Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Daddy's Girl

Something I witnessed at the beach this morning...

She was maybe six years old, running down the white, sandy beach with a kite in her hand.  It was cold and windy on this beautiful winter day in the Carolinas.  As she ran, the kite began to climb but she was so excited that she let the string out too fast and she seemed frustrated as the kite started to sink.  Her tired legs would run no more and she seemed more interested in watching the kite than in getting it to soar.  She let out a loud cry as the kite took a nose dive straight into the sand.

Tears filled her eyes.  As she looked up through the tears, she saw her daddy running toward her.  "Let me help you, sweetheart."  He rolled the string up slowly and as she watched his every move, he checked the kite for damage and untangled the tail.  Once the kite was ready, he leaned down to her to give her instructions and showed her a short demonstration of how to fly the kite higher.  He jogged and slowly let the string go as the kite soared.  Before it could get too high, he pulled it back in and rolled it up, handing her the kite as her wide eyes beamed with hope!

This time, her daddy stood beside her as she began to let the string go.  The kite began to climb steadily as she and her daddy ran together down the beach.  The kite was soaring higher and higher and I could hear her daddy cheering her on, "You've got it!  Great job!"  Her excitement was fading as she realized the higher the kite got, the harder it was for her to hold on to it while the strong wind pulled on it with all of its might.  She looked at her daddy again and said "Help me daddy!"  She could no longer carry this load on her own and he was right there with her, ready to help her at a moment's notice.  He took the kite from her, pulled it in, rolled it up and put it away.

It wasn't time yet.  But her wise daddy allowed her to get a taste of what was to come.  When she was strong enough, she would be able to do more, but for now her strength was still small. But it could wait - because she had so much to learn.  I smiled wide as I saw her take a hold of her daddy's strong hand and skip along the shore now, right beside her hero - content to just be "daddy's girl".

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jesus


From the mouth of babes...

"Happy Birthday Jesus!  Mommy says that you are near
And that you have a Birthday this time every year.

She told me how you listen to everything we say
And that you’re always with us in the night and in the day.

She told me how they hurt you for the things that we did wrong
And Jesus I just don’t understand how you could be so strong

They hit you with a whip and you wore on your head a thorn crown
They made you carry the cross all the way through town.

The next thing that she told me really made me cry
She said they hung you on a cross and wanted you to die.

I’m sorry for that Jesus, it makes my heart so sad
To think someone would hurt you and treat you oh, so bad

But mommy says you rose again and that you love me so
And if I just believe in you, to heaven I will go

I’ll spend forever with you and we’ll be the best of friends
We’ll be together Jesus and our love will never end!

So, Jesus, my birthday gift to you is my heart and all my love
Thank you for your gift to me, your love from up above."

Amen

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mary


Mary had a guest on that evening so bright 
An Angel whose presence gave her quite a fright.

He came to her with a message of hope and of cheer 
The Savior was coming – the time was drawing near.

The message was more personal, as she would soon see 
As the Angel unfolded just what God’s plan would be.

He told her she would be mother to the Savior of all 
And with that to her knees sweet, young Mary did fall

But how could this be? She was not even wed! 
She questioned the Angel and that’s when he said:

“Sweet Child, God the Father has chosen you to be 
A vessel that will carry Him supernaturally...
He’s sending His Spirit to give you His Seed 
So you and your people will finally be freed!”

She thought for a moment and said with such strength, 
“If this is God’s will, then I’ll go to any length.”

She carried our Savior through long, lonely days 
Where people would give her a judgmental gaze.

They’d point and they’d stare and they’d whisper her name 
While she walked down the streets without any shame.

And when the day came for her to give birth 
The heavens declared His invaluable worth.

Jesus was born and the plan would unfold 
That for thousands of years was prophetically foretold.

He came to live among us, to show us how to live 
Then He laid down His life, so our sins He could forgive.

But it didn’t end there – no He rose from the grave
So all men could trust Him and their lives He could save.

And save me, He did! But first I had to admit
That I couldn’t do it alone, to Him I had to submit.

Just like Mary did on that bright, clear night 
When she submitted to God’s plan and did not put up a fight.

And once she agreed that God’s plan was the best, 
His Spirit came upon her and gave her sweet rest.

He did the same for me -though I can’t explain how
His Spirit came upon me and He lives in me now!

Just like sweet Mary, I carry Jesus around 
Not in the womb, but in my heart He’ll be found.

People do point now, they stare and whisper my name 
They think I’ve lost my mind, though I’m perfectly sane.

But all the while I know that I’m free and forgiven 
So I tell others now about the life that I’m livin’

The words that the angel told Mary were true
And He’s telling the same thing to me and to you:

“Sweet Child, God the Father has chosen you to be 
A vessel that will carry Him supernaturally...
He’s sending His Spirit to give you His Seed, 
So you and your people will finally be freed!”

-Leslie Nease

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Brokenness

Have you ever felt completely broken?  I sure have.  It is a deep, aching sadness that is hard to explain.  It feels like I've hit the bottom - or worse yet, that the bottom I hit drops out and I realize there's more depth and falling to come.  Sometimes it feels dark and lonely and other times it feels desperate and out of control.  No matter how it feels, though, it's real and it's a feeling we all experience at one time or another in our lives.

Maybe it's the death of a loved one that brings it on.  It could also be the death of a dream, a relationship gone sour, a deep hurt from someone you love, a hurting or sick child or a burden for people you want to help but you don't know how.  Maybe it's your pride that's been broken or a broken heart.  You know the feeling of brokenness I'm speaking of today.  You've felt it - we all have.  But what do we do with it and how can we come out of it?

Driving down the road the other day, I heard a preacher on the radio talking about the sower and the seed from Luke chapter 8:5-8.  As he spoke, he was reading the scriptures and I was praying God would help me understand them on a deeper level.  I'd been experiencing some brokenness in my own life due to some relationship issues and I really needed to hear from God.  The preacher read these words that Jesus spoke:

"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown."  When he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
As I heard this nameless preacher talk about these verses, something really struck me.  We know the seed represents the Word of God - and the first person His Word came to was like a hardened path.  It was referred to as "fallow ground", which means it had been trampled on, stepped on, abused and hardened over time.  It was a path that had been walked on so much that it was hard like concrete.  Does this sound familiar?  Is that how you might feel?  Stepped on, abused or hardened by the world?   Well, if this describes you, please know that things are not hopeless.  And know that you are not alone!

In Jeremiah 4:3, the Lord tells the people to "break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns."  And in Hosea 10:12 the Lord says "Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you."

Notice, it is possible for us to break up the "unplowed" or "fallowed" ground that has been trampled on, stepped on and abused by the world.  Once the soil of our hearts is broken up, the seeds of righteousness can be planted deep within us!  They will produce fruit.  But in order to break it, we must be ok with being broken.  This lands me back to the point of my blog.  This may describe where you are right now - and you are fighting it with everything in you.  No one likes to feel broken.  In the world, brokenness represents a fault, something that is returned or discarded.  But to God, brokenness is something altogether different.  Check this out...

Psalm 51:17 "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

Psalm 34:17-18 "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

Psalm 147:3 "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

Isaiah 61:1-3 (prophecy concerning Jesus Christ) "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor."

I could go on and show you more about how God feels about the brokenhearted...but I think you get the picture.  He is drawn to those who are low in spirit, brokenhearted and humble.  The crushing of our pride and our self-sufficiency is a terrifying thing unless we realize that we are trading in something weak for something much stronger - sufficiency in Him.

