Thursday, December 31, 2009

Life is good, God is better!

Last year at this time, I was looking at my life, wondering how I was possibly going to get through the new year with no counseling. I had just finished with my counselor, and was scared I couldn't do it on my own.

I was right. I couldn't.
But God did.

There were many things that He helped me do this year.

He prompted me to sign up for the conference "She Speaks" through Proverbs 31 Ministries. I prepared my talks, I went, I made new friends, I spoke... I also learned a ton!

God got me involved in the leadership team that is helping plan our church's first women's retreat (coming in February).

He also gave me a part time job as the administrator for my church.

Those are 3 big things that I didn't think I would be doing any time soon. Looking into 2009 last year, I had no idea those things were on the horizon (though I did suspect that She Speaks was).

God has blessed me in so many ways this year. Though I haven't written as much as I did the first year, I am just finishing my second year of blogging. I still have been able to write, and not just "newsy" stuff, but heart stuff too.

He has given me friendships through my blog and through Facebook that I would have never thought possible.

He helped me work through and memorize 24 verses through the Siesta 1st and 15th Scripture Memory challenge through the LPM blog. Some of them are a bit fuzzy now.... but I still have them there, and I still had them as I needed them for the circumstances I faced.

He helped me get a solo in Wausau Lyric Choir last spring. Did a major healing in me through that concert alone. And then He asked me to step down from it this year. It has made me sad, but right now, I know it would be too much and I wouldn't be able to enjoy it.

I got to go, with several miracles on God's part, with a friend to the Living Proof Live event in Green Bay this year.

Jesus has led me through some life coaching with a dear friend.... and helped me walk with that same friend through some rough times of her own this fall and winter.

One thing that I didn't accomplish was getting finished with writing about She Speaks and all that I learned there. I kind of left you all hanging there... at Part 8 I think... when I was done with all my portion of the speaking, and going in to hear Jennifer Rothschild speak to us.

I guess I will have to finish up writing about She Speaks this coming year!

There is that familiar phrase that everyone uses (almost, it seems anyway) "Life is good." It's even its own clothing label now.

Life IS good....
Because GOD is good.

Whether the circumstances are good or not.... and they aren't always good...... God is in them. He is good. He loves each and every one of us so dearly.

And that is what makes life good.

Because even in the dark, in the light, and in the in-between God is there with us. He holds us, no matter how far away we push Him.... He stays there. With us.


Life is good....
.... but God is better!

May God bless you and yours this day and all the ones to come.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Advent of Trust #24 and 25

I am a bit behind with my Advent posts.... ok, two behind. Byt there are some reasons... really! :)

The day after Christmas, and it is relatively quiet here. Peter is playing behind me. Marina is at the farm. The kids and I are all sick... I didn't get it till yesterday, and Peter relapsed last night. Probably too much excitement and traveling and late nights.

I didn't get to post the last couple of days because we traveled a lot in the bad weather. I either had no internet access, or no time to get on the computer.

We had a huge winter storm come in, and had to drive from here to Madison in bad weather on Christmas Eve. Thankfully we were able to get there and once we got through the freezing rain that was happening near us, we were just contending with wet roads, rain and bad drivers around us.

We had a wonderful time with my family that day, and it was a great time for all of us to reconnect again.

God has blessed us so much with a wonderful family.

We went to Madison prepared to spend the night because the weather was supposed to be worse that evening. But we decided, partially because Dave had to work Christmas day, and partially because we had a friend in Madison who was trying to make it to Mosinee that night, to push through and try to make it home.

We packed up the kids, drove to the north side of Madison in wind and rain, and met up with Matt. Then we hit the road, with Matt following us in his car. Things were wet, but fine until just north of Portage, WI.... then went downhill from there.

Snow, sleet, freezing rain and wind.
Crazy drivers passing us at breakneck speed.

Several slide offs and spin outs were passed. But not one of them ended up being us. Praise God!

We averaged anywhere from 50 miles an hour to about 30 miles an hour. When we made it home, we unwound a bit, and then turned over our office to Matt and went to bed about 1:30am.

I woke up at 8:30, and as quickly as we could we partially unpacked Dave's car from the Madison trip, threw our presents for Dave's family into my car, and headed for the farm. We had several celebrations with Dave's family (some family that was leaving town this morning, and then his parents and brother, then some friends of the family who came over).

I took a nap in the afternoon (BLISS!!!) in between celebrations. Peter and Marina played with family, toys and watched a movie. They had a wonderful time.

We had such a good time with everyone.

God blessed us this year. Even with the horrible weather, and our long traveling.

We are coming down off the "high" of Christmas and are so grateful for our family and friends.

We gave one of our son's friends a bible. Her first. She is a reader, and was so excited about getting it, that she started reading it right away.... as in, took it to a back bedroom, and had me help her learn how to look up a scripture verse she had memorized in AWANA, then started reading in Genesis. She read the first 3 chapters in Genesis last night before bed, her mom told me.

She just started going to AWANA this year with Peter. She has loved it, memorizing loads of verses at a time, and now finding great enjoyment in having her own bible.

I remember at the beginning of the year being hesitant at getting the kids involved in AWANA because of the time commitment of it. Now, I can see the fruits of trusting God with it, not only in my own kid's lives, but also the life of someone else who was touched through that ministry... including this little girl's family as well.

I hope that God will help me remember to trust, no matter what is going on around me. He has shown me the fruits of that trust this year, this season of Advent, and just these past few days. Lives influenced and changed, amazing outcomes of surgery, healing bodies and hearts and emotions, safe travels and a friend home safe.

He is so good.

I hope that you have learned as much as I have through this journey through Advent of Trust. May I leave you with one more encouragement from God's word.

"Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your hearts to Him,
For God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:8

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Advent of Trust #23; getting a "no?"

This devotional entry from "Jesus Calling," by Sarah Young is very appropriate for tonight.

