Saturday, December 31, 2011

God's Desires in my Life

"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

This verse has always been my favorite in God's Word.  Don't misunderstand me--I love all of God's Word, even the verses that challenge and discipline me, but I always go back to this verse no matter what is going on in my life.  I cling to this verse.  However, as long as I have loved this verse, my perspective of it has changed over time.

Initially, I thought "Awesome!  God loves me, so He wants to give me everything I want!  All I have to do is faithfully read His Word and spend time with Him and I will have everything my heart desires."  I have desired a lot of things during my stay on Earth.  Some were stupid, immature, and selfish, but others were selfless, pure, and innocent.  I have desired things that were not good for me and things that I thought were good for me at the time, but turned out that God had other ideas for me.  God has allowed me to experience some of all of those categories.  He has given me the things that weren't good for me so that I would turn to Him.  He has also granted a lot of positive desires that I have held close.  He has not always given me everything I want when I want it.  God is a great, loving, and sovreign God and He knows what's best for me in His will.  Therefore, He (thankfully) does not give me everything I want.

Over time, He has taught me what that verse really means.  It does mean that He will give me what my heart desires, but as I truly and whole-heartedly spend time with Him and delight in Him, His desires eventually become my desires.  I become so intimate with my Savior that I want what He wants for my life.  Then, my will conforms to His will and before I know it, I am desiring and asking for the exact same things God longs for me to have, things that will benefit His kingdom, not just things for myself.  If I have learned one thing during my 30 years of life on Earth is that I am NOT here for myself.  I am here for others; I am here to worship God and bring glory to His Name as best as I know how, not come up with a wish list to present to Him.

I do believe that God cares about everything that matters to us, even the little things that others might think are insignificant.  The desires may actually seem selfish or not God-centered at all, but God wants to hear all of our thoughts and desires.  He knows them already, He just wants us to stay in constant communication with Him and share EVERYTHING with Him.  He wants us to include Him in every part of our lives.  God has helped me develop the discipline of taking every desire to Him, no matter how little or selfish it might seem.  When I share a thought or desire with Him, He is faithful to show me whether it was a selfish or selfless desire, whether I should have a desire like that or not.  For example, I wanted to make my husband Oreo truffles, his favorite dessert, as a Christmas gift.  We were on a budget and I had already purchased his gift, but I wanted to do something extra special for him to show him that I love him.  God placed it on my heart to make Him Oreo truffles.  He LOVES Oreos and I never make the truffles just for him.  If he gets any, he always gets the leftovers from someone else's "order."  Anyway, I had to make them on a night that he had band practice and wouldn't be home until late so he wouldn't suspect anything.  I had no idea what time he would be home and he had just started a new job and hadn't received his phone yet, so he had no way of communicating with me about his estimated time of arrival.  The practice site was about 45 minutes away, so I knew I had some time, I just didn't know how much time.  I also had to wait until Nora-Kate, our daughter, went down for bed at 8.  So, I had from 8:00 until who knows when to make the truffles and they be a secret gift on Christmas morning.

As soon as I put Nora-Kate in her crib, I raced to the kitchen to start my quest.  I got all the ingredients and equipment out and made the filling.  Then, I melted the white chocolate that coats the outside of the truffles and proceded to roll the Oreos and cream cheese into individual balls.  The only problem was that the mixture was not hard enough to stick together and, instead of rolling into little balls, the filling was sticking all over my hands.  This was not going according to plan.  I had to put the filling into the refrigerator and hope that it would harden in enough time for me to make the truffles and wash, dry, and put away the dishes and clean up any evidence I might have left behind.  When I realized that putting the Oreo mixture in the fridge was going to take up valuable time, I sent up a prayer to God.  "Father, I believe that my desire to make Josh Oreo truffles came from You.  Therefore, it is not my gift but Yours.  I would really love for the truffles to be a surprise, which means I would like to wash the dishes and clean up the evidence before he gets home.  If that is Your desire also, I pray that You would allow me to do that.  If not, I know he will still appreciate the surprise and enjoy the truffles."  I made up my mind not to get upset, but just to enjoy the thrilling challenge of making the truffles and hiding the evidence before he got home from band practice.  And I did.  It was fun because God was right there with me and He did allow the mixture to harden just enough for me to finish making the balls.  I had everything made, cleaned up, and put away 10 minutes before Josh walked in the door.  It was a seemingly very insignificant request that I sent up to God, but He cares about those.  He allowed me to finish my Christmas surprise for my husband.

As this new year of 2012 begins, it is my challenge to you to remember Psalm 37:4 and to include God in every part of your day, even your thoughts and conversations.  He will show up and you will be surprised by the joy and contentment His presence brings in your daily life.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas 2011

God's gift to man:  JESUS

     Every Christmas, my family makes wish lists, then hands them out to relatives to use as a reference for gifts.  We have some relatives who express a very selfless and heartfelt desire to give my husband, daughter, and me exactly what we want and, if possible, everything we want.  Unfortunately (from to their perspective), like most of us, they have a budget.  It hurts them that they can't grant every desire of ours every Christmas; and not just ours, but everyone on their gift list.  They would love to be able to give everything to each one of us because they love us that much.  They have so much love for us that their only desire is for us to have everything we want.
     God has a similar love for us, His creation.  He loves us so passionately that He wanted to give us everything.  He desires to have a relationship with us, so when sin entered the picture, He chose to provide a way for us to cross the great divide and commune with Him, to know Him, and to walk with Him.  He sent His only Son, Jesus (John 3:16), to die on the cross for us.  To be beaten, battered, and scarred even though He was innocent.  To shed His blood for us and endure such an agonizing and painful death for us.  All of that was necessary for us to spend eternity with Him in heaven.  He took all of our wish lists, which Jesus was not included in, and lovingly gave us what we really NEEDED, not what we wanted.  We all need Jesus because that's all that matters in this life.  We are here to love and worship Him forever and to lead others to this amazing and sacrificial love for humankind.  
    Therefore, this Christmas, while you're reviewing your loved ones' wish lists, think about what they need instead of what they want.  Everything on our wish lists will pass away.  Nothing will go to eternity with us and nothing will remain when life on Earth ends.  Jesus is the only One Who will last forever.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Did I Really Ask for This?

