Saturday, October 27, 2012

To Worry, or Not to Worry...

He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. -2 Corinthians 1:4 (MSG)

It seems that this year, my friends, my family, all of us, have been going through some hard times.  We've had deaths, losses, issues that seem like huge mistakes, illnesses, surgeries, and more...

And it's all God's stuff.  He doesn't want us holding it all on our own.  I was thinking about that as I drove home alone last night after dropping the oldest off at church for an all-nighter.  Thinking about all the junk going on, not only in my own life, but in the lives of my closest friends, I got a little overwhelmed at the thought of it all. How was I supposed to help them?  Wasn't there something I could do?

But I was, and still am, already doing it.  I gave it all over to God.  I prayed for all of us.  I continue to pray for all of us.  Now if I could only learn to leave all of those issues at His feet. I have a tendency to pick things up when I see something that reminds me of the current issue. I want to do the "human thing" and make it right my way in my time.

But I'm learning this year that my way isn't always the right way and my time isn't always the right time (yes, Shaun, you read that right). I've done my way in my time too much.  I want to live my life God's way in God's perfect timing. Sure, the two often seem to line up but there are other times when things come up that I want NOW. And NOW isn't always God's timing.

So, here's my challenge for you and me for the moment: Look for God's timing in what you want.  Ask Him if what you want lines up with what He wants for you right now and go from there. :)


Saturday, September 15, 2012

We'll Miss You...

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track. -Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)


A devastating event took place here yesterday.  Shaun's dad, Bruce Sellers, passed away very unexpectedly from a massive heart attack while he worked. The doctors did all they could to save him, but in the end, they couldn't.

And we were left behind.  When you're disconnected from the situation, it's so easy to say that we'll see him again in heaven one day.  But that "one day" is so very far off to those who counted him as their father, their spouse, their best friend, their brother, their uncle...

I remember the first time I met Bruce.  I was with Shaun in Mechanicsburg or Harrisburg (or maybe some other burg, I don't quite remember THAT part) and my car broke down. In the middle of a busy intersection.  And we were stranded there.  I had no idea who to call but Shaun knew exactly the right person.  It was someone he had counted on over and over again, someone who'd always come through for him.  Bruce.  And sure enough, Bruce and Barb came to our rescue.  We got the car off to the side of the road and Bruce hooked it up to his own battery, sucking the life out of his own car to help someone else that he didn't even know.

And that's Bruce as I know him.  He would do anything for anyone else without hesitancy. He was always all about people, all about leading others to Christ.  He was an amazing example of what a great Christ-follower could be. Whenever I saw him, which thinking back wasn't enough, he always had a smile, a hug, and an encouraging word. I'm pretty sure that, through the years, he somehow lost the ability to complain about anything.  He was so very positive.  And the world needs positive, encouraging, love-you-for-no-reason kinds of people like him.

And that's why I'm at such a loss.  Why??  Why on Earth did God allow him to go?  We still needed him here.  We weren't done with him.  So many people relied on him for so many things.  And we want him back here and now! Yesterday should be erased and redone because this cannot be true.

I know that God has a plan here.  He has an amazing plan that we can't even see through our grief.  But it is so hard to think about that when all we can see is bad timing, sadness, anger, hurt...

God, show us your plan.  Wrap your arms around all of your aching children today!  We need you more than ever in the coming days as we navigate this new life you've set before us...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

JOY

Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. -Philippians 2:4 (MSG)


This verse reminds me of what my family has been working on most of the summer.  On vacation this year, we learned about the acronym "JOY." 

Jesus
Others
Yourself

Initially, we were using it in choosing our words.  Was what we were about to say honoring to Jesus? To others? To ourselves? If the answer was no, it was better to keep our lips zipped. Shaun and I felt it was a great tool for our kids especially, as they've gotten into this habit of saying whatever comes to mind which often leads to hurt feelings and embarrassing moments.

But we soon realized that JOY could be applied to every aspect of our lives. Some examples (not necessarily from our own life):

1. Would skipping church to sleep in show JOY? The answer? No.
2. Would serving in women's ministries be showing JOY? The answer? Yes.
3. Would bringing a meal to a new mama be showing JOY? The answer? Yes.
4. Would calling one's brother a "stinker" be showing JOY? The answer? No.

I think you all get the idea at this point. Our family is far from perfect at this but we are striving to do it daily.  

And this is my challenge for you and me this morning: Ask yourself throughout the day, "am I showing JOY right now?"


Monday, August 13, 2012

Happy Verses, Joyful Verses

Verses that include the word "happy":

-A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. -Proverbs 15:13

-I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. -Ecclesiastes 3:12

-When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. -Ecclesiastes 7:14

-Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. -James 5:13

-But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. -Psalm 68:3

Verses that include the word "joy":

-He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. -Job 8:21

-But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. -Psalm 5:11

-You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. -Psalm 16:11

-The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. -Psalm 19:8

-The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. -Psalm 126:3

-Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. -Romans 12:12

-May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans 15:13

-I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. -3 John 1:4




JOY!

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! -Ephesians 2:7-8 (MSG)

Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this." -Esther 4:14b (MSG)

God has me where he wants me.  As I went through my week last week, I won't lie, I was miserable and longing for another baby (again) while also wishing that I had some other purpose in life than to "just be a mom."  I know, total woman-thinking: wanting one thing while also wanting something completely counterproductive to the first thing. I suppose that's part of my curse.

And that's when Shaun told me this:

"Know that you are exactly where God wants you to be. The feeling of emotional guilt and depression is the devil taking away your JOY. It is at that moment that we need to focus on JOY and realize that the Y (you) is last. When you get through the J (Jesus) and the O (others), you will quickly realize that you (Y) complete the JOY."

JOY is something that we learned through our oldest son from our vacation at Sandycove this summer.  When going through life, we should be thinking about Jesus first, then Others, and finally about You (ourselves).  It was a good reminder and one that I needed at the time. Okay, it's one that I still need today and will likely need again tomorrow.

So here's my challenge for you and me today: Remember your JOY as you go through the day today.  Think about Jesus, think about others, and finally, remember yourself.

Monday, June 4, 2012

He Even Answers the Little Prayers!

You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas. -Psalm 65:5 (NLT)

This was too good NOT to share.  I'm writing this on Sunday night, after an awesome sermon at church listening to a speaker from the leadership Summit from years past.  He spoke about being vulnerable and about how a good leader can and will be that. It was awesome and I felt inspired to be more vulnerable in my own life again-something I haven't wanted to do in a long time, not since everything went crazy a few months ago.

But I digress...

This post isn't about that sermon.  It's about what happened this afternoon when Shaun and I took the kids to Hersheypark.  Lukas has been on the edge of moving up to Twizzler for a month now.  He was oh so close, it was ridiculous!  But today, he made it!  And you know what that means, right? Rollercoasters!

