Rain Clouds and Rainbows

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I had the most beautiful, most vivid experience this week. Every month, my church joins with other churches in our area to pray for families, churches, and our community in strategic and relevant ways. Each church takes one day to pray for twenty-four hours in what we call One Church-One Day. ¹

On Wednesday morning, at 6:00 AM, my church’s prayer chain ended. Morning time is my favorite time with its quiet, peaceful sounds and the songs the birds and insects make. I walked out onto my deck to sit down to enjoy the morning with my coffee and my thoughts. About fifty people from my church family had been praying, one hour each, over the twenty-four hour period, and I love to think about all those people united in prayer.

The morning was dark gray with threatening storm clouds hung overhead. The air was still and there was no sound. No birds tweeting, no crickets chirping, no crows cawing. Just stillness and silence. I thought it strangely wonderful to have such silence after  twenty-hours of offering up words and petitions to God.

At almost exactly 6:30 AM, the silent morning was abruptly transformed into a rushing, loud crescendo as the heavens let loose and rain poured from the sky. It was almost as if all of our prayers, every single word uttered, had saturated the atmosphere, collecting in a great cloud, and God replied in the music of the rain- as if saying I hear you, every word I heard, and now I will hold your prayers safe in my hands and will respond in my timing for my perfect plan.

What a comforting thought! God the Provider- Yahweh Yireh- sending the rain to refresh the earth, support new growth, and wash things clean. I enjoyed the rhythmic raindrops on the roof and side of my house. And peace washed over me.

Fast forward through a busy day of homeschool preparations, housecleaning, kid-caring, errands, and cooking. The rain had stopped sometime during the day and the kids had been outside playing, enjoying the sun. I was in the middle of making dinner when I stopped to glance out the window. Misty, quiet rain was coming down but only one side of our yard. It was an odd sight, and I wondered how a rain cloud could be so precise.

My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of my name, “Mom, Mom, come quick!!!” It’s a rainbow!!! Mom, Mom!!” I ran out of the house to join them and looked up…across the sky, right over our house was a bright, beautiful, complete rainbow!! If it wasn’t for my daughter, I would have completely missed it. Its sight was an extravagant gift, one more reminder of God’s promises and His faithfulness. God sees, God hears, He responds, and He is faithful.

I wanted to share this story as an encouragement. The Bible tells us:

1.) God hears our prayers. He listens to our concerns, our petitions for loved ones and He wants us to tell Him our desires. God cares.  

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13

2.) God responds… sometimes not in the way we want, sometimes not in the way we think, but He always answers. And when it seems silent, keep praying, because He is still listening. In His timing, He will break through the silence.

“He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.” Psalm 91:15;

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Luke 11:9–10

3.) God uses others to remind us of His faithfulness and promises…and we all need reminders now and then. If you are reading this and do not have anyone who can remind you of such things or do not even know where to begin looking for God, find a local church. There are beautiful communities of Jesus-loving people who would love to tell you their stories of God’s faithfulness, pray with you and help you find Him right in your own neighborhood.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25

“They all joined together constantly in prayer,” Acts 1:14

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¹ Here is a helpful information and an amazing model of One-Church, One Day that we used. http://onehopenetwork.org/about/


Love for the Local Church

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I knew the Church long before I knew Jesus. It’s where we were first introduced. His name whispered humbly and reverently in the prayers of His people. His name boldly proclaimed in petitions and healings, and shouted with enthusiasm in worship and song. Yet, I did not know what it meant to call Him mine until many years later. I didn’t know what joy and love would be found by calling Him my friend. The peace and gratefulness I would own by proclaiming Him as my Savior. Nor did I know the hope and boldness that would come with obedience to my King. I know and treasure all these things now, largely because of influence of the Church and the faithfulness and struggle of a bunch of imperfect people who love and strive to follow Jesus with their lives.

