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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Catching Feelings




Anxious. Excited. Confused. Fearful. Lonely. Angry.

These are common feelings that I experience often and I'd bet most of you do too. So where am I going to go with this? Wondering? Keep reading.

I've been acutely aware of how many "feelings" I've been having lately. I don't like it. It reminds me of a time when my life was dictated by feelings over anything else. I was so lost even though I knew where to look for the answers. I couldn't get past all the feelings.

Feelings are not bad but they are not everything. We can feel lonely but that doesn't mean we are justified in seeking out some temporary fix that masquerades as a solution. Loneliness can lead to a bottomless pit. Fear. I've been told by counselors that fear is the opposite of faith and there is the acronym "false expectations appearing real". How often have we let fear affect our lives? My list could go on for pages. I'm also no stranger to being anxious. And on and on. Feelings annoy  me.

Feelings are reactions. A self defense course instructor once taught me that its better to act then to react. That stuck with me. So often I had let other people determine what I thought or felt. I couldn't speak for myself. That is an awful quality that hurt me in many situations because I didn't understand my value.

So back to the present, I'm feeling overwhelmed by a variety of my reactions to circumstances in life that I am not in control of. The want to "fix" where I'm not capable or even called to. Trying to take on responsibilities that perhaps no one asked me to. Denial of the actual issues I can influence. Over thinking and drowning out the One true voice because I've got too many of my own ideas. Honestly, I have made so much progress in this area of over-analyzing but it irritates me that I struggle so much. The kids help distract me quite a bit but I can still get worked up.

Wouldn't it be so much simpler if I could find comfort in the fact that I don't have to have all the answers? That God's plan is actually way better than I could ever imagine. If I could just trust.

My solution to all these "feelings" is to stop and get some truth in my face. Pick up the Bible. Remind myself of God's thoughts of who I am. Remember that this is God's world and God created me and all the people I am worried about. God provided a way. I have the gift of the Holy Spirit to pray with me and on my behalf when I don't have the words.  Instead of standing here trying to catch all these feelings and thoughts taking me away, I'm going to get grounded in the truth of the Word of God.

Jesus, Thank you for being there, for being real to me and to so many others. I'm sad for those who don't know You or recognize that You are the only way. Use these difficulties to reveal Your power to them Lord. It seems I fell into another little pit of defeat, of darkness and its bringing on all sorts of feelings. Help me to be wise in my response and act like the prized and treasured person You made me to be. Help me to stay focused on Your Truth and promises, to rebuke the devil and his disgusting schemes. I lift up many people in my life who have hurt me because of their own sin. Help me to pray for them and not refuse forgiveness but to follow Your guidance and create healthy boundaries. It's so easy to get sucked into the past hurts and I don't want to go back to the girl I was but I want to continue to move forward into the healing and renewing of my mind. You are mighty to save and you love everyone, everyone! I want to teach my children how to thrive in this unruly and self-seeking world but I want them to remember to stay focused on the goal. This world is but a blink in time compared to the eternity we get with You, Lord. I'm so grateful that I have something to look forward to. I'm so grateful for my amazing snuggles with my babies when I'm feeling blue. You blessed me immensely. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

I was blessed to be reminded of this video in the past week and I wanted to share with you. It is Francis Chan and the Rope Illustration. If you are in a hurry, jump to 2:00 minutes to get to the meat of it.


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Friday, January 27, 2017

Uninvited

Are you popular? Do you make friends easily?

Depending on how you respond to those questions may help you connect with what I'm attempting to communicate.

I'm an observer. Perhaps it has something to do with the variety of people and situations I grew up around. That is one blessing about my parents divorce that I can acknowledge. I grew up interacting in families of different religious beliefs, ways of handling problems, socioeconomic status, and ways of expressing love. Each group of family had an impact on me whether I felt like I belonged or not. These people shaped my world view and I'm glad for it. It has provided me with the capacity to find good in people that don't look, speak, or feel the way I do about something. It helps me see the human in them.

As an observer, I mostly felt disconnected, on the outside looking in. This was not their fault but just the way it was. As an adult, less consumed with my own grief, I notice the ones who might otherwise get overlooked, or worse, rejected.

Have you ever thought about how hard it might be for some "outsider" to come in to church? Like really, would it be natural to come? I guess it depends on the situation. Some of us get to a point where we are simply tired of doing it on our own and come running to God and stop caring what others think. Others may take longer, if ever.

Consider this. People stand waiting to greet at the doors of a church. A person comes in and hopefully feels welcomed. Maybe they come to an event later or try to connect. But the people inside don't know how to connect. They don't understand the person's struggle or challenge or simply don't feel comfortable with them. Maybe the other person is avoiding eye contact or looks busy so we pass on by.

