October 27, 2014

Minimum Requirement

What in the world is going on?  You know how you go through those times in life that I like to refer to as "crazy-go-nuts"?  And then,  everything settles into place and the ride gets smooth and the sun is shining and the smiles are plentiful and all is well and then just when you've settled into your favorite recliner, you lean back a little too far and the whole thing falls over backward and dumps you out on the floor?  Ok, well that pretty much sums up the last month of my life.

I had a really difficult experience with one of my kids,  had a rough week at work, had a really difficult experience with another one of my kids (there are 5 of them, so challenges come up regularly, but these were the big deal kind), had an old friend die tragically, got in a car accident, and then separately had my car break down.  In the midst of all of that, my Pastor and his family announced that they've accepted a Call to relocate and pastor a different church, out of state.

I have seen a video of Beth Moore teaching when she described how, if her world fell apart, she knew that she would go through all of the human emotions that naturally come along with major circumstances and transitions.  However, she also knew that when all was said and done, she would rise back up, brush off her knees, take God's hand and get back to living the life He called her to live.

I'm doing that.

I'm doing a lot of thinking and praying and trying to figure things out.  I have absolutely zero answers for all of this.  I'm feeling all the human emotions.  I have cried a lot, but it has only proven to me that I have loved deeply.  I've broken through some walls with my children.  It's a good thing and our relationships are growing.  I've watched my husband take care of, and fight for, every tiny detail of resolving the accident I was in.  It has softened me to see him take over in these extraordinary ways.  My church family is now in an unexpected transition and we are all leaning on each other.  This has taught me to pray for my Pastor's family, his new church, our existing church during transition, and for a family I haven't even met yet, who will eventually be coming to fill the role of Pastors at our church.

I have been picking up my Bible for the last month and feeling strongly encouraged to just keep reading Psalm 27.  Over and over. And over. And over.  I actually told God that I pretty much had it memorized and I'd really like to read something else now.  He said no.  Then he started highlighting 2 verses in my Spirit:

Psalm 27:8  You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]...

Psalm 27:14  Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring.  Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.

He gave me these scriptures as a preparatory gift to guide me through the times that He knew I was about to enter.  I chanted "I require Your presence.  I require Your presence.  I require Your presence."  There was no way I was going to get through all the things I was thinking and feeling and quaking under, without His presence.  His presence was my Minimum Requirement.

And then, when I settled in, there was that second verse.  Wait, hope, expect.  Be brave, have courage and a stout heart.  Endure.  This verse might as well have said "Lather, rinse, repeat", because the repetition in my soul has been necessary.

I'm not yet on the other side of this journey, but I now know how to traverse it.  One day at a time, waiting, hoping and expecting the Lord.  His Word is true and His love never fails.  Even when the recliner is upside down. ;)

July 22, 2014

Happy Father's Day to my husband...a little late

(***Today is July 22 and I've just realized that this didn't post on Father's Day like it was supposed to!  Yikes!  Sorry husband!***)

I just don't know how to say what my heart bears so fully.  It's the eve of Father's Day, and you're my husband and the father of our 5 children.  I've bought gifts and cards, and the ingredients for your steak and cake dinner.  I've done all the wifey things, but even as I type this, I'm sitting upstairs alone, and you're downstairs having a devotional time with our kids.  How do I say thank you for that?  How do I let you know that when you follow your many hours of work each week with ensuring quality time instilling the word of God in our babies, my heart overflows but my lips can't form the words?

You know that I love you, but this is an entirely different arena.  This is our children, our reflection, our legacy.  It matters, and you don't let it slide.  You're consistent when I feel shaky.  You're strength when I'm stumbling.  You're wisdom and logic when all I can see and feel are chaos.  

Our boys know that when it's time to talk about guns and woodwork and muscles and music, you're the man for the job.  They always come to you first, confident that you'll have exactly the answers they seek.

Our girls know that you're willing to sing along to Coldplay or the My Little Pony theme song, and that whatever life is bringing them, you'll do your best to provide the answer, and that when they walk straight into your chest and bury their tear-stained faces, you'll be enveloping them in the embrace that matters most to a girl...the arms of their Daddy.  

I watch you, day after day.  I see the sacrifices.  I see the protective nature.  I've seen you when you've been ready to rage against those who've come against your kids.  I've seen you talk for hours when it felt pointless, but eventually yielded holy fruit.  

You are so careful to point our kids to 1 Corinthians 13.  What you don't see is that you are pointing them to your example as well.

You are patient and kind.  You are not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  You do not demand your own way.  You are not irritable, and you keep no record of being wronged.  You do not rejoice about injustice but rejoice whenever the truth wins out.  You never give up, never lose faith, are always hopeful, and endure through every circumstance.  
The example you set in our home is that of a man who is imperfect, but who never stops trying to be like Jesus.  

These words feel like nothing compared to what I truly feel, but they are a start.  They are true.  They are all that I know to offer to you, the man who blesses his family abundantly every day of his life.  

I love you,

June 14, 2014

Happy Father's Day to My Right Hand Man, my Daddy

He was actually held me first, when I was born.  I wish I could remember that moment.  See, Daddy has these gray-blue eyes and they're always bright and full of life and fun, but in really special moments, they get a little shiny, and a little red.  I bet they were shiny that day in April, so many years ago.  I bet he looked deep into my eyes and counted my fingers and toes, and smelled my head and kissed me.  Oh how I wish I could remember that.  But it's ok, I got to have those kinds of moments with him, again and again...kind of like in that picture of him standing beside me, when I was in my wedding gown.  I tried not to look at him for too long on my wedding day, because his eyes were shiny, and a little red, and I was afraid my mascara was going to run if I kept looking at him.

I can't explain what it's like to love a man so well.  We weren't always in the same house when I was growing up, but it never felt like we were apart in our relationship.  We traveled, we joked, we talked on the phone.  He and my sweet "other mother" gave me a little brother, and I gave him 5 grandchildren.

My Daddy loves me.  Not everybody can say that about their dads, and some of them are unsure about it, but not me.  We talk all the time, he tells me about his adventures and his down time, what he's cooked lately and the music he's enjoying.  He calls me just to share the "little things".  And he never, never forgets to say "I love you".  He's not afraid to bear hug me and tousle my crazy hair and hold my hand.  Those moments are absolutely sacred to me.  I know when he takes my hand in his, that his hand will feel very big and rough.  They're the hands of a man who has worked hard his whole life, and who has never complained for a moment.  I've memorized those hands.  I know the curve of his thumbnails and the casual, comfortable position of his hands wrapped around a coffee mug.

He has no idea of his value, his absolute worth to me.  I love to hear his voice, hold his hand and look into those gray-blue eyes.  When all we can manage is a phone call, we love to chat about theology, and this funny little blog of mine, and what we plan to do when we grow up, if we decide to grow up.  He's my right hand man.  I think I'll keep him.

I love you Daddy.

May 18, 2014

What's it gonna take?

What's it gonna take?  What do I have to achieve, or live through, or die for, to be someone who the world is not worthy of?  I have accepted the truth that praying to live a life full of miracles means being willing to face distinctly impossible situations that show no hope.  No. Hope.  Hebrews 11:38-40 says that the "heroes of faith" in the Bible were wanderers, living in caves and holes in the ground.  They died merciless deaths and didn't even "receive what had been promised, because God had planned something better for us, so that only together with us would they be made perfect."

Seriously???  They went through all the trials, the struggles, the disappointments, the failures, the beatings, the literally being sawed in two...and they didn't receive their promise because they aren't complete unless I do MY part?  Wow.  No pressure, Danielle, but uh, King David can't receive his promise of being made perfect unless you run your own race to completion.  So, um, "Go Team!"  Wow.

Most days, I'm so caught up in the swarm of my life that I forget that I'm even IN a race, let alone that I am running it, looking for a finish line, preparing for the future, passing a torch, etc.  Add to that the thought that past generations have not only left a legacy for me to continue, but that they also ARE the great cloud of witnesses who stand and cheer me on?!?  Yikes!  That makes me feel...gross.

