Saturday, March 31, 2012

Friends of God (and more bluebonnets)

"And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God."

Romans 5: 9-11, NLT

(And I know, I'm still on my bluebonnet kick.  But wouldn't you be, too??)

Linking with Deidra at Jumping Tandem.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Gift: 5 Minute Friday

Want to play Five Minute Friday? It’s easy peasy!
1. Write for 5 minutes flat on the prompt- no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. Meet & encourage someone who linked up before you.


The Valentine's Day list of names of children in her classroom comes home and I realize that the face I haven't yet met is still on the list but not in the class.  I wonder how she will get her Valentine's, if her mom will drive up to the school and fetch them, just like she probably does with other school materials that her daughter needs.
photo source
One day, Hannah brings home a note from the school counselor, telling me that they will have a conversation in her kindergarten class about this friend who is finally well enough to be on the list and in the classroom.  She's going to learn a bit about what this little girl has been through as she's faced a big disease.  They will chat about being sensitive to her needs and how to include her into their already tight-knit groups.

Hannah bounces home after school, "J is getting her port out over Spring Break so she can come to school!  She's bald and she wears a hat, but she's still beautiful!"

All week long, I hear about the port removal and the bald head and the fact that she is all better.  Hannah rattles off the ways that she's going to help her sweet new friend.  And I smile.

There is the gift -- she knows someone closely who has triumphed over cancer and she begins to realize that perhaps beauty is not in the length of hair, but in the depth of strength.

Linking with the Gypsy Mama and Faith-Filled Fridays.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

when spring break offers a different type of vacation experience

I am blessed to be a part of a church that values missions outside of our town and inside of our town.  With this dual focus, so many people in our church community are able to participate in Jesus' call to serve those who need help (physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc), whether they are around the corner or across the ocean.

Each day of this Spring Break vacation, our church, St. Luke's on the Lake, partnered with organizations in the Austin area who needed help in various forms.  Parishioners took part in as many or as few days as they could, but each moment given produced fruit for the Kingdom of God.  Sometimes we may have had the amazing opportunity to witness with our words to those who may not know Jesus, but we always had the opportunity to witness with our actions, with our gifts, and with our smiles.  I am struck by the fact that task that are not normally considered heroic or herculean are so incredibly appreciated.  And I also appreciate that entering in for the long haul can really assure someone else that God just might be in for the long haul, too.

On the day that those who could help the Refugee Services of Texas, our team literally showed a new refugee (from the Hutu tribe of Burundi) how the bus system of Austin works.  This means that they all waited.  A lot.  However, what we may view as mundane, is life to another.  To know and understand where vital resources are in this city is of utmost importance.  And in the waiting, a relationship was built, the heart of Christ lived out.  Our team leader, Barbara, received this email from the head of the organization:
Thank you again for St. Luke's generous day of service.  Bus orientations are not the easiest task to conquer, however they are valuable for both parties as they give a great inside perspective on the challenges refugees face upon arrival.  It is also very demonstrative of refugees' incredible ability to survive, overcome, and learn new skills in this country despite having faced years of oppression, violence, and displacement. 
I am confident that those who traveled around with this newcomer learned as much from him as he did about Austin that day.

At many of the places we visited, there was a lot of gardening, of cleaning up, of beautifying.  Those who need help usually don't have a lot of time to focus on the external growing of things -- God is so busy at work at the internal, there is not a lot of time for the other realm (plus, there is often the issue of funds).  Or, perhaps their bodies have failed to keep up with the desires of their hearts and they just cannot do the things they long to do anymore.  But even though physical labor was a great need, time spent building relationships with the people within these organizations, perhaps produced even more beauty and fruit.  After the crew that helped one of Mrs. Josephine, one of elderly ladies that relies on the FarNorthwest Caregivers, this happened:
Ms. J's personal attendant came out with tears of gratitude in her eyes.  Ms. J cannot walk and her health is deteriorating.  Her attendant said that she gets so much pleasure from looking out the window at her garden and the birds, but that the garden had become run-down and unkempt.  She called us "angels."
Not only did we enrich them, bringing kindness, smiles, and fun, but they enriched us, often without even knowing they were doing it.  Our team leader writes, after she returned from Elderhaven:
I saw God in the tenderness and unspoken connections the Elderhaven clients have one for another.  One man held the hand of a woman he has only known a very short while (I'm pretty sure he thinks she is his deceased wife) and they were both happy and content. In the end, maybe it's not about shared experiences, memories or words, but just simple, loving gestures.
freshly prepared beds at Elder Care
Hard at work at the Glory House.
Fence Repair at the Glory House 
Mowing down weeds at the Glory House 
Basking in a hard day's work
Kitchen Repair at the Glory House 
Weeding and bed prep at Armadillo RV Park
Abby does crafts with some of the kids who live in the park (many of them have started attending our church, too)
A puppet show!
A task for any ability level.  Hannah took such pride in cleaning the picnic tables at the park. 

