Archives for December 2012

Hope in 2013: God, Marriage, and Health

Words and a Picture

At the end of 2011, I chose a picture for 2012…a bridge. I wrote, “I know deep down 2012 will be a ‘crossing’ year for me, bridging those life changes He began in me in 2011 to something He has for me in 2013.”

When I typed those words on December 31, 2011, I had no idea what 2012 would hold, but sitting on this side, having completed my “crossing” year, I am shocked at how right I was even though I would not repeat 2012…for anything.

I literally moved across the bridge from West Virginia to Ohio.  I spiritually crossed the bridge from self to God dependence (still crossing too).  I physically crossed this bridge hundreds of times on foot as I tried to stay healthy.

In many ways, I grew to hate this picture.  It symbolized my failures in 2011 and the consequences in 2012.  But, I also used it throughout the year to propel me forward, reminding me not to give up on God or myself.  I keep crossing again and again – and there’s always another bridge ahead.

I’ve been praying for a few months about 2013’s picture.  I wanted it to be a picture I’d taken, but had nothing.  I felt I’d know it when I saw it.

Then, on December 15, my husband and I were driving on the interstate, rain pouring down. I snapped this picture through the window.

It was the day after the horrific shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.  I was reading Wonderstruck:  Awaken to the Nearness of God, and my husband pointed out the rainbow.  I said to him, “God always keeps His promises.”

I knew as if God had taken a seat beside me and pointed to the sky, awakening me to His nearness:  The rainbow was my picture for 2013.   A symbol of hope and God’s covenant to His people.

Hope and promises.  My posts in 2013 will be packed with “hope” and emphasize the importance of promises, covenants.

Why?  Because I’ve finally come to fully believe that  my hope is not earthly, but eternal.  My hope comes from and is in heaven, not in “life getting better” or “being part of this or that.”

Jesus = My Hope.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

I had my picture for 2013:  a rainbow

I had my words for 2013: hope, wonder, covenant

Now what? The hard part…

What’s God calling me to?  As I wrote recently, I am not “resolving” to do better this year by pulling up my bootstraps and fixing myself and the world.  Instead, I am “planning” to live intentionally, letting God lead and discovering what He has for me through His word, prayer, and Godly friends and leaders.

He’s called me to focus on Him, marriage/family, and health.

 

Focusing on God

Devotional:  I’ve chosen The One Year Book of Hope by Nancy Guthrie as my devotional for 2013.  Through a year’s worth of thoughtful entries, the reader will learn how much God longs to lift us up, carry us through in times of difficulty and uncertainty, and give us true, lasting joy. Each daily step draws you closer to a God who truly cares and the hopeful life he wants you to enjoy.

Bible Study: My friend and I are studying the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew.  I am committed to continue meeting with her, going deeper in His word.  I encourage you to find a group of ladies – or a friend – with whom you can study and discuss God’s word.  This keeps you accountable as well.

Prayer:   I plan to write more and more of my prayers, and focus on praying Scripture.

Scripture Memory:  I’ve always neglected scripture memory, but scripture has sustained me often.  I need to hide more of it in my heart. I joined Beth Moore’s Siesta Scripture Memory Team a few years ago and failed epically.  But, I am committing again.  I plan to memorize two verses about hope each month and add verses relevant to my season of life.  You can view my “hope” list here.

NOTE:  I didn’t order the “spiral” from Beth Moore; I purchased a journal from Target for my verses.

Smashbook:  In her book Wonderstruck, Margaret Feinberg encourages us to awaken to the nearness of God.   He’s there everyday.  Do we notice?  Are we wonderstruck by his creation, his provision, his nearness, his peace, his help…Him?  I often miss Him.  I am so busy that I don’t stop and notice. So, I am keeping a Smashbook of Wonder and Hope.  I plan to record the instances of wonder and hope I see throughout my day.

 

Focusing on Family/ Marriage

Family Worship and Prayer: Each evening my family reads  Long Story Short:  10-Minute Devotional to Draw Your Family to God.  It’s a study showing Jesus in the Old Testament.  We pray together at the conclusion of the study, keeping a list of prayers so we can see how God’s working.  My kiddos are at church about three hours per week.  While I love and am thankful for the teaching they receive there, their spiritual formation must take place in our home.  So, Steve and I are committed to continuing this family time.

In the mornings, my husband and I read together.  For 2013, we’re using The 52 Greatest Stories in the Bible.  This book connects each story to Jesus – his life, death, and resurrection.  We pray this draws us closer to each other as we draw closer to Him.

Marriage:  Steve and I are not intentional about spending time together without our kiddos.  We squeeze a date in when we can. That’s not healthy.  We must make time to talk and laugh together as a couple.  Twice a month is our goal in 2013.

I am also reading Beyond Ordinary by Justin and Trisha Davis.  Steve and I participate in Mentor Us and read Refine Us – great resources for marriage from the Davis’s.  We are committed to continue strengthening our marriage and sharing our story in hopes of helping other marriages.