This message that my pastor presented today has awakened me to the reality of how much time I've wasted.  How much wasted time I've allowed in my family.  I don't know what the robber is in your home, but in ours, it's screens.  We have an addiction, an obsession, a problem.  We own cell phones, Nooks, Kindles, computers, several video game systems, TV's, gameboys, Netflix, Hulu, built in TV in the van...we are never without something luring our eyes and minds into a vegetative state.  I. HATE. IT.  Do you hear me?  HATE.  For heaven's sake, we are a HOMESCHOOL family.  You'd think we'd live half our lives at the local library and have treasured favorite story times every day.  No.  Not happening.  When I think of the precious burden I bear to have even been blessed with a race to run, I feel the deep conviction to realize my priorities and to reroute my family toward the things which are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:18 says "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  This verse is so grounding for me, because I know that we have been sinfully fixed on what is "seen", with an obvious knowledge that it is only temporary and bears no real value on what is eternal.

How much more educated, knowledgeable, skilled and fruitful could I and my family be if so many hours, weeks, months hadn't been wasted by a weakness that was so easy to snag us?  Some things are no brainers to deal with.  I know what has to change at my house...and the odds are good that you know what has to change at yours.  What's it gonna take for you to look upward and look outward to find what's really been missing?  What's the true perspective of your situation?  Not just the part that you can see while you're in the middle of it, but what would your dearest Christian sister be able to see, objectively, as she looks in on your life?  Is she someone who you could actually ASK..."What do you see that I have out of perspective?  What can I change?"  Look for those people.  If you don't have that person in your life yet, pray for God to provide that friend who will be true and honest with you.  And then, respect what that person has to say.  Value that input, reflect on it, and pray about whether it's something that needs to shift in your life.

It's not all gonna be screens that pose the problem.  Maybe it's a relationship that you allow to take the place of God in your life.  It could be a job that you've allowed to be all-consuming, taking it home with you after work and sharing the stress of it with those who live with you.  It might even be a hobby that leaves you with no time to begin new relationships, or to build the ones you already have.

It's important that we figure these things out, because there is a sky full of holy cheerleaders who are screaming your name and urging you to press on.  They did it themselves, they died for the cause of living a life that pleased their Father.  We are on the same team!  You and I have been handed a torch that is well lit and prepared to burn for generations after ours.  We have to be poised and ready.  We have to run as if our lives depended on it, because they do.  What's it gonna take?

Today's Prayer:
Father, I come humbly to you today, declaring that I have wholeheartedly sinned.  I have not been a stranger to the temptations and weaknesses that I have allowed to drag me off course, away from purpose, away from the path you desire to light  for me.  Forgive me.  Restore me.  Thank you for your mercies that are new every morning.  Give me strength and grace to rise up, acknowledge the hurdles, and overcome them as I fight the good fight, with every intention of getting back up and winning my race!  You are so good to me.  I love you.  Amen.

April 3, 2014

Tune In.

I've been living in a whirlwind.  None of it is bad things, but it hasn't stopped swirling yet, either.  I have a feeling it isn't going to for a very long time.  Is there such a thing as settling into a tornado?  If there is, that's me.  I don't know what to tell ya.  Women's Bible Study on Mondays, husband's Men's Bible Study on Tuesdays, Wednesdays bring ballet, soccer, kids worship team practice and church, Thursdays are for ballet, soccer and husband's worship team practice, Friday is hubby's day off...from his day job, but it's the day he has to go and work on his songwriting, recording and producing so that new albums keep coming along!  Saturday mornings are bubbling with 2 soccer games and often airsoft for my teen boy and then whatever else the day may bring (grocery shopping...ugh!) Sundays begin it all again with 2 church services, a lunch break, and then youth worship team practice and youth group that night.

You got tired just reading it, didn't you?  Yup.  I feel ya.  But here's the honest to goodness truth:  We. Are. Happy.  We are tired, and busy, and glued to a calendar, but we're happy.  We keep a flow to all the activities and we grab a sacred lunch as a party of 6 or 7 or whichever of us can come, and Jeff and I always snag a date once a week, whichever day we can make it work.  (Breakfast at IHOP never hurt anybody's feelings.)

However, in the midst of all the "living" we're doing, we've gotten behind on laundry.  And dishes.  And dusting.  And vacuuming.  Don't let your mind wander any farther...you won't let yourself visit me if you do.  I'm nuts for lists, calendars, charts, schedules, routines.  I know their value and I know what happens when I don't keep them maintained.  This.   This craziness is what happens.  I learned to utilize sites like Flylady.net to build routines that kept it all in place.  And it works.  But sometimes, like now, if I crossed every "T" and dotted every "I" on our routines, we'd be missing out on a lot.  We'd be missing out on the chance to live a very full season to the fullest, and, this week, we'd have missed out on a major ministry opportunity.

You see, my very dearest, longtime friend has been battling some health issues that have left her feeling completely drained and fatigued.  I mean it.  She feels that she can offer about 2 good hours at the start of her day and then she needs to lay down.  This is not a lazy friend.  This is my friend who home schools, has a personal business, trains for races, runs the races, studies nutrition, does all the crazy juicing and beef bone broth soup sipping (she made me try it and I'm not signing up) and keeps up with her own busy family.  I visited her last week, and I tuned in.  Not because I had time to tune in, but because during my seasons of crisis, she has tuned in to me...when she didn't have time either.  She has wept with me, prayed with me, and just stood and hugged me when I had to be supported.  She taught me friendship.  When I tuned in to her last week, I saw the need for deep rest, time with her husband, and room to think.  So, I kidnapped her kids.  Kind of.  She gave me permission.  This week is Spring Break for her boys, so I picked them up on Monday and just gave them back today (Thursday).  I added her to kids to the 4 I already had at home.  I fed them home cooked meals.  I let them play hours of video games.  I took them on a crazy hike to see an amazing waterfall.  We picnicked and played in a water fountain.  We jumped at one of those nutty trampoline places.  Now, I'm not telling you any of this to brag on myself.  I'm sharing things I've learned.  Things that make me a better person.  Things that prove my love for people, through my love for Jesus.

I could have kept to my schedule for this week.  I could have washed dishes and done laundry and run to lots of lessons and practices and "kept up with the Joneses"...but what would it have mattered if my friend was at the end of her rope and just needed help?

Friends, find out where the needs are on your path of life.  If it's a need you can fill, fill it!  Don't wait for a request or for a dire situation.  Tune in and then JUMP in!  Don't overlook those friends who are right beside you dog-paddling through their lives but could really use a life preserver right now.  Proverbs 17:17 says "A friend loves at ALL times."  Tune in.

Make sure that more than your ears are available to your friend.
Make sure that more than your mouth is available to your friend.
Your friend may well need your heart and your hands.  Be ready to drop 1 thing or everything to see that you're not missing an opportunity to love those who God has placed in your life.

Today's Prayer:
Father, thank you for my friends.  Thank you for placing just the right people in my life.  Those who I need, and those who need me.  Fill my mouth with kind words and wisdom.  Fill my hands with provision for physical needs.  Fill my heart with You, so that I overflow your goodness and love to those who need more than I know how to give.  Teach me to love as you love me, to lay down my life for others, and to bring joy wherever I go.  Give me someone new to love.  I trust that you'll bring all the little pieces of my life into place as I serve you with an obedient and willing heart.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

February 27, 2014


I've been doing some thinking.  When I can.  Amidst this crazy little thing called life going on at my house.  I'm beginning to see things differently.  I'm not just running through my days, watching them tell me what to do.  I'm experiencing.  I'm seeing.  I'm feeling.  It's fascinating.

For a while now, I've been asking the Lord to help me to see, the way that He sees.  It's not enough to me that I have a happy husband, kids and home.  It's not even enough that I'm at church I love a few times a week, or that I read my Bible.  There's been a longing.  There's been a searching.  There's been a desperation.  And He is answering it all.  It's fascinating.

The opportunities are increasing.  The understanding within me is deepening.  The reach of my love is stretching.  The ideas in my heart and mind are coming quickly and clearly.  It's as if God is saying, "Here.  Here is purpose and here is ability and here is love and here is knowledge and here is understanding and here is wisdom and soooooo much more."  I'm grabbing it up like shoes on a clearance rack and clinging to it like my life depends on it.  Because, somehow, I feel that it does.  It's fascinating.

I can't tell you where a page turned or why.  Everything isn't perfect, but I asked Him to show me what He sees, and suddenly, my faith feels strong and heart feels big and I'm just simply less afraid.  It's what He sees, and it's how He feels.  I can't seem to conjure up judgement about things that are none of my business.  I'm more patient with my children.  I have a mouth full of words that are giving life and peace to those who seek counsel from me.  I have filled hands that have been reaching out to the needy, to feed their literal hunger.  My heart has been crying out, and now it feels like it's overflowing.  

