Friday, December 23, 2016

You don't get to choose

While my dad grew up Catholic, my first real introduction to Catholicism came from my first husband. We were both 18 and 5 months pregnant when we got married. He was Catholic and I was a member of the Assemblies of God, but we both thought we could make it work. We agreed to go to both churches.

Whether or not his church and family could have actually convinced me to convert, I'm not sure. But they had countless opportunities to get me to consider it. I even said at one point that if we could find a Catholic church that liked contemporary praise and worship I'd go there.

However, when he told his priest (a man he loved and respected more than just about anyone else at the time) that I was pregnant, the priest didn't speak to him for six months. His dad and step-mom urged us to give the baby up for adoption, which distanced us from them for awhile. Then there was his mom, one of the most Catholic woman I had ever spent a great deal of time with. In her eyes, I never did anything right, no matter how hard I tried.

It all totaled up to me not wanting to have anything to do with Catholicism.

Five years later, when I was pregnant with our 3rd child, he decided he was done. “I love you but I'm not in love with you. I'm moving out.” His mom let him move in with her and hired a lawyer to help move the process along, and I was devastated.

As you can imagine, due to those experiences (and admittedly ignoring the fact that I knew some great people who were Catholic) I decided that it was something I didn't want my kids or I to be a part of, ever.

As the kids entered their preteen and teen years, I would feel anger rise in me when they refused to say an off-the-cuff prayer and instead recited something they had learned at his house. I tried not to argue with them about it, but every prayer, every sign of the cross, burned me. Eventually I couldn't keep my eye rolls to myself or my mouth shut. The more I argued with them, the more it happened.

Several months after I had my first revelation of grace, I read a book called Girl At The End of The World. It was by a woman who had been raised in an abusive, misogynistic, fundamentalist christian home. More or less, it was a cult. When she ran from that way of life as a young adult, after realizing her own children were going through the same things she had endured, she decided she was done with God.

This is a quote from her book: “I am fed up with reading about God through the male perspective only. I want to experience the God who inspired me as a child, the God who found me long before I could comprehend a single word in my Bible. I want to experience God pursuing me for once. I am tired of seeking, striving, and knock-knock-knocking on heaven’s door. I no longer want to know that silent, capricious, harsh God who would just as soon throw me into the fires of hell as save me. I am challenging God to pursue me like someone who has never been exposed to the Bible. Love me, God. I dare You.”
Elizabeth Esther, Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future

And He did. She tells of how she met Mary, the Mother of Jesus, how she found the Catholic Church, and how Mary and Jesus worked together to save her life and breathe healing into her. Her revelations about finding Grace within the walls of the Catholic church stunned me.

Tears ran down my face as I read and tried to make sense of something that was so beautiful, yet so opposite what I felt and believed. Then, with that inaudible voice He sometimes uses to drive an important point home, God told me, “You don't get to choose how I reach people or how they relate to Me.

I continued to listen and watch and read grace-based materials, but I wasn't angry anymore when they said a Catholic prayer or told me they wanted to fast something for lent. I chose loving them over disagreement about their beliefs.

Then one day as we were driving, Alexandra told me it scared her to hear sermons about how lack of forgiveness towards others can keep you from Heaven. We talked about how that isn't true and what Grace really means. She told me that talking to me about this stuff made her a lot less terrified. And all of the sudden, I had a grace believer on my hands.
It wasn't just that. She wanted to know more. She was interested is listening to different sermons and discussing different thoughts. She even chose to go see Andrew Wommack in Chicago with Ben and I last spring.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was love she saw in me that opened her up to the discussions. I had to admit to myself, even on days I didn't argue... If you roll your eyes when your kids do the sign of the cross at dinner... you aren't showing love.

So then, how do we get the message of grace across to others without arguing, or being angry? How are they going to know that we believe differently if we don't make a point to tell them?

1 Peter 3:15-16 says:
In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 

How will people know? That's easy! Do you remember how you acted and reacted to life before you found grace? Even if you were already in church when it happened.

People will see we have a hope they don't have yet... and they will ask us why. The Bible says when they ask us, we should be ready to tell them with gentleness and respect and a good conscience.

What does a good conscience have to do with it? Well, for me it is knowing that Alexandra came to me because she saw my confidence in Christ... not because I wore her down on Catholicism.

When people look at us as Christians, it can oftentimes be the same way I used to look at Catholics. They have known someone who was a Christian who was rude or dogmatic or legalistic. They have seen the people who call themselves Christians parading up and down the street with signs that say who they believe God hates.

They need to see in us that we are not those people.

How do they do that? Jesus.
Put your focus on Him and you'll lead others to Him as they see the fruit of Spirit manifest in your life.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 
~Galatians 5:22-23

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What's your plan?

"Write down what your dreams, goals, and plans were for the last year."

I looked at the workbook page and thought for a minute before I started writing.

Dreams: To take my kids on a real vacation before Alexandra graduated, and to be in a solid, healthy relationship.

Goals: Weight loss, finishing my book proposal, growing my platform, buying a house, financial stability.

Plans: Survival.

I stared at the paper. 
Wait, did I just write that? 
I did. Wow.

When I talk to people about interviewing employees, I often share one of my favorite questions with them. "What's your dream? What do you really want to do?" I've said time and again that the employees who have a dream and a plan to attain that dream are usually my most successful employees. They know what they are working towards!