December 23
"I am King of kings and Lord of lords, dwelling in dazzlingly bright Light! I am also your Shepherd, Companion, and Friend - the One who never lets go of your hand. Worship me in my holy Majesty; come close to Me, and rest in My Presence. You need Me both as God and as Man. Only My Incarnation on that first, long-ago Christmas could fulfill your neediness. Since I went to such extreme measures to save you from your sins, you can be assured that I will graciously give you all you need.
Nurture well your trust in Me as Savior, Lord and Friend. I have held back nothing in My provision for you. I have even deigned to live within you! Rejoice in all that I have done for you, and My Light will shine through you into the world."
Page 374

I am working on nurturing that trust in Jesus as my Savior, Lord and Friend. I am working on remembering that if God gave us His one and only Son, how would He not graciously give us all things.

It is such a beautiful truth that God knows what is best for us, even when we ask for something we think is good... if it really isn't, He will say no.

I might get my "no" tomorrow when Dave goes out in the morning to "test" how bad the roads are to determine if we can make it to Madison or not. I might get God's "no." Whether that is because we are not supposed to go now, because we could get hurt or stuck in the storm... or because we will be harmed by trying so hard to squeeze too much into such a short amount of time.

Maybe a "no" will be God's way of getting us to slow down a bit more these next couple of days.

I don't know.

That may never be explained....

I mean, what if we head out, and feel it's safe in the morning, and end up stuck, in a ditch or worse? God knows all... He knows what will happen tomorrow and the next couple of days. Maybe He will let us in on it, and again, maybe He won't.

Either way, I know that He will work out all things for the good of those who love Him. He will work out all the situations of this weekend for our good and, more importantly, for His glory.

Now, will my head please tell that to my heart?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Advent of Trust #22; I WILL TRUST


reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.

I will not trust in my car, I will not trust in the weather, or the weather man!

I will not trust in presents to make me happy.

I will not trust in my family to make me happy and give me a sense of worth.

I WILL TRUST in the name of the Lord, by whom I am saved.

I WILL TRUST in God the strength and shield of my life. He will keep me safe and preserve my life. He knows when I will leave this earth, just as much as He planned when I came into it.

No matter the weather, I will celebrate Christmas with my family in the next two days. That means, even if the weather precludes our travel to Madison to see my family, I will still celebrate with my family. Celebrate that Jesus came and was born and grew up as a man, and died and rose again as the Living God.

God is good, and in the uncertainties of life... even of these couple of days of crazy weather, I will trust in Him.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent of Trust #21; the fruit of trusting...

Today was a special day for me. It was my birthday and my son's birthday as well.

I walked into work this morning, to a "Happy Birthday" balloon attached to my desk, and cards.

I got home to a precious package from a couple who have become dear friends to me. We have only known each other through our blogs, and emails back and forth. But through just those avenues, God has blessed both of us.

The internet may be a strange way in some people's sight, to connect and make friends. But I have found that God has blessed me with friends that I would have never found otherwise. Removed by states, countries, long distance phone calls, long drives.

My blog started out as a way to communicate with a friend who was oversees for a year. It was a way to share with closer friends and family what was going on in my life, and slowly, as I got more bold, I was able to share more of my heart.

That was when God introduced me to people, and brought others to my blog. Some of us have formed connections, that though distance separates us, and sometimes long silences as well, won't easily be broken.

This couple that sent me this birthday package.. I got a rare glimpse into their home tonight. A CD accompanied a sweet, homemade gift of cookies, with the recipe. On that CD I got to see my friends, hear their voices, see their home, their pets, photos of their children. It was precious to me... so much so.

And I know that they put such love and thought into their gifts to me, and to my son. I am so blessed.

I decided that I would trust God in leading me into safe relationships through facebook and my blog. He has done just that. My horizons have been expanded by the people who have come into my life.

God has challenged me to be authentic here, to be transparent and open with all that goes on in my life (within certain limits) and I have trusted Him and written my heart, even when I was a bit scared to.

That trust has brought me many blessings, and the fruit of one of those was a dear package I got in the mail today from new friends, whose voices I got to hear for the first time.

Thank you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent of Trust #20; Listen the first time

Today we sat up at the very front of church. It's something that my son insists on. He wants to be near the very front, because his AWANA leader sits in the front, and he wants to sit right behind her.

So there we were in the second row, when my 3 3/4 yr. old daughter, Marina, decided to cop an attitude with me. I don't remember what it was about. I just know that during the sermon, she started pouting and loudly telling me "no" about something. Right in front of Pastor Kim.


That didn't go over so well with me.

I made sure she understood that if she didn't quite down we were out of there. She made more noise, and I moved her to the aisle, picked her up and made my way to the back of the church.

She started to put up a fight, kicking her legs (imagine me holding her facing away from me, sitting as if my arms were a seat... then her arching her back and kicking at the same time....)

Then she realized that everyone in the church could see her.

Because. we. were. in. the. front.

She stopped fighting me and I started hearing her stifling her cries.

By the time we were near the back row, she had clapped both hands over her mouth to keep her crying "inside."

As soon as we got out the doors of the sanctuary, she stopped stifling the cries, and let loose.... all the way back to the library.

There we had some privacy for some discipline. A short talk, then we walked back into the sanctuary. Marina was much better the rest of the service.

Aren't we like my daughter sometimes?

We know what we are supposed to do, we have freedom within certain limits. But we push our limits, and are reminded to stay within them or there will be consequences. Sometimes we listen. Other times, well, not so much.

When we don't listen, God has to take us, and discipline us. Sometimes we look for sympathy from others... sometimes we know and dread what's coming, and stifle our cries till we can't any longer.

But when we finally submit, surrender and seek forgiveness, how quickly the relationship is restored!

I wish I would learn to "listen the first time" as I tell my children. If I only listened the first time to my Father, I would be so much better off. I can't tell you how much grief I would have been spared, had I only listened the first time.

I am resolving to try to listen the first time to God. Even when I don't want to, or would rather drag my feet. As I have read, and tried to instill in my kids, "Slow obey is no obey." Resisting doing what God says, or telling Him that I will do it later is not obeying Him.

It's just like my daughter. She might have finally obeyed me this morning, without my having to take her out of the service. What would she have learned? It was OK to do what mommy wanted you to do, in your OWN timing, not mommy's.

Overall lesson learned? If someone wants you to do something, you can take your time at doing it... as long as it finally gets done, after lots of asking and pleading and threats.

That wouldn't apply very well to her relationship with God.

And it doesn't work very well in my relationship with God either.

