Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Acts 20:24 NLT

"But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus--the work of telling others the Good News about God's wonderful kindness and love."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

letting Him hold the bowl

I poured myself a kid bowl of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios to share.  We sat down in the Quiet Corner (which is no longer a corner and is really just an old inflatable baby pool covered with pillows and a blanket).  I grabbed the nearby stack of library books to do some reading.  Babydoll started fussing.  She wanted to hold the bowl that contained the sweet snack the three of us were sharing.  I gripped the bowl tight and offered her the ability to serve herself.  She whined and pushed it away.  

Meanwhile Bundle Brother and I were snacking on our treat as I turned each new page of the book.  I stopped and scooped several Os out into my hand and asked Babydoll if she wanted some with my palm wide open.  "No!" she cried.  I went back to reading and snacking with Bundle Brother sitting to my left.  Her cries grew louder.  I turned to my sweet daughter and told her to walk away and to go to the bottom step until she was ready to join us.  She limped off wearing only one shoe whimpering with her back toward us as she went.  Now out of my view, I heard her settling down.  We kept reading and snacking.  Then quiet.  She picked herself up and hobbled back to where I was sitting in the cozy place next to her big brother.  "Do you want some snack?" I asked offering the bowl up to her again.  With tears still on her cheeks she smiled and served herself.  I pulled her toward me and put her in my lap.  The snack she so wanted control over was now sitting right in front of her.  Unlimited access.  Bundle Brother was nestled on my side listening to each line I read from the page taking from the bowl bite after bite.

After I finished the first book, I picked Babydoll off my lap and placed her in the pool across from me.  She was fine for a moment until she wanted more snack.  Once she was out of my arms, the treat was further away.  She crawled toward me and planted herself back in my lap.  Safely centered on me with free reign of the snack bowl I held and a front row seat to the book I read.

Why?  Why do I see God offering me a gift and demand it plays out in my own way?  Why do I have to control the circumstances?  Sometimes I would rather not accept the gift at all if it is not according to my terms.  But God has other plans.  Plans that include surrendering to his will, sitting safely in his presence, and having peace in all circumstances.  Sometimes it requires us to walk away, take a moment, and come to him humbly willing to let him be the One "holding the bowl".  Do I realize how many "handfuls of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios and stacks of library books" I could have missed out on while I wasted time arguing about logistics?  Who cares who is holding the bowl?  It is being willing to accept the gift inside that matters.  Perhaps it is time I realized that when I sit in His arms, the bowl over flowing with his blessings is held steadier than had I hobbled off with one shoe keeping the contents all to myself.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

give them yours

Have you walked around a grocery store lately?  Every one is stomping around with frowns on their faces.  They hardly take a moment to look you in the eye, and if they do accidentally, they gaze through you as if you don't exist.  No smile.  No "I see you".  Just an "if I don't acknowledge you on my path then you can't affect me" expression on their faces.  My Dad made me a coral pink shirt when I was a kid with the words "IF YOU SEE SOMEONE WITHOUT A SMILE GIVE THEM YOURS" printed on it with white fuzzy letters.

I choose to smile.  And if they happen to raise their eyes toward mine, I choose to greet them.  Our paths have crossed.  I see you there.  You are real.

I could very easily get consumed with thoughts of what all these miserable people might be going through.  Perhaps someone just got fired or has been unemployed for far too long.  Maybe their parent is dying or their spouse filed for a divorce.  They might be days from losing their house or going into bankruptcy.  Is there even money in their account to pay for the items at the checkout stand?  The burdens of this life are overwhelming.  So many of us try to carry them alone.  We walk into Walmart and scowl at dopey people with smiles on their faces and think "they wouldn't be so happy if they were going through what I am" or "no one knows the stress I am experiencing today".  All they want to do is go into the store, buy themselves milk and toilet paper, and be on their way quickly.  They don't have time for this.  They have issues to take care.  They have drama to fix.  They have a life to live that does no include Walmart.

What if it did?  What if you looked at your life as more than bullet points of big moments but rather millions of little ones?  What if your trip to Walmart today had a purpose beyond yourself?  What if you saw someone without a hope in the world, at the brink of death, and they were blessed by the light within you?  Your smile that says no matter my burden or trial or circumstance today (because we all have them), I choose to live with all joy.  I choose to be thankful and shine because my hope is in Jesus.

I was overwhelmed by all the frowns I saw today.  Frowns that could not even be met with smiling eyes.

I was in constant conversation with Bundle Boy during our shopping trip about things around him that started with "C".  The world is our classroom.  We made our way up and down the aisles filling up on a few dinner meals to get us through the end of the month.  I pushed the cart to the end of a check out aisle and waited behind two others.  A minute later the woman just ahead of me took off in search of a quicker line.  I started loading the belt.  My turn was up.  The cashier (who had a small resemblance to my Bob) started ringing up the first few items without a word to me or a look in my direction.  This is not unusual here but today it seemed different.  He was flustered.  I have been there people.  You are working hard at a job and it is going nonstop and people are rude and impatient and you are stressed.

I started the conversation.  He acknowledged my presence.  I commented on how he was in a zone and should consider taking a breath.  He smiled and apologized that they were really busy and he wasn't as quick as some of the other cashiers.  "There is no need to be in any hurry," I said.  "We are living here in this moment."  He commented that not everyone has that attitude.  He continued to scan.  We chatted some.  He looked up each item of produce and confirmed what they were with me.  A small line was forming behind me.  I could feel their impatience.  I am certain he probably could too.  The kinds were nearby in the cart when he handed me the receipt.  "You are doing a good job, Clayton," I said.  "May God bless your day."  "Thank you so much," he said.  "That means a lot."  Bundle Boy hopped on the side of the cart and yelled, "BYE!" with all happiness.  We walked away back to our life leaving a bit of light from Jesus' love in that man's day.