Out-Serving:  I recently read a tweet by Jeff Goins.  During his marriage counseling, his pastor gave him and his wife this advice: Out-serve one another.  That’s our goal – to out-serve one another.  I want to serve Steve in such a way that he can’t out-serve me in return.  No, it’s not a competition.  It’s a way to honor God and one another.

 

Focusing on Health

I’ve written about my weight here, here, and here.  In 2011, I completed my first half-marathon.  In 2012, I held steady, gaining some weight but still exercising.

Recently, something’s changed in my struggle with weight.  While I’ve always viewed my weight as a spiritual issue, the deeper I dig into God’s word, the more I know it’s spiritual for me.  I can’t post all I’ve learned here. But, I’ll be writing much in the new year about the connection I’ve discovered between my eating, my emotions, and my connection to God.

I plan to pray through my weight loss, but know it’s wise to make a plan.  So, Steve and I have agreed on this plan…

I’ll be recording my food intake on My Fitness Pal and Steve on Lose It!. I’ll be rereading Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desires with God, Not Food by Lysa TerKeurst and following Clare at Peak313 for health and exercise advice.  Steve will be researching slow-carb plans and focusing on weight lifting.  I’ll share with him what God’s teaching me about health and fitness while he shares his knowledge of weight lifting, body chemistry, etc.

Steve and I have researched The Daniel Plan, Wheat Belly, and the slow-carb approaches.  We lean toward low-carb because Steve is a Type-I diabetic.  We’ve decided to focus on the spiritual side of weight loss, count calories, exercise, and apply the information we’ve learned from researching the above plans.

We’ve also registered for the UC Half –Marathon in Charleston, West Virginia on April 28, 2013.  We are following Jeff Galloway’s training plan to prepare.

On the days we simply can’t go outside, we’re setting up an elliptical and weight bench in our garage along with a heater;)  We also have a variety of workout DVDs from the Biggest Loser and Jillian Michaels.

For each pound we lose, we will donate a pound of food to the Latrobe Street Mission.  If you have weight loss goals in 2013, we hope you’ll join us in Pound for Pound, donating to a charity of your choice.

I am truly looking forward to 2013.  Steve and I will celebrate 15 years of marriage; Hannah will become a teenager; I’ve joined More to Be and will be posting there regularly along with guest posting at a variety of sites; my first book (coauthored) will be completed in May; I’ll begin my second book in the spring; I’ll be writing weekly for Women of Purpose; and a return to Honduras and my first trip to Africa may be in the future.

And, God will show up. I know He will.   A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

I can’t wait to see what He has as I crave Him, living beyond ordinary and wonderstruck…making much of Him 365.

Happy New Year, friends!

2013 Hope – Focusing on God, Marriage, and Health (Pinterest Board)

Psalm 71: 14 But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.

While You Wait…There’s Hope

This morning I finished planning for 2013.

Yes, I make resolutions.  I know the statistics:  Most resolutions will be broken before noon on January 1.  I am included in that stat.

But, this year feels more like planning and less like resolving.  The difference?

I am wisely planning, but nothing is nonnegotiable or in concrete.  I am planning based on God’s direction, not resolving based on the latest self-help book at Barnes and Noble. This isn’t about my “resolve” to do better; this is about God’s plan to know Him better.

I know plans can change in a second – one phone call, one text message.  That’s happened to me in January twice – 2008 and 2012.  One call, one message.

Life changed forever.

I am aware, but moving forward.  So, as I planned…

I opened a blog post by Mary DeMuth titled Maybe it’s that we thrive in the middle.  (It’s a must read, and God used it to change my perspective.)

Do you feel like you’re in the middle?  Christmas is over, but the new year isn’t here.  You have a cancer diagnosis, but the treatment hasn’t begun.  You’re in marriage counseling, but it feels like an uphill battle.  God’s calling you to a new place or profession, but you’re not sure where, when, or how.   You’ve lost a loved one, the healing has begun, but you still feel broken.

Life just isn’t what you thought it would be.

Mary asked in her post, What if we weren’t to put our energies in visualizing a better ending? What if we learned the joy and art of thriving right now, where the answers sit unresolved, and the tension continues on? What would it look like for us to embrace now for what it is–a messy, confusing place–and still find joy?

The tension continues on.  The answers sit unresolved.

The middle.  You see yourself as “stuck” in this place, waiting on what you know CAN be – hopefully, prayerfully WILL be.  But, it’s not yet.

The worst part?  You don’t whenwhen you’ll feel “better”…when you’ll be “healed”…or when your brokenness will be wholeness again.  Worse than that?  You don’t know if.  What if you’ll never be better, healed, or whole again?

What then?

I’ve asked these questions much over the past few years…ifwhen.  They’re important questions to ask.  We need to pray, seek Godly counsel, and allow God to work in and through us for healing and progress.  That’s wise.

But…

“What then?” doesn’t really matter.

We don’t have to wait for better, healing, or wholeness.