My encouragement to you today is this:  If you are feeling broken, allow God to plant those seeds deep within you.  It can be a painful process (I know this from experience), but the hope I want to remind you of is the hope He gives you in His word by reminding you that you are not alone, you are not going through this despair for no reason and, in the words of the prophet Isaiah..."you will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor."

He will display His splendor in you.  But brokenness always precedes usefulness with God.  There is always purpose that we cannot fathom in our pain. Trust Him.  The seeds are coming and the fruit will follow.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Twas the Night Before Christmas

In celebration of the coming festivities, I wanted to share this poem I wrote a few years ago as I lamented the Christmas party pounds I seemed to gain each year!  Hope you will enjoy it...



Twas the night before Christmas, when to my surprise
I saw in the mirror someone I didn't recognize.

I was too busy to notice the weight I'd put on,
The holidays were upon us and soon they'd be gone.

The cookies, the pies, the holiday cheer!
Who cares about the weight, I'll just lose it next year.

Nobody will notice - it's winter, you see.
I'll just wear big sweaters and many layers to cover me.

January will be here and I'll join the local gym.
That's when my resolution will kick in!

I'll work and I'll sweat and I'll lose all the weight!
I'll do all I can to fit into my size eight.

Wait!  Didn't I say that I'd do that last year?
When my size was a six before my holiday cheer?

But it's never too late to start eating right!
So I'll put out the cookies and this battle I will fight.

I really do mean it - I've got to feel better.
I can't spend the summer hiding in this big sweater!

So here I go, look out!  I'm ready to sweat!
This Christmas season I will not regret.

And you'll hear me exclaim as I jog out of sight...
"Merry Christmas to all - may your clothes not be tight!"

Friday, December 3, 2010

Being His Hands & Feet

I was holding it together pretty well until the end.  It was last night at the Mercy Ministries Christmas Dinner and Auction in Charlotte, NC.  We'd heard from a couple of the amazing young women whose lives have been forever changed by a miraculous encounter with Jesus Christ through the ministry of Mercy Ministries.  We'd heard Nancy Alcorn, the founder and President of Mercy Ministries, share her story and we'd seen a powerful video.  But so far I hadn't lost my composure.  Until...

"When I visited Mercy Ministries last year, I was standing in the lobby just about ready to leave, when a girl walked in with her parents.  She was clutching a teddy bear and rolling her suitcase beside her.  She had obviously been crying and she looked very scared.  Immediately, the merciful ladies behind the counter ran around and opened their arms to this precious, young 16-year old girl and told her how happy they were to see her.  They told her they had been expecting her and everything was going to be just fine."

One of the women who the Lord used to bring a Mercy Ministries Resident Center to the Charlotte area earnestly shared this testimony last night and hearing this was all I could bear.  I imagined being that sweet girl, who was obviously in bondage to something greater than she or her parents knew how to get out from underneath.  I imagined how loved, accepted and hopeful she must have felt as she was greeted, not from someone behind a cold desk, but in the warm arms of a loving stranger who had been praying for her and expecting her; who actually seemed thrilled to meet her and have her stay with them for awhile.

I imagined how a flood of relief must have swept over the parents as they saw a genuine love and concern for their precious daughter.  They probably always knew she was special, but had been through so much over the past couple of years that they may have lost hope in their desperation to see her healed, restored and walking in the Truth.  They were probably told by a secular rehab center that their daughter would die from this and there was no hope.  But they always believed otherwise in their heart of hearts - and it was probably the most amazing feeling to see that someone else believed it, too.  As all these thoughts flooded my heart, I was sobbing within seconds.

Hope.  Love.  Acceptance.  Relief.  All of it.  They were being blessed and it was all because someone gave to support this important, life-saving ministry.  There is so much hurt, so much pain in our world.  It was the most amazing, refreshing drink of cold water last night as I heard about how this ministry is changing all of that, one sweet young woman at a time, through the power and love of Jesus Christ.  As a mom, I was so encouraged to hear about how daughters were healed.  As a woman who has been rescued from the bondage of alcohol and eating disorders, I was deeply touched to hear how God is using this ministry!

I'm excited to say that Mercy Ministries is opening a Residential Center in Charlotte soon!  This is an amazing gift that God is giving to our area.  There are so many girls, you may even know one yourself (or maybe you are that one) in our area who suffer from eating disorders, sexual abuse, self-mutilation, drug or alcohol abuse or unplanned pregnancy.  This is a safe, Christ-centered place for her to go.  And it won't cost her a penny because the people at Mercy Ministries want the girls to know that they are loved and they are not there so they can make money off of her pain.  They want them to know that other people believe in them, too, so they give to the ministry so these girls can be introduced to the healing and hope that only Jesus can bring.  It's a beautiful thing to see people being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 61:1-3 says, about Jesus Christ....
 1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
   because the LORD has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
   and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
   instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
   instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
   instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
   a planting of the LORD
   for the display of his splendor.

The same Jesus that this scripture was written about lives in YOU when you are a believer. We are called to serve the brokenhearted and this is a chance for you to do just that.  If you want to be a part of this miracle through giving gifts, prayer, or your time, sponsoring a girl or in some other way, please check out their website.  www.mercyministries.org 

Merry Christmas - and God bless you!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Faithfulness

I often feel like I am the hare in the story of the tortoise and the hare.  Just to remind you...he may have been quick and impressive out of the starting gate, but he didn't finish the race.  I feel like I get very zealous for things and begin running toward the finish line, only to get exhausted and distracted, stopping along the path in order to rest.  Meanwhile, my passion fizzles, I become bitter and exhausted and my heart begins to change.  That was why I prayed and asked God "Why do I do this?"

God has answered my prayers with some amazing insight as I have sought His word and time alone with Him for the answer.  The beginning of this answer began when I was reading Matthew 23:23: 
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."
Did you catch that?  Jesus spoke these words and He said the more important matters were justice, mercy and faithfulness.  Faithfulness.  That was what I lacked.  How had I missed this?  I've read this verse many times but never caught that word mixed in there like that.  I was so convicted.  This verse would not let me go - all day it ran through my mind.  I had a check-list going in my head about all the things I'd started and not finished.  At first, I was overwhelmed with what other people must think of me, but I quickly remembered that it wasn't of my concern what anyone else might think.  I knew God wasn't pleased...and that's all that mattered.  The more I worried about what others thought, the more I lost focus of what He was trying to accomplish in my life through this difficult realization.

I'm thrilled to say that even though it's been a hard week, it's been a good one.  The Lord has shown me why I don't finish sometimes.  He has also reminded me, very mercifully I might add, of all the things I have finished and continue to press toward, faithfully.  I love how He balances things out so I'm not overwhelmed with all I'm doing wrong by throwing in the things I'm actually doing right!

