Friday, November 18, 2011


For the next Three Weeks might we explore: The Practice of Preparing… What does it look like to prepare our hearts for God? How do we prepare our families and homes to encounter God afresh this holiday season? How do we intentionally, prayerfully prepare for holy-days? The whole community looks forward to your prayerful reflections stories, ideas….
From Ann Voskamp's post on Wednesday

That question caught me.  Arrested my attention.  Tugged at my heart.

Especially today. Today we received our packet from Compassion International about our child from Ecuador that we are newly sponsoring.  Not only has he been waiting for over 6 months for a sponsor and never had one before, we have never been sponsors before.  I have been waiting to BE a sponsor for over 6 months.

How do we prepare our family, our home to encounter God afresh this holiday season?  How do I?

Its something I struggle with, because with little kids, it becomes a "what can I get, what do I want, how much can I get..." type of season.

I don't want that.  More than ever, I don't want that.  I want them to be thankful for all they have.  Not yearning for the material things they don't.

I know someone else who is yearning for things they don't have.  Me. Dave. It seems to come so naturally for us.... why shouldn't the kids pick up on it too?  Its all over our culture, and I can lay blame at the feet of our consumerism culture.

But I am to blame too for they learn it in the home first.  They learn it from me when I buy whatever I want at the moment.  They learn it from me when they hear me talking about wanting something for the house we don't have.  They learn it from me when I tell them "no" when they ask for something, but when I want something (not need) I say "yes" to myself.

What kind of mixed message is that?

How do I prepare them to encounter Christ?  Not just this season, but always.

By taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

Last week, talking to Peter during the service when he opted to stay with me rather than go to childrens church.  Answering his questions.  Helping him understand what Communion means, allowing him to take it with me, to break the bread with me then and talk about it after.  Hearing the desire to do it again hidden in his voice as we talked.

This past week and a half as we have prayed for this one boy in Ecuador who needs someone so badly to love him and sponsor him, to pray for him.  Explaining what it means for him to live where he does, how he does, to the best of my ability.  Sharing pictures taken by the team of bloggers who were in Ecuador last week.

Teaching them somehow to let go of the tight grasp they have on their "things" to give away the good stuff, not just the old, ratty toys and stuffed animals they have, but the new.  The things they might want, but not need.  If they don't want it cause it's old, or dirty, or broken why would someone else want it?

I want Peter and Marina to learn what it means to be blessed with more grace and joy by God out of giving rather than receiving.

I want them to understand how blessed we are by God to have all the things that we scatter willy-nilly through the rooms of this house.  I want them to know the POWER behind giving thanks in everything.  The good and the bad.

These kids of ours.  They aren't extraordinarily selfish or out of balance. They are like any other kid their age.  But I want them to have hearts of compassion.  They are tender-hearted and I want them to be tender out of compassion for others to the point of wanting to DO something to help them.

They can learn more about God and encounter more of Jesus in the naming of the gifts we have been given. 

I am not really sure how to help them encounter Jesus this season.  But maybe showing them my heart in giving with help.  Allowing them to see my tears as I pray for this brother of theirs in Ecuador.  I hope that this year they can see Jesus more clearly. Not just from how this time of year seems to promote a "magical" quality in everything... but by really seeing Jesus, and what this season is for.

I struggle with it every year, but for some reason this year seems particularly hard for me.  We want to do so much for them, but really there is no way to "compete" with other things we know are going to be given.  And I don't want to compete. 

I would rather they didn't get anything at all, but instead gave things away.

I never learned that as a child.
Not how to let go easily.

I don't want them stuck in the mindset of getting and having to learn as an adult how to give.

Not that I don't want to gift them with presents and things, because I do.  I love seeing their faces when they open up something they really want.  I want to see them savor the moment. 


I want to see their faces when they see someone else open up something they really wanted, that Peter and Marina have given.  I want to see Peter and Marina savor the moment of giving.... and find really, true joy in that moment.  A joy that they will keep giving to receive more of.

Oh the joy that comes in the thanking God for everything.  The good, bad and ugly.

The bigger house.  The large yard.  Family close by.  The sun streaming in the livingroom window.

The mess of toys and art supplies on the floor that I keep tripping on cause the kids didn't put them away.  The mounds of laundry to be done - because we actually have clothes that need cleaning.  The spiders that make the cobwebs that drape our corners and ceilings no matter how often I sweep them and wipe them away - because we have an abundance of wood in our basement to put in our wood furnace to heat the house through the winter.  The dirty kitchen floor and counters - because we have a family to feed and food to do it with.

