Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Old" Blessings

I've been out of town for several days, and lately my thoughts have turned again and again to a young mom who had a major stroke a week ago - still in a drug-induced coma...starting to come out of it, but don't know the extent of the damage yet. So, we pray.

I thought a lot about how wild and inspiring it has been to watch literally a world-wide community come together to bathe Joanne and her family in prayer. You can read about her journey and the precious love of her husband at The Simple Wife. It's truly a beautiful...and frightening thing.

I've also thought a lot about the mulitude of blessings I've been given and how often I take them for granted. A week ago, Joanne's husband and her two little girls were likely going through the regular routine of life. And then there was no more routine.

I've wondered what would happen if my routine was suspended indefinitely. Oh, it has happened before, and I survived - even thrived in some situations. But I'm thinking about NOW. This routine that I've settled into is quite lovely. Stressful at times for certain, but lovely nonetheless. Some might think of it as drudgery. I mean this certainly isn't the stuff of sitcoms or reality shows - Thank You, Lord!!

Mine is a life focused on my beloved family, on making a difference because of the work I do, of serving in ministry alongside my husband as well as on my own. A very GOOD life. A very COMFORTABLE life. And if something were to happen to my husband or my daughters, or one of my sisters or other extended family, I'm not sure how well I would handle that. I don't think about it a lot. It's one of those things that you ask God never to put you through, but trust Him to get you through if He chooses it to weave the tapestry of your story.

What all this has really rattled in me is this incredible lack of gratitude. This lack of appreciation for blessings - "old' blessings. It's amazing how we become lulled by the routine of life almost numb to His extended goodness.

When I recall the love story that is mine that could have ONLY happened by His divine intervention, I am awed by my God again and again. But when my husband has ticked me off with some little thing he has done, said or not said or not done, the love story is forgotten.

When I recall the tears of joy I wept when each of my children were born or the incredibly deep and abiding happiness that comes with little "I love you" notes with backward letters and misspelled words, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have been chosen to be their mom. But when one of those girls literally break my heart by her words or actions, the deep happiness is a vapor.

When I recall sitting on the floor, face down, thanking Him for His provision the first time I walked into my house and realized it would be our home, I look around and see again all the things I love about this house. But when I'm trying to stack 20 students into a teeny space for dinner and devotion, I'm completely sick to death of this place and begin to dream of bigger spaces.

When I recall the day that I was hired as the special education director without submitting an application or interviewing by eight superintendents who had great confidence in not only my ability but my passion for kids with disabilities, I remember squealing, crying, and being completely humbled by the notion of it. But when I'm overwhelmed by unending demands of more and more paperwork, staffing issues, cuts in funding, or even families with needs that make me feel so inadequate, I wonder why in the world He brought me here.

Can anyone else even begin to relate? Am I the only one that forgets the incredible goodness of His "old" blessings? You see, He wasn't good. He IS good. It's not just what He did; it's what He continues to do. Sometimes I need to stop looking for Him to do something new and just bask in the glory of what He has already done. Always good, always compassionate, always weaving the tapestry of our lives with a completely loving hand. Consistenly. Over the long haul. He is GOOD.

Praising Him and loving Him with a grateful heart for the routine of this blessed life.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Goodbye, Sweet Boy

I'm feeling a little blue. I found out today that one of the kids that we have sponsored through Compassion International has dropped out of the program. John Mark stopped coming so the folks from CI went and encouraged him to come back. He didn't. When they went back to talk to him, he wouldn't talk to them. From the letters I have received from this little guy over the course of the last three years, he loved attending school and was truly loving his Jesus. What has happened in this little boy's life? I can't imagine, and perhaps my God is keeping me from knowing too much. I know that many children around the world grow up far too soon and far too quickly. And because I don't know, I can't even speculate, and probably shouldn't.
I don't even know what to say. I get to write him one more letter. The workers there in his little village in the Phillipines will make sure he gets it. I'm sure the Lord will give me words, but right now, well, my heart just hurts so I don't know what to say. I do know what I am to do, though. I will continue to pray for this sweet little nine year old boy. And I will continue to love him - this child who has left an indelible mark on my heart - I've often thought of it as John's Mark. And I will trust my God who loves him far more than I do and who knows and sees all things. I am so grateful for a God who is trustworthy - in ALL things. Aren't you?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

On the Occasion of my 46th Birthday

I'm facing a big decision at work. One that will greatly impact the entire organization and its well-being, and thus, the well-being of those entrusted to me to lead. Sometimes being the boss is just plain hard. So after a whopping 3 1/2 hours sleep, I woke up, tossed and turned, and finally just got up.

