About Me

Friday, January 23, 2015

Let It Be Messy

I hate a messy house.  I can't imagine anyone who doesn't.  But I almost always live in one.  I'm not a disgusting, messy person (except in my closet - whatever!), but I cannot seem to keep my house clean no matter how hard I try!  My kids and I (I have FIVE) clean for about 2 hours every day.  We have a chore time in the morning and another in the afternoon.  We try - really we do.  In fact, we cleaned extra hard today and I just had to share pictures of the results of our efforts.  Here is our "clean" house.  Ha.  For real.

Look at those dishes in the sink, those things underneath the dresser, all that crud piled on the couch ... This. is. my. life.   How's that for real?

But there's something else I need to admit.  I'm okay with it.  Really.  Some people are shaking their heads at me right now while looking at their clean couch and empty, shiny sink and thinking how I just don't understand how important it is to have a clean house and take care of my family and teach good habits and, well, whatever man...
I need to just admit that I don't care.  Let it be messy.

I prefer to spend my time on the other stuff.  Goofing around with my kids.  Baking cookies.  Dancing to dumb songs in order to embarrass my teenager.  Snuggling babies.  Teaching manners.  Reading my Bible.  Talking to my husband - really talking - the kind of talking where we actually look at each other the whole time (*gasp*).

Time is precious.  Childhood is fleeting.  Life is fragile.  I don't want to take even one second for granted.  I want to ignore the dishes and hold the toddler.  I want to forget about the mess and remember the promise I made to my sweet 6 year old that we would watch a "family movie" together.  I want to pretend that the piles of laundry are magic mountains that we can climb on and fall into full of giggles and stink.  One look at my now 14 year old will remind me that they will be grown and gone before I can even blink and I don't want them to remember how clean our house was.  I want them to remember how full our memories were of laughter and silliness.  I want them to talk to me about life.  I want to teach them to be kind and to love each other - all the time.

Several people around me have recently (even today) lost precious family members.  I cannot tell you the depth of my sorrow for all of these sweet friends who are grieving.  When we lose someone we love so very much we are left with only two things...our memories of the past and our hope for the future.  That's it.  That's pretty significant.

I pray today that instead of worrying about clean clothes and tidy floors that I can focus on memories to be made and life lessons to be taught.  I pray that I can cherish every single second I have with these sweet babies.  I pray the same for you.

Monday, July 21, 2014

It's MY Stuff! But is it really?

Conversation with my 6-year-old this morning went something like this:

Maya: I don't want her to play! (Talking about her 2-yr-old sister)
Me: Why not?
Maya: Because she always messes everything up. And besides - it's MY STUFF!
Me: Actually since I bought it - it's MY stuff and you don't have the right to keep it all to yourself.

As those words were coming out of my mouth, it was as if God was saying them to me.

Truth is, sometimes I'm a six-year-old. I want what I want and I don't want to share. Not talking about toys here (although that probably applies to more grown-ups than you might think).  I'm talking about my money, my time, my resources, myself - anything that I have that could be used of God to bless someone else or to further His kingdom work.  It all belongs to Him.  Everything I have...everything I am or could be - it's all because of God.  I have absolutely NO right to keep it all to myself.  

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above,coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created."  James 1:16-18

Growing in Grace

I’m a rule follower.  Always have been.  I see things as right and wrong / black and white.  You’re either following the rules or you’re a rule-breaker.  You’re either doing it the “right” way or you’re not.

I’m also a confessor.  Every little tiny thing that I do that might be even a tiny little bit wrong has to be confessed as soon as possible to whomever might be around me at the time.  I can’t help it.  I cannot live with guilt for any period of time without it eating me up inside.  My confessions are often met with laughter that I felt the need to confess something so very small.  Example.  I went to Target a while back and bought about $50 worth of nothing important – pretty little clearance things…dollar spot things…things I have no need for whatsoever but had a fun time picking out and purchasing.  I joked with my daughter (who was with me) to not tell Daddy that I bought such silly things.  On the way home, I called him and confessed.  I thought he was going to laugh his cute little face off.  Can’t help it. 