Let's just say that if I had listened to God a month ago about something, I would have saved myself a month of stuffing, anxiety, fear, frustration and overall stress.

It boils back down to something I have been finding over and over again this month.
Trust in God.

If I fully trust Him, if He has proven Himself trustworthy (and He has) then I need to settle in for the ride and trust Him.

No matter what He tells me to do.

Just as it hurts my heart when my kids don't trust something I say, or trust me enough to do something I want them to that's out of their comfort zone, how much more does it hurt our Father's heart when I don't trust Him?

I don't want to do that any more.

Let's work together.

Let's "listen the first time."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Advent of Trust #19; a family

About 3 weeks ago or so, our small group leader called everyone in the small group to see if we were ok with a couple of new people coming to our group.

We all said yes, and so this week was the 3rd week they have been with us.

I was concerned about how they would fit in, and if they would feel at home. I have been hosting lately because the kids have been with us every week, because of my work schedule now. So, everyone comes here, so that I can get the kids to bed on time, so that they aren't too tired the next day with school and all.

I was nervous too, about having two new people coming in. I mean, I clean for small group coming over, but finally got over my perfectionism enough to be able to let some things go when my friends came over. However, with two new people coming, I found myself getting all tied in knots and unable to focus on one thing at a time!

You know what? I should have trusted God in the first place when we were asked to fold two new people into our small group. Hmmm..... You think???

I let my mind and my preconceived ideas take over, and was unable to relax.

This past week, the kids happened to be gone at the farm for the night. I was able to really relax and enjoy everyone.

After talking with one of the gals a bit as we were making coffee drinks for everyone, and after our discussion in the living room later.... I realized that this was for all of our good and for God's glory. It was good for us to shake up our normal conversations, and comfortable assumptions.

Having two new gals here to question us, and seek answers from God, search the word with us, and share their experiences, has been invigorating... at least for me.

God showed me again to TRUST HIM, even with changing up some of our dynamics within our small group.

This Sunday (the 20th) after church, our small group is gathering with my husbands family to celebrate my son's and my birthday. One of our new members is going to join us out there. I am so thrilled, because I want to get to know her. She is warm and genuine, though she is a bit standoffish in the beginning, she has grown in just the past couple of weeks to open up to us and share.

I am thankful that God has brought both of these precious women into our small group. God has led a unique bunch of people together, bonded us with His love and trust in Him. He has united us in one purpose, to seek Him first, build up and encourage one another, and to learn what it is like to live, love and serve together, as a family.

I am grateful to have been called to such a position in such a family.
I am grateful that He helped me to trust Him enough to open up and trust this family He brought me into.

Advent of Trust #18; trusting Him in reconciliation

I have been struggling with learning how to deal with conflict and make reconciliation a priority in my life.

Facing fear, trusting God to work things out, and speak to people with whom we might be in conflict, takes a lot of gumption.

It's not something that comes easy for me.
For anyone!

Through the process, God has given me opportunities to reconcile with people. I have had the chances to talk to people in my life that I have felt tension with. He has been faithful to work them out. The conversations were not easy, by any means, but useful in setting my mind at rest.

Now I need to work on my part of it. Some of that is not allowing myself to "dredge up" old feelings based on misconceptions. Part of that is renewing my mind. Reminding myself that this person or that person did not intent what I assumed. Therefore, my feelings are based on a lie.

That has been hard, because if I start allowing myself to dwell on the hurts I feel, I find bitterness creeping in. That is not what God has intended for me. I have to stop the feelings and make sure that things are lining up with God's word, in my head. If my thoughts are not lining up with the truth, then I have no business thinking them!!!

Dealing with some of these stressful situations and relationships now has led to some more peace.

I was so stressed out when I was resisting God's call to reconciliation. I had perpetual anxiety plaguing me all day long. I found myself frustrated and fearful of talking to people because I didn't want to be causing division.

Once I finally made the decision to talk to the people I needed to, once I verbalized it to someone to hold me accountable, I found peace overtaking me. Suddenly the knot in my stomach released some.

It's amazing the peace that's found in obeying God!

Trusting God to work all the things for good for all people involved, and working all things so that He is glorified, is hard, but well worth the effort.

The more we walk the path of reconciliation, forgiveness, confession.... the easier it will be... the more like Jesus we will look.

The first time is hard. The first time you feel like you left a million things out when the conversation is over. The first many times you find yourself shaking with relief that the conversations are done.

God is to be trusted though, and if he says to drop everything at the alter and go be reconciled first, then you had better do it!

There is a reason He has said it. There is purpose behind His wanting you to reconcile with others. It's for your good and for His glory!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Advent of Trust #17; He likes me....

Our small group has been reading through a book by Bruce Wilkinson called "Secrets of the Vine." We read a chapter a week and then discuss it when we come together again.

This week we were talking about really abiding in God's presence. He talks about how abiding isn't doing more for God. Abiding is about a relationship, the most important friendship in our lives. In our world it is so hard for us to stop doing and just be.

It takes letting go of our control and letting God take over. The world will go on without us, believe it or not!

But how many of us really want to let go of that control? Especially if we feel that God doesn't like us?

"If our need for this relationship [a deep, abiding friendship] is so deep and constant, why do so few of us fervently pursue it? One of the primary reasons, I'm convinced, is that we don't really believe God likes us. Sure, we believe God loves us in a theological sense (God loves everybody, right?), but we don't feel particularly like by Him. We're convinced that He remembers all the bad things we've done in the past and is quick to judge how we're doing now. We assume He's impatient, busy with more important things, and reluctant to spend time with us. Why would you want to spend time with a person who felt that way about you?"

I know there were so many times in the past that I have had struggles with how I feel God views me. It's more because of how I viewed myself, and I assumed that God viewed me the same way.

It isn't as bad anymore. There are many days where I feel very secure with God, knowing that He loves me and likes me. He created me (and you) and delights in us. As that has sunk into my head and heart, it has become more of a part of me.

There are still times when I don't find myself hanging onto that. There are times when I feel that God is not liking me very much and holding past offenses, past sins against me. The old thoughts, the old lies take over.

But when I look at the past and what God has done for me, I remember to trust in His care for me, His love for me and that He not only likes me, but delights in me.