Lesson 2

    The second lesson I have learned on this faith journey (and I will be more specific as to exactly WHAT our faith journey is later in the future) is that Satan will not attack us hard if we are living a life of comfort. He will, however, attack us as soon as we take a step of faith.  If we are living a life of comfort, Satan has us right where he wants us.  Jesus has already won the eternal battle, so now it is Satan's goal to keep Christ followers from being bold, reaching out, and changing lives.  He wants us to be comfortable.  It's when we take a bold step of faith that his attack will begin.  It will come in any arena--tithing, attending church, witnessing to a neighbor, or any other step that God is calling us to take.  That's how we know we are on the right path, God's path.  So, be prepared for battle when you step out--it won't be easy.
     Last week on one of my walks, I actually joked with God, "Did I really mean it when I prayed to be a stronger, more effective Christian?"  Did I really want to grow stronger in my faith and walk with Christ?  I asked that question because, when we do, He will always call us to walk in faith and take a step that is far beyond our comfort zone and Satan will always attack when we decide to follow God's call.
     Recently, I have been rereading the story of Job in my daily time with God.  Before I started reading it this time, I prayed that God would show me something I had never seen before in that story.  When I got to chapter 3, verse 25, the verse practically jumped out at me.  It was the nugget I had never seen before and it helped me understand Satan's attacks so much more.  Job was a righteous man who was attacked by Satan.  He lived a life of active faith & Satan knew it.  Satan took everything Job owned, then physically afflicted Job.  When Job finally summoned the strength to speak about his losses and his discouragement, he admitted (in verse 25) that what he feared finally happened.  He says to his friend, "What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me."  Satan knows our fears and he will attack us where he knows we're scared.  Job's fear was that he would "have no peace, no quietness; rest, but only turmoil" (v. 26).  Satan knew Job was scared of that, so he made that happen in hopes that it would cause Job to abandon his faith and his walk with God.
     The only fear we should experience is the reverent fear of God.  "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).  If we are Christ-followers, we are on the winning side--nothing can hurt us.  We literally have nothing to fear.  Our flesh, though, is weak, so we do occasionally fear something, but then we go to God in prayer and get in His Word and we use our weapons to fight against Satan's arrows and attacks.  God is all we need.  Ever.  Consequently, we have nothing to fear in life.  We've already won.  We just have to keep taking those small steps of faith, because when we look back, God will have created a pathway of righteousness.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Battle Begins...

     It has only been a week since my husband and I decided to take the step of faith for our family we feel God is calling us to take and Satan has already been throwing his darts at us.  While we have already made the decision to follow God's call on our lives no matter what, it won't actually take effect until later into the future.  However, Satan has wasted no time in trying to throw us off course, which is just further confirmation that we're following God's will.  You see, we have already won the battle.  Jesus has won the victory.  I believe that everything that happens on this earth is part of the spiritual battle we fight as it is described in Ephesians 6:12: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  Satan is trying to win as many souls from following Jesus Christ as possible and he will do whatever it takes to accomplish his goal.
   Deciding to follow God's will is equal to initiating Satan's darts.  He doesn't want us to do anything that will further God's kingdom.  I have learned in this short time of walking by faith and not by sight that we have to continually stay in the Word and in prayer to protect us from Satan's weapons.  I believe the reason why my husband and I have led such a comfortable life already (a life with very little spiritual struggles) is because we weren't walking by faith.  We were living in our own little world of false security.  We looked for security in the things of this world instead of clinging to God with our every breath and every step.  We need Him; without Him, we are nothing and we have nothing.  A life of faith means taking risks.  A life of faith means stepping out, even when we don't have the answer or see the light at the end of the tunnel.  That's where faith comes in--when Jesus is driving and we are the passengers.  We must trust Him with everything, even the breath in our lungs, which He put there in the first place.  He can do amazing things & it's great that it's our job to just sit back and watch Him work.  He is faithful!

Friday, October 28, 2011

God's Adventure

     God has put a desire in mine and my husband's heart for a while now, about 4 years (Psalm 37:4). During that time, we have prayed for it to come to pass, we have worked as hard as we can toward the goal that we feel God has called us to, and we have waited for God to “show up.” We still have no clear answer as to how God will accomplish His plan through us because the calling we feel looks impossible to fulfill in our lives at the moment. There is absolutely no humanly way possible for us to do what we feel like we're supposed to do. So, we're deciding to step out on faith.
     My husband and I proclaim to live a life of faith. It is our desire to follow God's lead and let Him do whatever He pleases with our lives. We want to live for His glory and His fame alone. We are nothing without Him and we have nothing without Him. He has brought us where we are; He is teaching us how to walk in faith; and, He has blessed us beyond measure. We are so undeserving of His love, faithfulness, and blessings, yet He pours them out on us day after day. Consequently, if we proclaim to live a life of faith, why are we waiting for the answer before we move? Why are we waiting until we feel “safe” to do what God has asked us to do? The life of a Christian isn't safe. We aren't called into safe territory or to make safe decisions all the time. An active Christian takes risks, just as Jesus took risks in His ministry. What is faith if we already have the answer before we take the step?
     We feel the calling on our lives so strongly and clearly, that it's more of a risk to not follow God's lead. Will we have enough money to do what we've been called to do? Will we have enough money to survive? Well, God promises that He will provide for His followers. Will we have what we want? Maybe not, but it's not about us and our wants. Our lives are about God's glory and accomplishing His will for His kingdom. To that end, I would rather fall following what we feel so clearly than fall because we refused to follow His lead just because it's not the “safe” answer. One day we will get to meet Him face to face and we will be held accountable for the decisions we made on this earth, so I want them to be pleasing in His sight.
     During the reign of King Darius, Daniel refused to bow down and pray to his earthly king, even though Darius declared a decree stating that if anyone prayed to any god or anyone other than King Darius, he would be thrown into a den of lions. Daniel knew he could die if he followed what he felt like God leading Him to do, what he knew was right, but he did it anyway. He followed God's lead and God rescued him from the hungry lions.
     Will God save us? If we're asking that question, then our hearts are not in the right place. Following God's callings is not about whether we will be safe or not; it's about whether God's will is accomplished or not. It's about having faith in a God Who promises He will never leave us or forsake us. Even if He doesn't save us or do what we “want” Him to do, He is still God and His ways, thoughts, and plans are perfect for His glory.
     I am so excited to see what God has in store for us as we take this walk of faith, God's adventure. I titled this post “God's Adventure” because it is all about Him, not us; He is the center of it, not us. We will keep you posted on what God is doing in our new adventure!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Social Injustice