I've actually been staying quiet...as evidenced by the recent break from blogging.  I simply didn't know what to say.  I'm still not certain that I have the right words, but I decided I should try.  Not for me.  Not to boast of myself.  All I did was ask.  But, allow me a moment to boast about Him.  He answers.  He miraculously provides.  He isn't finished with the works He has begun.  He knows no lack and is ready to provide what we ask of him.

Ask.  Ask.  Ask.  What is it that you don't know if you can handle, but you want to ask anyway?  What is it that you need?  What is it that will make you feel like the rest of life doesn't even matter if you can just have that one little piece of Him?  Ask.  That craving that's in you, that insatiable desire, that wondering that keeps you awake at night...He put it there.  He is a fascinating God, but more interesting than that, He is fascinated with YOU.  He sings over you.  He intercedes for you.  He dances over you with joy.  If you are a parent, you know exactly how that feels.  You find yourself staring at your child, you trace that subtle curve of their profiles, you smell their hair, you touch their ears and kiss their toes.  You are fascinated by them.  Please, dear reader, put yourself in a child's place when you think of your heavenly Father.  He marvels over every detail of you, inside and out.  He wants you to have all of Him, but more than that, He wants you to WANT to have all of Him.  He wants you to crave Him, to desire Him, to wonder about Him.  When He sees that you DO, His heart is full.  His faith in you is strong.  He has no fear that you will leave Him.

Today's Prayer:
Sweet Daddy God,
How precious to know that you are fascinated by us.  How unimaginable to know that you want to offer your best qualities and attributes as undeserved mercies and grace in our lives.  Your favor is nothing short of miraculous.  Your blessings are nothing short of amazing.  Your love for us...well, it's fascinating.  Let us never overlook the reality that you have placed desires in our hearts that, once fulfilled, are our way of blessing You back!  Give us opportunities Lord, to honor You.  Shine on us and let us all see what you see.  Let us not be afraid to ask for a deeper portion, a stronger faith, a secret desire.  Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable unto You, Oh Lord, our God.  We love you.  Amen.

February 21, 2014

Healing Scriptures

I have several loved ones who are currently fighting a battle in their bodies.  My grandmother has long been a student of the Word of God, and has researched, taught, prayed and shared as a true Warrior for Him.  She recently shared these scriptures with me, and this is the perfect season to pass them on to all of you.  If you are in need of a healing of any kind, I know a guy.  He's passionate about us being well, because we have a purpose to fulfill.  Fight with your Faith and believe that healing is yours!

I am in agreement with you, even those who I've yet to meet.  I pray for my readers and I offer these scriptures to you today, to build you up and give you the extra measure of Faith you need to continue.

Healing Scriptures

Romans 8:31
What shall we then say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?

Psalm 103:3-4
Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies.

Romans 4:17
in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.

Mark 11:23-24
For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.  Therefore, I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

Matthew 8:17
He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.

1 Peter 2:24
who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.

Isaiah 53:5
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

Mark 1:41
Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing’ be cleansed.”

Acts 10:38
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

III John 1:2
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

John 10:10
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Colossians 2:10
and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

Matthew 21:21-22
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Proverbs 4:20-22
My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh.

I John 5:14-15
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

Acts 8:6-7
And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.

Today's Prayer:
Father, I thank you for the ultimate sacrifice you gave, allowing your son to be sacrificed, for the health and salvation of us all.  I pray now for my family and friends who are fighting frightening battles in their bodies.  I thank you that they have your peace which passes understanding as they undergo medical procedures.  Thank you that they are able to be a beacon of light in the midst of their circumstances.  Encourage them, Lord!  Send laborers across their paths who will be constantly interceding for them, as well as being there to personally lift them up.  Help us to trust in your TRUTH, Lord, and not to doubt your perfect will for a single second.  I join hands with my brothers and sisters and I lift up their arms when they feel weary.  Remind us of our purposes and give us the strength to fight!  In your holy name, Amen.

February 7, 2014

For the Shepherds. For the Sheep.

Grug Crood

Pastor David Houtsma

(Any resemblance shared between Grug Crood and my Pastor, David Houtsma, is purely coincidental.  But, seriously???  That's awesome!  And, it only helps to reinforce my point in this blog!)

Have you watched The Croods?  I mean, ahem, have your kids watched The Croods?  My little boy received the DVD as a Christmas gift and we watched it as a family.  In the film, there's a great deal of teen rebellion from a know-it-all daughter, but our family doesn't mind using those issues as a teaching moment, so all in all, we like the movie.

I haven't seen it in a few weeks, but for some reason, I began thinking about it this morning.  I was thinking about how protective the dad, Grug, is in the story.  His family thinks of him as over-the-top, too strict, unreasonably overprotective...and they're right.  He's REALLY determined to see his family live, and succeed, and have a future.  And to the best of his knowledge, his family comprises the only humans remaining in the world.  However, his daughter meets a Guy.  No seriously, the kid's name is Guy.  Guy is creative and brave and adventurous and...does not have any family of his own to tend to.  Guy has the time and energy to help the Croods.  The Crood family (with the exception of Daddy Grug) celebrates Guy and they readily follow him into situations that are completely NEW to them.  In fact, the other members of the family are SO deeply enamored by Guy and his ways, that Grug begins to see himself as worthless.  He knows how to keep his family safe.  He knows how to protect and how to grow them as a team and how to sacrifice his own meal to see that the family continues.  However, the daily life-saving of his family doesn't leave time for him to create fashionable clothing, or fast-moving vehicles, or just to have a lot of fun.  He has a calling.  It is important.  Without him doing what he's called to do, his family will fail.  They will scatter.  They will never get to their own callings.

Grug is like a shepherding pastor, protecting and tending his flock of sheep.

It isn't his job to be insanely creative.  It isn't his job to discover new ways to dye sheep's wool or to knit a sweater with it.  And, it isn't because he's incapable of being creative.  He has priorities.

His job is leading and guiding.  His job is fighting off those who would steal his sheep to bring harm to them.  He has a calling.  It is important.  Without him doing what he's called to do, his family of faith will fail.  They will scatter.  They will never get to their own callings.

If you ARE a pastor, prioritize what God has specifically called you to.  If a passion burns within you as a vision for your flock, but you don't know how to do it, it isn't YOURS to do.  Find the sheep/the member of your congregation who can be a team player.  Delegate those things that are important but that keep you from your focus.  

If you are a church member who sees a need in your church that you know how to fill, FILL IT!!!  If you're available, but not aware of the needs, ask your shepherd...or his wife.  They are undoubtedly a team with a vision and they know where you fit in the puzzle.

It is not a pastor's heart to micro-manage his people.  It's not his plan to direct your every step.  There is freedom in knowing the Lord, and there is freedom to make Him known.  Your pastor is there to shepherd you.  With shepherding comes guidance, protection, food and drink, and above all, Love.  Allow your pastor to love and guide you.  Seek wisdom and then heed it.  Follow through.  Serve in the capacity of your talents.  Help that vision to grow so that more and more lost sheep make it to their callings as well.

Today's Prayer:
Father, thank you for my pastor and for those who have pastored me throughout my life.  Thank you that you've placed leaders around me who have led well, families who have honored you and taught me how to lead, yet also how to serve.  Keep me mindful of your vision, your purpose for my pastor and his wife, and for the future of our church.  Help me to observe and act on the details that I know I can support, repair or maintain within our church family.  Thank you for giving me a heart that loves to help.  Help all of our pastors to be fully aware of their specific callings, giftings and anointings, and empower them to see those things through, whether by their own hands, or to know how and which things to delegate to those who have the time and resources to complete it.  Your joy is our strength and we are humbled to be able to serve you in our local churches, as we welcome your sheep into our lives.  Amen.

February 6, 2014

That Girl is on Fire!

Sing it with me now, "That girl is on Fiyahhhhh"!  (Thank you, Alicia Keys, for penning that song especially for the "Living the Good Life" blog over here.  Ok, maybe that isn't exactly why she wrote it, but...you never know.)

When I was growing up, our church youth group went to summer camp events called "Acquire the Fire".  We were taught about how we should all leave that camp "On fire for Jesus", "fired up about our salvation", "ready to let our light shine for the rest of the world"!!!  Oh, it was exciting.  And we were on fire.  And we were fired up.  And we were ready to let our lights shine.  Until Monday morning.  Something about walking those huge high school halls packed with intimidating teenagers, feeling unsure of exactly how and what to say...and then... Algebra class.  Well, let's face it, Algebra is of the devil and is a quick extinguisher of any deeply premeditated thoughts about sharing Jesus with the cheer captain.