Advent of Trust #16; Scripture memory Part 2

"Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." 2 Peter 1:4

This is the second verse of my final scripture memory for this year.

These both were good verses to finish off my year with.

God's glory and goodness have given us great and precious promises. Promises we can trust in. Promises that He will be with us all the time. Promises that He loves us. Promises that we are reminded of again and again during this season of Advent.

He has given us HIS very great and precious promises. Think of all the promises that are in the Bible. Think of the different ways He fulfills His promises to us.

As we talked last night at our bible study, we talked about how difficult it is for us to remember how God has been faithful in the past. We come up against new things, challenges, difficulties and we panic and try to take care of them in our own strength.

We forget to trust.
We forget the way God has fulfilled His promises to us in the past.
We forget that He has given us everything we need.

We think that we have to try to do it all on our own. We end up getting caught up in the world's definitions of success, freedom, security. We allow our own desires and sinful habits of coping take over, we fall back into them.

There are days when things go great and we are thrilled because for once, for one day (or maybe on hour) we have relied on God. Then there are the days where we fall back into the old groove again. The old tapes play, we find ourselves believing the old lies...

But we can participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world......
Through His great and precious promises.

Praise God He always gives us a way out. He gives us strength for the circumstances. He gives us peace for the journey.
He gives us the reminder that He is with us the whole way, and will help us renew our minds.

He gives us chance after chance to trust Him. And He doesn't give up on us.
Praise God!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent of Trust #15; Scripture Memory Part 1

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness." 2 Peter 1:3

This is the first part of my current LPM Scripture Memory... and my last scripture of the year... #24.

It just hit me that my friend Cindy has been quoting this verse to me probably for the last year, and I finally got to the point where I needed to memorize it. It is a good thing to hang my hat on at the end of the year.

What a promise this is!

He "has given" us everything we need. Past tense. There is no wondering if we are going to get what we need. It's already given to us.

It's not just everything we need for our life... which is wonderful in and of itself... but for godliness as well.

Can you imagine?

It's not about our striving or hoping or working on it. He has given us everything we need to live godly lives. Jesus in us, the Holy Spirit guiding us, God Himself on our side. All we need to do is recognize our need, ask for His help.... and trust that He has already given us that help.

Obtaining what His divine power has given us comes through our knowledge of Him. Talk about making me want to dig into the Bible even more! What better way to get to know our Father than by digging into the very word that He wrote, that He speaks through?

The more we know Him, the better we understand all that we need for life and godliness. We can appropriate it for our own.

And the final words of this verse are so easy to gloss over.

"...who called us by his own glory and goodness."

We are called... not because of us... but because of Him...

His glory.
His goodness.

Look around us now... Look at the preparations underway for Christmas. Christmas is all about His glory and His goodness being expressed to us.

You have been called.
I have been called.

By His glory and His goodness.
By His Son.

Let's prepare Him room. Let's look towards celebrating our calling by Him this Christmas. It's so close. This year, don't miss thanking Him for calling us, for giving us everything we could ever need, for helping us to live godly lives, for giving us a way to know Him.

Trust Him with your whole heart. This season commemorates the beginning of the earthly life of the One who would die for our sins so we could live in freedom before Him.

May God renew your Trust in Him.... His divine power is more than enough... for you, for everything and everyone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent of Trust #14; Beauty in scars

I was reading a devotional the other day by Jennifer Rothschild called "Fresh Grounded Faith." This is what I read:

"[Our] beauty comes from the radiance of Christ that is best revealed through our scars. It's a compelling strength that becomes realized only in our weakness. It's a beauty forged in the refining fire of trials, and a loveliness fashioned on the anvil of faithfulness."
(Day 1, Page 15)

I want Christ's radiance to be shown through me. Every day, in every way.

It won't if I hang onto control of my life. If I insulate and isolate myself from life, and don't allow myself to be really touched by life, by anyone, Christ won't be seen in me.

I won't take risks where my weakness is seen, so His strength can fill me.
I won't be wounded by life, and healed by Him.
I won't face trials, and be refined and perfected.

I desire that loveliness. But that loveliness doesn't just come. Jennifer's quote says that it comes on "the anvil of faithfulness."

An anvil sounds painful doesn't it?

It takes a lot of faithfulness to stay on that anvil when life pounds you down flat. It takes trust in the Master and His ability to use the heat, the pounding, the pain in just the right way to mold you and shape you into who He wants you to be.

Only by being pounded, shaped, polished, refined will His beauty be reflected in us, out of us. Only then will His beauty shine out of us. Through the wounds the scars that run so deep, and mark our character for Him.

Lord, may your beauty shine through me. May my scars shine with Your radiance, so others don't see me, but You. May I prove to be trusting in You to the very end. Grow my trust in You, and deepen it even more, so that I may walk into a whole new level of relationship with you. Amen

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent of Trust #13; First trust

When was the first time you trusted Jesus?

I mean REALLY trusted Him?

Our pastor shared a story with us this Sunday.

He went out hunting a few times this week, on a piece of property he isn't that familiar with. But he knew that when he walked out from where he parked his car, he would get to a point in the path where he had to do was start walking due east and he would land right at a huge pine tree, where his stand was.

He got up early, left his vehicle, made sure he had his compass in his pocket and his head lamp with him. He headed down the path and eventually got to the point where the path forked. He pulled out his compass, turned on the lamp and then realized he had a problem.

He didn't have his reading glasses with him.

He stood there for a long time, trying to decide which little letter on the dial was east and which was west. He tried to decipher the little illuminated markers around the dial... made his choice and started walking.

Pretty soon.... well you know what happened.

He came to a spot he had never seen before. There was this road cutting through the woods, probably an old fire trail. He walked up and down it for a few moments, his blood pressure rising. He could hear the sound of the highway, but couldn't quite tell where it was. It was cloudy so he couldn't get his bearings from the sun.

And there he stood. His frustration at himself rising,

He realized then, so this is what it feels like to be lost.

Then something happened.
An angel appeared.

Well, ok, not an angel per se, but another hunter in blaze orange walked out of the woods into the clearing. When our pastor explained what had happened, the other hunter pointed out that he had walked north east, not straight east. He pointed him back towards the southwest, and our pastor found his way home.

