Monday Motivation

This week might be coming at you like a freight train. A packed schedule with a million things that need to get done. Appointments that need to be kept. Situations that need to be dealt with. Life that needs to be managed.

You might feel completely ready to take on everything that will come this week. If so, that’s awesome! Go attack the week with enthusiasm!

But maybe you feel like this week is overwhelming before it’s even begun. Maybe there are things, in and out of your control, that are intensifying the expectations and responsibilities. Exhaustion, pain, loneliness, anxiety, lack of confidence, lack of resources. These things can make everything seem extra difficult, maybe even impossible. It is for you, I write this post.

When I feel overwhelmed, I hold myself to only one expectation. Keep moving forward. One small step at a time. In faith.

For me, that first step begins on my knees. I pray messy, raw prayers that drain my heart of the anxiety and fear that’s holding me back. I lay it all out there to God, “hand” everything over to Jesus. I admit I cannot do it on my own, admit I do not know what to do or where to go next, and ask for help to keep my eyes focused Jesus and the hope I have through the confidence of faith. And then I take the next step out in faith.

Faith is a powerful thing! By faith, we can do impossible things in holy fear. By faith, we can trust God and obey even when things do not make sense. By faith, we can rejoice in weakness knowing He is strong. By faith, we can endure hardships and persecution, wander in “deserts” and desolate places. By faith, we can realize that difficult situations can (and will be) used for dynamic destinies.  By faith, we can take the next step, walk in love and grace, conquer the situations that come, hold on to the glorious, living hope, and be thankful and joyful in all circumstances knowing we are never alone.

Jesus goes before you. He sees your week and what’s to come. He promises to fight on your behalf (Deut. 1:30), level uphill battles and break down barriers (Isaiah 42:2) and guard your back (Isaiah 52:12.) Be encouraged! Take the next step in those truths.

Have a great week! I’m praying for you! ❤

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1


How Can This Be?

Last week, I was rereading Mary’s story in the Gospel of Luke. Mary, a young virgin, engaged to Joseph, a man of good lineage. Her engagement was part of socially acceptable plans, plans that would provide her security in life. She might have thought of her future often, preparing herself to be a wife, dreaming of what it might be like to be married. Every day that went by was one day closer to those plans coming to fruition. Then something happened that would change everything. God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary with an incredible message that would challenge her plans and replace them with a new calling from God.

I can only imagine the thoughts and questions racing through her mind as she tried to process the impossible things the angel was saying- “You will conceive. You will give birth. You will name him Jesus. He will be the Son of the Most High.” Although, the Gospel of Luke does not tell us her exact thoughts, it does records one of her questions. A question I think we can all relate to, “How can this be?”

Mary’s first response to this overwhelming information was a question. And her response is similar to many other people in the Bible who also had their days, their plans, their lives interrupted with what seemed like unimaginable missions and impossible callings from God. Callings that would be difficult, go against social standards, and change the trajectory of their lives in order to fulfill the plans of God. In many of their stories, their immediate response to overwhelming information was a “Who am I?” “How can I?” “I am only a….”  

I think many of us have similar first responses to when God calls us to Himself or to His work. While, our circumstances and our callings might be different, the heart of our responsive question is the same- doubt.

“How can this be, since I am a sinner?

“How can this be, since I am unqualified?”

“How can this be, since I do not have the resources?

God’s answer has been, is, and always will be the same. The answer is- “I am with you.” (Exo.3:12; Joshua 1:5, Luke 1:28) We can do the things God calls us to do because of Emmanuel, God is with us. Often, God’s callings come at times that interrupt our carefully crafted plans. They ask us to replace our doubts and fears with faith. He knows your past and your future. He knows where you are lacking and wants to equip and use you in those places for His glory. He knows you don’t have all the resources because He wants to be the One to provide them and He wants you to trust and obey in faith that He will. God fully knows, and has no doubt, that you are the right person for the mission, the job, the good work that He is calling you to do.

Mary didn’t have all the answers or all the details. She didn’t have a spreadsheet, a timeline or a budget. But she did have faith and was told the Holy Spirit would come over her to make this impossible, miraculous thing happen. And because Jesus, we also have the Holy Spirit to encourage us, empower us and remind us- God is with us. Nothing is impossible with God. Anchoring ourselves in those truths and answering God out of a place of faith, our second response can be one of trust and action. We can respond in the same as Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you said about me come true.”(Luke 1:38)


Be a Grace Giver…

graceWhat if we turned things upside down today? What if we gave people what they didn’t deserve and didn’t give them what they did deserve? What if our words and actions were so infused with grace, they were able to disarm negativity, counteract conflict, and give courage and boldness to others when received?