And yet, for some reason, despite some great goals and dreams, I only planned for survival.


One of my favorite Bible passages is Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


I KNOW God wants to do great things for me. I KNOW that His plans far exceed mine. I KNOW He is not only able, but He is willing... And I still planned for the bare minimum... survival.

This past year, I often asked God for help and believed He would come through for me. On several occasions He did, probably more than I realize. But looking at these verses and thinking about what I actually planned for leave me wondering if God didn't hope to bless me more, but I had planned Him out of it. 

Psalms 20:4 says:
May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.

I do believe God gave me many of the desires of my heart this year in addition to making my plans succeed... but what if my plans had been bigger? What if instead of survival I had PLANNED on being blessed and amazed by Him? 

As I continue to work through this program on setting and achieving my goals for the next year, I am more and more excited about what is to come. I am planning on some huge breakthroughs this year and I can't wait to see how God makes those plans succeed.

How about you? What's your plan? What are you asking God to help you with as we move into the Christmas season and new year? 

Whatever it is, are you PLANNING on Him coming through for you? Or, like I have so many times, are you working on your plan for what you'll do if He doesn't?

Today I'm telling God that, more than ever, I want His plans for me to match my plans for me... I want to rest in His promises of hope, joy, abundance, and success instead of planning on the bare minimum. 

Care to join me?



For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11


I came that [YOU] may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

The program I am going through is Michael Hyatt's Best Year Ever. It is only available for a limited time every year, but you can check it out here:
http://bestyearever.me/register/

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Twelve


We're in a calmer spot now, but I wrote this when we weren't. It's so easy to believe that because everything seems okay, everything is okay. We have to talk to our kids, know their friends, see the things they post online and who they act like they are when they don't know we are watching.


I've seen others go through it at many different ages, but for us, this time, it has been twelve.

We all think it's hard to be a kid when we are twelve.
Now I know it's harder to be a parent.

Twelve

Five miles of ocean below you
and you're only ankle deep
You can fight me all you want,
deny the depths that you can't see.
But I remember the murky waters,
the feel of waves crashing over me,
and I refuse to let you sink.
I refuse to let you sink.

You think your choices affect only you
and that none of them could be wrong.
You believe you've got the whole world figured out.
But you don't even know who you are yet,
No, you don't even know who you are.

Too young to grow up so quickly,
don't understand there's no reverse.
You can fight me all you want,
you can tell me that I'm the worst.
But I remember what youth is like,
though you think you're the first.
And I refuse to sit back and observe
I refuse to sit back and observe.

As much as I love you, He loves you more
and this job that He gave me isn't one I'll ignore.
You believe you've got the whole world figured out.
But you don't even know who you are yet.
No, you don't even know who you are yet.

Beautiful, wonderful, intelligent, amazing,
your smile lights up a room.
Created for something unimaginable now,
a flower I can't wait to watch bloom.

Let Him show you who you are...

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, 
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
~Ephesians 2:10


Monday, October 3, 2016

I can't wait to see

I often say that I can't wait to see how God's provision comes through for one situation or another as I watch expectantly for the big "Ta-Da!" moment. When it comes that way, my mind is always blown and I love sharing the story with others.

But more often, the provision comes a little bit at a time, from all different directions. And while I am so grateful, I sometimes forget to share how God moved in those times as well.

In the last month, God's provision has come in the steady stream of new clients, the judgement for someone who owes me money who was able to pay some of it back, and the dealership who accidentally gave me the wrong tires months ago, that switched out my punctured tire (running on it's second can of fix-a-flat) in the process of reversing the previous error.

It came in a letter from the state telling me they need one more piece of proof of income so they can send that state tax return I forgot never came.

It came in the Neurosurgeon's billing specialist who said, "No, we don't accept your insurance, but just come to the appointment and we'll bill you after. When you get the bill, call us and we'll send you some paperwork to see how much our Community Cares program can help."

It comes a little bit at a time as I pass a sale at the mall or a yard sale down the street without buying anything... because I feel that gentle nudge in my spirit that part of being thankful for His provision is being wise with it as well.

I never know how God is going to follow through on His promises. I just know that He will. The tricky part is remembering to keep my eyes open for the how.

Our trip to California last February was amazing. I could go on for hours about the things God lined up for us and the ways He provided for that trip. I mean, really... who else could have arranged for five of us to fly from Chicago to LA on a major carrier for $600? Who else could have gotten the five of us into Disney for $150?

God could have dropped $10,000 in my lap again out of nowhere, but He didn't need to. He knew what we wanted and what we needed... and He took care of it a piece at a time.

God knows exactly what you need. God knows what you want, too. He has already promised to prosper you and give you a future. He has already promised to give you life more abundant. He keeps His promises.

In I Kings 17, we read about the widow of Zarephath. She had been told she was to feed a man of God who was coming her way. She knew she didn't have enough. She didn't even have enough to feed herself and her son. Yet, when Elijah asked her to make him food, promising her resources would not run dry, she did. The Bible says she and her son ate for many days afterwards.

While there are many things one can take away from this story, the one that I appreciate today is that God provided for this woman a day at a time. She could have given up the day before Elijah came, knowing there were only two days of food left. Instead she believed God would provide, and she waited.

