Sunday, December 25, 2016

Plug In

A few weeks ago I went to Branson with my best friend from high school.  In this season of our lives, it is hard to find time to spend together, especially since we live two hours apart.  So we had it all figured out that we could get away just the two of us for one weekend.  About thirty minutes after I left my house, I discovered that I didn't have my phone charger.  I thought about returning home to get it, but that would have added a whole hour to an already long trip.  I decided I would just stop at Walmart and get another one.  Well, I ended up at two different walmarts that weekend, and no one had even heard of the kind of charger that I needed.




I turned my phone off for the remainder of the weekend in order to conserve the battery for the part of the trip on Sunday when I would be driving by myself down country roads without much of anything around.


It was a weird feeling.  Here I was three hours away, and I couldn't even check on my kids.  I wouldn't have thought as much about it if they were with Todd, but he was hunting all weekend.  Now I completely trust the two friends who had my children in their care, but still it was odd to not be able to check in.


 As a result, I felt disconnected and lost and a little anxious all weekend.  I could just never completely relax…  All because of my phone charger!  I bet I don't forget my phone charger again for a good long while!


With this fresh in my mind, I ran into an analogy recently that really hit home.  I have been studying Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God for the last couple of weeks.  I am finding it to be a really powerful look at how the enemy is at work all around us.  Let me just read the paragraph that jumped out at me:


“But then Paul describes how we put ourselves in position to receive this strength: ‘Put on the full armor of God.’  By putting on the armor, we activate the strengthening process.  It’s like plugging in your phone charger.  You can count on your phone to hold a charge, but only if you’ve taken the initiative to plug it in.  We will never realize the fullness of God’s strength in our lives if we ignore the spiritual protection He offers.  It’s always available, but we must ‘plug in’ if we want to access it.”


Well.  I fully know now what it is like to not plug in my phone for two or three days, and the emotions I experience with that.  But how often do I forget to plug in my life charger?  How often do I neglect to ask for God's strength to protect me throughout the day?  How many times do I go a whole day or two or three without even talking to God?  Don't you think that could be why I sometimes walk around feeling disconnected, lost, or anxious, like I can never completely relax?  What if I plugged into God through prayer as faithfully as I plug in my phone each day?


I realize this is not a traditional Christmas message, but I think it fits.  It's the season for hustle and bustle, shopping, holiday parties, baking, wrapping presents, making merry, and creating or continuing special family traditions.  All of these are great, but I think we can sometimes get so busy or distracted doing all the things of the Christmas season, trying to make everything perfect for everyone that we forget to talk to the One who is perfect.


I think the enemy can use all of this against us too.  If he can keep us focused on our activities and To Do lists and feeling stressed and busy and overwhelmed, then we are not focused on Christ the Saviour.  Even though everything might be good, it can still take focus off celebrating the birth of God’s Son.


So I encourage you this season, to keep doing the good that you are doing, but not to let it overtake your relationship with Jesus.  Put on your full armor of God each day to protect yourself from attack, and make sure you “plug in” to the source of life each day.




Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sky

Sky.

A purple streak of lightning flashes across the inky black sky.  Here comes the storm.  The dark clouds roll in.  The thunder shakes the house.

I love a good storm.  Well, as long as I am safely snuggled up in my house and all my people are accounted for.   At times, the storms make me anxious, but at times I find comfort in knowing that all that commotion out there is done at the hand of God.

Storms like that remind me of a favorite childhood memory.  Each year when we gathered at my grandparents' house for Thanksgiving, there were always a lot of people there.  My grandma went all out for Thanksgiving dinner and the day-after fish fry.  What an amazing cook she was, and what a great hostess.  The way I remember it, she invited everyone from three counties to spend the day with us.  I am sure it wasn't quite that many people, but the house was definitely full and a little crowded.  

When it got to be a little much for all the grandkids, we would sneak upstairs to the bedroom in the attic.  It always seemed like a special treat to be up there because it was the boys' bedroom.  My cousin Amy and I always had to sleep downstairs wherever we could find.  Anyway, I had memories of all of us being piled and heaped together onto one tiny feather bed.  We would watch out the window at the big storm rolling its way in.  I know we did this many times.  It seemed like there was always a big storm at just the right time.  And what a way to observe God's tremendous power than snuggled up all together with a bunch of cousins!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Thanks

Thanks.

I don't know who picked this prompt, but it is pretty amazing that it coincides with my birthday.  I have so much to give thanks for today.

Thanks to my parents who raised me to love others and to be respectful.  Thanks to my parents for drawing a line when I was difficult.

Thanks to my older brother who gave me the ability to be tough and resilient.

Thanks to my dad and uncles and their endless teasing that taught me to laugh at myself when it is needed.

Thanks to all my extended family who have always loved and accepted for me who I am.

Thanks to my husband for loving me each and every day.  For putting up with me when I am a grouch, for helping me when I am stressed or worried, for being my best good friend.

Thanks to all the Tellmans for always making me feel like I belong.

Thanks to my children who teach me to be a better person both as a role model and by their big hearts.  Thanks to my children for the way that they teach me about God.

Thanks to my many, many sweet friends who took time out of their day to wish me a happy birthday either in person, a phone call, a text or Facebook message, or a card.

Thanks to my dear friends who spoiled me today.  What a blessing you are in my life.

Thanks to my thoughtful daughter who keep a birthday secret for well over a month.  Impressive for someone who once said, "But I'm a good secret teller."

Thanks to my son with the big, big heart for people who sometimes don't get included.

Thanks to the teachers and students at school who made a point to say happy birthday every time they saw me.

Thanks to my two birthday buddies at school who make it fun to have a special day to share.

Thanks to the fifth graders who spontaneously burst into song when I walked into the room.

Thanks to the polite kids who said "Thank you" when I shared birthday treats with them.

Thanks to Mrs. Campbell and her students who wrote me the best letters today.  "Thaks for mking me reb bedr."  (I can translate that for you if you don't speak first grade writing.)

Thanks to my Bible study girls who keep me on my toes, who pray for me, and who help me grow in the Holy Spirit.

Thanks to Laura, Julie, and Debbie for always being there when I need you.

Thanks to all the people who read these blog posts and offer me encouraging words that help me keep writing.

Thank YOU to everyone for making today a fantastic and amazing day.

Thank you to The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit for all over the above.  I am tremendously blessed!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Unknown

Unknown.

There are a lot of unknowns in our world today.  As we face down the month leading up to the presidential election, it seems like everyone has an opinion.  There is little middle ground to be found between those who want one candidate and those who want the other.  There are questions about ethics and morality on both sides, and questions about who can we really trust.

While I think those issues are certainly important, I think there are some other perspectives that also be considered.  My faith comes from trusting in the One True King, the Creator and Sovereign of the world.  

When I start to fret about the political leader and climate of our nation at its current state, I have to remind myself that no one can come to power without it being part of God's perfect plan.

When Jesus was facing Pilate, the ruler said, "Don't you realize that I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"  Jesus replied, "You would have no power over me if it were not given you from above" (John 19:10-11).  If that were true of Pilate back two thousand years ago, I have to think that it is still true today.

Even if the outcome of the presidential election does not turn out like I hope, it is still part of God's perfect plan.  His sovereignty placed the candidate there for a purpose, and that purpose is to further advance the kingdom of God--even when that doesn't look at all like we think it should.

So, of course, I have a candidate that I support in the election.  But if not...

God is still the one who is really in charge.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Post-It

Post-It.

I'm throwing it WAY back for a fun and sweet memory today.

I came home from work and one day and find this note on my mirror:  You are my best good friend.

The next day I found another note:  I love you.

And another note:  I can always talk to you.

