Recently I came across a devotional which prompted me to put myself into the story of the blind beggar in the book of Mark.
One of the reasons I fell in love with my husband is the way he asks questions about situations. This practice took old, repetitive stories from the Bible and made them come alive in a fresh way.
This devotional prompted me in much the same way - to taste, feel and experience the story of encountering Christ. Jesus asked the beggar what he wanted Jesus to do for him. It then prompted me to answer it for myself. What would I ask of God? With sudden clarity, I realized I would ask the for the same thing the blind man did.
I have eyes to see physically, but spiritually I know I miss a lot. The circumstances of life, the hardships, and the joys distract me from walking in full connection to the power of Christ.
I have moments of breakthrough where I see what I believe God wants me to see. I want more of that! I want to walk closer so I can see things the way God does. Not just to see the opportunities, but also the lessons in day to day trials and joy.
Keep opening my eyes, Lord!
Identity is an ambiguous concept. A quick search revealed thirty plus personality tests from the well-known Myers-Briggs to the recently re-popularized Enneagram. If this doesn't give evidence to humanity's obsession with our identity, I don't know what will. People use descriptive labels, their relationships or occupation in their attempts to identify themselves. Using those parameters - I am an INTJ, Reformer, wife, mother, writer, teacher, etc - but I am not the same person I was even a year ago.
Our obsession with identity doesn't end there. Add the countless branches of religion and their subsets which reveal our efforts to interpret God's identity. Our attempts to understand, lead us to more labeling and staunch viewpoints that layer up over time creating our interpretation or perspective. Systems and methodology are born in our pursuit to define God, people, our reality, and ourselves by these accumulated beliefs. With that in mind - I believe in a loving God and strive to follow Jesus' example.
I know my perception of God may not match yours. That is normal and okay! If you ask my siblings to describe our parents you would get differing descriptions. We are all unique and have our respective experiences that have shaped our individual relationships with each other. Our experiences will vary and naturally produce differing perspectives about God, too. Let's talk about fundamentals or the deal-breakers. Even what you think is fundamental probably differs from what I think is important. Sorry, not sorry!
I am seeking to understand who I am but more importantly who God is. For me, I feel my identity is wrapped up with God's. When my experiences with God do not line up with my "knowledge" of what I've read or been taught, I must accept the challenge to keep seeking rather than angrily cling to something out of fear or allow myself to crumble. If I stop seeking and think I know, then I am in big trouble. Fitting God into a box of my finite understanding should be a given impossibility. The disciples appeared pretty thick at times and theologians have differed over the centuries, so I am okay with it taking a lifetime to discover or grasp.
I was shaped by loving parents in an environment rich in spiritual religion. My childhood was a nice Christian bubble. I am grateful because my grandparent's faith transformation impacted generations to seek after God. I got to experience "church" in many cultures all teaching a variety of theologies. At home I was taught that God loves me and to be a friend before you share THE friend. That basic ideology has not changed in my mind. God wasn't forced on me, so I refuse to "evangelize" out of fear, through man-made strategy or out of guilt-ridden compulsion.
The layers of religion are slowly being peeled away. This statement may scare some people, but I don't know a better way to describe the modifications. I only share my thoughts because I process best this way. This journey has been slow, sometimes painful and definitely personal. Whether it is the gentle patter of the keyboard, the scratch of pen on paper, or discussing it with a trusted friend, I thrive with puzzling things out. I'm getting warmer, but God's timing in revealing truth comes as I am open to receiving or revising.
Being a life-long learner is one of my identifying traits. I thirst and curiosity runs deep. Maturity has taught me to wait and hear all sides. The same way a prosecutor's remarks can seem absolute or persuasive until you hear the defense, our initial interpretation without proper perspective is often faulty. It's a good thing we have a Spirit inside to guide us. I like absolutes, but I've had to get used to disappointment. The pendulum swing is real, polarity's pull is strong, and dynamic tension isn't always pleasant. It hasn't killed me but made my faith stronger. 1 Cor 13:9 talks about how we know in part.