He knew where home was. He was lost, and needed someone to point him in the direction of home.

You see, he was raised in the church, so he never before really felt "lost" before, or the desperate need for a Savior, for someone to point him in the right direction, to show him the path.

He asked us to think back and remember, if we could, what it was like when we were lost. Did we realize our desperate state right away? Did it take a crisis to realize it?

I was walking along fine in the woods of high school, had a general idea of the path to go, into college, graduate with a music ed degree and then teach. As I reached the end of high school, graduated, and looked ahead to going into college, I still thought I could figure my way out.

I got into college and loved the courses I had, but was lost in the "woods" of people with no connection to anyone. I was completely alone, wasn't sure of my way anymore or if I was headed the right direction.

Then through some equally lost friends, inviting me to be part of a Christian musical, Jesus found me and pointed me in the right direction. I trusted Him to know the way better than I did. He led and I followed, knowing without being told much about Him right away, that He knew what He was talking about.

It didn't mean that the bumps were taken out of the path, or that the branches didn't grab at me or stumps and logs trip me up. But it did mean that I always have had a compass with which to take a good sighting and find the path again toward home.

As long as I trust my Compass, I will always go the right way.

So, what happened to make you realize you were lost in the woods? Are you still? Do you need to just trust that Person who has stepped out of the woods to show you the right direction to go?

May this be your first Advent of Trust, or may you renew your trust in a new, deeper way.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent of Trust #12; Conflict and Trust

Little problems don't go away if you ignore them.

They may go under the surface for a while, but they resurface at another time. Sometimes all the little problems start adding up, and so when one more little problem is added to the pile, it all blows up and seems to be about one little thing, when it might have been months of little things.

If we dealt with the little thing - the first little thing - in a healthy, God honoring way, it would save us and others a whole lot of heartache.

When I am in conflict with someone, you wouldn't be able to tell it. I typically have only nice things to say about them, it's all internal. I seek God's forgiveness if I have sinned in my thoughts/attitudes/heart and then let it go. Until something else happens.

I have had an occasion, when I was much younger, where I spoke up about something that I didn't think was right, got slammed, and was quiet the rest of the night. We continued on in the project, my ideas ignored, and my concerns pushed aside.

I never pushed the issue after first bringing it up. We went through our class presentation. When we were done, we were verbally critiqued. Many of the things brought up as our weaknesses as a group were things that I had thought of. Some of them were the things I had tried to bring up, others were ones that I had ignored cause I didn't want to get slammed again.

I never said a word to my teacher. I never said a word to the students I had worked with. It just "went away."

When an opportunity comes up now, after going through some training and reading a book called "Making Peace" by Jim Van Yperen, I know I am going to have to handle it much differently.

Let's put this another way. God is challenging me to handle conflict in a whole new way for me. A way of redemption and reconciliation.

That makes me afraid. Afraid that I will be pushed aside. Afraid that I will react/respond in a manner that will be less than edifying. Afraid to "confront" someone when I feel something is not going well, or when there have been miscommunications, or anything.

I don't want to confront anyone. I know the Bible says to go to that person you have a conflict with (whether they know it or not) and to go quickly and privately, individually to that person and make things right. Don't go to someone else first. Don't delay. Don't let lots of little things pile up. NO EXCUSES. Just go.

That the Bible tells us what to do in conflict is wonderful. However, it isn't easy.

It requires trust that God will make it right. Whether it immediately seems to come out right or not, God will work it all together for the good of all those involved.

One of the things I am most guilty of is listening to gossip. Someone's having a problem with someone else. I sympathize, they talk and get some relief from the tension they have been feeling, and no one gets helped. Jim Van Yperen calls this triangulation.

The other problem is, I tend to do the same. I don't want to talk to the other person, and risk "conflict" in our relationship (not realizing it's already there, unacknowledged)... so I go to someone else, someone I trust, and seek their advice.

Jim says in his book,
"Triangulation is an affront to the Cross because it robs a fellow believer of the opportunity for understanding, forgiveness, and reconciliation. If I go to a friend to talk about you instead of going to you, I have sinned against you in two ways. First I have kept you from knowing there is a problem and robbed you of the opportunity to ask forgiveness. Second, I have sinned against you by talking about you behind your back."

Only recently, after a leadership seminar at my church did I realize how wrong this was. I immediately put a cap on my conversations with others. I watched what I said, and asked God to show me when and where I was essentially slandering others behind their back. I never did it intentionally before. Never. I felt completely innocent of that. I honestly had been seeking advice in how to handle issues and situations.

But maybe the people I had talked to weren't mature enough to handle the information, my opinions correctly. I don't know. And they sure never referred me to talk to the original person I had a problem with. OK... not totally true. One person did, and that was my counselor. :) I guess that counts, and it may or may not have been slander, because she was counseling me through a situation..... that's another issue entirely! :)

The point is, there has been one person in my life right now I have been able to talk to. She has already read this book on "Making Peace" and already been applying the principles laid out in it, in her life.

As I have felt so insecure about dealing with conflict with others, I have asked her advice, and asked her if it was ok to talk to her with specifics, so that I could get help to talk to others, so I would have an idea of how to handle myself. She has been very consistent about pointing me to going to the other person and talking to them, rather than allowing me to vent to her, and not deal with the conflict.

It's a blessing, but it's scary.

Facing conflict head on, and dealing with it in a healthy, God-honoring way is a good thing. It's incredibly hard.

It's something that God has commanded us to do.
That means He expects us to do it. To obey.
That means it takes trust to step out and do as He has commanded.

Another step into the unknown. Yet He goes with us. He goes with me. It's another area of anxiety for me, but I want to do what is right.

Lord, help me to see Your face light up with joy as I attempt to take those first few wobbly steps closer to you. Just as my face lights up to see my babies take their first real steps towards my open arms. Just as my face lights up when they try new, scary things for them, at my urging... trusting me that I won't lead them into harm. Help me to trust that you won't lead me into harm, even if it does seem a really long way to the water below this diving board I am on. I just want to see the joy on Your face for me as I make the attempt. Help me to bask in the warmth of that glow, and having been filled to overflowing with Your love and joy, take the step off the edge in obedience to your commands. Amen.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Advent of Trust #11; Step by Step

One of the things that I find myself praying is that when people look at my life, they will see a life marked out as different.