For forty years, the local church has been woven into the very fabric of my life. Less about a building and more about the people, it’s been a special place that has brought me warmth and familiarity, irritation and conviction, and firm grounding with love as I have grown in my faith and as a follower of Jesus.

Just as with any relationship, the Church and I have had a long, rich, complex one. I’ve experienced seasons and degrees of willingness, activeness and involvement. I’ve been stubborn and ungrateful, a complainer and a critic . . . a consumer. At times, I’ve gone to church for the wrong reasons with wrong heart intentions and sat through many services with wrong thoughts. And if you know my story, you know that I never wanted to be a pastor’s wife.

Often the things you never wanted are the very things you are to embrace. And you might just find that the very thing you never wanted to do is the very thing you love and are called to do – as you allow the Holy Spirit space to work. All those years, all those church services, the influence of so many faithful people, so many Bible studies, camp devotions, rededications, worship songs and hymns, forty years of prayers prayed over me, for me and by me have cumulated and forged in my heart (and life) a great love for Jesus, His people, and for the local church.  I love the local church.

The local church with all its faults, imperfections, and humanity is a very unique place.  It is a place where I have found the importance and value of being connected in a community with believers who are also working out their lives of faith and learning to love God and love others. It’s a place where I have been encouraged, equipped and challenged to figure out exactly what I believe, why I believe it, and what to do with this transformational truth I carry. It’s given me space to grow in my faith, helped me learn patience and practice extending grace. The church is not perfect because people are not perfect, but I see a desire in the local church to do better, to figure these things out. To change the perspective of what church is.

But most importantly, I love the church because it is where I met, fell in love with, and surrendered my life to Jesus. And the more deeply I fall in love with Jesus, the more I love what He loves. Jesus loves people. He loves His church. In Acts 20:28, the Bible tells us that Jesus loves the church so much He bought it with his own blood.

This motivates me to want to be the best shepherd I can, and advocate for my local church. With so many options, worship styles, changing culture surrounding how we “do” church, it is important to continually remember that God has placed us here together in this time as his local family of believers.  We gather together to worship and proclaim Jesus, encourage each other in his mission, and bear witness to his forgiveness, reconciliation, and the transformational power of hope, love, and joy found in Him.

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Walking the Way of the Cross

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Good Friday was a good Friday indeed! For the last couple of years our family has joined with members of other churches in our community for a walk down Main Street. We take turns carrying a big wooden cross, singing hymns, stopping along the way to pray for businesses and places of importance in our community.

It’s a time when denominational lines are crossed. Methodists, Catholics, Baptists, Congregationalists, non-denominationalists come together to remember and thank Jesus for His great sacrifice. The focus is on Jesus and our community.

As I followed the cross, watched people take turns carrying it, listened to the happy chatting and the singing around me, and joined in prayer for our town and our neighbors, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with love and peace. When Jesus walked the earth, He lived in community. He created community. He loves community.

Through His suffering and great sacrifice on the cross He became The Way for us to have community and relationship with Him and The Father. When He went to Heaven, He gave us the Holy Spirit as a guide, a helper, to have community with Him. And He left us with a whole community of other believers and followers of Jesus to work together in Kingdom work and provide encouragement for each other.

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This is the community I witnessed yesterday and one I have experienced in my own life. When my burdens have been too much to bear, my sisters and brothers have held me up in prayer and have come alongside me with truth and encouragement. When prayers have been answered, they have celebrated and thanked God with me. When others have crosses of pain, regret, loneliness, suffering and grief, the community of Christ should come alongside to help each bear their crosses. Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” And when prayers have been answered and hope and love reigns in a situation, we need to be celebrating and praising God together.

Together, in our town, the community and body of Christ are praying and celebrating. We are praying for the peace, love, and the hope that comes from Jesus to shine through us so brightly that others will want to join in community with Him. We are celebrating hope, the blessings, and answers of prayers that chains have been broken and the lost that have been found.