The freedom to seek was presented to me around the age of twelve. I brought my questions and doubts to my parents. They assured me that God instructs us to seek and was big enough to handle all my questions. That encouraging discussion started a deeper awareness of God's guidance. My frustration has grown when religious authority or culture tries to designate where and how I am permitted to seek or serve. At seventeen, when I was first on my own, the Spirit in me discerned how a spiritual authority was wrong and that experience strongly impacted me in my journey forward. Time has revealed more truths about modern missions, the current-day spiritual culture, ministerial expectations, healthy boundaries, resentments, and true freedom.
I know my seeking will never be done. I have found greater peace in releasing religious custom and walking in greater awareness of my identity in God. I am a daughter of God created to bring glory by sharing my perspective of God's transforming journey in my life.
I struggle in many areas. Some have been brought to light and gently dealt with or healed; others I am still blind to or need more rounds of wrestling to overcome. I continue to journey through one issue, one moment at a time.
One area of silly pride I held was the fact that I had never gotten drunk, until the day I did. The circumstances were right, and it happened. Rather than feeling that God was angry at me, I felt His gentleness. Through that situation, a gentle truth bloomed in my mind. BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I.
It wasn't my incredible will power or self-discipline that had kept me from drinking to excess, sleeping around and getting hurt, cussing like a sailor or fill in the blank. This voice in my soul whispered of how every step I take is known. He walks with me directing, protecting, and loving even when I make bad choices. Allowing pride to build is naive and childish because any credit is due to His strength.
In many ways growing up in the church and on the mission field provided a safe spiritual little bubble. Other surroundings and I would have chosen differently. I was never offered beer, drugs, or peer-pressured into anything. I was born into a healthy family in a privileged country. God is capable of shaping us no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in because none of it is a surprise to Him. I can only be thankful my childhood circumstances were pretty ideal.
Another area I had pride about was relationships. I didn't date around and get my heart broken like a lot of my peers. I had a ton of secret crushes, but I probably would have dated a lot, if I'd been asked. Males around me were apparently intimidated by me. (Later several admitted that my confidence relegated me to their friend-zone.) I know God gifted me that confidence and strong childlike faith to protect me from myself. God wired into me a loyalty that would surface quickly. God blindsided me with my complimentary mate at the perfect time. We were friends who fell in love. We've been married twelve years and are still choosing love and balancing one another out.
I get prideful about all sorts of ridiculous things. My kids behaving. The truth is my kids misbehave moments later. How I've never been pulled over. God knows I would have an anxiety attack and cry if I got pulled over. Pride about my house being clean. Truth is my house stays clean when my kids are asleep or out with their father, and I have time to clean it up without interference. Accomplishing a lot in a day. Often, I make productivity my idol and I'm trying to change that. By the Grace of God I accomplish or not. I shouldn't take the credit or put goals over relationships.
God wired me and designed my personality. He knows what to protect me from and what I need to walk through to become more like Jesus. Like a good parent, He knows I seek best in the midst of the tough stuff. A complete life of ease isn't actually that beneficial for shaping character. A little pain or uncertainty and He gets my attention.
I know if I had been brought up in a different set of circumstances, or around other people, I would be a different person. I am learning to be thankful in the midst of life's struggles. I still wish and pray for hardship to pass, but I try not to begrudge God the journey process in my life. He gently breaks down my pride and lavishes me with mercy, grace, and peace. But for the Grace of God, I am convinced, I could be pushed to the point of murder, theft, drug addiction, abuse, etc. I choose to trust that this path is for my good and that my God is good.
I love the verse where it talks about giving so the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. I write this not to trumpet my giving (which is measly), but rather to praise God for His.
Honestly, I have had a hard time being generous. I get fearful of giving away what I might need. Intellectually I know that God always has provided for all my needs and because of this my trust has grown stronger. Faith is something that is grown through experience and experience takes time. I am learning to not begrudge God the time it takes to journey with Him.
God has shown me that His heart is generous, so mine needs to be the same way. Now when God brings to light a need, we try to meet it. I can't tell you how many times we have given only to turn around and have God bless us right back. It is impossible to out-give God!