I never knew where that term "fired up" or "on fire for Jesus" came from.  I actually never really thought about it, until tonight.  It's been one of those crazy days that I have somewhere around 5-6 days each week, and I didn't get a moment alone with the Lord (aka...the Bible app on my phone) until 7:50 tonight when I escaped the beautiful madness that is my family, and took a bath.  The "verse of the day" was somewhere in Luke, chapter 12, and it was a good one, but not anything that I felt enthralled about.  I opened the rest of the chapter and kept reading.  I read down to verse 49.  And I stopped.  And I read it again.

Luke 12:49 "I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it was already burning!"

Would you like to know who said that?  It wasn't a grumpy 2 year old.  It wasn't an angst-filled teen.  It was our own passionate, desperate savior.  That's right, folks.  Jesus said it.  Jesus came to set the world on fire and he wishes it was already burning.  That stops me in my tracks.

He's not here in person anymore.  He left that job to me.  I'm here as his representative.  I'm here as an embodiment of his purposes.  To continue what he began, as he lives in me and through me.  I'm here to set the world on fire.  And I wish it was already burning!  I wish I was already burning!

How complacent have I become?  How settled into my happy little life am I?  How deceived have I been to feel that I am accomplishing my full purpose by serving in my church and asking my occasional waitress how she's doing?  I gotta tell ya, at times, I disgust me.  My fire can start as a spark within my home, where my very literal mission field is in 5 perfect little faces that God has entrusted me with.  But it shouldn't stop there.  Fire is all-consuming.  It is relentless.  It is  raging and beautiful, all at once.  It can be contained, and set in a jar and it will bring some light to those in the room...but that's not what Jesus said.  That little candle on my kitchen counter is NOT setting the WORLD on fire.  My pleasantness and Christian meekness are NOT setting the WORLD on fire.

There is a strangeness within me.  (My children will agree to that statement wholeheartedly, but that's not the strange I'm referring to.)  I once had a woman say to me "There is STRONG in you."  It's an odd sounding statement, but I knew exactly what she meant.  My husband feels the same way.  Strange.  No matter what we're doing, no matter the job, the lifestyle, the ministry opportunity, it always feels to us like there is a MUCH bigger purpose and calling.  We serve with fervency and we are thrilled to do it, because we know that whatever we're doing and wherever we are, it's a training ground.  There is more for us, bigger for us, and we are NOT ready for it yet!  We are on a path, but we mustn't forget to set even that little PATH on fire!  Every step should leave a spark, every breath should fan a flame.  We have come to set the world on fire!

Does this sound familiar to you?  Is it convicting to you?  Does it make you think, "Ok, but where do I start?"  Start here:
Psalm 119:105  Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

Turn to his word.  Just like me, tonight, the first verse you read may not be the one that sparks something within you.  Keep reading.  Turn to Luke, or to John, or to wherever.  Let him send you a spark, or a raging inferno.  He's really good at deciding which one you're ready for.

Jesus walked this earth with a purpose.  And he never intended to do it alone.  Will you join me?

Today's Prayer:
Holy Father, thank you for sharing your desperation with me tonight.  Hold my feet to your flame, Lord.  Touch your coal to my lips, and cleanse me.  Purify me, burning out all that displeases you, or does not bring you honor.  I yearn for you, I desire to continue to burn for you.  Let me light up a room with YOUR presence.  Keep me from any pride that would not boast your name.  There is strong in me.  You have a wise, perfect plan for me.  Keep me on the path that leads me to fulfillment of your purpose.  I love you.  Amen.

February 3, 2014

Leaning In.

My seasons are changing.  Not like, "a new thing is on the way and it's SO exciting".  More like, the new thing is that my roots are growing deep and things are settling in...for what feels like the first time.

I've been married for almost 15 years.

I haven't been pregnant in 7 years.

The kids are preparing to begin their soccer season, and ballet classes.

I already know what we're doing for school next year.

I know where we're going on vacation this summer.

I know what I'll be driving for many years to come.

I know what color I'm going to paint the guest room.

I know.

Does it sound crazy to say that all of this is actually very exciting to me?  I feel grown up.  I feel confident.  I feel like I can be still.  Be still and know.  It's odd for me, because I like change.  I like to rearrange the furniture, I like to repaint the walls, I like to go new places, I love to taste new flavors.  But lately, I just like being home, being still.  Now, mind you, I'm only 36 years old, so I don't want this to sound like I'm throwing in the towel and sitting in a rocking chair, watching the years go by!  I'm entering some very busy seasons, but for the first time, maybe EVER, I just feel peaceful.  I'm able to be still even while I'm going.  I'm leaning into my God, leaning into my family, leaning into my church, leaning into an awareness of the needs around me.

Psalm 46:10  "Be still and know that I am God.  I will be honored by every nation.  I will be honored throughout the world."

How can I honor Him if I'm always moving at lightning speed?  I like to say that I'm learning to live at the speed of love.  I can't honor my God, myself, my family, my church, or anyone else, if I'm just running around and filling my life with meaningless things.  All of these relationships are so precious, so very important, that I MUST take the time and make the time to observe them, to lean into them, to let them fill the places in me and in my life that I have purposely decluttered, just for them.

Did you catch that phrase?  "Purposely declutter" your life.  I'm not referring to that cabinet under the bathroom sink.  You'll get to that eventually, so stop beating yourself up over it.  I'm talking about the things in your life that you really could do without.  Maybe it's a TV show, maybe it's time on Facebook or even just reading something that isn't uplifting to your life.  Whatever it is, would you set it aside if you knew that it gave you an opportunity to lean in?  A chance to honor your God, by the way you treated His children?

The truth is, this isn't just a new season for me.  It's a new season for all of us.  Choose your season.  Choose to be still and know what it is that honors our Father.  Choose to declutter, to make space in your life for one new thing right now.  One new relationship.  One new volunteer service.  One new way to love yourself.

Today's Prayer:
Sweet Father, thank you for your patience with me as I traverse the many hills and valleys that I call life.  You've been so good to me and you know me best.  Help me to know you better.  Help me to be still and know that you are God.  That you have my best interest at heart.  Give me peace in my purpose.  Open my eyes to reach out to those who are in my steady path, my everyday life.  Show me their needs and then show me how to meet them.  Fill my hands with prosperity and blessing so that I can easily offer it when I see an empty hand.  I want to honor you.  I want to represent a nation of those who love you, and who send your love throughout the world.  Help me to declutter this busy life, and to recognize those things that hinder me.  Give me courage to reach out.


January 22, 2014

YOU are the key.

When baby Moses was born, his mother was willing to do whatever it took to keep her child from being murdered.  She kept him quiet until she couldn't, and then she put him in a basket boat and hid him in the river.  He was one of the children of Israel and his mother understood the value of him growing into manhood.  She saw a future for him.  She had plans for him to serve her God.  All was going swimmingly until a princess scooped that baby out of the water and said, "Finders keepers".  Suddenly, a child of Israel became a child of Egyptian royalty.  Are you seeing what happened?  Moses didn't belong to the Egyptians.  That place was not his own.  But, God placed him there.  God intended for him to fully invest himself in Egypt.  In it's customs.  In it's traditions.  In it's beliefs.  Moses became a man in Egypt, but he knew that "his people" were Hebrew slaves under harsh Egyptian rule.  In his passion for his people, he committed murder against an Egyptian and then fled in fear of being caught.  While he was away, the Hebrew slaves were heavily burdened and they cried out to God.  He heard them.  "God looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act."-Exodus 2:25.

Are you catching this?  God's people cried out.  He heard them.  He knew it was time to act.

God. Sent. Moses. Back.  God wasn't finished with Moses.  God had a plan for his future, and it included Egypt.  It included Pharaoh.  It included Moses knowing how to approach a throne.

When you have a vision, a goal, a dream, don't try to force it into your current season.  Allow it to grow.  Prepare for it. Grow yourself into readiness.  If God places you in a place that is not "you", not "your own",  invest yourself fully in that place, because the future may bring you back and you'll need to understand the customs, the traditions, the faith of that place...to bring effective change.

What is your vision, your goal, your dream?  If it became real TODAY would you even be ready for it?  Have you prepared?  Have you studied?  Have you made room in your life for it, by getting rid of things that wouldn't compliment that achievement?