Who am I to hoard the hope I have in the LORD?  No matter my circumstances, I choose to smile and be thankful.  I am forgiven and saved by his grace.  That is more than enough to smile about today.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

thank you for today

Thank you God for a 3:30am start to my day.  For restless sleep and hours "alone" in a full quiet house. 

Thank you God for beginning my day in your Word.  For reading 2 Kings 5 in the wee hours of the morning several weeks after when I "should" have.

Thank you God for the restful nap I had while the kids were sleeping today.  For such a thoughtful gift from You!

Thank you God for energy to do after-dinner dishes while listening to my Love read from the Jesus Storybook Bible to our son on the couch.  For his random opening of the pages up to the same story of Naaman that I started my day with.

Thank you God for loving me, for repeating yourself, and for your endless abounding grace.

more sheep

We went to a yard sale in our neighborhood this morning.  Several families from our church were there working the sale since it was a fundraiser to offset adoption expenses. 

I knelt down next to a few boxes of books and chatted with friends and acquaintances as I flipped through the titles.  My Love and Babydoll were up inside the house and Bundle Brother was doing some serious shopping on the front lawn.  I pulled out this beautiful book and Brother's Sunday School teacher stepped over to talk to me.

 "Let me tell you something about this book," she said.  "My Mom knows the illustrator and they modeled the woman in the story after her."  It was so random because she didn't even bring that book to the sale.  The pictures were gorgeous and the content was, well, perfect so I brought it home.  After nap I sat down with our boy to read him the book and saw this explanation about the illustrator in the back cover.
That is right, people.  It just so happens he also illustrated a book called Psalm 23.

I had to bring this book home too when I
 saw it hiding in the stack.

The Lord is my Shepherd.  Jehovah-raah!

We brought home some other treasures as well.  I thought this one was appropriate for the me as we start the next chapter...

to focus our prayers

What a week!

I am not sure my Love has ever been pulled in so many directions at one time.  The days moved slowly and the kids went mad.  My Love facilitated a conference this week for his career field that required some LONG days.  He left before the kids woke up and got home after they went to bed every evening except Thursday.  One night he came stumbling in after 16 hours away from home.  At the end of some grueling days he even trekked down to our new house twice to do some electrical work just to sit in traffic on the way back up north toward home.  There was an early morning (6:30am...did I mention we still live over an hour away?) pre-drywall walk through and a lengthy 5pm phone call with our loan officer mapping out all that needs to be done before closing.  My Love is such a hard worker and I appreciate him so much.  I know he was exhausted and he was missing us like crazy.

It was rough for us too though.  Babydoll was moping around the house for the first two days asking for Daddy and would cry at bedtime when she realized she would have to go to sleep again without seeing him all day.  Bundle Boy was in rare form too.  Being consistent with behavioral issues can be trying on me without help.

But at last, it is the weekend.  No big plans around here but taking care of some business and spending time as a family.

This week was not in vain though.  Do you ever get the feeling that some experiences in life are just so you can know how to pray for other people more specifically?

We have been praying diligently for two friends whose husbands are away for long periods of time for work.  This week encouraged me to know how to pray for them even more specifically.  When we aren't walking in their shoes (or haven't for a long time), I am grateful for every opportunity to better understand their needs.  Their husbands don't return to life at home as usual after just a long week.  Their needs are ongoing.  Mentally and physically tired Mama, cranky kids missing Daddy, stretched husband who longs to be with family, etc. 

If the only reasons we went through this past week were so I could better appreciate how hard my husband works and to focus prayers for friends more specifically then Amen! 

There are times though when the burden of prayers I have for others are beyond my own experiences but others come to mind who have had them.  So I pass on names and requests.  "JH, you don't know them but you have been there.  Can you pray for them on this long road that you intimately understand?"... "TG, their hearts are heavy.  You may never meet them, but you know what they are experiencing.  Can you pray for them even just once?"  

Yes, the body of Christ is a powerful thing.  We can encourage and support and lift each other up in prayer.  Even those we may never know.  We can focus our prayers for others based on our own experiences and can ask others to do the same.  So J, C, and M...we are praying for you.  The best way we know how.  Specifically and corporately.

So if at one time you were a stubborn sheep who had trouble following your Shepherd and surrendering to his voice, pray for me...specifically.  And if not you, ask someone else who has.  I need it.  It might actually be better if they don't know me...

happy feet

Thursday, August 18, 2011

psalm 139:1-18,23,24

"O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  You know when I sit down or stand up.  You know my every thought when far away.  You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest.  Every moment you know where I am.  You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.  You both precede and follow me.  You place your hand of blessing on my head.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to know!  I can never escape from your spirit!  I can never get away from your presence!  If I got up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there.  If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.  I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night--but even in the darkness I cannot hide from you.  To you the night shines as bright as day.  Darkness and light are both alike to you.  You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous--and how well I know it.  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.  You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.  How precious are your thoughts about me, O God!  They are innumerable!  I can't even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!  And when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me!...Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life."

Do you KNOW how much your Creator loves you today?

Monday, August 15, 2011

bigger picture

Be thankful in all circumstances.  What does that really mean to this strong-willed, middle child who seeks to find peace in the knowing?  It means be thankful.  That is it.  Be thankful without knowing why.  Be thankful even though you may never know why.  Be thankful without a promise of comfort.  Be thankful in pain and mystery and no explanation.  I am learning to trust my Shepherd but some lessons come harder.  They are taught to us over and over again because they are that important.