Without meaning it, are we pushing people out of the building we prayed for them to get to, away from the only Savior of the world?

Has someone asked for help directly, or maybe in a way that you had to read between the lines, and you ignored them? Do we then make an effort to connect them to someone else if we don't know how to talk to them? Make some acknowledgment that they reached out?

People that reach out and get ignored may not reach out again. Or maybe they will just reach out to a different religion or substitute for the One True God. I don't intend to be harsh or critical of the church. But I have been contemplating writing this for a couple weeks and it is coming from a place of truth. If I offend anyone, that is not my intention. My heart is crying out for the broken people, the
shamed, the ignored and rejected.

No one is without blemish (1 John 1:8 NIV, Ecclesiastes 7:20 NIV). We all struggle and its a two way street. People should not expect to come into a church and have some magic wand waved and life is beautiful. That is simply not real but they may not know that. I didn't understand and I grew up in church. Let's challenge each other to love others as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and to make amends when needed.

Are you connecting the way you want to or the way God is asking you to? Have you felt Him nudging you to step outside of your comfort zone? Or are you stretching yourself too thin trying to serve that you aren't seeing someone right in front of you that needs you? Let's all walk a little slower, smile a little more, open our eyes a little wider, and tune our ears to the Father. Put your love glasses on!

If you have felt ignored or rejected please don't stop reaching out to Jesus. One unpleasant experience or misunderstanding may be what you need to get you where God wants you. I honestly think that is what happened to me. I got mad and then I pursued Jesus much stronger. Looking back I can see why God allowed it to happen. I grew tremendously through the process. 

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." Romans 15:7 NIV

"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling" 1 Peter 4:9 NIV

"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that?" Matt 5:46-47 NIV

Jesus, Thank you for helping me to recognize the blessings I've gained from challenges. Thank you that you can use my pain for good. Help me to shine a light in dark places. Guide me to use my words wisely and with caution to honor You. I don't want to be afraid to use my voice but I want to speak only what is for good. You provide instruction, and it is good and perfect. Help me to understand and appreciate your holiness. Thank you for interceding on my behalf, Jesus. My sin has a price that You paid.  I pray this in Your Name, Amen. 



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Friday, January 20, 2017

Trumped

Today is Inauguration Day and we have officially sworn in a new President. So I thought it was only appropriate to time this post for this specific moment in history. Actually, if by chance this spreads on the Internet, I take no credit and pray that God is glorified somehow through my words.

I don't even remember watching anything about previous Inauguration Day coverage in my past but my father in law reminded me that it was probably because I was working then or too young. This election, this President, it feels somewhat surreal. There is much division and fear among the people. I can see from friends of Facebook that share political posts that even strong faithful Jesus followers are not all fans of the new President. Others are supporting and applauding him.

In my teen years, I was taught how to play euchre. It was fun and nice to be included in something (my parents really just needed a fourth player, but hey). As a twenty-something I jumped at the chance to play the game.


In the picture, that is what I would call a beautiful loner hand. I would totally go alone if I got the chance. That doesn't happen that often. But the trump is hearts. Jack of hearts, the right bower, is highest, then the left bower, the Jack of diamonds, then Ace, King, and Queen. The ten and nine of hearts would be the only other trump. Depending on who got to go first, I would win the trick and then throw down my two bowers and clear out the nine and ten. Its not as fun to play when the other team has a hand like this (I like to win).

Where on earth am I going with this? Two points. First, don't try to go alone at this life and think you have all the cards you need. Not everyone was born with a handful of trump. Remember that when dealing with others. Secondly, this is our Father's world. Let's not forget who is the real boss, the real commander in chief. God created the world. God has a plan. Don't let fear drive you.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

When my daughter was four months old, I was listening to the Veggie Tales version of This is My Father's World. It made me cry. It made an impact on me with all the fears and anxieties I had during that time. Maybe it will comfort you to listen to it.

Father, Thank you for Your amazing Word and comfort. Thank you for the privilege of being born in America and let me not take my freedom for granted. Thank you that you did not force yourself on me but offered me the ability to choose to follow you. I'm so grateful for the many times you have provided me the hope to continue on when the days seemed dark. In Your Mighty and Saving Name, Amen.  


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Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Wanna Go Back

I just want to write a blog entry that I can publish and feel like it lives up to the purpose of creating this blog. So while a few sit in edit mode on the website, for now I am going to reflect more on the message or motive of much of my writing.

