The Unknown: Dun Dun Dun!

Unknown.

But only to me. God knows everything and has every detail planned out. Do I still have fear? Absolutely. I am always trying to get through one situation, because then I can relax. But guess what? There is always going to be something else coming up. That is life. As soon as something is known, another unknown arrives to take its place.

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We just fixed up our house and put it on the market. (Yes, I am exhausted and ran out of Magic Erasers. Bless whoever invented those!) Now we wait and pray we get an offer soon.

We have an inspection and appraisal.

We find a house to buy.

We close on both houses.

We pack and then unpack.

We make new friends.

There is enough unknown right now to make this mama anxious. I am learning it is OK to admit that. But I have to do something with that worry.

Even a good change, like moving, causes stress. It means I must rely on God. I know that God’s plan for my life trumps any fear I may have. His design for me is greater than anything I would dream up. Or settle for.

I feel called to be around other moms more. I have resisted because it is not what I prefer. In general I am more comfortable around people older than me. And seriously, me, mentor? But I am past thinking I have nothing to offer. If God wants me to walk alongside moms, especially moms who are different than me, who am I to argue? He will equip me. He has been working on me, stretching my faith, and molding my will. He has made me want what He wants, not what I want. Our family hasn’t felt the need to move until this fall. Now I know God has used the time to prepare us for a new situation. He has also been preparing our new house and neighbors. God really does work all the details of our lives out. Our pieces of the puzzle fit with the pieces someone else has. We just don’t know it until the right time.

When I think about what God is going to do through my family, some of the anxiety melts away. If I get to be part of a greater plan, there is no bigger honor. I think that is what usually gets me with the unknown. I don’t look at it the way God does. I see change as a threat, instead of an opportunity. I need to realize that God wants to use me.

Telling God I am worried does mean I am weak and need His strength. That is true whether I admit it or not. But bringing it out and not being ashamed of it is how I work through it. Matthew 6:34 says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” When I ask for the strength and wisdom for today, God will give it to me. I don’t have to be afraid of the future.

Let the adventure begin.

 

 

Linking with the Saturday Soiree at Faith Along the Way.

Do You Give Hilariously?

God loves a cheerful giver. We all know that. When I heard that God loves a hilarious giver, it caught my eye. The Greek word used in 2 Corinthians 9:7 is only in the Bible once, and it is “hilaros.” It is the root for our word hilarious.

Think about laughter. When one person starts, it is contagious. Before you know it, the whole room is crying from laughing so hard. You just can’t stop. When you try, something sets you off and it goes around again. Giving is like that. When you give with a happy heart, people see. They see the lightness you feel. They see the difference you are making. They see God surprising you with blessings. Are you a contagious giver?

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When you give  hilariously, it is joy spilling out of you. Joy wells up and can’t be contained when you give. The more you give, the more satisfaction and contentment overflow. The word hilarious is not meant for a polite laugh or a small giggle. It is boisterous, convulsive, exhilarating, noisy, uproarious. The very nature of it is excitement that is meant to be obvious. Giving should not be done so you can be known from it, but it should produce explosive joy. Do you exude wild joy from giving?

The other picture that hilarious giving brings to my mind is God laughing. Since generosity comes from Him, He loves nothing more than seeing us-His creation-loving each other by giving our resources for His kingdom. I see Him on His throne. He is leaning forward to get a better look and then He throws back His head and gives a good belly laugh. His crown almost falls off His head. All of heaven shakes as He does. He just can’t contain His excitement when you truly get it! I can hear the people in heaven say, “Oh, someone must be giving again,” as they feel the vibration. God gets a twinkle in His eye when you give. He is so proud of you! He created you to bless others as you have been blessed. Are you pleasing God by blessing others?

As consumers and residents of this earth, it is easy to feel stressed about giving. But if we look at it the way God does, that unease turns into joy. There is a snowball effect that happens when giving begins. Start small and look for ways to be a blessing. Pretty soon the joy will be activated and hilarious giving will ensue.

Start giving and see how God pours out His blessings on you and those around you!

 

 

Linking with Holley Gerth.

Looking Back

Almost two years ago I started writing out my prayers. This happened for about eight months. The other day while cleaning I found these prayers.