I came to my favorite quiet time place of the recliner, bowed my head and prayed for wisdom, for those who are sick and hurting, for my children, my husband, my nation, and that God would bless the study of His Word - not unlike most mornings. And also not unlike most mornings, I picked up my Bible study and dove in. Also, not unlike many mornings, I found myself a day behind in my study because, well, the week before I got a day behind and hadn't caught up.

I read about Boaz's kindness to Ruth and read and reread Ruth 2:12: "May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."  That last phrase reminded me of and then the lesson further explored one of my FAVORITE images of my God. Majestic and Powerful. Wings stretched out so wide it creates a cool shadow underneath. Then we read further in Psalm 91 about the beauty of living inside that shadow and the blessings of it. Outside of that shadow is a world set to destroy me. Wrought with dangers - physical, emotional, spiritual - literally ablaze with evil set against me. And yet there I am - tucked safely beneath His wings. Not crouched down in fear at all, though. I see that blazing inferno around me and yet I am safe, loved, protected, cool and cared for. A smile on my face and a joy in my soul because of a God who snatched me from that inferno and called me His beloved. He set my feet on solid ground and as if that weren't enough, chooses to hover over me in love. He even calls me His inheritance. So my response - I wept. I wept with tears of gratitude and love and joy and peace - so much emotion that it can only be expressed through tears. Oh how I love Him.

So you see, my first birthday present of the day was from my Father. A blessed reminder of how precious I am to Him, a glimpse of His glory, and a refreshing of my spirit.

Please be blessed by these 16 short little verses - be careful though, you may just get overwhelmed by Him!

Psalm 91
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."
3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-
10 then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

On being loved

How I love my Savior. He came as a baby. Leaving a throne so splendid we cannot even grasp its magnificence, He took on human flesh so that He could feel what I feel, be tempted as I am tempted, and yet live in perfection that I cannot. He did it so that He could carry a cross, allow Roman soldiers to nail Him to it, and suffer and die a horrific death. Why on earth??? Oh, yes. I remember now. It wasn't because of earth. It was because of what comes next. He did it because this isn't all there is. And He wants to offer us the best and save us from Satan's worst. His preference was to leave the throne instead of remaining there without me...or without you. Today as we observed the holy ordinance of the Lord's Supper, I held that little piece of cracker then that tiny cup of juice, and I thought several times as I prayed, "Was I worth it? Was I really worth it, Lord?" I knew by the peace in my heart and flood of joy I felt that His answer was and emphatic, "Yes!" How do I know? Because according to the Holy Word of God, He says that when He comes again as the conquering King, those who are called His own will come with Him, clean and pure in the finest of white linen. He wants us to be a part of His triumph.

His resurrection that we celebrate today is what we experience now. Forgiveness that is beyond my comprehension. What a blessing. But seriously, we 'ain't seen nothin' yet'!!!!

Revelation 19: 11-16
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He, himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood and His name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following Him, dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepresses of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

He's alive today, and He is coming back for us. So although I know I am unworthy, He sees me as worth it. Praise God!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Could it be?

As many of you know, I have been feeling for quite some time that the Lord is likely building a new ministry for me. A speaking ministry. I know what some of you are thinking..."I thought He equipped the called, not called the equipped." Very funny...I know I speak - A LOT. But this is a very distinctive of ministering to women beyond my own church. God has given me several 'messages' for lack of a better descriptor but as of yet, I've not delivered them...not 'out there' like at women's conferences, retreats or events, just in classes or studies I'm leading at our home church, and then just in partiality, not in completion. So as you can see by all of this rambling, I'm still in a bit of a quandry. The primary question is, "Where do I even get started?"

Last year, as I pondered this and have asked this question, I began to explore the possibility of attending the She Speaks Conference. But I knew I wouldn't be able to afford to go, so I put it out of my mind. I've continued to follow Proverbs 31 Ministries, and the other day, "OH MY GOODNESS!!" One of my favorite Proverbs 31 women, Lysa, offered this opportunity to attend this year's conference - FREE!! This conference would not only answer the question of where to start but also give clear direction on so many issues I've wondered about in terms of becoming a 'speaker' for a broader audience but a very specific, targeted audience. Most of you know that I spent a great deal of my professional career as a 'teacher' for adults - training and professional development, and, admittedly, God granted me success in that role, but I happen to believe that He used that growth in me as a speaker so that He could use it for His glory. The reason this conference is so important to me is that it is intended for that purpose as well - to equip women to use their gifts of speaking for His glory. So, honestly, I want desperately to be a part of that kind of conference.