God gives us dreams and visions.  He has incredible desires for us.  He has miracles planned just for you.  But, His word says that "To whom much is given, much is required." (Luke 12:48)  If you are not ready to meet those requirements, God cannot trust you to be faithful with the fulfillment of that dream or vision.  Ask him to show you how to prepare.  Ask him to show you what you are currently holding onto, or storing up, that is actually cluttering your mind, your home, your relationships.  YOU are the key to bringing about change.  YOU are the answer to many of your own prayers.  You just have to be willing to show your faithfulness and commitment to that dream.

Say a prayer.  Take a step.  Be brave.  Do not fear if that vision seems to take you back to a place that didn't fit previously.  Take what you've learned and bring it to that place.  Also, don't be afraid to step into a place you've never been.  If you're preparing yourself, your season will change at just the right time, and you'll be ready.

Today's Prayer:
Father, I repent of holding onto seasons that you've released me from, and I repent of trying to force a season that is meant for my future into my "now".  Help me to put the past behind me, while holding onto the lessons learned and the relationships that I treasure.  Show me how to prepare for the time that will come to me.  Place the right people in my life, who will teach me, who will walk that path with me.  Remove obstacles and temptations and make my path straight.  Grow me in faith and maturity so that my mouth is filled with your words, and your kindness.  Cause me to be an unmistakeable example of you.  Thank you for the dream, the goal, the vision, that I cannot possible achieve without you.   I depend on you.  I know you to be true.  I love you.  Amen.

January 15, 2014

Rock on, my Friends.

"A friend loves at all times..." -Proverbs 17:17

You know that friend you have?  The one with the fiery red rocker hair and the unmistakeable laugh?  The one who will take over for you when you can't make it to the "Mother's Day Tea" at your kid's preschool?  The one who will come pick you up and drive you to the chiropractor because your neck has frozen and you can barely walk?  The one who will drop everything if someone mentions the beach?  The one who will take you to the Rainbow in LA, and the roller derby, and to coffee at the mall...just so you can sit and laugh while watching "the mall guy" in his classic rocker clothes power-walk by?  The one who fell apart, so you flew across the entire country to pick her up?  Oh, you don't have that friend?  I'm sorry.  How terrible for you.

I have a life full of friends, and I'm gaining more in this amazing season of my life.  There will be some who will be a casual acquaintance, there will be some who teach me lessons, there will be some who I will guide.  But, it's those who just walk beside you.  Those who you may or may not have a lot in common with.  Those who are just...there.  The ones who are loving you at ALL times.  The ones who you are loving at ALL times.  Those are the ones who really make your life different.

I want to be that friend.  I want to know that whatever the season, I have it in me to be light, to show love, to lend a hand, to laugh at the guy at the mall.

Isn't Jesus that friend to me?  His example beats even that of my very best friends.   (And I've got some good ones.)  I really want to focus in this new season on being intentional in my relationships.  It's so important that we are just PRESENT in the lives of those around us.  People don't normally need huge favors.  The don't need hours of conversation.  They don't need entire days of our lives.  But, the little help we can offer, the few minutes on the phone, the visit at the coffee shop...those times add up.  And when the sum total of it all comes together, not a moment has been wasted, and a friend has been gained.

"Sacrifice" some time and effort in your near future.  If it's a coffee date or a dinner out, or an entire party of people at your house, just go ahead and do it.  You won't regret the time you invest.  You'll find that every moment was part of God's plan to let you love and to let you be loved.

Today's Prayer:
Father, help me to be a meaningful friend in the lives of those near and dear to me.  Keep me from seeing myself as too busy or too messy or not worth it.  Don't let my unkempt house or a fussy baby keep me from interacting and inviting people over.  Help me find ways to bond and get to know the potential friends around me, and guide me not only to those who need me, but also to the ones who I need in my life.  Thank you for being the ultimate example of a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  And, thank you so much for my friends.  Especially the one who names her dogs after rock stars.  Amen.

January 14, 2014

Girl, Wake Up!

There are things I expect when I'm fasting.  Hunger is obvious.  Prayer is an absolute.  Answers to prayer are certain.  Revelation and spiritual insight are profoundly exciting.  Being told to wake up and get it together?  Not so much.

I have been waking up early for a few weeks.  Not. On. Purpose.  I'd just wake up.  And lie there.  And stare at the sunlight beginning to creep in.  And turn over.  And force myself to go back to sleep. I like to sleep until about 7:30.  Or 8:00.  It just feels right.  I wake up and kind of feel like I can start my day.  Waking in the 6 o'clock hour feels like someone is being mean to me.  So, I didn't appreciate it very much when, a few days ago, I felt very impressed to begin setting an alarm and having a plan for the day.  You better believe I'm baby-stepping it.  I've been setting my alarm for 6:50.  That's all the courage I can muster, thus far.

However, I've also been drawn to the Proverbs 31 woman.

Proverbs 31:15  She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day's work for her servant girls.

I don't hate her.  Seriously.  I know plenty of women who do, but I don't think that they are seeing her in the right light.  I don't believe she's meant to be a standard of what every single day should look like for every woman.  But, I do believe that she is a reflection of a woman's lifetime, and the productive seasons we should be living.

My husband says that women have a built in thermostat for knowing the needs of her family and home.  I think that's true.  You know whether the kids' moods are off balance, whether the grades are right, whether your man feels neglected, whether the family nutrition is stable, whether a simple thing like a bookshelf with completely "fix" a room that just can't be kept organized.  You just know.  There are plenty of things that we can multi-task, but I think all of chapter 31 at once is a recipe for disaster...and failure...and guilt.

So, when the seasons change in my life, I always go back to that chapter for some review of where I've been and where I need to go.  Right now, I need to wake up.  I don't wake up and grab my Bible.  I can't even THINK straight that early.  But, I can follow a well-devised plan.  A plan that was not created in morning hours!  Without a plan, the people will perish!

I will now give a shout-out to an app I have discovered called: Any.Do
Got that?  Any dot Do
This "to do list"  app is helping me to be faithful during this season.  I type in all the tiny details of things that I might normally overlook or just get around to eventually, and it sends a gentle reminder to my phone so that I pick it up and go do that thing.  I make my list based on the schedules and routines I have learned on www.flylady.net.  You can check out her site for great ideas on getting started.

People, my list is D.E.T.A.I.L.E.D.!!!
-Make bed
-Get dressed
-Face/Hair/Teeth (I do let my phone read the Bible to me while I'm doing this part.)
-Wipe bathroom counters and toilet
-Wake kids
-Empty dishwasher
-Decide dinner
-Start laundry
-Breakfast & vitamins
-Bible time/school
-Afternoon routines
-Evening routines
-can you see where I'm going with this??????

Right now, I may look like a crazy lady to you, but I'm willing to risk it, because it's getting my life back in order.

It's helping me to be a P31 Woman.  I'm getting up and making a plan.  I'm owning my life instead of it owning me.  Our time is so valuable, friends, and we need to get the monotonous out of the way so that we have time for the crucial.  The crucial is instilling character in our children.  The crucial is being available to our husbands.  The crucial is having time for that friend who is hurting.  The crucial is even making time to take care of yourself.  Don't be afraid to say no to something that would over-commit you.  If you would no longer have flex time to do the crucial, then that commitment is too much for you to offer during this season of your life.  Don't wait for a catastrophe to remember what the crucial things in your life really are.

So, I hate to say it ladies, but, it's time to get up and get going.  After all, nobody says you can't schedule a nap in there somewhere, right? ;)

Today's Prayer:
Father, thank you for refocusing me.  Thank you for drawing me back to your Word and for keeping me centered on your will.  I know many of the steps that I should be taking, and I trust you to reveal others to me.  Help me to stay on track and to be disciplined as I work to be faithful to what you are calling me to.  Help me to find beauty in the simple, and help me to create beauty in this life you've given me.  Show me how I can serve those around me, and help me to find joy in the little things.  Amen.

January 10, 2014

I like my idea.

This morning, my son and I each made a cup of hot tea.  When his had steeped to a glowing amber perfection, steaming with the aroma of peppermint and begging to be tasted, he snatched out the bulging tea bag, dripped it across the counter and splatted it onto a saucer...all with quite a great deal of  enthusiasm.  This is the kind of behavior that would have made the younger me into a nutcase.  But not anymore.  I've birthed 5 children and done my best to chill out and roll with the punches...and the drips, and the splatters, and the enthusiasm.