This continued on for a whole week.  Each day I would find a new note in a new place with a new message.  Each one was sweet and made me feel really good about myself and this man with whom I was enamored.

At the end of the week, we had a date.  I was all dressed up.  I guess I dressed up enough to make him suspicious.  His first words when he got home were, "Why are you all dressed up?"  I just wanted to look nice for our night.

That night we went to Alexandro's for dinner.  Pretty fancy place, but that's when we were young and single without all the responsibilities that we have now.

When we sat down, Todd asked me if I noticed anything different about our table.  I replied that I noticed our table had a rose on it, and none of the rest of them did.  I asked him if he had done that, and he stated that he had.   I smiled, and said thanks.

A bit stunned and probably perplexed, he asked me if I noticed anything else.  After looking for what muse have seemed like a very long time to Todd, I noticed the ring all shiny and sparkly on the rose.  (Observation is not one of my superpowers!)  Once I finally caught on to what was going on, Todd got on a knee and proposed.  I don't remember all the wonderful words he said that night, but I do remember that he used each and every one of the sentences from the scattered Post-It notes throughout the week.  How perfectly perfect for him to plant those seeds all week and then tie it all into his proposal.

I love you, Todd Tellman!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Muddle

Muddle.

I don't have a lot of associations I can draw on for the word muddle.  The only thing I can think of is "muddle through."  Muddle through is not a super positive association.  For me, it means that you are going to do something, even though you don't feel comfortable with it or you really don't know what you are doing.

That is exactly how I have felt the last couple of weeks.  Each Thursday morning, I meet with some beautiful and wonderful friends for an early-morning Bible study.  We are doing a really thought-provoking study right now.  We are in the middle of Forgotten God by Francis Chan.  This book is really making me examine some of my thoughts and beliefs and even my desires.

But I feel so under qualified to lead this study, especially the last chapter we have been working on "Theology of the Holy Spirit."  I don't feel like I know much about the Holy Spirit, and I certainly haven't been trained in theology.  Now I do my homework, and I prepare a lesson each week.  But still...

When I am getting ready for each week's lesson, I feel like someone else should be leading it because I just don't know enough.  I just have to muddle through it.

I have shared those feelings with my group, and they know where I am in my walk.  Each week I pray over the lesson and the people in the study. I ask, with all my heart, that the Holy Spirit will be present to guide our discussion and to fill in where I fall short.  

And you know what?  He has delivered in a way that only He can.  It's not about me.  It's all about Him.  I think our discussion the last three weeks have been far better than when I feel more confident.

I guess I will just have to keep on muddling through...and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Collect

Collect.

What do you collect?  I used to collect all kinds of things as a kid.  I collected rocks and postcards and stamps and stickers and coins.  Not that I was a professional level collector by any means, but I definitely had stuff.  I even collected business cards.  What kid does that?  Why I thought I needed business cards from every place in the greater Kansas City area, I'm not sure.  But I had a pretty good stack of them at one point.

For a while I collected ceramic bunnies as an adult.  They are cute, and I had several with sentimental value.  Then my shelf where I keep them got full, and I decided I didn't need anymore.

So what do I collect now?  You could probably make a case for me collecting yarn.  I have a whole closet full of it.  I collect ideas for projects... on Pinterest and etsy and Ravelry and Facebook.  I collect ideas for people and what I want to make for them in an ongoing spreadsheet.  

But does this matter?  What I need to collect are things with eternal value.  Jesus said, " Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.  Where you treasure is, your heart will be also."

How do you store up the eternal?  What helps you focus on that and not on the worldly, materialistic things all around us?  One way that I focus on the eternal things is to surround myself with Scripture.  Maybe that's what I collect now.  I have Scripture in almost every room of my house as little reminders.  I have friends who send me encouraging verses to get me through the day and remind me where my focus should be.  I listen to Spirit FM so I can get the Word through song and through their two-minute devotional blurbs that they share.  

It really helps me to have those little reminders around me.  Not every day is great, and no days are perfect, but when I see God's Word in front of me, it changes my perspective just a tiny bit.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

You

You.

This prompt was a bit of a stumper for me.  It took me a while to have an idea.  Here is what I came up with.

The world fills us full of lies about who we are and what we should believe.  I can't quote all the chapter and verses of these ideas, but here is a bit of truth for you.

You were created.  You were knit together in your mother's womb.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

God is always with you.  When you go to the heavens or down to the depths, He is with you.

You don't have to be afraid.  He is with you.

He loves you so much that He sent his one and only son to die for your sins so that when you believe in Him, you will not die but have everlasting life.

Your sins are forgiven.  He casts them as far as the east is from the west.

You are sanctified.

You are a royal priesthood.

You are chosen.

God has a plan for you, a plan to give you hope and a future.  

You are a child of the one true King.

God's Spirit lives in You.

You have a Counselor.

You are the salt of the earth.

You are a light on a hill.

You are redeemed.

You are blessed beyond measure.

He cares for you so you can cast all your anxieties on Him.

You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

You don't have to lean on your understanding.  Trust in God with all your heart.

He will fight for you.  You have only to remain still.

YOU.  ARE.  LOVED.

Silence

Silence.

That brief and fleeting moment in the morning when I am awake and no one else is.  My house gets pretty loud sometimes.  I have only two children, but sometimes they can make a cacophony that rivals a jumbo jet.  I love them to pieces, but it sometimes seems like all of life is done at forty decibels or more.

Especially my darling daughter who will nearly yell, "But this is my quiet voice!"  She once told some friends that she has three volumes: Loud, Louder, and Loudest.  Oh dear.  She summed it up pretty well;  that was a pretty good self-assessment.

So I really enjoy a few minutes here and there of silence.  That is why I get up at 5:00 every morning.  So I can have a few minutes to get my thoughts together.  I just need that little bit of silence every day to get myself going.  

This time in the morning is when I read my daily devotion, when I work on my Bible study that I am leading, and sometimes even when I write.  I cherish the silence, but it's not actually silent.  This is when I spend some quality and (sometimes quantity) time with my God.  I need the silence in the house to be able to hear His voice.  He guides me and directs me through His word, through a prayer, through a new thought, a nudge to reach out to someone.  This is when I might write an encouraging note or send someone a text of a verse that made me think of them.  

I really need this time every day, and I can always tell in the outcome of my day when I don't take the opportunity for it.  This space of time when the house is peacefully sleeping is really important to me.

Silence really is golden!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Another 31 Days?



Last year I joined hundreds of people across the blogging community in a 31 Day Challenge to write something every day.  I had plenty to say as I reflected on the lessons I was learning from Psalm 139.  I was super proud of myself for completing the challenge, but also for being able to convey the messages of identity and security that can only be found in the love of our Creator and Savior.

Tomorrow begins a new 31 Day Challenge.  I don't have a major burning topic this year.  I don't feel like I have any ideas that I could stretch out and write about in a fulfilling way like I did last year.  So I'm going to try something different this time around.

Periodically my writing comes from a prompt on Kate Motaung's website Five-Minute-Friday.  She has partnered with Christina Hubbard at Creative + Free.  They have published a month's worth of prompts  so I am going to try my hand at that.

I am going with a no-stress approach this year.  I don't have a button.  I haven't done anything fancy to my blog.  I am just going to write and see what comes out.  That's the beauty of the Five-Minute prompt.  I only have to find five minutes in my day.  Surely I can do that, right?

Join me tomorrow as I write about "Walk."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Brew

Brew.

Man, I miss coffee.  I never thought I would be a coffee drinker.  I used to not be able to stand the stuff.  And then I had children.  Maybe from lack of sleep or just being a little bit older or I'm not sure what, but a good cup of coffee became part of my morning routine.  When I say good cup of coffee, that includes a very liberal dose of flavored creamer.  Caramel macchiato, sweet Italian cream, preprint mocha, pumpkin spice.  I love the creamers more than the coffee, for sure.  