So, now the question at hand is, "Could it be?" Could this be how my Lord provides for this ministry opportunity? Could it be that the time is now (or at least this summer!)? It has been my humble experience that He often lays a plan, plants the concept in His people's mind - specifically mine in this scenario - and then makes us wait. Anyone else ever experience something like this: "I know what He wants, but somehow it just isn't happening. Do I really know for sure? Maybe I got the message wrong. Oh, no. What if I've allowed myself this dream, but it isn't really His plan or His will? OH, NO! I missed it. I'm so living outside of His will!!" And then you experience an almost panic-like feeling. And you seek Him with all you have. And then He speaks - clearly, deep into your spirit. And again, you are left to the wondering, and the work that He places before you until it is His time to complete the new work. So, now the question at hand is, "Could it be?" We'll see in a few weeks if I am selected to attend free. And if not, then I'm going to be waiting to hear Him speak again. The best news of all - He will.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Come Running...

Casey and I - along with 505 other women- had a wonderful and unique opportunity this weekend. At the beginning of 2009 we accepted a challenge by Beth Moore to memorize two scriptures each month. We were to log onto her blog, post our sriptures, write them on our notecards and, well, WORK HARD to memorize them. A few months later, Beth revealed her plans to celebrate the accomplishment by inviting anyone who memorized their verses to a special event at FBC Houston. Casey and I did it!! And we went!! Casey drove us to Houston; we settled in at the hotel, and we were off! That small group (honestly Beth's events are known to have upwards of 10,ooo+!!) met at the church Friday night and Saturday morning. Travis Cottrell leading worship and Beth Moore teaching - Now that is my idea of celebration!!

It was an amazing weekend of worship and learning at the feet of a true servant of God. We got to eat good food, have sweet girl time, laugh and cry together, meet many of our blogging friends face-to-face, and then to top it off for me, we had lunch before we left with Gina - truly one of my very dearest lifetime friends - and her sweet daughter Ashley. God truly blessed me with a wonderful weekend.

Now any of you who know us, know that Casey and I are Beth Moore groupies. SERIOUSLY. If she teaches it, we study it. If she recommends it, we try it. If she says it, we listen. If she invites us, we go! And we, of course, made sure that we were at the church early to be able to get a great seat. And we did!! Up close and personal with one whom I consider to be one of the most annointed teachers of our time. I mean that genuinely. She can bring the Word of God to life like few others can.

BUT - Friday night, during the event and even later as I tried to sleep I felt a certain uneasiness. I couldn't figure it out, but I couldn't seem to shake it. I woke up before 5 a.m. and as I lay there in the stillness and the quiet, I began to pray and ask God to reveal Himself to me so that I could understand what this nagging unrest was. He did. And it was so obvious. And it was so convicting. And it was so good. I needed it. IT was perspective. IT was priority. IT was this question posed by my God,
"So, how many of those women, including you, who are so quick to line up early and rush through the doors to see my servant are as quick to rush to sit at My feet?" Then He got really personal, "How many days do you literally drag yourself to your quiet place for an audience, not of 500 to 1, but 1 on 1, with Me - God Almighty, Lord of ALL?"

Ouch. That hurt. Actually it broke my heart. I confessed my sin before my God and arose that day forgiven and ready to start afresh, but the question continues to follow me. Honestly, any eyes that fall on these words, I hope it rattles YOU, too. We are so excited about so many things we go to see, people we hear, events we attend, and yet, our time with Him is often last on the list and often undone. Or even when done, as part of our 'routine' or done in a rush or half-heartedly. Never doubt, sweet one, that although He is unseen, He remains greater, more vast, and more powerful than anything that IS seen. My prayer tonight is that He would simply blow our minds with the overwhelming knowing of HIM - The Great I AM. Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer - HE IS EVERYTHING. Let's rush to Him. To await what He will tell us, to sit in His presence, to feel His good pleasure. Come running, sweet one. He is waiting with arms wide open!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Eternal...but not yet

So what do we do with this eternity that our hearts are set on while we live in a decaying world which is anything but eternal? Over the course of the last couple of months, I've been forced to take that question off the shelf where I prefer to keep it.

So many losses recently. I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death up close and personal with a dear family who lost a very healthy man just shy of his 50th birthday. Lyndon was my friend. His wife, Kim, is a close friend. His daughters Angela and Alisha both came through our youth group from the 6th grade to the 12th. My bond with Alisha is special. I've always considered her my 3rd daughter. She and Chelsea have been the best of friends - with all the ins and outs of that- since they were like 11 years old. Lyndon was a runner. His goal was a marathon. He collapsed and died after he had completed his first 20 mile run. The doctors say the running prolonged his life by many years. Kim and Lyndon were just finding the joy of an empty nest which leads to rediscovery. His first grandson, Kooper, just 8 months old, loved his PaPa...and was adored by Lyndon. So I just have to ask, "Lord, what in the world?"