Fr. Parker comes to lend his gardening expertise, too.
Fellowship and celebrating a great day's work with Sno Cones!
This one says it all - so much fruit!
A bit about where we were this week:


Refugee Services re-settles legal refugees to the U.S. who are fleeing persecution in their home countries.  Refugee Services is the entry point for most refugee families, who generally do not know anyone where they are relocating.

Faith In Action is an organization of volunteers that provide rides for elderly folks living independently in their homes, but who cannot drive anymore.  Faith In Action also helps clients with general cleaning and landscaping projects they are not able to do themselves.

They have a diverse clientele; some Spanish-speaking participants, and about half of the clients have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.  Elderhaven is an adult daycare center for folks who cannot stay home alone while their caregivers are at work.

House of Glory is a half-way or sober house for women after drug/alcohol rehabilitation or coming off the streets/homeless living.  House of Glory provides a safe place for them to live while working on daily living and job skills.

Friday - La Palabra/Armadillo RV Park
Armadillo RV Park is a community of working poor families, mainly Spanish-speaking.  We work together to help improve their community and make connections.  

Are you interested in doing something like this at your church?  You are welcome to contact our team leader, Barbara (barbarafrances@sbcglobal.net) to ask her questions on how to get this started in your area.


Linking with Kim for Painting ProseTracey for Winsome Wednesday, and Jennifer for God Bumps.

Monday, March 26, 2012

what the dictionary can't tell you and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.

To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.

Cultivate is my one word for 2012.

It sounds good, doesn't.  This digging deep, this growing, this living thing that is my heart constantly being refreshed as the soil turns over and the oxygen infuses.

It sounds good.

But here I am in March and during the season of Lent I reaffirmed my commitment to live out this word.  And here I am 2 1/2 weeks away from Easter and just this morning did I realize that although it sounds good, I really have no idea how this cultivation tangibly happens in my life.

Have any of you struggled with your one word?

I know this word, cultivation, was God-breathed into me.  I know this is where I am supposed to be and yet, silly me, I forgot to ask Him how and why and what does this mean for my relationship with Him?  Silly me, I just started doing what I thought it meant and I ended up feeling like I am two steps behind where I started.

But last Monday proved to be a break-through, quite literally, it proved to be a breaking, which allowed me to focus less on holding it together and more on allowing God to rearrange the pieces.  And so I ask Him in my journal,

What do You want to cultivate in me?

It's such a simple question and I think I may have asked it a time or two before, but when you are playing your own game of life, perhaps you don't always slow down and listen to the real answer?  But when you are broken, shattered, unrecognizable to yourself, perhaps you start paying a bit more attention.

I begin to hear His words and I scribble them down on the page.

joy
focus (the prized fruit)
spirit of rest
companionship with You
perspective
restoration

I realize that these are not individual characteristics that are independent of each other.  They are not part of a check-list to be recycled at the end of completion.  These things He longs to till together -- they are ingredients for a woman whose primary focus is Jesus.  All of these parts are essential.  I wouldn't expect a seed to grow with just water and when it had gotten to a certain point, decide to add in some soil.  I wouldn't expect a seed to bear fruit first and then add some fertilizer.  In this heart of mine, I long for all these things now and am willing to see how they interact and produce good fruit in me.

This all still sounds a wee bit ambiguous, I think.  So, I'll end with a tangible action that God has laid on my heart:

Lay down the "shoulds."

Specifically, I feel like I've gotten off-track a bit in my ministry with this whole social media promotion thing.  For quite some time, I felt like God said that I could do no promotion for my ministry so that I could focus just on being real and vulnerable and true to Him (pride can be incessantly pesky in my life).  Then, I felt that He loosened the reins and so I engaged.  And now, I think constantly -- I should do more. I should post more.  What if my Klout score goes down?  Why are my insights on FB so low?  What should I do next?  All this just makes me tired.  I'm focused on the numbers that I've allowed to describe me instead of spending my time with Jesus who loves me regardless of my Klout score or my Facebook graphs.  It's better to be at the bottom of the throne than it is at the top of the charts.  It's better to be walking along side Him at His pace than breaking the tape at the finish line.  

So, when I hear "I should" in my mind, I'm going to take it to God as ask, "Should I?"

What about you, friends?  How is your One Word going?