What is our reaction when we see a dying puppy on the side of the road?  What do we do when we know that a child is being abused by a parent, peer, or someone else?  In the stands of an athletic game, would we cringe when a player is down on the ground and his opponent just keeps kicking or punching him, while he is defenseless to react?  I think we would all say that we would feel sympathy or even anger, we might cringe, or we might feel that justice needs to be done, but very few of us would actually do something about it.  We claim that we're too busy; we convince ourselves that we didn't really see it or it didn't actually happen; or, we say that we have our own families to take care of; it will be someone else's responsibility to respond to the injustice.

While the harshness of my reality does not even come close to the brutality of the scenarios listed above, the feelings I am experiencing as a victim are very similar.  I have been very harshly and crudely verbally abused for three years now by a person in my life from whom I cannot escape.  To my knowledge, this person is really my only enemy on this earth.  Unless I am just oblivious to people who do not like me, this is the only person who, I believe, really hates me.  I can literally see the hatred burning in her eyes, actions, and attitudes, and I can hear it in her voice.  She is as mean as a snake to anyone with whom she chooses to be that way.  She literally has no care for people's feelings or opinions.  She believes that if someone's actions warrant wrath, then that person deserves whatever wrath she can dish out.  She will continue to unleash her wrath as many times as necessary until her desired outcome is accomplished.  Other than the fact that her wrath, as far as I can tell, is limited to the words she says (in other words, I don't think she would ever physically harm someone), her only goal is that she gets her way.

I am required to work closely with this person on a daily basis, so there is no way out of it.  So, God has placed me in these certain circumstances for a reason.  There are people who are aware of the situation and have yet to come to my defense.  I have met with some of those people and, basically, nothing will be done to rectify the situation.  So, it's just me and God.  When this situation started, my attitude to this woman was very ugly.  I was always short with her when we were forced to talk because I just wanted to end the conversation and get back to my work.  Clearly, that wasn't working.  It didn't matter how short I was, the situation never got better and never went away.  I was only showing her that, as a Christ-follower, I was no different than she was in the way I handled myself when I did not get my way.  So, I started praying for her.  It never fails that when I start praying for someone else who I want to see God "fix," I am the one who gets "fixed."  Consequently, God started changing me.  He started with my attitudes, then my speech, then my actions, and, finally, He led me to a complete change of perspective.  With my attitudes, I started being friendly to her all the time, no matter what.  I don't care if she begins the conversation on a positive or negative note, I always have a smile and a positive word to speak to her.  Then, my positive attitude influenced my speech.  I never say anything harsh to her and I try to never be short with her.  Then, with my actions, I started doing things to lead her toward love (Heb. 10:24).  I would take her a cupcake when I baked them and coupons and recipes that I thought she would be interested in.  She always seemed so surprised and she still does today.  Don't get me wrong, I must prepare myself everyday through the Word and putting on the full armor of God, but He gets me through it.

The best part of the entire situation is that God is shining.  I have sat through at least 4 meetings with this particular woman and my superiors at work and in each meeting, I have received some of the worst verbal bashings in my life.  Through the meetings, I would sit in my chair with one leg dangling over the other, my hands folded in my lap, and a smile on my face.  I had the peace of God inside me and I knew my superiors were behind me, regardless if they stopped the abuse or not.  This woman was planning to throw everything she had at me to publicly humiliate me, but so far, I have remained calm.  When I left those meetings, I would always feel beat down.  I always felt alone, like no one was fighting for me and I knew I had done nothing wrong.  I ended up in the bathroom stall one day praying and crying, but God changed my heart that day.  Since then, nothing that woman has said or done has bothered me.

Today, I see her differently.  I realized that I am not going to change her.  Nothing I do or say or think or pray will change her--only God can do that.  Once I really internalized that, my job was to show her Jesus's love and pour it on her every chance I could.  The results have been amazing.  God has shown up and worked in the lives of the people around me.  The woman is still the same, although she acts surprised now when she can't get the best of me, but more importantly, God has made an impact on the people's lives who watched me in those meetings.  On more than one occasion, they have come up to me and told me how proud, impressed, and amazed they were at my reactions.  They looked up to me.  My superiors were learning from me, what God was doing in and through me.  I now realize that I must be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) and let Him fight my battles (Exodus 14:14).  Ultimately, if I profess before others to be a Christ-followers, then my attitudes, actions, and speech reflect and point to Him and I want Him to receive all the glory, no matter what my circumstances are (Philippians 1:27).

Monday, August 29, 2011

We've Got Things the Around Way Wrong...uh, the Wrong Way Around

I am a devoted fan of the hit reality tv show "The Biggest Loser."  Often, on that show as the contestants describe themselves and their lives, specifically their journeys to obesity, I hear them say that it was due to the fact that they put everyone else in their lives first.  Then, I hear them describe their time on the Biggest Loser ranch as their time to focus on them.  They usually say that when they get back home, they are going to stop putting themselves last and start focusing on themselves.  

Those statements always bother me when I hear them and, for years now, I've wondered why, but I couldn't figure it out.  I couldn't figure out why a statement that sounds so wonderful would not sit well with me.  While everyone on the show praises the contestants for their new look on life and their new "me first" mentality, I just couldn't get behind it.