There were times I saw God come through fast and build my faith and wonder. Things we had just asked for were given. My excitement practically leapt off the page! It is so much fun to look back and see God’s hand at work.

Sandwiched between those answers was pain, loneliness, and frustration. I began one day with “It’s me begging again.” I felt such desperation to find something I could do to make money for our family to use and give. I had tangible desires that were godly, so where was God?

Reading through it now, I see how my heart changed. Here are some of the things I said:

“I am on my knees asking for Your help. It takes wisdom to find the perfect thing and I need Your help and patience.”

“You put me here to make a difference through me, despite me. Please prepare my heart. Make me patient and pliable.”

“This Bible study hurts today. My church does not have prayer meetings and if it did, I probably would not go. I don’t like to pray out loud. Lord please help me get over that! Take away that fear and uncomfortable feeling. I want to be used by You and maybe that is how You want to use me.” (He did!)

“You are God, You are good, and I am nothing. You should scrape me off the bottom of Your shoe and move on but You embrace me.”

“I want to serve You the ways You have planned for me.”

“My hunger and thirst for You has definitely increased lately.”

“I want to be known as the one who prays.” (This took my breath away. Little did I know that I would become known for this!)

“You have something so great planned for me and my family and I can’t wait to know it!”

Toward the end, I started to praise more and ask less. I began to thank God for what He was going to do in my life. I went from begging to praising. Being able to look back and see my growth shows me God’s faithfulness. He knew I wasn’t ready for this blog yet. I still needed more molding, more testing, more refining.

The last prayer was written the day before our first prayer meeting. I stopped writing prayers out because a series of things happened to me and members of my family. It took everything I had to hold on to hope. There were days I could only do the bare minimum for my family and even that got messed up. As soon as one situation would be resolved, another crisis would pop up. Health-life and death issues. School-my girls really needed me. Ultimate spiritual warfare took my family into Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a very heavy time.

We started the prayer meetings right when all of these attacks began. If I hadn’t had the months of studying the Bible extra, learning to pray, and growing closer to God, our family would have crumbled. God was our Rock. The waiting and hoping part grew old, but it saved us. Reading these prayers is a good reminder to me that God has to lay ground work in us.

God is faithful and will bring us through problems at HIS pace. He will answer our prayers in HIS time. He will make us want HIS will when we ask Him to. God knows what He is doing and how He wants to use us.

We just need to keep trusting Him.

 

 

Linking with the Saturday Soiree.

Contrast

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On a walk this week, a sight jumped out at me. I noticed the sky and trees and the glorious coloring. The question I kept asking myself is would I have noticed the sky if it weren’t for the trees? They bring out each other’s beauty.

Would I appreciate sitting in front of a sunny window with a cup of coffee if I hadn’t been out in the cold?

Would I enjoy quiet if I hadn’t been through chaos?

Do I embrace my health before it has been threatened?

Do I feel grateful for having enough or does that only come after it has been taken?

I think sometimes the only way we get perspective is to go through hard times. Our life has to be shaken up to see how blessed we are. Sometimes things need to be taken from us so we can wake up. They may be returned to us, or they may not. We have to learn to appreciate what we have or God may give it to someone who will cherish it and thank Him every day.

If your life is in order now, tell God how much you appreciate it and all He does for you.

If there is a dark situation in your life, remember to thank God for it. This is needed to contrast the good He will bring. He is creating beauty in you. When the dark time has passed, you will shine and reflect His light even more!

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5: 18

 

 

 

Linking with Holley Gerth.

 

11 Things I Love More About My Husband Now Than 11 Years Ago

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This weekend we are celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary. Here is a picture of us dancing to “Patience” by Guns N’ Roses at our beautiful beach wedding. Instead of doing a “11 things I have learned about marriage” type of post, this is what came to me. Besides, that sounded harder than bragging about my husband!

1. His face-Knowing that I get to look at his face for the rest of our lives is definitely not something I appreciated then as much as now. Not everyone will get the privilege of growing old together, so I am thankful.

2. His laugh-We were friends for a few years before dating, and he will always be my best friend. We make each other laugh, and sometimes that is all you need. (Well, that and patience.)