SDG Community Builder:  1)  In effort to make sure everyone feels loved here, will you please visit the 2 people ahead of you and leave a comment for them?  2)  If you are new here, please let us know so we can give you some extra love by putting "I'm New!" as your caption.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

All Things New


It's just a a patch of bluebonnets that I captured on my run, but you see, for me to stop on a run to take a picture, well, that's pretty much unheard of...

But you see, these bluebonnets, we didn't get to see them last year, except for maybe a straggly one or two.  Because we had been in one of the worst droughts in Texas history.

These bluebonnets are stop-worthy, though, even on a run, because they are proof that
God provides
and that
He makes all things new
in His time.


Misty Edwards singing My Soul Longs for You

Lyrics:
My soul longs for You my soul longs for you
Nothin' else will do nothin' else will do
My soul longs for You 
my soul longs for you
Nothin' else will do nothin' else will do...
I believe You will come like the rain...You'll come like the rain
So let it rain let it rain let it rain let it rain...
Hallelujah Halleljujah You'll make all things new

Linking with Deidra for the first time at Jumping Tandem and Laura for Playdates.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dirt is a Good Thing: A Guest Post by Amy

Are you interested in cultivating something in your life?  Cultivate is my word for 2012.  If you would like to share what God is cultivating in your heart, please let me know.  I would love to have you in this space.
Meet Amy.  I think she is super cute.  Don't you?  Whenever I visit her blog, God uses her words to speak to my heart.  So much fruit comes forth from this girl's hands.  I am honored to have her in this space.


Without further ado, I give you Amy...
photo source
I looked at the ugly-brown mound of dirt and tried to grasp my new reality.

This was all that was left of my dreams, and I couldn’t believe it. The questions tormented me. Why, Lord? How could he leave us in such a selfish way? What do we do now? How can I raise these kids alone?

Falling to my knees, I picked up a handful of the dirt and let it fall through my fingers. Strange, how the things you hold most dear can slip away in a flash, leaving you to wonder when the fading really started and how you couldn’t have seen it coming.

But here we were, and this was real. I was too young to be widowed, and my kids didn’t deserve a fatherless future, but it all just served as proof that we live in a fallen world that gets almost too messy to bear sometimes.

It was a season in which I became well acquainted with dirt.

But in the midst of the mess I learned some life-changing things about what God can do. I learned how rotten it feels to hold a fistful of dirt instead of the thing you really want. But I also learned that when all is lost, He isn’t lost at all and never will be.

I learned that when security slips away and you’re left standing bewildered and alone, you can still grab hold of His hand and let Him pull you out of the pit. And I learned that that’s when the real growing starts.

I couldn’t have known the seeds God was sowing in that wretched mound of dirt back on that hot day in June almost three years ago. I never imagined that with the death of my dreams He was actually cultivating the terrain of my life and preparing it for growth into something more lush than my limited mind could fathom.  

Today I think back to that scene in the cemetery and I treasure that mound of dirt. Yes, it’s true—as it turns out, dirt is a good thing. Whatever it took to rid me of myself and stir in me the desire to grow in Him, I’m thankful He allowed it.

May I never take for granted the fact that He could look down on this barren mess of flesh and sin and brokenness and find in me something worthy to cultivate. May I never stop growing, and may I become more firmly rooted in Him with each passing day.

So when life looks as bleak as an ugly-brown mound of dirt, let’s remember who our Cultivator is. Let’s remember that He’s working beneath the surface of how things appear to grow us into trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified (Is. 61:3 NKJV).


Want to read more of Amy?  Of course you do!  Click here to travel to her space.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

when grace puts together a broken vase



I showed up at the church without my computer, without my notes, without my Bible.  That's bad news when you are the teacher.

For a moment, I calculated the minutes it would take me to get home and back, how long I would need to set up the tablecloths and candles.  Could I leave a note and somebody could set up for me?  I contemplated the headspace I would be in having frantically sped home, constantly on the lookout for the police sirens in my rearview mirror.  No, I decide.  I cannot have a peaceful spirit, an inviting spirit, trying to sprint back home.  

I think back to those early morning hours.  I had risen early to finish preparing for my class.  The spring break with the kids had taken up so much of my time and clearly I was underprepared.  All the while, as I added, rearranged, prayed, read, I felt like God was whispering, Stop working.

So tired, but I pressed on.  And when I finally heeded the words of God, I still felt the need to write my blog post for Soli Deo Gloria.  But, I had run out of words.  My heart was a well run dry.  Suddenly struck by the rays of sunshine against the darkening sky, I penned this:
Today is a day to be completely dependent on the grace of God.  I'm off to teach about Jonah, about cultivating grace, this morning.  What better way to teach than to be actively living it -- stretching fully to the face of God, abandoning self-reliance, relinquishing the image that I've tried to hard to uphold in the past that I have it all together.
I didn't know, but God did, just how those words would work their way from being words on the computer screen to a tangible act in this girl's life.  On the way to church, He gave me a picture of a vase moving closer and closer to the end of the table.  You are the vase.  And then, I watch it shatter to the floor.  Broken into a million pieces.  I arrive at the church, I search the car, finding none of the tools on which I rely on to help me as I teach, and I shatter.