We headed straight back to the Great Bear-by far my favorite coaster in the park- and got in line.  Andrew, Lukas, and I waited in a very short line as the storm clouds rolled in.  He was so excited to finally be able to ride.  I was concerned about the clouds.  If there was even one flash, one clap of thunder, his dream might not come true today and I just couldn't bear to see him disappointed.

Please, God, just hold off the storm until we get to ride this ride.  It would make Lukas so happy.

It wasn't a big prayer, but it was a genuine prayed in honest love.  And you know what?  We were the last train to go through before the storm started. Yay God! 

I love looking back on that moment and realizing that, while riding a roller coaster was not even close to important, God knew it was important to me and it was important to my baby.  And he answered.  He didn't have to.  He did it, in my opinion, to remind ME that he is listening, that he loves me, and that he wants us to feel loved by Him. :)

I told Shaun as soon as we got off the ride (he had to wait with the tiny people at the end of the ride) and we walked toward the back of the park with silent prayers that the rain would stop, that they would reopen the rides so Lukas could ride others.  And again, God came through.   The rain stopped and Lukas got to ride not one, but two more coasters.  He went on the Storm Runner and Fahrenheit.

While he was in line for Fahrenheit, however, the clouds were moving in again.  And again, I begged God to let him on the ride.  And true to form, he came through!  Lukas got on that coaster just before the sky opened up and rained down on us.

So, here's my challenge for you and me today: Ask God to help you out with the little things today and watch him go to work in amazing ways! He's listening and he longs to show you his love! Let him!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Elephant

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. -Matthew 6:34 (MSG)

It sounds so simple.  I thought I was doing this in my life for the most part, until I heard Keith speak at our church on THAT. If you weren't there on Sunday, you missed a good sermon that is totally worth listening to and that I have embedded here for you.  Honestly, watch it.




Just to sum up, we all have our THAT.  THAT is the thing that we carry around everywhere we go.  We pretend it isn't there.  The regular public often has no idea that it's there because they only see the person we show them.  I like to refer to my THAT as my white elephant.  You know, that thing that your closest friends and family can see (sometimes because they know you so well, and sometimes because you've told them) but they continue to pretend along with you that it doesn't exist when you don't want to talk about it?

Your elephant can be any number of things.  Keith brought up the need to be cool and the need for financial security as some ideas in his talk.  And by the end, I knew what my elephant was.  I knew what God was asking me to leave behind.  And again, I thought I had left it.  Too bad when I turned around, there was this huge elephant sitting there staring at me. 

So, Sunday morning, as we sang, I gave my elephant back to him and walked away.  I told a friend about giving it to him the next day.  We talked about it a bit and then that afternoon, it got challenged.

Seriously???  Already?  I've barely finished gift wrapping that giant thing and already I'm being challenged on whether or not I'm serious about walking away from it.  But, while I won't be revealing exactly what it is here, I will tell you publicly that I meant what I said on Sunday AND Monday!  I am walking away from that darn elephant!! I am putting it down and I refuse to carry it one more foot! It's dragging me down and keeping me from doing all that God wants of me.

So here's my challenge for you and me:  Find your THAT, your elephant, and figure out how you can walk away from yours too!  Have a great week!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Finally, a Noteworthy Nudge! ;)

What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. -Matthew 10:27

It's been awhile since I've felt even the slightest nudge to write a post. Well, that is, until today.

I woke up way too early this morning (5am) and struggled to get back to sleep until a decent time only to wake up again at 6:30am. And that's when I felt like God whispered something to me. "You're going to have to talk to J today."

Sigh. I'd been dreading that conversation with my children's instructional supervisor with their cyber school. You see, next year, I'll be traditionally homeschooling all three of my babies who are old enough for school and I still need to let the cyber school know.

When I heard that whisper, I argued. "I don't want to do it yet." He was silent. I pretended that I didn't know he was waiting for me to agree to do what he was asking of me. "Fine. If she calls ME, then I'll talk to her about it," I decided.

The phone rang at 10:05am and our caller ID declared that it was J. Sigh. God had her call me today. Very funny...

I answered, we chatted...have I mentioned that I absolutely ADORE our IS? She's just wonderful. She goes the extra mile for our kids. She takes care of any and all concerns quickly. She's a mom just like me and she actually gets it. She gets that I want the best for my kids.

I felt the butterflies in my stomach as the conversation continued and I knew I had to do it. I jumped in with both feet and broke the news. She was sad but completely understood that we had to do what was best for our kids. And I really believe this is it.

So why, you may be asking, would I even WANT to homeschool my kids? I want them to enjoy learning, to always be searching for new information to absorb, to understand what they're being taught and not just hang onto it for a test. When they go on "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" I want them to be able to say, "Why, yes I am!" Lol. Okay, not quite, but you get the idea.

I also want to know what they're learning and be able to choose what is being put in their heads. They're young and impressionable. There are things that the public school system seems to think is appropriate for their little minds, that I absolutely don't agree with.

And the busy work! My word! There is absolutely no reason it should take hours and hours and hours to do school every single day. Sometimes, almost all of those hours are spent on just one lesson in one subject! And it isn't that they just don't get it. It's the busy work. It's too many questions to "test" them on the same thing. Sigh.

And the final thing. They can't move at the pace that is right for them. I want them to be able to breeze past something that they totally get and to be able to linger on something that just isn't clicking. When we signed up for cyber school, this was doable. But not now that they've created a "finish line" so to speak.

So come the fall, Lord willing, we will embark on yet another new adventure around here! Homeschooling. :)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Perspective

So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective. -Colossians 3:1-2 (MSG)

It's been a rough week in this house. Sigh. Monday was like any other Monday: crazy, but time got away from me and I got almost nothing done. And then it was Tuesday. Tuesday ushered in horror from any mother's perspective. The stomach flu. *shudders*

Lukas was first, which was weird, because it almost always starts with ME. I'll spare you the details, but just know I ended up needing a shower. Hours later, as I tried to forget the evening and just sleep, it was Ian's turn. I was up all night with him as he "lost it" and then slept, making little noises that kept me up with concern.

The morning finally dawned and the other "healthy" kids made their way downstairs to the living room where Ian and I were for the night. They said they felt fine. They went up to play together in Lily's room, and then Andrew promptly returned to the living room. Lily's turn. Could it get worse?

As I made my way through the house with Lysol wipes, warm soapy water, and washed 9 (yes, I said 9!!) loads of laundry, I thought how much the day truly sucked while simultaneously begging God to spare the rest of us from this illness. I didn't want to get sick and I didn't want anyone else suffering with it either. And then I got some awful news from next door that changed my perspective on this terrible day.

A dear friend of our neighbor's, one who we'd dubbed our "part time neighbor", died unexpectedly. And suddenly, my day was a gift. It was a miracle that I'd been allowed to care for my family that way.

You see, any day could be my last. I realized that while what I was doing was disgusting, it WAS what I had been called to do by God. Just as the verse above says, I needed to stop shuffling through my day, "eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of" me. When I looked up from my own nonsense, there were neighbors that needed encouragement, kids who just needed a hug, and a husband who'd brought his work home just so he could help me out.