I just love the hot coffee with the cold creamer in the morning.  It gets everything kickstarted, warms me up, and soothes my throat.  Even if I don't have breakfast, I still had that cup of coffee.  And I especially love my coffee during my quiet time with the LORD.  Those two things go especially well together in my mind.

But over the course of the last year, I have had to back off coffee -- at least for now.  It may be something that triggers spikes in my blood pressure.  At first I cut back to only once cup a day.  Then I switched to decaf.  I was still seeing some numbers I didn't like in my blood pressure so I gave up the decaf too early this summer.  I don't know if I will be able to go back to drinking coffee at some point in the future or not.  I would like to try at it some point because I just really miss it.

I have tried to find some suitable replacements for the morning coffee.  Nothing quite feels the same.  I have tried hot chocolate, hot apple cider, tea, and even bone broth.  Some of those things I like better than others.  And I am getting used to hot tea without even any honey in it, but I really don't love it.  

I guess if I can't have a morning coffee, I can at least write about it and wish!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wardrobe

Wardrobe.

Here I stand in the morning.  Looking at the items in my closet as if I were going to get some sort of inspiration from them.  What in the world am I going to wear today?  I wore that the other day.  That doesn't look comfortable today.  That shirt will be too warm, but a I might freeze in this one.  I feel like my closet is full of clothes, but yet I have nothing to wear.  Morning after morning, I play this game, and then it seems like I wear about the same seven or eight things all the time.

What if I spent more time looking at how God wants me to dress?   Proverbs 31: She is clothed in strength and dignity.  Now where is the outfit that shows me strength and dignity?  That is the one I should be putting on every day.  When I get dressed, people should see the strength and dignity of the Creator flowing through me.  I should be reflecting His glory instead of worrying about if this set of clothes makes me look too frumpy or worn out or whatever.

What if I spent every morning getting ready preparing to do battle for the day?  Putting on the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, and the shoes that spread the gospel of peace?  My enemy is not against flesh and blood but against other principalities.  How often do I permit myself to think about that?  Each day I should arm myself to be ready for any fight that might come my way, knowing that I am on God's side.  I know His team wins, and I want to be ready to fight for Him.

As I keep looking at my clothes, I see things that I haven't worn in a long time, but I keep hanging on to them.  Hanging on in case they might someday fit again, or might come into style again.  Why don't I just get rid of them?  Not just the clothes, but the other things that hang around (pride, envy, bitterness, etc.) that have outlived their usefulness, but I keep close by?  It is time to throw off every sin that entangles and run with perseverance.

Gotta go.  Time to get dressed!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Paint

Paint.

"Mom, wouldn't it be cool if God came down here to be an artist?"

That was a random comment my son made one day this summer.  Not sure where things like that come from for him, but it led to a great discussion for us.

"Don't you think God is an artist already?  Don't you see His beauty all around us?"

He paints the oranges, golds, and crimson reds into the autumn leaves.  With a stroke of brilliance, he lights trees on fire in glorious color.

He paints the wispy white puffs of smoke coming off the Smoky Mountains that we saw on vacation.

He paints flowers with gorgeous breaths of color.

He paints the intricate details on a butterfly's wings.

He paints the blues of the ocean and the sky.

He paints the sunrise with a promise of freshness and joy each day.  He does it again each night as a way to assure us that He has more in store for us the next day.

He paints the stars in the sky, more numerous than anyone could ever count...and He calls each one by name.

He paints you and me.  He knit each together perfectly in his mother's womb.  We are perfectly and wonderfully made.

With the cross, He paints a perfect picture of redemption and grace.  He paints our future, giving us hope.  

He paints an eagle swooping across the sky.  He reminds us that He can carry us when we are weak.  He will not grow weary or faint.  

He paints breathtaking rainbows, with the promise that He cares for us and He has not forgotten us.

All I have to do is open my eyes, and I see God's brush strokes all around us.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Walk

Walk.


Last week I got to take a long walk with my dear friend, Julie.  Our kids were at church practice, and we had an hour and a half to walk with each other.  We talked and walked and walked and talked for what seemed like a long time.  When we stopped to check our time, we still had almost an hour before pick up time.  Wow.  It was amazing.  I can't remember the last time -- if ever -- that we had that much time to talk to each other without being interrupted by a thousand "Mama, Mama, Mamas."

I learned some things that day.  Like she and her husband had made a trip to Minnesota to buy a camper.  And she learned that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law moved to Washington...in January.  We are the kind of friends who are always there for each other, but don't always get the day to day details.

When we talk to each other, we are most often presenting a prayer request.  She is my number one prayer buddy, and I know I can ask her to pray for anything, even if it seems small or silly.  And she will do it.  Not only that, she will follow up with me as well to make sure things are still going well.  And I do the same for her.

She can hold me accountable in a way that holds my feet to the fire but also gives me grace when I need it.

Julie is a one of a kind special friend.  I have just a few friends who fall into the category where we can spend long times apart doing life and then come together and never miss a beat.

I don't know if the weather and the daylight will cooperate for us to have any more of these walks.  Moments like that are few and far between with us both being working mothers, but I am definitely holding on to the memory of this one.   It was such a refreshing and relaxing time to be able to spend time uninterrupted with each other, laughing and burning some calories too.  I treasure the walk with this friend, and I treasure that we walk through our lives together. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Whisper of God

Listen for the whisper of God.

The other day started a little rough.  I woke with a rib-racking cough that hurts the throat, the lungs, and the ears of anyone who has to listen to it.  I dragged myself out of my bed, desperately wishing for a cup of coffee with lots of cream, or even a little tea with my honey.  (I don't mean, "tea with my sweetheart."  I meant tea with a whole lot of honey.)  Anyway, those are going against everything I am trying to accomplish as my husband and I tackle our first Whole30.  

I was having a bit of a pity party this morning, feeling overwhelmed and sad that a dumb cough would steal everything I was trying to do to reset my body's systems.   My resource also says that statistically more people quit on Day 10 or 11 than any other.  You guessed it: I woke up with this cough on Day 10.  I was determined not to let this deter me.  So I spent time praying about it and asking God to help me through the day.

I also asked my Bible study group to pray for my physical well-being.  I always have trouble asking for this type of prayer because I know there are so many others who are worse than I am.  But, I was feeling a little desperate so I did it anyway.

Throughout the day, I felt little nudges or whispers that God was taking care of me, and that He was by my side.

My cell service at school is practically nonexistent.  Unless I want to go outside and walk across the parking lot.  So I was surprised when I heard my text message ding.  When I saw the message, it was from a friend who needed prayer right then.  That just happened to be a few minutes before my plan time so I was able to pray for her right away.  That also helped me take the focus off myself for a bit.

As the day went on, I received two more texts.  They were both from my Bible study girls checking on me and praying for me.  I know it sounds silly, but the fact that I received any texts while still in the school building was a bit of divine intervention right there.  All three of them were important to me and timely--one when someone needed me and two that showed me people were praying for me throughout the day.

After school got out, we made a quick trip over to the convenience store so I could get the kids some pizza since we were staying for an evening meeting.  My timing was a little off for that trip since we went during the brief downpour that happened.  At the same time we were getting soaked as we scurried across the parking lot, the sun was so bright that I couldn't even see.  Then there it was.  A big, beautiful, brilliant rainbow.  Whenever I see a rainbow, it makes me all giddy inside.  It always makes me feel like that is God's personal gift for me and for me alone.  I know that is selfish as well as untrue, but that's how I feel when I see a rainbow.  It is as if God took the time to whisper through those brilliant colors, "Everything is going to be okay.  Trust me; I've got this."

