Thursday, March 31, 2011

nothing is really mine

All this business of counting gifts (I'm in the 3000s now) has really got me thinking.  Slowly I have come to realize that everything in my life has been given to me.  Every thing.  There isn't a tiny bit of my existence that wasn't given to me by God's grace for his purpose.  While I have been busy hunting for the gifts, I can't help but be overwhelmed by the Giver.  Not every gift is pleasant.  Some are irritable and inconvenient.  But they are gifts nonetheless.  And when I realized that nothing I have (or moment I have experienced) is because of my own power, all I want to do is give.  Give of my time, resources, love.  I feel like I have been a hoarder of everything I have.  It feels completely selfish to just say thank you, thank you, thank you all day long to God and not share what I have (money, talents, abilities, stuff...) with anyone who has a need.  I did nothing to deserve what I have.  We only have a roof over our heads and a job that provides because God chose to give it to us for his glory.  How quickly we forget that!

Living in a society that measures success by what you achieve or possess, our heads get big and our hands clinch tight around the stuff we have earned.  "I have worked hard all my life," we say.  "I have walked with the Lord.  I have tithed of my income.  I serve in the church nursery.  I deserve the blessings God has given me."  

Really?  NOTHING I have is by my own power.  I feel like the kid that gets tons of presents for Christmas.  He tears through the packages and joyfully grasps his new-found treasures with glee.  He plays with them nonstop and brings them everywhere he goes.  "IT IS MINE!" he screams when a friend wants to experience the happiness found in his toy.  The only reason the child has that toy was because someone gave it to him.  He holds on to it tightly claiming control over how it is played with so nothing bad happens to it.  "You can see it for five minutes and then I want it back," he finally gives in.

I feel like I have been busy saying thank you and then telling God what gifts he has given me that I want to share.  "You can play with these toys, but not this one.  I need this gift to meet MY needs."  Or "Maybe someone else will give you a toy like this some day but this one is mine."  All that I have has been given to me to share.

I think about my life, my future, my family.  I think about our immediate needs both physical and emotional.  I think about how I am equipped to meet those needs in this place where God has planted us.  What I haven't been busy thinking about is others.  At least not without the convenience of compartments.

My life is rich.  I have deep friendships and accountability in my faith.  I go to a solid Bible-teaching church.  My kids are healthy.  I have kids.  We have money invested for our future.  We do what we can with what we have.  I make meals for new Moms.  We give back to the Lord of our first fruits.  We serve in the church.  None of this is bad.  In fact, it is all good. But I have come to realize that nothing I have is really mine except that God wanted me to have it for his purpose.  I suddenly want to give it all up for him to use how he sees fit.  Not just WHAT I feel like giving WHEN I feel like it.  Does that make sense?  I want to completely give self.  I want to be 100% available 100% of the time.

This new perspective has opened my eyes to the most basic Bible stories.  For example in Matthew 14, God fed 5,000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  I always came to this story and thought of it as an opportunity to show that Jesus was in fact God.  I also understood that it is an example of how God can make something from nothing.  Let me go ahead and post the scripture here as it is found in the New Living Translation at

Matthew 14:13-21 (NLT)

  13 As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. 14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.  15 That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
 16 But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”
 17 “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.
 18 “Bring them here,” he said. 19 Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. 20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. 21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!

In John chapter 5, it says that a young boy had the loaves and fish with him.  Reading this now, I see it differently.  The disciples looked at all the people, thousands of them, and didn't see how they could possibly meet their needs and yet God asked them to feed the people.  Why would he do that unless He knew he had equipped them to do the job?  He knew they had the resources to meet the crowd's needs.  And the boy...he could have just as easily eaten his dinner after a day of listening to the Lord speak and been content that he had blessed him with a meal that day.  But he didn't.  He saw that he had something that could be used.  It doesn't say that he just gave part of the food he had.  We assume he gave it all.  In his human mind he probably didn't think his tiny little meal would even do much, but he gave anyway.  It was a gift that he had a meal at all.  Why not give back to the one who gave it to him in the first place?  And you know what God did?  He used that tiny little meal for one given back to him to meet the needs of everyone sitting there.  The blessings were so overflowing that they had baskets and baskets of gifts left over.  Exceedingly, abundantly more than they could have ever imagined.

I think sometimes we get so consumed with serving God by our own strength once all our needs are met that we forget that everything we have was given to us by him.  Even if what we have isn't much.  Even when we think there is no possible way it could meet the needs of 5,000.  We should give anyway.  I don't want to be guilty of selfishly hoarding all that which was given to us by His grace in the first place.