I don't know that is the case now, but I want others to see that God is my source and my comfort and my strength. I want others to see that no matter what, I trust in Him.

I want others to see what I have gone through, and what God has done in me, and choose to trust Him.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.
Psalm 40:2-3

I want something different for my life than to just give a "head nod" to God for helping me out of something tough. I want to sing that new song He has put into my mouth. I want to sing that hymn of praise to my God.

Nothing would fill my heart with joy, more than to sing the songs I know He is giving me. To speak the words He would have me speak. To write the words I know He would have me write. I want to glorify Him.

He is the one who lifted me out of the mire.
He is the one who has pulled me out of my shaky circumstances, and set me on a rock.
He is the one who delivers from fear.

HE is the one to fear, and in whom to put our trust.

He is the one who even gave me a song to sing. I will sing it with all of my heart.

As part of the song "Step by Step," by Rich Mullins goes...

"Oh God, you are my God, and I will ever praise you!
Oh God, you are my God, and I will ever praise you!
I will seek you in the morning.
I will learn to walk in your ways.
And step by step you'll lead me,
and I will follow you all of my days."

That's what it is. Praising Him , seeking Him in the morning, learning from Him, and trusting Him to lead me step by step through everything.... then making the choice to trust Him enough to follow Him, even when it seems like a big, dark, deep valley we are heading into.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Advent of Trust #10; Faithfulness of God in Cindy's life

This may seem a cop out to some, to point you to another post.

However, this has so affected me that it was what prompted me to start writing my Advent posts this year.

More than anything I have been trying to focus my last few posts on things that I need, not trying to tailor the posts to "fit" in with advent. Just writing for me.

My sweet friend Cindy wrote this post. Her first after her surgery. I am so grateful to see her heart written out again. Some of this she already told me last weekend but it was a blessing to see it in her own words.

Please visit her, and continue to pray for her healing and for energy again.... big praise.... all the pathology came back benign!!! Praise God and thank you so much for praying for her!

Here is her post "Great is thy Faithfulness Oh, Lord!"

May God bless you,

Advent of trust #9; Accepted

Last night at our home group we were talking about how we view ourselves in Christ is really affected by the lies we believe. We talked about joy, and what that is and where it comes from.

If we keep believing the lies that we are unloved by God, rejected by Him, we aren't going to know what true joy is because we won't see or believe that we are the apple of God's eye, that His face lights up with delight when He looks at us.

In Christ, I am completely accepted. I have been adopted as God's child. Not just that I have been accepted through a technicality and He has to accept me.... He has chosen me to be His own. I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. I am complete in Him... whole and holy. Christ's blood has covered everything. God sees me through that blood as completely white as snow.

I remember one of the things that I dealt with in counseling was a very intense self hatred, for a few specific incidences in my life. Ones that I felt I had participated in completely, and willingly at the time.

I hated myself for this, because though I was a Christian at the time, I still did something that was so reprehensible, I couldn't forgive myself. As Tricia (my counselor) and I worked through one specific instance that I found so horrendous, I was just shaking with self loathing. I was nearly sick to my stomach, because I could see it all again, experience it all again, in my mind's eye.

Then suddenly, I was still in that situation, but God gave me the image of me being covered by this waterfall, and I realized it was His blood. I stood under that waterfall of His blood, drenched from head to toe, worthy. Worthy because "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain" and it was His blood that covered me.

When we are able to break the lies (and we need to ask God to reveal them to us, and help us break them) with the Truth of who God says we are, then we can start living in freedom and joy. We need to cling to the truth in the face of those lies... with our heads, and then with our hearts.

As we do, we find ourselves living with a deeper sense of abiding joy. Even if we are overcome with grief, loneliness, hopeless despair, we have a route to return to joy from there. Our route is the truth that we have learned that counteracts the lies... no matter what we feel.

Finding God faithful to break the lies I have of not being accepted, or never being acceptable enough, finding the joy of living united with Him and one in spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17) has enabled me to trust Him.

I "lose" that trust from time to time. I revert back to believing the old lies from the past, the ones the enemy keeps bringing back up when there is a hole in my armor.

Yet, today I choose to look to the past to remind myself of the truth and the faithfulness that God has shown me. That I can trust. If He has been faithful in the past, He is faithful now, and He will be faithful in the future.

I renounce the lie that I am rejected, unloved, dirty or shameful because in Christ I am completely accepted.

I am complete in Christ. (Col. 2:10)

I will trust in Him at all times.

(some thoughts, and some direct quotes come from Neil T. Anderson, "The Steps to Freedom in Christ")

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Advent of Trust #8; the world, the flesh and the devil

I find that I am writing these advent posts mostly for myself. It is hard for me to keep up, and even harder when I start focusing on "doing it for others." If I start looking at this blog as more than the something I started it with, it's going to get out of balance in my life.

So, with that in mind... Hopefully my tone will change a bit here as I write, more for me and God than a specific focus on others. I just hope that it will resonate with others, and that God will use it for what it is, how He wants, in others lives.


I have definitely seen a theme for me of fearing and trusting. They are so the opposite of each other.

Over and over we hear God say in the Bible, "Do not be afraid, I am with you." He says it many different ways, but the same message.

I need to hear that every day. I walked into work today, totally relaxed and at peace. Went through a meeting and had total peace about it.

Now, my stomach is in knots again. I don't even know why for sure. I mean, I have a bunch of stuff I want to get done around the house again. I want to help out my friend Cindy again this weekend, but also need to prioritize my family.... and the knots get bigger. So why should that throw me into such a tizzy all the time? Why am I so prone to anxiety and tension?

Probably because I start leaning on my own understanding again. Trying to figure out stuff on my own... my own flesh taking over.

I also look to the world, and how "everyone else" seems to have their lives all together. I start letting the world dictate how I think I should be living my life, independent, "free" to do what I want and when, ease and prosperity.

Then the enemy gets in there too.

Listen to this quote from "Jesus Calling" a devotional by Sarah Young.