By the end of the day, I was feeling much better.  Still coughing some, but not much and not the kind that eventually leads to multiple rounds of antibiotics as I fight off bronchitis.  Two days later, it is holding.  I woke up this morning feeling fantastic, better actually than I have felt in a long time.  I can't explain it any other way.  People prayed for me throughout the day, and my cough went away.

I started the day dismayed and miserable.  I ended the day feeling like I had received a personal gift from God and a healing.  God is there.  He is by my side all day long, and He sends me reminders when I need them most that He really does have it all under control.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

One Mistake Left





Do you see it?  Do you see the mistake in my latest project?  It's a little bit like finding Waldo so don't worry if you can't find it.  If I didn't know what I was looking for, I wouldn't be able to find it either.

Every project I have ever done has a mistake in it.  (At least one!)  Each and every time I find a mistake, it reminds me of my Great-Grandma Ellis.  I remember her fondly.  I used to sit on her lap, and I always played with the loose skin on her hands.  I was fascinated by that.  I am sure it must have been annoying, but she never said a word about it.




I remember fishing in her pond out back.  The time when Jon caught a turtle on his line.  The time when Grandpa and Jon took the raft out to the middle and tipped it over.  All the times I wore my red polka-dotted hat while fishing.  Digging up worms in the yard before we could fish.

Grandma Ellis always had orange slices sitting out in her kitchen.  That kitchen that seemed a little small but just right at the same time.  It was a definite 70s color, although I can't remember the exact color.  It went well with the mint green exterior of the house.  There was also the shed.  All kinds of interesting things out in that shed.  Wheelbarrows, flower pots, and I don't know what else.  

Trees to climb.  Fried chicken to eat.     

Sitting in her lawn chair just enjoying all the kids' hustle and bustle around her.  Watching everything with her wise eyes behind the big glasses.

Remembering the time there was a downpour and we ended up staying the night because the creek was out.  Some interesting night clothes that evening!

Talking about education, and how she didn't really want me to be a teacher.  She came from a time when teachers had to resign when they got married, and she didn't really think that was the best fit for anyone.  (Sorry Grandma, it really is what I was made to do.)

And I don't know exactly which kind, but I know that she was part Native American.  If my memory serves me correctly, her mother had been half-blooded.  Whatever it was, I remember her saying this, "Whenever you make something, you always have to leave one mistake for the evil spirits to get out."  Now I don't believe that evil spirits really live inside my yarn and finished projects, but it always makes me smile when I find a mistake.  Smile and think of Grandma Ellis fondly.  She was one special lady!



And if you have ever received or bought anything from me, you don't have to worry about the evil spirits either.  I always leave plenty of places for them to find their way out!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

My 3-D Summer

Back to school this last week means the end of summer.  That brings with it a lot of questions about how my summer was.  The short answer I have given is "good, busy, and too fast."  In a nutshell, my summer consisted of summer school, jury duty, kids' baseball games, swimming, hanging out, VBS, scrapbooking, lots of crocheting, and two big trips.

The more I have been asked about my summer, the more I have reflected on it.  In addition to the list above, it falls into three dimensions:  Destress, Descreen, and Decaffeinate.


1.  De-stress

This primarily was accomplished by sleeping more.  I didn't get up at 5:00 every day this summer.  I didn't set the alarm at all, except for a few days when I had to be somewhere at a certain time.  But those days were few, and I just let my body sleep as much as it needed.  I woke up between 7 and 7:30 most days, and it was glorious!  My body was fully rested, and I felt great.  The other thing I did to ward off stress was try to  find balance between what I needed to do and what I wanted to do.  Between working around in the house and spending time with the kids.  Between doing dishes and crocheting.   Between running errands and chauffeuring kids and just hanging out at home.  

2.  De-screen

My husband saw this idea somewhere, and we implemented it.  I call it "Screen Time Economy."  This involves the kids earning time on their tablets or in front of the TV by earning chores.  They don't seem to care about money too much, but they sure like their screens.    Little jobs get a little time, and big jobs get a bunch of time.  I don't really care if you veg out for a while if you have already done everything I wanted you to do.  I love the way it works.  My house didn't really get any cleaner; they don't want to do the big jobs no matter what the incentive.  But they were forced to find other ways to spend their time.  I heard a lot of creative play; sometimes they even played together!   We played a lot of board and card games together.  I also quickly realized that if I was putting limits on their screen time, I had to limit my own as well.  I can't very well sit around with my phone or iPad all day, if I am expecting my children to do other things.  I began to realize that electronic games had a stronghold on me so I have deleted all of those off my iPad in order to remove that temptation.

3.  De-caffeinate. 

I love a good cup of coffee with lots of cream.  (My husband suggests I should just have a cup of warm milk!)  Nothing goes better with Bible study than a hot cup of joe.  Plus, I really love having a hot drink in the morning to get me going.  But early in the summer, I gave it up.  One day I ran out of creamer, and I decided I wasn't going to buy anymore.  I wanted to see if it had any impact on the spikes in my blood pressure.  This is in an attempt to figure out what causes my blood pressure to spike.  I had already switched to decaf and limited myself to one cup a day.  I was still having trouble with my blood pressure though so I decided to go without the coffee for a while to see if it made a difference.  It does seem to help so I guess I am going to stick with it.  I am also trying to give up Diet Coke, my number one vice.  I am still working on this one, although I have cut way back.  But if you see me with a Diet Coke in my hand, just know that I am a work in progress.  


I feel good about my summer.  Not every moment was perfect, of course, but I will remember this one fondly.  And that is a good place to be as I am now back into full swing of school schedule.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Filling the Pitcher: Reflections on Declare Conference


The Filled Pitcher | Meridian Magazine



Last summer when I went to Declare, I was all wrapped up in insecurities and fears.  Insecurities about myself and fears that my blog wasn't good enough or whatever.  I didn't even know everything that was making me feel anxious.

When I got there, I discovered that God had a very personal message for me.  Almost every speaker, almost every piece of memorabilia, every person I encountered gave me this message: I am enough; God is more than enough.  On the last day there,  I got a bracelet reads "Love > Fear."  This perfectly summed up everything I learned at Declare.  Love.  God is Love.  He is bigger than fear.  Fear comes from the devil, the enemy, and God is bigger than all the fears that the enemy can put in front of me.  It was a good message, a good word from God.

That message carried me through a whole year.  This year, going to Declare, I was feeling pretty good.  I wasn't having insecurities about myself or my blog.  The people I met last year at Declare were so warm and  loving and welcoming, not judgmental in the least.  I wasn't worried, but I didn't really go with any expectations or goals either.  When I got there, I found myself not getting a super personal word like I did last year, but it was still good.  What I got this year is what I equate to filling up the pitcher.  I simply enjoyed myself listening to so many good speakers,  singing praise, and visiting with so many good people there.  I didn't worry about if my blog was good enough or how many people it was reaching. I feel confident (at least right now) that I'm writing what God wants me to write and that it is reaching the people who need to see it at that moment.  In fact, I pray about that every time I post:  that my post will be powerful to one person, that it will be what one person needs to read or hear or see that day.  And I pray that I can take myself out of it.  Let my words not be about how many likes or comments I get, but about reaching one person.  Even if I never know who that is.