I wish that we, as Christ followers, felt the kind of safety that would allow us to confess like that to each other.  I wish that we, as Christ followers, showed that kind of transparency to one another on a day-to-day basis.  I think that it might grow some sort of grace in us towards each other if we were allowed to confess to each other without the threat or fear of being judged.  Imagine for a minute that you felt so loved, so accepted that you were able to confess the thing that’s eating you up inside to people who could help you find your way back to guilt-free living.  Imagine a place where there is SO much grace that you never feared making mistakes … and you felt free to take a risk and be yourself – your REAL self.  Is there anyone in your life that you can confess to?  Share with?  Be real with?

Now – ask yourself this – are you the kind of person that someone would feel safe confessing to?  Are you filled with Acceptance?  Compassion?  Grace? 

Every day, I pray that God would grow His grace in me.  That He would make me the kind of person that other people would feel comfortable sharing life with.  I pray that He would teach me to love the way that He loves, and to show the kind of kindness to others that He has shown to me.  Sometimes I get it right.  Sometimes I don’t.  Either way, I fall on grace.  Grace is always the goal.  The fruit of a Spirit-driven, Christ-following, God-worshipping life is always the goal.

“To pray is to change.  This is a great grace.  How good of God to provide a path whereby our lives can be taken over by love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control.”
Richard J. Foster

“The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.”
Isaiah 30:18

Monday, March 24, 2014

Raising a Larger Family in a Smaller Space

We've had several people lately encouraging us to look for a larger house.  We have 5 children, and are in the process of adopting at least 2 more.  Our home is about 1860 square feet - 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms.  It was the quite large for us when we bought it almost 10 years ago (with only one kiddo), it was the perfect size when we had only 3 kids, but now it does often seem quite snug with five kiddos - and with us homeschooling.  However, not only have we found ways to make it work - we have discovered that there are wonderful bonuses to raising a larger family in a smaller space.

Here are a few of the bonuses we've discovered over the last several years:
1. More Family Time - with only one living space (we converted our formals to a schoolroom), we spend most evenings together.  We have family TV night at least 2 times a week (we love to watch the Voice together and pretend like we're the judges).  We play games together (we love Wii Sing It especially).
2. Quick Pick Up - with less rooms to clean, everyone is assigned a room at chore time (4pm everyday) and we usually get it all picked up in less than 30 minutes.
3. Less Shenanigans - I rarely have to worry about where my kids are in the house and what they're doing because just about everywhere in the house is within earshot of everywhere else.  With at least 2 very mischievous kiddos, this is a big time bonus.
4. Sibling Bonding - because all our kids have to share bedrooms and spend all day every day together, they have learned to get along.  They actually like each other - they are good friends.  This wouldn't be so surprising if they weren't so far apart in ages and stages - our kids are 13, 7, 6, 2 and not yet 1 month old - but they like hanging out together.  I truly believe that room sharing encourages bonding.  We actually have the 13 year old sharing with the 7 year old and the 6 year old sharing with the 2 year old. Seems like odd matching, but it has encouraged the two oldest to become closer (even though they're 6 years apart).  
5. Right Priorities - Smaller home = less stuff.  We've learned to throw things away.  We've learned to prioritize.  We've learned that more stuff does not equal more happiness.  Each of our kids have learned to get by with less - less clothes - less toys - less stuffed animals (although in my opinion we still have way too many!).  Games and toys are kept in family spaces and are for everyone to share (this was a hard adjustment, but definitely a worth-while one!)  We definitely still have a way to go on this one - and are constantly purging our home of things we don't need - but we've come a long way for sure.

In preparing for our potential adoption, we know that we will have to convert our garage to more bedrooms to make room for 2 or 3 more kiddos.  We know it seems nuts to some that we would make the investment to convert a space instead of simply buying a bigger house.  However, a bigger mortgage is not something we consider an option at this point - and even if it was, we love our house.  We've spent many years making it our home and we truly believe that whether we are a family of 7 or even more we can make this place work for us - not because of it's size but because of our perspective.
As our kids grow up, we hope and pray that they will also grow close - as siblings and as friends.  Instead of making sure they have plenty of space and stuff - we want to make sure they have strong sibling bonds, lots of laughter and silliness and above all a strong sense of family!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Memory Lane

Sometimes I find myself wandering down memory lane.  Facebook makes it easier than ever before to become stuck in the what-if's and why's of all the disappointments, redirections and losses of the last several years.  I find myself reading statuses of friends I miss and wishing we had never lost touch.  I find myself grieving the people and places I've had to walk away from over the years.  I find myself wondering what might have been if things had turned out differently.