Fingerprinted windows to clean --- kids to print those windows up in their pointing and waving and pressing up to see out at birds and snowflakes.
Litterbox to change --- cats to curl up on our feet and laps when we settle down together.
Light bulbs to switch out --- we have electricity and the ability to light our house at night.
Carpet to vacuum --- people who are able to run in and out of the house to play or work and track in their day with them.
Beds to make --- loved ones to fill those beds, and somewhere warm and cozy to lie at night.

As I make my lists, the load of things to "do" becomes lighter and I can do it with a smile, because it is a joy to do these things because I have someone to do them for.

More and more blessings and gifts from God.
All becomes grace.
All is grace.

Oh that my kids will learn that. That is how they will be more prepared to encounter God this season. Naming the gifts. Thanking God for everything. 

Lord, teach me how to teach them out of what you have been teaching me!!!  Fill up the holes that I will leave, have left, the gaps, and reveal yourself to them.  Help them find the balance of enjoying what they have been given, and giving away to others. Help them learn their wants from their needs, and understand that it isn't wrong to have desires, or have those desires met, but not to worship anything or desire anything more than they worship You and desire You.

Show me the balance.  Fill up my holes.  Help me worship and bow down to You first and always and only.

God, sanctifly me through and through until I reflect only You.

Jesus, let this boy from Ecuador entering our lives right now, at this season help change us all and open our eyes to see all we have been blessed with, gifted with out of Your lavish grace, and help us lavish it on him, and others that cross our paths.

Prepare our hearts to see and receive You this season... and to respond back to you with joy and thanks.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gifts given

Yes, I know....

Yet again I want to apologize for being away from my blog for so long.  I have seen and heard and read time and again that it is bad for your blog when you aren't regular with your posting.

I agree.


I haven't been here.

I have wanted to write.  I have a desire to write.  I get thoughts and ideas come into my head.  They sound wonderful at the moment, but when it comes down to taking the time out to actually write?  It doesn't happen.

Life has been good.  It's been full.  Living in a bigger house, getting our other one ready to sell and listed, keeping up with the kids in school, trying to stay connected to Dave and them, well it hasn't left much time for other things.  By the time the kids are in bed for the night, Dave and I get ready for bed and collapse to read or talk or both for a little bit on our bed, and our lights are generally out pretty early.

That's big for me.  I used to be the one who would stay up until at least midnight.  That was when I was doing all my writing.  I needed that time alone.

But now, well yes, I do need time alone.  But I am spending a lot of it with God.  And when I'm not alone, I am spending it with my family.  I can't concentrate enough to write with them around.

As much as it bothers me not to be on here more, I feel like God is telling me its ok.  There was a time when I needed to write to process through things.  Now I am more healed than I've ever been, I am spending a majority of my time with my family and not getting too overwhelmed by them or by life in general. This is where I need to be right now.  I am learning to be ok with that.

I have some things stirring around in this head of mine.  Maybe they will eventually make it out onto the blog.  God is still at work in me, refining as always.  It good, hard at times, but good.

The main reason I am on here today though is to share my thanks.

I am learning the joy of gratitude.

I have been reading Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts."  Her encouragement to start counting the little things, from the sun streaming through the window, splashing on the carpet, to a quiet day at the church, to tickle fights with the kids, to quiet reading in bed with Dave has started a good work in me...

Honestly, it is transforming me.

Her book is amazing, but beyond that the TRUTH that I am hearing from God and what it is doing to me is nearly beyond description.  For now, just take a moment and look at the book.  Go to THIS SITE and take a look at the first chapter for free.  I did, and then just had to buy the book.  I am slowly working my way through it, but after reading the second chapter, I knew God was calling me to start my own list of gifts - working my way to one thousand and beyond.

Here is my contribution to the naming of gifts today.  Note, I am not starting at #1 because well, I am currently over 200 and that would make this into a loooooonngggg post!  :-)

I will spare you all of that....

But I will start where I was at on Saturday and give you my named gifts from then to now.  These weren't all the gifts, but many of them passed before I could record them.  I have to get more practiced at this!

#261.  The chance to sleep in a bit.
#262.  Making soft boiled eggs upon request from my son
#263.  Peter playing on the computer
#264.  He can play kids game on there BY HIMSELF now!
#265.  Sun in Marina's hair
#266.  Kids singing along to music
#267.  Conviction from God to sponsor a Compassion child
#268.  Pastor Casey (our new pastor of Children and Youth ministries) coming today.
#269.  Sun up before the kids has to go out to for the bus (because of daylight savings ending)
#270.  Apple butter on toast (need I say more?)
#271.  Marina learning and singing worship songs in church
#272.  Hearing her singing those same songs at home later.
#273.  Teaching Peter how to play checkers
#274.  Quiet, peaceful, God-filled day at church while I work

God is so good.  Take the time to notice the gifts He gives you.  Just your very next breath is a gift.  Name it.  Name every gift.  It brings a joy and a reminder of the deep grace we are given.