This weekend, while I was out shopping, I saw a picture frame for sale that had a picture of a generic happy family in it and on the border, the phrase "it's all about us" was etched in the wood in a repetitious pattern around the frame.  Then, I realized how Satan so subtlely slips those little self-centered thoughts and attitudes into our brains.  I understand the picture frame; I get the concept.  The concept of the picture frame is to love our families and, as long as we love each other and focus on our own family, we'll be all right.  We don't have to reach out to others or grow outside of our comfort zone, but if we stick together, we will thrive.

Jesus taught us to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27).  Nowhere does He say to love ourselves.  God did not put us on this earth to love ourselves; Jesus did not die for us so that we could love ourselves.  We are here to first love and serve God, then love and serve others.  So if, for instance, the contestants on "The Biggest Loser" truly became obese because they were so focused on others, then the problem does not lie within them, but in the other people in their lives.  It's not the contestants who need to change their paradigms, but the people around them who need to change.  You see, if we are truly living God's model for our lives and we're taking care of others' needs before our own, then our needs will get met because the people who care about us will meet our needs while we meet the needs of others.  So, the solution is not to start caring about and focusing on ourselves, but that the people around us need to change their focus and the only way they will change their focus is if they see it modeled in us.

Granted, our needs will not always be met by the people in our lives.  While He was on earth, Jesus served others, while all we did was take.  That may be the case for you.  You may feel like you give and give and give, while others just take and take and take, and that may very well be your reality.  However, if we are truly living selfless lives and our reliance is on God, then He will meet all our needs as He promises in Philippians 4:19.

Because I grew up in the American culture, the "me first" mentality has been etched in my brain and I fight it every day.  Every day, there is an internal battle about putting my needs over others' needs.  I have to continually fight against my flesh to push out all the selfishness that lies within, no matter how little or how much is there.  God doesn't want any selfishness to be there.  We can't get caught up in society's emphasis on self.  Instead, we need to try that much harder to model a selfless life so that others will change their perspectives.  If we are all living to meet others' needs, then our needs will be met in the process.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


We have all been wronged by someone at some time.  We will more than likely be wronged by someone again some time in the future.  On the flipside, we have all wronged someone else, too, and probably will again before we leave this earth.  We are not perfect creatures--far from it, actually.  We live in a world of sin; therefore, we will not always do good.  Do we wrong people on purpose?  Some people do, of course, but most of the time, people don't do it purposefully.  I know I don't intentionally do wrong to others, but sometimes it comes across that way.

In Matthew 18: 21-35, Peter asks Jesus how many times we should forgive people.  In response, Jesus tells a story of a master who mercifully wiped away the debt of his servant and let him go without paying what he owed his master.  Later, the same servant, who had been forgiven of his debt, found a fellow servant who owed him money.  The fellow servant begged the man to be patient with him and he would eventually pay him back, but the servant refused and threw his neighbor into jail.  When the master heard about what his servant did after the master had forgiven him of his debt, he called the servant wicked because he showed no mercy on a man who owed him money, when his own debt was cancelled for him.  Consequently, the master threw the servant into jail to be tortured until he could pay back his debt.

No one owes us anything.  If we go through life and relationships with expectations, we will continually feel let down and wronged because no one can live up to others' expectations all the time.  But, if we enter relationships with a merciful spirit and with the knowledge that Jesus paid our ultimate debt on the cross, then we will view people's actions much differently.  We must treat people as if they're on our team and not against us, even if we feel that they have wronged us.  Yes, people do it intentionally, but most of the time, they don't mean to; they don't do it maliciously.  Even if they do wrong us intentionally, their debt is not ours to pay.  Their sins are against God, not us.  He will take care of their wrongs.  Our only job is to do what Jesus commands us in Matthew when He says to not only forgive our brothers and sisters seven times, but seventy-seven times, or as many times as necessary.  In reference to the master throwing the servant into jail to be tortured, Jesus says, " 'This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart' " (Matthew 18:35).

Until Jesus returns, people will continue to sin.  The two things we need to know about this fact is that, first and foremost, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12).  When we don't forgive others, Satan is winning the battle because we are fighting against each other.  The other thing we need to know about the fact that people will continue to sin is that when it happens to us, we need to mercifully forgive the person(s) involved.  It doesn't matter if we think they deserve our forgiveness or even whether they seek it.  We didn't deserve Jesus's forgiveness, nor did we seek it, but He gave it freely.  And not just freely, He gave it LOVINGLY.  So, when we forgive our neighbors, our family members, friends, co-workers, and everyone else, we do it lovingly and not begrudgingly.  We do it with the love of Christ.

I know that if the people in my life didn't forgive me, I wouldn't have any relationships.  This is my prayer for my life, that it would be marked by forgiveness and mercy.  People don't realize what they are doing, the true impact of their sin, or even the need for a Savior.  That's why it is so important for us to continually show God's love and mercy and pour it out on everyone around us....they desperately need to see it in action!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nontraditional Ministry

Ministry doesn't always appear in obvious forms.  I mentioned in a previous post that God has radically shifted my paradigm.  I am naturally a goal-oriented person.  It's okay to be goal-oriented, but it was causing problems for me and my relationships because I was completely goal-oriented.  I put completing tasks before people, even my own family, so God began to change me so I could be more effective for His kingdom.  On one of my runs toward the beginning of the summer, I saw a bolt in the middle of an intersection.  I didn't think anything about it; I just kept running.  Then, gradually, God would put more and more bolts in my path until the thought finally hit me that they could cause someone a flat tire.  I didn't notice it before because I was on a run--that was my goal.  Nothing else mattered.  But God has used those bolts to help change my outlook.  It is more important for me to stop and throw the bolt out of the intersection to save someone's tire than for me to continue running just to accomplish a goal that has nothing to do with anyone but myself.  Still, on my runs God continues to test my commitment to my new paradigm by putting bolts in my path.  I have to choose to stop for just a couple of seconds to pick up the bolt and toss it to the side of the road.  I don't know where the bolts come from, but they are always there when I exercise.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Serving Others