Being in ministry is hard.  Really, really hard.  Doesn't help that I'm 4 months pregnant and overflowing with baby hormones either.  I absolutely LOVE where I am now - honestly.  But loving where I am and knowing it is exactly where God has placed me doesn't take away the feelings of grief for all that I've had to leave behind over the years.  I try not to let myself go there very often.  I have so many very dear friends that, due to having to leave a church, I just naturally lost touch with.  I have retained a few, a very few and I know that those that we "lost" aren't really lost and that they are just doing life with new friends now.  Which is exactly as it should be.  And so are we.  My family is so blessed to be a part of the most accepting, kind hearted and loving church we could have ever asked for.  They are incredibly good to me and my family and I thank God every single time I think about the place He has created for us at Bear Valley.  I truly, truly am so grateful.

I wonder if Paul ever felt this way?  Following God's call from church to church, city to city, he must've made so many friends along the way.  He must've started ministries.  I know that he spent long periods in certain places, and I wonder how he must've felt when he left Antioch or Corinth or Ephesus?  I wonder how he felt when he was imprisoned in Caesarea?  I wonder if he longed for Antioch and the people he left there?

Sometimes "memory lane" brings wonderful feelings of all the blessings God has granted over the years.  And I have those moments too - often actually.  But sometimes this trip down "memory lane" reminds me of the cost of following Christ - the cost of ministry - the cost of discipleship.  It is real and it is painful.  Walking away from a ministry is never easy.  I have had to leave several places/ministries over the years and each time I learned more about who God is through His provision, His mercy and sometimes, His correction.  I can list pages and pages of things I would've done differently if I knew then what I know now.  But if I had done them differently, I suppose I wouldn't have learned the lessons I have.

I recently came across several quotes that speak to my heart on this matter.
Here is one, author unknown:

Lord, here I hold within my trembling hand this will of mine, a thing which seemeth small;
But only Thou, O Christ, canst understand how when I yield Thee this, I yield mine all.
It hath been wet with tears and stained with sighs,
Clenched in my grasp till beauty it hath none.
Now from Thy footstool where it prostrate lies,
The prayer ascendeth, 'Let Thy will be done.'

Here is another, author unknown:

I'm willing to receive what You send,
To do without what You withhold,
To relinquish what You take,
To suffer anything You inflict,
To do what You command,
To be what You ask me to be;
At any cost now and forever.

And my favorite, by Andrew Murray:

"I am here by God’s appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time.”

I have spent the last week or so memorizing that last one.  I cannot even tell you how many areas of my life it speaks to right now!
  I am here by God's appointment.
  I am in His keeping.
  I am under His training.
  He will reveal to me His purposes in His time.

I suppose that every once in a while it's important to take that trip down memory lane.  To see where God has brought me.  To be reminded of all I have lost and all I have gained.  To count it all as loss and to remember that the only thing worth gaining is a stronger, deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.  

Memory lane is inevitable, and grief is to be expected...but in all this, perspective is critical.  Everything I walked away from, everything I "lost", every ministry I had to leave behind was a necessary step in becoming the woman, the Christ follower, the Worship leader that God intends for me to be.  I don't think there's anything wrong with sorrow or grief for the past, unless it takes the place of hope for the future.  My focus needs to be on Christ - whether it's on His provision and correction in the past, His mercy in this moment, or His revelation for the future.  

Monday, July 01, 2013

for love...for truth...for mercy.

There seems to be a lot of judgment going around church circles lately.  Or maybe I'm just more keenly aware of it than ever before.  I know that Christians are often believed to be judgmental by those who are not Christians.  However, I have never felt that way...until recently.  I have always believed that Christians were more loving than judging and more accepting than condemning.  Again, perhaps I have missed it or ignored it somehow.  Or perhaps, with society's enormous push towards "tolerance", some Christians have felt the need to be even more vocal about what they believe to be so very wrong.