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I am eternally grateful to Jesus for what He has done for me. And I am incredibly thankful I live in a place where churches can come together and we can express our views openly.  I know that others around the world do not have this “luxury” and for them and other communities of believers I am praying for safety and strength. Happy Easter weekend! Peace and grace be with you!


2016: Year in Review

There have been times in my life when I’ve had an overwhelming sense to do everything I can to remember the moment. Sometimes the moments have been big, life altering events like my children’s births or the death of a loved one. Other times the moments are found among mundane everyday tasks. Moments that stand out as special, holy gifts. In good and bad moments, I have commanded myself to stop, take a good look around, listen, and pay attention to the people who are with me. Then I pray. I pray my careful observations will become a memory or a lasting impression on my heart in which I can always feel.

Over Christmas break, we traveled to my brother’s house where we gathered with my family. Our family lives in several different states making times when we are all together very rare and special. It was loud and crazy. There was food, a lot of food. There was dancing, singing, praying, and playing with the kids. And food, more food. There was a whole lot of talking and a whole lot of love.

While we were together, I couldn’t help but think about what it was like for my Grandma, Mom and Dad, to be surrounded by a family they started. A bittersweet mix of the golden memories of the past and forging new ones in the present to be remembered for a future time. Missing loved ones and celebrating life in their children and grandchildren. A job well done, children reared, overcoming hard times and celebrating the good times. All this wrapped up in this thing called life.

One night my brother-in-law called us into the living room to watch a video he put together of clips he had taken of his family throughout the year. He captured the big moments and the small ones and masterly put them together complete with touching music. With my family, I watched a year fly by in about three minutes. I was struck with how much of our daily worries and what we think is big stuff, really isn’t and how the small touches, details, and love in life are really what mean the most. All those little moments collected together to mean something very big. It is not the things or even the places, it’s the people that make life worthwhile and meaningful.

My brother-in-law’s video inspired me to reflect back on my year. I went through hundreds and hundreds of pictures and picked out the most meaningful captures. When I look at these pictures, I see a common theme. My word for 2016 was community. These pictures represent so many of the special communities I am part of. God has richly blessed me through this word and my heart is so full thinking of His kindness and His gift to me in people. I was going to add captions but then changed my mind. For those of you who were with me, I hope these pictures spark a special memory or a special moment for you. Thank you, thank you all for being a part of my life, praying for me, and inspiring me to be the best woman, mother, and leader I can be. I love you dearly!  Happy New Year! ❤

January- Subways and Skiing

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February- School, Snow, Sunsets

 

March- Family

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Road trip to my brother’s house where we met up with my sister, my parents, and Gammy. We do not get to see each other often so these trips are important and special time.

April- Wonder and Discoveries

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May- New Friends and Callings

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June- Overcoming Fears and Heights

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July- Gammy on the Go

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August- ADVENTURE

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September- New Beginnings

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October- Incredible Opportunities with Incredible Women

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November-SHINE…Together

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December- Home is Where the Heart Is

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Here’s to 2017….

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You Are Never Too Old to Try Something New-Skydiving with My Grandmother

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Tuesday will be a day I will never forget. A day filled with adventure, friendship and inspiration. Inspiration provided by my eighty-six year old grandmother, Gammy, who continues to surprise me with her resilience, endurance and her energy.

Gammy has been living with us since the beginning of July and at the beginning of the summer I made a promise to her of a summer she would never forget-The Summer of Adventure. She loves to be “on the go.” Seeing new things, meeting new people and going out to eat are some of her favorite things to do and I have affectionately hashtagged our adventures as #gammyonthego.

We have chanted “Gammy on the Go! Gammy on the Go!” on our way to visit mansions in Newport, RI, chasing sunsets to gorgeous views, and road tripping to NY. Most of all, I think we have enjoyed the good company of family and friends and getting to know each other better by living life under the same roof. My kids and I have been blessed by this time we have had with her. I have heard stories never heard before and we both have been stretched and grown in different ways. I am trying to take it all in as I have become increasingly aware of not knowing how much more time we have with each other here on earth.