I work in a service position as a teacher; I live in a service position as a wife, mother, and neighbor; and I volunteer in a service position at my church.  Needless to say, you would think I would be an expert servant and have an overflowing servant’s heart, which is why God placed me in those roles…not in the least.  I love it when God’s creativity and sense of humor shine in my life, but I hate it when I don’t realize it until way later than I should have.  I will begin my sixth year of teaching this month, I just celebrated four wonderful years of marriage to my husband, I have lived among my neighbors for three years, and I have served in my church for just a couple of months and I just recently realized how little serving I’ve actually done.  Most of those activities, if I am brutally honest with myself, has been self-serving.  The sad part is, during that time period I actually believed that I was doing what God called me to do.  I actually believed that I was truly serving the people around me.  Don’t get me wrong, God has truly called me to each one of those roles and He did use me to bring glory to Himself, but did I allow Him to use me to my full potential, without any strings attached, and exponentially affect His kingdom?  No; how could He when I was so self-absorbed and thought I had all the answers?  How can He use someone who already knows it all and has preconceived notions about what the people around her need, instead of really paying attention and listening to their needs as the Word directs me in Proverbs 27:23?  And the person who has suffered the greatest loss in those situations is me.  God will accomplish His purpose in the lives of the people I’m serving.  His plans will be completed in my students’ lives, my family, my neighbors’ homes, and in my church.  If I didn’t meet their needs, He will send someone who will meet their needs, but I have missed out on huge blessings.  I have missed out on growth--true growth, growth that causes me to expand my wings and live outside my comfort zone, taking risks for God’s kingdom. 
            I have received countless numbers of compliments on my teaching strategies and methods from my students, colleagues, administrators, parents, and neighbors.  I was awarded Teacher of the Year for my school after only one year of teaching under my belt.  Yet, I’m not bringing attention to that fact to brag on my abilities, but to emphasize that I had no clue what I was doing.  I write that to showcase what a flawless job God does in accomplishing His plans through such a weak and unworthy vessel like myself.  I used to view people and my service to them as a checklist.  Consequently, I was serving them, but I was serving them based on a list of needs that I thought they had and answers I thought they required.  I would meet a certain need that “a student like that needs” or a “person with that kind of life needs.”  I have learned that when I enter into a situation or a relationship in that manner, where I think I already have a diagnosis for each person, I miss out on meeting their actual needs, then both of us walk away from the situation confused, frustrated, and sometimes with bad feelings toward the other person.
            I recently taught a student who was the “intelligent, but lazy and the class clown type,” the type of student who had a reading level that was well above grade level, the potential to make exceedingly high grades, and the ability to be a strong and effective leader in the classroom.  But I sized him up during the first week of school.  I thought he fit into that category.  What I later learned was that it was not that at all.  This particular student would read novels and participate in “fun” activities, but when it came to writing essays or completing individual classroom assignments, he just shut down and I thought it was because he was lazy and didn’t feel like writing.  My husband and I also happen to be friends with his family, and as I occasionally observed his activities, God finally put the pieces together and everything clicked.  He wasn’t lazy at all; he plays sports, he washes his family’s vehicles religiously, and he helps his family with home projects.  He is very active.  One night, as my husband was participating in some self-reflection of his own, he shared that one reason why he doesn’t like walking or running for exercise is because he can’t see that he has accomplished anything once he’s finished.  He doesn’t get immediate results and he needs those results to encourage and motivate him to keep going.  Then it hit me; the light bulb came on.  Similarly, this student I “taught” is wired the same way.  He enjoys those types of hands-on activities because he can see instant improvement and he can see that he has accomplished a goal.  When it comes to reading and writing, improvement and success take time and it’s difficult to see immediate improvement.  Sometimes, you have to rewrite a paper five times before you actually get it “right,” then someone else proofreads it and you realize you have still made mistakes, but it was my job to make that connection with him and provide opportunities for him to see success and I didn’t do it.  From an outsider’s perspective, the student did well overall in the class, finishing the semester with a high B average, but I could have created opportunities for him so that He could excel far beyond that average.  So, although he was a student in my classroom, he taught me a lesson I will never forget and that will benefit a multitude of students long after he has left my classroom.
            It’s my job to leave footprints on my students’ lives and to help them achieve success, but when I size my students up without actually getting to the root of who they are and when I try to fit them in a box with a certain label, I will always fail.  They are not objects; they are not manufactured; and they do not come with an answer key.  The same thing is true in every area I serve.  I cannot face my family, neighbors, friends, colleagues, church, or community thinking I have all the answers and if they don’t benefit from my answers, then there’s something wrong with them because it’s just not true.  I realize that I have been brutally and openly honest in this post, but that’s what this blog is for.  God has truly given me a paradigm shift that I am now held accountable for and will do my best to implement in every area of service.  As He says in Proverbs 27:23, I will strive to truly and accurately “know the condition of my flocks, [and] give careful attention to my herds.”

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Patiently or Impatiently Waiting?

Waiting.  We wait in line.  We wait on food.  We wait on others to do their jobs so we can do ours.  And we hate it, or at least I do.  I hate waiting.  It seems that most of my life is spent waiting.  When it comes to waiting on something God has promised, I feel a little bit differently about the process.  A small part of me still doesn't enjoy it because I can't always see the final product, but the rest of me rejoices in several aspects of waiting on God's timing.  First, when the final product or end goal finally happens, it is perfect and more than I could ever ask for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  It is always immeasurably more than anything I prayed for or thought of, like my husband, my daughter, my job, and so many other blessings in my life that are too many to count.  Secondly, I know that it's in the waiting process that God prepares me for His next step in my life.  Just because I believe I am ready for a particular event or circumstance to occur doesn't mean I am fully prepared for it and I thank God that He knows what needs to change in me before I am ready (Matthew 6:8).  As much as I want that particular thing to happen, I would not want to enter into it unprepared.  Additionally, the waiting process strengthens me in every area--physically, emotionally, and spritually (Psalm 27:14).  It forces me to rely on the real Promise Keeper.  His Word says that He loves to pour blessings on His children (Proverbs 10:6).  I may not like waiting, but I know that He can make things happen and fulfill desires in my life unlike anything I could ever do on my own.  Also, the waiting process allows me to take my hands off of the situation and just sit back while serving and worshiping Him.  There's nothing I can do to make the situation happen any sooner, so why not just sit back and watch God move?  Next, it teaches me to be less selfish and self-centered; it helps me focus on people around me and meeting their needs.  Lastly, it means I am blessed (Isaiah 30:18)--there is blessing in the waiting!  What an awesome promise--I get to be blessed while I wait and when the waiting is's a win/win situation!