I wanted to share with you what He has shown me in case it might help you in your walk with Him.  If you find yourself unfaithful in certain areas, ask yourself these questions:
  1. What was my motive for beginning the task in the first place?  If your answer is "because nobody else would do it", "because I couldn't say no to him/her", "because I want to be needed" or "because nobody else can do it as well as I can", you're in for some trouble.  The motive for doing something, for serving, for giving of your time must always come from a heart of obedience to what God is calling you to do.  If we want to be faithful, we must be sure that we are walking in His will and doing what He wants us to do, otherwise we are working in our own strength and we will lose heart.  Ask Him to examine your motive before making commitments.  Proverbs 16:2 "People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives."
  2. Did I pray about it and seek wise counsel before deciding to do the task?  Sometimes my biggest problem comes from committing to do something that I've not prayed about or talked with my husband and/or mentor about.  I hear of a need and I jump to fill it because it seems like the right thing to do and I enjoy serving.  I go in with full fervor and then fizzle out within weeks.  Even if things "seem" to be right, we must pray.  You must be in agreement with your spouse and/or seek wise counsel before committing to do something.  Proverbs 12:15 "Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others."
  3. Am I doing this because I think God needs me to?  I think we often subconsciously think "What would God do without me?" When in reality, God is perfectly capable of filling a position!  He is God - He is powerful and He is not desperate for our help.  He gives us opportunities to help, but just like when our kids "help us" in the kitchen, it would probably be easier if He just did it by Himself.  But He loves us and He gives opportunities to help for us to grow, learn and become more like Jesus.  But, just like if our kids tried to do it all, they would quickly become discouraged and overwhelmed, when we try to do it all, we do the same.  My mentor once said "If you feel overwhelmed, you're probably doing something God hasn't asked you to do."  
  4. Did I hurry through the decision making process?  Whew, this is a big one...did you give yourself time in making a decision to commit?  If not, you may have acted hastily.  Personally, I've decided to implement a 3-day period of prayer and counsel prior to making a decision to serve in a specific area.  This gives me time to consider, to calm down from all of my initial excitement and zeal to "save the world" and helps me to slow down.  I have seen, time and time again, that hasty decisions are usually not the right ones.  Slow down, give yourself time, and if the person asking you doesn't grant you the time to pray about it and seek wise counsel, then you probably don't want to work with them anyway.  Proverbs 19:2 "Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes."
  5. Am I being led by the Spirit of God?  This is huge.  If I am being led by the Spirit, I will not gratify the desires of my flesh (Galatians 5:16).  If I am being led by Him and the task is something He wants me to do, I will have the power within me to finish.  I will be given supernatural strength, fervor and determination.  Otherwise, I'm working in my own strength.  We all know that without Him leading us, we will not succeed.  He must be the One we follow.  Not the opinions of others, not the approval of others and not the manipulations of others (including our own selves!).  If you are led by Him, your motivation will be a pure heart-motive that overflows from a love and compassion for what you are doing - not a desire to fill a role or be someone important.  
  6. Am I giving up too easily?  Sometimes we are absolutely called to do something, but then things get hard.  We begin to feel like we cannot possibly make a difference - we are just one person!  But God says our hard work will be rewarded.  He says there is much to be gained by our faithfulness in not only the big things, but the small things.  If you are doing what God has called you to do, you can still find yourself becoming discouraged when things seem difficult or impossible.  Galatians 6:9 reminds us:  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Ask God for His help to persevere.  Your faith may be tested, but James 1:3 says that will give your endurance an opportunity to grow.  Never, never, never, never give up.  He is faithful, even when we are not.
The bottom line is that sometimes our discouragement comes because our motive was wrong in the first place, but sometimes it comes because that's what happens when we are doing exactly what God wants us to do and the temptations to give up or become overwhelmed come at us full force.  Only God can show us the truth of our own situation and the motives of our heart, but we must be willing to be still and listen.  We must be willing to admit we have been unfaithful and receive His forgiveness for it, asking Him for wisdom to do the right thing and for the endurance to finish strong. 

Psalm 119:29-31
Keep me from deceitful ways;
   be gracious to me and teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
   I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, LORD;
   do not let me be put to shame. 

2 Timothy 2:13
If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

If the Leaves Could Talk

Strolling along the beautiful walking trail in my neighborhood lined with trees, I saw some leaves dancing on the ground.  My first thought was "What on earth would they have to dance about?  They're dead!"  The poor little leaves.  It looks like their "hayday" is over.  They are withered up and they've fallen to the ground only to be raked away and toted off as trash.  It's a shame, because they look so beautiful on the outside with all the reds, oranges, yellows, purples and browns scattered across the walking trail.  But just because they were beautiful, that didn't change the fact that they were not alive anymore.

But they were dancing...

I wonder... if the leaves could think, what would they think?  Maybe they would recall the days when they were just a tiny bud, bursting into the warm sunshine with excitement and a zest for life.  Each precious day, they would soak in the rain, the sun and enjoy the warm breezes that blew through, prompting them to sing in unison with the other leaves holding tightly to the tree branches as they all rustled with the wind in harmony.

I wonder... if the leaves could think, would they think back to the day that they realized things were beginning to change? Life was beginning to get more difficult and the sun wasn't shining down on them as much.  Their colors became more beautiful and vibrant on the outside, but inside they were not feeling beautiful or vibrant at all.  I wonder if they knew something was wrong.  Instead of a welcoming breeze, the winds were chilly and uninviting.  I wonder if they recall the moment they realized they were hanging on by a thread to the tree...ready to fall to the ground, to give up and just let go at the first sign of the next breeze. 

I wonder... if the leaves could talk, would they tell us how it felt to float gently to the ground the day they finally let go?  The force of the wind was more than they could bear.  They had to surrender.  Would they tell us tales of how they would lay there, among other beautifully colored leaves, wondering what was going to happen next as they huddled together, terrified and vulnerable.  Would they admit that they pondered if this was the end of the road for them - that there was nothing left?

Then I wonder...if leaves could talk, would they tell us about the day the wind gust began to blow through their huddle with a powerful blast and instead of singing with the other leaves up in the tree as they did in their youth when those gusts would go through, they found themselves dancing with those very same leaves, all dressed up in their autumn colors, as if they were celebrating their new life!  A chance to dance freely - given only by the strength of the powerful and mighty wind.

Yes, the leaves may have been dead...but the wind brings life to them.  So they celebrate!  They are filled with hope again.  Life is different now, and their path is determined by the wind these days, not by the security of the tree branch they so tightly held onto before the change.  They must trust not in their own strength to hold on now, but in the wind's strength to carry them through to where it would have them go.  Their mourning has turned to joyful dancing and they are clothed with joy!

What a beautiful picture this has given to me of the life God gives to us through His Spirit.

Psalm 30:10-12

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
      You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
      O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!


John 3:8
 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rejoicing in His Faithfulness!

Some of you may know that my dear friend, mentor and Ministry Coordinator, Linda Reppert, has been having some serious heart issues.  She was told many months ago that she would need open heart surgery to replace or repair a faulty valve in her heart.  She has been amazingly grace-filled through the past few months and has been a true blessing to walk beside in this journey.  I've seen God work in her like I've never seen before!

She is currently in Ohio at the Cleveland Clinic and has been since Sunday.  Her heart surgery was scheduled for tomorrow, so they have been doing testing all week.  There have been prayer groups all over the world praying for her throughout this entire journey - and this week, the prayers have been going up full-force!  Today, she had her last meeting with the surgeon before the surgery.  Here's the email I received from her after that meeting:

Dear Friends and Family:

God has given beyond what we could ask or imagine. Bottom line is that my open heart surgery has been called off. I am doing far to well to go through the risk of valve replacement/repair surgery.

I just finished meeting with the best surgeon in the country. He had 3 cardiologist review my records yesterday and it is their belief that I will not come out any better with the surgery. They said there are some nonsurgical methods that are not yet FDA approved that will be coming out in the next 5 years.  I maybe a candidate for these methods. My treatment with medicine will be good until then and possibly even good enough for the next 20-30 years! I will be monitored every 6 months and reevaluated only if my situation gets worse, but I have been stable over the last year. The surgeon said to start hitting tennis balls again.