Then just a couple of weeks ago, a dear friend of my niece, a young woman who kept my own child many times, a young woman I had watched grow up - was found dead in her home. 34 years old. Paige had a way of spreading love and joy like few people I know. Truly. So I just have to ask, "Lord, what in the world?"

Today, a young man, 20 years old who grew up with and graduated with Chelsea was shot and killed today. I'm sure we will find out more of how and why this happened, but as I ponder the heartbreak of his parents, I just have to ask, "Lord, what in the world?"

So once again, I take the question off the shelf, dust it off, and ask, "What do we do with an eternity that has yet to come? What do we do with the fact that we live in mortal bodies with mortal endings - sometimes tragic endings? How, Lord, do we face tomorrow and accomplish the tasks you set before us when all we want to do is hold those close to us and not let them go? How do we continue life when pain cripples us and grief swallows us whole?"

I don't know the answers yet. I may never know until it is answered in completion - my eternal completion. But I do know that He promises that He will walk us through it. I do know that His Word says to lift our eyes up to the One from whom our help will come. I do know that Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will bring greater comfort than even the Son could bring. I do know that we can hide in the shadow of His wings. I do know that when we arrive we will KNOW the ones who have gone before us. I do know that there is no pain or sorrow and that Jesus Himself will dry our tears.

And I do know that this pain we feel is not foreign to our Savior. That's why He came. So He could be our Great Priest because of the depth of His understanding of our feelings, flaws and flailings. So He could feel everything that you and I feel. Remember the shortest verse in Scripture? "Jesus wept." That is in reference to the loss of His friend Lazarus and said right before He raised him back to life.

Hmm. The One who sees-and controls- the imminent resurrection also feels the horrid, consuming power of grief. Praise God. He knows and feels. And He loves us enough that He wants us to have hope beyond the grief. That's why He came. So that when we ask, "Lord, what in the world?" He can answer - This isn't our eternity. Don't look for it here. We are eternal...but not yet. If that weren't the case, then, well, He wouldn't have had to come. And we would never have the hope of eternity with Him and the privilege and the hope of Him being our answer - truly our all in all - in our now - our hurt, our horror, our loss.

Friday, December 4, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things...

So what is your favorite Christmas tradition?

"Going" "2 hour road trip to the closest huge malls" shopping.

Baking everyone's favorite cookies.

Decorating the tree.

Christmas Eve service.

Opening one gift on Christmas Eve.

Listening to ALL my Christmas music.

My list is pretty endless...But truly my all-time favorite right now would be having both the girls and Jimmy and I at home on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning together. I know that with Chelsea being almost 21, I have to cherish these years.

So flit over to this link and share your favorite tradition...and you might just win a $100 Visa gift card!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

ALWAYS ask for a window seat...

Lately I have been struggling with some things. And I have a confession. The longer I struggle with the issue the more susceptible I am to doubt. I KNOW God loves me and wants what is best for me. I KNOW God is always with me through every battle. I KNOW God forgives me for the messes I create. I KNOW God is willing to help me out of those same messes. I KNOW God is big enough to do whatever it takes to save me from the situation. But when He doesn't do it in the way or timing that I am looking for, I must admit, I begin to question those things. Thankfully, as soon as the doubt comes, I usually am very successful in refuting it, but still the doubts will sneak up sometimes. Anyone else know what I mean?

So last week I was travelling. Flew to San Antonio for a board meeting and a legal conference. Two very good, very productive days. Thursday I arrived at the airport and was so looking forward to coming home. I double checked to see if there were any earlier flights to DFW, and there were, but I still couldn't get from DFW to Wichita Falls any earlier, so I told the nice lady nevermind. I would just stay there and get some work done while I waited the extra hour. San Antonio's airport has free wi-fi and some lovely white rocking chairs to work from, so I figured I would be more comfortable there. And sure enough, I spent the next hour or so doing some work!!