"Do not be surprised by the fiery attacks on your mind. When you struggle to find Me and live in My Peace, don't let discouragement set in. You are engaged in massive warfare, spiritually speaking. The evil one abhors your closeness to Me, and his demonic underlings are determined to destroy our intimacy. When you find yourself in the thick of battle, call up on My Name: 'Jesus, help me!' At that instant, that battle becomes Mine; your role is simply to trust Me as I fight for you."

That trust isn't always so simple.

When the world, the flesh and the devil pull me away from His Peace, I need to remember to call on His name, as simple as saying, "Jesus, help me!" He will help, His help is already on the way.

Advent of Trust #7; Blizzard

Tonight we are under a blizzard warning. My husband is up at work, at the hospital. He probably got off at about 11-11:30pm. Normally he would be home by midnight. In good conditions.

I have no idea what the conditions are like out on the highway (the way that he needs to take home). It's hard to tell from my front window how the streets are, but they are well snow covered, and there have been no signs of plows on our street.... because they are all concentrating on the main roads.

Hopefully the reason he is late is because he decided to try to take the surface streets (really long way home). Or, better yet, he is covering for someone at the hospital couldn't get in.


Just called his work. As of right now he is driving home.

And now he is home.

Just another time where I have to try to hang onto the peace that Jesus gives. Rather than give way to that fear and worry.

Praise God, he is home. He is safe.
Jesus is good.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Advent of Trust #6; Fear and Trust

How in the world do I lose faith so easily and let fear consume me?

Part of my LPM Scripture memory verse this time is from Psalm 112.

"...his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear..."

When I know and believe that my heart is secure, I will have no fear. When I choose to put my trust in Him, I don't need to give way to that fear because He will take care of me... and I trust that promise.

What does it take to move from that place of fear? What does it take to move to that place of not only knowing the promises of God, but trusting that He will fulfill them?

I have seen Him fulfill promises to me before. He always has. He is faithful.

So why do I find myself facing a new day, a new hour, a new situation with fear? Fear of failure? Fear that He won't come through? What is it in my make up that makes it so hard? Why am I so fickle?

I want my heart to be steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
I long for that!

Maybe this fear, and this lack of trust is the symptom of a problem.
Maybe the problem is that I have had much less time alone with God lately.
Maybe the solution is to take the day that I have off tomorrow... one planned to be with a friend who now can't get together...

Take this suddenly open day, and instead of running errands and getting things done, spend it with God.

Some solitude. Some rest. Some peace.

Maybe then I will find myself more centered in on Him. More focused on Him, and refilled, restored and renewed to keep on doing the things that He has called me to.

Please pray that I would be able to take this time, really find somewhere for some real solitude, and concentrated time alone with God. Please pray that I would get filled up by God.. allow Him to fill me and strengthen me and draw me to a place of deeper dependence on Him, and deeper trust in Him.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Advent of Trust #5; trust and spiritual giftings...

This weekend would have been exhausting for many people.

Yet though I am tired right now, it isn't total exhaustion. I will sleep well, make no doubt! But I have learned that working out of your areas of gifting and love are energizing, not depleting.

I never really understood that before.
I never really knew what my giftings were before.

I used to ask God to show me what to do, what I should do with my life....

...and then tried things on my own, out of my own strength.

I should have waited more patiently, trusting Him.

I was so worried about my friend, Cindy, two weeks ago. I remember voicing to her that I just wanted to do something more than "just pray" for her.

She kept telling me that whatever happened it would be good. It would be worked for our good and God's glory, for her, for all of us.

I was afraid to trust that. To trust God for that.

Yet, He still gives us chance after chance to trust.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to put my desire to do more than "just pray" to work. I was hands on helping. It was so good to do something, anything physical to help.

But, as I was up with her in the wee hours of the morning, putting a cold wash cloth on her forehead, just rubbing her shoulder as she cried because of the pain of moving around and exhaustion....

......I prayed......

and it wasn't "just praying" anymore.
It was the true work I was doing.

All the physical help I gave was a good break for both her and her husband. But the prayer that I could give, and did give, during the night, silent and out loud was the real work.

In the middle of the night, when you choose helping someone over the preferred sleep... when you voice prayers and words of scripture and gestures of comfort when your flesh would normally desire to just leave....

That's when the real ministry happens.

I have experienced this some before, with my kids or when someone else I love is sick. But this was the first time where I was aware of the gifts that God has given me for mercy and compassion, and I was able to intentionally use them.

This time, I trusted Him to show me. I trusted him enough to wait on him (though it was kicking and screaming sometimes the last couple of weeks, as I waited... none too patiently) I look back on how I acted, and reacted to God, and the lack of trust and faith I showed....

I can only pray that I will remember how, yet again, God has come through and helped me, or helped someone I was praying for.

I can only thank God that He showed me that He gave me the gift of compassion, mercy, empathy and prayer. Now to trust Him to work through me in those areas, in HIS TIME, not my own.

I have seen what He can do when I am willing to follow His leading and how it turns out for good, not only for the person/people I am helping, but also for my own good. Now to trust Him enough to step out when He says to step out, and to wait when He says to wait.

Tomorrow is another step, another hurdle. Different than this one. But it is a chance to allow Him control and "do" it through me. I can't. But He can.

I will surrender myself to Him.
I will put all of my trust in Him.

There is no other way to walk through this life.
No other way that is bearable.

Have you found how to trust Him to work through you?
Especially work through your giftedness?
I would love to hear about it!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Advent of Trust #4; My Abba Father...

So I will catch up with my Advent posts to that I am actually doing a post on the right day and end up with 25. But today wasn't the day.

I spend the day with my dear friend who is recovering from surgery.

I fed her my homemade chicken noodle soup. And some ice cream.

We were able to talk (way more than I thought we would, I was sure I would get a lot of writing and reading done today....)

And we were able to laugh.

She still is in pain, and still has a long recovery road ahead of her. But this was the most she has moved around, talked and been awake since last week Sunday.

For that, I am SO grateful!
Thank you, Jesus.

My contribution to my Advent of Trust posts for today:
A poem that I wrote as part of a creative exercise in my bible study devotional today.

My Abba Father

You rescued me from despair;
You healed me when I was beyond repair.
You are my shield and my defender.
To you my soul I will surrender.