My heart catherization showed that I had ZERO blocked arteries and they said all my tennis playing and healthy eating was reflected in my test and blood work.

I am ever so grateful for the love, prayers, support, meals, cards, text, e-mails and care takers that have given of themselves to help me.

Up until my very last appointment with the surgeon today, they did all the preparation work for surgery.  I feel like Isaac when the knife was raised and all the preparation was made and then God called out NO - do not use the knife on your child. Coming to His alter I join you in giving PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING!

God has heard the prayers of sooooooooooooo many and with that I can not say how grateful I am!

"But unto you who revere and worshipfully fear My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings, and you shall go forth and leap for joy." - Malachi 4:2

Love to all,

Linda Reppert
Ministry Coordinator
Get Gutsy for God
www.lindareppert@blogspot.com


Linda, I praise the LORD on your behalf and look forward to how God will use this testimony to touch lives for HIS GLORY!!  Thank you all for your prayers and love!  Rejoicing in His Faithfulness! 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Priorities, Motives & Boundaries

Are you exhausted?  Are you falling into bed each night, wondering where the day went?  Are you frustrated because you feel like you need to either get some help or clone yourself in order to be able to do the day-to-day tasks in your life?  When is the last time you spent quality time with your family (not watching the kids play sports or taking the family on a business trip - I'm talking face-to-face family time with no distractions)?

I get it.  I really, really get it.  I'm the Queen of Over-Commitment Syndrome.  My mentor once told me "Leslie, if you are exhausted or overwhelmed, you are probably doing something God has not asked you to do."  I believe she is absolutely right!  And God is teaching me some tough truths as He allows me, by His grace, to see the motivations behind some of my commitments.  Maybe you can relate?

Let's explore this a bit:
  • You've just been asked to take over a ministry or a committee and even though you know it's more than you can handle, you justify saying yes because you are sure that nobody else will do it, and if they do, they probably won't do it the way you would and that would make things harder for you.  
  • You've just been asked to take on more responsibility at work and even though it cuts into your family time even more, you go ahead and commit to it without even blinking because it might get you ahead in the company.  
  • You want your child to be well-rounded, so you have them in dance class, sports, drama team and they are active in the youth group.  You barely ever see them and usually dinner is on the run, but they will be very prepared for life in the future, so you justify the busyness as a small price to pay for future success in your child's life.

These are examples of decisions we all face every single day.  The question is: How do we know we've made the right decision?  How can we be sure that when we commit to doing something that we are motivated by our heart and not our desire to keep up with others, to prove ourselves, to make more money or to make a name for ourselves? Our heart is so deceitful sometimes.

After hitting the wall about a million times in my life, I'm learning to simplify my life by taking a look at what matters most.  I listed out my priorities.  Here is what I came up with:


Now, once I did this, I began to ask myself some important questions:
  1. What does God think about this? (I pray first...SO important!)
  2. What does my husband think about this? (He is the voice God uses very often in my life to help me balance my life - he sees things clearly when I can get emotionally blinded or selfish)
  3. Will this activity cut into my priorities?
  4. Will this activity enhance time spent with my priorities?
  5. Can I honestly say I'm doing this because it's the right thing to do or is there another motive in there somewhere?
  6. If I do this, what are the possible domino effects down the line in the future?
  7. Are there any other options or creative compromises I can do to make this more feasible in my life?
You see, I'm finally realizing that if my top three priorities get pushed aside in order to fulfill commitments made outside of them, I suffer and so does my family and my relationship with God.  I envision my priorities being protected by a big boundary, like this:


When these things are protected, I can make a much wiser decision.  It's been a difficult transition and I can honestly say I'm really not there yet!  But when I consider the consequences of over-commitment and resulting neglect in my top three priorities, I begin to understand the importance of protecting them. 

When my relationship with God is neglected, everything else falls apart.  My relationship with Him is what fuels me - the love I have for others and the good motivations of my heart to serve others can only come from His love flowing through me.  In my own strength, I become exhausted.

Bottom line: before committing, let's ask ourselves: Is this a good thing or a God thing? It makes all the difference in the world. Just because it's a good thing doesn't mean it's a God thing. Just because you're good at it, doesn't mean you should do it. And just because you are passionate about it, unless it protects your priorities, it's not worth pursuing.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Turbulence

I am not a big fan of flying, but I had to fly this past weekend to go speak at an event in Canada.  On my flight home, I noticed that when the flight attendant was going over the instructions for safety in the flight, nobody seemed to be paying attention.  She was showing how to use the seat belt, where the emergency exits are located, how to use the oxygen masks, etc...but nobody seemed to care.  Some were sleeping.  Others were reading.  Others were talking to the person next to them.  But only a few people paid attention.  I remember wondering if it bothered her that people didn't care what she was saying or doing.  Apparently, they'd heard it all before, or maybe they just didn't think they needed to listen.  Whatever it was, it was odd seeing a woman give so much to a presentation that nobody paid attention to.

Things changed a bit about an hour later when our plane hit some pretty big turbulence, though. All eyes were on the flight attendant!  It's funny - whenever I'm on a plane and we hit turbulence, I immediately begin to pray and then search for the flight attendant.  I mean, she or he has been there - they fly all the time and I can tell by looking at them if the turbulence is anything I need to worry about.  Everyone else feels that way, too, apparently!  Everyone was looking for her.  She was up at the front, walking up the isle and asking if anyone needed anything.  She was cool as a cucumber!  This made me breathe a sigh of relief.  If the flight attendant is calm, it's our cue that we can all be calm, too!

It's interesting how nobody cared what she had to say when we were safely on the ground, in our comfort zone.  Things changed a lot though when things got bumpy about 30,000 feet up in the air! She was the most popular person on the plane at that point. 

I wonder...are there people in your life who you've been sharing the Gospel with who don't seem to care or even pay attention?  I'd venture to say that even though they may seem like they don't care at times, they do notice that you are a Christian.  I'd also venture to say that when turbulence hits in their life, you might be the first person they look to for some stability and calm in the storm.  When we say we are believers, we are in essence letting people know that we believe the Bible is true.  We believe that there is purpose in our pain, and that God is in control.  So, when the turbulence comes, people may look to us for wisdom and answers.  Are we prepared for this?

In the book of 1 Peter, chapter 3, Peter tells us that we need to be ready with an answer when someone asks for the reason for our hope.  And when we answer, we need to do this with gentleness and respect.  Are you ready with an answer?  Do you believe the Bible?  Do you have life experiences where God's faithfulness has gotten you through and you would be willing to share that with those who may be going through the same challenge today?

I only ask these probing questions because I know how hurting people need hope and assurance that only Jesus Christ can bring.  We have the answers they are desperately looking for in their lives.  The answer is Jesus - and the fact that we know Him could mean that God may use us to be a vessel He uses to share His truth with those around us who might be in a panic over the turbulence in their lives.

I pray God will open our eyes to see the people around us the way He does.  I pray He will give us opportunities to share His truth and His hope with others who may be in a very dark and hopeless place in their lives. I pray that when we do reach out to share hope with others, they will see Jesus in us - and that when they see Him, they will enjoy the peace that His presence always brings, even in the midst of turbulence.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Friday, September 24, 2010

Who Might You Be Taking For Granted?