About 15 minutes prior to boarding time, I made my way to the gate. I was in group 6 so would be boarding among the last. I became a little concerned when they abruptly shut the door halfway through boarding. Within a few minutes, they announced that DFW had severe weather coming in and had shut down all incoming and outgoing flights, but that all should be clear in about an hour. I figured if that held true then I would be fine to catch my connecting flight. An hour later, DFW was still closed. Having gone through something similar that would have caused me to have to stay a night in Dallas with no luggage just a few months ago, I called and rented a car at DFW. I knew if I could just get to Dallas I could get home one way or another! We eventually boarded the plane about an hour and a half late. Of course, we were all being assured that because the whole airport was shut down, making our connecting flights would be no problem. More on that later...

NOW to the real point of this post...Once we were in the air, I, in my window seat began reading my magazine, but I caught a glimpse of light out of the corner of my eye. I realized that I was no where near the wing, so I turned my head and...I began to watch the MOST spectacular thing I have EVER seen in my life. We were flying north, and as I looked out the window, I was looking east at that severe weather that had just passed through the Dallas area. It stretched as far to the north and south as I could see. A huge billowing mass of clouds - that was lit up in some form or fashion, literally the WHOLE hour flight. It was almost like watching twinkling lights on a Christmas tree. The lightening would flash deep in the clouds, on the outer edge, with strikes or with a dancing glow. But there was never complete darkness in that expanse. I was completely mesmerized by the show. I glanced down and again was amazed. I saw what appeared to be a blanket of cotton balls beneath us. I've never seen clouds like that...not the huge billowing kind, but the very small puffy type. It looked as if someone was opening a huge bag; it ripped, and all the cotton balls spilled out. I kept watching the light show and would glance down every now and then. I then realized that the sky was bright above the storm. I looked up. Against the deepest midnight blue sky was a huge gibbous moon. Almost perfectly full. Stunning. Beautiful moon, flashing storm, cotton ball blanket. Then the clouds below parted and I saw the lights, the buildings, the traffic of a city. As we began our descent, the tears began their descent. I didn't even care who saw. I thought, "Oh, please, just ask me why I'm crying. I need to tell someone of this incredible God who loves me so dearly." My God who says, "Look at this storm, closer to My perspective than you have ever been, sweet child. Now look below at the coming and goings of man and know this: I know the very number of hairs on every head of those below you. I created that moon, that storm and those clouds, and I created you, My beloved child. I'm big enough, darlin'. I'm big enough."

So when we landed, we had to wait for our turn to get to the gate. As we waited, I called and discovered that my connecting flight had already left. No worries, I explained. I'm sure the lady on the phone was baffled by my cheerful mood. I told her I had a car. After I hung up, I realized I should have told her that the time I had just had with the Most High was worth way more than a missed flight. I hope He inconveniences me again. I want to see Him out the window again.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Stop the roar

I have a dear friend who seems to be battling the great deceiver in a fierce way. Why is it so hard to believe that we are forgiven and His beloved? Perhaps it is because we become so battle-weary. Perhaps it is because the roaring lion that seeks to devour us is ROARING. Ever heard a lion roar? I remember last year when we were at the zoo. We were on the other side of that large acreage and could distinctly hear the lions roaring. But whether he is whispering lies of guilt and shame or roaring a reminder of our failures, he is persistent...and he is a liar...the father of all him there is NO truth. But there is One who IS truth. Not a lofty idea or principle to live by...but TRUTH. Living, breathing TRUTH! So for my sweet is some Truth.

The same God Almighty who created the heavens and the earth, all that is seen and all that is unseen, created you - in His image. Amazing, huh? He knows that Satan is dogging your steps and using others in his scheme. He knows that you feel left behind and vulnerable. He knows that you are sad, bewildered and overwhelmed. You see, sweet friend, He gave you that heart that has been broken by others because you so freely give it away. So He is NOT overwhelmed or surprised. In fact, there is good news - He stands at the ready. Psalm 147:3 tells us, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." He wants to heal you, encourage you, LOVE on you. Crawl up in His lap. Cry out for His love, His forgiveness, and His healing. Feel it wash over you. You are His beloved. The apple of His eye. His favorite.

Satan is lying to you. He is telling you that you have failed your children. Push the restart button and listen to our Jesus; The One and Only; The Living Word of God:

"But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him,
and His righteousness with their children's children." Psalm 103:17

Tomorrow is a new day to start over leaving a legacy of faith for your children. He will count it as righteousness!!! That is the only 'score' He keeps. Every time we exercise a little faith and step out in obedience, He counts it as our righteousness.

And as out of control as things seem, He assures us that we are never out of His care. And He is just waiting to come in and rescue you. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him."

And finally, I want you to listen to these words:

Zephaniah 3:17 promises, "The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."

Wow. Do you hear Him? Be still, darlin'. Listen. He sings over YOU!

Now THAT is some truth that will shut the mouth of the lion.