Alright.  I think that was a decent start.

More to come...

the sound of my own voice

I had a friend over this morning and she sure got an ear-full.  I think my verbal rambling is starting to make more sense to me.  Although I am certain she left really confused.  So many disjointed thoughts.  I'm hopeful I'll have time to write here again soon.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

rambling words

The written (read:typed) word feels concrete.  My mind has been going nonstop lately.  It is a wonder I can even sleep.  The conversations going on in my mind are busy and flowing into one another.  When I actually say the words out loud to my Love and other friends it comes out like rambling.  God is revealing a great many things to me.  The words need time to get organized so they make sense to others.  I have started writing posts four times this week and none of them will ever be published.  The concrete words just don't seem right.  I have lots to write about.  Just not quite yet.  It is better that they make sense so they can actually be used for God's glory and not just the jumbled sounds of a crazy person.  Better yet, come over for coffee some morning and I'll go ahead and talk your ear off and you can help me sort out the words in my head.  I have no plans Friday.

outside my own little world

personal note: Yes, Molly, Matthew West does look like your husband!

Monday, March 28, 2011

new purpose

God lit a fire beneath me this past week.  The process of learning to be thankful in ALL circumstances is proving to change me in ways I never thought about before.  I mean, maybe down deep I knew I would be more grateful for all God does for me (but really I was completely overwhelmed by that realization) as I counted 1000 gifts.  And perhaps it wasn't all that crazy to see how God worked on yet more places in our marriage while learning to give up resentments and expectations.  I was pleasantly surprised to see my attitude adjusted (though sickened at the same time for how quickly I default into a reaction of I-need-I-want-I-deserve...grumble, grumble, complain) as I allowed God to take every thought captive.  He has slowly been transforming my heart these past two months (note: Has it only been that long?).

There have been other parts of this process that I never considered surrendering to God before.  You know like my whole self.  My everything.  Not just my future or my family or my money.  Not just my attitude or my stuff or my worship.  But actually surrendering self.  God showed me a relationship he wanted to grow.  I am letting him water.  God showed me needs others have that I may be able to meet.  I am listening.  He has been faithful to teach me that he is sovereign over all and we are created for his purpose.  My life is not about me and I want to live every moment for Him.  Not just live in a way that pleases him (or glorifies Him), but actually accomplishes His will for my each and every day.

When I say He has lit a fire beneath me this past week, I mean it.  God has planted a new purpose in me that perhaps I wouldn't have been available to hear even three months ago.  Back when I was more concerned with my own life and family for example.  Surrendering control (after a rough beginning still trying to do it in my own strength) is actually turning out to be more fulfilling than I expected.  God can see the big picture.  He knows how to best use my life and I am excited to finally let Him do that.

God I want to be your hands and feet.  I want to think beyond myself and serve others.  This life is not my own.  USE it for your glory in all things

More to come...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

His plan for her celebration

God continues to show me that His plan is perfect and complete.  In the grand scheme of things, the examples I am referring to are small.  But understanding His sovereignty in the day to day helps me grasp His work in the big (and sometimes unpleasant) circumstances of life.  I am overwhelmed by His grace and that He remains faithful to show me how He is working...daily.

Today is our daughter's first birthday (Happy Birthday Sweet Babydoll Sis!).  One year ago I experienced an amazing delivery of our second child and my husband was right there by my side.  Today he is not.  A couple of months ago he let me know he was going on a work trip in March.  When he told me the dates I was bummed when I realized he would miss her birthday.  He hasn't traveled much this past year.  The ONE trip he has to take is during that particular week?  Sigh.  My Love missed Bundle Boy's first birthday too.  

It actually took me awhile to have peace about him being gone today.  When I was a kid, we celebrated a birthday on the birthday.  My Love didn't have the same expectation.  I was having a hard time letting it go.  "I'll just have a party without you," I said.  "Or maybe we just won't do anything since we don't live near family anyway."  After a few days of bringing it up again, we decided to celebrate with friends a little early so my Love could be present.  "She is going to be one.  She doesn't know which day is her actual birthday anyway," he said.  Fine.  As the party got closer and I started planning decorations, a menu, invitations, I got more excited about it.  God was softening my stubborn heart.  My Love was right.  What did it really matter WHEN we celebrated?  Her Daddy should be there.  The party was so much fun (even though it was 9 days early...I am a constant work in progress).  Babydoll Sis spit out her cake as soon as her Daddy put a bite in her mouth.  Everyone laughed.  Our dearest friends here (of all ages) were able to join us for a party before Bible study at a friend's house and it was such a blessing for everyone present.  His ways are not our ways.