But then there are days like today when God gives me small glimpses into a bigger picture.  He asks me to say thank you and then shows me why I should always be thankful.  I am not entitled to His explanation.  He could go the rest of my life just lighting up the step right before me and still be worthy of all my praise because by His grace He has saved me.  Some days though He chooses to let me in.  He chooses to show me that there really is NO REASON to grumble and complain.  There is no real peace in the knowing but rather just anxiety.  Peace is only found in the Lord.   He is sovereign over every moment, every breath.  His will for me is only that I thank him for it.  He does the rest.

This morning my Love forgot his personal cell phone AND his work cell phone at home.  Because his commute is longer these days, I knew he wouldn't be coming back for them.  He was planning to be out of the office (away from his land line there as well) all day and into the night.

Blah, blah, blah...the day went on.  Then a phone call on my cell in the evening.  A friend needed me to make an important call to someone else on her behalf.  When I hung up, I immediately reached for my Love's cell to retrieve the other person's contact info. Thank you Lord for forgotten cell phones.  

Another friend called me and said she was in our neck of the woods for the day and would like to stop by later to pick up something.  The kids napped.  I started making a big bowl of taco salad for dinner.  My Love and KB were planning to work late.  I served up the kids' plates as we sat down at the table and the door bell ring (slightly after I was expecting our visitor).  But you know what?  We had tons of food and reasons to catch up, so my single friend pulled up a chair and joined us for a quick, casual meal before she was on the road again.  Thank you Lord for a drop-in friend who arrived in your perfect timing and for providing plenty of food for anyone who needs it.

See what I mean?  This day was full of even more random happenings that actually felt masterfully orchestrated.  I choose to be thankful in all circumstances.  In the days when he shows me why, and in the stories of my life with no explanation.

how he loves us

On Sunday Morning, they shared a slideshow of photos from youth camp with this song playing in the background.  I got the chills during the chorus.  Although I like the David Crowder Band arrangement better...I share this one here.  A friend posted this particular video on facebook today.  I listened to it a couple of times and then I sat down to actually watch the video.  Right there in the middle popped up John 15:5...Abide in Me. 

How he loves us!

This song has been playing on a continual loop this morning around here and was flowing out of me when we were walking around Costco and Target.

Enjoy!  May it be stuck in your head all day too.

ants and the heart

We have had an ant problem the last few weeks.  It was their first appearance in the two years we have been living in this house.  The weird thing was you couldn't follow the typical trail to find where they were coming from.  They just seemed to be wandering around the kitchen counters waiting patiently for me to leave some dish out with a hint of food on it (which often happens..."I'll get to these dishes later").  That is when I saw them swarm in a matter of minutes (as much as insects without wings can).  

In the beginning there was a lot of flicking and squishing and spraying with a mostly safe Green Works product, but they kept coming back.  The black counter tops that seem desirable on home makeover shows hid more than is good for you.  Sometimes I discover something I have to scrape off while cleaning that might have actually been there awhile.  Anyway...ants blend right in as well.  A quick wipe of a paper towel and bug cadavers are found clinging to the white sheet.

Even though the pesky little creatures weren't causing an infestation they were just that, pesky.  Always lurking about ready to jump on a dirty spoon that was not rinsed off.  I was getting annoyed.

My Love returned from a work trip and sprayed something a little more powerful than 97% natural ingredients.  It seemed to work for a few days, but slowly the bugs returned.


My Love was grilling some prefab burgers one evening and KB and I were talking on the back deck.  The kids were playing in the yard and I was sweeping up the leaves that have already dropped behind our house.  I swept and talked and listened.  Then I lifted the door mat leading into the house and I saw them.  Tons of ants living right outside our back door.  And what looked like eggs making their home under our mat.

I sprayed them down and swept them away with some effort.

My mind started going.


It creeps in waiting to jump on an opportunity.  We flick it and squish it and spray it with a non-toxic agent but behind those come more.  Not enough to overwhelm us but just enough to be annoying.  You look for the source and don't find it so you settle for dealing with what you do see.  In reality, the undesirable behavior (ie. anxiety, deception, lack of submission, fear, selfishness, guilt, grumbling...) is really an issue of the heart.  "For out of the heart, the mouth speaks".  If you try to deal with the surface behavior ill equipped to fix the problem, it WILL keep returning.  The heart.  The heart must be dealt with.  For we can do nothing by our own strength.  We must give God our whole heart and ask him to heal every dark corner. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

in and through me

I could faintly hear Babydoll crying through my closed bedroom door.  The clock read 5:50am.  It has happened a few times--crying in her sleep during the wee hours of the morning.  My alarm had already gone off and was gearing up for a snooze repeat.  We have learned though to just let her be for a minute and she usually settles back down into sleep.  Since our house guest shares an adjoining wall, I decided to just get up with her anyway.  She was mostly happy and ready for breakfast as usual.  

I got busy cleaning the kitchen (left unfinished from last night...gasp!) and started transferring the loads of laundry that needed to get done.  By the time Bundle Brother woke up 45 minutes later, we were well into our morning around here.  He ate breakfast and vegged with some PBS morning shows and Babydoll was ready for a nap to make up for her lost minutes.  Meanwhile my love came back from his morning run and was upstairs to take a shower before heading out to work.  Everyone had something they were doing.  I grabbed my One Year Bible and pulled up a chair on the back deck to read in the peace and quiet.

The last couple days have been AMAZING weather here.  No humidity and low temperatures.  The dog came out there with me and sat on my left loving every pet and rub he got from my dangling hand.  It felt like waking up on an early morning after tent camping.  Cool, crisp, and still out.  And yet there were noises.  Noises of birds and crickets and cicadas.  Sounds of cars and airplanes and trees.  It was beautiful.  