What I found this year at Declare is a connection to people.  I reached out to people.  People reached out to me.  I reconnected with people I met last year.  I made new friends.  I prayed for people, and even had some pray for me.  It was also about my connection to God.  I feel like I filled up my pitcher this year.  Jesus said, "Come to me, all who are thirsty, and drink of the living water."  And that's what I did.  I drank up His living water.  I filled myself up with His Word and His goodness so that I could, in turn, pour it back out to the people around me and the people who I touch through my blog.  My reflection on Declare this year is that my pitcher is full of God's goodness and love.  I want to return that to the people He has placed in my life.

Thank you for being one of those people!  Thank you for taking the time to click on my link and read my words.  I pray that my words will somehow bless you today.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hope Prevails (Book Review)




This is my friend, Michelle.  

I had the joy of meeting her last year and reconnecting with her again this year.  She and I were in the same group last year at The Declare Conference.  I felt like we connected immediately, and we kept in touch off and on through social media.  What a pleasure and honor it was to be part of her book launch team.  

Hope Prevails is an amazing book.  Michelle is a certified neuropsychologist, and she is licensed to know how to deal with depression.  However, this book is unlike any other.  She fills every page with her own personal struggles of dealing with depression and numerous Scripture references.  Although my heart breaks for her in all that she and her family have gone through, I also find myself cheering for her as she step-by-step talks about how she recovered.  I absolutely love that this book is intricately tied to God's Word.  Not just one or two references per chapter, but one paragraph may have eight to ten references in it.  

Depression is a tool of the enemy.  He has come to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  He wants to steal our joy, kill our peace, and destroy our identities.  He does this by getting inside our heads and twisting everything around.  He makes us doubt our selves and question our worth.  He feeds on our personal anxieties and insecurities.  

But it is not true.  Michelle testifies throughout the pages that this is false.  God's Word says time and time again in many different formats how He loves us because He made us.  We can't earn it, and we can't lose it either.  Nothing we ever do can make God love us more than He already does...and nothing we ever do can make God love us less than He already does either.  

In Isaiah 54:17, we learn that "No weapon formed against us shall prevail."  And that includes the weapon of depression.  The enemy cannot use against us what we have surrendered to God.  When we start taking every thought captive and offering it up to God, the enemy begins to lose his power over us.  When we get God's thoughts and words firmly in our heads, we are filled with light and truth.  

Now to be clear, I am not saying that your days will get any easier.  I believe that they can and will over time, but it might be so gradual that it is hard to see.  Or the enemy may try even harder to pull you down once you start fighting back.  I admit that this is not an area where I have struggled, but I see hurting people all around me.  Beautiful people (of all ages) who are wrapped up in lies about themselves and cannot see themselves as God created them.  

There are two major themes that run throughout this book.  1). You are not alone.  God is always with you, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid or discouraged because He is with you (Joshua 1:9).  2).  Hope prevails.  Even in the darkest valley, you do not need to fear (Psalm 23:4). Our hope is in Jesus Christ, and that will prevail over anything else.  Keep your eyes fixed on Him because He is the author and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1). 

In addition to the personal trials as well as the strong ties to Biblical truth, the end of each chapter has a prescription for steps you can take to overcome the darkness and depression as well as a personal prayer.  It is even followed by several songs that helped Michelle overcome her struggles and may benefit you as well.  Whether you are struggling with depression or you love someone who is, I believe this book is powerful to help on many levels.  I highly recommend this book; I think it will be life-changing.

I want to leave you with a few words from the author herself.  


“I’m writing today from where I stand, the other side of depression’s valley. I encourage you to persevere. You will not always feel this way. There are brighter days ahead...

I’ve written this book to offer hope. In the midst of my battle, hope was elusive. I wasn’t sure I would survive. Actually, I wasn’t sure I wanted to survive. But hope—the belief in a purpose, the belief in something better—can make all the difference..."

Hope Prevails!
#hopeprevails


The opinions in this post are my own, and I have in no way been compensated for writing this review.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Help

I have been married almost thirteen years to a wonderful guy.  I am so blessed to have this man in my life.  He often doesn't get enough credit for all that he does.

But some days are hard, you know?  Not every day is magical and like a fairy tale.  This is real, every day life, and some days we get on each other's nerves.  Marriage takes work.

So I say all that to introduce a realization that I have had recently.  A week or two ago, I realized that we approach "help" in very different ways.  This was really an Aha type of moment for me.  Seems like I probably should have figured this out before, but I consider it proof that we never stop growing and learning about each other.

My husband is a hard worker in every area of his life.  Not only that, but he is always willing to assist those around him in whatever way he can.  He jumps in and gives his best no matter what.  These are admirable qualities, for sure.  

I am a rather independent person, and don't typically ask for help.  I prefer to figure things out and do them my own way.  I may struggle a bit along the way, but I usually get my task accomplished.  When I get stuck beyond where I can manage, I do ask for help.

So this is sometimes a source of contention between us.  When he is doing something, he expects those around him (that means me!) to see a need and act on it.  Jump in and just start helping. When I am doing something, I want everybody to leave me alone until I call out for help.  Often this takes place like this:  I am making dinner, and my husband wants to give me some advice about how I could do it easier and more efficiently.  While he may be right, I feel like I am doing fine doing it my own way and don't need any help.

I don't think either perspective is bad or wrong.  I don't think my way is better than his.  What I do think (now) is that we have different approaches that sometimes create a little friction.  

So what I am realizing is that I need a little help in the moment to recognize what is happening.  Two different personalities and approaches trying to operate as one unified team.  If I can remember that he has good intentions when he offers a suggestion, I might not get so snippy.  And if I can remember that  he might welcome some assistance on a project he is doing, I think we might draw even closer to one another.
The two shall become one.  We are united in our marriage, and in our love for each other.  We are united in our love for Christ and our love for our children.  But we still have two distinct personalities. Sometimes I need a little help working that out.  I can't do it on my own, but where should I turn?

My help comes from the LORD, the maker of the heavens and the earth.  All I have to do is ask the One who made me.




Monday, July 4, 2016

Failure Commissioned (Inseparable Chapter Four)

Are you afraid to fail?  Are you afraid you won't measure up, that you aren't good enough?  Are you afraid that someone will find out that you messed up and that you are not perfect?

As I read the opening pages of Chapter Four of my Bible study, I really identified with what the author Ashley Linne was writing.  It so captured my very thoughts:  

"Failure.  We loathe it.  We fear it.  We allow it to hang over us like a cloud, threatening to ruin our hopes and dreams.  We dread it so much that sometimes we choose to sit safely in our comfortable lives, never daring to step out and pursue the great things to which God has called us.  I have never attempted because I feared I would fail...I often have some unattainable definitions of success in my life, and I bow to the pressure before I even make an attempt."
 
Ouch and double ouch.  Some unattainable definitions of success, and I stop before I get started.  I have this idea in my head of what "perfect" should look, and then I decide I can't possibly do it that well.  Doesn't really matter what the "it" is; it could be anythingAnything that I am afraid to attempt because I might fail.  What about when this defines my Christian walk?  Can I be perfect?  Of course not.  Does that mean I shouldn't try?  I know in my head that the answer is, again, of course not, but that is sometimes my mode of operation.  So when I fail to try as a Christian or I try and then fail, does that affect how God feels about me? 

What about if I am doing everything right?  Does that mean God loves me more than when I am not doing well?  "We're right with God because Jesus is right with God, and we're in Jesus.  We're filled with His Spirit; He resides within us, guiding and directing us minute by minute if we are listening.  Following His voice in trusts is what pleases Him."

So pleasing God comes from trusting Him, and trusting Him comes from following His voice.  But how do I know His voice in order to follow it?  Jesus told His disciples that He was the Good Shepherd, and that His sheep would know His voice and follow Him.  Still though, how do we know His voice?  It comes from knowing the word of God, and that comes from an ongoing commitment to read it, listen to it, or otherwise study it. 