Grace is unmerited love and mercy. It’s an undeserving gift and it’s not easy to give. It’s difficult to bite your tongue in response to a bitter comment or biting criticism. It’s hard to think beyond hurt feelings and bruised emotions and offer forgiveness. It’s tough to be a presence of grace with an offensive person. The message of the world says, “Give ’em what they deserve!” ”You deserve better than that!”

I am not promoting we go around acting like feeble, push-overs, or passive, fake happy people throwing grace around like magical, rainbow fairy dust. Giving grace is a bold, brave, intentional choice. It means choosing to respond instead of react. It means pausing, getting our thoughts together, and then speaking truth in a loving, respectful way. There are many situations that need to be further addressed, processed through, and worked on; but grace is the invitation to a pathway of respectful discussions. Grace can be a gateway to a journey of healing and restoration.

As a follow of Christ, we do not have to rely on our power to be a grace-giver. We shouldn’t. We have access to power, life-supporting love and strength through the Holy Spirit. By excepting and receiving God’s grace, we in turn can extend grace to others with God’s help.

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. -1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. -Hebrews 4:16

So today, join with me in the practice of grace giving– and keep in mind, there will be a time when we are in need of grace too. ❤


Silence- My Story of Pregnancy Loss

pumpkin

I scratched the letters B-A-B-Y on a young, green pumpkin and then quickly hid it among the tall grass and tangled, prickly vine. The word would grow as the pumpkin grew. My hands instinctively rubbed my belly as if to warm the life growing in body. I looked towards the bright, blue sky and with a smile mouthed a word of thanks.

A baby, my prayers had been answered. Counting the months, I calculated when I would be “safely” past the first trimester and when it would be “safe” to announce our news. I had it all planned. Our new addition would be adorably announced on social media with a glorious, orange pumpkin full-grown from our own garden. Three pumpkins in a row, one inscribed with the word “baby,” all lined up on the porch step. One pumpkin for each of my children. How perfectly-pinteresty it all would be!

I couldn’t wait to tell my other two children, our family, and our church but I was cautiously optimistic. God had shined his face upon me and had taken away the pain of an early miscarriage. A miscarriage I had experienced only a few short months before. I was relieved nothing was wrong with me but was it really safe to say anything? What if this baby was taken from me too? Doubts and fears flooded my happy heart and I decided to commit to the silence.

The silence seemed to be the correct discipline to follow. Only a short week later, my fears became a reality and I lost my baby in a second miscarriage. Angry, hurt, and confused, I walked to the garden with tears streaming down my face, ripped the young, green pumpkin from its life source and threw it as hard as I could into the neighboring woods. It smashed open where it landed. My actions did not make me feel better, it made me feel worse. I felt abandoned, forgotten, and lonely. My faithful prayers had not been heard. If God was so close, why did he feel so far away? And why couldn’t I hear Him? Was he just silent to everyone or just to me? As hard as I tried, I couldn’t hear a thing. Not a peep, not a whisper, not a word…..


It had been four hundred years. Four hundred years of silence since anyone had heard anything from God. Not a peep, not a whisper, not a word.

Lives were filled with political intrigue, murder, violence, sexual immorality, deceit, and hatred. 1 Times were dangerous and uncertain. Hope was waning in the deafening silence. But God was about to break in. The silence was about to be shattered.

In Luke 1:5, we are introduced to a priest named, Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth.“Both of them righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.” (Luke 1:6)

With a life devoted to faithful service, one might think it would have meant a blessed life. But Elizabeth was barren and having no children in those days would have been humiliating and disgraceful. The Jewish Rabbis said that seven people were excommunicated from God and the list began, “A Jew who has no wife, or a Jew who has a wife and who has no child.”  We can only imagine the whispers behind her back and the longing for a baby in her heart.

Divine interventions come at God’s timing, not ours. When the time came for Zechariah’s division of priests to be on duty, Zechariah was chosen by lot to go into the inner temple of the Lord (Luke 1:10.) This would have been a huge deal and a great honor. There were no less than 20,000 priests altogether and about 1,000 priests per division.3  Zechariah had just won the holy lottery.

On the day of his service, Zechariah stood by the alter, praying his life-long prayer for a child, burning incense, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him (verse 11.) Startled and gripped with fear (who wouldn’t be?) the angel responded, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John.” (verse 13)

Your son will be a joy and delight to many (verse 14,) one who will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah to ready a people prepared for the Lord. (verse 17.)” Zechariah’s response to the angel’s news was one of question and doubt (can you blame him?) and the consequence of his disbelief was silence. He was unable to speak  until the day his son was born.

True to the angel’s words. Elizabeth, became pregnant and remained in seclusion for five months (Luke 1:24.) We are granted insight into her heart with a response of praise. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (verse 25)

A baby. A miracle baby was coming. A baby who would make way for another miracle baby. Against all odds, this was really happening….

