Friday, July 30, 2010

Quick Update

This week has been BUSY! I feel like I have been running in a million different directions...I am so excited to be leaving for South Africa in only 3 short days...yet sad to be leaving my kiddos and all the emotions that come along with that. I have been packing, buying school supplies, attempting to coordinate schedules, cleaning and just trying to make sure everything will be covered while we're away...AND before we can even step foot on that plane Sunday, we have an entire wedding weekend marathon ahead of us! My brother-in-love is getting a sweet wife and my entire family of 5 are in the wedding on I said...craziness... but so very thankful for the blessing of being surrounded by so many family and friends before we leave. It's getting close...woohoo!!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Love in action...

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had."

The Lord just gave the sweetest blessing. I just received a call from a sweet, sweet friend telling me that she had a yard sale this past weekend...and she wanted me to have all the money she made to go toward our trip to Africa!! Seriously... how awesome is that! GOD IS SO GOOD! I think of the work that she had to put into that and then the selflessness of then giving all of the benefit away. I am humbled by her gift. I am so grateful for the Lord's provision and thankful for the precious heart of the one that He used to be the body of Christ in my life today...thankful that He reached right down from Heaven and touched me through the love of another. Thank you sweet friend for being a physical manifestation of the love of Jesus to me tonight. I am one blessed girl.

"Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 15:5-6

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A lesson on love...

I wanted to share a story that God used to teach me of His love...

A while back I was sitting in the front yard with my youngest child watching him ride his bike. At one point, he stopped riding and started picking up rocks off of the street. He ran up to me and excitedly yelled, "Mama, close your eyes!!" I leaned forward expectantly and closed my eyes waiting to receive my latest treasure. He then exclaimed, "Open!" His sweet little face was beaming as he handed me a pile of asphalt and said "I love you to the moon and back mommy." That little pile of asphalt rocks was such a sweet gift to this mama. Of course, it wasn't the rocks that captivated me so but the heart behind the rocks. God immediately spoke into my heart and allowed me to see the parallel.

I had no need for asphalt rocks. If I had needed some, I had full access to street was full of them and I could have easily gone and gotten them for myself. In the same way, the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things doesn't really need anything that I have to give to Him. In the grand scheme of things, what I offer up to Him must look just like those dirty little rocks. But how His heart must be warmed when He looks past the offering and sees the heart that offers it instead.

After seeing how much I loved my rock gift, Hayes then proceeded to collect rocks for the next hour. I am not exaggerating...literally three minutes would not pass without him running up to me with another rock and exclaiming "I love you even more!" His little blond curls were drenched in sweat as he worked himself into near exhaustion.

God allowed me to see the parallel in my own life...the years I had spent working my own self into exhaustion trying to earn His love when all the while He loved me with such pure and perfect love.This comparison was huge to me. One of the major false beliefs that the Lord had to overcome in my life was that His love for me was based on my behavior. This involved sin on my part in not believing the Truth of what He promises, but was also linked to my past experience of love being conditional. Before I experienced the gift of pure and perfect love, I struggled with intense feelings of worthlessness. The Bible tells us that "all of our righteous deeds are like filthy garments." I always fell miserably short...God knew I always would...that's why He sent Jesus. I was trying to earn the very love that Jesus hung on the cross to freely give me.

I finally had to sit Hayes in my lap and explain to him that I loved him so much...I wouldn't love him any more or any less if he never gave me another rock...I loved him just for who he was...As I spoke those words to him my Heavenly Father spoke them to me as well. I made Hayes lay all those rocks down and snuggle up in my lap and rest. In that moment, as I sat there holding Hayes, I knew that my Heavenly Father was holding me and asking me to do the same...

Whenever I find myself doubting His love for me or I begin to struggle with those old feelings, I immediately know I've reverted back to old patterns of trying to earn the Lord's love. I repent and thank Him for loving me with such unconditional love. That's what makes His love so has nothing to do with me but everything to do with Him. It's who He is...GOD IS LOVE...pure, perfect, untainted love...and once you experience that nothing else will ever satisfy.

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sweet little blessings...