We arrived at Skydive Pepperill  under gorgeous, clear blue skies. A warm breeze was blowing the various flags decorating the Skydive Center and skydivers with colorful parachutes were gracefully landing with expertise in a large, adjoining field. Three other fun-loving, adventurous souls from our church family were jumping with us and some other church members had come to watch. The whole experience was made even better with them there and I was again reminded how much I love my church. The relationships that have built over the ten years at Centerpoint have become some of the most treasured relationships in my life. When it comes down to life, it really is all about relationships. Relationship with Jesus, with your family, with your friends. Relationships and trust take time to grow, through good times and hard times, but it is so worth the time put in. Life is better with good people around you and we have a whole church filled with good (FUN) people.

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I could try to describe our experience. The multiple-page waiver we had to sign, the video that stresses multiple times how you could die, the gear, the plane, the 45 second freefall, and the landing BUT a picture is worth a thousand words. So….here are some pictures and the “most awesome video in the whole world” to take you on our adventure with us.

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Our Skydiving Declarations

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Gearing UP

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Walking Up To The Plane

 

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The Queen of Skydiving

 

The plane

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In the Plane

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At the Door

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Free Fallin’

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The Coolest Grandmother in the Whole World

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Parachutes Deployed

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The Landing. Look at Gammy’s legs. They are in perfect position, better than the instructional video.

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Our Instructors- Vinny and Keith

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PS The record for the oldest female jumper at this center was 94. Gammy said we will be back on her 95th birthday (if not sooner.) I hope that am half of what she is when I am 86. So incredibly blessed!

 


MOMcon 2015- Unpacking At Home

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Whoa! What a whirlwind this last week has been! Just one week ago, I was sitting among 3,000 MOPS leaders in Indianapolis at MOPS International’s Leadership Convention worshipping with Matt Maher and soaking in life-changing messages and teachings.  There is nothing like being with that many like-minded women who are also moms and leaders. A smile and a hug are always waiting for you around each corner.

This was my third time at MOMcon. Preparing to leave was a ton of work (more than I ever remember) -homeschool lessons completed, five different people lined up to watch my kids, laundry and packing to be completed.  I had a lot on my mind and heart before I left.  I was exhausted before I even arrived, but I held on to the truth that God’s work is powerful when there is little of  “me” left. When I am too tired to fight for my own agenda and wants, that is when I start to hear His voice whispering into my tired mind and heart. That’s when I hear Him inviting me to “RISE up” and go forth to do the good works He has called me to do.  I was excited and a little anxious to see what was in store for me in the time away.

During MOPS Coach Training and the conference sessions, the speakers and worship leaders kept asking us “How is God speaking to you?” “What will you commit too?”  For me, there wasn’t an immediate answer to this question. No clear cut instructions or big directions to take. In every prayer, I asked God to reveal what it was he wanted me to hear. For a few days, I did not hear anything but felt at peace and filled with joy.

Sometimes when you stop expecting to hear from God, that is when you do.

At some point, I stopped straining my ear for His voice and I started to relax, recharge, and take everything in. Themes started to resonated within my heart. Confirmations came in form of words and people of things that I had been thinking about and praying about for weeks prior. My expectation changed from waiting to hear something new to noticing the good work God is currently doing in my life.

Here are the things that spoke to me:

1.) Live in grace. Walk in Love. Love everyone always! I had been looking forward to hear Bob Goff speak as soon as I found out that he was going to be at MOMcon. What an incredible encourager and messenger of love! I think I laughed from the moment he stepped on the stage until the last word he spoke. You can not help but have a huge smile on your face after you have listened to him. This guy is for real! And he is just as gracious and authentic when you meet him. He looks you in the eye when you talk and makes you feel like you are special, an instant friend. But it was what Bob said that left the impression in my heart. He shared from the book of Galatians about living in grace and walking in love from 2 John 6And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” He spoke about the differences between an invitation and a welcome. It made me think of the invitations I extend to people and what it means to make them feel really welcomed, encouraged, and loved in what I am inviting them to do.