I may get myself in trouble here.  You may not agree with me - and that's completely okay with me.  However, I just don't understand the need to be so very vocal about what everyone around you (especially those who are not Christ followers) might be doing wrong according to your viewpoint.  I hate the word "tolerance".  I don't understand the need for the word.  I wish that people were kind enough and loving enough that the word "tolerance" wouldn't have to be such a huge thing right now.

I don't want to just "tolerate" people!  I want to learn to love them!  In every situation, every family, every group - there will be people we don't get along with and we have to learn to "get along" or "tolerate" each other for the sake of the bigger picture.  Yes.  True.  However, a Christian is not meant to "tolerate" their neighbor - we are meant to love them! (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:30-31).

But SO often we are known for our intolerance rather than our love - intolerance to love - what a HUGE gap that is!  What are we teaching our kids?  To love only those who agree with us?  To love them, but to make sure they know they are wrong?  Is that really love at all?  I don't think it is.  It breaks my heart to see so many groups of people treated so very poorly by the Christian community.  Disclaimer: I know SO many Christians who are so very loving and accepting of all of those groups - so I know it's probably more the exception than the rule.    But isn't it true that one bad apple spoils the whole bunch?!  I don't ever want to be that bad apple!  No wonder people don't feel welcome in the church when well-known pastors are tweeting about God's judgment of people via the tornadoes, when there are churches like Westboro Baptist who judge and hate all men equally (unless they are exactly like them).

I understand that God's truth is important.  I understand that the Bible is full of truth and conviction, and that it is "alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12).  But there are so many Christians these days who believe it is their responsibility to "divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow and to judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

Yes - it is our responsibility to speak truth....in love...at the appropriate time...and by the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit.  I am a truth teller.  I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when I believe something "wrong" is happening.  I understand the desire to set people right.  I really do.  I also understand that the purpose of truth telling HAS to be setting people right, helping people grow, loving them with our words and our purposes - NOT judging them or hurting them.  Some things are not your business, pastor.  Some things should NOT be said in public forums - or at all for that matter.  What is the purpose of your words?  To judge or to love?  Conviction or compassion?  To tear down or to build up?  Ephesians 4:29 says, "Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth but only what is useful for building others up."  I have that one memorized.  Not because I am awesome at it - but because I'm not.  I have to pay very close attention to my words - every - single - day.  Or I'll slip.  I'll judge.  I'll show hate instead of love.  I don't ever want to be known for what I stand against - but rather what I stand for.  
Jesus stood for love.  for peace.  for acceptance.  for grace.  for truth.  for mercy and kindness.

Want to be more like Jesus?  I do.  I don't want those around me to be reluctant to let me in for fear that I might judge them.  Heck - I don't want to be reluctant to let people in for fear that they may judge me!
I want to be a true Christ "follower".  I want to stand for love....for truth...and for mercy!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Blessed and Happy

It's been almost 5 months since we started homeschooling.  I've learned more about my kids in the last 5 months than I have in the last several years - especially my oldest!  We've spent the last 5 months getting to know each other again, establishing a routine of sorts, trying out curriculum, figuring out how not to completely demolish our house every single day (still working on that one), and really enjoying our time together (at least I have been ).

My oldest LOVES homeschooling!  She says it is more fun and that she actually likes what she's learning (for them most part).  She really does seem to be thriving.  The big middle is doing well too - I can't give her enough work to make her happy - she keeps begging for more.  She's gone from reading easy readers to reading chapter books in just a few short months - she especially loves the adventures of Ramona Quimby (one of my own personal favorites!).  The little middle is not quite as thrilled with homeschooling.  She is a bit of a different child and it is taking me a little longer to figure out her unique learning style - but we're working on it!

I really cannot explain how much I've been learning about each of my children!  It has been such a journey up to this point and I am thrilled with the choice that we made to homeschool.  Perhaps the most wonderful thing I have learned over the last few months is how incredibly blessed I am, how very much I adore my children, and how I don't want to miss another minute of their growing up.  I don't even want to think about all that I've already missed.  I just want to move forward without taking even one of those moments for granted.  What a blessed and happy Momma I am!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Why We've Decided to Homeschool

Any who know me are already shocked at the title of this blog.  Yes, after much discussion, we've decided to make the enormous jump to homeschooling our brood of awesome little circus freaks.  We very much feel that it is the best option for our family at this time.  Here are some of the reasons why we've made this decision:

