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hands in surrenderThe Lord is so faithful! I don’t remember the exact timing in 2014 but the Lord began to impress upon my heart that transition was (is) coming. Little did I know all that it would entail but I am so thankful that He prepared my heart beforehand. As some of the change begins to unfold I felt the Lord give me a picture and a word that I will specifically need this next season. The picture is much like the one above, of my hands held out and open and the word is to “live surrendered”. One of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, says,

I came into this world the way every person on the planet does – with clenched fists.

Unfortunately, I’ve also lived most of my life with them clenched. I have thought if I could just try harder, do more, or hold on tighter then things would work out the way I wanted. But the Lord is patiently teaching me that His way is different. It is through surrender and opening up that I can receive the gifts in life, even the ones that are hard to receive.

So here is to a new year and hopefully one that I live with my hands held open and my heart surrendered! Happy New Year!

Today I am thankful for grace and freedom from perfection. I am thankful that this is a space to write when I can but not feel bad when I can’t.

Today I am also thankful for letting the Holy Spirit be my alarm clock. I was trying to get up early on my own by setting my alarm but I feel like it would always wake up a kid or two so I was getting discouraged. This week I am praying before I go to bed for God to wake me up. Even though this morning felt a little earlier than I wanted I am still thankful for the time I get alone before kids are waking up. Plus it is always better not waking up to an alarm!

Day 4

Today I am thankful for fresh starts and essential oils. I had been making some choices based more out of the fear of man rather than out of what I really wanted to do. Today I did some of those things. I may find myself in the same position again down the road but I hoping today is a fresh start of making this change for the good. I don’t want to do or not do things because I am afraid of how someone will react. I mean, c’mon, do I really have that kind of power and do I want to have that kind of power? No, I can only control me.

I have been familiar with essential oils for a while and I really enjoy them. Their cost keeps me from getting very many but my friend recently gifted me with one. I put some in my little diffuser necklace and wore it all day. When I took it off at night I found myself longing for the smell. I know these things start to sound a little weird but I do think the oils can help support our bodies just like vitamins and supplements can. Anyway, I appreciated having it on all day!

Day 5

Today I am thankful for leftovers. Since we don’t tend to eat a whole lot of convenience or packaged foods that are quick, making three meals a day starts to wear on me after a while. I was thankful that we had enough random little things leftover to make up our lunch today. Yay leftovers!

Give Thanks: Day 3

Today I am thankful for family days. One of the reasons we decided to homeschool this year was so that we could have our family day during the week. Mondays are usually our day. Today we visited a new regional park nearby. I love this place! It is so nice to get outdoors away from the noise of the cities and to be surrounded only by nature. I love my kids’ excitement for what they are seeing around them (like the geocaching box that Older Boy exclaimed, “I know. It’s a mailbox!” Which may have made sense if it wasn’t in the middle of the woods.). I am thankful for these days and feel so blessed to have them together as a family.

For the past few years I have taken the month of November to write something I am thankful for each day. I have decided I’ll try to do it again this year.

Day 1

Today I am thankful for coffee and more specifically morning coffee with my dad and any other family members present. This past weekend (which is Thursday-Saturday for us) we were able to visit my parents in South Dakota. The first morning we were there my dad mistaken a text* for the alarm** that my mom had set for him because he had men’s breakfast that morning. I was already awake because I couldn’t sleep so I heard him get up and make coffee at 4:30am. I tried really hard to go back to sleep but just decided to give up and go upstairs. In the quiet of the early morning my dad and I each enjoyed a cup of coffee and talked a little before he had to go to the church for the breakfast. Then I enjoyed another cup while I read a book. P.S. Why does coffee always taste better when I am not the one making it?

*The text was from my sister about a bat underneath her bed. She is renting a house my parents purchased.
**My parents hardly ever use alarms but my dad had previously overslept on a morning of the men’s breakfast so just to be sure they had set the alarm.

Day 2

Today I am thankful for the sun and how it comes through the window. One of the kids was sick today so I stayed home from church. I opened up the curtains in our room to let the sunlight in. I was able to lay where the sun was shining on my face. Little boy was laying beside me so I told him about how I have always found ways to lay in the sun coming through windows since I was a little girl. I have always loved light. In fact when the day comes for us to purchase our first home one of the most important things to me will be how many windows and where they are located. But I also had the thought (prayer?) that I want to be someone who always looks to the “Son” for comfort and warmth and I want to live my life bringing the light and hope of Jesus wherever I go.