Here's my challenge for you and me today: Think about your circumstances from another perspective. Is there any way to view anything in a good light?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Old and Ugly or a Blessing in Disguise?

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. -1 Timothy 6:6 (NLT)

I was at Bible Study again last night and this verse came up. On the one hand, several group members were saying that we need to be content with whatever God has given us and in whatever place he has put us. And on the other hand, some were saying that being content with where we are will lead to never striving to be better, never wanting to be an improved Christ follower or work for the Lord outside of our comfort zone.

I didn't comment last night, because I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about either stance. After all, they both SOUND good, right?

But I'm ready to comment now. Here's MY thoughts on this:

I think that we can be both. I believe that we need to learn to be happy with exactly where God has put us and what he has given us. We need to do our best with what we have while we have it. And then, if God chooses to entrust us with more, we will have more. Being a Christ follower should naturally lead to wanting to be more Christ-like in our walk anyway, right?

For example, I'd love to have a different house. Ours is old, small, oddly laid out, and pretty hideous on the inside. BUT, this is where we are meant to be. God wants us here. We have tried to sell our house before and it didn't work. And I think that's a good thing. I am learning to be content with it while we have it.

Could we afford a bigger, better house? Probably. Do we need a second bathroom? It'd be nice...Do I wish we had just one more bedroom so our boys didn't have to sardine into the one they're currently sharing (there ARE three of them in there!)? Sure! But they are comfortable in that room. They are learning to get along better. They are developing a relationship with one another that they might not otherwise have. And honestly, they fit in there better than I ever imagined. There are three beds (one is a bunk bed), three dressers, and bins of toys lined up nicely (occassionally) under one of the beds. It's actually shocking to me that God could grow that room to fit my children's needs, though I don't know why I continue to be surprised by our miraculous God! He is amazing and that room is just one piece of evidence that God cares about the little things in our lives.

So instead of looking at my current home as old, ugly, and sometimes inconvenient, I choose to see it as a blessing! Living here means awesome neighbors! It means friends for my kids. It means the ability for our family to go on a dream vacation every year and have family night every Friday night. It means seeing a need in our church or hearing about it on the radio and being able to do something to help someone else out!

Here's my challenge for you and me this weekend: Look at the thing in your life that you are most dissatisfied with. How could you see it differently? Are there any hidden (or even obvious) blessings that have come of it?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Cookie Nudge...

Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given-and you will receive even more. -Mark 4:24 (NLT)
It's 12:45pm on Wednesday and God has asked me to do something. I'm sure of it. He spoke through a friend encouraging me to do something that anyone else would likely see as trivial and nothing to get worked up about. But I want to puke and back out of it, claiming that I didn't realize that was him speaking.
And then I hear a reply. "If I can't trust you with the little things, why would I give you something bigger?" is what he's whispering. So I'm going to do it. I'm going to walk to a random woman's house who I've only met once and give her cookies, because that is what I think he wants me to do. Sigh. I'll check back in and finish this post when I get home...
All right, 2:00pm and I'm back home.
I decided that I should walk because it was forcing me to be more committed to the crazy thing I was doing. If I drove, it'd be much easier to just keep driving and back out. The entire time I was walking, I was praying. Praying that it wouldn't rain, praying that she'd actually be home, praying that I'd actually knock on the right door and not meet yet another stranger in my quest to follow this nudge that was scaring me out of my wits. Haha.
Anyway, we found the right street and then found the right door. I took a deep breath and knocked. I could hear movement inside, so I said one last prayer (please don't let her think I'm a loony stalker!!), and the door opened. She smiled and I held up the cookies, mumbling something about making them and walking them over...
I thought I would feel more uncomfortable about it all, but as soon as she was outside and thanking me for the cookies, it felt normal, natural, like exactly what God had asked me to do. And it wasn't as hard as I'd made it out to be in my head.
And that got me thinking. How many things have I missed out on (that could be just like that) simply because I was afraid to take the steps to get where God was asking me to go?
Here's my challenge for you and me today: The next time God asks you to do something that scares you, just do it! He knows what he is doing!

Deep Roots

““But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” -Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT)

You know, when I read that verse, I can't help but picture people going through horrible, trying times and just staying strong in their faith. Like they can't be rocked, no matter what happens. I see people who are like Paul from the Bible.

Paul was put in prison and still wrote letter after letter to other believers. He preached to the other inmates and the guards. He was unwavering in his faith. He didn't complain that God wasn't with him. He knew that God had a greater purpose for his life. He made the best of every situation he was placed in and did what he knew he was called to do: share the gospel with anyone and everyone he came into contact with.

Can you imagine how many people he spoke to? Can you picture the number of people that learned of God's love for them, even in the most unusual of places simply because Paul didn't waste his time wallowing?

Paul's roots were definitely deep!

Here's my challenge for you and me: Don't focus on the drought going on around you. Instead, focus on God and know that he is with you! He knows what he's doing and can most definitely bring you through this drought if you let him!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Coincidence? I Don't Think So!

But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. -Psalm 13:5 (NLT)




We've been talking a lot about the upper and lower stories at church lately. To clarify, the lower story is where we live our everyday lives. It's where we get speeding tickets, come down with the flu, and struggle with teaching our kindergartners to read. The upper story is God's story. It's the "coincidences" in our lives like when a friend calls just when we really need someone to talk to. It's God weaving all of our lives together for his greater purpose.

Since we live in the lower story all the time, it's easy to get caught up in it and forget that God is working in our lives even when it doesn't make any sense. He can use the craziest, strangest, and even the most devastating times in our lives for his purpose. And we may or may not ever see some of the things he is doing through us.

So here's my challenge for you and me: No matter what's going on in your lower story right now, remember that God loves you. He chose you. He wants to be with you. And he WILL work it all out for his purpose!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Got Faith?

"The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, 'Move!' and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn't be able to tackle." -Matthew 17:20b (MSG)




If you look at this verse in The Message, it says "poppy seed" and the New Living Translation says "mustard seed." Whichever one you choose to imagine, picture just how small those seeds are! They are tiny! How much faith must be jammed into those tiny seeds to move a mountain? And yet, Jesus said it, so it's true!

Reading that verse in Matthew leads me to thinking on this verse as well:

Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. -Philippians 4:13 (MSG)

I just love that! It doesn't say anything about understanding what God is doing or seeing the end to the suffering in sight. It simply says that we'll make it through if we put our faith in Christ! Period. There's no more to it! Just trust and hand it to him. :)

At the same time, this means that we can do anything with God on our side! Homeschooling lots of kids at the same time, potty training that stubborn two year old, keeping the vegetable garden alive for once-all possible with his help. :)

Here's my challenge for you and me today: Put your faith in God and let HIM help you with whatever you're struggling with today!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Even the Little Things!

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? -Matthew 6:26 (NLT)

I went to my Bible Study last night at church with almost no gas. Both cars were pretty low so I took the least low of the two, said a prayer, and off I went. Now, to be clear here, I didn't get more gas because Shaun wanted me to wait until the weekend for it. So being an obedient wife, I just went for a quick prayer rather than gas.