It can mistakenly seem easier to give when you have a lot, but no matter how much or little you have, fear tries to steal the opportunities to give. When we falsely believe that money equals security then we become ruled by a paycheck, our productivity or our own striving. My husband and I regularly remind ourselves who our provider is and to whom the money really belongs.
Recently, we experienced several financial miracles. God made us aware of a family in need and we dropped of an anonymous donation. As we were pulling out of the parking lot we opened a card to receive back the exact amount we had just given. Talk about the fastest turn around ever!
Right around this same time we were notified that our tax return would be the largest one we had ever received. We have continued to give as the Lord leads and He continues to bless us. We laughed at how God shows off. He really does own it all and we can't out-give Him.
We have lost track of the amount of times where we have written the check or made the donation and we turn around only to have God bless us in return. Each time it happens we are delighted and our giving becomes even more cheerful as we try to give back to God. Like drops of water in an ocean is our giving, but I think He is pleased.
2 Corinthian 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
It has been fourteen years since I met my husband. We have been married for eleven of those years and had three children. Our oldest just hit double digits and our youngest is potty trained. The infant stages are behind us, but we are still in the thick of parenting. Our sleep may be better, but our mental battles are just beginning. Both of us have experienced job changes while parenting and juggling school and ministry alongside. We have had some rough days balanced with some beautiful ones.
Without the Holy Spirit to iron out our communication and expectations, we would not be happily married. The focus of God in our lives has solidified our mission. Being partners isn't always easy. There have been times of great connection and others where we start to feel like ships passing in the night. Marriage takes intentional work and a lot of prayer. Recognizing and making priorities to pull back is key to not becoming disconnected strangers.
Having hit the mid-thirty mark, I find myself starting to feel more confident in my own skin. My weaknesses aren't as all-consuming, my strengths are more balanced and I find surrendering easier as well as asking for help. Finding the end of myself isn't as scary or disappointing. My boundaries are healthier because I recognize my people-pleasing for what it is and strive to let it no longer drive me. I am more comfortable with disappointing others because my focus is on pleasing Jesus. He is a lot nicer to me than I am to myself. Expectations are a killer. I am still learning to receive graciously.
More than ever, I recognize that life has a rhythm of ebbs and flows. There are periods where survival is all you can manage, sprinting is fun, and passion is endless. Crawling and apathy can happen too! The kicker is we are often in a different mode than those around us. I think God designed this specifically so we rely on Him rather than those around us for support. It is so natural to want to give advice, but love is the safest thing to offer no matter what place a person is in. Listening is better.
We need the example Jesus gives of going off to pray. Seeing that his human tank got empty is so enlightening. God created the seventh day for rest! Jesus couldn't always get away, however, and neither can we. Sometimes we have to keep plugging when we feel we can't. What has life taught me? When you get the chance to recharge - take it! Making rest a discipline is a must!
My personality idolizes productivity, so I must be reminded of my priorities. The Spirit's gentle nudge to put people over projects is helpful. I want my goals to conform to a higher calling. I hate to admit I lose track of the primary relationship for which I am so desperate. God is constantly tugging me in and nothing does that better than pain and struggle. Rough times remind me how much I need him. He whispers, "Quit doing for me and just be with me!"
As a family, we are pulling in to rejuvenate our spirits by getting in touch with THE SPIRIT. May His voice be heard, His presence felt and His will be done in us. When we start to flow out again, may it be with even greater grace and love in a beautiful overflow.
My heart is burning and I cannot sleep. Recently, our path was diverted from disaster. Many of you who know us might think that it was diverted by disaster, but trust me when I tell you that your perspective isn't ours. This shift in priorities was beyond needed! God knew how to get our attention.
In life we often have these pendulum swings, because our beliefs are tied to a dynamic tension with the Spirit of God. He is trying to bring us to a peaceful balance but in our finite understanding we take a lesson all the way to the wall. He is gracious and allows us to swing one way and then nudges or knocks us back the other way.