You know the pit, right? The one talked about in Psalm 40:2:

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.

For me the pit consists of feelings of despair, self-pity, helplessness, powerlessness or as I have heard it called, orphan thinking. I have felt really close to the pit lately. There is so much about my life right now that is wonderful. In fact, I feel content. But at the same time I am working through some different areas of pain in my life right now. And daily I feel like I could slide into the pit so easily if I let myself. I do feel the Lord protecting me and perhaps it really is all Him as to why I have not slipped in but I do feel like there are a few things that are helping me right now as well. I thought I would share them so I can look back at this again when I need it another day. Perhaps it will help you too.

Tools to Stay Out of the Pit

1. Exercise. I am trying to start each morning with some stretching and a few sit-ups, push-ups and doing the plank. We are talking 5-10 minutes here. Nothing huge. Then I get outside and take a walk. No 5Ks here or really long walks even though I would love it (well, not the running part anymore) but just a 20 minute walk. Which leads me to my next tool.

2. Listening to the Bible or Messages. While I take my 20 minute walk I listen to the bible  or a message on my phone. I am surprised how much I am enjoying listening to the Bible. I have always thought I am very visual but I am loving it.

3. Practice Gratitude. For me this one always take intentionality. It doesn’t just happen. I am not doing great right now but I know it is important to staying out of the pit.

4. Prayer. Most of the time these prayers are very short and more like a groan but I at least try to turn my gaze to the Lord knowing that He is faithful to meet me.

5. Feel my pain. I am not trying to stuff my pain but I am also trying not to wallow. Wallow = falling in the pit. Feeling my pain (while turning my gaze to the Lord) = healing.

6. Taking My Thoughts Captive. This is the one where I feel like the Lord is really helping me. As I am feeling my pain or thinking difficult thoughts it seems I don’t stay there long because that is where it leads to despair and slipping in the pit. But I can’t say I am always consciously taking my thoughts captive. I feel like the Lord helps redirect them or reminds me that I do not want to be in the pit.

I have lived too much of my life in the pit and I don’t want to go back. I want to live as the victorious bride of Christ. His beloved daughter of whom I am an heir in His kingdom. A co-laborer with the Creator of the world. A pearl of great price. This is the reality I want to live in.

Thank You Father that You lift me out of the slimy pit and set my feet on new ground and give me a firm place to stand. Help me stay standing there Lord. Amen.

It has been a long time since I have posted on here. It isn’t that I haven’t been thinking of things to write. I have. Almost daily. I have even sat down to write with an idea but the words never seemed to flow easily and so I would decide to save it as a draft. Maybe some day I will be able to write those posts.

Today I am trying again. If you are reading it then I guess it made it through!

First, a little update on me and my life right now. Hubby and I felt peace about me letting go of my part time job at our church so now I am “just” home. We also decided to try to home school our oldest this year. Both me being at home and homeschooling have to do with creating space for family time. We have a weird schedule as a ministry family and we want to protect our family time. Monday through Friday school days didn’t really work with our schedule and so we are homeschooling. So far it is going well. We have our bad days but mostly it is good!

Second, this is a weird season for me. On one hand I am completely at peace and even content being at home and being teacher. On the other hand this season with my kids the ages they are has been one of my loneliest seasons. When I only had one or two kids it still seemed doable to get out and do things or go to a friend’s house for play dates. Now that I have three it just doesn’t seem as easy. We do school in the mornings and the toddler (what happened to my baby??) sleeps in the afternoon. I am asking myself what I can do to make time for fellowship with others and trying to leave what I can’t do to the Lord! Anyone want to come over and hang out with us sometime? We are especially trying to find some friends to hang with on Saturdays since Saturday services are starting at our church again.

Third, this has to do with the being afraid thing. I belong to a health group on Facebook. One of the women admitted that she is kind of scared with the whole ISIS thing and was wondering what she can do to be prepared (mostly in the physical sense with food, etc.). Another woman admitted to being freaked out by the recent news of the Ebola case confirmed here in the U.S. Not gonna lie that I have wondered what is happening in our world and what the days ahead are going to look like. Thankfully I haven’t felt a lot of fear over it though. But as I was taking my walk this morning, I was listening to the bible app on my phone. I picked five random chapters in different books to listen to and I was once again reminded why the bible is so important to us as believers. It has the promises we need for getting through whatever lies ahead. I wanted to share some of them here.