I am broken.  The vase in millions of shards of glass.  I have none of my earthly tools, and yet, the greatest tool has never left me.  I teach my class, my best one yet, I'm told, about Jonah and how He repents for making idols while He is in the belly of that big fish.  And I stand in front of my class and I spill out my own confessions of idolatry.  Yes, I say the biggest idol in my life...the thing that stands between me and God...is myself.

Nowhere was that in my notes.  Only God can bring such things to my attention with such grace.  In the safety of my church, surrounded by women who not only love me, but who are willing to nod their heads in understanding, can I come face to face with myself.  In a moment of rawness, there He was, a healing balm.  In a moment of brokenness, there He was sweeping up the pieces, an unkind word never reaching my ears.  In a moment of feeling out of control, un-put together, He wove His message together with an intricate pattern of unmerited grace.

I still stand shattered.  Not shattered because of leaving behind a computer, but shattered because I've been chasing after things He thinks unimportant.  I've gotten away from doing things His way.  And so, shattered as I am, I can reflect.  And heal.  And put things back the way He had first intended them to be.  All with unmerited grace.

I pray for you that you run into a need for grace today.  I pray that you would stand there and let it wash over you, cleansing you from all the other voices that tell you that you don't need it or don't deserve it or that it doesn't exist.  I pray that the lies that you can and should and need to do it all and be it all are cut off from the contours of your heart.  I pray that you would stand awash in His love, in His mercy, in His grace this day.  Yes, this day.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Noonday Necklace, Rain, & the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.

To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.

I have the privilege of knowing the owner of Noonday Collections, Jessica Honegger.  Essentially, she began this company to help the fair-trade business in Uganda, while at the same time raising money to help with the adoption costs of adding to her family a boy from Rwanda.  Even though she now has her little one at home, she still donates 10% of her profits to other families who are hoping to adopt.  The heart of the mission -- helping to create a home for every child.  Want the whole story?  Click here.

Are you, by the way, interested in adoption?  Did you know that you can host a trunk show and receive for yourself 10% of the profits for your own adoption process?  If God isn't calling you toward adoption, you can still host a trunk show and 10% of the profits will go toward orphan care and prevention, not to mention helping the artisans from all over the world (there is free stuff in it for you, too!).  Jessica has put me in touch with an ambassador who can help you coordinate your own trunk show.  Her name is Krista Box and you can contact her at kristajbox[at]gmail[dot]com.

Jessica has graciously donated the Inca Steps necklace (in bone color) to help us raise money for the SDG retreat!  You can read more about the necklace from Ecuador here.  If you would like to own this necklace, please place your bid, silent auction style, in the comment section below.  Be sure to check back to make sure you haven't been outbid.  Bidding will close after the SDG party on Wednesday at 11:59pm, CDT.

The State of My Heart, because SDG is all about vulnerability and honesty...

There is coming rain due in tonight.  The potential exists for torrents, the kind of rain that washes everything clean.  It's the kind of rain where you wonder if the sun will ever come out again, but when it does, even the sidewalks glisten.  The flowers seem more vibrant.  The rays seem to reflect off even the dullest surfaces.  

There is something to be said about this rain that falls from the sky.  My grandmother always said she noticed a difference in her azaleas when they drank water from the heavens as opposed to the water hose. This impending holy adventure stirs my heart.

I have a heart that needs to be stirred.  I feel a bit lifeless -- the only way these words are pouring forth from my fingers is by God's grace.  I was going to sit down and just say, in the spirit of being real, that I have nothing to bring to this Soli Deo Gloria party, except the Noonday necklace.  But as I traveled down the stairs, making my way to the dining room table, I glanced out the window.  A ray of sunlight broke through the clouds, highlighting the striking difference between His light and the darkness of the rain-laden clouds.  It was a glimmer of hope that this cleansing rain will soothe my soul and that His light will penetrate the clouds that seem to cloak my weary heart.

Today is a day to be completely dependent on the grace of God.  I'm off to teach about Jonah, about cultivating grace, this morning.  What better way to teach than to be actively living it -- stretching fully to the face of God, abandoning self-reliance, relinquishing the image that I've tried to hard to uphold in the past that I have it all together.