I love my family.  Last night I spent some time talking to them via Skype (I'm in Canada right now for a speaking engagement) and I was immediately reminded of how hard it was to be away from them when I was on Survivor three years ago.  I couldn't Skype (there really wasn't Skype back then, but if there was, I couldn't have done it!), couldn't talk to them, couldn't see them - nothing - for almost 2 months.  It was sooooo hard. 

The ache you feel is like none other when you long to be with the ones you love.  You promise yourself you will never take them for granted again and that you will never let them out of your sight once you return.  But inevitably, time goes by and you begin to focus on things that don't matter, on pleasing people who don't really care and spending time doing things that don't include them.  Why do we do this?

As I pondered this today, I was reminded of how God must feel when I do the exact same thing to Him.  I mean - He loves me - unconditionally.  And yet it seems I spend an awful lot of time trying to please people who only "love" me when I please them or do what they expect or desire of me.  I tend to spend time keeping up with the latest news instead of reading and meditating on His Word.  I do things that don't matter in the eternal sense of what is important instead of asking Him "What would YOU have for me to do today?" Nothing else matters.

Thinking back, it seems it takes a pretty big shake-down to make me realize I'm chasing the wind during those times.  God, in His amazing love & grace, will allow something to shake me in a way that will turn my attention to Him instead of what is going on around me.  I usually hate when it happens and sometimes even start to blame Him for whatever I'm going through.  In reality, though, it's not His fault at all.  He allows things into my life for a purpose though - and instead of focusing on "Why me?!" I am learning to focus on "Ok, Lord, what are you going to teach me through this trial?"

Who is it in your life that you might be taking for granted?  Is it your family?  Your friends?  Maybe it's God?  Whoever you might be taking for granted, I pray you will ask God to help you keep things in perspective and keep your priorities in order.  Once things start to slip, you will know it.  And it's never too late to start over.  Our God is the God of second chances!  Embrace the ones you love today - and never let a day go by without letting them know how much you love them either in word or action. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our First Week!

So far, so good!  We are two days into our second week of homeschooling and Kennedy is doing well.  I will be honest, we've had a few times of tears - she does miss seeing her friends every day.  We are trying to be more intentional about her spending time with them on the weekends and evenings. But I can already see a difference in her attitude and she is a lot less stressed out.  I am excited to see how things go!

We met with her Language Arts and History teacher yesterday to go over a few things and try to catch up.  She attends school at Lakepointe Academy twice a week, where she is given assignments for us to do on the other three days together.  I'm already learning a lot - I can't believe how much I've forgotten since middle school!  We laugh because I skipped sixth grade (I was in a Christian school with a PACE curriculum and worked my way through fifth and sixth grade in one year) so Kennedy keeps saying "Mom, you were never even IN sixth grade, how are you going to be my teacher?!" haha

Peyton, Stephanie, Me and Kennedy - my girls!
Kennedy has been cooking more and doing more around the house as part of her home economics training.  She's helping with grocery shopping and planning the menu.  We've created a little area on my Facebook where she takes pictures of the food she creates and post the recipes.  She's such a little cooking diva!  She has also been going to the YMCA with me three times a week where we do "PE" class.  She seems to enjoy the break after a couple of hours of school work and I love taking her with me.

Another thing she is doing with me is attending Bible Study at our church.  It's a women's study on Wednesday mornings about character building.  We are studying the books of Judges and Ruth.  She is obviously the youngest girl there, but with a room-full of ladies who love the Lord to pour into her life, I see this is a huge step in the right direction!  There's a young mother in our church who is mentoring her, as well.  This is a huge answered prayer!  When I sent her an email asking her if she would pray about mentoring Kennedy, she replied right back and said "You're not going to believe this - the Lord put Kennedy on my heart last week to mentor and I've been praying about it already!"  I love how God works.

Anyway, I just wanted to give you an update on our new adventure!  I obviously haven't had much time to blog, but I will get into a groove eventually and find more time for it.  Until then, I'm going to focus and keep my priority where it needs to be - with my family.  I appreciate your prayers as we continue to learn and grow through this transition!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Priorities

My family is going through a big transition this week.  Our daughter, Kennedy, begins homeschooling tomorrow and will attend a University Model School just twice per week.  (This means I am stepping WAY out of my comfort zone, by the way!)  However, my heart is completely resting in a very peaceful trust as I feel that it is what is best for my girl and I believe with all my heart that God will give me all I need to be able to pull this off - regardless of how inadequate I might feel sometimes! 

These are formative years in my daughter's life.  As a parent, I don't take that lightly.  It's not that I think public education is bad - as a matter of fact, we live in an excellent school district and she will probably even go back to public school for high school.  My two older kids both spent most of their school years in the Fort Mill School district and they did fine!

However, as a Christian family, we see some holes in the teaching in public school systems.  The holes are made when our government purposefully cut God out of all of the curriculum.  He is just irrelevant in public school curriculum.  We didn't notice it much in elementary school, really.  But it was middle school when my oldest daughter was sent to the principal for talking about her faith in Jesus with another little girl.  And it was in middle school when my son was reprimanded for putting a cross on his poster when he ran for office in the school.  It was middle school when my oldest kids were taught that the world came from a random, big bang and that evolution was how we got here.  It was middle school when they both began to drift from their faith.  One of them came back around, the other is still wrestling with it.

Do I have regrets?  No, I don't - at all.  I know both of my adult kids are on the paths God has for them and He has a plan and will use everything in their lives to make them into the people He knows they will be!  I know the persecution and situations they faced in middle school have made them stronger and more confident in their lives.  However, I also know that I've learned from experience that these are formative, important years in my kids lives.  If I can teach them their studies with a biblical worldview, I want to do that!  It's a wonderful opportunity and I'm excited about it.

Am I angry with the public school system?  Not at all!  I have many friends who work there and I respect many of the people who give so much to the public school system!  They are doing what they are told to do, plain and simple.  And I'm just doing what I'm told to do - that is the bottom line.  I feel very strongly that if someone believes their child is best off in public schools, then they should keep them there.  A lot of Christian kids do fabulously in public schools and shine their light for others in the process!  Every child is different.  Being sensitive to that is what my husband and I want to do as parents.

Our first assignment is for me and Kennedy to both write letters to ourselves.  Our letters will include reasons why we made this choice and it will be an encouragement to us so that if we have a bad day or feel overwhelmed, we can read those letters and remember the importance of this decision.  We did not make this decision for our daughter.  We gave her the option, explained the process and we all prayed about it.  She decided for herself, and we supported her decision.  I thought that was important because I want her to "own" this decision and put her whole heart into making it work. 

As a result of this transition, I won't be spending much time on Facebook, Twitter, or my blog as much for awhile.  I will check in and update when I can, but it will be a lot less frequent.  So don't take it personally if you message me or leave a message for me and I don't answer it right away. :)  This will be a big adjustment for me, as I find so much joy in connecting with you!  I am new at this whole home schooling thing, though, and I want to stay focused and intentional about it.  She deserves my best - and I want to give it to her!  My youngest daughter goes into middle school next year, and if all goes well, we will also be doing the same with her next year. 

In the meantime, if you need to reach me right away, I will be checking my email every day!  Please feel free to email me at lnease@leslienease.com.  I would appreciate your prayers and will keep you updated on how things are going as we travel down this new road together! 