We don’t have to wait for joy.

God wants joy for us now – in the middle.  He wants to use us for His glory NOW.  Today.  In 2013.  Throughout our lives.

His Word says…

He’s working all things together for good for those who love Him even when we are weak – even when we don’t know how to pray.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirithimself intercedes for usthrough wordless groans.27 And he who searches our heartsknows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedesfor God’s people in accordance with the will of God.28 And we know that in all things God works for the goodof those who love him, who have been calledaccording to his purpose. Romans 8: 26 – 28

To be joyful regardless of circumstances, giving thanks in (not for) all circumstances.

16 Rejoice always ,17 pray continually,18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

He’s overcome the world.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace, in this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16: 33

So, this is where you are.  God knows you’re here.  He loves you.  I can’t promise it will be better in 2013, but let’s pray and lean into Him together.

There’s hope.

He’s sovereign over us. 

As for my 2013 plans?  They’re coming in the next few days.  They need a little more prayer;)

Are You Looking for Wonder?

Wonder.

A cause of astonishment or admiration; miracle; the quality of exciting amazed admiration.

Christmas has always filled me with wonder.

As a tot, I was in awe of Santa’s magical entry in our house.

As a tween, I was amazed at a child being born of a virgin so he could die for humanity’s sin.

As a young mom, my heart filled with wonder as the morning unveiled gifts to my kiddos.  With each one they opened, wonder.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had an abundance of wonder-filled moments.  And, I “wonder” – is it because I am looking for it?  I’ve never been wonderstruck so much in my life.  Have I been missing God’s wonder amidst the craziness of life?

Margaret Feinberg recently sent me a preview copy of her book Wonderstruck:  Awaken to the Nearness of God, releasing on December 26.  I’ve only read the preview copy, not the entire book, and I usually wouldn’t recommend a book I’ve not read.

But, her book turned me to God’s word to look for wonder…and suddenly, I am seeing it all around me.

Wonder…at my son as he chose a Christmas present for me.  His 10-year-old heart asking questions, trying diligently to choose the perfect gift.  He gave me a bracelet with John 3:16 inscribed on it.

Wonder…at the lady ringing the bell for the Salvation Army in front of a nearby Wal-Mart, yelling Merry Christmas and smiling at each passer by.

Wonder…as I watched a group of boys from ages 5-10 play together at a local homeless shelter – some homeless, some who live in large homes.

Wonder…at God’s work in the lives of my good friends who are in ministry.  They have endured much for His namesake, and now He’s provided an amazing ministry opportunity hundreds of miles away.

Wonder…at my daughter as she practiced her dance for our church’s Christmas Eve service.  What a gift she has to praise God through movement.

Wonder…at a friend who can’t trust others, but is fighting to grow closer to God and trust again.

Wonder…at a rainbow I saw the day after the tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, reminding me of God’s promises.

Wonder…at a friendship God formed across hundreds of miles and the timing of this sweet sister’s gift to me.

Wonder… at a husband who leads his family in a nightly devotional, prays over meals, studies God’s word with me, and daily turns His life over to His Savior.

Wonder…at a child born in a manger.  The Savior of the world.

Wonder…at a man who, before He knew me, died a torturous death on a cross for my sin.  Not His sin – mine.

Wonder…at the promise that someday I’ll get to meet this man who died for me.

AS soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.  Mark 9:15

Margaret writes, “Scripture suggests we are meant to live in wild awe and amazement of Jesus Christ.  From the announcement of Christ’s arrival, His miracle-studded birth, and throughout His powerful life, ministry, death, and resurrection, we find those who encounter Christ taken aback with a deep sense of wonder.”

As we celebrate His birth, are you filled with wonder?  Taken aback at all He’s done for you and in you?

Are you looking for wonder?  Is your heart open to being wonderstruck?

Wonderstruck:  “the insistent invitation of the Spirit is to stay alert! Eyes wide open. Hands pressed against the glass. We never know when or how God…will appear. But we can live each day trusting that the God who met us in the past will once again greet us with arms wide open in the future. God extends endless invitations to encounter him, yet too often we sleep straight through. Unconscious of the life God wants for us, we slumber in the presence of the sacred and snore in the company of the divine. We remain asleep while God roosts in our midst. Inactive and inert, we become spiritual sleepyheads who clamor for the snooze button rather than climb out of bed. In our dormant states, we miss the opportunities to experience his many gifts and to know the Giver more fully.”

The wonder of God is that moment of spiritual awakening that makes us curious to know God more.

I pray you are alert to wonder, beginning today.  Don’t miss the opportunities to experience his many gifts and to know Him more fully.  You never know when or how He will appear.

Merry Christmas, friends!  May you be filled with wonder today and always.

Christmas Cards and Mourning ~ The Difference a Year Makes

As I prepared my Christmas cards yesterday, I looked back on 2012 with mixed emotions.  My smiling family on the card warmed my heart.  A few addresses on my yearly mailing labels broke my heart.