I believe that there are several things we can do as a Christ-follower while we wait on God's promises to come into fruition.  We can

Worship God with thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Attend to others' needs (serve others)
Immerse ourselves in the Word (Psalm 130:5)
Talk (and listen) to God constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

First Father's Day

Man, it's been too long since I have blogged--we have had a crazy beginning to our summer.  I thought I would have more time during summer break to blog, but I haven't had any more than when I work full-time.  We are celebrating our first Father's Day this weekend and Nora-Kate and I are so blessed to have such a godly man in our lives as my husband and Nora-Kate's daddy.  We praise God for him!  This is the poem I wrote him for Father's Day this year.

Our Servant-Leader

You started as a man after God’s own heart;
One who sought Him even when the days were dark.
While others were led astray,
God helped you find His way.
He was shaping you to be the man
You would be today.

Earnestly praying for the man with whom I would share my life,
I never expected it was you that would take me for your wife.
Blessings upon blessings God has showered on me
Through His answers of every detail and every plea.
As He promised, He has given us life abundantly!

Since we’ve been together, I have seen God work in you,
But He is only able to do that because you allow Him to.
Keep striving for and seeking God’s will
Because you are setting an example for another generation still.
As you show me every day, Nora-Kate will see that God can be her fill.

You show us in so many ways;
We know we can count on you all of our days.
Your provision, unending kindness, understanding, hard work, and sacrificial love
Are manifestations of God’s pruning from above,
His love and mercy, poured out through you, we’re so undeserving of.

I have no doubt that you will guide Nora-Kate
Through strength and wisdom, and model her future mate.
Because of her daddy’s traits inherited in her genes,
She will also learn what it means
To follow God’s will through all of life’s scenes.

We are blessed to be a mom and dad,
And to you I look for strength I do not have.
You uphold this family and encourage us through and through;
By our side we would never want anyone but you,
It's more than your handsomeness, although we enjoy that too ;).

We are so thankful to have a wonderful and godly man leading us
As he seeks daily to follow the will of Jesus.
We look to your strength and daily guidance
Because God’s Word flows through your life with radiance.

Happy Father’s Day 2011!!!  We love you!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Bad Samaritan

            I had a shocking revelation this week.  Two people sat down with me and, after I asked, described me as aloof, cold, and withdrawn.  One of these people is a Christ follower and one is not.  One is a close friend and one is not.  Yet, both of them see me the same way.  Something is wrong.  Those harsh adjectives that they used, in love, to describe the way people see me, hit me like a barrage of blows.  I never, in a million years, thought that anyone saw me that way.  This revelation knocked the breath out of me and it turned my world around…for the better. 
            It is sometimes painful to look in a mirror, but it’s necessary.  The same can be said about peering into one’s own soul and facing a harsh reality.  You can live your life with an intent to NOT seem a certain way to people, then irony shows its ugly face and you realize that the very thing you wanted people to not think of you is what they really see when they see your face.  It’s true for me.  I always wanted people to know that I cared about them, but I didn’t know how to show it. 
            I was bullied growing up—physically and verbally, all the way from childhood to my senior year of high school.  Consequently, I had only one or two friends ever in my life.  I wasn’t social and was always intimidated by everyone.  From my perspective, everyone was always smarter, more beautiful, more fit, faster, or more popular than I was (the list could go on).  Even now, at almost 30 years of age, I still view people that way.  I am also task- and goal-oriented, which, when paired with my intimidation of people, comes across to others as aloof, cold, and withdrawn. 
            As I have prayed through this situation the last few days and reflected on past actions and scenarios, I realize that what I saw as just trying to get my daily overload of responsibilities accomplished, other people saw as me being withdrawn and not willing to help or work with others.  Oh, how my soul hurts for my actions, but I am so thankful that God has shown me my error and has given me another chance to right my wrongs as He purifies me from within.  My heart feels broken because I think about all the people who I left by the side of the road who needed my help or attention, just like the people passed by the beggar on the side of the road in the Bible before the Good Samaritan stopped to help.  They were too busy with their own to-do lists and self interests to help someone in need.  I pray that I would NEVER do that again, that I would never be so self-absorbed that I leave people out to dry to fend for themselves when I can help, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel if I actually have to be social.
            So, what Satan intended for evil, God intended for good.  Satan would love for me to wallow in self-pity and get so discouraged with someone actually describing me in a raw way, that I quit pursuing God, but I can’t.  I have too many people to help and so much growing to do!  I can’t wait to see what will come next on this journey.  I will never be perfect, but I love the growing process.  My Jesus, thank You, and please continue to sift out the evil in me, bring it to the surface, and help me change.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Childhood Traditions & Memories

I was thinking about childhood memories the other day on my run and since I have a young daughter, I reminisced specifically about memories with my mom.  Two stand out to me, both of which involve traditions. My parents used to take me to the fair every year.  One year in particular, while I was still pretty young, I must have either been feeling brave or got a wild streak, but I saw a ride that looked like a kid's ride.  It was higher and bigger than the other kids' rides, but it was colored in primary colors.  It looked like fun, although I didn't take the time or exhibit enough patience to see it run through one time before I got on. Like most children, I made an impulsive decision to ride it.  I am over five feet tall as an adult, so it makes sense that I met the height requirements on a lot of rides that I probably wasn't old enough to handle.  My mom, though, was a trooper, and, after asking me several times if I was sure I wanted to ride the 'roller coaster,' that she would ride with me just in case.  I had no idea what a roller coaster was, so I was excited to go on a new adventure. My mom had anticipated that I would not enjoy the ride because she knew I was a very timid child. As the coaster car climbed up the hill, I got scared; I probably even started to cry a little. In an effort to make me feel better, Mom threw her arms up in the air as we flew down the first hill and shouted, "whee!" and "Isn't this fun?!" Of course, I did not think it was fun at all, but I still keep that memory of my mother because it was a sacrifice she made for me just so I would feel better.