I looked toward the neighbor behind us and saw the sun shining on the back of their house.  It made the leaves on one tree glow bright green.  
  My eyes moved to the lawn in our back yard and I saw the sun shining across the grass.

Then I looked toward the source of light and saw it beaming through a tree in our yard.

 That is when I noticed it.  A bright red dead branch in the front.  Clearly visible and drawing attention to itself.
 The rest of the tree was growing healthy and green while this particular branch was not.  Then I looked closer.
 There was another red branch up higher, less visible and not easy to reach.  I only saw it because I was now looking for it.  The healthy limbs were doing a good job of covering that one up.

Because my eyes were looking up toward the light, I saw them.  They were exposed.  I immediately wanted to remove them.  The sun was shining light on them.  It was taking away from the growth of all the other branches.  The one in front seemed manageable to deal with.  I knew it wouldn't be easy to remove the higher branch though.  It would take more work, effort.  It would require peeling back other branches to expose the dead one.  Its camouflage didn't remove its existence all together.

I see it in the light though.  I can't ignore it now.  It must be dealt with.

LORD, please help me to start each day in your cool, crisp, peaceful presence.  Light up my life with your Word.  Show me even more corners of my heart that I have not yet surrendered.  I trust in You.

When I came back inside after reading two days in my One Year Bible, I saw this on the side of our house before I walked in...

 and this on the kitchen floor.

 Yes, LORD!  You are wherever I am.  Let your light shine in and through me!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Life is chugging along here.  I choose not to start counting down the days that we have left in this house.  It would be too painful.  We still haven't told our direct neighbors that we are moving.  I am sure the right time will present itself soon.  But like I told my friend yesterday, it is not like God is transplanting us to Kansas.  We are relocating an hour south.  No biggie.  In fact, we fully intend to maintain our attendance and involvement at our church until the Lord directs us otherwise (which He very well could do).  God has been faithful to allow two close friends at separate times to reiterate that it is not like we are moving that far away.  They don't know how much I needed to hear that from them.

In the meantime, God continues to mold me.  This self-proclaimed "terrible housekeeper" is finding myself maintaining the place a little better.  I guess when you have someone else living with you it becomes an appropriate amount of motivation to keep common areas tidier.  With a low level of stress like I have ever known on the subject, I am doing better about keeping the kitchen, bathrooms, and floors cleaner on a daily basis.  God can use anything, people.

The paperwork is underway for the house buying process.  Everything seems to be electronic these days so it makes it nice to read and digitally sign at our own convenience.  My Love will be doing a walk-through at the framed house next week before they start sheet rocking.  This is really happening.

For now, we just continue to live our lives as usual.  My Love is out of town for work travel, but the kids and I are planning play dates and friends for dinner and farm fun at the visitor center like any other week.  I will say though that I am soaking up all the beautiful trees in our neighborhood a little more knowing it might be awhile before trees get tall enough to enjoy at our new home.  But I guess having any reason to say thankful to God for the gift of his creation is good.

God is good. 

Have I mentioned we have still not received our entitled tax return?  The whole thing has become funny to me (not so much to my Love).  Because of a glitch in a certain kind of credit we are authorized for, many are in the same boat as us.  We did however receive correspondence yesterday stating that the projected August date for when we should receive our money has now been pushed back to October (just after our closing date).  God knows what he is doing.  He is safely protecting those funds so we will get them returned at the right time.

And other than the retirement investments that we lost this week in the stock market, we are probably the only ones who are thankful for the recent dip.  It allowed us to lock in a low interest rate on our home and we are thankful that what we thought would be mortgage payments at the top of/above our budget, God has fixed to be RIGHT where we had hoped they would land.  Seriously there is NO reason to ever be anxious, people.  He is sovereign over every minute of our lives.

Time to get back to tidying this morning.  I am actually learning to enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

unless the LORD builds

My Love spoke to our landlord on Saturday.  We had been praying about how God would direct that conversation.  God blessed his words and Mr. W. responded positively to our notice to move out in a couple months.  So the packing begins.  If all goes well, the house will be ready by mid October and we can move ourselves slowly.  My Love will take packed boxes down with him to work each day and then once most things are relocated we will rent a moving truck to haul the big stuff.

Officially we will be out of this house and into the next chapter by 31 October.  It will be here before we know it.  Until then, I am pondering this Word given to me by the Lord last night. 

"Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is useless.  Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.  It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones." -Psalm 127:1-2

Monday, August 8, 2011

confirmation and warfare and confirmation

Oh my.

Yesterday was emotional for me.

God spent the morning speaking to me in a clear voice.  We hardly settled into the service at church and God had already repeated himself FOUR times.  

It started in the form of a morning facebook post from a friend who does not know about my sensitivity to sheep references: John 10:27- "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."  Then a sheep reference in a prayer by our youth pastor, a verse in the passage we were studying ("Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd."), and then references to Psalm 23:6 by our Senior Pastor.  Not to mention we were learning from Mark 6:30-44.   God had already used this particular story from scripture (but in the book of Matthew) to speak to me a few months ago. It wasn't long into the sermon and I was weeping in the third row.  God used every sentence to confirm in me all that he has planned for the next chapter.  I was overwhelmed by God's love and grace.  It might be a week or two before the message is available for free on iTunes but I intend to share it here when it is posted so you all can hear the voice of the Lord clearly to this moment in my life.  If you have been following this blog for any length of time, the truth will be obvious to you for me.

Coming home emotionally drained and spiritually confident in God's plan for us, the warfare started.  I blew up at my Love knowing I was being completely irrational.  The flood gates of tears continued.  The Enemy wasted no time at trying to knock cracks in the truth I knew was just said to me by the Lord.

