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.
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


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

Monday, March 14, 2016

Goodnight, Princess

I've said to many people that every time something amazing happened on our vacation, it felt like God tapping me on the shoulder, saying, "Hey, see that? That's for you!"

Our day at Disneyland was no exception. We entered the park and headed for an area of smaller rides that wasn't busy yet. We rode the Jellyfish and another ride before heading the Ferris Wheel. We were having a blast, and our day had barely begun!

The food at our princess lunch in Ariel's Grotto was fantastic. We had wonderful service. The cast was wonderful. There were lots of pictures and hugs and smiles... and yes, a few tears from me. Every time a new princess came in, I teared up. The difference from where we were just four years ago... I just couldn't believe it was happening... meeting the princesses with my daughters.

When we got our photo taken with Ariel, she asked us what we were celebrating. "Family vacation." I told her. She replied, "Oh, spending time with family is my favorite!"

My quick thinking oldest child said to me (out of Ariel's earshot), "If spending time with family is her favorite, then why did she abandon them all for a prince?"

She loves Ariel... we all do! But I have to admit, it made me laugh out loud.

After lunch, we set off to find some more rides.

Every time the five of us stopped to look at the map in confusion, a cast member appeared and asked if we needed any help. Every time!

We managed to ride several rides that day. The squeals of delight from my children on the Indiana Jones ride actually teared me up. We rode Pirates of the Caribbean as well.

The big kids headed for a roller coaster while Lauren and I rode a smaller space shuttle ride and looked for a place to charge my phone.

Also, whoever came up with phone-charging lockers is a genius!

Left: Peter and Todd posing with Mickey and Minnie.
Right: Todd and I last spring, taken in Disney's Club 33. 

My brother, Peter, and our friend Todd (Executive Director of The Walt Disney Birthplace and our favorite Theme Park Expert) met us in the early evening for a couple rides before the parade.

The Carsland Radiator Springs Racers was definitely a family favorite. Who doesn't love Cars? We all could have spent a lot more time there if we had any left!

Then we hit Hyper-Space Mountain. Last time I rode, it was just Space Mountain. The addition of the Star Wars theme made me love it even more. I teared up a little on that ride as well, but I can't tell you if it was hearing how excited the kids were, or the Star Wars awesomeness. It was quite possibly a combination of both.

Ready to relax, we took dinner to the perfect "Light Up The Night" parade seats that Todd had reserved for us.

All of our favorite characters came down the street, lit up in an amazing display. The lights were bright and the choreography was performed perfectly. As each float proceeded past us, one kid or another would excitedly announce who was coming next. Everyone has favorite characters, but the parade was so great that our level of excitement stayed at it's peak the entire time.

When the parade was over, we turned our chairs around for a magnificent view of the castle and the light show that replaced the fireworks due to high winds.

We managed one more ride before hitting the shops. C3PO took us on a crazy adventure in Star Tours that all the kids enjoyed. Isaac later told me he loved the ride but thought it was funny they mixed characters who would have never met each other because they were from different movies. I hadn't even noticed, but these kids catch everything!

We were still in the shops when the park closed, and decided then it was time to go... not that there was really another option. Heading out of the park that night, I trailed just a few steps behind, taking it all in.

As I walked back towards the real world, I felt a little bit like Cinderella at midnight. I was exhausted, but it was a good exhaustion. I felt so blessed and thankful. My heart was full. I didn't have a glass slipper, but I did have some purple blinking mouse ears... and when I had passed by the final cast member at the gate, I heard him say, just to me, "Goodnight, Princess."

I teared up again right there. Thank you God, for yet another reminder. <3

He is so very good to us.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
~Matthew 6:26

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
~Luke 11:13

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Interested in learning more about the restoration of The Walt Disney Birthplace?

Check out the video below and be a part of the project at 

Friday, March 4, 2016

James Corden said what?

We stood in line at the James Corden Show, knowing there was a chance we wouldn't get in. To make sure the studio is full, they overbook seats, and we were a few minutes later than we meant to be.

CBS Studios Selfie

I think James is great, but it is Alexandra who has been the fan since before I had ever heard his name. So, when they told us there was only one seat left in the theater, there was no Rock, Paper, Scissors for the seat. It was all hers.

Nobody would have blamed me if I was sulky and pouty and grouchy as she walked through that gate, and I have to admit, I was tempted... But I know better. God always amazes me when I trust Him instead of being disappointed.