On my way to pick up a friend for bible study, I simply prayed that the gas light wouldn't come on until I was on my way home. And it didn't come on at all while I was driving to her house, or when we were driving to the church and back to her house again. It stayed off.

I hugged my friend goodbye, prayed again, and set off. But this time, while I prayed, I upped the anty. I asked God not to let my gas light come on until I got to the exit-like structure at the other end of my town. It didn't matter that I didn't know what to call it; God knew what I was talking about.

I could almost hear God whispering, "Let me take it one step further." And you know what? It didn't come on at all. I pulled into our backyard and locked the doors, no gas light!

And it occurred to me. If God is looking out for me with something so trivial and insignificant, can you imagine what he's doing in the rest of my life? In your life? With the big things? It got me thinking of prayers I've said in the past.

I grew up begging God to give me a sister. I desperately wanted one! But it didn't happen biologically in my family. No, instead, God gave me wonderful sisters in Christ! I have some of the most amazing friends that I am privileged to call sister!

I prayed for a good, Christian man back in the days of no spouse. And he "did me one better." He gave me Shaun who always puts God and his family first! There is no doubt in my mind about Shaun's feelings for us.

I prayed for "just one girl" back when we only had Lukas and Andrew. And God, true to form, "did me one better" when he gave me, not only Lily-the one girl I asked for-but also Ian, a fantastic little boy that I can't imagine life without!

Here's my challenge for you and me this weekend: Count your blessings and leave your trials to God! He's got them! He can handle them! He WANTS to handle them!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Beautiful Things

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. -Isaiah 55:8-9

What did you imagine your life would be like when you grew up? When I pictured my own, I thought I'd be a mom to a lot of kids with a great husband and I'd probably be a teacher. Kindergarten, of course, because I thought they were cute back then. Lol.

Now, I think we've talked about how my life turned out differently (in a great way, by the way) than what I imagined in past posts, so I won't ramble on about that again now. But just know, I've had a LOT of bumps along my path to where I find myself now. And I have to say that God has done an amazing job making beauty from all of my nonsense. He's used some of my dumbest moments to make beautiful things.

And that reminds me of this awesome song that we often sing at church...sorry if you're struggling to follow my thought train this morning. I have a terrible cold and am all over the place!




I know that God will always do much more amazing things with my life than I can even imagine and yet, I continue to picture where I think it is going. I'm eager to see what he does with my life from here! Part of me wants to lay out my dreams for anyone who is still reading this, and the rest of me knows that isn't the purpose of this post.

The purpose of today's post is this: No matter where you are on your life's path, God is there with you guiding you and loving you. Listen to him! Lean into him! He will lead you through the good, the bad, the scary, the impossible. You might not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but he can! Stay close to him while he works to make your ashes into something beautiful! You won't regret it. :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

He Knows Your Heart

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” -Psalm 139: 23-24 (NLT)

In my own private conversations with God, when I'm in the midst of a struggle, I say the first part of this verse a lot. He knows my heart. He knows my longings and my struggles, my insecurities and my secret dreams. And if I'm paying attention, He even gives me moments throughout my life when he meets those and eases those for me.

When I went to Biblegateway.com this morning in search of a verse for inspiration for this morning's post, this was the verse of the day. And it called out to me to be written on. Because while I often tell God that he knows my heart, I don't usually add that I'd like him to test me or point out what I'm doing wrong. And obviously I should. But I'm human. I don't want to know that I'm not perfect (even though I honestly know it!).

This morning, I suppose what God is sharing with me is that the tests and trials in our lives are a wonderful opportunity to grow in Christ and draw closer to HIM. It's hard to see it when you're in the middle of an awful time in your life- a death in the family, trouble with the law, a battle with your children, divorce-but God can make beauty even from these awful things if you let him!

Here's my challenge for you and me this morning: Hand over your worries and concerns to God this morning and let Him shape them into something beautiful for you! God doesn't promise an easy, worry-free life when you follow him, but he does promise to always be there. Let HIM handle your toughest battles today!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Feeling" it...

"O LORD, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them.” -Isaiah 25:1 (NLT)

There are many days when I just don't "feel" it, but I know God is still there, still loving me, still carrying me through the tough times and rejoicing with me in the good.

While today was not one of those days for me, I know I am not the only one who has them. So if today was that day for you, remember, God is here. He loves you. He knows your pain. And he is holding you tight. Lean into him!!

This song has been screaming at me lately. I've been listening to it a lot since it was sung at church a couple of weeks ago!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Are you all in?

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)

I got this verse at church yesterday when we were discussing the story of David being annointed as God's new king of Israel. At the time, David was a young sheep herder. He was the youngest of 8 boys. Insignificant in the world's eyes. So insignificant, in fact, that he wasn't even amongst the original sons lined up to be examined by Samuel. They had to call for him as an afterthought!

The part of this verse that really stood out to me is that last part: "The Lord doesn't see things the way you see them...the Lord looks at the heart."

I have felt what David must have felt that day so many times. Insignificant. Forgotten. Not worthy. Not good enough. To take it further: Too insignificant to be noticed by my husband when we met. Forgotten by my "friends" when I ended up pregnant in high school. Not worthy of a good life when I made mistake after mistake...not good enough when it comes to parenting my babies.

But God doesn't see it that way. What God sees is his beautiful daughter. And no matter what I've done or will do in the future, he will go on loving me. And that makes this heart happy. The same is true for every single person on this earth. God loves you no matter what you've done.

As our pastor said yesterday, God wants to see a heart that is "all in" for him. He doesn't want "sometimes" or even "almost always." He wants to know that you're following him all the time, even when it isn't easy or fun or even appealing.

Here's my challenge for you and me today: Are you all in with God? Tell God your decision today. Have a great day!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Giving Equals Receiving

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. -Luke 6:38 (NLT)

I've watched this happen around me over and over again. Shaun and I have multiple friends raising money for adoptions, missions trips, and all sorts of other endeavors. I've watched, time and again, these wonderful people give to others even when you'd think they would save every cent toward their goal. And God rewards them for it! I've seen it! :)

Can you imagine what the world would be like if we were ALL willing to give more? And I don't just mean money. What if we gave more time? More effort? More love? What if we leant a listening ear when a friend needed it or offered them a hug of reassurance?What if we got together with our friends or our small groups and helped others out together? Are you picturing it?

Think back to your last selfless act. Didn't it feel wonderful? Didn't you think, in that moment, that you made a difference? Even if it was a small one?

In my Bible Study on Ruth, we've been talking about this idea of helping others and serving, of coming alongside someone in need and "taking them under our wing" for no other reason except that they need it. We all have people in our lives who could use a little extra grace, a little extra encouragement, a little extra prayer. Sometimes, you just need to look around and really SEE them.