Similarly, my mom and I had a summer tradition of visiting the public library on a regular basis.  She taught me to love reading and to make it a part of my daily routine.  Consequently, I always looked forward to our trips to check out books.  I learned to get lost in the make believe of fictional works.

What kind of traditions did you share with your parents growing up, and which ones would you want to pass on or begin with your children?  Please leave comments about your favorite childhood traditions and/or memories.  I'm excited about what I can learn from your favorites!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Speaking Life

I love it when God teaches me new lessons from my old struggles.  I have always had a problem taming my tongue, which I know is a struggle that everyone shares because God's Word says that "no man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:8).  I have always, in my Christian life, prayed that God would help me tame my tongue and help me speak words of life and not death, but man, is it a battle!  I can testify to Paul's words in Romans chapter 7 when he says that "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing" (v. 18-19).  I have always desired to speak life, but it seemed like something beyond myself had control over my tongue and the words that came out of my mouth.  Because I have always struggled with that sin, it has always been a thought of mine to just give up on winning that battle.  However, I refuse to let Satan win.  Since I know that I still have sin in that area of my life, I will continue to strive toward renewal until I'm perfect or until I die.  It is definitely a battle worth fighting!  Even if I feel like I will never be successful in always speaking life and never speaking death, I know I will not go down without a fight in this spiritual war.  Our words are powerful; they can change a person's mood, attitude, day, lifetime, or eternity!

These are some verses that I have prayed or are currently praying through that God has used to change my speech and really think about the words I say.

"For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks...But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken."  Matthew 12:34b & 36

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29

"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be." James 3:9-10

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1

"A man of knowledge uses word with restraint..." Proverbs 17:27a

"The tongue has the power of life and death..." Proverbs 18:21a

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Wife's Plea

So close, yet worlds apart,
Nothing so hurts my heart.
Different goals, different priorities
Is all I can’t help but see.

A love that started out so grand
Is now slipping through my fingers like sand.
Quality time is what I need,
But it can’t be your only deed.
Your daughter wants your attention, too;
It’s important that she knows you.

We are proud of you & your musical skill,
But I want my husband to do God’s will.
When we get your time, it’s only for a bit.
At the end of your life, I hope it was worth it.
Pursuing your dreams is my desire,
But please don’t leave your family in the fire.

We’re both tired working full time jobs
And I can’t help but sob.
For if I lose you now,
I don’t know how
I could go on, remembering the chances
We had to continue our romances.

I miss your hugs and kisses, too,
And all of the memories I have of you.
I miss the fun we used to share;
I miss you playing in my hair.
The times we talked and joked,
The times you made me laugh until I choked.

I know you care,
But would you dare
Ever surrender your dreams for the sake of your family?
I do not desire that in any way,
But be careful what you say.
This love is delicate, like a rose
For God only knows

How special you are to me,
My wonderful hubby.
Please don’t think it’s the music I resent;
It’s just that I feel spent.
With so much to do,
I really need you.

You calm my fears and help me stand
When you’re by my side to hold my hand.
I miss our dates and time for us;
Every second is a plus.
I treasure moments with my man;
I pray for God to reveal His plan.

Can this be what He wants from us?
Or are all these things on our plates a must?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Parenting and Boundaries

I am a new mom, but I have been an educator in the public school system for 5 years.  The jobs are similar.  I have always said that becoming a teacher before I became a mom helped prepare me for parenthood. Similar to my feelings in the classroom, I am not going to like the reactions my daughter will exhibit when her dad and I discipline her negative behavior, but we feel it is vital to help her become a positive and effective citizen.  I don't want my daughter thinking that this world revolves around her, because it doesn't.  We are on this earth to serve others, not the other way around, which is still a concept I am trying to grasp in my own life.  If we don't set boundaries and limits for our kids, then we are doing them an injustice and giving them a false sense of reality.  If we allow them to do whatever they feel is right, or do whatever makes them feel good at the moment, then they will never learn that the world has consequences to wrong decisions.  They will also never learn how to make the right ones.

Today on my run as I was pouring out to God about some current trials I am facing, He gently reminded me that discipline is necessary for instruction.  I don't always look forward to or enjoy running, but it's good for me.  I don't enjoy disciplining my students, but I know that it is necessary if I want to present the information to everyone in the classroom.  Not always, but more often than not, I can distinguish hands down the students who are the parents in their homes (the ones who run the show) and the ones who are parented.  The ones who are the parents try to ruin the class for everyone by trying to call the shots.  Because they want something their way and can't get it, they ruin the activity for everyone.  They have been allowed to believe that everything revolves around them & if they have a bad day, everyone must suffer with them.

Rules are put into effect to make the world a better place for everyone, not to hinder anyone.  They are a good thing.  It is my husband's and my priority to create a safe and enjoyable environment at home for our children, but they must learn that their actions ultimately and always affect other people and that they must learn to make the wise ones.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Decisions, Decisions!