Fast forward to last night.  I was up baking cupcakes to take with me to church today.  I do the Bible lesson for the (homeschooled) kids while the women study a book together in the other room.  One new family at our church has three amazing girls and they have been coming to Bible study this session.  I have really enjoyed spending my Tuesday mornings with them as well as my two kiddos.  Last week I told the kids that today would be Babydoll's birthday.  They got so excited (ages 2, 6, and 8).  We talked about the Bible story we would be reading (because they like to know in advance) and that we would have a little celebration with cupcakes for my daughter's birthday.  They were thrilled!

Today I arrived early to the church.  I set out the cupcakes I had frosted and sprinkled, and hung the recycled banner from her party up in the nursery where we would be meeting.  Babydoll was all dressed up wearing her "It's fun to be 1" t-shirt passed down from a friend and sporting a "Birthday Girl" ribbon that I just couldn't resist pinning on her.  We were set to have a good time.

A few minutes later the family of three girls came running into the building with balloons, fresh squeezed lemonade, and homemade madelines with chocolate to dip them in.  The two younger sisters were even wearing their finest party dresses.  It was adorable and oh so touching.  This family blessed my life tremendously today.  His ways are not our ways.

Had my Love not been out of town I probably wouldn't have even done anything at Bible study today.  The Lord saw fit to get these sweet girls excited about a party and getting their Mom on board with letting them bring some special homemade treats as well as a big 1 birthday candle.  The kids and I sang Happy Birthday to her on the floor of the church nursery.  It was precious.  Seriously who does all that?  I hardly know these people.

God does, that's who!

With each passing day I am learning more and more to say "Yes, Lord" to the inconvenient (although it still doesn't come naturally).  When my plans don't work out, I recognize that His plans are far better.  Who am I to continue telling Him I know better for me than He does?  He is my Creator.  I am the created.  Use me Lord for Your good purpose.

Thank you Lord for the overwhelming blessing of 365 glorious days knowing Your Babydoll Sis.  She is a gift beyond words.  Her very life has a purpose beyond my wildest dreams for her.

So today my Love and I celebrate (from opposite sides of the globe) the anniversary of Babydoll's birth one year ago today.  We thank you Lord for her life and Your will for it.


Monday, March 21, 2011

chasing the ball

Bundle Boy went to a birthday party for a friend this weekend.  Inside the goody bag that the hostess sent home with each guest was a rubber bouncy ball.  I used to collect rubber balls as a kid.  In fact I think I still have a bag of them somewhere around here that has traveled with me everywhere we have lived in this world.  When I saw the clear quarter-sized ball with sparkling stars inside, it made me think of my childhood collection.  Bundle Boy has been busy bouncing it in the appropriate areas of the house with all happiness. 

Yesterday we were loading up the stroller to take a walk to the playground.  Bundle Boy stood at the end of the driveway in our cul-de-sac and inadvertently dropped his prized gift.  He announced to me that it was rolling down the street.  I was on the porch getting ready to grab a toy from inside for his Babydoll Sis.  "No!  Don't go after it!"  He took a few steps, looked back at me then stepped again.  He saw his ball rushing down the street and he was torn about whether he should obey my voice or go after what was so important to him.  A neighbor two doors down was working in his yard and physically dropped what was in his hands to run down the street.  "Its going toward the storm drain!" he said.  I was actually quite touched that he wanted to save my son's new toy.  "Its alright," I said.  He stopped in his tracks.  N was a little stressed.  "Bundle Boy, you are never allowed to run out in the street to go after something.  It isn't safe."  "OK, Mommy.  But my ball..." he said.  "It stopped on the edge of the drain," the neighbor confirmed.  I told Bundle Boy to stay in the driveway and I would go get the ball.  Sure enough just past the storm drain, there it was stopped on a pile of twigs that had collected in the gutter.  It didn't disappear.  It was found.  I brought it up to my son and put it safely back into his hands.

Isn't this the exact scenario we play out with God on a daily basis?  This thing is very important to me.  I want it.  I need it.  It brings me happiness.  Something happens and we think we are about to lose it forever.  We want to control it.  We hear God say, "No!  Don't go after it!" but we hesitate.  We struggle to trust.  I am so much closer than you are LORD.  I could get it.  "NO," he says loudly.  Had he actually run out into the street, he could have gotten hurt.  Just moments before our next door neighbor came tearing up the hill straight into her drive way while we stood in ours.  BB could have just as easily been in harm's way while chasing the ball.  I never guaranteed to him while I hollered from the porch that I would get the ball back for him.  I just said don't go after it.  Trust me!  The fact that the ball was found cradled delicately in a nest of sticks inches from being lost forever was just a gift perhaps for his obedience.  Trust my voice, son.  Not for what you will get out of it, but for the purpose I have in the command.