Here's my challenge for you and me today: Find someone to give a little more to today. Whether it's your husband, your children, a friend, or even just a person at the grocery store or the library, give them a little more today and see what happens. :) Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Yesterday is Over, Let's Focus on Today!

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. -Matthew 6:34 (NLT)

If you think about it, we can apply this same principal to dwelling on our mistakes from yesterday. It won't change anything to obsess over those mistakes. Make amends and move on.

That's what I'll be doing today! Yesterday, I discovered that my cyber schooling oldest son had some very poor grades going on in several subject areas. And while I'm not going to just pretend they don't exist because yesterday is in our past, I am going to let go of the blame I laid on myself over it and help him through it today. Today will be better. Today is a gift and we are going to treat it as such!




Here's my challenge for you and me today: Stop worrying about yesterday, don't worry about tomorrow, think only of today and how you can best serve God today.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Jumble of Thoughts...

I took my troubles to the LORD; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer. -Psalm 120:1 (NLT)

I honestly don't feel worthy of writing this blog this morning. My heart aches over the fact that God continues to give me great things to say but I can't seem to follow through with the words coming through my own fingers.

I know that it is absolutely impossible to be "good enough" on my own and yet, I continue to aim for that goal. And it's an unachievable goal! Why do I do this? It only frustrates me and makes me a worse friend, mother, daughter, wife, sister, and any other label you can think of.

So I'm going back to these simple, wonderful words from the Psalms. I am again handing over all of my troubles because as much as I WANT to trust God with all of them, I keep taking them back and going over and over them! I need to leave them in HIS capable hands!

And one of those troubles is my sweet Gwen. I handed her over on Valentine's Day and took her back almost right away. There are no good excuses for that one. I did it and I admit it. Period.

My husband pointed something out to me AGAIN last night. God used Gwen in an amazing way while she was here with us. She was loved as much as humanly possible while she was here. And now, she is whole and perfect and happy in heaven with God. She is in the best possible place right now and will never have to experience the heartache of a life here on earth (and I don't care how perfect your life is, we all experience heartache along the line!).

So, as much as I miss her and wish I'd gotten more time with her, she IS in a better place and I WILL get to see her again!

Here's my challenge for you AND me this morning: Think about which troubles you're hanging onto in your own life...and then hand them back to God! I know I'm going to be doing that again this morning!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lean

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. -Matthew 11:28 (NLT)




This is all I have for today. Lean on the Lord with all of your burdens! He can handle it!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

February 24th

For everything there is a season,a time for every activity under heaven. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. -Ecclesiastes 3:1,4


This past Friday was Gwen's due date. Now the problem with that particular date is that it is not only her due date, but also the due date of the baby I lost a few years ago AND my nine-year-old son's birthday as well! So for his sake, I chose to ignore the giant elephant in the room and carry on with our day, focusing instead on something I thought would be easily attainable. A bracelet.

In fact, I obsessed over that bracelet to the point that when I wasn't able to find it at the store on Saturday afternoon (after continuing to ignore the elephant who insisted on following me around to dinner Friday night and then to my son's birthday party on Saturday morning), I broke down in tears. Now several other things happened to fuel the fire, but in the end I needed to acknowledge my feelings about that date.

February 24th will forever be a bittersweet day for me. On the one hand, it is a very special day to celebrate the miracle that is my second son. And he is absolutely fantastic! But on the other hand, it is also a day that I will always remember as the due date for 2 of my other children who never made it into the world.

I've been told that I should just move on already, that these deaths are in the past and that I need to focus on the present and the miracles that I have right here. And that sounds great. It truly does. But I can't just ignore my God-given feelings on this! The fact is that no matter what, I am sad for the babies that I will never meet this side of heaven. Yes, they are perfect in every way now and enjoying our Father's arms in heaven, but I still wish I could have met them, held them, loved on them!

There are many days where I feel okay and know that I will make it through this with God's help and love. And then there are all the others. There are also many days when I think it would be awesome if God would give us another baby and then there are the ones when I just don't want to open myself up to the possibility of this pain again.

I don't have any wise words (beyond the verse above) or pretty, gift-wrapped way to tie up this post. This is just what is on my heart today and I pray that it is helpful in some way to someone out there. Have a blessed day today!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Is It Still Lying if You Just Aren't Offering the Information?

Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed. -Proverbs 12:19 (NLT)

I've faced this question multiple times over the last few months. Sometimes it was with friends as they struggled with whether or not to share something with someone else. And sometimes, it was ME!

You see, my most recent experience with this was over breastmilk. I was absolutely terrified to tell my birth mama that we were planning on giving our sweet angel, Gwen, breastmilk for the first year of her life (if we could get enough breastmilk, that is!). Now, I nursed all of my babies and I know all the reasons why I wanted to give Gwen breastmilk. They were valid reasons. But sometimes people get worked up over this topic and I didn't want to make any waves with my mama. After all, she was carrying my baby and I didn't want to upset her!

Over and over again since this first came up back in December (before we lost Gwen), I have encountered friends who are wondering if they should share something or other with someone else. Essentially, the question had become: is it still lying if I'm just not offering up the information?

And here's the truth that I've felt God has been whispering into my life: YES! By withholding the information, keeping it a secret, whatever you want to call it, you are saying that what you are doing is wrong. Period. And worse, if God is convicting you on it, you are telling God that you don't trust him enough to bring you through whatever happens as a result of your honesty.

Last night, though it really makes no difference now, I told my mama about the breastmilk. And you know what? She laughed! She absolutely didn't care that we were planning to give Gwen breastmilk. Here I had worried about telling her for months and it didn't bother her! I truly wish that I had followed that nudge to be honest from the beginning and just told her our plans.

Here's my challenge for you and me this weekend: What information are you withholding that God has been convicting you on? Maybe it's time to come clean!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary!

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” -1 John 4:18 (NLT)

Living your life without fear is easier said than done. Believe me. I KNOW I shouldn't live in fear about anything because my God is bigger than anything that could happen here on Earth. But sometimes, when things get tough, I forget. I get so wrapped up in myself and my own world that I forget that God knows what he is doing even in the scary times.

Now I'm not saying that I actually believe that God makes the scary, testing things happen. No way! My God isn't like that! I am just saying that God works even through those things. He can carry us through the hard times, through the scary times, through the worst times of our lives if only we would let him!

It's amazing to me to look around in those times and see him at work everywhere. He is even able to use YOU in those times! Most of the time he uses us without our even realizing it. I can't tell you the number of times that someone has done something or said something to me that has stuck with me in ways that they don't even see. I know they don't see it because they move on with life as though nothing extraordinary has happened at all! And in reality, they've just done something that has so affected me as to change my perspective from here out!

I would love to believe that maybe I've had that affect on people sometime or another but at the same time, I think that's why we move through life without realizing what God is doing through us. It keeps us humble.

So here's my challenge for you and me today: Let God use you in an unexpected way! Just don't expect to know that it happened. Hahaha...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Blessing in Disguise!

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. -John 14:13 (NLT)

This sweet little lady was used in a big way yesterday! Her name is Selah and she is just 3 weeks old. Isn't she gorgeous??