"You know all that happened back there this morning?  You can't trust that.  Look around.  You guys aren't even on the same page.  How can you both be used by God when you don't have it all together?"

I knew that I knew that I knew it was not the voice of truth, but doubts were being stirred as my eyes were being brought back to my/our weaknesses.

But what he "meant for evil against me, God meant it for good."  My Love and I are in a better place today and we continue to pray about our connection and communication as we prepare to make ourselves fully available to the Lord for his glory.

This morning we both woke up peaceful (me with puffy eyes).  We prayed together about our future and for the needs of others who are weighing heavy on our hearts today.  Then I opened up my God Calling devotional.  You guessed it.  It was spot on.

"Rely on Me alone.  Ask no other help.  Pay all out in the Spirit of trust that more will come to meet your supply.  Empty your vessels quickly to ensure a Divine Supply.  So much retained by you, so much the less will be gained from Me.  It is a Law of Divine Supply.  To hold back, to retain, implies a fear of the future, a want of trust in Me.  When you ask Me to save you from the sea of poverty and difficulty you must trust wholly to Me.  If you do not, and your prayer and faith are genuine, then I must first answer your prayer for help as a rescuer does that of a drowning man who is struggling to save himself.  He renders him still more helpless and powerless until he is wholly at the will and mercy of the rescuer.  So understand My leading.  Trust wholly.  Trust completely.  Empty your vessel.  I will fill it.  You ask both of you to understand Divine Supply.  It is a most difficult lesson for My children to learn.  So dependent have they become on material supply they fail to understand.  You must live as I tell you.  Depend on Me."

Wow!  I hear you Lord.

It was the perfect repetition after yesterday's sermon.

Then I opened up my One Year Bible to a passage meant for June 7th (I am making progress, people) and read about Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.  "[they] sold some property.  He brought PART of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount."

Um.  Yes, Lord.  Surrender it all.

Oh.  I can't forget to mention that Acts 4:32 came up in my reading yesterday.  God had brought it to mind earlier in the week and was repeating it again.

I get it.  I get it.

Empty myself.  Give all that I have. 

Sigh.  I couldn't be more confident in God's plan for us today.  He is choosing to use me in my weakness so he will get all the glory.  My job is to die to self, make myself completely available, and allow him to use all that I have even if it doesn't seem like enough to make an impact.

At the end of the sermon yesterday (which I hope you will listen to once I share it here), our Pastor mentioned something that really spoke to me.  God blessed them with 12 baskets of leftovers after meeting all of the needs of more than 5,000 with just one boy's sack lunch, symbolic of one for each tribe and disciple.  I am starting to realize that if I present God with an "empty vessel" not just "giving part" of myself, he can do with it what he wants.  He can use me to provide for the needs of whomever he wishes.  And He can choose to fill me with abundant blessings.  I am struggling with that last part.

Please continue to pray for us.  Pray for who God would have come live with us first.  Pray for our willingness to be used.  Pray for others to see God in all that we have as we surrender it to Him.

Yesterday we sang a song during communion that spoke to me loudly when I was pregnant with Babydoll.  I know I wrote about it on my private family blog back then but I am too lazy to search for it now.  The kids are stirring this morning.  One part goes like this...

"I will not boast in anything, no gifts no power no wisdom.
But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?  I cannot give and answer.
But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom."  

May God bless your day as you seek to live for his glory.

Friday, August 5, 2011

random gifts

Last night during "witching hour", I took the kids to the library to pass the time before dinner.  My Love is traveling and the days are long for us all.  The first book I saw opened up on display in the children's section was...
 On our walk today, I saw this tall flower reaching over the six foot fence from a back yard.
 The trees on the side of our driveway are alive and thriving and bearing "fruit".
 I lost my breath when I saw the front door window reflecting light onto the stairs after reading Psalm 119:105 earlier this morning.  It is a passage in my One Year Bible meant for May 29th...we are slow to catch up.
 I love this tree in our neighborhood.  It reminds me what God is doing in my life.  There were years of life cut down close to the root and a whole new tree sprung from it's heart (note: this is not our house).
What were the random gifts God gave you today by his grace?  They are there.  Do you see them?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

more of the story

When we got married, my Love had already been living overseas in Germany for almost a year.  He had found our (adorable) apartment and made new friends while I was finishing up my senior year of college.  As I got to know some of his friends and their wives, they talked a lot about the kind of person my Love was.  A servant.

He would help anyone in anyway.  He goes above and beyond being helpful.  He loved on them.  In the past, there were some who took advantage of his generosity but most just appreciated it.  We have had several arguments over the years.  I would question his motive for serving others.  "Do you just do things because you are a nice guy and that is the way your parents raised you, are are you doing it for Jesus?"  I know.  I was terrible.  It doesn't seem like a worthy argument.  But over the years I have struggled with knowing his heart.

God was faithful this year to bring up positive perspective once again.  When I was in the midst of counting gifts, we were having friends over for dinner.  My Love ran back to the kitchen as we stood at the front door to get our guest's salad bowl.  I made some snide comment about him getting lost on the way there because it was taking awhile.  He came back with the bowl covered in plastic wrap.  My friend put me in my place.  "Your husband is a servant!  Do you realize what a gift that is?"  Uh.  Um.  Ouch.  Suddenly I saw what I loved about him so much but had allowed to turn into resentment.  God was working.

Back in Germany though, my Love would invite friends over several nights a week.  I was overwhelmed.  I was introverted and exhausted being so social.  In our first year of marriage I had to communicate that there needed to be some boundaries to our hospitality.  He understood, but it was clear his heart was somewhere else.