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,  so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.  (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bed Time Battles

Bed time is difficult for my youngest daughter.  She seems to have a lot of fears and has a hard time sleeping.  I remember going through this as a child.  It's scary sometimes when you start to realize the world isn't full of sweet, well-meaning people who love you and would never want to harm you!  This world has some not-so-nice people and some pretty horrific things happen and of course, the news focuses mainly on those bad things.  Between house break ins, murders, bad weather and fires - her little mind is being completely attacked at night as her imagination ignites her deepest fears.

Do you have a little one who has fears like this?  Or maybe it's you - maybe you, yourself, struggle with a wild & vivid imagination and have thoughts you wish would go away as you try to get some rest?  As I told Peyton last night, the Truth of God's Word will always win out against these fears.  Fears are, as we all know, False Evidence Appearing Real.  But God's Word is Truth - and it's our weapon against bad thoughts that try to invade our minds.

If you or someone you love struggles with this, here is a list of scriptures I gave Peyton. I know there are plenty more, but these are the ones we used. By the time we were finished praying last night, she was fast asleep.  Our God is powerful!  Have your child (or you) read these out loud in the room and believe that God will do a mighty work in their mind as He transforms their thoughts and they rest in the Truth of His love:

Psalm 4:8
Psalm 5:11-12
Psalm 23
Psalm 34:3-7
Psalm 37:3-9
Psalm 91
Philippians 4:6-9

Sweet dreams!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Give Me Your Thoughts on Christians & Social Media

I've noticed a huge trend in Christian blogs lately.  I think a lot of us are feeling the same tug in our hearts about one very important thing...are our social media efforts (blogs, facebook & twitter updates) about us or are they about Jesus?  Seriously, check out your favorite blog from your favorite Christian blogger and 9 times out of 10 you will find a post in there somewhere on this subject.  I've seen some terrific posts about narcissism, self-promotion and whether or not social media is even appropriate for believers.  I even wrote one myself about this a couple of months ago.

It's confusing.  We desperately want the world to know about Jesus and social media is a wonderful way to do that.  But we also want the world to know about us, so we can tell them about Jesus and show His love to them.  But where is the line?  I think it depends on who is drawing that line.  I think it depends on the one who is being protected by the boundaries of that line.  And the motives of the heart, which of course, no one can know but God.

I also think, in my own case, I tend to worry too much about what other people think.  I may feel a freedom to post something but once it's out there I worry about if people will sense my heart on the matter or if they will think my thoughts are narcissistic and self-promoting.  According to the Bible, however, my actions should not and cannot be controlled by my fears of what others might think.  My actions should only be based on what God thinks about the situation and if I feel He is leading me, I should not waste a moment on worry about what others may or may not think.  On the other hand, I have some very important people in my life who hold me accountable - and if they sense narcissism or pride in my life and confront me I take that issue to the Lord and I listen intently!

Is this something you wrestle with?  I want to discuss this today.  I know down deep we all want to do the right thing. We want the glory to be for Him, and Him alone. Have you struggled with wanting to do what's right in this area of social media? What are your boundaries?  Do you have accountability?  Maybe you've found a great balance - can you share where you've found that with the rest of us? If you have a blog post on this subject, or if you know of a good one, please post a link below in the comments section to it, so we can read what you have been writing or reading about.

Obviously, this isn't a blog with all the answers to this important subject...but a place to discuss, together, how we can glorify God in our social media efforts without seemingly glorifying ourselves in the process.  Thanks for participating!

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Second Chance

After my cycle class last night, I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner.  I was just going to run in and run out but ended up staying a little longer than I planned.  As I walked out the door, I looked to my left and there was a shopping cart, lined with newspaper, with a terrified, shaking, filthy little dog with a sign on the outside of the cart written in marker: "LOST DOG!  PLEASE TAKE!"

He looked like he was very old and I don't think he could hear, as he didn't budge when you snapped or talked to him.  He didn't have a collar, no identification.  He just laid there, shaking and scared - discarded and alone.  Oh my goodness, how could I walk away?  My head was spinning.  I knew we couldn't handle another pet - we could barely handle the one we have!  We financially tight right now, so I knew I couldn't afford to get the help he needed.  I knew I couldn't take him, but I also knew I couldn't leave him.

Someone found him wandering around the parking lot and felt sorry for him.  He was a tiny little thing
(that's him in the photo) and parking lots are not the best place for a tiny little deaf dog to wander around in, so they put him safely in the shopping cart with the sign on it.  As people would come out of the store, I would just look at them and say "What should we do?" People would crowd around, offer up some "Oh, how sad!" but they couldn't do anything about him either, so they would walk away (though I could tell it was hard for them!).  My heart was hurting so desperately as I watched him lie there, alone.  He was really scared.

Finally, a man walked out of the store and I could tell he was really upset about the dog.  He stuck around for a bit and then I saw him walk to his car and within a few minutes, he pulled up and said "I will take him!" He called his wife for permission (smart man!) and was coming back to help.  He was going to feed him, clean him up and take him to Pet Smart to get him scanned to see if he may have an implanted ID in him.  I was SO relieved as I handed him to the gentleman.  My shirt was filthy and my hands needed a good washing afterward, but I must say, it was the best I'd ever felt being dirty.

I cannot stop thinking about this poor little dog.  How many times in my life have I felt discarded, forgotten, lost, filthy and alone?  I was so grateful this man came and saved him! I know it gave me a beautiful picture in my heart of how much Jesus gave up for me.  He saw me, alone...discarded...forgotten...scared... and He got his hands dirty as He reached down to lift me up out of the mire, out of the pit of my own filth.  But He didn't care.  He knew it would cost Him, but He did it anyway because of His love for me.  He cleaned me up, fed me and gave me a new life.  I'm so grateful for His sacrifice for me!  And I'm so grateful this man took this little doggie home and gave him a second chance, too.  Gosh, if he hadn't, I'd probably still be standing outside of the grocery store with him!  Thank God for the love and compassion He showed not only this little dog through the kindness of a stranger, but also to me - through the sacrifice of His Son.

Note:  If you know who this little doggie is and who he belongs to, please contact the Tega Cay Police Department.  He was found at Lowe's Foods in Tega Cay last night around 6:15pm.  I know the gentleman who took him home has no intention of keeping him from his owner - he was only trying to give him a safe place to go until he was found.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Everyday Heroes

Today is a milestone for my 11-year old daughter.  She started middle school today.  Nervous, excited, anticipation...and I'm sure she felt some stuff, too. (smile)  I remember those days a little too well.  Don't you?  What a tough age this was for me!  Was I popular or a dork?  Was I dressed cool enough but without looking like I tried too hard?  Did I do my hair right, was I walking right, was I thin enough, did I fit in?  Ohhh.....my sweet girl is at a tough age.

I've lived through it with my two oldest children, but I will be honest - it wasn't easy.  I remember when my daughter started middle school she had a ton of friends in youth group.  They would worship together at youth group every week, eat lunch together and go to church together on Sundays.  It was actually cool to be a Christian.  Within about 4 months of middle school beginning, I noticed that more and more kids were pulling away from youth group.  The pressure was on.  My daughter had to make some tough choices.  She made some mistakes, but I'm so happy she never turned her back on the Lord.  Oh, was that hard, though.