 


 

I stared at the positive sign. It was the fifth test, the fifth positive test. How could this be? The timing did not line up. There must be some mistake but how could five positive signs be wrong?

I had just come back from a four-day conference and retreat. I had been surrounded by Godly women, sat under the teaching of faithful people who had inspired and challenged me and my faith. I knew it was a special place and I had been there by divine intervention. I needed healing and restoration and I wanted not only to feel God but I wanted to hear from Him too.

It started as a peep, then a whisper, and then words. “Lay it down at my feet. Surrender your plans and your desires. In my time, not yours.” I did not fully understand but I faithfully made a decision to obey a voice I felt had long forgotten me. I surrendered it all-the fear, the control, my plans- and I left the conference full of peace and hope. I was not fully healed. I knew there would be more work to do, difficult times ahead but I was on a path of healing and God’s silence had been broken.

The blood test from the doctor came back positive, the first trimester came and went, I broke out of my own seclusion and silence and shared the news we were expecting a third baby. No pumpkins lined up but cute little shirts just as “Pinteresty.” This was really happening….

Nine months went by and when it was time deliver my son, he tore into this world through an unexpected C-section. The silence of our life was shattered by his colicky, incessant cries. His first year was challenging. I lived on a limited, allergy free diet and little, very little sleep. I again struggled to hear any peep, whisper or word from God. Something was different this time though, I knew the silence did not mean avoidance or abandonment. I knew what I felt did not equate to what was true.

Looking back to the times of silence in my story, the Lord used that time and my son as a way to prepare my heart for a deeper, more dependent, and richer life in faith with the Lord. My babies (the ones in heaven and ones on earth) created an atmosphere that has helped me remember the importance of repentance, dependence, and to stay the path of the Lord even when its hard, goes against all odds, and when it seems God is silent and far away.

Some of us may wish a message from God would come to us. We might feel like God has long forgotten us or his silence is sign he no longer cares. I would like to encourage us to hold on to hope. Listen in the silence for a peep, whisper, or word. Take heart in knowing God hears your prayers (even when we don’t feel like he does.) And be ready with a prepared heart for the Lord’s divine intervention and startling interruptions in our life.

Shareable-Images-Infant-Pregnancy-Loss-Awareness-The-Morning-11.jpg

  1.   Swindoll, C. R. (1984). John the Baptizer: Bible study guide. Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living.
  2. Barclay, W. (1975). The Gospel of Luke. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.
  3. Barclay, W. (1975). The Gospel of Luke. Philadelphia: Westminster Press

Rain Clouds and Rainbows

DSC_1112-2

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

DSC_1129-2

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

embracelocalchurch.jpg

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.

church


Quiet Reflections

DSC_0141

The quieter you become, the more you can hear. –Ram Dass

It couldn’t have been a more perfect ending to the day. The light breeze rippled over the surface of the lake creating a watercolor reflection of the peachy-blue, dusk lit skies. Gentle waves lapped up against the shore in a relaxing rhythm inviting me to slow my breath to its beat.  My family’s silhouettes bobbed up and down in a canoe as they paddled out toward the sunset. Echoes of their laughter bounced back to me with joy. I stood at the water’s edge to take it all in. The scene before me seemed like it was painted just for me. Painted with attention to detail and brushed with peace and love.

The rush to get to camp and the busyness of the day melted off every tense and tired muscle leaving puddles of unwanted, unnecessary stress on the shore. I felt lighter, freer. Peace quieted my mind and made space in my heart to hear. To hear is so much more difficult to do than to listen. At home, I listen to the noise of the world and responsibilities at high volume. But here, at camp, God had cleared my schedule and removed distractions. He quieted the noise and had my full attention. I was ready to receive and hear. And here are a few things I heard…

“Be still, know I am God.” Psalm 46:10

“Let me teach you and give you rest.” Matthew 11:28-29

“You are mine.”  1 John 3:1, 1 Peter 2:9

“I made you in my image, wonderfully and fearfully made, with a purpose.”  Psalm 139:14, Ephesians 2:10

“I delight in you.” Zephaniah 3:17

“I have great things planned for you and your family. “ Jeremiah 29:11

“Let me go first. You are not alone.” Deuteronomy 31:8

“Rest in the confidence of my faithfulness.”  Psalm 91:4

“Enjoy life and all I have given you.” John 10:10

And, “I love you. Abide in my love.” John 15:9, Jeremiah 31:3

God wants to paint a scene of peace and love just for you too. It might not be a lakeside sunset, but He KNOWS how best to get our individual attention with a pursuit of love, grace and mercy. God wants to help quiet our noisy hearts to embrace a quiet one, to move from half listening to wholeheartedly hearing.  So, be ready to be caught off guard (in a good way) and be ready to receive what He wants to you to hear.