The first is from Psalm 27. When I googled it I found that it is called “A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God”.

Psalm 27
The Lord is my light and my salvation;

Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.
And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a level path
Because of my foes.
12 Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries,
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
13 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

The next one is also a Psalm and is one of my favorites right now.

Psalm 34 The Lord, a Provider and Deliverer.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be [e]condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be [f]condemned.

I also found Proverbs 1 to be very interesting in light of the ISIS situation. Verses 16-19 say, “For their feet run to evil and they hasten to shed blood. Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net in the sight of any bird; But they lie in wait for their own blood; They ambush their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; It takes away the life of its possessors.” I do want to note that our only enemy is the enemy. Muslims or people associated with ISIS are not our enemies. They are a very lost people in need of being reconnected to their one and only Creator, God Almighty through Jesus Christ! And as I was reminded in a message earlier this summer, the descendants of Ishmael (which Muslims are) are a promise, not a problem. Nevertheless, I also feel it is important we do not sit back and act like nothing is happening. If nothing else we must be fervent in our prayers.

But most importantly, we need to trust God. He can be trusted. And that is why we do not need to be afraid. “He delivers us from ALL our fears”!!!

I saw this quote on a Facebook comment the other day and it really hit me.

Worry is praying to yourself.

Ouch! Now doesn’t that put worrying into perspective? I think I want to make this quote visible in my home because when I think of worry this way it really challenges me to turn my thoughts into prayer. Help me Lord!

Our church is seeing an increase in visitors which is exciting. We added a second service because we feel like God has plans to grow our (church) family. Part of growing also means that when your split our current congregation into two services, it is more obvious who are visitors (simply because there are not as many people in our sanctuary). I don’t know if this is the reason or if this is just who I am but I find myself thinking more and more about what new people or visitors are thinking of our services.

I am finding myself at times cringing over something said (usually by my husband…love that man) because I am fearful that people will think we are weirdos! Part of the reason I would wonder this is because I once was a visitor to a church very similar to ours now and I told my then new husband I would never attend there. Let me explain.

It (the church) was just too weird! People waving these big flags around and dancing all over the place. People praying in tongues. The weird phrases that sounded all spiritual but mostly translated into gibberish to my then very traditionally raised Christian self. The people kind of seemed like they were living in the clouds or like they just were all “weird” people who attended that church. Surely they must be the more “needy” people. Yet, there was my husband who wasn’t weird to me (wild and crazy but not weird) and he was some how at home there. Even though I said I wouldn’t attend there, I think part of my journey began there too.

Because when you really get down to why a church like ours, one most people would call charismatic or pentecostal, makes a mainline-traditionally-raised Christian uncomfortable is because it is the unknown. And it isn’t as structured as we are used to. It is free. More freedom than we are used to in church. And we don’t know what to do with that freedom. We feel fear because it is the unknown and fear makes us do crazy things. We need something to make us feel comfortable once again so we begin to 1) make a case for why we don’t fit in a place like this or 2) we make judgments against the church. I am not saying everyone needs to be “charismatic” but I do believe we are meant to live in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ and if we have judgments in our heart, it keeps us from true unity. But in my own journey I have learned that the things that made me think that church was “weird” were really the things that made me feel uncomfortable and fearful. Because I was uncomfortable with freedom. I liked living in my comfortable box and in my nice structured church. And I didn’t want to be a weirdo.

While I don’t think we all need to be “charismatic” in our choice for a place of worship, I do think we are all meant to live in freedom and we are meant to know all of God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If we try to keep part of who God is in a safe little box because we don’t understand Him, we miss who He is and we miss who we are. We sacrifice part of the freedom we are meant to live in. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (NIV) I like how the Amplified version says it, “In [this] freedom Christ has made us free – completely liberated us; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery – which you have once put off.”