It's hard to be strong at an age where you are desperately trying to define yourself.  I remember I wanted to be my "own person" but I dressed like everyone else.  I wanted to be "individualistic" but my decisions were made by the crowd, usually much to my own dismay.  I wanted to express myself, but instead I expressed what the popular kids wanted me to.  I wanted to defend the people who were made fun of, but I was made fun of when I did, so I kept quiet.  I hated who I was.  I wanted to be who I wanted to be - but I didn't have the confidence to be myself.

I'm praying my daughter will not go the route I did.  I pray she will see the truth - that people actually respect a person who stands for something greater than us.  Others want to be more like that too, but they are afraid.  Afraid of what?  Not sure.  But I believe rejection, accountability and stereotypes are up at the top of the list.

When people know we are a Christian, they expect us to be different.  When we act just like everyone else, we send a very mixed message.  Our faith should be evident in our lives - but not imposed on others.  There's something extremely bold about a middle-school kid who stands for Christ!  I think they are some of our biggest heroes - everyday heroes, walking what they talk.  This takes guts in a world that often thinks Jesus Christ is a cuss-word.

Today, if you think about it, would you say a prayer for those kids who are starting school and who are trying to stand firm for their faith in Christ?  Would you lift them up - ask God to encourage them and to give them strength?  Our prayers are so important!  I pray my kids will be gutsy for God in their schools - and that they will shine His light - so the world will know their faith is real, and more importantly, so they will see Jesus in them.

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened."But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  

1 Peter 3:13-17

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Are They Listening?

Yesterday around 2:45 or so, there was a terrible accident on I-77 in Fort Mill.  A tanker truck apparently hit another car, rolled and exploded.  It was just horrendous.  The kids and I were at home getting ready to go to the school for "Meet the Teacher".  I saw a very dark, ominous cloud hovering over Fort Mill and thought at first that it was a storm cloud but it was so out of place.  I looked again and said "Oh, something is on fire!"  As we drove to the school, I noticed the dark cloud was hovering over the area where my husband works! 

The white building right in front of the black cloud is my husband's work.
I called him immediately and found out that the accident happened right outside of his work building and they had to evacuate the building and move their cars!  I was so relieved he was ok.  But then my thoughts turned toward the accident victims and their families.  I couldn't help but think about how lives were being changed forever at that moment.  People were suffering, people may have died (we found out later that the truck driver did, in fact, die in this accident) and in an instant, things would never be the same for these families.  My heart broke.

After we met the teacher, we had some errands to run and I found myself tied up in traffic after taking a wrong turn, as the interstate was completely shut down.  It took me over an hour to go from one side of Fort Mill to the other.  As we sat in traffic, the girls and I prayed for these people and realized that sitting in traffic, together, was a blessing compared to what the families of these victims were going through.

I admit, I was tempted to get a little irritable as we had an appointment to be somewhere, but my eleven year old daughter said "Mom, you know God has a reason for having us sit in this traffic.  I just know it."  I was so touched by her lack of irritation, her complete trust and her child-like faith that God had a plan. It immediately pulled me back into reality and helped me not to think about my own inconveniences while I knew others were suffering at that moment.  Perspective is a beautiful thing.

Sometimes I wonder if what I teach my children about God is sinking in.  Are they listening?  Do they get it?  And times like yesterday show me that, indeed, they are listening.  And they do get it.  And they can be used by God to remind me of the truths of His Word when I get tempted to forget and fret. 

I found out today that the two women in the car the tanker truck hit were rescued just before the tanker exploded by some strangers who immediately sprang into action once the accident happened.  They pulled the ladies out of the car and the ladies were both treated and released from the hospital.  Amazing.  Strangers on a road, risking it all to save the lives of these two women!  Sounds like someone else was listening to what Mom and Dad told them, too.

People are listening.  People do get it.  In a world where it seems nobody's listening to what is right at times, we are given sweet reminders of God's grace and mercy, even in some of the most disastrous situations. Hope springs eternal!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Worrier or Warrior?

I've got two kids who have moved out of the house at this point and it's been a very interesting transition to say the least.  Not having them here is difficult because I miss them so deeply but it's also very exciting at the same time.  I'm not necessarily excited for me, personally, but for them.  They are following their dreams and turning into adults.  The problem is, I'm just not sure how to be a parent to an adult.  This is tricky!

I try not to worry.  I really do.  I know to trust the Lord, that they are His children, that He never leaves them.  But I think down deep every mom has a twisted, messed-up idea that worrying about their children may somehow prove to be effective; that it means they are actively parenting and showing how much they still care.  But it doesn't help.  It isn't effective and it's totally against what the Bible says we are to do as parents.

Rod & Stephanie
When my daughter graduated, my husband turned into what I thought was a "Nazi-parent".  He was adamant that she move out, stretch her wings.  My daughter was terrified and cried buckets of tears.  She tried to go to a college close to home but my husband stood his ground that she needed to move away.  I was a mess.  I knew the Bible was clear to submit to the husband's decision, but I really thought he was being tough on her.  I tried to cushion it a little and then worried like a sick puppy the first few months she was in college.

Now, guess what?  She had a talk with him last week while I had the pleasure of listening in.  She said "Daddy, thank you for pushing me.  I'm so happy and I know I'm where God wants me to be!  I would have never gone to this school if you hadn't done that and I'm so grateful."  Big hug.  Huge tears.  And my husband said "You know that was the hardest thing I've ever done.  I didn't want to be mean - I just knew in my heart it was the right thing to do."

I'm sitting there watching this feeling like I'm in the Twilight Zone!  What?  I thought it was wrong!  I thought it was over-bearing!  I was convinced I was the right one by being the protector and spending countless hours worrying over whether or not she would survive!  And yet....he's the one she's thanking.

Big wake up call.

I told Stephanie that I was sorry if I coddled too much and she said she needed me to at that point, but that she saw after awhile how good the decision was for her.  I told her she was the first born so she is the "guinea pig" when it comes to me learning along the way!  Maybe by the time my 10-year old is her age, I'll finally figure out what it means to be a parent of an adult. 

But I think I know the first step now.  I will no longer be a worrier.  What a complete waste of time and energy! I heard once that worrying is like rocking in a rocking chair - it gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere.  It does not make me a better mom.  It is not proactive parenting.  It is the opposite of trusting God!  Instead, I will be a warrior.  Instead of worrying about my kids and feeling out of control, I'm going to relinquish that control and pray like nobody's business that God will protect them and guide them.  He did it anyway, even though I worried, but what good did the worry do me?  I guess it gave me a few new wrinkles and a lot of sleepless nights...but it got me nowhere.  Praying, instead of worrying, will bring me into the peaceful place of rest that God intends for me as a parent.  Trusting.  Believing.  Honoring his word!

This mom is officially a warrior.  A prayer warrior!  Thank you, Lord, for opening my eyes.  Sometimes the decisions we make for our kids are hard - especially as we let go more and more as they become adults.  But the rewards are astronomical.  I've got an amazing adult daughter who is walking confidently into the call God has placed on her life - and she's turning into quite the warrior herself.  Thank God my husband is the strong man he is and he could see that, even though it was the hardest thing he'd ever done, he had no choice but to do it out of love and obedience to God - so he did.

Now.....to apply my new warrior mentality to my 18-year old son, who recently moved to the big city of Chicago!  Rod had to push him, too.  I see a pattern here.  

Lord, help me!

Philippians 4:6-7
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Who Are We When Nobody's Watching?

Today I went shopping at the Super-Target (that's what Moms do).  I needed groceries and a few school supplies for the kids.  After an hour of shopping, I was ready to go.  I'm not one of those women who lives to shop by any stretch!  I can only take so much shopping. 