Today is a day for peace to penetrate.  Today is a day for the grace of God to uplift you.  Today is a day to travel wherever He leads.  Today is a day to find refuge from the storms.  Today is a day of soaking up His Spirit.  Today is a day -- will we be open to receive whatever He has to give us?  Let not another day go by where we leave His offerings on the side of the road.  Today is the day.

SDG Community Builder:  1)  In effort to make sure everyone feels loved here, will you please visit the 2 people ahead of you and leave a comment for them?  (If you are numero uno or dos, come back and visit the last person in the link up).  2) If you are new, type in "I'm New!" as your caption.  3)  If you love the necklace, would you consider placing a bid for it in the comments?  You'll be helping to raise money for the SDG retreat.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cultivate: An Acrostic

So Tracy at My Daily Walk in His Grace did a super fun acrostic for her word of the year.  Everyone thought it was such a fun idea that there is now a linky party where we can all share our brilliant talent of creating acrostics.  Here is my contribution:

CULTIVATE
ommuning with God, everyday.
U ndertaking only that which He asks me to do.
L oving as He would have me love.
T esting the spirits (1 John 4:1)
mbibing His Word.
egging out on Sabbath day.
A ccepting pruning.
T illing deeply.
E xpecting growth.





Wednesday, March 14, 2012

when the storm passes

It's amazing to think that sometimes parenting actually goes the way you want it to.

Frankly, I think it's pretty hard work, overall.  And I fall short oh-so-many times.  Like with the chore chart or the TV time limits or the losing my temper and making empty threats.

On the couch, talking with my girlfriend, we lament the attitudes of our oldest daughters as they play upstairs.  Not bashing them, just earnestly sharing how we choose to teach and guide and them, trying not to scar them along the way.  Wondering that somehow, despite our best intentions, we've let it get this far.

We don't really understand where the attitudes come from sometimes, or how to keep them at bay.  And we criticize ourselves -- are we not giving enough, disciplining enough, loving enough?  We are both those types that tend to drown in the negative instead of finding hope in the positive.  It's easy to get down that way.

And so, as we talk, we choose to begin this Spring Break holding onto the hope that God is guiding us, that we will make mistakes, but that He can bring redemption.  We  make a silent pact that we will celebrate the good ten times more than we will ponder the bad.  We will chase away the shadows and dance in the sunlight (that is, if it ever stops raining here).  We will be excited for what the week could possibly hold instead of choosing to dread an attitude onslaught.

And because God loves the gathering of women who strive to come under His guidance, He sends down a sign from up above.  No, it's not from Heaven, but from the upstairs bedroom.  It's a letter that holds promise.  It's power in the written form that healing happens, that truth reigns, and that love pours forth even after a stormy season.
Linking with Painting ProsePlaydates with God, and God Bumps.

Monday, March 12, 2012

you know you are in a community of love when...and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.
photo source
Last week, I had a little mini-meltdown (no, I'm not talking about mourning the loss of my clean floors, but that does qualify).  I'm speaking instead about the fact that I had neglected my Sabbath, let the numbers game into my head and let the underlying premise of Soli Deo Gloria get away from me (you know, the whole for HIS glory alone thing).  I had to look underneath my actions for the true motivations for my frantic behaviors and what I found there, friends, was not pretty.

I was hesitant to publish the post in which I let it all hang out and yet, what good is it to pretend that I am something I am not?  How can I know that I am really part of a community until I am accepted for the entirety of what I am and not just the good stuff?  I can be encouraging and welcoming and loving, but I can also let my overachieving, driven-by-success, scale mentality-side of my personality get in the way of what God wants me to do.  I can make my whole life about ministry for God and still forget God.  Yes, I didn't even realize that was what I was doing when I neglected my Sabbath until I was in front of my class talking about Jonah.  Nothing like standing in front of twenty women and realizing that the words coming out of your mouth are words that God is directing straight back at you.  Yeppers, that was a fun moment for me.

But, back to community.  I was just absolutely floored by the emails and comments I received -- the understanding, the compassion, the wisdom, the forgiveness flowed into my heart and overtook my soul.  There is nothing that motivates me more to get rid of the sin in my heart than love (I need to employ this with my children more often).  It's like love makes the soil of my heart drenched with living water.  The watering enables roots of the weeds to become unentrenched from the recesses of my heart, and God can pull them out with so much more ease.  Or rather, I am more willing to see them go because my soil feels nourished, the nutrients present.  The craving for a good, healthy mind-set surpasses my desire for worldly acclimation and success.

In this community, I feel loved.  You all inspire me to press in more fully to God, to you.  Without fear of rejection, I can lay my soul bare, and I thank you for that.  Thank you for loving.  Thank you for caring.  Thank you for supporting and growing and being in this space with me.  It is my desperate prayer that every single one of you would feel the intense love that spans this space, the love of God that flows through Sisters in Christ.