You may be in a season of your life where He is providing one day at a time... which can make it feel like the provision isn't there. Take a deep breath and look around. See what you have and what HE has given you. How has God provided for where you are in this very moment?


Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:31-34

Friday, September 9, 2016

Are your arms crossed?

Would you be surprised to know that I'm stubborn? It's true. I can admit it.

One of the perks of serving at church is that I usually get there before the parking team. Meaning, nobody gets to tell me I can't park wherever I want. Sometimes I drive 'in' the way marked 'out' to avoid being directed to a certain spot.

Ask my daughter who watched us all eat ice cream last week during family movie night because she refused to eat anything green with her meal how stubborn I am. She actually spit the salad in the trash and said, "Not worth it." I guess she's a little stubborn too.

I could go on and on with examples of my stubbornness. In some ways it helps me and has kept me from walking away from my business and the plans God has for me. In others, it has made my life so much more difficult.

It was August 2012 when I went into my part-time job and excitedly declared, "I found an apartment, finally!" I was so happy, I was telling everyone who would listen. In the break room, at lunch, I sat with my food and told another person about the apartment. Someone from across the table said, "Oh, are you moving away?"

"No." I responded, "My kids and I have been living at the camp grounds for six months. We finally have a place to live again."

Several people turned and looked at me as I said it. One of them asked, "You've been homeless this whole summer? Why didn't you tell anyone?"

Honestly, I didn't know. Probably for the same reason I didn't go back home and try to live with my mom or ask any of my family for help getting into an apartment.

Stubborn pride.

While part of me was angry at the people who had "helped" get me there and desperately wanted to be rescued, another part of me undoubtedly believed I deserved to be there and had to pull myself out again to prove that I was not useless or worthless. If I had help, then it wouldn't have been ME who did it.

I recently read the story of the attack on Israel in the wilderness by the Amalek. (Exodus 17:8-13) When the Israelite army went to fight them, Moses stood on top of the hill and lifted his arms towards Heaven. Any time his arms started to fall, the Amalek would prevail. When he kept his arms up, the Israelites would start winning again.

Eventually, Moses' arms became tired. So, in order to keep his arms up, Moses's brother Aaron and their friend Hur, each took a side and held his arms up in the air for him until Israel won over Amalek.

It would take a lot of humility for a grown man to let his friends hold his own arms up for him. What if Moses had fought off his friends and said, "I can handle this! If God wants me to do this, then He will equip me. I don't need your help." I don't know that the outcome would have been the same. At the very least, the battle would have lasted much longer and had many more negative consequences when Israel finally won.

Looking back at our time of being homeless, I wonder how many friends God had in place to hold up my arms during that battle who never got the chance. I wonder how many people would have jumped in to help, if they knew what was going on. I later found out most of my extended friends and family didn't know what had happened until long after we had moved to an apartment. Neither did most of my church family.

While I'm thankful for the help I did receive along the way, and the miracles God did for me. I see now that I likely prolonged our battle with my own stubborn pride.

Nobody could hold my arms for me because I had them crossed stubbornly across my chest. My "I will do this my way" attitude likely extended our battle and left us all with more scars than we otherwise would have sustained... and just like with Moses in the battle with the Amalek, in the end, it wasn't ME who did it at all... it was God.

God has put people around you to hold you up during this battle you are in too. Look around and see how many people love you and want to help.

Ask them. Tell them your arms are tired. Then, LISTEN to what they tell you. The Holy Spirit often speaks through others when the roar of your pride drowns out His voice inside of you.


Humble yourself before the Lord and he will exalt you.
James 4:10 ESV

Where there is strife, there is pride,
but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
Proverbs 13:10 NIV

Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
Proverbs 11:14 ESV

Monday, August 22, 2016

Let not your heart be troubled

"I have something to tell you, but I don't want you to freak out..."

I don't know about you, but those words make my heart stop for a moment. Nobody uses those words unless they are about to say something that could, in fact, freak me out.

Jesus starts a conversation in a similar this way with His disciples...

Let not your heart be troubled...
~John 14:1a
He is about to tell them that the man they have devoted their lives to following is going to die and there is nothing they can do about it. If I was one of those disciples, I can't imagine my heart not being troubled at that moment, as well as in the moments to come. Yet that's what Jesus says. And in doing so, makes a point to say that they have a choice in how they handle what's to come. 

It's clear from the conversation that they don't quite understand. Where is He going? Why can't they go? How do they follow Him if they don't know the way? But he tells them again...

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. 
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
~John 14:27

Jesus knew that if they looked only at what they were seeing, they wouldn't be able to help but feel discouraged, depressed, and scared. He knew that once they let those feelings set in, they would start to doubt the truths He had taught them over the years. 

Have you ever been so sad and depressed that you started wondering if God existed? Or, if He did, that He could really love you at all?

Where would we be today if the disciples had given in to those feelings? Jesus knew that they were about to watch Him be unjustly beaten, tortured, and crucified. He also knew that the whole existence of Christianity could hinge on the feelings of His disciples if they gave in to their despair at His death... so He clued them to the fact that they had a choice in how they handled their emotions.

The good news is, we do too. He even tells us how to do it. 

Believe in God; believe also in me.
~John 14:1b

Faith. He's telling them and us to believe in the truths He has taught before this. Don't believe what you see over what you already know. Believe that God has the final word on your circumstances. Believe that He sees you and knows you and wants only good for you. Believe that you have authority over the darkness that tries to overtake you. 