Oh Lord, thank you for the joy found in rubber bouncy balls.  Thank you for gravity that takes prized gifts away from our hands.  Thank you for the perspective and big picture You see while standing on the porch and for often hollering loudly for the whole neighborhood to hear.  Thank you for repeating your words as we grapple with wanting to trust and obey but seeing how we can easily solve the problem.  Thank you for your grace in trusting and sometimes blessing us with the gift of the very thing we put into your hands.  Help me not to get fixated on chasing the ball.  Help me to say thank you whether it rolls into the storm drain or you go later to retrieve it from its safe resting place.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


'The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning "grace."  Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks.  He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.  

But there is more, and I read it.  Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis.  But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning "joy."
Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo--the table of thanksgiving.
Charis.  Grace.
Eucharisteo.  Thanksgiving.
Chara.  Joy.
Grace, thanksgiving, joy.  Eucharisteo.
A Greek word...that might make meaning of everything?"

-excerpt from One Thousand Gifts, pgs. 32-33

every hour

This morning on our way to church, I stopped in the driveway after backing out of the garage so I could rifle through the CD case we keep in the car.  I was in search of a homemade disc that was a gift from my sister a couple years ago.  Redemption Songs by Jars of Clay.  I hadn't heard it in awhile and couldn't find it in the bulging black case that is hidden under the driver seat.  There was one song in particular I was eager to sing to my Lord this morning.  With no success, I reached for my second choice of music instead.

We arrived at our church.  Babydoll Sis helped greet people entering the building as she and I stood in the doorway of the nursery awaiting more kids to join her.  The worship service got underway.  The nursery started filling up.  Suddenly I heard the very song I was hoping to hear on my way to church coming from the sanctuary.  I really should just have it playing on a continuous loop throughout my house.  Enjoy! 

note: The song lyrics are posted below. 

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby

Temptations lose their power
When Thou art nigh

I need thee, oh, I need thee, every hour I need Thee

I need thee, I need thee, I need Thee every hour

I need Thee every hour in joy or pain

Come quickly and abide or life is in vain
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee, every hour I need Thee
I need Thee, I need Thee, I need Thee every hour
I need Thee, I need Thee, I need Thee every hour

Oh, bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee

Oh, bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee
I need Thee every hour, teach me Thy will
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee

Oh I need Thee every hour
I need Thee, I need Thee, I need Thee every hour
I need Thee, I need Thee, I need Thee every hour

Oh, bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee

Friday, March 18, 2011

i need a shower

Quiet time is important to me.  I need it.  If too much time goes by and I don't have complete silence all to myself for at least a few minutes, I kind of lose it.  Knowing this about myself allows me to seek it out.  I have known people who don't like to be alone.  Ever.  They thrive on being around others.  I am not that person.  God has helped me to become more social over time, but really at the core of my being I am a home-body.

I used to find that quiet time while walking.  Our Furry Firstborn would require long walks twice a day.  Once our Bundle Boy was born the walks continued around his schedule.  But with the addition of Babydoll Sis, walks aren't as peaceful as they once were.  For starters, Bundle Boy is often gabbing the whole walk about everything he sees in the world around him.  It is a sweet time for that and other reasons, but it is definitely no longer my set aside quiet time.  

My quiet alone time is almost often found in the shower these days (when I can get one).  I remember before I had kids (and even after #1 was born) not quite understanding why Moms complained about being lucky if they even got a shower.  With a good napper, I didn't see it as an issue.  But once said baby got bigger and more mobile (read: a 3 year old doesn't fit easily in a Johnny Jump Up hanging from the bathroom door jam) and a growing infant who had different needs than her big brother, my alone time pretty much vaporized.  It took months just to get them both on a predictable schedule.  Showers became my luxury because of course sometimes they aren't even alone.  There is though the rare chance a few times a week when both  kids are napping at the same time and I can choose to clean the kitchen, fold laundry, take a nap, or have a shower.  Is it sad that I have to choose?  The shower is usually my first choice if I don't have any other pressing priorities.  And not for the reason you might think.  I mean yeah, my Love likes to come home to a clean wife, but I really enjoy showers now not for hygienic purposes but for peace of mind purposes.  The shower physically washes away the stress of the day.  It loosens my muscles.  It allows for me to be quiet and listen to my Lord while the spraying water drowns out any noise of the world around me (which is sometimes coming from the crying Babydoll waking up too early down the hall).  God can say a whole lot in 10-15 minutes.  