Check out Ann's most recent post as she prepares to go with her husband on a trip to Ecuador with Compassion International.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blessing is a cycle...

Blessing is a cycle.

When we bless someone else, we get a blessing in return.

So, what about with God?

Many times in the Bible we are called to bless the Lord.  In Psalm 134 the word “bless” is used three times.  Twice the Psalm entreats us to “bless the Lord.”

However the last time it is used, it is a blessing spoken on us… “May the Lord bless you…”

Yesterday I finished up the Bible study I was working on through the summer.  “Stepping Up,” by Beth Moore.

The last couple of days she made the point that blessing is a cycle with God, not just with one another.  It is a lopsided cycle, but a cycle nonetheless. 

In faith we come into God’s presence, blessing Him, honoring Him, praising Him, worshiping Him.  Then He responds, longing to bless us, opening His hands to us to give blessing.  And we walk away.

How many times have I gone into worship, struggling to remove the distractions so that I could truly bless God, truly praise Him, and then walked out and later felt empty?  I felt blessed at the time of the service, in the service filled and at peace, joy in my heart.  Once I left the building, headed home and back to my “life” I felt empty and restless, with the worries of life pressing in again.

I can spend my time in the Bible, studying and praying in the morning, but it doesn’t seem to carry over into my day, to relate at all to anything I am actually doing and encountering in the day. 

Not all the time, but it seems to happen more often than I want to admit.

Beth said that many times we come out of our times of blessing God and leave His blessings for us behind.

Think about that for a moment. 

If blessing really is a cycle, we bless God, He blesses us and back again, why would we not want to take His blessings with us?

We praise God and bless Him, honor Him and lift up His name, and then He pours out His blessing upon us. 

It is hard for this little brain of mine to comprehend how it all works.  I offer up my pitiful attempts to bless God, and then His infinite mercy and grace are flooded over me.   How can I possibly walk away from a time like that and not be blessed?

And yet…

Many times I blindly stumble out of my times with God, leaving behind His mercy and grace, all flooded over and dripping on the floor.  I come out forgetting I was drenched, feeling dry as a bone.

Yesterday, after reading Beth’s words the night before was a whole new day.  Monday I was those dry bones.  Yesterday, these dry bones were dancing, washed and covered over by the flood of His grace.  His blessings washed away the doubts, fears and stress of the day before and I was free.

All I had to do was ask.  All I had to do was ask God to help me walk out of my time with Him with His blessings in my hands.  I opened my hands and gave Him all my garbage, all my worries, all my stress.  Instead of dropping my hands and walking away when I was done, I kept them open to receive what He had for me.  In the process my heart stayed open to receive the life giving rain of grace, and my eyes stayed open to see the peace and joy God gave me as a result.

It started another cycle of blessing.  Praising Him for seeing and feeling the change, for being able to walk on with His blessing over me, in me.  And my Jesus blessing me again and again throughout the day, reminding me of His blessings for me… 

Oh His grace…

in the moments I fail
the moments I am freed…
in the moments of victim
and then
the victory… 

I stumble
and then
I cry…
He lifts me up
and then
I fly…

 His blessings are
beyond compare
To bless Him
and be blessed

Oh His grace
His grace…

Friday, September 2, 2011

Rest? How do you quiet the guilt to really rest?

I haven't joined in here before, but I saw a friend's post telling about it and the word struck my heart today because it is exactly what I am feeling.

Gypsy Mama has a "five minute Friday" every week.  She shares a word and then you take five minutes, no more or less, and free write, with no editing, on a word she chooses.  This week the word was REST.

As I have been getting up early with the kids each day, I am still exhausted.  My eyes are crossing trying to look at the screen and its only 8am. I don't want to get rid of the exhaused feeling with a latte (homemade) just yet, because then I am not listening to what my body is trying to tell me....

I wrote below a bit of what my turmoil is and what is currently keeping me from sliding back into bed.

I am going to link up to Gypsy Mama's post, and you can go over there and see what else others have been writing about, as well as the "rules" if you want to join in.

Preface, my writing went over the five minutes, I think I wrote 7 minutes instead, but had to get that last thought out.  :)

Here we go............