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be our daily helper after He was no longer able to walk the Earth with us.  Because the Holy Spirit is the mediator between God and us, we can learn to listen to that still, quiet voice inside us that prompts us to follow Him.  Ashley says it like this: "The Holy Spirit is constantly in communication with us, so we have ample opportunity to follow His lead.  Will we miss some of what He's saying?  Most likely.  But that's where grace comes in.  Making a habit of listening for God's voice takes time and practice.  For some of us that time span may be days, but for others it may be years.  The important thing is that we remember that in Christ, we can do what He asks of us.  We can do it because we're in Him and He's in us.  So if He's asking us to do something, we can do it because He will be the One powering us" (Philippians 4:13) [emphasis mine]

Listening to God's voice and following His will comes down to the two commandments that Jesus gave us:  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.  If we put everything we do under the microscope of loving God and loving those around us, we won't necessarily avoid failure but we will begin to define success as doing what God wants.  The outcome of our actions and how other people respond to us is up to Him.  He just wants our heart, and He wants us to treat other people well.

In some of His last words on Earth, Jesus commands us to "Go, and make disciples of all nations."  This is an area where I always feel like I fall woefully short.  My words get all tangled up.  I don't know what to say.  I don't want to come across as judgmental or as hypocritical, especially when I know all the areas where I have fallen short in the past (or right now).  But it is important.  If we are looking again at the microscope of loving others as ourselves, don't we want those people who are in our daily lives to know the love of God like we do?  Don't we want them to know they are loved like we are loved? 

"We don't need to be perfect, know everything, or have it all together.  We just need to be able to point others to the One who is perfect, knows everything, and has it all together."  

In case you are still uncertain about measuring up to God's standards, let's took a look at Peter.  Peter is well-known for being impetuous.   Yes, he is the one who sank when he tried to walk on water.  Yes, he told Jesus not to wash his feet.  Yes, he is the one who denied Christ at the crucifixion.  But isn't he so much more than the sum of his mistakes?  He also is the only one who got out of the boat to walk on the water.  None of the others even thought about it.  Peter is also the one who changed what he was saying to Jesus:  not just my feet, but my head and hands as well (John 13:9).  And Peter is the rock on whom Jesus trusted to build His church after He ascended to Heaven.  Even though Peter didn't always get it right, he didn't always get it wrong either.  If Jesus could forgive Peter for denying him three times and give him more chances to follow Him, He can do that for you as well.

You may not always get it right, but you won't always get it wrong either.  Take it day by day, and follow His lead one step at a time.  Cut yourself a little slack, and keep trying.  "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).









Thursday, June 23, 2016

Can You Imagine?






This morning I picked up a check that was for the tutoring I had done throughout the school year.  I got to the van, and I looked at the amount.  I smiled.  A big smile.  It was a good check.  Not a terrifically huge amount of money, but a little more than I had thought it would be.  That in itself is good, but I immediately recognized that it was more than I needed to finish the commitment I had made to the building fund of my church.

In the fall of 2014, our church initiated a building campaign.  Todd and I set a goal together.  It was one that we agreed on, and one that we felt we both had to stretch a bit to get there each month.  It felt right.  It felt good to agree on the amount and to know that we were helping our church make needed improvements to our facilities in order to be better able to serve the community.

And then, right before the pledge cards were due, God laid it on my heart that I had more to give.  It was clear to me that this was something He wanted me and me alone to do.  An act of obedience and trust.  It felt like an unsafe and scary number that He was calling for.  How in the world could I do that? I kept hearing these words in my heart:  Trust me, trust me, trust me.  So I did it.  I committed to this amount by myself, in addition to the joint amount that Todd and I would be contributing.

I didn't know how it would work, or what it would look like.  I was afraid of failing.  My extra contribution would come from talents with which God has gifted me.  Tutoring and crocheting to be precise.  God blessed me with these abilities, and I would use them to give back to Him through the Imagine campaign at church.  I decided that I was committed to this amount, even if it took me longer than the 36 months to accomplish it.

Less than a month after this decision, I got a call from a friend of a friend--a complete stranger to me.  She was desperate for some reading help for her son, and our mutual friend had said she should get in touch with me.  Not long after that initial conversation, we were having tutoring sessions twice a week. Bam.  That was a significant start to fulfilling my obligation.  I believe that was God directly working through the situation to show me that He had it all under control.

Along the way, I have been sent other tutoring students.  In addition to what I do through school, I have had students that I work with at the house.  Although it makes for crazy schedules and means that I have something going on almost every single night, I really do enjoy helping them be more successful.  That is intrinsically rewarding, but it also gives me a sense of satisfaction to know that all that time and effort directly corresponds to my goal for the church.

As if that wasn't enough, my crochet business has blossomed.  With the exception of setting up a table at our church craft fair and posting some pictures through Facebook, I have done nothing to market my business.  God is my marketing and advertising director, and He is doing a fine job!  I consistently have six to ten orders that are waiting for me to be made.  That is not so many that I get  overwhelmed trying to get everything done, but not so few that I feel despair or worry over not making my goals.  I get a kick out of people sending me a picture and asking me if I could make something like that.  God has certainly blessed the work of my hands.  He sends me the customers.  I make the products, and I give the profit to Him.

So here I sit, 21 months into this big, unsafe, scary goal.  AND I AM FINISHED.  Fifteen months ahead of the 3-year commitment.  When I saw my check this morning, I realized that the amount was enough to fulfill my goal.  That is what brought on the big smile.

And then the tears.  As I drove back to town, I just was overwhelmed.  God loves me so much, and He is so good to me.  He has faithfully brought me the tutoring students and the crochet customers, without me having to go out and hunt up business.  Twenty-one months ago, He said, "Trust me."  And that is all I had to do.  Even as I sit here typing this, I am overcome all over again.  I just cannot believe how He did so much more than I could ask or even imagine.  Looking back to the fall of 2014, I  didn't know how I could possibly make it work.  The answer is:  I couldn't.  God did it.  All I did was take one step of obedience.

"Now to Him, who is able to immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen."  Ephesians 3:20-21



Friday, May 13, 2016

Corpse Alive (Inseparable Chapter 3)

In Christ, I am alive.

When I accept the power of Christ into my life, I am no longer dead to sin.  I am alive by Him dwelling within me.  I have the presence of Christ Himself inside of me.  Because of His presence, my focus can be on the work of the Spirit, not on my fallen, corrupt nature.  Romans 8:6-7 tells us, "A mind focused on the flesh is doomed to death, but a mind focused on the Spirit will find full life and complete peace.  You see, a mind focused on the flesh is declaring war against God; it defies the authority of God's law and is incapable of following His path."  I had to read those words a couple of times before it really sank in.  A mind focusing on the Spirit will find full life and complete peace.  A mind focused on the flesh is declaring war against God.  When I am focused on the wrong things--the things that are not of God--I am declaring war against God.  I do not want to be a person on the wrong side of any war that involves God.  That will not turn out well for me.  That concept reinforces my perspective that my righteousness matters.  But it's not about the rules or the laws...it is about our heart.  The condition of my heart is where my righteousness comes from.  If I am alive in Christ, then I should desire to do what pleases Him.

"When we are without Christ, we are dead.  How do we come to recognize we are dead inside?  Only one who has been brought to life can tell another dead soul what it is like to be revived."  This is why our personal testimonies are so important.  Our resurrected souls can share our stories of how we are alive again and can impact other people.  We need to use our own experiences to keep pointing people back to God.  