I can tell a huge difference in the days I shower versus the days I don't (besides the obvious day-old make-up and frizzy hair).  On days I hide away for quiet time alone with my Lord, I come out clean, relaxed, refreshed and ready to get back to doing the will of the Father with a joyful heart.

I never thought I would be so thankful for a shower but I am.

Where is your unexpected quiet space?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

hurting body part

I cut my finger yesterday.  Badly.  It actually stopped bleeding pretty quick (which immediately made me pray for my friend AD), but it really hurt.  I was hand washing our kitchen knives the day after my Love had sharpened them at my request.  My finger slid along the edge of the blade and cut deep.  The wound was pretty ugly.  My finger was throbbing, tingling, and numb.  I felt like I was going to faint.  Like I do in such a situation as this, I emailed my husband.  I sometimes have this fear that I am going to drop dead and my kids are going to be left in the house unattended all day.  I probably have seen too many movies.  Anyway I think I wrote something like, "I cut my thumb...Call me later to make sure I haven't fainted".  He isn't easy to reach by phone at work.  I really don't remember physically feeling like this before.  I was becoming worried that I might have damaged nerve endings.  The tenderness in my little appendage was proving to consume my thoughts.  The rest of my body wanted to do nothing else but pay attention to the needs of the hurting body part.

Of course this experience got me thinking.  So it should be with the body of Christ.  If one person is in need or hurting, the rest of the body should stop what they are doing in a sense to help them.  I think sometimes we get so caught up in our part's function/purpose that we tune out the other pressing needs of the body.  Some needs that are in fact an emergency.

Oh Lord, show me what I can do to help, support, love the body of Christ.  

My thumb was bumped several times through the day.  The pain was excruciating.  The blood would often come again (momentarily) because the wound needed more time to heal, to close up.  My initial instinct was to cover it up with a bandage, but after awhile it actually felt better to have it out exposed to the air.  Every time I hit it on something though, I would stop what I was doing to deal with the pain again.  I didn't turn away and say "Heal already!" or "Not again!"  Of course not.  I understand that healing takes time.  Needs aren't always met in one swift swoop.  God's process of healing and restoring a "part of the body" takes awhile and is done for a purpose.

Thank you Lord for a cut thumb that is healing and for giving me a reason to seek out ways I can help hurting body parts.

two days, a month, a year

Yesterday I was reading a passage in my One Year Bible meant for March 7th.  Somehow we always get behind on the weekends.  Anyway, I read this scripture found in the book of Numbers 9:15-23.  A set of verses I have no doubt read before but it stuck out to me in a new way this time.  

"The Tabernacle was set up, and on that day the cloud covered it.  Then from evening until morning the cloud over the Tabernacle appeared to be a pillar of fire.  This was the regular pattern--at night the cloud changed to the appearance of fire.  When the cloud lifted from over the sacred tent, the people of Israel followed it.  And wherever the cloud settled, the people of Israel camped.  In this way, they traveled at the LORD's command and stopped wherever he told them to.  Then they remained where they were as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle.  If the cloud remained over Israel for a long time, the Israelites stayed for a long time, just as the LORD commanded.  Sometimes the cloud would stay over the Tabernacle for only a few days, so the people would stay for only a few days.  Then at the LORD's command they would break camp.  Sometimes the cloud stayed only overnight and moved on the next morning.  But day or night, when the cloud lifted, the people broke camp and followed.  Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month or a year, the people of Israel stayed in the camp and did not move on.  But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and traveled at the LORD's command, and they did whatever the LORD told them through Moses." 

Sometimes God asks us to break camp and follow Him.  We do it with the expectation that where we settle next will be long term.  That isn't always the case.  We must keep listening and watching.  Sometimes we barely get unpacked and he asks us to move again even in the middle of the night.

Oh Lord, I want to be wherever You are.

a new beginning

After blogging privately for 2 1/2 years about my family over at The Long Story, I felt like it was time to make a change in how I wrote.  A friend encouraged me to start another blog (one that was more public), so here I am.  If you know me for real, you can still read all about the day to day adventures we have in the Long home.  However this blog will be reserved for deep thoughts and lessons learned while trying to be thankful in all circumstances.

Here we go again...

personal note: Thank you KM for being my inspiration.