SDG Community Builder:  1)  In effort to make sure everyone feels loved here, will you please visit the 2 people ahead of you and leave a comment for them?  (If you are numero uno or dos, come back and visit the last person in the link up).  2) Don't forget to order your t-shirt (click here for details).  I'm extending the pre-order deadline to March 17th.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

when 20/20 vision is not enough

The world often tries to deceive us.  Have you noticed?  Do you ever hear God say "Do this" and you say:

Well, God, that's just not practical.  
It's just not possible.  
That, God, is not how the world works.

You say those things, as if, God isn't the Creator of the world and He doesn't know how this world of ours ticks and tocks.

Photo Source
Maybe you don't say those things to God.  But I have and sometimes, even now, I'll look at God and kind of roll my eyes. (I don't advise doing this, by the way.  I know now how the rolling of eyes hurts feelings because my older daughter does it to me quite frequently these days.  Ahem.)

I find it easy to be bound to the ways and practicalities of this world because I live in it.  Everyday.  It takes time, faith, and trust to think outside of how things normally work to be able to see this bigger picture that He paints for me.  If I'm not seeing with God's eyes then of course I cannot see why or how I am supposed to do what He has asked me to.  I become limited with my own less than perfect human vision.  Even if my worldly vision is 20/20, it still pales in comparison with what we can see with His perspective.

I read chapters 13 and 14 from the book of Numbers in my One Year Chronological Bible the other day.  Perhaps I paid more attention than normal because the words were void of sacrificial rites, ancestry, and other parts of the Torah that I don't find particularly stimulating at this point in my life.  Essentially, God has sent out twelve men to explore the land of Canaan, which He has told Moses He is going to give to the Israelites.  The men go out, find that the land is plentiful, abundant in good things.  However, they also find that it is currently inhabited by some very formidable groups of people that most of the twelve think are no match for their army.  These men start to spread lies about the Promised Land, causing the Israelites to grumble and complain (you know, their usual state) that God should have never brought them out of Egypt.  Moses and Aaron fall face down (surely interceding for these poor people) and Joshua and Jephunneh, the two men of faith out of the original twelve, respond with these words:
"'The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.  If the LORD is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.  Only do not rebel against the LORD.  And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up.  Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us.  Do not be afraid of them.'"  Numbers 14: 6-9
The fact that the inhabitants of Canaan had large, fortified cities and powerful armies with great weaponry didn't matter.  Nothing that they had even begun to compare with the might of God.  And yet, the Israelites become engrossed with way the world works (i.e. big man pommels little man) that they neglect to trust the God who was leading them by pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.  God said something to the effect of, "This I give you, just walk this way," and somehow this translates to "God is leading us into a place we will not be able to survive!  We will be crushed!"  When they chose to see out of their human eyes, bound by the expectations of this world, their hearts of faith are closed off and they forget all of the times before that God had shown Himself to be more than enough.

More than enough is our God.  Bigger than any circumstance.  Higher than any mountain.  Stronger than the gustiest wind that threatens to knock us off our feet.  But we must be able to take each step knowing that He is good.  Knowing that He does not abandon us.  Knowing that He doesn't play by the worldly rules and that when we do, we limit His power and His presence in our lives.

Even when things don't look probable or possible, I must remember to look at my life and this world with His perspective, for He has promised that nothing is impossible with Him.

What about you?  Has He told you something that seemed crazy, insane, and totally out of the realm of possibility?  What did you do?  What did He do?


Linking with Michelle at Graceful for Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday and with Tracy for Winsome Wednesday.

Friday, March 9, 2012

outta gas

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5 Minutes on the word EMPTY:

I'm on the way home from the grocery store and as I wait for my garage door to rise, the light on the dashboard pops on.

I groan because I was supposed to get gas while I was out at the store and now I'm sitting on almost-empty.  Unwilling to unload the groceries and then get back in the car, I surmise that we can probably make it to swimming lessons and then to the gas station before we run out completely.  Because of my own empty tank, the one that resides in this physical frame of mine, I am willing to take this risk.

How often do I pull into my own house and just as I set about to do all the things that I need to do there:  the cleaning, the loving, the folding, the disciplining, the patting, the keeping-of-my-temper-in-check, my own gas light goes on, telling me that I forgot to refill?

How often do I take the risk to continue on, to run off fumes, to just get by, and fingers-crossed-hope that I make it until I can get to the filling station -- that place where there is quiet, where I can lay down burdens, lay down work, lay down self-driven goals?