On my way to her house yesterday, I could feel the sadness and jealousy trying to take root in my heart. I begged God to take those feelings and help me to see the blessing in the day instead. And you know what? He did it!

I don't know why I'm surprised. He answers all of our prayers, though most of the time, he doesn't answer them in the way you'd expect.

I spent about 4 hours at my dear friends' house while my youngest babies napped upstairs with her other children. I think I got to hold Selah for almost 3 of those hours! And you know what I didn't do? I didn't feed her. I didn't change her diapers. I didn't do anything but breath in her wonderful baby scent and enjoy her.

And as my time with Selah drew to a quick close, I realized how truly blessed I am to have such a dear friend who would share her daughter with me like that. I also realized that if Shaun and I never have another baby of our own, it will be okay. God will bring me hidden blessings like yesterday and carry me through.

And you know what else? We have four kids already so odds are, I'm getting at least one grandbaby in the future!! And you better believe I'm going to be one involved, in-love grandma too!

So here's my challenge for you and me today: Instead of looking at everything through a negative filter today, see if you can find the hidden blessings in your day. I promise they're sprinkled everywhere if only you look for them!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Love Unending!

God's love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks. -Psalm 36:5-6 (MSG)




I absolutely love the translation of this verse in The Message! The New Living Translation says "your unfailing love is as vast as the heavens" but this translation explains it in a way that is a little more concrete to our human minds. And that makes me smile. :)

In our most trying times, God still loves us. On our worst possible days, God is still there loving us. In our deepest pits, God is still there loving us and offering a way out! On the best days, God is there loving us. His love is unending!

Unlike here on Earth where love is often very conditional, God loves us despite who we are and where we are on our journey! He is our perfect example of extraordinary love. And best of all, we have the honor of being the recipient of that love! How could you not smile about that? My heart even feels a little lighter thinking about that. So again, I smile. :)

For me, this means that God loves me when I'm getting life right. He loves me when I make a mistake. He even loved me when I walked away! And it continued right through my return to him. Amazing! I don't have to pretend to be anyone else for God! He loves me for me and that's awesome!

Here's my challenge for you and me today: Is this easy or difficult for you to believe? No matter your answer, repeat after me: "God loves me for being me!"

Friday, February 17, 2012

Busy, Busy...

Don't waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It's a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ. Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light!So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! -Ephesians 5:11-16

We've been very busy around here today and when I went to find a good verse for today, these are the ones that stood out! So, while I don't actually have a lot of time for a long post today, I DO want to share these words from the Bible with you and give you some things to consider as we head into the weekend.

Before you devote your time to something consider whether it's really worth the time you're putting into it, whether this is something that honors God, and whether there is something else that would be a better receiver of your valuable time. We only get so much of it while we're here on Earth! Don't waste one precious moment!

A song that spoke to me today:



Here's my challenge for you and me this weekend: Don't be too busy to stop and thank God for all he has given you! Every moment, the good and the bad, are gifts from God. Thank him for them!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Moving Forward

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. -Romans 12:2

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. -Matthew 10:39

I've been lying to myself for weeks now. I've been telling myself I'm okay, that I'm ready to move on, that I'd be ready if God handed us another baby right now. And I've been wrong. Shaun, God love him!, tried to point this out to me, but I didn't want to hear it. Instead, I buried my hurt and pain over the loss of Gwen and tried to barrel onward. No more! The only way through the pain is through it. I can't go over it, I can't go under it. I can't bury it and pretend it didn't happen. I can only deal with it and hand it to God to take care of.

A couple of days ago, I followed the nudge to put Gwen's things away in our attic. I cried my eyes and my heart out as I struggled to take down her crib and overfilled boxes with adorable baby girl clothes that we may or may not ever use now. I couldn't understand why God would ask me to do something so hard when I was so not ready. I didn't understand.

This morning, I've been working through my devotions on Ruth again for Bible Study tonight and man! They are convicting! We're talking about loss and mourning and releasing the past to God so you can move forward into the future HE holds for you.

I've been hanging onto Gwen for too long. I can't have her here on Earth. She belongs to God and I need to let go of her. I love the way that Kelly Minter, author of the Ruth study I'm working on, puts it: "Take off the old, put on the new; take the risk of being available."

Days later, I now realize what I did when I took that crib down. I'm telling God, now in front of anyone reading this, that I am available. I am ready to move forward! I am releasing all of the dreams I carry for my own life and am completely willing to follow through on HIS! HIS dreams for my life will be better than I could ever imagine!

Before you go on with your day today, please take a moment to listen to this Barlow Girl song, Surrender. It is so powerful and is exactly where my heavy heart is this morning:


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Goodbye, Gwen...

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”
So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.
When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice.
At that moment the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” -Genesis 22:1-12
I did something really hard yesterday. I put away Gwen's crib, her clothes, everything that she would have used if things had ended differently. I didn't do it because I wanted to; if I'd gone with what I WANTED to do, her crib would still be up in Lily's room and her clothes would still be bursting from the drawers. No, I truly felt like God was asking me to do it. And so I did. And my heart is aching.
As I was putting that stuff away, it occurred to me that God often asks us to do things we don't want to do. Many times, too, he asks us to do things simply to see if we will be obedient to him. I've said yes to several things over the years that never came to fruition and that's okay, because I was still being obedient.
God asked Shaun and I to do two things this past fall. He asked us to love our sweet Gwen's family and to adopt that little girl as our own. And while we willingly accepted both tasks, only one of them actually came to pass here on Earth. While I wholeheartedly embrace Gwen as my second daughter, I don' t get to enjoy her here. That will have to wait until we all meet again in heaven.
And all of that made me think of Abraham and Isaac. As you can read for yourself up above, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son Isaac in order to test him. But here's the thing about this verse that isn't written here. Not only did Abraham love Isaac more than can possibly be described here, but God had promised to give Abraham descendents through Isaac that outnumbered the stars! Abraham knew all of this and still, he went forward.
When God knew that Abraham would truly follow through, he stopped him. He didn't have him go through with it. Abraham said yes even though he didn't want to!
In a similar way, God asked me to let go of Gwen the rest of the way by putting away her stuff. I am trusting him completely with my daughter who is in his arms even as I write this. It's not easy and it doesn't feel very good right now, but it is the right thing to do.
So here's the challenge for you and me today: What has God been nudging you to do? What are you trying to ignore? Maybe it's time to give that a second look today.

We Can't Understand It All!

The LORD directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way? -Proverbs 20:24 (NLT)




Time and time again, I am amazed at God's ways and the small portion of His master plan that I have the honor of watching unfold around me. No matter how much I think I understand, I never fully grasp what God is doing and that's okay. Everything always works out in God's perfect plan, even when we, as humans try to get in the way. He uses our mistakes and missteps in the plan.

I was working through my Bible study on Ruth again this morning when I was given the verse above. It was right there in the pages and when I read it, I just knew that today's post needed to be about this particular verse.