When we moved back stateside, we started building our family.  We made new friendships as a married couple and we often had people over for dinner.  I was completely stressed out over it.  When they left to go home, I ALWAYS looked at my Love and said, "That went really well."  But the days leading up to it became an outward burden.  Completely cleaning every corner of the house that largely goes neglected around here (I am a terrible housekeeper).  I am talking a long list of all day cleaning.  Then a nice meal that did not allow our dinner guests to contribute or help clean up.

When Bundle Brother got to be about 3, he saw me bringing out the vacuum and his first words were, "Who is coming over?"  I laughed at first but then I saw it through his eyes.  He was observing my running around cleaning up as being stressful.  I never want him to think opening your home to guests is stressful.  It was self induced.  I really enjoyed having people over by this point.

God kept working.  He brought a mentor into my life here who has spoken so much truth to me.  She lives in nearby and would often pop in.  It completely freaked me out the first couple times.  On several occasions I had to push piles of clothes over on the couch so she could have a place to sit.  God was using her.  I mean it wasn't like I was going to leave her on the porch because I was anxious about her knowing the real me.  I welcomed her in.  She genuinely didn't care about the clutter.  God was working in me.  I told her once that friends and family would often make comments about my house always being clean.  My Love and I laughed every time.  If they only knew the buzzing about that happens before people come over.  My friend said that sometimes having a really clean house can be a problem in friendships.  It makes people feel like they can never measure up.  Um.  That was never my motive.  It was just me trying to be a good hostess.  I have never wanted to be Martha Stewart.

God was using all of that.  The popping over.  The conversations.  The comments from my preschool aged son.  I started stressing less and opening myself up more.  Clutter continued to linger and floors often did not get mopped before people were invited over.  I was not stressed.  I let them contribute to the meal now but still don't let them clean up after dinner. ;)

God has been doing more here too.  This area is a hub for work travel.  We have gotten phone calls many times of people passing through and wanting to share a meal THAT NIGHT.  Had this chapter happened in Germany I would have been a stress case.  Not so much now.  I actually love it.  I have met all kinds of people and have the joy of seeing old friends again.  Sometimes there is dog hair chasing after their heals and other times it is Costco pizza for dinner, but the fellowship is sweet and the blessings are overflowing.  I still find myself saying, "Please ignore the clutter," but God is working in that too.

Because this area is very expensive to live, most of our friends live in apartments or townhouses.  We are renting and have a housing allowance from my Love's job, so we are able to afford a single family house.  We often host friends for dinner, holidays, and special gatherings.  We love it.  Our kids are comfortable and we have the space.  We have come to realize that it is our gift.

Fast forward to house hunting.  My Love told me that a friend and his wife were moving to our area in August and were looking for a place to rent for about a year.  He had this wild idea that we could look for a place with a nice basement so they could live with us.  Now mind you his friend has not asked to live with us nor has my Love mentioned to them that it is an option.  When we put the offer on house #1 he wanted to call his friend right away and open our home to him.  I was surprised.  "We don't even have it yet and he isn't even asking.  Let's wait."  When we did not get house #1 but were looking at perhaps getting them to build the same model, there were differences in the floor plan.  A guest room and full bath on the first floor but only an open rec space in the basement.  My Love was totally hung up on that.  Through the past couple of months, God made it clear that I needed to submit to my Love's decision and support and encourage him.  That because he was seeking God, I had to trust that the Lord would lead him.  It was hard.  I was completely annoyed though.  I tried to convince my Love that anyone who would visit us would not be hanging out in the basement away from us the whole time.  A guest space on the first floor was completely fine and considered bonus.  He wasn't caving.  Then God showed me that he was planting something in my Love's servant heart that I hadn't realized.  Had I been busy trying to control everything like in the past, I wouldn't have been sensitive to seeing it.  But because I was now submitting (first to the Lord), I saw it more clearly.  My Love was ready to open his home to a friend who wasn't even asking to live with us.  I mean, my Love was actually looking at homes to buy with his friend in mind.  I laughed.  "You are picking a house based on a friend moving here who isn't even asking to live with us?"  I questioned.  "Yes!" he said with confidence.  God was working.  The plans were bigger than his friend.

When the door was closed on house #1, we found a beautiful $20,000 cheaper house with an amazing yard and deck but an unfinished basement.  I tried to convince my Love that we would have more money in our pocket each month and we could finish the basement in our time.  The house was nine years old.  I am not kidding people, he loved the house but he was the least excited person I have every met.  I am not sure if it was the anxiety of a big purchase or knowing the decision was entirely on his shoulders, but he was trying to rationalize all the good reasons.  It was driving me crazy that he was hung up on house #1 when it was no longer an option.  They had taken it off the market.  God was faithful to work through the process.  When the door was closed on house #2, I saw clearly for the first time that God was planning something big.  I was trying to settle into a more affordable house that met only our needs.  God wanted me to trust him with it all.  When you see something as going to be used for his glory, you have to trust that he will take care of the details.  The mortgage.  The extra expenses.  And that is what we are doing.

I told my Love that we really should only pursue houses with finished basements.  There was something planted there that I needed to consider even though it seemed like way too much house for this terrible house keeper.  My Love was excited about my openness.  Then later that day door #2 opened again.  We were really confused.  Especially my Love.  It was necessary though.  It helped us solidify exactly what God was calling us to do.  I was trying to settle into the house that had the least amount of risk, was the most affordable, and was all about us.  God wanted us to fully trust him.  When door #2 closed a second time, it was confirmed.  Even though the new build would require us to build a deck and fence plus plant trees, we had to trust him with what was his.  We could do that.