I am thankful to God for the new people on my Christmas card list.  Just last year, I didn’t know some of the amazing people God’s introduced to me this year.  Some of these individuals are so integral to my life now, I can’t imagine them missing from the list.

I am also filled with sadness for those I reluctantly deleted from the list.  People with whom we are no longer friends; people I’d never have thought in 2011 would not be on the list in 2012.

I took a moment to pray, asking God why.  While I know why, I thought it was worth another ask.  Why are some relationships fractured beyond (my definition of) repair?  God answered clearly in my heart…

SIN.

My sin.  Their sin.  Others sin.

We live a broken world; people are broken; we sin against God and one another.

We are all in need of Savior and His redeeming love.

I’ve been studying the Sermon on the Mount and have been impacted greatly by the beatitudes.  I’ve heard sermons about the beatitudes and read them many times, but recently God’s opened my eyes in a new way.

In verses 3-6 of Matthew 5, Jesus teaches us about our relationship with God.  In verses 7-10, he teaches us about relationships with one another.  Vertical relationship, then horizontal relationships.  Him first, others second.

While I could write much about what He’s teaching me – and may someday – one verse causes me to pause often.

It caused me to pause this morning as I considered my Christmas card list.

Verse 4:  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Read in context, this verse is not talking about those who mourn the death of loved ones. (God is close to the brokenhearted – those who have lost loved ones for sure).  Jesus is talking about mourning our sin.  Sin is so terrible, so heinous that we should mourn it – just as we mourn the loss of someone or something we love dearly.  Jesus promises his followers they will be comforted when they mourn their sin.

Mourn:  Feel or show deep sorrow or regret for.

Do I mourn my sin?  Do I feel deep sorrow or regret for the sins I commit against my Creator and those He’s made in His image?  If I do, how do I express that mourning? Through words of apology to God or others?  Do I repent, saying I am sorry, asking for forgiveness, and turning completely to go in another direction?

I pray so…

As 2012 comes to a close and we look forward to 2013, I pray you reflect on the not-so-great moments of the year.  I know.  It sucks. It’s so much more popular and easier to reflect on all the wonderful moments – and I hope you do that too!

But, 2012 is a year I would never want to repeat. And out of the suffering and bumps of the year, God’s taught me to mourn sin.  Truly mourn it in a gut-wrenching, on my knees, sobbing manner.  No longer can I ask for forgiveness from God and others and move on, using and abusing the amazing grace He offers freely.

No, I want to be more intentional in 2013 about seeing sin for what it is – horrific, heinous evil– no matter how “small” or “big” culture deems the sin to be.  (Sin is sin anyway.)

There’s no guarantee that I won’t be posting this time next year, describing more loss and broken relationships.  Following Jesus is not a guarantee against suffering.  In fact, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll face difficulty.

But, I rest in Him and His promise of comfort in Matthew 5. He will comfort me when I mourn my sin and the sins of others.

I pray you do, too, for when we repent, mourn our sin,  and seek Him more, He is glorified.

To Him be the glory.

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Merry Christmas!

 

The Gift of Friendship {Giving~Day 5 of 12}

A few weeks ago I read this post by Mary DeMuth:  Start Your Own Friendship Brunch!  I loved the idea but hesitated.  I am no cook.  When I invite people over, I make tacos or buy food.

The oddest thing though…I felt God pressing on me to have a brunch.  I have some amazing friends who have walked with me through much.  I’d been wanting to say thank you, but everyone seemed too busy.

Still, I picked a day and sent the invitations.  Some of my friends had to work, some had Christmas parties for their kiddos, and one had strep throat.  But, those who were able to come touched my heart deeply.

Because the ladies I invited are from different “areas” of my life, some of them didn’t know one another.  It was sweet to see all of them connect, as they are each so special to me.

We chatted over brunch foods – all purchased at Sam’s Club or Tim Horton’s cause I am not a cook, remember?.;) It was nice to fellowship with women who are all after God’s heart. Women who love Him…such a sweet environment.

Then, I gave each of them two things:  A book called Impact My Life and a letter telling her how she’s impacted my life.

                  

It’s so important that women share with one another how each of you is impacting the other.  We don’t stop often enough to say thank you – for your time, for your words, for your smile, for your friendship.

That’s what I wanted this brunch to be:  a moment in time when I stopped to say you’ve impacted me and I thank you.

So, I “themed” the brunch after Elisa Pulliam’s book Impact My Life.

I love this book because it finally helped me to understand that God can use anyone- even in the brokenness:  Impact My Life will enable you to see yourself being used by the Lord, right here, right now, for the benefit of those people perfectly placed in your corner of the world…Our qualifications come from the Lord…it’s a willing spirit that matters, not life experience, a gifted personality, or a seemingly perfect life.  Expertise and degree qualifications do not matter to hurting hearts, lost souls or women hungry for love wrapped in truth.