Anyway, after my groceries and supplies were rung up and I saved $30 in coupons (yay me!), I was on my way out to the car in the 95 degree heat.  I unloaded my cart and realized that the milk was still under the cart - and I had completely forgotten to hand it to the cashier.  Nobody seemed to notice, but I knew it was not my milk yet because I hadn't paid for it.

So I began to think....

It's super - hot and if I leave these groceries in the car to go back inside, that won't be good.  Nobody noticed.  I didn't do it on purpose.  It's not like I do this all the time.  I don't want to have to wait in line again.  Maybe I should just....

Then it all just stopped as I knew in my heart I had to go pay for the milk.  No sense in entertaining these ridiculous thoughts anymore!  Gosh, it's so easy to justify things sometimes.  So I left my groceries in the car and took the milk back inside.  The security guard was standing there watching me bring the milk into the store. "Is everything ok, ma'am?"  "Oh, yes, this milk was under my cart and I forgot to have it rung up, so I brought it back in to pay for it."  He looked at me with a huge smile and said "God bless you, little lady."  I smiled back at him as I realized God used this man's words to remind me that blessing always follows obedience.  

I went to go stand in line and immediately, a new line opened up, so I didn't have to wait at all.  I paid for my milk and walked out, passing the security guard who was still smiling at me.  My groceries were only in the hot car for a few short minutes.  It was worth it.  Maybe nobody noticed that I took it out of the store, unpaid for, but God did.  Maybe nobody would care if I drove away.  Most people would understand, right?  But God would know.  God would care.  And you know,  even if some people would think it was silly and not a big deal, I know it was the right thing to do.  As I walked out, I could feel God's pleasure.  He was pleased with this decision and He was already blessing me!

As I drove home, I prayed that God would help me to see if there are any other areas in my life that I think I can get away with because nobody's watching.  I thanked Him for the reminder that He sees and He knows everything.   I prayed and asked Him to continue to help me to live a life of integrity and to build my character.  I have so far to go - but He is good and He will never give up on me!

Is there something in your life you think nobody is noticing?  Maybe you have people in your life who have noticed and they are telling you it's not a big deal, but you know in your heart that it's wrong.  You keep doing it because you want to believe it's not a big deal...but you are living with a constant dripping faucet in the back of your mind.  Today can be the day that you can be free.  Nobody may notice, but God will.  And He will be pleased, my friend. 

If I hadn't taken that milk back to pay for it, I would have given the enemy a foothold in my life.  Don't allow him to convince you it's not a big deal.  What starts as a tiny spark can turn into a raging inferno if it is not dealt with.  The hard choices are called "hard" for a reason - they take guts.  But God will give you the strength and the ability to stop the drip. 

2 Chronicles 16:9 
 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
       test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
       and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

Multi-Tasking Mom

I was moving the clothes to the dryer and cleaning out the lint
When half way through my cell phone rang so I ran to answer it

My friend who was calling had some problems to sort out
I listened in intently as she shared what they were about

And as she talked, I looked around and saw so much to do
So I began to wash the dishes and wipe the counters, too

While I was multi-tasking, I thought “Why not clean some more?”
So I took my broom & dustpan and swept the kitchen floor


My conversation ended but now my neck was stiff and sore
The phone was cradled on my neck while I talked and did my chores

I walked toward the medicine cabinet to get some pain relief
But on the way, I remembered that I needed to thaw some beef

So I opened up the freezer and found some beef to thaw
About that time, my dog came up and nudged me with his paw

I took him to the back door to let him out to play
I saw some dirty socks and picked them up along the way

The window on the back door was smudged with who knows what
So I took some window cleaner and clean the door right up

But as I did, I saw a note I’d written the day before
“Remember to go get toothpaste when you're at the grocery store”

I knew that later I wouldn’t have time, so I’d have to go right now
I began to search for my car keys – although time would not allow

I looked up high, I looked down low, I looked around and round
But lo and behold, my car keys were nowhere to be found

But while I looked and wondered where my keys could be that day,
I saw my pillows on my couch were left in disarray

Straightening them and fluffing them, my mind continued to race
What was I forgetting to do as I put the pillows back in place? 

Oh yeah! I forgot the laundry still needed to be dried
So I ran back to the laundry room after letting my dog inside

Once the clothes were in the dryer, I heard the phone again
I decided to let it ring this time, or this cycle would never end

Sometimes I'm like that Bunny that keeps going & going & going...
But my heart is longing to slow down, my spirit has a longing

So I stopped and grabbed my Bible as I prayed and asked the Lord
To help me focus better now as I spent time in His Word

Within a few moments, as I prayed and read a Psalm
A sound came from the laundry room – it sounded like a bomb!

It was loud and it was clangy and I ran to go and see
It was my dryer making all that noise – that’ s where I left my keys!

My neck no longer ached and my keys were finally found
Thank God He gave me sense to stop and helped me to rebound.

When life gets crazy busy and you're running all around,
Be still before your Father so your sanity can be found.

-Leslie Nease

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Joy Set Before Me

I think I'd rather do just about anything but go to the roller rink this afternoon, but that's exactly where I'll be going.  I'm not a big fan of the roller rink.  It smells like third grade to me.  I didn't like third grade.   I know that sounds weird, but I remember going to the roller rink all the time in the third grade and it's honestly not much different today.  Carpeted walls.  KC and the Sunshine Band playing "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!".  The mirrored disco ball.  The hokey pokey.  The dice game.  Couples only.  That funky smell of the spray they use in the roller skates to "disinfect" them.  Yeah, it's still the same.

Third grade was tough for me.  I was overweight, totally insecure and nobody liked me.  During "couples only", I was always sitting, wishing I was out there skating with someone.  I wasn't exactly what you would call popular. I think it started when we were sitting against the wall at gym class and we had to sit "indian style" (it wasn't a politically incorrect thing to say back then).  Before I even knew it was coming, I "let one rip" (passed gas) and it thundered loudly against the wooden suspended floor in the gym.   Everyone looked at me "EWWW!!!  Gross!!"  It was the end of my reputation, if I ever had one.  Oh, do I feel for kids in grade school!  The only good thing about third grade for me was my friend, Jimmy.  He had a wooden leg.  I thought that was pretty cool.   I would sit with Jimmy at recess and he would teach me math since he couldn't play on the playground equipment like everyone else.  I liked Jimmy a lot.  But I hated third grade. 

Did you ever have a year like that?  An awkward, socially destructive, frustratingly difficult year?  Oh, it's the worst.  The only thing worse is seeing your child live through a year like that.  If I didn't know those difficult days were what God used to build so much of who I am, I'd give anything so my kids would not have to go through it at all.

Back to the roller rink issue at hand.  Why, you may ask, would I go to the roller rink this afternoon and subject myself to memories like that?  Because my kids love the roller rink.  They've been wanting to go for awhile and it's so hot outside today that I told them at 1pm I'd take them to the roller rink.  You'd have thought I hung the moon for them!  I suppose when you love someone deeply, sacrifice isn't much of a sacrifice at all.  At first I didn't want to go...but seeing their reaction and knowing the fun they will have has made my whole perspective change.  It brings me joy to see the joy in their faces!  I will go for the joy set before me!

What sacrifices have you made for those you love that ended up being a joy for you?  Did you know there is Someone who made a huge sacrifice for you - and it brought Him joy to do it?

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."  Hebrews 12:2-3

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