In the meantime, a house guest was staying with us.  Over a year ago, our church asked for the first time since we had been there if anyone had a space for someone to stay from another church who was in town for an event.  My Love and I both saw our guest room as available.  God has done huge things in me, people.  The first guest didn't end up staying with us, but the seed was planted.  When request 2 came a couple months later, my Love and I didn't hesitate.  I think M was with us for 10 ten days while she applied for work.  The seeds were being watered.  Six months later, another request.  This time the pastor said it was a single woman from our Body who was in a time of transition.  My Love and I did not even have to discuss it long.  Our home was open for any need.  I emailed the church and said that other than my parents being here for a visit (the last of several summer house guests), the person was welcome to stay with us when they left.  Come to find out it was KB.  My Love and I both felt immediate peace and excitement.  We had been praying for her every week for the past year as she left to enter the mission field and then was called to her sick mother's bed side in California.  We did not know her well when she left our church to go to Israel a year ago, but something in me felt close to her.  On her last day in July 2010, we were in the parking lot after church and I jumped out to run to her.  Even though she was surrounded by people talking her ear off, I knew God wanted me to tell her (even though we didn't know each other well) that my Love and I would be praying for her.  She laughed and thanked me.  A year later, she is living in our second floor guest room.  

It has all been so overwhelming.  To have KB here during this time of transition has been amazing.  Before she arrived, I felt God telling me something eye opening.  

"You know all this work I have been doing in you this year?  Part of that work was for KB's benefit."


God wants to use us.  To love on, serve and minister to anyone who he might bring our way.  At a moments notice.  My Love and I have never been so excited about something we have no idea about in all our years together.

I struggle with the newness of the house God is giving us.  I know that might not make sense but although my Love likes nice new things, I do not need them nor do I ever want them.  I'm the "if this TV works, it does not need to be replaced" kind of person.  Well God has other plans.  Perhaps we are the exact people to give such a gift to.  Don't get me wrong.  I fully intend to enjoy the beautiful kitchen and extra room for homeschooling, but I don't need it.  It isn't for me.  It is God's house to use however he wants.  He has been working in us to bring us to this place for many years.

So when we both knew we would just have to trust God with the budget, we asked the builder if they could put a full bathroom in the basement.  At this point it seemed non-negotiable to us.  They said yes, came to the table with their lowest offer and will be paying all the closing costs.

OK Lord.  We are really doing this.  We are trusting you.

And as a bonus, He is giving us a guest room on the first floor.  "We could have people living in our basement and have family and friends visit us!" my Love exclaimed.  It all seems like too much but we are overwhelmed by the blessing and opportunity to serve the Body of Christ however God sees fit.

So for now we are praying.  We are praying for the need that may be forming in someone.  God is building this house today for someone who will need a home.  It might be temporary.  It might be long term.  They may bring their own stuff.  We might be asked by the Lord to furnish it.  I do not know and for the first time I can say I am peaceful about not knowing.

The little book KB handed me the other day was amazing.  Trusting the Shepherd: Insights from Psalm 23 was just among the belongings in 3 suitcases worth of her possessions in this world.  God is so good!  I plan to buy up a stack of them and give them to the many people who will stay in our home because I expect many will be blessed by the space God is building for them.  I am overwhelmed.

First order of business will be marathon visitors.  We may be all sleeping on air mattresses after just moving into the house, but God's timing is perfect.  I can't think of a better group of people to break in God's house.  People who saw my closed off self eight years ago and now will be able to witness a willingness to let God use me/us for his good purpose in my weakness.

So Suhres, Merritts, and Martinsons.  Come on down.  May God get the glory.

To be continued...yes there is more.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

available to be used

I am overwhelmed.  My mind is mush and my body is exhausted from all the mental acrobatics going on.  God has been playing back so many moments in my life lately to show me that he was always leading me to this place.  He was patiently waiting for me to completely surrender so he could use me for his purpose.

A post I wrote in February (at The Long Story) came to mind today.  As I searched for it, I saw other post titles jumping off the page at me. God had been laying the ground work for bigger things by working in other areas of my life.  The story all pointed to this moment. When I found the one I was looking for, I read it now seeing a whole different meaning.  Words that God used back then to communicate areas of my heart he wanted me to submit to him now seemed to have greater depth. 

Recent conversations with loved ones have been reeling through my head as well.  Sisters telling of their perspective of me as child.  Friends recalling their first impressions that were not good.  As the pieces fit together, I see the picture of my life much more clearly now.

My Love and I have been praying for many people this year.  We have been so blessed to watch God work in the lives of several who are living their lives in service to Jesus.  The spectrum is broad.  Missionaries to Spain and Israel.  Parents with a heart for adopting orphans in Africa.  The list goes on.  As I join them in prayer, I have come to really understand one thing.  This is their particular life passion.  I do not feel called to international missions.  But I pray for those who are sent.  I do not have a desire to adopt children into my family.  But I pray for those who do.  It makes me no less of a Christian.  It just makes my passion and purpose different.  I am excited and edified to see them living their every day lives for Jesus.  What am I doing?

It is not like some are called to enter the mission field and others are meant to adopt the lonely while the rest of us just sit around and work our day jobs waiting for Jesus to return.  No way.  Our lives are not our own.  God created you for a purpose.  He created me for a purpose.  I am not sure I could say that before.  I mean, I probably would have said some of my strengths and spiritual gifts but I don't think I would have known what God was really using me for.  You know why?  Because I wasn't letting him.  I was telling him what and when and how I wanted to serve him.  It became all about me.  I might have looked at the missionary and adoptive parent and wondered where all that passion came from.  I understand a little better now.  It is beyond themselves.  It is knowing complete surrender and letting Him use you in your weakness.

As I have prayed for these friends and many others, my relationships with them have deepened.  I have come to realize that even though they know their calling, they are not perfect.  They do not have it all together.  God has not completely removed their insecurities and fears and weaknesses.  They have just made themselves available and he is able to use them for exactly what he created them for.