After finding out that we were going to Africa, I put this money jar on my kitchen counter as a visible reminder to save every penny that we had in preparation for our trip. Well... you see it filled up with all those beautiful little coins...wanna know how they got there...

...these sweet little blessings. Without hesitation, when they saw the money jar on the counter, all three of my children ran to their rooms to grab their own piggy banks. They then ran back into the kitchen and dumped EVERY LAST CENT of their own money into our Africa jar. They said, "mama, we want to help all those people too." Be. Still. My. Beating. Heart. These are the moments as a mother that I live for. The moments when my children do something so profound that I think maybe I'm not doing such a bad job after all. Honestly, I feel like there are so many things that I get wrong as a mom. I believe my highest calling is to help guide my children's' hearts to their Heavenly make sure they grow up grounded in the Truth of who God is and who they are because of make sure they grow up knowing what really matters in life and what is really just make sure they know that God created them and formed their little hearts...that He has a special plan and purpose unique to each one..I want them to know that they will experience heartbreak and disappointment....that life will not always be fun or fair and many, many times they won't get their way...I want them to know that life was not made to revolve around them...that it is never supposed to be about us but always about Him...I want them to know that in living their life for Him their lives are so much better than any life they could ever plan for themselves. I believe that if I can succeed in that, the other million things that I get wrong won't really matter, because they will be connected to the Source of their every need, want and longing.

There is so much I can learn from my children. I want to give of myself with such childlike faith. I want to empty myself with such reckless abandon. I want to give and love like they do. I am so thankful the Lord entrusted them to me and so thankful for everything He teaches me through them.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Take me deeper still...

Just when I think my heart is completely whole, God circles me around and brings me right back to my deepest point of pain and reveals an even deeper facet of surrender. Like pulling the scab off of a deep wound, I instantly recoil. A wave of emotion washes over me so intensely that it knocks my feet off of the path that I wish to travel upon. I get upset. I cry out in pain. I get angry. I become frustrated. I begin to question Him. I emotionally shut down. It always ends in a place of torment. That has been such a familiar cycle to me. It is a cycle that I detest. I know where the end of that path would take me because I have seen another travel down it. I refuse to follow that path. I refuse to make my children walk that path. Unless I allow God to do in my life what has never been done before me and break the cycle, that is the choice that I make. It is a treacherous cycle and it is only by the grace and power of God that it is being broken in my life. The choices I make and the way I respond to this pain determine the amount of time I must spend there. With each trip, the aftermath has become a little shorter and the pain a little less. I have clearly seen there is no gray area in life...there is no in-between. If I choose to believe that my choices don't really matter, I'm only deceiving myself. Every choice I make either takes me closer into the heart of God or farther away from it. I have seen that "the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond one can understand it... it is only the Lord that can search a heart. " I have seen the reason God says "above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." I have seen the power of sin. I have seen the deceitfulness and danger of sin. I have seen the devastation and destruction of sin. I have seen how one wrong choice leads to another and then how the web is the heart can become hardened and eyes can become so blinded that the Truth can no longer even be seen. God would have to be God to be able to watch the very ones He created being consumed by its force. "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." I have also seen the power of the risen Christ. I have seen the power of the Word of God. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. " "But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our sin-it is by grace that you have been saved." I have seen the power of Jesus to change a life when one turns to Him...the power to open eyes that were once blinded, soften hearts that were once hardened and exchange filthy rags for robes of righteousness. That is the power of the risen Christ and darkness has no other choice but to flee in His presence. Because of Jesus Christ "death has been swallowed up in victory" and the same Spirit and Power that raised Christ from the dead resides and flows from those who call upon His name.