We want more family time.  Our kids are growing up so fast and we're missing so much!  My husband works over an hour away from our home (usually a 1 1/2 hour commute each way) and so he's usually gone for more than 12 hours each day.  He leaves before we get up and gets home just in time for dinner.  Then there's about an hour of family time, then bedtime routines.  He usually gets no more than ONE HOUR of quality family time with our 4 kiddos each day.  That's just not enough - for our girls or for him.  We've talked through many options - changing his job, us moving closer to his job - neither of which are options for us right now.  If we homeschool - we can shift our schedule to be able to stay up later and spend more time with Daddy.  I also have to confess that I miss my girls when they're at school all day.  I feel like I'm missing out on so much with each of them and I would love to be more of a part of their every day lives.  We also want them to be able to spend more time together.  It's incredibly important to us that our girls learn not only to love each other but also to like each other!

We want a more well-rounded and challenging education for our kids.  My kids are capable of so much more than they are currently learning in school.  My oldest is an enormous reader and loves history, but in school she seems to be more bored than interested most of the time.  We want her to be able to learn at HER pace (which is a bit faster than average) and in keeping with her personality.  We also want to be able to teach her from a Christian perspective, and to teach her things she isn't able to learn in public school - like Biblical History or Music Theory or even Greek (her suggestion, not mine). 

That's really it.  I know that some will disagree with our choice and that's okay.  It doesn't have to work for you to work for us.  I sincerely hope that we'll find acceptance and encouragement along the way - but if we don't, that's okay too.

We're just getting started on this Homeschooling journey - it's a bit scary and overwhelming, but I know that eventually I'll get the hang of it (at least I hope so).  I've been searching for curriculum and reading every bit of information I can get ahold of - mostly from sites like www.thecurriculumchoice.com and www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com along with several others that are truly fantastic resources.  There are so many resources out there - I'll test some out and then let you know what we think later.

But for now...

To those who are on the Homeschooling journey ahead of me - I hope you don't mind if I ask tons of questions over the next several months. 
To those who are just starting the journey with me, I hope we can encourage each other.
To those who think I'm completely nuts - I hope you'll continue to love and encourage me anyway.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Order and Peace

I've been working really hard lately trying to find my new "normal".  With four young kids (three not yet in school), my life feels so very different than it did 5 years and 3 kids ago.  With one kid I felt overwhelmed most of the time, party because I was newly married and very young but mostly because being a mom is incredibly hard.  Harder than I imagined or dreamed.  But better too.  With four kids, being a mom is still incredibly hard.  It is a very different hard though. 
With one kid, I juggled all the demands of mommy-hood with the dreams and desires I had for myself.  With four kids, I still juggle - but now I juggle karate and dance schedules, mountains of laundry and more meals and snacks than I ever would have imagined.  And nowadays, my desires for myself seem more simple - like getting a shower everyday, or being able to get through an entire meal without having to share what's on my plate. 
With one kid I had a big fat list of eager sitters who couldn't wait to watch my little princess.  With four kids I have to beg, bribe or blackmail people to watch my four crazy drama queens.  Don't get me wrong - I have really good kids.  More than once I've hugged one of my sweet girls in the grocery store while whispering in their ear, "thank you for not being THAT kid!"  I think people are just intimidated by the sheer number of them.  I get it, though.  Sometimes they scare me too.

So, in an effort to create some stability and structure, we've introduced a new family/household schedule

I've tried this before, but was pregnant at the time and couldn't stick with it (I'm not much for structure).  So far we're about a week in and, although I haven't stuck with it as much as I have wanted to, it's been pretty good so far.  I think the kids are even enjoying knowing what's coming up.  I'm a little embarrased that I never have put this together before now!

I've also made new chore boards for each kid and hung them up on the wall.  We've always had chores but usually went week by week telling each kid what their chore was for the week.  I like this ALOT better.  Each kid has a morning and an evening task every day and a weekly task each week.  They may change occasionally, but probably not very often.  They are doing MUCH better doing chores without me asking (or bribing) (or griping) (or having a meltdown).  Here are their boards (the four white boards surrounding the calendar and schedule):

I've also been looking for a way to help them understand that their attitude matters - so I made a Family Values board and hung it on the wall too.  Everytime their attitude or actions are an issue I take them to the board and we talk about the Family Values and why what they're doing is not in line with the things we value as a family.  I've only had to do it a few times, but I think it's already starting to sink in! 