Maybe I am being too vague. Let me just put it this way. There is truth to the saying "too much of a good thing." God opened our eyes to how far we had strayed from our true values. We had slowly allowed the LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS value to become DO FOR GOD and DO FOR OTHERS. Our lives had become unmanageable.
Now we have been set free. We are grateful believers in Jesus who struggle with codependency. Our codependency was with ministry. Godly advice had replaced the Holy Spirit in our lives and doing "too much" had enslaved us. Out of desperation we prayed and He answered!
In recent years we have gotten wise to the necessity of healthy marriages. Date nights are preached and marriage seminars have become more prevalent. Our pendulum in Christian society has swung. But again we are missing the full picture. What about families? What about rhythms of life? We are still not seeing a balance!
We are running the race like it is a sprint and wondering why we have trouble hearing from God or resisting temptation. Exhaustion is a bi-product of having productivity for God as an idol! Guilt and shame about service are felt. But my battered soul cries out for the examples of Jesus' mountain-top time. Who is modeling a discipline of rest? Are we encouraging sabbath in balance with service?
I write this as your flawed sister. Rest is not your enemy. In the quiet God can speak. Are we too busy to listen? Stop asking him to join your agenda and see how you can join Him in the today. It is a battle of the mind to be still and know He is God. The battle is His not ours. Stop taking on what isn't yours to do. Ask and trust one moment at a time.
So back to my mantra.... Lord let me walk humbly with you and be faithful in this moment.
First, let me allay your fears, I don't know all your deep, dark secrets. The things you tell my husband in confidence remain in confidence. I have people assume that I know all about their situation and that simply isn't the case. I will smile and nod, but I probably am being enlightened by you! Truthfully, my husband's profession is too heavy for my heart, and he knows that. He is the counselor, not me. If you would like me to know something, so I can pray, please share with me. I will pray and cry or cheer alongside, but my empathy will not give you helpful counsel.
Second, am I proud of my husband? Yes. I get this question A LOT! Yes, I love his heart for helping people on their journey. The Spirit gives him the wisdom to cut through to the heart of situations. He is highly relational and I love the way God works through him. The kids and I pray for his protection and discernment to help the people God brings to his office. We are also thankful that his career keeps him attentive to the needs of his family as well. He has to practice what he advises!
Third, Yes, I also get resentful! Hurting people are rarely respectful of boundaries. When clients fail to show, it is hard not to be resentful. I see that as a time we could have spent together as a family. Weighing other's needs, which are always an emergency to them, and determining what your response to them should be, is exhausting. I face a similar battle when fielding my children's constant questions, shrieks, and requests during the day. Sometimes, it is hard to have energy left over for each other at the end of the day or week. No one likes to struggle with guilt about giving leftovers to your loved ones no matter what your profession may be. -mom or counselor
Fourthly, we need prayer and I ask you for it. We are constantly needing God's help to define our borders and safeguard our family time. Some of the topics of discussion in the office, as you may imagine, are heavy. It is hard to watch Josh care more about someone's struggle than they do. I do my best to bolster, but a covering of prayer is always welcome.
Be careful what you pray for! I expressed my desire to do more ministry together with my husband and he said to put it in our prayer circles. (See Mark Batterson's Prayer Circle Book) Not too long after writing this desire down I got what I thought was the answer to my prayer. Now I know it was only part of the answer...
The Celebrate Recovery program we started 6 years ago was finally big enough to afford childcare. I am now able to bring our kids and be a part of the program once again. The women loving on my and other's children are beautiful inside and out. They do crafts and my kids love going every Friday! The vulnerability and transparency of Celebrate Recovery is beautiful and addicting (a healthy addiction). I love that our whole family goes together.
A few months later, our church pastor asked my husband if we might be interested in co-sharing on a Sunday. Our pastor was putting together a series on the Song of Solomon and he wanted several couples to each take a section. Our young adult group was studying the Song of Solomon teaching when Josh and I met. Any other topic and I probably would have said no, but the Spirit nudged me. I agreed before I could chicken out.