3. His presence-Sitting on the porch swing, in the car, or at a restaurant-really the location is not important. I just love being near him!

4. He calms me-I am the worrier and he is the anti-worrier. We balance each other. The times he has worried really freaked me out because I knew it must be bad!

5. His work ethic-For years, this man told me how lazy he is. But over and over again in his career, I have seen different. I can not express enough how grateful I am that he works so hard for this family.

6. Him as a Dad-This man with only brothers is an amazing Daddy to girls. They love to build with him and read with him. I know it is overwhelming to come home to 3 females, but he has perfected the art of nodding and at times pretending to listen.

7. His cooking-When we got married, I worked full time outside of the house. He did the cooking and I cleaned. Now that I am home, he still enjoys cooking on the weekend. He loves to put surprise ingredients into the burgers and have us guess what it is.

8. He makes me happy-He knows me and knows I try not to spend money on myself. He likes to encourage me to do things for myself. I guess he has learned the truth of “happy wife, happy life.”

9. He fixes things-I found a man who is handy. He fixes appliances and electrical when he can. He builds beautiful furniture. In the beginning I had no idea how much money this would save us!

10. Our journey-If someone had told me 11 years ago that we would teach elementary Sunday school together or that we would still be living in the house we bought then, I would not have believed them. This life is a journey and isn’t it a good thing we don’t know what will happen?

11. His support-My goals and life have changed over the years. Without his support and encouragement, I wouldn’t be who I am today or going in the direction I am going. We are a team and I am so happy we get to be together day in and day out.

For better for worse.

In sickness and in health.

For richer for poorer.

Happy anniversary James! I love you!

I am linking with the Saturday Soiree

Perfect Gift for Grads

A few years ago I was given an old Bible I didn’t know existed. When my parents were first married, someone gave this little Bible to Mom, but she only used it for a short time. Her main one she used for years is with my sister.

God knew right when I would start needing it-the times I started coming under attack. For years I wasn’t really doing much to challenge Satan, so I was off his radar. Once I began to grow, this Bible came in handy.

My Dad found it and sent it to me. Within weeks it was being used to comfort me. God’s timing is perfect!

One night after my first (and hopefully last) panic attack, I was too anxious to sleep. Even though I felt better, it still seemed like I might not wake up. I picked up the Bible and saw where Mom had marked Psalm 91. My strong, courageous, faithful Mom had fear! That astounded me! At this point, I can (and did that day) pick up the phone and call my Dad, but reading this also comforted me. I knew I would be OK.

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When Mom was growing up, she went to church every Sunday. However it wasn’t until she was grown up and went to Bible school that she really began to understand God’s love. I love seeing how she underlined and starred 1 John 3. It is like I can see a light bulb turning on. She got it!

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This Bible is not the only one I have, but I have been using it lately and underlining phrases and verses. Knowing how much it has meant to me, I am hopeful it will have meaning for my girls. When they go off to college, I will give each of them a Bible of mine. Being away from home for the first time after living with many rules has the potential to lead them astray. I pray that having God’s Word to turn to, as well as passages that gave me comfort and hope, will keep them going in the right direction. The times they are too embarrassed to come to me for advice I want them to look in here. Always look here first actually!

Carrying a Bible of a parent can give confidence to a young adult trying to make their way in the world. When my girls see that I went through something similar or felt the same fear, it can show them they are never alone in a way that they may not get from my words. Seeing that Jesus assured me may be just what their heart needs at that moment. If they hadn’t craved the Bible before, I have faith this will help!

Linking with Holley Gerth

When God Goes Dark

Am I the only one who occasionally wonders where God is? No? Good. For those of you who never have this problem, just nod politely and pretend you do. When I need guidance and answers, sometimes I am met with nothing but silence. I don’t feel Him and assume He must have left the room. It can really feel like the spot He was just occupying next to me has grown cold.

Well guess what? He is always there. I am just not trying hard enough or not listening. Oh sure, I pray. I do my Bible study. Sometimes that works. Honestly, I don’t do that sit-still-and-let-Him-speak thing. Of course I try, but my mind starts wandering to a to-do list. It questions what I said the night before. Truly sitting and just being present with God? Rare for me.