Something that I want to teach my daughter is how to wait on making big decisions in life.  That is not something I learned at an early age, but in adulthood and only after multiple experiences in making the wrong decisions or acting too quickly.  While I was running last weekend, my decision making skills, or lack thereof, was weighing on my heart, so I prayed about it.  I told God that I didn't want Nora-Kate to make her decisions the way I did, but I didn't know how to model the behavior I wanted to see in her.  I have always been told to "pray about it" before making any decision, especially the big ones, but I have never seen anyone actually do that.  Based on my experiences, praying about a decision before actually making one is good in theory and a noble thing to say, but I have never seen it modeled the way it's preached.  After pouring out my heart to God, He gently reminded me of a Rachael Ray episode I saw last summer.  A mother who was on the show had a teen daughter who wanted to change her hairstyle.  The mother told her that was fine, but that she had to wait a week before committing to it.  If the daughter still wanted to change her hair after a week, the mother would take her to the hair salon.  I thought, "That's brilliant!  That's what I'll do..." Then, I realized that I could tell Nora-Kate to wait a week before committing to a decision, but I want her to see it modeled in her parents.  So, I promised God that I would talk to my husband and we would agree on an allotted time to pray about major decisions before we actually make any.  I talk to God about as many decisions as I can during the day, anything from what I should eat for breakfast, to which route I should take when I run, but actually waiting for an answer is something that was foreign to me, hence the reason it was my epiphany for the weekend.  

In short, the revelation of my weekend run was that my husband and I should sit down, decide on a time period in which we're actually going to seek God when we have a major decision to make, then come together and make it as a family.  It's revolutionary for me because I know it will change our family.  We will make better decisions in the long run to, hopefully, accomplish God's will in our lives and be used for His kingdom!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bucket List

In light of James 4:13-15, which says, "Now listen you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.'  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'"  So, if it is the Lord's will, these are the things I would like to accomplish before I die (listed in no particular order).  I will add to it as God puts desires on my heart.

  • Maintain a blog with the purpose of benefiting others
    • Write a book
    • Go on an overseas mission trip
    • Visit New York, Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls during the day
    • Help people in need without worrying about money
    • homeschool my child(ren)
    • be present at my child(ren)'s wedding
    • see and hold my grandchildren

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Absolutely So!

    It took several runs for me to grasp this lesson God was trying to reveal.  I knew it was a big one when it made me stop in mid-stride and squint my eyes and tilt my head in confusion.  I'm still not quite sure that I have attained all the knowledge He wanted me to learn from this's really too deep for my mind to grasp and for my limited vocabulary to articulate.  I have prayed that God will express His thoughts and wisdom through my vocabulary...scary! 

    I run on the back roads around my house and I love it because I get to see animals and experience nature in a way I would not otherwise experience if we lived in the city.  While I was running one particular day, I was looking at the trees and listening to the birds sing.  The wind was blowing slightly and it wasn't too hot, so the birds were quite happy that day.  Then, this truth hit me in the head like a sledgehammer.  Humans are quick nowadays to say that everything (your reactions, decisions, morals, etc.) depends on the situation at hand.  When questioned, we give advice like "You should do what makes you feel good; do what makes you happy" or "How you should have reacted to that person depends on the situation."  We also question morals and try to qualify when it's okay to sin.  For example, we may think "I don't know if I would steal medicine for my child or food for my family if we were desperate."  Others might question morals and situations that are more severe than that, but it comes down to this:  People try to improve the world by taking away absolute truth and morals, but in reality, that philosophy is destroying our world and society.  If there are no absolutes, how do we know where to draw the line?

    The world, namely nature, doesn't work that way.  Everything in nature is on a cycle and it happens that way every day, month, and year.  It doesn't matter how much farmers want their crops to grow; if they don't prepare the land correctly, plant the crops at the right time, and nurture them appropriately, they won't grow.  It doesn't matter how much the farmer's family needs the food, the absolute truth is that if it didn't rain enough and he missed a step in his planting and harvesting, his family won't have food.  If I want to run a marathon or lose weight, it doesn't matter how I feel about accomplishing those tasks, if I don't train, eat right, and exercise, my body will not be prepared to run 26.2 miles or lose weight.

    God is Truth.  His principles work and, whether or not we believe in the Almighty and Magnificent Creator, if we live according to His principles, we would produce better citizens and society would function a whole lot more smoothly.  If everyone really did meet someone else's needs before their own, then their own needs would get met in the process.

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    Date Night

    My husband took me on a date last night, the first one without our daughter since she was born on September 20 of last year.  It was a very enjoyable and needed date night.  We laughed, reminisced, and talked about lots of different things.  It was fun to catch up and date my husband again.  In between conversations, though, I found myself looking at the crowd that was gathered at the bar to my right and thinking about my place in this world.  I am an introspective person, so this wasn't uncommon for me at all.  While I was observing a group of girls at the bar who were so desperately vying for any man's attention, I realized that I don't really fit into this world.  I don't, nor have I ever, had the same desires other girls in my life have had, like being noticed by men, gossiping, or participating in meaningless conversations.  I am an introvert; I have not figured out if I am one by nature or by nurture, but I do a lot of self-reflecting.  I don't talk much, which is different from most women.  I actually only open my mouth when I feel that is absolutely necessary or when God gives me a nugget to share with others.  Surprisingly, since I was in college, I have always wanted to be an evangelist.  I admired eloquent speakers and "cool" Christians who could relate to anyone and always knew what to say.  I wanted to be like them, and, fairly regularly, I have prayed that God would give me an opportunity to speak at a Christian conference or event where I could share what God has taught me.  Then, I read a book by Bill Hybels called Just Walk Across the Room.  It completely changed my outlook on evangelism.  I always thought all evangelists had to be the same, like they were clones of one mold-they were good with people, natural and fluent speakers, and charismatic, and I didn't feel that I was any of those things.  When I read Hybels's book, God showed me, through Hybels's words, that I have to evangelize in a way that is natural for me.  God made me and wired me the way He did for a reason & He wants to use me in the way He originally intended if I will just allow Him to do so.  It just took me a while to recognize my strengths. I have always been better at expressing myself through the written word, rather than the spoken word, which is ironic that I would pray for an opportunity to speak at a Christian event. I prayed that prayer because I know all Christians are called to actively share their faith with anyone and everyone, but I didn't realize that we could do it in unique ways, and that my evangelism would look different than my pastor's, the youth minister's, or anyone else's.

    I am excited about this blog because it is a challenge.  I consider it a challenge because I don't want to hinder God's work, but advance His kingdom.  I just want to help someone, and that is my prayer.