I am an introvert. My husband speaks all the time, but it's not really my cup of tea. Over the next few weeks I struggled to capture every fearful thought and replace it with faith or worship. Then I found out our Sunday commitment also included a follow up talk during the week where we could go into more depth in a small group. So, not one opportunity to share together, but two!
God is so cool, because He knows what we can handle better than we do. He also knows exactly how to present things - baby steps. He also places people strategically in our life to encourage us. A sweet friend gave me a mug with these verses.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
They became my mantra the week before we were to speak!
As I tried to sleep God kept speaking to my heart - downloading tidbits. I have to keep a pen and paper near my bed because my mind always gets active late at night. My body is trying to sleep but my spirit is raring to contemplate truth.
As the day grew closer, my mother encouraged me to pray specifically for a big boost of confidence. I didn't want to be overconfident; I just didn't want to puke on stage. Flashbacks from speech class about picturing the audience naked didn't seem right for a church setting. I also thought about walking out without my glasses so everyone was a big blur, but a show and tell lighted candle prop made me decide against that. I did my part by reading through what my husband and I felt God wanted us to say. I told God the rest was up to Him. Help us convey your heart God!
I have been called a crier. I've cried when I am happy, sad, frustrated or angry. Empathy and emotion often overwhelm my throat and I feel frustrated and embarrassed. God has been taking me on a journey of EMBRACE this year. It was the word he gave me in January and I am still learning all that it entails. I felt God saying that I needed to embrace how He has wired me and stop feeling embarrassed about it. Feeling emotion isn't a weakness; it is my super power! If God wants to overwhelm me with His goodness, faithfulness, forgiveness, and love - so be it! And thank you!
The day before we spoke - I prayed that God would speak through me as only he could. I felt very much like Moses -no eloquent tongue here- but I promised to speak through any tears and keep going anyway. I asked everyone for prayer and I knew my husband would rescue me if I got too emotional to speak. He did promise not to rescue me too quickly.
On Sunday morning I felt excited - Like you're strapped into a roller coaster going up to the very first drop kind of excited. What the heck was I thinking! Despite a bug creeping across my foot, I spoke! Probably a little too fast, but I didn't puke AND I DIDN'T CRY!!! This was a first for me. I see now that God was preparing me for this opportunity by speaking in open share each week and facilitating a step study group.
One baby step led to another. I am grateful for the opportunity to stretch my faith. I don't really feel called to a public speaking career, but it is wonderful to know that WITH HIM ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.
Thank you to everyone who prayed for me <3
As I walk on the treadmill my mind wanders a lot. This morning I listened to my devotions and a podcast hoping to focus my mind while moving my body, killing two birds with one stone. Eventually, I realized that my thoughts had drifted to the city of Jericho and all that marching. Gee, I wonder what inspired that...
-How long did it take to walk around the city of Jericho?
-What were they thinking about as they walked around the city silently?
-Did they have to be silent the whole way or just when near Jericho?
-How far was their base camp from Jericho anyway?
-On the seventh day when they had to walk around seven times how hard was it not to whisper to a buddy?
This train of thought inspired me to do some digging.
I normally walk for an hour or about 3 miles to keep the joints lubricated and my sanity intact. My thoughts ramble disjointed and numerous. The city of Jericho with its protective walls is said to have been about 9 acres. Thank you, Google! So math whiz that I am... (haha) I figured out it would take me only about ten minutes to walk around the city itself. Ten minutes of silence is totally doable, but when I found out their base camp was in Gilgal it changed the whole picture. I had to tack on 9 or so miles from Gilgal to Jericho! So add three hours to that ten minutes and that is just one way!
We are talking a 6+ hour walk every day for 6 days and then about 7+ hours on the last day silently before the walls fell down! That is a lot of time to think!
I wonder if they were allowed to talk until Jericho came into sight? Imagine walking with thousands of people around without making any conversation. Eerie! Ten minutes of silently circling Jericho had to have those soldiers imagining what God was going to do... if anything. There had to be at least one doubter in a crowd that big.