I take the risk too often and then I'm stranded on the side of the road.  Stranded with nothing left to give and a shame-filled face because I did something stupid like forget to fill up my gas tank.

So, what's a girl to do but walk to the source and fill 'er up?  What's a girl to do, but learn her lesson and learn it well?  What's a girl to do but remember what it's like to be filled?

Want to play along for 5 Minute Friday?  Click here to find the Gypsy Mama and the rules.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cultivate: Contentment

Are you interested in cultivating something in your life?  Cultivate is my word for 2012.  If you would like to share what God is cultivating in your heart, please let me know.  I would love to have you in this space.
Meet Sarah.  Isn't she just lovely?  She has graciously put together a post that speaks about her own cultivation journey, a journey to contentment in any circumstance.  
photo source
Maybe I'm a product of my generation. My parents, with hearts of love, constantly told me I could do anything. And really, truly, I believe it. To this day. I’m not alone in this either; so many of my peers were taught that and believe that.

Maybe I'm caught up in the hustle. I love juggling jobs, friends, family, community, blogging and oh-so much more. When I succeed, that thrill of work well done is undeniably delicious.

Nothing wrong with working hard and hoping for good fruit, I tell myself. 

And yet.

And yet the crack becomes a canyon when we lose contentment.

Like my fellow type-A overachievers, I have wrestled fiercely with contentment for much of my life. When I got a B, I wanted an A. And when I got an A, I wanted an A+. Grades were merely one area where I was not content. I grew older and this want for academic perfection became a want for professional and personal perfection.

As an adult, I strive, work and fight fight fight to make this world a better place and love others well and use my gifts for impact. Good things, yes. But I easily lose grasp of contentment. I want it all and I want it all now. Everything from a successful career to a fitness magazine body to a rom-com-quality marriage . . . the list is endless.

And this struggle with contentment magnified itself last year. In just a matter of weeks, I moved across the country, got married, launched a freelance business and left a job. In one fell swoop, I found myself trying to adjust to a new community, being a new wife, finding a new job and finding new friends.

It's difficult to be content in the easiest of circumstances. Much more difficult, though, when all that's around you is new and daily life is anything but steady.

In that moment, at that crossroads, I found myself less content than ever.

I wanted not a new job, but a perfectly fulfilling career. I wanted not a good home, but an immaculate residence. I wanted not a new and growing marriage, but a flawless, head-over-heels romance. I wanted not new friends, but a comfy community where I fit like a puzzle piece.

I found myself only craving and rarely appreciating.

In the darkest moments, I gave myself little grace. I sought everything but contentment. Diminishing Christ brought more floundering and thrashing; I had no desire to wake up each morning.

When I'm not content with what Christ has given me, I lose grace. I disrespect both God and myself: thinking I know what's best and hating myself when I don't meet my expectations.

Today, I look back at that dreary time with this strange mixture of anger and praise. Anger because oh, how I wish I had handled things differently. Praise, though, because God constantly, daily, equipped me for the journey.

Slowly and gradually, God is using that experience and that transition to cultivate contentment. It's a daily struggle, but God is graciously growing in me a new heart.

God is cultivating contentment by opening my eyes. All it takes is to simply open my eyes. And a slow, methodical, intentional 365-degree turn shows me how and why. God is teaching me that only in contentment can I clearly see the gifts He has given.

Sometimes, He uses prayer to stretch me. Sometimes, sweet friends to convict me. Sometimes, broken situations and terrible struggles and falling-down-the-stairs bumps and bruises impact me. Sometimes real, genuine pain and heartache bring me to my knees.

God is teaching me to praise Him no matter how I feel and find contentment there. Thanking God for all that He has given me helps me build a grateful heart. Noticing the little things, the tiniest gifts, helps me life a content life. A life where I appreciate the place where I am.

Uncertainty, no matter where we are in life, is constantly facing us. Each day brings new challenges and today I am in a season of uncertainty. What's next, I ask in nearly every corner of life.

And in that very uncertainty, in that very darkness, God leads me towards contentment. Contentment with what God has for me here, today, in this moment. Contentment with Him, no matter what.


Want to read more of Sarah?  Of course you do!  Click here to scoot on over to her place.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rest

photo source
I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you.

And so I cast aside this idea that I must do it all because how else will it get done?  And I pile all my papers on His desk, put the pen in His Hand, and I avert my eyes, still afraid of leaving this burden, still afraid of leaving myself.  And yet, I find that I am more afraid, a holy fear, of walking in disobedience, of not surrendering this body He has given me.  And instead of turning to scribble on those things that I feel desperately need to get done, He takes His pen.  He writes on my heart.

This is a holy and living sacrifice -- the kind I find acceptable.  This is your spiritual act of worship.