The next section deals with life after our souls have been resurrected.  We are no longer dead to sin but we are alive in Christ.  So why do we continue to focus on all the ways we have sinned in our lives?  "It can be really easy to be preoccupied with our sinful nature even though we've been rescued from sin's ultimate consequences.  It is true that we will struggle against temptation for the rest of our lives...But what bothers me is how often we continue to view ourselves only as sinners."  That is such a good point.  I am a sinner.  I do mess up more frequently than I like to admit.  I still struggle in so many ways.  But I am a lot more than the sum total of my sins.  I am alive in Christ.  I have the embodiment of the Spirit living in me.  We are new creations with abundant life.  In John 10:10, Jesus says, "I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly."  We need to stop focusing on our sins and focus on all the we can do through the power of Christ who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13).



So what do we do with those sins, mistakes, and other flaws in our lives?  Ignore them?  Pretend like they never happened?  That is my natural response, but God can use those very areas of our lives in order to reach someone else. Although it isn't easy, we can pray for God "to use our past mistakes as tools for justice and goodness in this world."  I love that phrase.  "Tools for justice and goodness" makes me feel like a superhero ready to rescue the world!

The Bible character in this chapter is Lazarus.  It is a familiar section, but there was a new application for me here.  Lazarus was dead.  Completely dead and buried in a tomb for four days.  When Jesus raised him back to life, he called for those around him to help him get unwound from the grave clothes.    He couldn't do it by himself.  "When Jesus raises our souls from the dead, sometimes there are things about our old, dead life that are trying to hold us back.  We need help getting untangled, and that's part of why our new lives are meant to be lived alongside other believers.   We need to leave the things that wrapped us when we were dead where they belong--in the grave.  We are in Christ now, and instead of grave clothes, we are tangled up in His grace, mercy, and redemption.  We are alive."

Here are some ides that stood out to me in Romans 5.  We are to celebrate in times of suffering because it produce endurance, and that shapes our character.  From that we can learn to hope and anticipate God's goodness (v. 3-4).  We have grace--and have it abundantly--through the legacy of Jesus Christ (v. 17).  Although we don't aspire to be sinners, God's grace is more.  No matter how much sin creeps in, there is always more grace (v. 20).

***
The opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and I am in now way being compensated for this post.



Thursday, May 5, 2016

Made Right (Inseparable Chapter Two)


 "Made Right."  I love the name of this chapter.  It holds a double-meaning for me.  I am "Made Right," as in I am made correctly, perfectly, exactly as He wanted me to be.  No mistakes there.  This is near and dear to my heart as it was the theme of my #write31days project last October.  The second meaning is more what the author Ashley Linne intended in this context.  I am "Made Right," as in I am right with God.  Christ's blood covers me so that I am not separated from God.  His sacrifice makes me right as it washes away my sins.

We are fallen creatures in a fallen world.  On our own, we can never be right with God.  Only through the Anointed, the Liberating King can we be justified.  "But that ability has not come from living by our fallen nature; it has come because we walk according to the movement of the Spirit in our lives" (Romans 8:4).

The next section talks about Eve.  Ashley states, "Somewhere along the way Eve forgot who she was. In fact, she forgot who God was because somewhere in her heart she started thinking He was holding out on her."  Sometimes I think Eve gets too easily blamed for her sins.  After all, if she hadn't eaten that piece of fruit, then we would all be better off, right?  But today I am thinking about it like this: Eve (and Adam) lived in a perfect world and walked in the garden of Eden with God, and yet they still had doubts and insecurities.  Satan knew just where to poke and prod them to get them to fall.  How much more will he know where and how to attack us?  His biggest trick is to convince us to take matters into our own hands instead of trusting God.

Sin in our lives is going to happen.  It is inevitable.  That is why we need Jesus so much.  He is the One--the only One--in all of mankind who never sinned.  I can't even fathom what that would look like. Jesus never back talked his mother for that would be dishonoring her.  He never gossiped about his fellow carpenters for that might be bearing false witness.  He never put anything or anyone between him and God the Father for that would be having an idol.  No sins.  Ever.

Because of His perfect nature, He was able to be the perfect sacrifice for us.  He loves us so much that He didn't want us to be separated from God, even though it meant He would have to be through His death on the cross.  "Jesus gave everything of Himself so I could had everything of Him.  Not just a 'get out of hell free' card, but a destiny, an identity, a purpose, a brotherhood... a life."  Salvation is so much more than an absence from hell's gateway.  I think some people miss the importance of that.

In the next section, Ashley Linne talks about how our reconciliation is already complete.  Jesus did it.  We cannot do it on our own.  "There is no way we could ever make amends with God on our own, and we need to allow ourselves to enjoy the freedom that brings our souls.  I hope you have felt the sweet relief of having the weight lifted off your shoulders through His forgiveness.  Don't go back and pick up baggage you have already left behind."  Man, that had a lot of weight for me.  Don't go back and pick up baggage you have already left behind.  Ouch!  How many times have I done that?  Leave it in the dust; don't keep going back for it and quit carrying it around.  Lay it down already!

In each chapter, Ashley ties the trait she is describing to someone in the Bible.  Abraham was made right with God by his faith and his faith alone.  Not his good works, not his striving to do the right thing, but simply by believing God.  God said, "I have a plan for you, Abraham."  And Abraham said, "Let's do it."  That's my paraphrase, of course, but that's essentially what transpired.  Romans 4:3 says, "What does Scripture say?  Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."  So what does it take for you and me to be righteous?  To do the same thing as Abraham:  to believe God and follow His plan.

Here are some standout moments for me from Romans 3.

God is faithful.  He does not change.  No matter how unfaithful or untrustworthy we as individuals are, He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  "If every person on the planet were  a liar and thief, God would still be true" (v. 4).  The purpose of law is not to be a set-by-step plan for becoming right in God's eyes; the law was designed to show us how much we need a Savior (v. 20).  All have sinned and fail to reach God on their own ( v. 23).  We are saved and redeemed through the grace that only comes from Jesus the Anointed (v. 24).  We are made right through faith and not deeds (v. 28)

In Christ, we are... made right.

***
The opinions expressed are my own, and I am in no way being compensating for this post.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In Christ (Inseparable Chapter One)

Thanks for joining me again as I reflect on the Bible study Insepearable: Who I Am, Was, and Will Be in Christ by Ashley Linne!  I am glad you are here.

Chapter One reached out and grabbed me from the beginning just like the introduction.  I love this sentence: "The truth is, no matter who I am, Christ is the same today as He was yesterday and a thousand years before that."  This is a concept that gives me great comfort.  He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  He is not a fickle God.  He does not change His mind as the wind blows.  He is faithful, steadfast, and true.  I can depend on Christ because He is forever unchanging.  When I am in a rough spot, Christ will still be the same loving, just, gracious, protector as He is when I am in a good spot.  No matter who I am, or what I am going through, I find peace in knowing that I am talking to the One who created it all.

I wrestled with the next part of the book.  And I am still wrestling with it.  Here Ashley says that the key to being shaped in Christ's image is to stop "putting Jesus first."  Anybody else just do a "Say what?  Stop putting Jesus first?  What kind of book is this anyway?"  The rationale here is that putting Jesus first indicates that there are some areas of our lives where He is not allowed at all.  I wasn't sure I agreed with that statement.  But discussing it with my breakfast buddies gave me a new perspective.  Instead of viewing my life as a ladder with Jesus at the top rung and everything else falling under that, maybe I should think of it as a wheel.  Jesus is the center, and everything should be a spoke coming out of that center.  Every spoke--every part of my life--must go through the center of the wheel.   If every single area of my life is centered on Jesus, then I will be radiating His image.  That makes more sense to me.