There is always a choice to be made and my choice is to stand upon the Truth. My choice is to stand in spite of how circumstances make seem, my feelings may vacillate, and darkness may threaten to loom. I know the Truth is that God loves me so much He refuses to allow me to move on until every last recess of my heart is completely His and completely whole. He loves me enough to allow me to hurt. He loves me enough to patiently tend to every broken place I have. I so often just want a band-aid. He loves me enough to not give me what I want. He loves me just as I am....such a beautiful mess I must be to Him. Thank you Lord that You love me. You love me even when I doubt Your love. You love me even when I feel betrayed. You love me even when I am unfaithful to You. Your love is perfect. It is pure. It is deep. It is never ending. It is beyond anything I can fathom or comprehend. Pain is such an opportunity from You. It can either drive me deeper into Your heart or take me away from You. I never want to be where You are not. Thank You for holding and tending my heart in the gentleness of Your hands. Thank You for the mountains in my life that You have already moved right before my very eyes. I ask that You continue to create in me a pure heart. Father, I want a heart that is undivided. I desire a heart that is wholly and fully committed to You alone...a heart willing to follow You no matter the cost. You alone are worthy of all of my adoration. Help me to not give my affection or praise to another. Help me to not settle for anything less than all of me in exchange for all of You. Firmly root me and establish me in Your great love. May You alone be exalted in this life that You have given to me. Take me deeper still......

Friday, July 2, 2010

Just a little trip to south africa...

WELL..... I found out yesterday that at exactly this time one month from today I will be on a plane about to land in Germany to catch a connecting flight to South Africa. Can you say CRAZY!?! This journey with the Lord is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. My initial response to this news was pure excitement. And then... reality. Our plane ticket cost HOW much!? How are we going to pay for that? Will our kids be okay while we're gone? I'll have to miss the kids first few days back at school? Ouch, we won't be here for Hayes' birthday? What about our kids....what if something happened to both of us? What if God doesn't really want us to go and we've stepped outside His will? The 'what ifs' continued to bombard my mind....Fear...however grounded it might be, equals lack of trust. Lack of trust in the One who I know to be sovereign over all things and completely worthy of all my trust.

So, how will we pay for this? I do not know. God may chose to financially bless us in some supernatural way...or He may chose to finance it through the labor of our own hands...or He could do both. Who am I to question Him? Just being completely vulnerable and honest here, my first prayer was "Lord, show me for sure that this is what you want us to do by stirring someone's heart toward us and this trip." Several things wrong with that... I was looking for someone mortal to affirm me and say 'yeah that's a great idea' instead of relying fully on affirmation and wisdom from the Lord. I was questioning the One whom I have come to repeatedly with hands and heart open and said 'whatever You ask of me, I will do.' Well, look at that...He asked me to do something and then I say "Really? Are You really sure that's what You want me to do? Or You REALLY sovereign over all things and in control of everything?" I woke up thinking about the financial aspect of the trip again this morning, and this is the conclusion I have come to...a shift in perspective you might say :) Should this trip be any different from any other trip? If I wanted to take a trip to...Disney World, for instance... with the money instead. What would I do? I'd scrounge my nickels and dimes and make it work. Why should doing something I consider 'for the Lord' be any different? Why would I find joy and excitement in a vacation spent indulging myself and my family but look at a 'vacation' used to bring refreshment, love and encouragement to someone else as a sacrifice? It all comes back to my heart and my selfishness... The decision to give myself away or either hoard everything I can for myself. Father, I earnestly desire to find even more joy in living for You than I do in living for myself. I realize I am powerless to do this apart from Your Spirit at work within me. I am so prone to take my eyes off of You and when I do, I am overtaken by my flesh. I ask for Your help....I feel like I've rambled and don't know if that makes any sense at all...but it helped me :) and has given me renewed confidence that the God who asked me to do something will enable me to do it...however that may look.

What about my children... Something could just as easily happen to me or Jason sitting right here in my own living room. It feels safer here because I think I have some "perceived" form of control...but really I don't. God is the same wherever I go...He's the only One that knows when I'll breathe my last breath. He gives me the in fear or trust Him.

Live in fear of the unknown and have it cripple me in my walk with Him or fully surrender to whatever He has planned and follow Him...back at that same crossroad again. How thankful I am to serve a God that has never let me down or broken a promise...a God that has never led me to do something that wasn't ultimately for my good. Every step taken toward Him has always led to a place where I have experienced His freedom and love in a deeper way and I question why I ever doubted in the first place.

I'm stepping toward You Father...increase my faith.