Laying down burdens, laying down this tangible, physical self, that is run down, run out, run away.  To pause when He says pause, to run when He says run, to stop when He says stop, to lay down when He says rest.


Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world.


And so I...slow down, sit down, let my eyes fill with heaviness, and I give into the antithesis of the pace of this world.  And as I pull out of the recesses of my mind, the prayers that I have promised to pray, the thoughts I have promised to think, as these eyes grow heavy, I hear Him clearly...this IS your spiritual act of worship.  And I am blanketed by His grace, His provision, by His love.

Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.


If only I had stopped before...I think.  If only I had stopped before, I would not have neglected this meeting with You.  Some days I think I've got it, but it is in that moment that I think I have it, that I realized I have lost it all yet again.  Change me from the inside out, Lord, that it is not my thought patterns that get my through, but your thought patterns that every day compel me to worship, that seek the greatness of You, that relies on You, that perpetuates a relationship with You.  Oh, Jesus.  Less of me.  More of You.


Then you will know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.


Let me know, Lord.  As each moment of the day comes, let me know how to walk with You.  Not ahead of you.  Not two steps behind.  Not in a different direction.  Let me be glued to your side so that I may be fully grafted into Your will for me.  May I, in each and every day, taste the freedom that You offer.

Every single day.

Italics taken from Romans 12: 1-2


Linking with Kim for Imperfect Prose, Tracey for Winsome Wednesday, and Jennifer for God Bumps.

Monday, March 5, 2012

T-shirts Revealed! and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.

Time is short these days, yes?  But an investment of time (even a small investment), serves to build the community.  When you arrive here, would you look over the faces of those who have already pulled up their chair?  Would you ask God to point to a few people to go visit?  Sometimes, He will lead you into those spaces because He has a gift for you there.  And sometimes, He tugs at your heart because He has given you just the right words to pour into someone else's heart.

To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.
The amazing, talented Critty Joy has done it again!  Didn't she do a fabulous job on the t-shirt design?  The blue color is pretty close to the color of the shirts I will be ordering and I think the verse from Hebrews sums up what our group is about --
"Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."  Hebrews 10: 23-25
Oh, and we cannot forget to thank Nancy for her ingenious tagline for this Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood.

I'm sure by now you are on pins and needles, waiting to find out just how you can get your very own Soli Deo Gloria shirt!  A few notes first:  Please know, if you are a past, present, or future participant of the SDG sisterhood, you can order this shirt!  You can order one for you and one for a friend!  We are an inclusive group of women and ALWAYS like to see new faces we can love and encourage.  I am taking pre-orders this entire week (please help me spread the word so that people who might not see the blog this week can get in their pre-orders) so that I don't over order any size.  All proceeds from the sales of the shirts will go to defraying the costs of the Soli Deo Gloria Retreat.  Shirts range in size from small to 2XL and will all be "Carolina blue" in color, with white lettering.  Each shirt costs $27 and this includes shipping (within contiguous 48 states).  If you are ordering with an international address, please contact me so I can figure out your shipping).

How to pre-order:
1.  In the comments section of this post OR in an email to me (jenfergie2000@me.com), please let me know which size shirt you would like.  If you are leaving your order in a comment, please leave your email address as well as your shirt size because later, I will need to contact you to get your shipping address.
2.  To pay for your shirt ($27, which INCLUDES shipping and handling), please use the Chip-In Widget in the right sidebar.  This system uses PayPal, so it is a totally secure way to pay.  Every time a payment is made, I get the name of the payor, so I will be able to see who has paid.
3.  Pre-orders will close Sunday, March 11th (if there is enough interest, we can do another order later).
3.  I am hoping to have shirts completed by March 21st and ready to ship out to you by the end of that week.
4.  I know this might not be the most fluid way to do this, but thanks for bearing with me!

In other news...

SDG is all about sharing our hearts.  To sum it up, my heart feels a little dry.  I have been disobedient in the way that I have totally neglected my Sabbath (read more about that here).  We now have a new dog and my oldest is home sick with the stomach bug.  All this to say, I'm really hoping for a day of recuperation tomorrow, which means you may not see me in the SDG neighborhood this week.  Please forgive me?  (OH, and by the way, what an amazing conversation we had last week???  I'm looking forward to more weeks like that for sure!)

SDG Community Builder:  1)   If you are new to this group, will you put as your caption "I'm new!"  We'd love to give you some extra love this week.  2) If you are a seasoned member of this group, will you make sure to visit at least one "I'm New!" person?  Let's show them what SDG is all about.  3)  BUY YOUR SDG SISTERHOOD SHIRT!  :)


Love to you all,
Jen