I've also been working hard on meal planning and couponning and all the other tedious things that make me wish I had a personal assistant and a personal chef (and while I'm dreaming, a maid!).  There are a couple of websites that I use at least weekly - sometimes daily and I LOVE them!  Here they are - check them out and see for yourself how they'll save you both time AND money!

http://www.plantoeat.com/ - this is a subscription based website (but it's super cheap) and it saves me buckets of time in planning meals!  You can add recipes from all over the internet with an easy little button you install on your toolbar and then add them to your personal meal planner (click and drag!).  You can even add notes, other ingredients, etc.  From the recipes, it compiles a list of ingredients needed and sorts them into categories so that you can either print a grocery list or just pull it up on your phone and check it off as you shop!  Seriously!!  I am madly in love with this website!

http://www.thegrocerygame.com/ - another subscription based website (but totally worth the price).  If you're going to coupon - this is the way to do it.  All the major work is done for you - saving you tons of time!  You pay by the store for the coupon/savings list.  I use the Walgreens list and the Alberton's one.  I routinely save at least 50% on my groceries by using this website which more than pays for the subscription!

There are tons of other websites that I love and use weekly, but I'll save them for another post at another time.

All of the above is just my way of taking back my life and my home so that we can find order and peace in the craziness of a larger family.  I hope that some of it helps you find peace and order in your own family life whether large or small!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Blog Overhaul

Time for a blog overhaul.  It has been well over a year since I last blogged - probably because of the most recent addition to our little family, which has left me with very little free time.  Little Finley Rose is now almost six months old and so I thought it was time for me to overhaul the old blog so that I can use it for something a bit more suited to this new mom of 4.  So, stay tuned...much more to come in the months ahead.  In the meantime, here's our sweet princess, Finley Rose...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

God's purpose for your life...

In Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest" today I heard God speaking directly to me.  It always amazes me that although I've read through this devotional almost every day all year for at least the last five years, how it always suprises me what comes off the page.  I very rarely read a day and go - oh yeah, I read that last year...it always seems new.  Here's a little bit of what I read this morning...

"Once God has begun the process of sanctification in your life, watch and see how God causes your confidence in your own natural virtues and power to wither away.  He will continue until you learn to draw your life from the reservoir of the resurrection life of Jesus.  Thank God if you are going through this drying-up experience!"

I am very much in this drying up experience, but wouldn't have thought of it exactly in this way.  I knew that God was working in my to decrease my dependence on myself and increase my dependence on Him, but love the way that Chambers puts it here.  The idea that he dries me up, or causes my confidence to "wither away" is an interesting picture.  It doesn't really sound like a good thing.  But read through what Paul writes in Philippians 3:1-14:

"Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.  Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.  For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Paul is talking about having confidence in our own virtue (the very same thing that Oswald Chambers is talking about).  Read verses 4-6 again, he says he is a Hebrew of Hebrews, faultless by the standards of the Jewish laws, he is everything a good Jew should be.  But he considers it all a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.   That's it.  The most important thing to Paul was not doing what he was supposed to do, or being who he was supposed to be - but knowing Jesus Christ.  That's it.  Nothing is more important or fulfilling than that one thing.

I feel that often we get caught up asking ourselves WHAT God wants us to DO.  Or WHERE God wants us to BE.  And those are good things.  It's important to seek God's will for our lives and our work.  BUT, if we are missing out on simply seeking HIM, then we've missed the entire point.  We need to be more concerned with KNOWING CHRIST and becoming more like Him, than we are knowing God's will for our lives.  You want to know God's will for your life?  Here it is.  Are you ready? - 


That's it.  Everything else should be towards that aim.  Otherwise it is just not worth it at all.

That's what I'm learning.  What about you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Practice of the Presence of God - Determination

I'm currently reading a small little book called, "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence (a carmelite monk who lived in the late 1600s).

I'm purposefully reading it slowly so that it will more fully sink in.  If you have never read it - you NEED to.  It's a very quick read (less than 100 pages) and I have kindly put the link for you to buy it on Amazon right her on my handy little blog.  So - there you go.