Today is Valentine's Day. There are so many people in the world right now who are single. Single because they haven't met their spouse yet, they've recently lost their spouse to death, or even to divorce. So while Valentine's Day is often exciting and wonderful for those who are married and/or in a relationship, it can a truly hard day for others. Perspective!

It's easy for the happily married to tell these people to be patient or that God has a great plan for them. It's much harder for the people living this daily to do that! We want what we want now. We don't want to wait and see where God takes us, especially when we have no idea how long we'll be waiting. If we only had an idea of the amount of time involved, the amount of heartbreak we'd have to endure as we wait, maybe THEN it would be easier.

But as this verse so clearly says, we don't get to know what will happen along the way. We must allow God to direct our steps and trust that God knows what he is doing!

Here's the challenge today for you and me: Don't surround yourself in the negative or the disappointing of your life today. Embrace the good that God has placed in your life!

Monday, February 13, 2012

God's Unending Grace

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. -Romans 5:20 (NLT)



It's absolutely amazing and awe-inspiring for me to consider the idea that, though we continue to sin day after day, God continues to offer us his grace day after day too. At church yesterday, we discussed this idea of God's unending grace through the story of Adam and Eve. The song above was played at the end of the service and it spoke to me. I truly hope you've listened to it before reading, or at the very least, while you're reading. When you're done listening, listen again. Honestly. Some of these musicians just inspire me. These are one set of them.

When I was a teenager, 17 to be exact, I completely turned my back on God and my family. I was angry at the entire world, God included, because my world had been turned upside down and shaken up when my parents went through a divorce. But this post isn't about that. I just want you to see where I was coming from.

I didn't turn back again until the rest of the world crashed down even harder. After a series of events that left me broken and only able to turn my face back to God, I finally did and I haven't regretted it since.

Turning away should have meant a death sentence for me if I'm honest. I should have been in some sort of accident or something. Instead, God gave me the most amazing, God-fearing husband a woman could ever ask for along with four beautiful children. I have the honor of staying home and raising them every single day. I didn't deserve God's grace in my life at all. Especially after the way I turned away for years. And yet, he gave it.

That's the very definition of God's grace. It's a gift we can never, ever earn and yet he gives it to us. No strings attached. And he doesn't just give it once. He gives it over and over and over again. As many times as we want it or need it.

So here's my challenge for you and me today: Stop trying to earn God's good grace. Just accept it and then show him you appreciate it through your actions.

Have a blessed, grace-filled day today! Amen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hidden Blessings

On a good day, enjoy yourself; On a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days so that we won't take anything for granted. -Ecclesiastes 7:14 (MSG)

I've been out of bed for about an hour now and have already changed two very stinky diapers. Add to that the fact that my head is already starting to hurt, there are no episodes of Diego to be found on demand for Ian, and he is walking around with yet another whistle (I thought I'd hidden them all!) and you can see that the morning is not shaping up quite right.

Don't get me wrong, this is far from my worst day. It's actually a pretty normal day. My point is that God has given me this day and instead of complaining about it, I need to thank him for it!

Sure, I've changed two stinky diapers already, but at least Ian can go. He doesn't have any sort of illness or major bowel abstruction. His digestive system is quite normal and I praise God for that fact!

There are no episodes of Diego on demand, but Ian is learning a valuable lesson from that: we can't always get what we want when we want it. Sometimes we have to practice patience and wait. With video on demand, that lesson is not learned often from the TV. And that is yet another reason to praise God!

The whistle, however, is going to be harder to thank God for. But I'll give it a go. "Thank you, God, that my son is able to blow into a whistle and make the sound come out! Thank you that he is alive and well! He is a miracle and you did AMAZING work on him! He is a blessing to our family every single day! Amen!"

I'm going to go finish my coffee and get started on school with my other little miracles, but before I go, here's my challenge for you and me this weekend: Let's praise God and thank God in the good times as well as the bad! After all, he gave us both kinds of days. Both are a blessing. :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Give Cheerfully!

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” -2 Corinthians 9:7-9

This is a subject that has been placed in front of me over and over again lately. Maybe it's because I am simply to blog about it, but more likely, it's because I could be giving more than I am giving.

I'm not talking about money here. I'm talking about time, effort, caring, helping. I don't really have any more money to give, but I do have the ability to give of all of those things I've just mentioned.

God calls us to "share freely and give generously." And if I'm honest, I haven't always done it cheerfully as he requires.

As an example, I can cheerfully give my time crocheting and/or knitting for others. In fact, after Gwen, I told the hospital where she was born that I would make them some hats. But have I done it? No. Part of the reason for that is that I can't bring myself to take out that yarn. My plan has been to use the rest of the skein from the one hat I made her to make others for stillborns that arrive at her hospital. It sounds like a great and noble thing when I read it back written like that. But I can hear God whispering to me. "You don't have to use only that particular yarn to give to the hospital. Other women could use a kind act like that too, regardless of the yarn choice."

It seems silly, I suppose, to imagine God caring enough about yarn and my feet-dragging about it; but I know he truly does. He's willing, able, and wanting to join me where I am. And this is where I am. Close to tears over yarn.

So instead of considering using that yarn for my first donation to the hospital, I need to stop with the excuses and use a different one. I have a ton of it. There is no reason I can't use something different. Maybe one of my hand-dyed yarns that I have been saving for a "special project." What could be more special than blessing another parent in the same way that someone else blessed Shaun and me?

Here's my challenge for you and me today: Let's stop making excuses and choose to give cheerfully today!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Do What's Right, not just What Feels Good!

Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. -Philippians 2:4

Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don't have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn't yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.

You wouldn't think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you'd be asking for what you have no right to. You're spoiled children, each wanting your own way.

You're cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn't care? The proverb has it that "he's a fiercely jealous lover." And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you'll find. It's common knowledge that "God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble."

So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet.

Don't bad-mouth each other, friends. It's God's Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You're supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others? -James 4:1-12

It's come to my attention today that we live in a world where perfection, happiness, and what feels good is our aim. This isn't to say that we haven't always lived here, because we have, but today it's especially obvious to me.

The world we live in airbrushes our size 00 models so they look "perfect." Our stars get married and divorced again as though it's a race to see who can have the most exes. We have entire newspapers and magazines devoted to gossiping and tearing each other down.

And it's easy to get sucked into all of that. In my mind, it makes sense to want to do things that make you feel good. It seems like that would be great. But what about all of those important things that we have to do that DON'T feel good? What about the diapers I have to change, the fights I have to break up between my kids, the endless hours of Lalaloopsy dolls as my daughter tells me how to play? What about dinners and puking kids and mountains of laundry? None of that makes me feel good. Should I just stop doing it?

No! In my Bible study on Ruth today, the author talked about the fact that God loves the humble. He works through the humble. And sometimes, he brings us to a humble place to prepare our hearts for future blessings.

What God doesn't love is the proud. What he never pushes in the Bible is "do only what feels good and makes you happy." What he DOES encourage is to love your enemies, help others, serve others. It's a totally different message than what we are served daily from the world.