The main theme of this chapter is that the Holy Spirit lives in us, and that makes us in Christ.  The Holy Spirit guides us and directs us, leading us to be more Christ-like.  He comforts us, prays for us, and helps us make decisions.  We are in Christ because the Holy Spirit lives in us.  "Not only is God the Holy Spirit always there; He is the most important thing about you.  He defines you.  If you're anything like me, you've spent a whole lot of time trying to figure out who you are."  How would you answer this question?  Who am I?  I am IN CHRIST.  And nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, neither depth nor height nor anything else.  (Romans 8:38)

I really connected with the next part of the text.  She said through all the bad times of her life, it was the Holy Spirit that held her together.  "And through all this brokenness, at the end of myself I discovered God."  That is exactly my experience after my divorce.  Through all the heartache and brokenness is when I really, truly discovered God, and He carried me through that difficult time.

We are all made in Christ.  This is a common bond that ties us together.  But we are also uniquely gifted and talented.  We can appreciate God's goodness and creativity in making us all different while binding us all together through the power of His blood and the grace of the Holy Spirit.  

Romans 8 talks about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  There is no condemnation for those in Christ.  (8:1).  We are liberated from the law of sin, like setting a slave free.  (8:2).  We are brought to life by the Spirit.  (8:5).  We can be sure the Spirit lives within us.  (8:11).  We are to abandon the oppressive regime of our flesh and sinful natures (8:12).  When we are too weak to pray on our own, the Holy Spirit will take over and pray on our behalf (8:26).  All things work together for good, according to His plan, when we believe in Him (8:28).  Nothing, absolutely nothing, can come between us and the love of God. (8:38). That chapter has so many promises to give us hope.  We can cling to these truths when we are feeling discouraged or unworthy.

In Christ, we are Inseparable.






Sunday, April 17, 2016

One Liners by David Taylor

In honor of my dad's birthday, I have compiled a list of his "One Liners."  Many of these come from TV shows or commercials or from old jokes or from other people.  There may even be a little bit of original material in there somewhere.  If you know my dad at all, I am sure you have heard him say many of these lines!

 

I LOVE YOU, DADDY!

 
That was before my time, but I heard the Big Boys talk about it. 

I had to walk uphill to school...both ways.

I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

Only when I'm by myself or with somebody.

Only on days that end in "y."

All done but the finishing.

I can jump higher than the table.

It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

I had to get up before breakfast.




No, wait.  I'll get it.  Could be the phone.

Taylor Residence.

Yes, is this the party to whom I am speaking?

Do you have an appointment?

Let me see if she is taking calls.

Honey, it's your favorite daughter.  No, not that one.  The other one.

Is that Laura?  Tell her she owes me money.

Check's in the mail.





Did your parents have any kids that lived?

Who's on first?

What does that have to do with the price of beans in China?  I don't know.  How many ice cream cones does it take to roof a doghouse?

What are you wearing, Jake from State Farm?





Walk this way.

The sky's the limit.  You can have anything you want, up to a buck-two-ninety-nine.

Soup's on.

Tastes like chicken.

Tastes like MORE.


OO-EE!  That be good.  Just like Grandma used to make.


What if we never get ready?


Oh no, we are not going to stay for the drawing.





You're all right.  I don't care what that other guy says about you.  I didn't believe it all anyway.

Are you running away from home?

Was it something I said?

Write if you find work.

Don't quit your day job.

Are you writing a book?  Leave my chapter out.




Did you bring me something nice?  Is it bigger than a bread basket?


If I'm not here, I'll be in the other building.


I'll either be upstairs or downstairs.


Say, "Good night, Chet."


Thanks a lot, Ollie.


And that's another thing.  Don't call me Shirley.


All day unless it rains.

You can have the rest of my time.

Oh, Margaret.  I think it's the best one.

Elvis has left the building.

Doctor, it hurts when I do this.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Just driven by a little old lady on Sundays, back and forth in her driveway.

Are we keeping you up?

Say Uncle.

Don't ever say I didn't give you anything.

Diamond Jim Brady.


Have I worn out my welcome?

I sold them to the gypsies.

Oh No, Mr. Bill!

No, wait.  Not that one.  I wanted that one.

Would I?  Would I?

Could have fooled me.

I gave at the office.

I love it when a plan comes together.

I LOVE YOU THIS MUCH!











Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Inseparable: An Introduction

Two weeks ago I started an early morning Bible study.  It is something I have been thinking about for several months.  When I came back from the Declare Conference last August, I felt like there were two things I needed to accomplish.  Write 31 Days in October on what He had been teaching me from Psalm 139.  (I did that.  Check.). Lead a Bible study.

I wrestled with that one for awhile.   It wasn't that I was opposed to doing it.  But right when I returned was when I got back into the swing of a new school year.  Every year is busy, especially at the beginning.  This year seemed double other years for some reason.  Maybe it is because my kids are old enough now to be involved in activities, and there was an increase in chauffeuring.  Maybe it was because of some additional responsibilities and expectations at school this year.  Maybe it is because of some additional tutoring that I do at home.  Or maybe I was just making excuses.  

Anyway, the idea of doing a Bible study never went away.  It kept popping up in my mind, day to day, week to week.  But how?  When?  Then it hit me.  Maybe I could do an early morning Bible study.  Who said it has to be in the evening?  I liked this idea.  But would anybody else be interested in meeting at 6:00 in the morning?  I began praying over who would also want to do this with me.  

Then the was the question of what to study.  I had asked several people if they had any ideas.  Suggestions were given, and I checked them out.  None of them felt right though.  One day I was shuffling some things around, and a book literally fell at my feet.  I picked it up and smiled.  In the chaos that followed my return from Declare, I forgot all about this book.  Inseparable: Who I Am, Was, and Will Be in Christ by Ashley Linne.  I spent more than a month writing about how God made me perfectly and how I can set my anxieties and insecurities aside because of my completeness in Him.  This book, covering Paul's letter to Romans, seemed to be a pretty good follow up.

The next morning during my study and prayer time, I asked God if this was what He wanted.  I felt like I got affirmation.  On a leap of faith--before I had a single person definitely committed to meeting with me--I ordered five copies.  No backing out now!

Fast forward to two weeks ago, we had our first meeting.  We were all a little nervous.  Even when you know everyone, it still is hard to get a new group going.  But I thought it went well.  (They must have all thought so too because they all came back for week two!)

Following are some quotes and stand out moments from the Introduction.  

The opening paragraph grabbed me.  The author Ashley quoted a pastor she knew as saying, "When you study the Bible, you're spending time getting to know a person, not just reading a book."  Wow.  I love that.  It is so true.  The reason I love reading my Bible every day is because of what it teaches me about God and how I relate to Him and how to be more like Him.  I really am getting to know a person.

Another concept that stood out to me from the introduction is the acknowledgment that we are not all in the same place.  Some of us have a lot of time to give, and some of us don't.  Some of us have a vast knowledge of Bible theology, and some of us are just getting our feet wet.  She suggests, "I want to encourage you to do what you can with what you've got right now... what pleases God is our coming to Him in faith that He loves us and wants to interact with us.  And I promise you--even a little bit of time spent in God's Word can change your life.  It may be just a very slight, almost unnoticeable change.  But it will be change, and even the slightest adjustment in your walk with Him can set the course of your life."

A third idea I liked was the encouragement to do something with what He is teaching you.  Our output may look different from person to person, but we should act on what He is telling us.  Aside from meeting with a group of ladies to discuss what we are learning, I also want to put it into words and share it with my digital community.  Not everybody loves the idea of breakfast Bible study, so this is a way I can share what I am learning and for you to read on your own time.

(Shout out to Britta Ellis Lafont for inspiring me to blog along with the study!)


*****
The opinions in this post are my own, and I am in no way getting compensated for writing about this book.