Music has been as some would say "my best friend" consistently through my growing up and now. So I may often reflect on words from a song like I'm about to do now. 

Have you heard the song "I Wanna Go Back" by David Dunn? If not, check it out. It talks about the idea of being like a child in the way we approach God. This is a huge part of my intention with a book I wrote during the first year of my daughter's life where I compared new life with new life in Christ. Somewhere the faith of that little child can get lost in the pressures of growing up and living up to whatever the world tells us. I grew up in the church and I still struggled with losing myself in the currents of the world. I'm grateful to have had that foundation to keep me from drowning completely.

There have been times when I thought that after a person was baptized they should be given a personalized book "God Loves You" like the one I made for my daughter from I See Me personalized books. The illustrations are beautiful and it's critical to start your relationship with Jesus out by understanding that God loves you. The way each of us views God and also understand being loved has such a huge impact on our relationship with God but also with others. 

If you take anything away from this message today, take this, Jesus Loves You! God Loves You! But if you weren't loved appropriately growing up, you need to re-learn what true and healthy love is. 

One of the counselors I saw as I was trying to re-learn shared this verse with me, Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV, which I also wrote on the inside of that book I made for my baby girl. The part that she emphasized for me was "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." 

Dear Lord, Thank you for loving me. Thank you for helping me to finally accept and believe in that love. Please let Your Word reach someone today that may need to learn what it really means to know you and to know what real love is. Let them grasp how wide and long and high and deep is Your love. That verse changed my life along with the various sermons I heard at multiple churches when I was desperate to understand what You wanted me to do. Everywhere I went, I heard you say loud and clear that you loved me and that its ok to cry out to you. So I thank you for listening to me just as I was and just as I am, a very imperfect person who is still growing in my faith. Help me reflect the hope you gave me in all that I do. In Your Powerful Name, Amen.



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Light & Momentary Troubles

Today I found myself reading 2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV, first in NIV and then in Msg, KJV, NLT, and AMP translations. Why so many translations? The words "light and momentary troubles" stood out to me and I wanted to know more.

Since my daughter was born and I began reading her baby Bible to her, a new thirst for God's Word has been awakened in me. I bought The Message version of the Bible then and started from the beginning in Genesis (I'm not done, stuck in Psalms). Now I like to compare the language and try to get a deeper understanding of what God is trying to communicate to me.

So today, I read those words in 2 Corinthians and I thought about the public meltdown my 3yo had leaving the gym this morning. All the strategic planning that goes into being able to do a workout class but also get my 2 young kids in and out of the building safely leaves me more mentally exhausted than physically. Then there is the deafening screaming and inability to solve for why or how to help resolve the crying and anger. Were these the type of "light and momentary troubles" that Paul was writing about?

I wanted to post the verse on social media but my daughter wanted to play pirates and she said that pirates don't have phones. So I stopped and focused on her. She is just a little demanding (written with a smile). I love her so much. Its all worth it. And do I really have anything to complain about?

I initially downplayed my role in my family as not being significant. I thought the verse could only apply to the spiritual troubles. I am no theologian but as the evening went on, I began to think that my "troubles" could apply.

Being a wife and mom is a way that I can connect with people. Without relationship, there is much less opportunity for spiritual truth to be revealed. Toby Mac's "Speak Life " and Hollyn's "Love With Your Life"  both popped into my head. We have to be authentic Christ followers and allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us.

Tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities to practice being in the real world with my unpredictable but beautiful children. Its a time to practice love, kindness, compassion, gentleness, and humility.

Dear Father, Thank you for providing "my village" of support today. Thank you for allowing me to get back to the gym to enjoy a workout. Thank you for the patience to get through the difficult moments with the kids. Thank you for the hugs, playing pirates and hairstylist, and the joy they give me. Help me to continue to see the value in being a wife and a mom. I'm so privileged to be able to have this time with them and to live unashamed of what You did through Jesus on the cross. In Your Name, Amen.



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Monday, January 2, 2017

Clothe Yourself

In the last week my 16mo old son has decided that he would rather be undressed. He will hardly keep a diaper on and he kicks and flails his arms when I need to put on his pj's or new clothes in the morning. Maybe it has to do with attempting to potty train his big sister but I suspect this may just be something that boys his age do. Its amazing how happy he gets. He leaps on the couch and rolls on the ground. All of this unclothed action terrifies me - the mom with control issues. But, really, who wants to have pee or poo on the floor, or on the table. My son loves climbing onto the table and he is so fast. He wants up, he wants down, clothes off, and then clothes on. Such a busy boy.