I laughed a little and then said, "Hey buddy, what you should do, is lift the tea bag just above the cup, squeeze what's left of the liquid into the cup, and then place it on your saucer.  That way, it won't drip and splatter."

His response?

"Well, your way is better, but I like my way more."

Sigh.  How many times have I done that to the Lord?  Proverbs 16:9 says, "A man's mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."  How many times have I let God know that I had it all under control, and that he could offer suggestions, but for the most part, "I got this"?

I'm learning to be not just a better listener, but a better follower of directions.  There are plenty of times when I know that I can "be still and know" what the right answer is, but perhaps it looks more exciting my way.  However, those directed steps would keep my life from leaving behind lots of drips, and splatters, and messes.  I've noticed from my kids that the enthusiasm is only evident while MAKING the mess...not while CLEANING it up.

How many times has my Heavenly Father noticed that from me?  So often I was sure things would still work out alright if I just did it my way.  I have shoved my way through some tightly closed doors, because it just "felt" right.  It looked exciting.  It was mysterious.  Here's the breakdown:  I. wanted. it.  Why shouldn't I push through and grab the thing that I want?

Well, because His way is better, even if I like my way more.  Following those directions, those ordered steps, has me meeting people I would never have known, learning from them, pouring into them.  God works through people, and we NEED each other.  In addition, following directions keeps me from wasting the precious time that I have been offered on this earth.  I make drips and splatters of mistakes that come from good intentions.  Those messes have to be cleaned up by someone, and if I leave them for someone else, then their time is being wasted.  I want to be effective.  I want to be efficient.  What I DON'T want is to stand before God and say, "I could have done more for you, but I wasted so much time planning my way and following my plan.  I wasted so much time dripping and splattering through my life.  I wasted so much time going back and cleaning up after myself in the form of apologizing, starting over, rebuilding relationships and trust."

Today's Prayer:
Father, help me to hear you.  Help me to follow your directions.  Let your still, small voice become louder in my Spirit.  Let the desires of your heart become the passion of my soul.  I know your way is better, and I know that by following it, I will be closer to you.  That's my ultimate goal.  Closer to  You.  Closer to holiness.  Closer to righteousness.  I offer myself to you, and thank you for the new mercy you offered me today.  Amen.

January 9, 2014

Here's the Truth

This morning I awoke with lots on my mind.  And the sound of my stomach growling.  My husband and I were discussing the budget for the year at 6:30 a.m.  Remind me not to do that again.  I hate the budget talk.  I'm not a frivolous spender, but I can't stand talking about money.  But I did.  I sat up in bed with my laptop and created a spreadsheet for our finances and grumbled about things to come.  Furniture.  Ballet.  Homeschool books.  Other classes.  New tires.  Braces.  The list went on and on.  That's why I hate the money talk.  It never looks right on paper.  I like to buy impulsively, yet with restraint.  I know how to stretch the grocery budget so that I can use some of that money to buy a new pair of shoes for my son...and the shoes likely came from the clearance rack.  So, when budget day comes, I feel stressed, anxious, caged...and today, I got to add to all of those...hungry.  The kids came in and piled on top of us in bed to lay all over us and hug us...and to ask for pancakes.  PANCAKES!!!  Jeff and I both groaned.  We would LOVE pancakes right now.  But, it's day 5 of our Daniel Fast, and we're making a grumpy budget and not eating pancakes.  Sigh.

I finished up the spreadsheet, staggered down the stairs, and made a mountain of pancakes.  I made enough to last for a few days so that the kids can just warm them up in the mornings and I don't have to keep standing over a griddle drooling.  It's rather unladylike.

After breakfast, our Bible time reading of Daniel 4 was great and the kids even made the cutest illustrations of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream.  We talked about how he was literally reduced from the palace to living in fields with wild animals and eating grass, and then promoted again to headship of his kingdom, with even greater honor than before.  I love how that chapter ends, with this quote "Now I Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven.  All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud."

"All his acts are just and true..."  That phrase will get me through anything.  In fact, when I've been shaken by stresses in my life lately, I keep hearing myself repeat the phrase "You're my Truth.  You're my Truth.  You're my Truth."  You see, I've had to have an understanding with myself.  I've come to the realization that my "facts" are not my "Truth".

When my kids are straying, that may be a fact; but it isn't my Truth.  The Truth is that my children are taught of the Lord and great is their peace and undisturbed composure, and His Word does not return void, but prospers where it is sent.

When my finances look unbalanced, that may be a fact; but it isn't my Truth.  The Truth is, one of God's names is Jehovah Jireh, and it means He is my Provider.

When my son's body was born crippled, that was a fact; but it wasn't my Truth.  The Truth is, by Jesus' stripes, He was healed!

Nebuchadnezzar had it RIGHT!  All God's acts are just and TRUE!!!  Disregard the facts.  Just toss them out the window.  The facts have no bearing on an act of God.  Here's the truth...when you can cast your cares on Him, knowing that He cares for you, you've got it made!

So, make your spreadsheet, but don't let it depress you.  Advise and love your children, but don't let their choices give you chest pains.

Look your doctor in the eyes and say "Thank you for your opinion", but don't let that be the last opinion you accept.

He's your Truth.  He's your Truth.  He's your Truth.

Today's Prayer:
Father, forgive me for losing sight of Your Truth.  I reach now for the hem of your garment and BELIEVE You!  I believe you.  As I walk out each day, "Living the Good Life", remind me of how good it is, only because You are in it.  Thank you for the testimonies you've given me.  Thank you for all the testimonies I have yet to give, sharing your faithfulness to those who haven't yet known the Truth.  You are a God who leaves me in awe.  I love you.  Amen.

January 8, 2014

got milk?

No, seriously?  Do you have any?  Would you believe that the only thing I feel that I'm missing out on during this fast is MILK???  Last night I wanted it so badly that I felt the need to start stalking a herd of dairy cows.  Can you imagine?  I didn't think that I should have a piece of cheese or a cup of yogurt or rob a dairy.  I felt that I should violate a cow!  So...that's how day 3 of this Daniel Fast was for me.  When you think of me, you should pray...for cows.

When my 13 year old sat down to a bowl of cereal with MILK today, I suppressed the deep desire to growl at him.  I actually asked God this morning, "Why do I want milk so much?"  In His infinitely frustrating wisdom He replied "Do you want the milk of the word?"  Ouch.  That meant sitting down to look up those "milk of the word" scriptures that I've not read in a very long time.  There is one in particular that stood out to me.

"So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness." ( 1 Peter 2:1-3)

Well, thanks, God, for making it all SO simple.  Just get rid of all evil behavior.  Basically, whatever I'm doing, stop that!  Isn't it funny how we can read a passage of scripture like that one and think, I'm not doing so bad.  I'm not deceptive, I'm not a hypocrite, I'm not very jealous, and I'm pretty kind.  Then I think a little deeper about the few extra things I'll purchase here and there, that I don't mention to my husband because he's asked me to be really careful about our budget that week.  (Is that REALLY deception?)  Or when I tell the kids that they have GOT to get over this obsession with screens, while I keep my Facebook app on speed dial.  (Is that REALLY hypocrisy?)  Or, when I see another family who looks really put together and has the best instagram photos and travels to the best places and eats the most beautiful foods and I think, "Ugh, why can't I...".  (Is that REALLY jealousy?)  Or, and this one hurts the most, when I'm very sarcastic to my child when a time for discipline and correction comes.  (Is that REALLY unkind speech?)  

Ok, Lord, Ok. O.K.  It's plain to see that YES!!!  It is all REAL and it is all ME.  I've got some things to work on.  I've got more than rough edges...I'm thinking, let's get some dynamite to blow out the issues that are deep within me.  But then, there's another issue.  God doesn't really have a "dynamite" mode.  He works through progress, through promotion, through easing out the old by building up the new.  He counts on me to do the active working on my actions and thoughts, while he works on my heart attitude.  

I must crave pure spiritual milk.  Crave it.  Cry out for it.  Because I have tasted His kindness.  Because I really do want to know what it means to "grow into a full experience of salvation".  What is that full experience?  Do I know anyone who has achieved it?  I want to.  I want to be surrounded by women of faith who are fully experiencing what it means to live in His salvation.    I want to experience it myself so that I can lead the way.  I'll take it step by step.  Sip by sip.  His kindness is so extravagant, that just one taste will never do.  