Here's something that really spoke to me today from the 1st little section of the book...

Brother Lawrence writes:
"...if we are truly devoted to doing God's will, pain and pleasure won't make any difference to us.  We also need to be faithful, even in dry periods.  It is during those dry spells that God tests our love for Him.  We should take advantage of those times to practice our determination and our surrender to Him.  This will often bring us to a maturity further on in our walk with God."

There is SO much in these few sentences!  I had to read that first sentence several times.  Read it with me again, "...if we are truly devoted to doing God's will, pain and pleasure won't make any difference to us."  What does that mean?  Well, to me it means that I cannot let my feelings determine where I go or what I do.  I cannot let how I feel about a situation change how I act within a situation.  I must trust only the truth of God's Word - the faithfulness of His character and the sovereignty of His plan!

That next section is important too!  Have you ever gone through a time in your life (or are you in one right now) where you are having a hard time discerning God's voice and His will for your life?  Or maybe you're not understanding why God has you in a certain place, a certain ministry, a certain situation? 
We've ALL been there.  I think Brother Lawrence has some beautiful advice for us for those times.  "We should take advantage of those times to practice our determination and our surrender to Him!"

I once heard Beth Moore (one of my favorite Bible Study teachers) say that if you're having a hard time believing God, then you should ACT like someone who believes.  I think the same holds true here.  We must be determined to surrender to God - it won't simply happen.  It's an act of the will.  Deciding to follow when we don't feel like it, or trust when we're not sure we're believing it, or worship when we simply don't want to is not something we should do - but something we MUST do.  In choosing to behave more like one of God's chosen - we will begin to more fully understand what it actually means to follow.  In choosing to try harder to discern the voice and will of God, we will begin to get better at getting still and actually listening.  Sometimes God chooses to be quiet so that we will lean in closer.  It's not because He doesn't want to talk to us but because HE DOES!  It's not because He loves you less, but because HE LOVES YOU MORE!! 

If you're having a hard time discerning the voice and will of God, don't get discouraged and give up.  Get determined.  Get focused.  Get QUIET.  and lean in a little closer.  Get into His Word! 
He's there waiting for you to do just that!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Rise Up & Sing

Just started reading a new book by Lex Buckley that I LOVE so far.  If you are a female worship leader, it is a must read.  Check the link below, buy it and read it right now.  It is well worth the price!

Friday, August 06, 2010

A Swift Blow to the Head

For about a week I've been feeling like I recently got the wind knocked out of me.  Then yesterday I literally had a bucket of cleaning supplies fall on my head.  I just stood there trying not to lose my lunch and trying hard not to cry - although I could not keep the tears from filling my eyes.  I wasn't sure what to do - should I lay down? Should I sit?  Should I call someone in case I pass out so the girls won't be left alone with their mom laying limp on the floor - I know, I know - I'm terribly dramatic.  I had no idea what to do.  I knew what I wanted to do - I wanted to be held by my big, strong husband and told that it was going to be okay and then I wanted to eat a bunch of cheesecake.  Exactly how I have been feeling all week.  In fact, today I made a pan of cheesecake only to accidentaly spill a cup of lemonade all over it ruining it.  Sad.
I wish I could tell you that I have some profound new understanding of my situation and what I'm supposed to learn through all of it - but I don't.  I am still sitting here feeling exactly the same way I did at the beginning of this week - windless. 

I have been reading the book of Ruth for the last few weeks - little by little.  I believe that Naomi, and Ruth too for that matter, must have felt something similar although probably on a much larger scale.  I'm sure they felt, when they lost their loved ones, that they just had the wind knocked out of them.  They had left Judah because of a famine and went to Moab. While there, Naomi's husband died and eventually also her two sons died.  They had left their home, the only place they had ever known and had ended up somewhere entirely new.  After some time there, the new place became a place of sorrow - a place of great loss.  Naomi had a moment, I am sure, where she didn't know what to do next.  She must have been scared, confused, angry, sad - and a hundred other emotions to be sure. 