There have been a lot of distractions on my book writing time lately. I kept wondering why God wasn’t speaking. I had been getting thoughts and ideas from Him, but they seemed to be dried up. Then I felt the nudge that I was supposed to start reading my Bible. More than verses I am told to read for studies and devotionals. Read the Bible for fun!

Now it isn’t like as soon as I did this, everything started flowing again. (That would have been nice!) And it isn’t like I am good at it. (Sorry Lord!) There have been missed days. But I know I need to get into this habit. To dig in every day. To be excited about what will be revealed to me. To bind myself closer to Jesus every day.

That is the important part ins’t it? To learn more about God each day. To be entrenched in the Word and to have it pour into me. When it pours into me, it is more likely to come out of me and spill onto those around me. When I have God’s Word continually in my heart, I will live the right way. This world can easily dampen my mood, dull my senses, and distract me. To keep my God-fire burning bright, I need to have that steady stream.

Over all the years I have been a Christian, I have not maintained a Bible reading habit. As important as it is, I made excuses for the times I have been lacking. Time, already doing a study, it is boring, blah blah blah. The truth is that I have time if I make this a priority. Bible studies are great, but I also need to get God’s words directly from the source if I want to be effective. And really, it is only boring if I think it is going to be. If I go into it assuming I am going to get some truth with a capital T from it, and pray and ask God to speak to me, it is the furthest from boring. Like anything, reading the Bible is all about what I put into it and my expectations. I have learned to expect great things!

If anyone reading this has felt like God has been silent lately, I recommend picking up your Bible and letting Him speak again. That really is all it takes.

Linking up with the Saturday Soiree.

Be Someone Worthy of Respect

Think about someone you admire. What is it about them that stands out? Their good looks? Their witty comebacks?

Most of us look up to people who are struggling and still have joy. They are fighting a battle yet manage to keep a sense of humor. They don’t have it all together in their lives, but they love and encourage others. They have realized that life is not all about them and that looking outside of themselves bring sweetness to their days.

Anyone can be happy when life is easy, but we really stand out when the situation is tough and we can genuinely smile and show strength. When our first instinct is to get back in bed and pull the covers over our head, but instead we get up and do what we have to do. Without complaining.

When we are kind and patient with people who continually set our nerves on edge. With a smile.

When our plans fall apart and the life we have created seems to be crumbling around us, and we turn to God. With praise and no hesitation.

When someone we love is sick and we just want to cry, but we keep trusting that everything will work out. With peace in our hearts.

The world is longing to see peace, love, and joy, and they need to see it in us. They need to see the blessed assurance we have in Jesus. The world needs to see that no matter what happens in our lives, it is well with our soul. The world needs to see that our soul can sing in difficult times because of how great God is. The world needs to see us cling to the old rugged cross, because we will exchange it some day for a crown.

Not enough people are modeling this, but people need to see it. We should remember the words of James, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” We need to keep in mind that when we come out on the other side of this trial, we will be better and stronger. Our faith will be deeper and our joy greater.

If we show the world how to act in difficult times, it will draw them to God like nothing else will. They will want a relationship with a heavenly Father who loves them. They will see that when they cast their burden on the Lord, He will sustain them.

Be the example the world needs to see.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Intentional Spending: A Family Affair

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What’s the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if you aren’t proving it by helping others? James 2:14

But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won’t help him-how can God’s love be within him? 1 John 3:17

Ouch. The Bible has plenty more verses where these came from.

Hard to believe it, but our family has finished the first three months of spending money wisely so we can give more. If you would like to catch up, the vision of intentional spending is here. The first month progress report is here, and month two is here. It sure has been an eye opening ride.

This month we spent much of one weekend cleaning out and donating. Clothes, toys, and things we don’t need got donated to MUST Ministries. So many toys the girls HAD to have were in the give away pile. On our way to deliver a trunk load to MUST, we stopped at Walmart and bought non perishable food items they always need. After deciding to support a missionary family and sponsor a Compassion International child, our other monthly give will be food to MUST. I think it is important for the girls to see it and experience the giving when possible.

