is wrong so we can be made right, we get into this tired message of "there's sin in your life, you need to get rid of it, ask forgiveness and you'll be made whole". I'm not saying that sin isn't the issue, but I am saying we need to be ready to look at ourselves under the microscope first and see that quite simply we may be getting in our own way.

The moment we get confident in any particular witnessing method of choice, we need to stop and consider God may want us to approach it differently. No two people are the same, so let's stop and consider that sometimes the best method we have in our pocket is to be ready to listen. When we ask someone, "How are you?" do we mean it and are we ready to hear what they have to say? Or, is it just a half hearted quick hello with no real intention of investing some time in that person's life? The cycle of regret, depression, despair, defining our lives by the crap we deal with, can be impacted by one conversation. God has empowered us to make wise choices in our lives, and when one of us is stuck--whether it is your spouse or a friend or a complete stranger-we can impact their lives and cause change. Perhaps that is precisely how God wants to use you today. So my birthday wish for you and for myself today, is that we stop and consider what can we do for someone else today, to cause change in their lives for the better. Whether you realize it or not, what you do and say will have a lasting impact on someone's life for eternity. 2015, here we come.....

Human discontent vs Holy content: Where do we stand?

I can be content in any and every situation through the Anointed One who is my power and strength.

True contentment is the result of a heart committed to the risen Lord. This is learned, not something that comes naturally for any one of us. The normal, natural state of humanity is discontent and quiet desperation. It takes a powerful, spiritual presence to transform anxiety into joyous satisfaction.
Philippians 4, The Voice Translation

When is the last time you took a moment, took some length of time to thoughtfully and carefully consider how much you have learned from a particularly trying time in your life? I learned from a very young age, as I grew into a young adult, and considered what life would hold for me in a career, marriage, family….there is an art to handling things with dignity, humility and patience. I learned this from my Dad. I’m not putting him on some pedestal here, just acknowledging his influence to view life as an opportunity at any given moment, to step into what God has for me with confidence, making wise choices and with an unwavering faith in Jesus Christ who has saved me and made me whole. My Dad has been the strongest influence in my life at the most difficult moments I have ever had to face. It is because of that influence, the tenacity, the high expectations of myself, the determination to work hard, and love and appreciation for my family that has shaped me into who I am today. I am so appreciative of my Dad’s influence and advice over the years, as well as that of other key mentors in my life along the way, because it has enabled me to keep focused on my greatest influence: God the Father, and my Savior Jesus Christ who has made me, purposed me and created me for great things in my time on this earth!

I looked at Philippians 4 today, seeing and reading, imagining what Paul must have endured to be able to speak these words of encouragement to the church, to know and grasp this reality that even though life is hard, and it is not in our nature to be content, and in fact it is more in our nature to be overwhelmed by anxiety, worry, fear, doubt, frustration, exasperation…you enter the words of your choice here and get the idea….we have a reason, a certainty because of our faith in Christ that we can overcome, we can endure, we can make the best of EVERY situation we are in and we can find the inner peace that is in fact residing in us at all times! So what do we do, how to we respond when life gets crappy, and we find ourselves simply fed up with what we must deal with at any given moment? Hold tight, grab the Word and pour our hearts out to the God who already knows and understands us before the words come out of our mouths. We can be fully satisfied, FULLY SATISFIED, because of the astounding truth of what He chose to endure for each one of us! It puts any complaint I’ve ever had to shame. How could I possibly have a thing to complain about, because I truly lack nothing? I have everything I need, even though the world may say I don’t have enough. So you’re getting cramped in that tiny apartment or that tiny house, kids are driving you crazy, but yet you can’t seem to stop and consider that you have more than most. A roof over your heads, heat/air, food in your refrigerator, a bed to sleep on, a bath, school, a job....

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, and I am still learning, it is to be content and be creative with what you DO have and thank Him for your blessings. When we had AJ, we couldn’t afford to move right away, so we lived in our 2 bedroom apartment with 3 kids, 2 sharing a room and AJ in a pack n play in our room until we could afford a home. He was about 9 months old when we did move, and honestly we had some of the best memories as a family in that 2 bedroom apartment! Then, when we had Chloe, Ryan was out of work/in between temporary jobs, and we simply could not move because we had NO money, we made our tiny 3 bedroom house in Indiana work for as long as we needed. The boys shared a room, Rylee had a tiny room of her own and Chloe shared our room in a pack n play. When we moved to Missouri for better work for Ryan, we found ourselves making the most of very little once again in a 3 bedroom apartment. We sold, donated and threw away a lot of stuff in the months leading up to that move. I can still remember Ryan asking me more than once, “Are you sure we should get rid of that?” to which I replied, “Yep, it can be replaced, we can live without it and it simply won’t fit on the moving truck!” As good as my husband is at packing a truck, to this day I am the one who sifts through our closets several times a year, to donate and throw away what has been gathering dust and has sat untouched for months. There is something very cleansing about going through what we have accumulated over the years and considering, “Do I really need that?” and finding the answer is most often, no, and it can probably benefit someone else. And it doesn’t mean you immediately put something else in its place. Sometimes you need that space simply for the sake of having room to breathe and appreciate having less. Appreciate what you do have, the things that matter most. Don’t get caught up in what the world says is ‘enough’. Focus on what you truly need, and let it begin with what satisfies and provides the inner peace that passes all understanding. God is going to fill it according to His purpose for your life.

Don’t let a day go by that you don’t begin, overflow throughout your day, and end with glory to Him for what He’s given and taken away! He has His reasons, and when you can stop and say I have life, I have been blessed, and I have no reason to fear or doubt because I believe in the God who has purposed me for this very moment! Don’t get weighed down by what has been, or by what will be. Focus on this present moment, breathe in the life and purpose He has for you today.

That has been my overriding focus this New Year. He has been speaking to me the past week, how much He wants me to simply “live in this present moment, and live in His presence”. Simple truth. It is what we need and long for most often. But we miss it typically because we are so caught up and crazy busy with what we feel like we have to accomplish day to day. Stop the “have to’s” and consider what you really need most in this moment.

He is ready and waiting, will speak life into this moment with you so you can be free from what weighs you down.

my Ebenezer...

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