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2.) Be Kind and Be a First Clapper- Cheer on another’s undeveloped best!– Jodi Detrick.  Jodi Detrick is the author of The Jesus-Hearted Woman. She spoke on “healthy leadership being a journey of influence in a community with others, not a solo trek of independent efforts and self-importance.” I loved the themes of community and teamwork in her talk. Her quote about being a first clapper made me realize how much I love cheering on the under-dog and fostering developing skills in people. It was not so much of something new to learn but a reminder to keep cheering on those around me.

3.) Be available and authentic- Gina Moran, Director of Leader Care and Church Connection at MOPS International.  Gina spoke on MOPS desire to inspire a faith journey in moms all over the world. Her talk included practical implementation of components used by MOPS in inspiring a faith journey.  Although, she was mostly talking about MOPS groups, the components laid out can be implemented in one’s life- inviting, hospitable, intentional,authentic, investing. Both Gina and Sherry Surratt (CEO and President of MOPS International)  referenced The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon.  Prior to coming to MOMcon, my husband and I had spent hours and hours talking about community, getting to know the people in our church on a more personal level, raising up leaders, and being a light in our neighborhood. When Gina said “be available and authentic,” it went straight to my heart.  I know that sometimes the pace of my life is too fast and it inhibits me to being available. Although I am constantly reevaluating my time and priorities, I know that there is always time for what is important for you.  Reaching out, developing more genuine and authentic relationships has become what is important to me and realizing this is a step forward towards this goal.

4.) Look at your pace in life.– Bob Goff, Crystal Paine, Sherry Surratt, Amena Brown, ALMOST everyone! A reminder to continue to look at my schedule and commitments, make adjustments, continue to work on protecting time, and saying “no” (oh, that is so hard for me.) I desire to be a model to my children of what it means to keep a healthy schedule and be available for loving people and building relationships. Amena Brown said “you need God to break your rhythms so that your rhythm will be in step with His.” Amen! Lord, break my rhythms!

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5.) JOY! “Joy is the sacred jingle of God in you.” -Margaret Feinberg.  I had never heard Margaret Feinberg speak before but WOW!  What another amazing encourager! She is brave fighter (she is currently battling cancer) and a champion of joy! Joy radiates from her as she speaks and not in some overly-cheerful, sickening sweet way. Joy that is real and inspiring.  So often we get caught up in all the things that do not matter, we take life for granted. Margaret’s message was not a promise that bad things will never happen to  you but more of when bad things do, “fight back with joy.” “Joy is a weapon!”

So themes of love, grace, joy, community, rhythms, time and relationships. Those are the the things I will holding in my heart and hope to fiercely flourish in this year. Until MOMcon 2016 in Milwaukee, live in grace and walk in love.

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A few other highlights from MOMcon. I got to arm wrestle (long story!) and meet a reader of my blog who also happens to be a MOPS Coach too. I am happy to now call her a friend.  She blessed my heart with her smile and encouragement. Love you, Tammy!

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Time with my MOPS Coaching team was a HUGE gift to me. These ladies are amazing and I love each one of them. We are all so different but we come together to make a one super, great team. We stayed up late talking (about everything), laughing, and enjoyed each other’s company. They pour prayer, encouragement, and life into me and help make me a better leader and person.

MVS Team

Finally- STARBUCKS! There was only one place to get coffee at the convention hall so the lines were very long! 3,000 moms need their tea and coffee!! I met a ton of great ladies while waiting for my latte and I loved eavesdropping on what others were taking away from the conference. God is good!

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