Most periods of waiting aren't easy. Our brains fill the silence with worst-case scenarios, doubts, hopes, fear, anxiety, and prayer. Unknowns allow room for God to show off and with Jericho he definitely did. That seventh day is worth waiting for! I know, I know - I wish we could always know the waiting ended after seven days. Unknowns also allow fear to creep in. The end probably won't go in any of the hundred scenarios we run through our minds anyway.
Countless times the end "battle" turns out so much better than I could have hoped. Unforeseen consequences come and bless my socks off. The end result may be great, but the interim is the best place for me. Clinging to faith increases my spiritual muscle. No pain no gain! It also makes a greater testimony to God's glory!
Even when I feel like the end result was more massacre than victory I know I don't walk through it alone. I have learned to trust. Trust is something that is earned and learned through history together. God uses all things together for good. I like to add an eventually to this statement because His timing is not ours. Waiting is often the main point. In the valley, we get to choose to trust. We get to choose our focus. If we recall our history with God rather than our fears - that is our battle to fight. Our battle is in the heart and head! Choose to trust He will take care of the rest and walk with us through it.
In the midst, I feel like I can't make it through, but with His help I will. The waiting is still unpleasant. I mean who likes waiting? Uncertainty is still uncomfortable. Each valley of testing makes my faith grow and my certainty in God's love, protection, sustenance increases step by step.
My last random thoughts were on armor. How much did it psyche out the rulers of Jericho to see a massive army prepared for battle circle them day after day? They had no idea what God was doing. Maybe they were confident in their walls the first day, but some doubt had to be niggling in their mind with each passing day. I don't want to be waiting around unarmed. I want to keep Satan on his toes.
God wants my head protected with the knowledge of my salvation. My heart is safe, behind the breastplate of righteousness, knowing that God approves of me thanks to Jesus' sacrifice. Truth is my support knowing it should be shared in love. I am ready to share the Good news of peace with God wherever I go. I raise the shield of faith to block the arrows of doubt, shame, and fear Satan sends my way. The sword of the Spirit, the word of God, fights for me against the lies of Satan.
Let's keep growing in our waiting by asking questions and digging deeper into the word, so we will be stronger for the next valley. A good march makes the victory all the sweeter.
Josh and one of his best friends, Luke, opened the supplies for their new joint venture last weekend. Look at those smiles! It was exciting to be a part of their celebration.
One of the things that got Josh through ten years in the lawn service was listening to hours and hours of podcasts. He listened to everyone from hunters to pastors. In fact, he and Luke talked over a year ago about starting their own podcast. Late night conversations they had while biking together around town will be coming soon in their very own podcast series.
Dream are gifts from the dream giver. A generous donation came in specifically for the purpose of making their dream a reality. Wow!
Many hours of research have gone into this idea. As the equipment arrived, we wives were delighted to get a front row seat to the unwrapping. Laura grabbed her phone and captured those first smiles. Those smiles led to laughter. As the first microphone went live the first question popped, "What do you think we will be doing in ten years?" Eyes lit with joy as an easy conversation started.
As Josh and Luke move forward from the research-and-prayer stage to the production-and-prayer one, we ask for your partnership. Pray for clear direction, lots of Holy-Spirit-moments, and faithful listeners. They hope to have links up soon.
My new venture is actually a repeat venture, but I am very excited about it anyway. Five years ago I went through my first step study. God revealed some suppressed hurts in my life and some unhealthy tendencies toward perfectionism and food.
This is the first time I have been able to facilitate other ladies through the steps and I am very excited to journey through the steps again. It is an incredible privilege to journey with others! Not only does God knit hearts together, but you get to be a front seat witness of their freedom journey.
The beatitudes of Jesus are so key to restoring our relationship with Christ and accepting Him as your higher power unlocks incredible freedom and power. Our faith journey continues on as He continues to shape us in the image of His Son. I am looking forward to seeing what areas in addition to healthy boundaries God will have me working on.
So, as the guys and I start our new ventures we invite those around to join in on the journey: be praying for us, be looking for NAM - the podcast and join us at Celebrate Recovery on Friday nights.
My Current Mantra
Walk humbly with God and do the work at your hands....