I was placed in the corner of each of these ladies’ worlds.  And they were placed in mine.  They’ve taught me much, and I pray I’ve returned the favor in some small way.

These words from Impact My Life describe my friends well:  When a woman arises each morning, established in her identity as a daughter of the King, with a fresh desire to live for God’s glory, she is inspiring to the next generation.

These ladies are inspiring to me – and my daughter.  Friends like that are a true gift from Him.

To remember each of them and her relationship to Him this Christmas, I asked my friends to write on a Christmas ornament their names and their favorite characteristics of God.  I will cherish these always.

During this season of giving, I pray you recognize friendship as a gift from above – a gift you can give and receive freely.  As the new year approaches, I also pray you read Impact My Life and ask God how you can live a life of impact – impacting others for His Kingdom.

Praying for Newtown

Where were you when _____?

I hear this question asked frequently about events such as 9/11.

Sadly, we can now all answer:  Where were you when you heard about the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut?

I was in the car with my family, driving to visit my mom.  My husband received a text alert from USA Today at about 10 am:  School shooting in Connecticut.  I asked him, “Any more details?”  He said, “No.”  I continued reading my book and my kiddos went back to their game.

Then, around noon, NBC News suspended programming for a live report.

For the remainder of Friday and much of Saturday, my family missed very little of  the live coverage.  Although we discussed it as we watched, in hindsight, I should have shielded my children more than I did.  Because my children know so many details, I’ve decided I simply can’t let it drop.  I can’t ignore it and go about life as usual.  For me, that communicates to my kiddos that it was a news event on Friday and Saturday, but today it’s passed.

It’s not passed. It will never “pass” for those families, that community, or our nation.  It will always be current in hearts.

But…

What can we do?  How can we help ?

We can pray.

We will pray for each victim’s family by name, reminding ourselves as we pray that these aren’t statistics scrolling at the bottom of a news report, but real people.  Unspeakable tragedy has touched each family’s life, and we intercede in prayer on their behalf. (The Washington Post’s Remembering the Victims includes each victim’s name, picture, and biography.)

I also plan to share Romans 12: 17-21 with my kiddos during devotion time tonight.  Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”   That’s the message I want to write on my children’s hearts.

I want my kiddos to know it’s ok to discuss our broken world openly; it’s ok to question our faith; it’s ok to cry. We want our children to actively engage our world in His name and for His fame.

Pray for Newtown, our nation, and our world.  Prayer is a gift to us from God. A gift we can give others.

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As I have followed the news coverage and reactions on Twitter, I’ve read many articles that have caused me to reconsider my perspective, touched my heart, or helped me to understand better.  Here’s a few of my favorites…

Newtown As I Know It by Jamie (This is written by a Newtown resident.)

This tragedy hits close, shockingly close, to our home. Within walking distance families currently nurse a private grief that I find unimaginable. What disturbs me, though, is that most of you are hearing about Newtown for the first time. Please know that there is another side than the sheer horror of what you’ve seen.

Three Minutes by Reggie Joiner

It only took about three minutes to traumatize a community and shock a nation. But as the whole story of what happened in those three minutes has been revealed, it’s obvious that evil was not the only force at work.

Three Ways Christians Should Respond to the Horror of a Broken World by Ed Stetzer

The brokenness of the world is on full display this day. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. All the silly “positive thinking religion” collapses on days like this. This world is broken and only God has the ultimate fix.

The Gospel and Newtown by David Platt

I’ve found myself asking, “How do we respond to the story of a 20-year-old young man walking into an elementary school and in a matter of moments murdering 28 people, including 20 children? How do we react to such unexplainable horror amidst such indescribable grief?”  Inevitably, many people turn to God.

Tragic Events in the News by Fred Rogers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.

No Words (A Response to the Connecticut  School Shooting) by Jeff Goins

I believe language has power and impact, that it can be a salve to our wounds. But not today. Today, I have no words.  If I did, they might be “awful” or “unimaginable” — even “appalling.” But none of those seems to capture the intensity, the pain, of what has transpired today. None seems appropriate.  So today I am reminded that sometimes no words are in order.

5 Ways You Can Help Sandy Hook Shooting Victims via Mashable

Here are five online campaigns you can contribute toward right away. 

Are You Too Busy? The Gift of Time {Giving~Day 3 of 12}

Tis the season to be busy.

Christmas shopping, working, cleaning, preparing for get-togethers, cookie-baking, concerts, school plays, wrapping, church activities…and on.

How’s your calendar look?  Overloaded?

How do you feel right now?  Overloaded?

Me too.

I completely stink at time management.  I get immersed in reading, writing, cleaning, or spending time with my family, and all else fades.  When I jump in to something, I am ALL in.

I can’t do anything halfway.  Multi-tasking is not my thing.

So, as the holidays approached, I promised myself I would not stress; I would not get in over my head.  I would calmly and prayerfully approach this season.  I would enjoy, not stress.