That's the first step. Faith.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
~John 14:26

He also tells them that He is sending the Holy Spirit to help them with this. The Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance the things Jesus had already taught them that were contrary to what they were feeling as well as teach them new things.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you guide your thoughts away from your pain and fear and towards the things God wants you to focus on. More likely than not, you'll find that the things He wants you to focus on have nothing to do with your life and circumstances at all.

The Holy Spirit WILL help.

Some will read this and say, "She obviously doesn't understand anxiety or depression." Believe me, I understand all too well. I suffered from both for years. 

Officially diagnosed in 2002, I spent a lot of time on and off of anti-depressants and in and out of hopelessness. I still have bad days from time to time. But now I can look at those bad days and see where I could have chosen to make the day better. 

When I blamed others' actions or my own circumstances for my depression and anxiety, I felt helpless. This caused even more depression and anxiety. But now, each time I recognize it and accept my ability to control my feelings, I am empowered. Even when the recognition comes in hindsight, I know that I'll get another chance to let not my heart be troubled... and in doing so, will be able to show others that they can break free from this too!

This topic is so much deeper than one blog post can cover. Accepting that you have authority over your emotions is difficult... but it is important if you want to get better. Please know that even if you aren't ready to accept what I'm saying... You can be free. You can be healthy. You can be whole. It won't be easy, but starts with making a choice to find your way. 

Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
~John 14:1

When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me, 
 your consolation brought me joy.
~Psalm 94:18-19

Monday, August 15, 2016

For a moment

A phone call.
An unexpected bill.
Seemingly insurmountable
when measured against my account balance.

For a moment I was sick
For a moment I was scared
For a moment I teared up
For a moment I wondered how
For a moment I looked at my debt instead of my Provider.

Then I remembered, shifted my eyes, and smiled.

I can't wait to see how He takes care of this!

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

According to His riches... not according to my righteousness, my prayers, my behavior, my anything.

God will supply all of my needs and when He does, nobody's eyes will be on me. I won't have any pride about the provision... because I won't have done anything.

It's always Him.

Praising the Lord in all things today and every day. He's a good good Father.

<3

Remember that no matter how much faith you have, your eyes are going to get distracted from time to time. You are going to look at the problem and wonder how. That's when you need to remember that the how isn't important. He is a good good Father and all of your needs will be met.

Thank Him in faith that it will happen and sit back and watch Him do something awesome. 

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
Matthew 6:26

Yes. Yes you are.

Friday, August 5, 2016

What does God want me to do?

"I can do this," I said to my friend with confidence as I offered to handle her family's estate sale.

I had never done one. But really, how hard could it be? I own a business. I have some resources. I wasn't feeling God saying, "No." So I plowed in. She needed me and I was there.

I hired help and got to work. Sorting, cleaning, researching, pricing, etc... suddenly, part way through, I realized I was in over my head. In order to cover just my expenses and break even, we were going to have to have a heck of a sale. Still, I thanked God several times during the process for the experience, the chance to help out a friend, and for the confidence in knowing He would provide, regardless of the final outcome of the sale.

That "heck of a sale" I thought I needed didn't happen. We didn't sell nearly as much stuff as we expected and while the percentage I had agreed to was good. It wouldn't actually cover all of my expenses, much less any of my own time. 

Still, I had committed to the project and I chose to stand on my belief that God would provide in the end... even if this sale was not the way He did it. I also learned a lot about my own company in the process. The biggest thing I learned? We don't do estate sales. The second biggest thing I learned was that we can provide the services people need in order to ready a loved one's home for an estate sale. 

When I sat down with the head of the estate to give her the money brought in and the final numbers, she asked me a couple of questions, talked to me about some things I hadn't considered when figuring up the totals, crunched some numbers, and wrote me a check that not only covered my expenses, but much of my time as well. Then we hugged and cried because she was so grateful for my help. 

I had faith that no matter what, God would take care of me and He did. 


Commit everything you do to the LORD.
Trust him, and he will help you.
Psalm 37:5
It isn't uncommon to see Christians frozen in fear, trying to make a decision of some sort in their lives. They want what God wants for them, but they don't know what that is. So they do nothing while they wait for direction. In the mean time, life passes them by.

If God isn't providing a clear answer to your question, then ask yourself this: Is what I am considering illegal or immoral? If it isn't, commit your plans to the Lord, thank Him for His promise to prosper you, and then step out... JUST DO IT!

Commit your plans to the Lord. Ask Him for help and guidance. Ask Him to close the door if it's not one He wants you to go through, but short of that... you will not be able to experience the fullness of the life God has for you by sitting in your house praying for guidance.  



For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, 
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

Go on that date. Help out that friend. Make the trip. Try something new. Take a bold step. And thank God that He is going to prosper you... not necessarily in the way you hope or expect... but good things will come and you will be blessed when you commit what you do to the Lord.

God doesn't want to plan out every decision you make in your life. He wants you to use all of the gifts He has already given you and believe all the promises He has for you... and LIVE ... better yet, LIVE ABUNDANTLY!

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. 
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10




Thursday, July 7, 2016

Where was God when...

I stood in the Walgreen's parking lot holding the hand of a homeless man, Joe, our heads bowed in prayer.