Your strong love restores, forever stands;
My heart is safe within your hands.
Faithful Redeemer, powerful and just;
In you I will put all of my trust.

Heather Kudla (12-05-09)

A decision, a choice of surrender and of trust.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Advent of Trust #3

"Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you." Psalm 37:5

Everything I do.
Committed to God.

It is so hard to keep that in mind as I go through out the day.

There are so many things to do, things I want to do. Just the general stuff of living, on one of my few days off, can get to be a pile too high, a list too long.

Yet the Psalm says to trust in Him and he will help me.
I have trusted in Him, and He has helped me in the past.
He will now and in the future too.

He is my strength and my joy. In Him I can trust.

My writing feels unfocused today. That's probably because my mind is as well.

I don't know yet what I am going to be doing this weekend. It could be anything from staying home with my family, to spending the whole weekend with Cindy being there for her if her husband has to leave town.

So, I have to trust God work out the details.

I want this time of preparation for Christmas to be about God, not about me, or what I am going to be doing. I don't want to get so caught up in "jobs" I need to do, or presents to buy, or concerns for my friends that I lose the point of this whole time.

Preparing my heart for Christ, to trust Him more fully, to love Him more deeply, to remember how He came into this world...

I have to trust everything else to God.
Commit all my ways to Him.
When I trust in Him, He helps me.

Thank you Jesus for helping me when I don't even remember to seek you for help. Thank you for reminding me to commit myself to you, to commit all my ways to you. You help me. You love me. You have my best in mind. So, I will trust in you. You have good plans for me.

Do your will in me Lord. I choose to trust you. You have been and You are my very present help in time of need. Amen.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent of Trust #2.... Leaning not on my own understanding

Another day, another day to trust.

After a long day at work, and a couple of meetings, phone calls and the like, I had more than enough opportunities to trust God.

"Trust in the Lord will all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."

I have some opportunities to trust someone to take the lead in something. I have some opportunities to trust God to organize our women's retreat. I have some opportunities to trust God to heal a dear friend.

When I trust Him, I have to let go. Let go of the reins. Let go of control. Let go of the worry and anxiety.

God is in control.

Why can't I get that through my head?

To finally surrender and trust Him in all areas is extremely hard for me. I am plagued with worry and anxiety much of the time.

I fear that I won't measure up, either in others eyes, or in Gods (that's a whole other issue, because in myself I don't measure up, but in Christ I do....) But you get what I mean.

This has just been a long week, and my heart hurts for a friend. I know she is in pain, she is on a slow recovery process from surgery. I just keep praying for her and thinking about her all the time.

She is not only my dear friend, she is my sister in so many ways. She also is like a mentor to me. I go to her for advice so many times. There are so many things right now that I could use her advice on.

But because we haven't even been able to talk, and I know that she isn't up to talking... I have to rely on someone else.

I suppose the last couple of days, I have been leaning on my own understanding.

There is no one to talk to who can help "fix" what I perceive as my problems.

I have to trust in the Lord.
With. All. My. Heart.

As I have expressed, this is very hard for me. Maybe God is allowing me to the place of exhaustion to show me how much I have been trying to do on my own.

I have been doing fine in taking on the things I have... but if this exhaustion I am feeling today it God's way of showing me that some of these things aren't for me, then I suppose I have to trust him. My problem is trying to figure out if my reservations in certain areas is because it isn't a right decision, or if it is my own desire to "control" things.

I don't know.

So... its trusting in the Lord with all of my heart... and not leaning on my own reasoning of the situation. That's my job for today, I guess. All my understanding is worth nothing in the sight of God who can see everything and work everything together for good.

How are you going to trust Him today? Is there a specific area?

PS I will be posting a bit later today, as well, to "catch up" so that I am up to date and can keep up with all my posts for this month! :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent of Trust #1; The beginning...

Last year I did a series of posts during Advent, to help me focus on Christ. It was a bit of pressure trying to write, and get everything up in time, but at the same time, it kept me focused through the days on God.

At the time I was really struggling with depression, despair, and fear. So I focused on Joy... titled the series, Advent of Joy.

This year I wasn't planning on doing any series of posts, only because with work, I didn't think I could keep it up.

I don't know if I will be able to keep up with every day... but I am not going to let that stop me from trying to write something... or to pick back up with it where I left off.

What I have been struggling with that brought me to the point of needing to write about it?
Trusting God.

I do trust Him. To a degree. To a certain level. But this path I am on has shown me that I am not trusting all the way. God has been showing me some lies that are very present, that I need to allow Him to break. They have a stranglehold on me at times. I find it difficult to let things go into God's hands.... for fear I will never have them back again.

Maybe I shouldn't have some of these things back again.... some things I might just need to give up doing or having, etc. Some things, I need to give up, to allow God to restore them rightly, or restore balance... giving up control of them... in a way I keep them, but better, safer hands than mine are holding them.

Anyway.... trust.

Advent is a path to prepare our hearts to receive our King... to repent, to meditate on Christ, to prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts, our lives, our families, our churches....

We are supposed to do this every day, in every way, but Advent is a time of more concentrated effort, a returning to what we should have been doing all year.

This advent is going to be a path for me to repent of the mistrust I have had. A time for me to see the barriers I have put up out of fear. A path for me to follow into deeper levels of trust and security in Christ.

I trust Him. I am totally secure in Him. But I need to move to deeper levels of understanding that (in my heart) and to further abandon in my relationship with Him.

I came to that conclusion last night, but didn't get it into words before now.

For me this will be an "Advent of Trust."

A path to walk, a meditation on my own heart/trust issues with God, a repentence of those areas I see God pointing out, a preparation and cleaning out of my heart's rooms to allow God fuller access to all of me.

It's just the advent of deeper trust... just the beginning of a new level for me.
There have been many beginnings these past years. New levels of freedom, joy, security, peace, living in Truth, trusting, loving.... One layer or two of the onion in these different areas have been peeled back... to reveal another layer (or many) yet to be dealt with. Same issues, but at a deeper level than before.

...the foundation laid... the deeper healing...

And on it goes all our lives.

This is my Advent.... Trust.

What is yours?