As my son had a moment of streaking after the last diaper change tonight, the section in the Bible about wearing the Armor of God popped into my mind. Ephesians 6:10-17 NIV describes the Armor of God to include the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, a shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. I don't feel qualified to get into the depth of this Scripture but it is what initially came to mind.

I personally believe in the spiritual wars going on all around us, especially trying to destroy marriages and families. A friend of mine gifted me Jesus Calling, Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young and the author talks about her own experience with spiritual warfare in the intro. She says "Our combined ministries subjected our family to intense spiritual warfare, and I prayed for protection every morning."

Ephesians 6:18 NIV says "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people."

How do you prepare yourself for the day? Do you begin the day with prayer? Are you preoccupied with what to wear or how to send out the right message with your appearance? Have you ever been late to something because you couldn't decide if what you had on was good enough? I have. I struggled when wearing jeans to church first became acceptable because it was so different than how I grew up. The back in forth in my head about whether or not something was appropriate was exhausting. Now, I often wear jeans and I've found peace about balancing being respectful and comfortable.

After starting to dig deeper into preparing for this blog, I remembered the following section of Scripture, and I'm compelled to include it:

 "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." Colossians 3:12-15 NIV

As someone who struggles with self esteem and my identity, I love how the verse begins by reminding me that I am chosen and dearly loved. Personally if I feel loved, I tend to act more loving. If I accept God's forgiveness, then I'm more able to forgive. When I remember how patient God has been with me, I'm more able to be patient with others. When I focus on Jesus, I am able to be at peace. When I am intentional about being thankful, my attitude shifts from defeat to recognizing God's power at work in my life.

Do you run around with a naked or barely clothed heart? Do you fight off the protection God provides because you just want to feel free and perhaps you view God as restricting and mean? Are you just getting by each day?

I don't know who I'm talking to. I don't know if you are someone who is far from God or someone who may be hurt by church folk somehow and there is a wall up. All I know is that God loves you enough to send his Son to die for you to offer you the same grace he gave me. I didn't think I deserved it. I struggled to accept it because I didn't understand how special I was to God, that I was chosen and dearly loved. I had to learn to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient with myself too. I had to learn to forgive myself. I was trying to earn grace and beating myself up along the way. I didn't understand then and I'm still learning now but I'm able to have peace and hope on the journey.

So when  you wake up tomorrow or the next time you get into your clothes closet, what are you going to be thinking about? I pray God will stir something in you and encourage you to dress your best.

Jesus, thank you for Your Holy Word and I pray that I'm using it appropriately. Bring these words to someone who needs them and guide them to You. Show them they are loved and worthy. In Your Precious Name, Amen. 




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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Follows & Likes


I need to be cautious about getting too caught up in how many followers or likes there are on this blog. My uncle is a missionary in Puerto Rico and has been for over forty years. He is in town on furlough and I was privaleged to hear him speak and he mentioned how people that follow the mission may get concerned with how big or small the number of people there are in the PR congregation. My uncle said, its not in the numbers. Absolutely! It is too easy to get drawn into the statistics of how to get more likes and more reach on Facebook specifically. It's not about that. It's about God's love.

God's love is more than a Bible verse post on a cool image. Look outside and see the undeniable work of our most amazing Father. See the way He reveals himself in our children's smiles.

Lately it seems that every time I hear a crash or boom from the kids, I am having to look up from my phone. That convicts me. Even if I am using social media for good, like sharing about Jesus or keeping up with distant family and friends, this "media" is not my life. I have attempted boundaries with it and its still a battle with my attention. My family needs me. My God is trying to communicate with me and most of the time God gets my attention, its not from the phone.

So I will not be the blogger that posts multiple times a day or even once a day. The big-time bloggers have teams for that (or they schedule their posts very well). As my title states, I am just a mom from Ohio. Its just me right now so I can't keep up with everyone or everything even if I should. I'm going to post as it makes sense but Facebook is fickle and you have to work to show up in a news feed. If you want to see posts, please like or react.

I do not want to get caught up in a comparison trap or likes contest. This is about God first. Its about relationships and life. Life is not "media" no matter what our media and world tries to portray.

What does the Word of God say? God's Word is timeless, forever relevant, and always true. See Hebrews 4:12

I wonder if I could open my Bible every day as many times as I opened the Facebook app. Challenge? New year resolution?

Dear Creator, thank you for your work of art that surrounds me and reminds me of your presence daily. Help me to see through the way the world spins life and find your lasting and perfect truth. Guide me as I navigate building a following on the blog and giving my family and You the time and attention deserved. Thank you for the ability to read your Holy Word  at anytime. In Jesus Name, Amen. 




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