Last night I was on my computer.  (I’d taken Tuesday off from email and my blog and was definitely feeling “behind.”)  My husband, Steve, was gathering us for our family Bible study; I kept saying…just a minute.  Hold on.

Woah.  Is there anything more important than reading God’s Word with my kiddos?  Than praying with my family?   No.  Oh my word.  I needed smacked!

God kept me up for awhile after our family Bible study. I chatted with a friend about my inability to say no and manage time well, especially when the to-do list is longer because of the holidays.

I pulled out my Jesus Calling book and journal, asking God to write on that paper whatever he needed me to know.  Song lyrics began coursing through my mind and on to the paper…

Hallelujah, we’ve been found

A child is born to save us now

Hallelujah, light has come

A Savior who will set us free

A promise for those who believe

Barlow Girl, Light Has Come

I’ve been found.  A child was born to save me.  He’s the light of the world and calls me to shine His light in the world (Matthew 5).

I am His.  I don’t have to please everyone this season (or ever).  I can’t be in 30 places at once, doing 30 different things.  I can’t say yes to every get together.  I can’t meet every need.

But, He can.  He will.  Sometimes I simply forget He doesn’t need me.  (He want me though:)

I am called to be His hands and feet (Mark 16), but not in all places all at once.  In fact, that way of thinking is prideful and arrogant.  Again, He doesn’t need me.

Light Has Come served as a reminder that he’s the light, shining through me.  He can’t shine through me if I am in a crazed state, running from place to place.

I know this.  I have known this.  But, I am thankful God sat me down and reminded me last night.  That reminder made today peaceful.

Sitting with my kiddos.  Cooking for some sweet people.  Coloring Christmas pictures with two great friends and those staying at a local homeless shelter.

Just yesterday, I would’ve viewed two hours of coloring as something for which I did not have time.

Today?  It was joyful.  Sweet.  Heart-warming.  A privilege.  To sit with others, talking, laughing, and coloring. Just being.

I pray you’re making time to color this season.  One of the greatest gifts you can give is the gift of time.

Until We All Come Home {Giving~Day 2 of 12}

“Imagine you’re visiting a place where there’s little to no English spoken and you wake up one day to find that the group you went with has all gone home and you are left there alone.  You are stranded in a culture where you can’t trust many, you don’t fully understand the language, and you can’t read the signs…Then add to that a constant fear you’re being watched, followed, and that at any moment you might be arrested.”

This is the story of Kim de Blecourt.  Because of secondary infertility, Kim and her husband, Jahn, decided to adopt in September 2007.  Kim had visited Ukraine on mission trips and felt pulled to adopt from there.  She’d never forgotten the orphaned children in the streets of Odessa asking her for money.

Kim and Jahn began the arduous adoption process of paperwork and interviews.  In May 2008, just as the de Blecourts were approved, the Ukrainian government stopped international adoption, encouraging women to keep their children and giving financial incentives to Ukrainian couples willing to adopt.

A year later, Ukraine reopened adoption.  And so began their journey.   Kim, Jahn, their daughter, Jacey, and Jahn’s dad, Jacob landed in Kiev in May 2009 to choose a child.  A son.

The next 11 months would be filled with ups, downs, joys, suffering, blessings, hardships, injustices, and more.  Kim and Jahn chose a little boy named Sasha, whom they now call Jake.  But, after eight weeks of struggle and government red tape, they still had no court date for the adoption.  Jahn and their daughter, Jacey, had to go home.  With bills piling up, Jahn needed to return to work and Jacey to school.

Kim remained that July.  She wouldn’t return to American soil until April of 2010.  Nine months alone, navigating a corrupt system, hiding from authorities, and keeping her faith in a God she knew was bigger than the Ukrainian government.

The odds weren’t in her favor.  Kim versus the Ukrainian government?  Seemingly impossible.  But, Kim remained obedient to God, staying in the Ukraine and seeing Jake’s adoption through in the face of insurmountable odds and great fear.

At one point Kim cried out to God, Lord, why do I tend to blame others and myself for what is clearly Satan?  Help me to trust in you more, rely on you fully, and truly believe that through you all things are possible.  Where I am weak, may your strength show through.  When I am crumbling, may you embolden me.  When I simply want to go home, help me to stay where you would have me.

This prayer resonated with me.  That’s a prayer we can all pray…Lord, help me not to blame others when these issues are clearly of Satan and our fallen world.  Help me trust you, rely on you, and believe that through you all things are possible.  Where I am weak, you’re strong.  If I am crumbling under the weight of this life, embolden me.  Help to stay where you would have me – or help me to go where you need me.

I can’t begin to detail the horrific events of Kim’s time in the Ukraine as she fought for her son against an unjust system.  I can’t begin to share her faith to God’s call on her life, the miraculous ways in which God showed up, or their treacherous journey home.

You can read Kim’s detailed chronicle of Jake’s adoption in her new book Until We All Come Home.  It’s truly a remarkable story of love…a parents’ love and God’s love.  The book demonstrates Kim’s faith – anchored in God and his character.