When I started this, the three month time period was an arbitrary number. However, it was the perfect amount of time. I said I would give up my splurges of makeup and books. What I learned is that I don’t really want makeup. It had become a habit more than a desire. I told myself that I deserved it, but so many people can use that money in life saving ways. Books are another story. While I have not run out and bought any yet, I am not giving them up. Just limiting myself from now on. I think we have to step back from things we have a compulsion to buy for a reasonable amount of time. Three months was long enough to break habits and think about why I buy these things. Also, giving things up for a good cause can help us stick with it. When I imagine a little girl in Africa getting more from the money than I got from fancy mascara, it becomes a no brainer.

If anyone is reading this and feels like they want to try it, do it. God is speaking to your heart. Please don’t worry about people’s opinions or that your family won’t want to. People will think you are crazy and most likely your family will be somewhat resistant. Often God puts an idea in one person’s heart first. He puts passion in them and brings the others around more slowly. We aren’t all going to wake up one day wanting to give everything away. But when you start, your family will catch on. Honestly, for the first two months I felt like my husband James was humoring me and would at some point tell me to stop giving our money away. It wasn’t until this past month that he really got into it. I have done my part in giving and praying for my family.

Speaking of my family, here is what they had to say about things so far:

Kaitlyn, age 6: They need stuff that we don’t need.

Lauren, age 8: It feels good to help others. It is better to help the poor than the rich.

James: The hardest part has been breakfast. I have been moved to a different building at work, and now I pass a Chick-Fil-A. Every day. One thing that has helped me spend less has been to not look at magazines with ads of things I would want.

We have now started a lifestyle change, because once you start this, why would you stop? We have given up a little so someone else can have a lot. When we give that little to God, He adds it up to so much more.

I urge everyone reading this: think of something you buy often and give it up for three months. Use that money in the way God shows you. I promise you, you won’t be sorry about the items you didn’t buy, just the fact that it took you so long. When we start seeing our money as a tool to use wisely, our eyes are opened to the needs around us.

If it is just you at first, spend less and give anyways. It won’t be long until your family notices and joins in.

Just be obedient and keep praying.

Linking with Saturday Soiree and Holley Gerth.

Divine Interruptions

Just when I think I am becoming more flexible, BAM! Something comes up that I have to deal with. And I don’t always handle it with grace and dignity. *Ahem* Maybe one day…..

Last week we missed church with my youngest and I being sick. I hate missing it, but there was no choice. You just hope and pray these sicknesses end there, but do they ever?

Monday came and my husband got on a plane to go across the country. With him out of town, I knew there would be hiccups. I knew I would miss adult conversation in the evening. But after two days of being home writing all day, Wednesday was my chance to get out! Bible study and a hospice visit! I was in party mode.

Until right before I was leaving, and the school nurse called. Y’all, that is never a good call. Sigh. I had to pick up a sick child (the other one) and take her to the doctor. No adult time. No freedom. Just me cleaning up and airing out the house. Pity party ensued.

I am ashamed to admit that after getting my baby girl settled and the house cleaned, I didn’t take the time to be with her. The guilt over being home and not writing got to me. I plugged away not getting much done. But it didn’t occur to me to watch Swiss Family Robinson with her (on a separate couch of course.) I didn’t take the time as it is flying by. This is time I can’t get back, moments I should be cherishing.

Yesterday we all overslept, so the girls had to be driven to school. I started worrying early if I was going to get everything done. Then God pointed out to me how I have been acting. He doesn’t want me to go around in crisis mode. His goal is not for me to assume the worst in everything that changes.

Maybe God is trying to tell me something when these things come up. If He can’t get my attention another way, more drastic methods might be necessary.

Gulp.

When did I get this way? Why do I fret about the day to day like this? I know I can trust God. I know He will take care of us.

I want to start looking at things that come up as divine interruptions. God is probably up there saying “Hey I am here. Remember me?” He may have something for me to see or learn. He may want me to slow down and take a breath. I tend to fixate on what is in front of me. I would not say obsess, but someone else might. At times I keep pushing when I really need a break. If I can’t see it, God sends an engraved invitation. Apparently I don’t pick up on subtle hints.

Next time my plans are broken, I pray I look to God for what He wants me to see. I want my eyes and heart to be open to an interruption from God. And I will pray the same for you.

Linking with Holley Gerth.