Today's Prayer:
Father, thank you for your guidance.  Thank you for the quiet words that echo deeply in my spirit.  Make me thirst for you.  For your righteousness.  For holiness.  Keep me from deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy and unkind speech.  Let me not be satisfied until I have grown into a full experience of your salvation.  Show me what that means.  Guide my hands, cleanse my thoughts, strengthen my character, give me wisdom.  Let me be a daughter who you are proud to call Your own.  Amen.

January 7, 2014

My Brother Makes Me Cry

I have an advantage over those of you who grew up with brothers.  All those of you got beaten up, shot at, hung in trees, fought constantly, competed about everything…I’m the winner.  My brother and I grew up together, apart.  In different states.  With a 10 year age gap (I’m the big sister.)  I remember the exact spot I was standing in when Daddy called me to tell me that Alex had been born.  I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to get back to 5th grade the next day to tell my friends ALL about it.  I was FINALLY a sister!!!  He didn’t see me cry tears of joy.  Our Daddy worked for Delta when we were growing up, so I flew for free.  So, we still saw each other often, but because it wasn’t an everyday thing, we overlooked all the bad stuff and were just THRILLED to see each other!  When he was little, I always stepped off of the plane with gifts for him, and between trips, he would mail me drawings and letters, written in crayon.  

Like all brothers, he eventually grew up and became a moron.  I, thank goodness, was always the perfect child.  Ahem.  (Don’t believe that.)  But, when Alex grew up, he grew quieter.  It was harder to find common ground because I didn’t know how to talk football, baseball, fast cars…guy stuff.  I just hung in there and talked about what I could, and prayed for him.

Then he got REALLY crazy.  He piped up one day and told the family that he had decided to join the Marines.  The USMC.  I asked him not to.  He flew to Camp Pendleton.  He deployed twice.  I cried.  I sent care packages.  The very rare phone calls were full of me forcing a smile and laughter and assuring him that he was loved and prayed for.  He didn’t see me cry tears of worry.  

He called me from California when his wife was in labor.  He was scared and worried and felt helpless.  He didn’t know what to do, so he. called. me.  I was walking through Garden Ridge looking at patio furniture, coaching Alex, telling him how he could help her.  “Give her chapstick”.  “Give her ice chips.”  “Let her hold you and sway.”  “Be strong, brother, you can do this.”  He didn’t see me cry tears of pride.  He also didn’t see the tears that soon followed when he texted me a picture of my perfect, gorgeous nephew…the little guy who made me an Aunt for the first time ever!

When Alex returned from his first deployment, his wife asked my oldest daughter and me to meet her at Camp Pendleton to help take pictures of his return.  My baby nephew was now walking and too much time had passed.  I jumped at the chance.  We waited for hours.  We saw thousands of Marines walk by and searched every face for those big green eyes and every walking pattern for that characteristic swagger.  I took a short walk around a grassy area.  I saw him across the path.  Big guy. Big swagger.  Big green eyes.  That’s my baby brother.  I ran at him.  He scooped me up and squeezed the breath out of me.  I let him see me cry.

Alex, you being a Marine has nothing to do with you being my hero.  You’ve always been good and kind and loved me.  You’ve always had my eyes.  You’ve always had my heart.  You’ve always been a little crazy.  But then look who’s talking.  I’m thankful for the adventures we’ve had.  Parasailing over Hawaii, walking through Gramps’ corn fields and Mesquite trees, playing checkers, listening to your ridiculous music on the radio, you hobbling on a broken leg at my wedding because you insisted on ushering, Las Vegas and the chka-chka-chka laughs bellowing through the night, Hollywood, Austin and one tiny blue star, befriending your beautiful and amazing wife, watching your baby grow up.  You’ve given me lots of great memories.  You made me a “Seester”.  You’re pretty much the best.  Next to me.  I love you.  Happy Birthday, bro.

January 6, 2014

It's been an Intentional Day

Today is Day 2 of our 21 day fast.  I got hungry.  I even told my son that the brown leather couch looked a little like a Hershey bar.  I ate a rice cake and moved on.  I'm ok.

It was back to homeschool for us today.  This means being intentional.  I taught my four shorties and it. took. forever.  Ok, well, we finished at 3:30, but let's be honest...when you're doing Algebra, it's forever.  During our Bible time, though, I read and discussed Daniel with the kids.  It helped them to understand why they are giving up sweets and screens for 21 days.  I must say, I'm really proud of those kids.  When the craving showed up today (as it does every day around 3:00), they asked if they could put honey on a tortilla and roll it up to snack on.  Nobody even asked for candy or doughnuts or anything!  That in itself is proof that God still does miracles!

It was good to get back to our school and chore routines now that Christmas break is over, but the fast is not yet routine for us.  I knew that Jeff would come home from work hungry, and I knew that he would've had Mexican food for lunch (he had a lunch meeting and he ALWAYS wants Mexican food).  So, I tried not to duplicate that for his dinner.  This meant being intentional.  I boiled black eyed peas, made a pot of brown rice, steamed broccoli and chopped some fruit.  It was fine.  That's about all you can say about rice and peas and broccoli and an apple.  Fine.  Who cares?  Well, Jeff cared.  He LOVES black eyed peas and was sincerely grateful for the effort, so that was nice.

After dinner, we had another intention for the day.  We gathered our kids in the living room and pulled out an envelope that has laid at rest for a solid year.  It was the petitions that we asked of the Lord at the beginning of 2013.  We passed them out, asked each child to review what they had repented for and what they had asked God to change.  It's always amazing to see how faithful God is to a child.  Their faith is strong and they aren't afraid to ask BIG!  They enjoyed seeing the tangible proof of their prayers.  We then met with each child individually to help them fill out a new petition for this year, discussing what they felt that they still needed to work on, and what new requests that had for this year.  It's always a special time, because their ages are so varied and their requests are so suited to each age.  One child even piped up, "I've got some pretty good ideas in there!"  Haha!

In all my good intentions for the day, our petition time this evening reminded me of something, and it was bittersweet to me.  When Jeff handed out everyone's petitions, there was one in every hand...except mine.  There wasn't one to hand to me, because I didn't make one last year.  I was there, sitting with my whole family that day in January, 2013, but I didn't fill it out.  I couldn't.  I absolutely could. not. do it.  I was living in a dark and helpless place in my soul.  I stared at that piece of paper and couldn't even form the thoughts to ask God to help me out.  I couldn't imagine setting a single goal.  I could't bring myself to even write the words "Help Me."  I mentioned in a previous blog that I've known hard times, and, seeing how far we've come as a family, I cannot believe that it's only been 12 short months since I felt that way.  Since life looked like that.  Since I wanted to disappear.  It feels like an eternity ago.  That was the bitter portion.  The sweet side of it comes when I know that God answered the prayers of my husband and children, and he just let me lay limp in His arms while He walked my family down the steps He had ordered for us.  He's a Daddy, you know.  I remember riding in the back seat as a little girl and arriving in the dark at home, pretending to be asleep so my Daddy would carry me.  I'd make by body as limp as a rag doll, and hang there in his arms.  It felt safe.  It felt right.  I knew he'd get me to my room, to my rest, to my home.  God did that for me last year.  I didn't intend for life to get dark, to feel alone, to lose hope.  But I serve an intentional God.  Somehow I knew that it would be ok to just lie there are let Him carry me.  I knew that I was in the middle of an ugly chapter, but not at the end of my book.  I knew that He intended a very real, very large future for me, and that if I needed to be a rag doll for a season, He would just carry me to my room, my rest, my home.

Today's Prayer:  Daddy-God, thank you for allowing my humiliation to turn into a story that proves your faithfulness, your comfort, your peace and your restoration.  Thank you that your mercies are new EVERY morning and that you NEVER leave me lying on the ground, to move along without me.  Your touch is precious to me.  Your arms uphold my very life.  Your joy is evident in the eyes of my children.  You never leave me.  You never forsake me.  I cannot keep from knowing you, loving you, sharing you.  I'm forever yours.  Amen.

Isaiah 46:4  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

January 5, 2014

God has a Stealth Mode

It's day 1 of my 21 day fast.  I had a smoothie full of fruits & veggies for breakfast and after church I came home to a few black bean chips dipped in roasted red pepper hummus, with a mug of hot peppermint tea.  I'm totally fine, and not hungry.  I know it's only day 1, and I may have some struggle days, but today is not that day.  I'm determined.

Daniel 1:8  But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king.