"God, You know the plans You have for Joe and what a great guy He is. Please help Joe remember that You are fighting for him and that You have a better plan for him than this. Lord..."

All of the sudden there was loud bang and we both looked up in surprise. Half a block away was a car accident, in the middle of a busy street. One man was rear-ended into an electrical pole. I called the police and Joe ran towards the accident. He told the driver who hit the pole to stay in the car, but the driver was too dazed to understand and climbed out anyway.

Trying to prevent a secondary accident, Joe ran down the road another hundred feet or so and started waving cars into the only open lane. He even stepped out into the street, to make sure that people understood they needed to move over.

When the police and fire arrived we headed back toward my parked car and his temporarily abandoned backpack.

As I turned to go Joe said, "I sure hope that accident wasn't our fault..."

I must have looked confused... "Our fault?"

Joe continued... "We kind of distracted God for a minute."

Have you ever had something bad happen to you, or seen something bad happening to someone else and wondered where God was in that moment? Why would He let this happen?

Many people will misquote Romans 8:28 and say that the horrible thing "happened for a reason" or that God wanted us to learn a lesson from it. I can assure you that isn't true.

It is Satan who comes to steal, kill, and destroy.
Jesus came that we could have life more abundantly!

God will work all those things together for the good of those who are following Him, but he does not make bad things happen, or even "allow" bad things to happen in order to make something good happen.

God didn't give you cancer or cause you to get laid off. He didn't give you depression so you could learn from it. Most importantly, He didn't kill that person you love, who you still miss every day.

I absolutely believe that when something bad happens to us, God's heart breaks too.

He doesn't want to see us suffering... but He gave humans free will, and we often use it to make bad choices that affect us and others. That's not God trying to teach us something... that's Satan fighting to steal, kill, and destroy.

God Who has numbered every hair on our head, Who knew us before we were formed in the womb, Who rejoices over us with loud singing, does not get distracted. He doesn't forget about us. He doesn't send things to hurt us.

If He takes care of the lilies in the field and the sparrows in the air, He will surely continue to be with us. We have to make the choice to rest in Him and have faith in His promises.

There is a lot happening in the world. It makes sense that God could get distracted by "more important" matters, right? That's why Satan uses that lie on us to often. Don't believe it.

"Don't worry about that," I told Joe, "God doesn't get distracted."

You need to remember that too. God knows exactly what is going on with you at all times. He can't be distracted from His love for YOU! You are God's favorite!

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, 
for those who are called according to his purpose. 
Romans 8:28

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have 
life and have it abundantly. 
John 10:10

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 
Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. 
Luke 12:6-7

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Picture of Grace

One of my favorite pics of us.
Oct 2015
I cried as I hugged Alexandra goodbye yesterday afternoon and told her I loved her, knowing that by the time I got home from my meeting at church all of her stuff would be packed and moved out.

She hugged me again at the door and I took goofy pictures of her before I backed out of the driveway.

Then I cried all the way to my meeting.

It would be selfish of me to try to make her stay.  An 18 year old soon-to-be college freshman doesn't want to share a room with her 10 and 12 year old sisters.

I know this.

But that doesn't make it easy.

My selfish mommy heart says, "I'm not done with her. I have more to teach her, more to share."

Mom, Alex and I
Feb 2016
But frankly, in spite of the rough edges that life will inevitably rub off of her over time, she's a pretty good kid... strike that... young woman.

She's more than that though. To me, she's a picture of grace.

Created in less-than-ideal circumstances, she was born with two kids for parents. Not understanding what it means to put your children before yourself, we made mistakes. A lot of them. A lot a lot.

Her father and I divorced when she was 6, leaving me the single mom of 3. Just before she turned 8, her youngest sister was born, making me a single mom of four kids under 8.

After the divorce, I fell into a depression that would grip me off and on for about 10 years. She often had to play the grown up when I couldn't or wouldn't function. And, while our life is much more stable now, I can't help but remember how I was scared at one point that she was the daughter I was "most likely to ruin" with all of my selfish choices... and that was even before I had seen that God had given me way out.

Graduation May 2016
Instead, even after modeling all the wrong things through her formative years, I still managed to raise a daughter who either in spite of (or maybe in some ways because of) all my faults, is a woman I can truly say I am proud to be the mother of. Beautifully stubborn and smarter than even she gives herself credit for, she can make me laugh without even trying.

Her creativity knows no bounds. And, while her exterior can be tough sometimes, she has a heart brimming with compassion.

She loves her family, even when it's hard.

I also love that she is not afraid of spiders. Although, I'm never sure if she is really rescuing me from them... or rescuing them from me when she captures them and sets them free outside.

The most exciting thing for me has been the many conversations we've had in the last year or so about Who God really is and what He really thinks of us. We've talked about things we do and do not believe. She's inspired me to write several blog posts with our conversations.

Not long ago, she started asking me to pray for her when she was sick so she could go on to school. She began to understand that God desires us to be healthy and believes we have authority over many more things than most people realize. Seeing her grasp those beliefs was so encouraging.

I know she will succeed at whatever she pursues as God gives her the desires of her heart. Even when things get hard or she falters at some point, she knows Who to turn to. He is for her and she's going places. I'm insanely proud of this girl.

Grace is getting something you don't deserve.
That's why she is a picture of grace to me.

You don't earn a great kid like this... I'm truly blessed to have her.



Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
~Psalm 37:4

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, 
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
~Joshua 1:9*


(*This one might be more for me than her in this case.)



Friday, May 20, 2016

The Gospel According to Google

Years ago, I read a book by John Howard Griffin who said, "Every fool in error can find a passage of scripture to back him up."

I remember thinking it was funny at the time. I even thought about coming up with ridiculous positions on things solely for the purpose of finding scriptures to back them up, just to see if he was right. Now, as an adult, I see that he was... and today it's even worse than Griffin likely imagined it could be thanks to the pervasiveness of Google.

With a quick search for a couple of key words, anyone these days can not only find a verse that fits their viewpoint and a translation with just the right wording, but they can zero in on that verse without ever reading it in context.

Some, like those from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, use random verses to spew hatred... ignoring large portions of the Bible, while others focus only on the positive passages they want to read, ignoring verses about sin altogether. 

Still others are loving, respectable pastors and leaders who truly care about those they are serving. Yet, for one reason or another, they forgo the revelation that comes from studying the word, and spout Bible verses that only make sense within their message when read out of context.

Here's an example: Hebrews 10:26

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, 
there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

Read out-of-context that is a scary verse for me! Believe it or not, I still sin sometimes. In fact, sometimes (often), I still sin deliberately. Don't you? 

(If you said "no," that was probably a lie... which means you can now say, "Yes.")

In the last week I have deliberately lied to one of my children, eaten way more food than I needed or was good for me, made a rude comment about someone who annoyed me, and have even deliberately broken the speed limit! 

And while I said "In the last week," let's be honest here... 
I probably did all of them, 
within minutes of each other, 
in a single afternoon.

That is a lot of deliberate sinning... and it likely doesn't even come close to the actual list of sin in which I have participated in the last week. Thankfully, I know that it isn't a scary verse for me.

Hebrews 9 and 10 talk about the sacrifice that Jesus made at the cross for us. We can be assured in these verses that ALL of our sins: past, present, and future, have already been forgiven. So, if future sins have been forgiven already, what sin could one commit that would be held against them?

What about the sin of rejecting Jesus and His forgiveness? Someone who does this, has no other alternative. They have received the knowledge of the truth and for some reason, deliberately turned their back on God. 

Why would anyone do such a thing? I don't know. Ask Judas. He saw Jesus in action and still rejected him. It happens, which is why we are being warned about it here. The point is that we should not worry with each and every sin that we may be in danger of losing our salvation, 

In his commentary on these verses, Andrew Wommack says, "Those who truly love the Lord and yet sin, however grievously, need not fear these verses. These verses are for those who totally renounce their faith in the Lord. They know what they’ve done, and they don’t care. They hate the Lord."

And writer Paul Ellis asks, "How can we interpret Hebrews 10:26 as a warning against sin when Hebrews 9:26 says that Christ appeared once for all “to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself”?"

While I don't believe most of the people who use scripture out of context mean to hurt Christians, it is important for us to guard ourselves against teaching that might do so. When you hear a sermon or read something that contains a verse for reference. Always take the time to read it for yourself and ask God what He wants you to receive from His Word.


He (Jesus) has appeared once for all at the end of the ages 
to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
~Hebrews 9:26b





Saturday, May 7, 2016

Just ask

Before we were officially dating, my boyfriend commented that he worried about whether or not he would be able to be the provider he thought I needed. I didn't even have to think about my response to him. "If you are worried about that, you've found the right girl. I don't depend on any man for my support. I've got God for that."

While I hadn't really thought about it before that moment, as soon as I said it, I knew it was the truth.

Often I need money. I am a single mom and a business owner. There are always expenses. Right now I have a child about to start college, I'm trying to gather a down payment for a house, and I need new $800 tires. Am I worried? No. God always provides. Always.

But Kindall, weren't you homeless once? Where was His provision there?

I was. I don't believe that it was God's will for us to be homeless. I believe that God let me do what I wanted and deal with the earthly consequences until I gave up and let Him take over. God can and will get us through, but it takes something on our part, faith.

Before that time, I was fighting for myself. I would say I had faith that God would get us through and then devise a plan to get money to pay whatever bill needed covered. He often came through in unexpected ways, but I believe that if I had listened to His plan from the beginning, things would have worked out much differently, with a lot less suffering.

Because I focused on my problems instead of on Him, I could only think about ways I could possibly fix it instead of letting Him shine through the situation.

Exodus 14:14 says, "The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still." In my case, I had to wear myself out fighting before I was still enough to let Him take over.

I recently spoke with someone about what they needed to change in their church to bring in and keep those people who tithe, which is what he believed was needed to bring in the money their church needed to expand. I told him,"I understand what you are saying, but you are talking about what you need to do 'in the natural'... God doesn't need to work that way." He kept comparing his church to other churches in the area. I don't think he understood what I was trying to say.

This is what I know. If we want God to move, we can't tell Him how to do it. We have to have faith that He will and get out of the way.

I can't say that I know his church well, but maybe God isn't planning on giving them money to fix this or that. Maybe He isn't even planning on bringing in "those people." What if God wants to prosper the small businesses within that church so the current members have more to tithe? There are countless other options as well.

Having faith that God will prosper you, doesn't mean you copy what others who are prospering do. It means you trust Him to make His will clear and you trust Him to show you His path, even if all you can see is one step at a time.