To be continued...

I am overwhelmed.

be ready, be eager

"When God's people are in need, be ready to help them.  Always be eager to practice hospitality." -Romans 12:13

"All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had." -Acts 4:32

Praying over the soil.

given up gladly

The home-buying process is officially underway.  My Love and I have allowed ourselves to dream a little about the floor plan and how we plan to use the space.  Before now we were perhaps a little guarded about not knowing what would happen.  But I think my Love said it perfectly yesterday.  "When you see something as a complete gift from the Lord to be used for his purpose, it doesn't really feel like yours at all.  It will be easier to part with in his timing if we have to move in a few years because it was always His in the first place."  That is exactly how I feel too.  That being said, we feel so strongly about the calling we have in this next chapter that there have been discussions about how it will in fact influence the future of my Love's career (which we have been praying about for six months now).  "Is a house something to stay here for?" he asks rhetorically.  Time will tell.

I hope to get a moment to share more about what all this means for us.  For you and others.  Bundle Boy thinks it is fun to wake up before 6am these days and my mind is still foggy.  My Love is starting a stretch of traveling for work, so hopefully when the time is right, I will get a clear-minded minute to be more specific about the journey ahead of us.  I want to be able to remember this whole process.  It is after 7am now and Babydoll is stirring.  Time to go for now.  But as usual, God used my devotional journal to speak to me this morning.  May God bless your day as you live for him.

"The little things you planned to do, given up gladly at My suggestion, the little services joyfully  rendered.  See Me in all and then it will be an easy task." -Give Every Moment by Two Listeners in God Calling

Lord, help me see you in all and not get consumed by my plans, my services.  It is yours.  Do with it what you will.  We surrender it to you joyfully.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


This morning I am up before anyone else.  Well I guess My Love is out for a morning run while it is still dark and all I hear are the coffee pot brewing and the Lord speaking to my heart.  As I wake up this new day I am excited and anxious about the next chapter.  I know that God has big plans for us.  Plans that he has been preparing possibly for the entire 8 years of our marriage.  For the past several months, the Lord has been watering seeds in me so that I would be ready to bloom where he planted me in the next season. 

As I open up my God Calling today, the words jump off the page as exactly what I am thinking.

"I love to pour My blessings down in rich, in choicest measure.  But like the seed sowing-- the ground must be prepared before the seed is dropped.  Yours to prepare the soil-- Mine to drop the seed-blessing into the prepared soil.  Together we share in, and joy in, the harvest.  Spend more time in soil-preparing.  Prayer fertilizes soil.  There is much to do in preparation."

If at the beginning of our marriage eight years ago, the Lord told me that one day he would be blessing us with a new house to be used for his glory I would have denied his gift.  I would have argued something like this..."Thanks anyway Lord but this plain girl doesn't need nice things.  Having people over (especially last minute...gasp) makes me anxious because my house isn't clean enough and the food isn't nice enough.  Use someone else Lord.  I'm not ready yet."  I am thankful he doesn't tell us his plans long in advance.  He cultivates our willing hearts and then he reveals his purpose for our very lives when we are ready.

When we got the news that the second offer on house #2 was not accepted I praised God with all joy.  I am pretty sure our house guest thinks I am crazy.  I mean, aren't most people upset in situations like this?  But honestly, the process became much more important than the answer.  When the door closed, my Love and I knew exactly what we were supposed to pursue.  And just because the space seemed more than enough and the mortgage would be at the top of our budget, we had to come to this place in the process (me surrendering to God's will and letting my husband make the hard decisions) before we were able to trust God with the details regarding how it would be used for his glory.  He has clearly planted something in the heart of my husband.  If I am honest, I can see how it was there eight years ago and the Lord knew I wasn't ready yet.  I was too prideful to make myself 100% available to be used by my Creator however he pleased.  And as is usually like Him, he chose to use me in my weakness.

"I will be giving you more than enough.  It will make you uncomfortable at first, but you will learn to love it.  And because I know your heart, how much better for Me to get the glory for what you have not asked for."

OK Lord.  I am willing.

After the offer we put on the first home was ignored, I told my Love confidently that it was our house and we should just keep looking at other homes in the meantime.  The seller would most definitely come to her senses and call us up.  I sure was surprised when they took the house off the market a week later.  I knew God had better plans.  Plans to trust him in everything.  We pursued a house that made more financial sense (twice) and God said that door is closed (twice).

So today we look forward to opening a new door, literally.  My Love is taking a deposit check to a new build community today.  The same floor plan to house number one that we offered on only better.  More available, usable space to be used for God's glory.  I am excited and anxious and out of my comfort zone.  But through this process I am more confident than ever that the plans God has for us in the next chapter have be carefully cultivated and watered to bring us to this exact moment. 

Use us Lord for your glory.

What is next?  Spending more time preparing the soil in prayer.  There is much to prepare.

Monday, August 1, 2011

trusting the shepherd

I have TONS to write about but once again my mind isn't clearly communicating the words on the screen.  Stay tuned for more details.  In the mean time, our house guest (and friend) just handed me Trusting the Shepherd by Haddon W. Robinson and I am excited to get reading on it.  Just flipping through this small booklet and my eyes stop on page 61, "in everything give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:18)...

UPDATE: offer #3

Update: This is still NOT our house!  Are you dizzy yet?  God is good!
After hearing news Sunday morning that our offer (which was one of many) was not accepted, we moved forward in our hearts and minds.  Later that afternoon, our realtor called back and the door reopened.  Needless to say we were caught off guard.  We have submitted another offer and we are waiting to hear if this really IS our house.  Praying with peace today!