I chose to share Kim’s story and encourage you to purchase her book during 12 Days of Giving because the book will build your faith, increase your awareness of the plight of orphans, and help feed an orphan as Kim is donating all profits to Food for Orphans.

As Christ followers, we are called to love and take care of orphans:  Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27

According to Food for Orphans, there are

  • 160 million orphans worldwide
  • 44,000 new orphans everyday
  • Every 90 seconds another orphan starves to death
  • Sixty million orphans go to bed hungry every night
  • Every two seconds another child becomes an orphan
  • It only cost 25 cents to feed an orphan

Friends, God calls us to love each of these 160 million orphans.  He call us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31). That’s everyone.  Love and care for everyone.

How might your Christmas look different in response to His call?

As you stop and reflect on how you can give differently this season  please consider donating time or money to a local homeless shelter, adopting, or supporting orphans.

Let’s show His love this season.

 

You can win a copy of Until We All Come Home by commenting on this post.  Please share with us a way you’re striving to give differently this Christmas.  You can also enter by subscribing to the blog.

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From Kim on ending the orphan crisis and how you can help:  Placing orphans in a loving, nurturing family is the best solution. But when that is not an option, we need to create a simulated family situation around the orphan – create a surrogate family unit that functions as family for the lifetime of the orphan, not simply while they’re a minor. If the government and non-profit sectors can link arms with the profit sector we can fight for the future of the world’s children. We can end orphanism in every nation.

We have all felt a tug at our heart for an orphan at one time or another. Whether it be a child sponsorship program on television or a news article about hundreds of children found living in squalor, we’ve all said to ourselves, “Something needs to be done.” The next time you feel that tug, I’m simply asking you to take the next step. Visit the website. Call the number. Seek out more information.  Take one step. That’s the big one, and it’s the one that leads to the second, and the third. You can help end orphanism.

Connecting with Kim: Until We All Come Home , Twitter, Facebook, Kim’s blog Nourished Hearts

Owen’s Gift to the Mission {Giving~Day 1 of 12}

I was writing today’s post when Owen asked me if he could give me an early birthday gift.

He hands me this card:

It reads…

Dear Mom, I hope you have a great birthday (and Christmas).  Love, Owen

I hope you can use this to do something for Latrobe Street Mission (with an arrow pointing to three, five-dollar bills…Owen’s birthday money).

There is no better gift anyone could have given me.

Rewind…

For the past few weeks, my family has been helping prepare the Latrobe Street Mission for its opening on December 3.  The Mission is a homeless shelter in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The program is designed as a hand up instead of a hand out.  For now, residents get breakfast, dinner, and a place to sleep.  But, transition, counseling, and education programs are coming.

While serving as a family has been great for us, we want our kiddos to understand why we serve at Latrobe, why we serve our friends and family, why we serve anywhere or anyone:

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of thesemy brothers,you did it to me.’”   Matthew 25: 35-40

We serve because it’s for Him.  It’s out of a great love for and thankfulness to our Creator that we volunteer at Latrobe or in our church or serve one another in our home or neighborhood.  What we “do to” the “least of these,”  we do to Jesus.  As we do to another person – any person – we do to Jesus as we’re all the “least of these.” All in need of a Savior, His love, and His provision.

I can’t express what it means to me that Owen chose to “designate” my birthday money to Latrobe.  He knows my heart…he understands what Steve and I are trying to emphasize this holiday season:  Jesus and giving.

I bet I’ll get more gifts on my birthday.  And, I’ll get more at Christmas.  But, there’s no greater gift than Owen gave me this evening.

Owen is beginning to understand Matthew 25 deep in his young heart.

If you’d like to help Latrobe too, here’s how:

  1. Donate breakfast food.  If you live locally, the Vienna, Parkersburg, and Ripley Walmarts are accepting breakfast food donations in the food entrances.  Pop-tarts, breakfast bars, pancake/muffin mixes, syrup, granola bars, canned fruit, oatmeal, and other non-perishable items are welcome.
  2. Give $12 a month (or more).  It costs the Mission $11.85 to feed and house one person for one day, so $12 covers that.  Our family has decided to pledge this as part of our Christmas budget.  We are each giving up a $36 gift this Christmas to cover 12 months.
  3. Volunteer.  Again, if you’re local, the Mission needs volunteers who are willing to cook meals, work the thrift store, wash clothes/bedding, make beds, and more. If you’re interesting in helping, call the Mission at 304.893.9460 or email.
  4. Visit the website. It’s still under construction and may be “down” in the coming days, but the “Donate” button works.  Any amount is appreciated.

You can also “Like” the Facebook page to keep up-to-date.

How will you give this Christmas?  Please consider giving to those in need.

God-Breathed Stories: 30 Women Share from the Heart

When I embarked on 30 Days of Story, I honestly thought…I will get to read amazing stories, my readers will get a break from my world and get to read inspiring stories, and God will be glorified as we all witness his faithfulness in new, tangible ways.