Having faith and making plans usually don't go together. I've learned the hard way that when you make plans to prosper yourself, you get in the way of God's plans to make sure you prosper.

I love the parable of the Prodigal Son in the Bible. We have all been that son before. We know what it is like to walk the wrong path for awhile and have to humble ourselves to ask for help.

Often though, we are the other brother... we stay and work and are faithful to our Father. In the parable, he complains to his father that so much attention and expense are being lavished on the brother who came back...

And [his father] said to him, ‘
Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours...' 
~Luke 15:31 ESV

God says the same to us, you know. All that He has is ours... we just have ask Him for it.

And my God shall supply every need of yours 
according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:19 ASV

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. 
In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory.
~Romans 8:17a NLT

Thank You, Lord, for your acceptance of us as heirs with Christ. We know that You consider all that You have to be ours and that You will provide according to Your riches. Thank You for extending grace when we get in Your way, and gently nudging us when we stray from the path You have planned for us. I don't know the needs of the people agreeing with me in this prayer right now, but I have faith that You are reminding someone right now that You've got this and You have already dispatched provision for them, even if they don't see it yet. 
You are a good, good, Father and we are so thankful.

In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Just people

It was a revelation the day God showed me that people are just people and He is the One who
determines my value. That was just a little over a year ago and it still surprises me at times, especially in certain situations.

Confident about what God has shown me He wants for my life, I attended the National Hearts At Home Conference yesterday with a new perspective. I've sat in the audience of conferences like this before and thought, "How could I ever be on that stage, and tell people what God wants me to tell them? Look at me! Why would they listen to me?"

This reply to my tweet
 really made my day!
As God continues to stoke the fires of my dream of becoming an author and speaker, I went in to these conference sessions without my star-struck glasses on, and what I saw really threw me for a loop.

I watched the way these women walked and talked and dressed and spoke. It was amazing. What I saw was something that I had begun to suspect had to be true, but hadn't been able to convince myself of before.

They were all... every single one of them... normal. (They might disagree with that assessment, but to be fair, normal covers a pretty wide range for me.)

I found out one speaker and best-selling author is living in my home town and when I went to her Facebook page, saw she was already friends with MY MOTHER! What!?! How is that possible?

One admitted to all of us that she was wearing Spanx and couldn't breathe after running up the steps to the stage to speak.

Another talked about the time she was so tired with her four kids she actually asked the officer who pulled her over for speeding to arrest her.

Two talked about their healing, but not always stable marriages.

Words were mispronounced.

Miss-steps were made.

Cues were missed.

There were technical glitches.
(Granted, most were only glitches the perfectionist head of a church's A/V team would catch.)

I even saw a speaker's bra strap slip out once.

Don't misunderstand. It was an amazing day and very professionally put together! But God used those little things to remind me that I don't have to be perfect for Him to use me. I don't have to have angelic children, a spotless house, a flawlessly running business, or be in a perfect relationship.

The speakers I saw yesterday are real people... and that's all He wants from me as well.

If I want God to use me, I just have to be me.

The same goes for you. It doesn't matter how messy you think your life is or how you feel you lack in one area or another. God created YOU to be the you that you are. Be who He created you to be.

You aren't what you've done. You aren't where you've been. You aren't what's been done to you. You are a child of the King, a precious heir to His throne. You have a story. You have a purpose. You have an impact.

He wants more for you than you can even dream right now. Don't let that go because you don't think you are good enough or smart enough or pretty enough or put together enough.

I can't share this too many times. You have to know what He sees when He thinks of you! If you believed that... you'd truly believe that all things are possible through Him.



Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. 
But with God everything is possible.”
~Matthew 19:26

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine, 
according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory 
in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
~Ephesians 3:20-21

Monday, April 4, 2016

Random Chance


Last week I clicked a random notification
     to play a random live video
and saw a random comment
     completely by chance.

I've been a Christian since I was young,
     Karen* said. But I can't seem to believe
that He wants me ... please pray for me.

Oh, that's why I'm here.
     to tell a stranger You love her.
Maybe seeing her comment
     wasn't so random after all.

I sent her a message with the photo below.
     Here are some verses to tell you 
what God thinks when He sees you. 
     I spent years believing He would 
let me into Heaven because He had to
     not because he really wanted me, I said. 
When I came to understand grace 
     and what it really meant and how much 
He really cares about me... it changed my life.

Thank you so much, she said, 
     and accepted my friend request.

Back on the original comment,
     fifteen others left encouraging replies.
sixty-five "liked" the comment.
     Some may have been an agreement to pray,
others just votes of solidarity, letting
     her know, others feel the same.
I was blessed by the number who reached out.

Thankful for the opportunity to encourage,
     I smiled. God is fighting for her today!
I hope she sees that. I hope she understands
     how much He really does want her!
   
Then yesterday, quickly scrolling,
     I saw her face in my news feed.
I wonder how she is doing today,
     I said, scrolling back up.

It wasn't from her, it was her niece:
     I am very sorry you all are suffering from her loss. 
I will do my best to keep everyone posted. 
     Please contact me at ...

From other posts on the page,
     and a text to her niece,
I found out that Karen had lost the battle
     with the darkness that was trying to consume her.

I couldn't stop the tears,
     but I also couldn't adequately explain
to those around me why I was
     crying at church for someone I don't know.