I feel that way right now.  I recently left a place that felt like home to me and ended up in another place where I knew no one.  Although I am still certain that I was following God's leading in leaving my comfortable place and going to the place He called me, I am now fighting with the feeling that it might've been easier if I hadn't gone there at all.  It would've hurt less if I had stayed where I was comfortable.  It would have saved myself and my family a lot of hurt if I had just ignored God's call.  I wonder if Abraham ever felt like that?  Or if David ever thought it would've been easier if he had remained a shepherd boy instead of becoming the King that God desired.  Or if Peter, while sinking in the Sea of Galilee, thought maybe he should've stayed in the boat?  I know it's not necessarily the right thing for me to be wondering right now - but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. 

I know that God's purpose for me remains, and I know that He is as loving as He has always been.  I also know that I am a different person than I was three months ago and that God will work it all out for His glory.
He is, after all, still God.  He is just.  He is good.  Although I don't understand the why of it all, or what I'm supposed to learn from it all - and maybe I never will - I DO know that I would follow Him there all over again.  A hundred times again - I would.  I love the Lord, Jesus Christ, with all my heart and soul and am committed to living wholeheartedly for him and to following wherever He leads.

There's a song that I have recently fallen in love with that seems appropriate right now for me.  It's called What Grace is Mine, written by Keith & Kristyn Getty and is on their album, "Awaken the Dawn".  Here are some of the lyrics:

So I will go wherever He is calling me. 
I'll lose my life to find my life in Him.
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies. 
I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sunday Song Devotions - July 11, 2010

Psalm 46:1 "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

It Is Well With My Soul
Author: Horatio Spafford
One of the songs we sang Sunday was, "It Is Well With My Soul," by Horatio Spafford.
It is actually one of my favorite hymns simply because the story behind when and why it was written is so beautiful.  Here's the story...

Written by a Presbyterian laywer Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888) and composed by Philip P. Bliss (1838-1876).  Spafford was born on October 20, 1828 in North Troy, New York. He was a successful lawyer in Chicago who maintained a keen interest in Christian activities, deeply spiritual and devoted to the scriptures.

Sometime in 1871, a fire in Chicago heavily devastated the city, and months before that , Spafford had invested hugely in real estate by the shore of Lake Michigan. The disaster greatly wiped out his holdings. Before the fire, Spafford also experienced the loss of his son.

Two years after the fire, Horatio Spafford planned a trip to Europe for him and his family. He wanted a rest for his wife and four daughters, and also to assist Moody and Sankey in one of their evangelistic campaigns in Great Britain. He was not meant to travel with his family. The day in November they were due to depart, Spafford had a last minute business transaction and had to stay behind in Chicago. Nevertheless, he still sent his wife and four daughters to travel as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Havre, expecting to follow in a few days. On November 22, the ship laden with his wife and daughters was struck by the Lockhearn, an English vessel, and sank in few minutes.

After the survivors were finally landed somewhere at Cardiff, Wales, Spafford's wife cabled her husband with two simple words, "Saved alone." Shortly after, Spafford left by ship on his way where his beloved four daughters had drowned, and pen at hand, wrote this most poignant text so significantly descriptive of his own personal grief – "When sorrows like sea billows roll..." The hymn "It is Well with My Soul" was born.

It is noteworthy that Horatio Spafford did not dwell on the theme of life's sorrows and trials, instead, focused in the third stanza on the redemptive work of Christ, and in the fourth verse, anticipates His glorious second coming.

This song is a wonderful example of the attitude that we should have and the importance of right perspective in all that we experience day to day - whether it be financial struggles, loss of loved ones, or even inexpressable and paralyzing sorrow in a situation that is more than just about anyone could bear (such as it was for Mr. and Mrs. Spafford).  It is important that we learn as Horatio did to say, "Hallelujah Anyway!"  When we can't stand to face another day, when we don't understand why we have to go through a horrifying situation, when our grief or sorrow is almost too much to bear - we need to look our circumstances in the face, and learn to praise God - not in spite of our circumstances - but in the midst of them.  We must learn to say, "It is well" - even when we don't understand why it is so.  God's sovereignty is bigger than our situation, God's love is bigger than our sorrow, God's mercy is greater than our failures.  We can say with confidence, "It is well", when we stop focusing on our difficulties, but instead learn to focus on the One who is Lord of our circumstances

"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul."

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.