Daniel took issue with the food and drink rations offered to him because they were unacceptable in God's sight.  He spoke with the chief of staff about getting his menu adjusted.   The chief said, "No can do.  Eat your dirty meat and have a goblet or 2 of wine or I'll lose my head."  (Trust me.  That's what he said...kind of.)  So, Daniel spoke to his personal waiter.  See?  He really was determined.  He went first to the boss and then he brought it to a more personal level.

"Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water," Daniel said.  -Daniel 1:12

Apparently, the waiter was feeling 10 feet tall and guillotine proof, because he agreed to try out the revised meal plan for 10 days and then to see how Daniel and his 3 besties were feeling.  As it turns out, they were feeling just fine.  In fact, they "looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king".  So, they got to keep their diet of vegetables and water...for the next 3 years.  Lucky them.  Yuck.  (Can you tell I wouldn't have been the best candidate to have lived during these times?  Pass the Krispy Kremes and a cheeseburger, please.)

Let's get back to business here.  These 4 men from the tribe of Judah knew what it meant to serve God.  Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were already strong, healthy, good-looking, smart men of good character.  That's why they had been chosen by the chief of staff.  However, that same chief of staff was not aware of some other things that these 4 guys knew.  They knew that the faithfulness of men was always honored by the faithfulness of God.  They had learned that favor follows genuine sacrifice.  (Read more about that topic here.) So, Daniel was unafraid to ask, twice, for meals that would honor God.

God noticed.

Daniel 1:17  God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom.  And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.

These young men, within a 10 day period, were rewarded with even more good looks, and an uncanny deeper understanding about the literature being presented to them, AND greater wisdom.  At the end of 3 years of training, the king met with all of the men who had been selected for his service.  He didn't know that 3 years before, there had a been a period of 10 days of 4 certain men being tested.  10 days, people.  However, those 10 days of testing led to the king finding these 4 men to be 10 times better!  10 times more capable.  That's a pretty good amount of favor for 10 days of eating veggies.  But wait, there's more!!!  Daniel was also given an extra serving of God's favor...in the ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.  Awesome!  Except...he didn't even know he had it.  You don't know that you can interpret dreams or visions until somebody has a dream or vision, right?  I love it when God does something in stealth mode like that.  He goes ahead and empowers us for a time to come.

Daniel didn't know that in just one more chapter,  his very life would depend on that stealth move that God had performed as an act of favoring Daniel for his faithfulness to His commands.

The king had a dream.  And it was big.  And it was scary.  And he needed to know what it meant.  Daniel visited the king, asked for some time, asked his friends to pray, and then went to sleep.  During this sleep, that stealth seed that God had planted in Daniel blossomed into the interpretation that would keep Daniel and his friends alive.

Another reason I believe in this 21 day fast I'm doing is that I'm counting on God to make some stealth moves on my behalf.  It will be amazing for Him to answer the petitions I'm seeking from Him for my current circumstances, and those particular prayers that need a quick answer.  However, what will be even greater is when a time comes in the future, when I'm facing a crazy battle and suddenly look down to see that the exact weapon that I need is already in my hand.  That's what God did for Daniel.  He gave him a weapon before He sent him to battle.  Dig in with me.  Fast something.  Anything.  For any amount of time.  Make a genuine sacrifice.  And then, wait and see what God has prepared you for, and prepared for you.

Today's Prayer:  Dear God, grant me the courage to be in the midst of chaos and to find enough peace to sleep deeply.  Deeply enough to have dreams in which you answer my prayers.  Favor me with weapons that are exactly what I need for the battles that I don't even know I'll be fighting.  Don't let me settle or compromise when I know that your reputation is at stake.  Grant me wisdom and understanding.  Make me 10 times better than my worldly peers, so that they see that it pays to serve God.  Oh, how you love me.  Oh, how I love you.  Amen.

To read more about this story, open your Bible or app to Daniel 1 and 2.

January 4, 2014

Daniel...and Fast Food

Daniel had it easy.  Yeah.  I said it.  Daniel. Had it. Easy.  I understand that he had that whole "lion issue" and a few other challenges, but the Fast?  Oh the Fast.  The way he makes it sound is that he did lots of praying, alone, and when he got hungry, he went and grabbed a salad and then got back to praying.  For 3 weeks.  No meat.  No sweets.  No wine.  Only organic fruits and veggies.  Bless.  His.  Heart.

You know what he DIDN'T have?  He didn't have 5 children, a working spouse, a homeschool schedule,  volunteer schedules, a new house and a BLOG to maintain!  And you know what else he didn't have, dragging him away from his faithfulness to the fast?  Girl. Scout. Cookies.  Samoas, to be exact.

My baby girl is a Brownie Scout for the very first time this year.  It's all new to us, but there's one big thing we've been waiting for.  The. Cookies.  Sales began this week.  The fast also begins this week.  Oh the irony.  I understand that we won't actually have the temptation of EATING them during this 21 day fast, but we have to think about them every day! Like it's our job!!!  (Because it is.)

Take a deep breath, dear reader.  I promise not to leave you with a blog full of me whining...about cookies.  I also promise to be very real with you.  I'm a little jealous of Daniel sometimes.  I'd like to think that I could actually get 30 minutes alone to fast and pray.  I could do it.  You know?  I'm really devoted to the things that I set my mind to.  The problem comes when I'm the ONLY one committed to that thing.  My kids won't stop being hungry...for hot dogs and spaghetti and pizza and teeny tiny cheeseburgers.  And the 5 bags of candy still leftover from Halloween.  (Shame on us.)  My teaching schedule and planning time won't ease up for 3 weeks.  My Girl Scout's cookie sales can't just wait it out.

So, this is one of those times when I remind myself that "it's not about me".  And, it is certainly NOT about the food.  My friends are literally joking with me that they'd prefer a "Danielle" fast, because they know it would include pretty much only baked goods covered in chocolate.  It's just how I roll.  The truth is, my life is abounding with blessings.  We've just taken down our 3 Christmas trees, we drive away from our new house in our new van to our new church which doubles as my husband's new job.  I do not know lack.   I have known it in the past.  I know about doing without.  I know about being a single mom.  I know about moving my party of 7 into the home of a family member because there was no work to be found for my husband.  I know about bankruptcy.  I know about surrendering vehicles.  I know about food stamps.  I know about suicidal thoughts.  I know all of that and more.

I can do a fast.  I can rock that fast.  I can Pinterest my way into the best recipes that make it seem like I'm not even fasting.  But if I do it that way, then my focus is the fast.  My focus is the food.  My focus is what I'm missing out on.  Daniel wasn't focused on the fast.  He wasn't thinking about his food.  He was focused on the matter of his prayer.  The mourning for his nation.  He had received a vision that deeply distressed him, about "times of war and great hardship" that were on the horizon for the nation he loved.  Any of that sound familiar for our world today?

Maybe you haven't seen a vision of what's coming for your nation.  Maybe you've already been living in times of great hardship, or perhaps you can tell that due to job losses or poor decisions or completely uncontrollable circumstances, 2014 is gonna be a tough one.  Hear me:  You are NOT alone.  And, taking a spiritual breather to fast and pray for 21 short days out of the 365 you've got this year, is really not so bad.  Don't make it about the food.  If you enjoy cooking and baking, as I do, go ahead and do it with your revised restrictions.  Make it simple, make it you.  But don't let yourself feel that you're missing out.  Acknowledge what you're gaining in the supernatural realm by laying down some simple pleasures.  Make it about Him.  Make it about worship.  Make it about gratitude.  Make it an opportunity to beseech the Lord for the things that ABSOLUTELY MUST change this year.  Give him room to do it.  Thank Him for doing it.  Expect to see the answers this year.  You'll see some of the answers within the fasting period.  I think a 3 week turn-around time for a miracle is worth it.  How 'bout you?

So, I'm not gonna eat a few things that I wish I was for the next 3 weeks.  I'm gonna fast, and pray, and humble myself, and magnify my Maker, my Master, my Friend...because it's right.  Because He's faithful.  Because, at the end of it all, I'll have some supernatural answers for my life...and several boxes of Samoas.

Today's Prayer:
Father, as I embark on something that stands as a physical struggle for me, give me the strength to resist temptation.  Allow me to see my weaknesses and allow your JOY to be the strength that carries me through.  Show me visions of what is to come.  For me, for my family, for my church, for my nation.  Help me to see as you see.  Give me discernment and peace.  Amen.

To learn more about Daniel and his fast,  open your Bible or app to:  Daniel 10.