My challenge for you and me today: Serve someone else today. Let God use you in another person's life and you'll be surprised how rewarding it truly is. If this isn't something you'd normally do, choose someone easy. But do it. Pick up another mom's child from school, grab an extra milk and take it to your friend who just had a baby, pay for the person's coffee behind you in line. Just do something with an attitude of helping others!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Love This Family

So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies. -1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

We went into this with one instruction from God: Love this family. As we said “yes” to Chrissy about adopting sweet Gwen, it was easy to love her. She was giving us something so precious, so wonderful: a daughter, a sister for our little girl, a new baby for our house! I didn’t even know I
wanted another child and yet, here we were!

When we lost Gwen, I could still hear those words resounding in my heart: love this family. But it was harder now. Every instinct in me wanted to cut ties and pretend it never happened. I wanted to pull back and stop talking to everyone I knew or who knew about Gwen. If I pretended it never happened, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much.

But that wasn’t what God was asking of me. More than anything, God wants me to show this sweet woman true, unselfish love. By loving her despite this loss, I am telling her she has value for being her. I don’t need anything from her to love her. She doesn’t owe me anything.

If Gwen had lived, the love would still be easy. It would still be so obviously because she had given me something and we all would have missed this most valuable lesson. God’s love isn’t about what we can give him! We can give him nothing! And still he loves us! We are broken, we are imperfect, we make mistakes every single day, and still he goes on loving us!

When we chose the name Gwen, we chose it because it means “blessed.” We thought we were referring to the fact that she would be so blessed to have so many people who loved her. In fact, we are blessed to have known her at all however short the time may have been. She brought us together and God used her in a powerful way while she was here with us: He reminded us just how much he loves us.



Monday, February 6, 2012

Where is God in all this Nonsense?

God! you walked off and left us, kicked our defenses to bits. And stalked off angry. Come back. Oh please, come back! -Psalm 60:1 (MSG)

There have been so many bad times in my life when this verse is the exact attitude I jumped to. It's always someone else's fault when things go poorly. It could never be mine. So why not blame God? It's not as though he's ever verbally argued with me. And besides, he controls the whole universe. If it's not HIS fault, then who else can I blame?

In July, it will be three years since I had my miscarriage. I was 9 weeks along when we found out that Christian (that's what I named him) was gone. I think the worst part about it was that Shaun and I didn't even want him to start with. We were trying NOT to get pregnant. So it had taken a couple of weeks to get used to the idea that we were going from a five person family to a six person family. At that point, I still felt very convinced that the number of children we had was up to us.

When I lost Christian (and I say "I" here because I still sometimes blame myself, though I know in my head I did nothing wrong!), my first thoughts were: "Why God?" "Why would you get us pregnant when we didn't even want to be only to take him away from us?" "What did I do wrong?" "Didn't we love him enough for you?" "Did we say something or do something to make you change your mind about trusting us with another child?"

But that's not the way God works. He doesn't tempt you to do the wrong thing. He doesn't tease you. He doesn't punish you in the worst possible way. That miscarriage was an awful, awful thing. It's taken a long time to get past it to the point that I can talk about it without feeling horrible and without wanting to run away.

Here's what I learned in that dark time:

God was with me through it all. He was sending people to be a comfort to me. He was sending women who'd been down this road themselves to walk me through. He helped Shaun to show me compassion and to be patient with me as I cried. He drew Shaun and I closer than we were before (which I though was impossible considering how close Shaun and I already were). He helped me get through it in the quickest way possible. He gave me a doctor that reminded me over and over again that this wasn't my fault.

I also learned that no matter what I think is true, I am not in control. God is. I don't know what's best for my life, HE does. You know, after that miscarriage, I totally appreciated my pregnancy with Ian. Every movement, every sick day, was a blessing.

Finally, I learned that my beautiful children are a miracle. Each one of them. The fact that they are here when so much can go wrong in a pregnancy is a true testament to God. Only HE could have brought my sweet babies through such a scary, unknown time in their lives. I tell Ian all the time that Jesus did a wonderful job on him. He is absolutely precious.

Here's my challenge for you and me today: Instead of dwelling on the negative of the trial you're walking through right now, look around and see if you can find the ways God is helping you through it. Is there someone special who's been there all along? Are there a bunch of coincidences that you now see add up to God working?

Remember, God adores you! Let him show you that he adores you today!!


Friday, February 3, 2012

Your Past Led to Your Present!

God's wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don't find it lying around on the surface. It's not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. -1 Corinthians 2:7

If you'd asked me 15 years ago what my life would be like as an adult, I promise I never would have described it as it currently is. I would've told you that I'd be teaching kindergarten in a wonderful elementary school (because, don't you know, kindergartners are adorable, haha). I would've said that I would be married with lots of kids, probably working on the fourth and final because I have always said I wanted 4 kids. If you asked when we had our first, I would tell you that I was just 25. I also would've said that my husband, who I met at the church I grew up in and still attend to this day, lives with me in an amazing house and our children go to a great school. At 16, that would've been my idea of a great life.

But many of those things are absolutely not true. Yes, I have an awesome husband and we DID meet in the church I grew up in. But we don't still go there and I wasn't 25 when I had my first son. I was barely 19, thanks to lots of questionable choices and God's infinite wisdom. And while I am a teacher, I am a homeschool teacher. Oh, and to be clear, kindergarten is NOT fun to teach all the time! ;) Finally, while we DO currently have 4 children, I refuse to limit God by saying I'm done and happy with 4. I know I'm not alone when I say that Shaun and I would happily welcome a fifth and even a sixth-however many God wants us to have! We WANT to do HIS will; it works out so much better than our own!

I spent many years ashamed and even regretful of my past. But you know what? If I'd detoured off that path anywhere, my life wouldn't be what it is today. Changing my past would change my present and I'm happy with my present. God took my screw-ups and bad choices (and okay, the occasional good choice) and made it into this awesome life that I am privileged to live today!

A few years ago, Shaun and I experienced our very first miscarriage. I was just 9 weeks when I found out but I'd spent nearly a month getting excited about that baby, picturing his/her life with us, only to lose him/her. I was devastated and couldn't understand why God would give us that precious little life only to take it away again!

But I know now that God doesn't work that way. He didn't take that baby from us. Miscarriage is a very sad reality that is in our world because of sin and because this world is absolutely not perfect. But God did use that miscarriage for good. Becuase I went through that, I was able to help out friends who went through them. I had empathy for them that I never would have had without it.

I learned something else through that miscarriage too. Life goes on, even in a tragedy and God is there for me even in the worst times. He sent woman after woman who had been there to talk to me. He walked through it with me even when part of me wanted to push him away. He stayed by my side. He was faithful. And he still is.

My challenge for you and me this weekend: Be proud of the person God is shaping you into and allow him to make the changes necessary in your life to bring out the best in you! The person you are is a person that God adores! Let him adore you!