For me the yoke of slavery that is talked about in this verse was legalism. Read about the Pharisees in the bible and you will know what I mean. Jesus told them they were like white washed tombs, clean on the outside but empty on the inside. I was void because my understanding of faith had a lot to do with works and less to do with who I was in Christ. I heard a speaker say recently that Christ didn’t just come to restore us, He came to replace us. As in we are meant to become like Christ (Galatians 2:20). There is a lot we can do on the outside to look like Christ, but we can still be empty and bound on the inside. A faith walk based mostly on works will keep us a slave to works because it gives us the illusion we can do it. We have what it takes. Living in grace acknowledges the greatness of our God and causes us to see our utter dependance upon Him. We can’t do it on our own. But with Him we can do great and mighty things. Grace also keeps us humble and mindful of our own sinfulness, our own need for a Savior. People who live in legalism and look really great on the outside can quickly become judgmental of the “sinner” because their works give them the illusion they have what it takes, that they are so great because they live such holy lives. Legalistic Christians are most comfortable with structure because they are good at following rules and guidelines. They, however, are not as comfortable with a “free” environment. That was me only a few years ago.

Thankfully when we first came to our church it wasn’t as weird free as it is now. I could handle it then. There were moments I felt scared but I had people I trusted to talk me through it. Our pastors listened patiently and lovingly to me rant about “how something that is only found in one book of the bible” can be so important and what the bible says about this and that. They never once made me feel stupid for asking these questions. They loved me where I was and shared their wisdom. Plus my husband was there through it all as well, loving me where I was at and never pressuring me to do something or be something other than who I was at that moment. And God began to change me. He softened my heart. Fear began to be replaced with peace and I began to see God could be trusted. And just because something made me feel uncomfortable didn’t make it unbiblical.

I began to experience grace and feel free. Free from needing to have it all figured out and free to quit striving to be this “good” Christian in my own strength. I began to see my emptiness and my need for a Savior and I saw the enormity of what God has done for me. Expressions during worship like raising my hands or dancing began to be a natural response of this Pharisee sinner set free. The freedom I saw around me no longer scared me because the same freedom was in me.

Now, back to the visitors coming to our church. I have been reflecting if my concern for how they feel is rooted in the fear of man and wanting to please people or if this concern has to do with my heart for people. People much like me a few years ago. I guess what I am working through is that I don’t want to feel like I need to apologize for who we are and I don’t want to cringe at things that are said (especially by my hubby who I think very highly of) because visitors will think my husband is weird will feel uncomfortable . But I do hope that my own story could be used to encourage others. I hope my story can encourage you.

God is trustworthy. Christ came to set us free. Freedom is not scary when you know the One who makes you free. Freedom is good. And if freedom makes me and my beloved church family weirdos, I am ok with that. I will take freedom any day over emptiness and legalism. For freedom Christ set us free!

Here is a great song about freedom:

I was inspired by this post I read from Hands Free Mama to share some of the reasons my days are better because of these three gifts from God!

Older Son – God’s Helper
IMG_1473
My days are better with you because of the way you love people. You are always planning for the next time you can be with others.
My days are better with you because you are a planner just like me and even though it drives me nuts sometimes because I don’t always have a plan, I smile because you are like me. I also drove my mother nuts wanting to know the plan.
My days are better with you because of your excitement and zeal for life.
My days are better with you because of your silliness.
My days are better with you because you retell stories you have heard us share. You know you are God’s helper because that is the name we chose for you. I love when you ask me to tell you about your birth.
My days are better with you because you say gessert instead of dessert.

Younger Son – Fiery One
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My days are better with you because of your smile. There is nothing like it in all the world.
My days are better with you because of the way you dance. I love that you even dance in the doctor’s office when you are the one who is sick.
My days are better with you because you are full of fire just like the meaning of your name and I am ok with that. I bless you to become one who is filled with the fierce and fiery love of God and to carry the fire of God all the days of your life.
My days are better with you because you understand being alone. I’ll sit quietly with you any day!
My days are better with you because you love peanut butter and so do I and so does my dad so it makes me think of him.

Little Girl – She Shall Increase in Wisdom
IMG_1488
My days are better with you because you are a girl! And I am no longer the lone girl in this family. And you make me want to be more girly so you and I can do girly things together.
My days are better with you because of your smile and your big eyes. My favorite is that you are always looking for me. Right now Mom is best to you and how could I not love that!
My days are better with you because you will sit in your crib and talk away like you’re having your own conversation. It makes me smile.
My days are better with you because you kick your legs when you are excited and you remind me that life is something worth getting excited over.
My days are better with you because you remind me to slow down and cherish the moments that matter because life really does go so quickly.

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