I replied to her niece,
     I'm confident she knows 
just how much God loves her now,
     I only wish she had understood it
while she was still on this earth.

If only she had known.

If you are feeling hopeless, believe that He has hope for you. Know that He wants so much more for you than where you are right now.

You are precious to Him and He wants you... not because He wants everyone, but because He is knows and loves you, individually.

While it is almost impossible to be cognizant of every person we come into contact with each day, choosing to walk in the Spirit gives us the opportunity to stay connected to One Who does know.... 

"Hold that door." 
"Hug her."
"Ask him how he is really doing."
"Pay for that stranger's cup of coffee."
"Tell that person who does all they can to irritate you, how much you love them."
"Be compassionate, you don't know what they are going through."
"Say, 'How can I pray for you today?'"

Don't believe in random chance. 
    Don't ignore the thump in your chest,
the tug on your heart, the inability to concentrate 
     on anything except what you know 
you are supposed to be doing or saying.

God is fighting for them, as hard as He fights for you.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
~Ephesians 1:18

Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
~John 13:34-35

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Grace wins

Facebook memories.

What happened on this day in the history of your life?

This post came through mine this morning.

The most amazing thing to me today is that I was preaching forgiveness when I didn't have a very good grasp on it myself.

I thought I did. I thought I understood well. Here is proof that I was living it out, wasn't I?

But I know what my spiritual life looked like then. I was giving it to others and trying to live it out, without completely accepting it for myself.

I had no idea how much God really desired for me to embrace grace... but I look back on a lot of these memories that come through my news feed and am amazed at how God was laying the framework for me to fully understand... just when I needed it most.


"Forgiveness is a powerful thing. It might possibly change the life of the person you give it to, but it will absolutely, 100% change your life every single time."

Grace wins.
Absolutely.
100%
Every. Single. Time.

Learning to forgive others is often the first step to understanding how to forgive yourself and how to accept the fact that God has already forgiven you for what you have done, what you're doing now, and what you will do in the future. It's already forgiven. 

You have been made righteous through Jesus Christ. God said it. Believe Him and forgive yourself. You've been set free... don't continue to be a slave.


What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 
By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
~Romans 6:1-2

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
~Galatians 5:13

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
~Romans 6:17-18



Thursday, March 24, 2016

My heart's desire

11,442.

That's the seating capacity for the Peoria Civic Center.

We were waiting to get in, more than half way back, in a line that stretched around the entire block twice. And while we had a two hour wait before the doors opened, there were others who picked their spots earlier in the day who were in line many more hours than that.

Still, Crowder, For King and Country, Matthew West, and many more (for just $10) were totally worth the wait... if we could actually get in.

It was a huge relief when we made it through the doors. Whew!

The first act started and we found our seats shortly before it was announced that if you were saving a seat for someone still outside, they probably weren't going to get into the building.

They were almost completely full. 11,442 people.

The first artist was someone I had never heard of before. Unfortunately, in an arena like this, if you don't already know the lyrics to a song, especially a rap song, you are going to have a hard time following what is being said. He made a show of it and it was entertaining, but I have to admit I felt a little indifferent.

Then, when he stopped and told the crowd how important it was to know who they are created to be, and about how Jesus pulled him through when he lost his 1-year-old son and quoted Joseph Prince about fighting from victory instead of fighting for it, my heart pounded and tears sprang to my eyes. This guy that I'd never heard of, whose lyrics I couldn't understand or connect with, was saying exactly what someone there to see him needed to hear.

My indifference dissipated immediately. It was like I could suddenly feel the Holy Spirit moving for someone through what he said. I felt this incredible joy... and something else. A desire to be a part of that. I've felt it before and often shrugged it off, but it never goes away.

It whirled within me and came back several times that night. I wanted to be on that stage. Not for a paycheck, not so people will know my name, not for any other reason except to tell as many people as possible what God wants them to know... what He's done for me and what He wants to do for them.

The desire to stand in front of thousands of people and tell them who and what grace really is, makes no sense to me in some ways. I'm not even a great speaker! In my flesh, the thought of getting on that stage and speaking to people makes me tremble... but in my spirit, I can't help but grow excited about telling people what so many aren't hearing in their churches on Sunday mornings, the same things I wasn't hearing... the things that changed my view of God and life.

I don't know exactly what God's plans for me are, but there is a clear desire there.

Maybe the stage is a metaphor.
Maybe writing is my stage.
Maybe my business is my stage.
Maybe my blog is my stage.

Right now, Facebook is my main stage... even though my reach is much less than 11,442. It continues to grow and I can't be anything but excited about that.

I used to believe that the promise that God would give me the desires of my heart if I delighted in Him meant that if I did enough good stuff, God would give me whatever I wanted. Now I have a clearer understanding of that scripture.

When I delight myself in the Lord, He will put the desires He has for me in my heart. I will want what He wants... and sometimes I'll know because I'll think on those desires and say, "Why in a million years would I ever? I can't actually want to do that... yet I do!"

Maybe the stage is a symbol, but maybe it isn't.

Considering my life at this moment and the fact that four years ago today I was a hopeless, jobless, homeless wreck trying to keep up a positive facade. I don't have any doubt that there could be a non-metaphorical stage someday... and sooner than I can imagine.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
~Psalm 37:4