This is my second day with both kids in school.

I don't know what to do.  Yesterday I feel like I did a fat lot of nothing. I didn't clean (well I loaded the dishwasher and did a quiet time and unloaded the dishwasher and made supper and ran errands first thing in the morning).

I realized when I went to bed, that though I took a few moments to rest here and there throughout my day i didn't really rest.

See, we have a house in town that we need to sell. but we need to get it all cleaned up and ready to go and it's no where near ready to go.  I really need to go into town on my 2 days off without kids and scrub the bathroom so i can caulk around the tub.  I need to clean windows and finish cleaning the kitchen and clean the floors, powerwash the deck and the outside of the house.....

And where does rest come into all of this?

I run from one thing to another Monday through Wednesday. Then I come home and have Thursday and Friday off and Saturday and Sunday are devoted to family and church and I can't make myself pull away.

What is it that makes me feel guilty for taking time to rest?

I need the quiet. I need the time to spend time with God.  Just Him and me not Him and me and laundry, or Him and me and cleaning either house!  I need to hear His still, small voice.

But I feel guilty.
Why can't I rest at home in the time I have to rest?

Do I hear a voice in the back of my head telling me I need to get this house under control and keep it clean? Do I hear another voice asking me if I have the other house ready to sell? (that would be a very big YES to both those questions!)

I want to feel the freedom to rest, and feel the peace that passes understanding the "be still and know I am God" type of rest.

I need to somehow feel like i can rest, take a nap, sleep in, (or go back to bed) and not feel guilty about it or that someone is judging me for it.  I need to find a space here, in this house, that I can curl up and rest in Him without feeling guilt.

How do I unplug from this cycle of "do something" or feel guilt?

I am going to have to go try finding a place, here at home, where I can chill and not do anything but listen for Gods still small voice. 

....but it won't be my kitchen! That has 2 five gallon pails of fresh picked tomatoes that need something done with them....

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New season dawning with New freedom

Dawn at Ocean Isle Beach, NC (taken 8-09-11)
Just a year ago found me preparing to lead a Bible study for the first time since college.  I was in a hard place, a dark one.  Depression had snagged me again, and it was hard to look up and see the sun. 

But God had also been speaking to me. 

Through others He had urged me to go back and see my former counselor for a bit.  Then He set a desire in my heart to have a Bible study with “my ladies” from the previous year.  The thing was, even before that He set in me a powerful desire to go through Beth Moore’s Breaking Free Bible study.  Then one of “my ladies” approached me to see if I was going to do a study, actually lead a study.

Feeling that was another prompting of the Spirit, I said yes, got people together, ordered the workbooks and borrowed the video sessions from another church.

Breaking Free” followed by “Believing God” were two ways that God really worked some healing in my life.

God has healed me and brought me through so much.  In 2007 and 2008 He did the major reconstruction.  This time was a minor remodel, but it shook me and changed me.  Now more than ever I am resting on the Truth, and able to recognize and combat the lies.

“[The Enemy has] greatly oppressed me from my youth, but [he has] not gained the victory over me.  …the Lord is righteous; He has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.”  Psalm 129:2 and 4 (slight rewording mine)

Depression has fled before the Lord, the One who fights for me.  There are times of doubt, wavering, depression.  Not light before. Not despair.  Worry sometimes?  The tendency to be anxious?  Yes, but it doesn’t go too overboard if I catch it right away, and combat it with the truth!

God has led me into the dawning of a new season.

I am leading a Bible study again this fall with “my ladies” and hopefully a few more added to our group.  I feel more excited than fearful.  Anticipation more than dread at the thought of leading.  And really, I don’t “lead” God does.  We share and discuss and open our hearts to one another.  The Holy Spirit works in our hearts.

We all have seen great things happen in each other’s lives as a result of God using the Bible studies, and our prayers for each other.

  • Freedom from depression
  • Freedom from anxiety in new surroundings
  • Husbands coming to church with their wives
  • Family units getting stronger
  • Children and grandchildren being kept save
  • Peace in our own hearts about other concerns

All of us are learning to turn to God, to really believe that:

  1. God is who He says He is.
  2. God can do what He says He can do.
  3. I am who God says I am.
  4. I can do all things through Christ.
  5. God’s Word is alive and active in me.

We are believing God!

I am so looking forward to this new season in my life.  I am finding myself anticipating more than ever what God is going to do, and how He is going to reveal Himself and His character to me.  He loves us to know Him more, and He loves to show us new facets of who He is.  I can’t wait to draw nearer to my Savior.