CBS Studios
As I walked from CBS Studios to The Grove, passing several studio exits and entrances along the way. I thought to myself, "God always turns things like this around some way. Who knows what could happen. Maybe someone from one of these studios will come out a pull me in for a makeover!" I laughed to myself as my imagination took hold of all the things that "might" happen.

Needless to say, I was not pulled into a studio as I walked by, but the thought made me smile anyway and I continued on towards the popular shopping center.

The Grove
The Grove was beautiful. Lots of stores and food and happy people. With a couple of hours to kill, I decided to check out some stores I had never been to before.

Nordstrom's? Why not? I probably wouldn't be able to afford anything inside, but browsing would be fun.

A few feet inside the door I paused to look at a makeup display. Immediately a woman behind the sign called out to me.

"Do you want to sit down?"

"Umm..." I realized it wasn't just a makeup display. There was a long row of tall chairs and side tables set up down the center walk-way.

"Really!" She said, "Sit down and let us give you a makeover. Sit there. I'll go get someone."

I sat down, baffled. Really God? You know I was just trying to make light of the situation, right? Is this actually happening? I mean, I didn't even ask...

A moment later a beautiful young woman came out and introduced herself to me. Maxine was a professional make-up artist, who helped out with events like this when they needed her. And that day, they did!

As she went through all the steps, we talked about why I was in California and what had happened at the James Corden Show. I told her that I was so happy Alexandra got in, and here I was, getting my makeup done by a professional. I was even able to tell her about Hire A Housewife and share my testimony about going from homelessness to where I am now at the same time. It was an amazing blessing!

When she finished, I thanked her  and she thanked me for sharing so much. I went to browse the store and even stopped for a selfie so that I could tweet about the great experience later.

^ I Tweeted about it later and Nordstrom's responded! 

As I walked out of the store, thinking about where to go next, my phone rang. Alex.

"Are you still close? James Corden said he wants them to find you a seat here."

"What!?! Are you serious?" 

"Yes! Someone is going to meet you at the front gate where you left me... and I think I'm going to be on TV."

"I'm on my way."

In retrospect, I should have taken a taxi those 4 blocks. Instead, I walked as quickly as my high-heeled boots would let me. Still I reached the front gate in what had to be record time and, sure enough, someone from the show was waiting for me. 

He tried to get me into the studio as quickly as possible, but security kept stopping us and checking my pass and my ID. As we walked he explained that Alexandra was actually in a segment and it came up that I hadn't been able to get in... so James told her they would fix it. 

People kept saying as I walked in, "This is mom?" and responding excitedly when it was confirmed. "I love it!" said one. And, "Awesome!" said another.

Alexandra was waiting for me in the back. We sat there for a segment as they were waiting for a commercial break to take us in. As we watched the guests talking, we looked around at the photos of all the stars who had been on the show... 

"Look! Zachary Levi!" I said, before pointing out a few more. 

Alex told me to shhh, and then a few seconds later we were being taken to our seats.

We had great seats for the last two or three segments of the show. We saw AWOLNATION, who was much better than I expected. Corden's house band and their leader Reggie Watts was fantastic! Great music and made us all laugh. The entire experience was fun and exciting. 

There were no phones allowed on inside the studio, so I didn't get any photos in there. I tried on the way out the door, but security told us to keep moving, so this is all I got there... 

Alex was supposed to be in this too... Oh well, I tried.
We waited outside to get a great pic though. Some other fans took pics for us and we took pics for them.

As Alexandra and I walked away, I told her, "We have to get back to Uncle Peter and the other kids... but I wish we had time to stop in and tell Maxine what happened! She'd be so happy for us!"

At that moment, I got a text from my son, Isaac. "We will meet you at The Grove."

We had time to go find her after all.

As Alexandra and I walked towards Nordstrom's she asked me, "Why us? Did this happen because we put together those care packages for the homeless today?"

I admit, I started to tear up thinking about that question... "No. Things like this happen because He loves us. Nothing we do makes Him love us more or less or want to bless us more or less."

I didn't say it then, but I keep thinking about that question. I honestly believe many of our blessings are about attitude and faith. Faith that God is going to do something we don't expect, and having a good attitude about it no matter what. 

We made it to see Maxine and I made introductions, told her what happened, and shared hugs all around. It was a perfect ending to the whole experience.

Peter and the kids met us shortly thereafter and we sat and talked before heading to our hotel for the night. 

Even though we had to be up early for Disney, I set an alarm to wake me up to see the Late Late Show with James Corden... and this is what I saw... 

<3 She did fantastic. I so love that girl!
Don't tell anyone, but she's my favorite oldest daughter ever!