That much was true.

I also thought I’d copy and paste stories into my blog and that’d be it.  After all, I am not really the writer.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Writing became a full-time job in November.  And, I loved every moment.  I was blessed by each conversation, each editing decision, each comment…I really have no words.

The women I met – those who wrote stories and those who commented – have taught me much.  I am so thankful God chose for our lives to intersect.  I have made new friends, found a mentor, and begun a book.

And, while all that’s great, I am most in awe of God’s work through the stories.  Because these women were faithful in sharing their stories, He was glorified.

And glorified.

Even this morning as I sat at the dentist, the sweet gal “buffing” my filling thanked me for the stories  – who knew she read?  Not me.

But, God knew.  He used the stories to make himself famous and connect those who most needed one another.  Wow.

As I closed the series, I was continually asked one question:  Where’s your story, Sarah?

I fully intended to share my story on December 1, and many knew that.  Those who know my story thought it was time and supported the decision. However, as that day neared, God interrupted that intention in a few ways…

One…through Twitter, I won a story coaching session with Elora Ramirez. Elora and I have a Skype date this Friday.  I feel it’s wise to have this session before sharing.

Two…some work has to be done before I share.  It’s not finished.  So, God whispered wait.

Three…it’s hard to write your own story.  Harder than I thought.  As I prayed with and over the gals sharing during 30 Days, I began to fully comprehend the weight of putting your life on display for all to see.  But, as my friend, Elisa, wrote “our stories are not written on paper nor stone but inscribed on our hearts. And they are meant to be shared with others as a way of teaching about who God is and who we are in Christ.”

I want Christ to be glorified through my life.  That’s my reason for being…that He may be glorified.  So, until God’s worked on my heart, and I can pen my story in a way that clearly demonstrates who God is and who we are to be in Christ, it’s not ready to be published.  For now, my story still smacks a bit of me, my hurt, and my anger.  I can read it in my “voice.”

So, I wait.  I pray.

I also encourage you to write your story.  Not for a blog, but for Him.  If you have trouble getting started, I recommend this post and activity from Elora:  The Life Inventory.

I had to complete this inventory before my story coaching session, and it’s been fun, gut-wrenching, and revealing.

Story.  God has written mine and yours.  Whether you like the story He’s chosen for you or not, please use it as a witness to others.  Show others how He works in and through suffering, sin, and setbacks.  Tell the story, then share the gospel – the greatest story every told.  I promise you’ll see lives changed.  He redeems  – just read these stories…

Marla Taviano ~ There’s No Happy Ending {Story 1 of 30}

Laura Waits ~ Trading in the American Dream {Story 2 of 30}

Andrea McNeely ~ A Tremendous Grace {Story 3 of 30}

Keri Verwolf ~ Called to Honduras {Story 4 of 30}

Ali Hooper ~ A Wretch Like Me {Story 5 of 30}

Leigh Anne Hudson ~ Too Far Gone? {Story 6 of 30}

Teresa Henry ~ Forgiven and Free {Story 7 of 30}

Marilyn Yocum ~ I Don’t Want This to Be My Story {8 of 30}

Ruth Chowdhury ~ Fighting Anxiety {Story 9 of 30}

Lisa Copenhaver ~ Free Indeed {Story 10 of 30}

Krysten Case ~ Redefining Our Good {Story 11 of 30}

Jennifer Ireland ~ ‘Season’ of Redemption {Story 12 of 30}

Kathleen Krueger ~ When God is Silent {Story 13 of 30}

Amber Berry ~ Sharing the Load {Story 14 of 30}

Marissa Henley ~ The Real Story {Story 15 of 30}

Renee Fisher ~ I Survived My 20’s {Story 16 of 30}

Maria Keckler ~ I Lost My Job, Where is God? {Story 17 of 30}

Heather Ward ~ A Heart for God {Story 18 of 30}

Elisa Pulliam ~ Pain into Purpose {Story 19 of 30}

Jennifer Rollins ~ Tragedy to Triumph {Story 20 of 30}

Rochelle Ruiz ~ The Christmas Miracle {Story 21 of 30}

Robin Anderson ~ Giving Thanks for His Plan, Not Mine {Story 22 of 30}

Brooke Fradd ~ The Little Things {Story 23 of 30}

Valerie Ashcraft ~ The Pain of Infertility {Story 24 of 30}

Tiffany Board ~ I Go for Him, I Go for Them {Story 25 of 30}

Aidan Rogers ~ Not Enough {Story 26 of 30}

Morgan McKeown ~ SEEing Others {Story 27 of 30}

Pilar Arsenec ~ The Struggling Christian {Story 28 of 30}

Sundi Jo Graham ~ Addicted to Food {Story 29 of 30}

Tricia Goyer ~ His Bigger, Greater Plan {Story 30 of 30}

Deepest, heartfelt thanks to each of the ladies who shared in November.  I can’t thank you enough.  Your love of and faithfulness to your Creator is evident and inspiring.