Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Sanctuary Found

It's a cool Missouri evening. This is unusual for us in July, so I want to take full advantage. With my bucket hat upon my head, I grab my pen and paper and pop a seat on the front steps of our deck. 

I'm taking in everything around me. What is it that You, want me to see, Lord? I spy four bunnies feasting on greens in our garden. A mixture of multi-colored cows graze in the pasture across from us. I hear a tractor near by cutting hay for the winter feed. 

Our trees are alive with a variety of birds. I know of two nests. One in back under our deck. This momma bird is a smart one to place her nest so perfectly protective. Five baby birds feed throughout the day as momma and daddy take turns. I expect to see an empty nest any day now as they are getting bigger than the nest. This is the second nest of babes for this momma and daddy. Maybe a third will grace our summer. 

Another is in the front, perched under the leaves so tenderly in our Red-bud tree. A tiny baby wren waits as momma and daddy take turns going from nest to flight catching insects in midair. 

A light rain just passed over. I can still smell it's arrival of freshness. Everything seems to take a big drink, including me. I close my eyes and take it all in. Such peace after a shower. Cicadas are awakening for the evening choir meeting. I can hear a hummingbird visiting our Mimosa tree. 

As the breeze blows my hair I know that this is my sanctuary. Not just the place. Yes, Lord, I hear You.  It's more than that. It's the beauty that captures my senses and takes me straight to God, our Creator of all beauty. A moment of thanksgiving serenity. 

Frogs are singing in the sweetness of the evening. Robins are tugging at worms. I look up as I hear a plane go overhead. I find myself pondering where the people on-board are headed. Are they flying away from sadness to find a place of peace or could they be flying home to unexpected news? Maybe it's a vacation destination away from the hustle and bustle of life. 

The tractor slows to a crawl. Will the farmer go home to a happy evening or will he sit with his wife at the kitchen table covered in unpaid bills? Do you ever wonder about those around us? Just how they spend their evenings? Oh, the peace we all seek. 

As the world around me is topsy turvy, upside down and wrong-side out, this right here is my sanctuary. I feel God testify to me just how real and present He is in my life. He's in everything beauty around me. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but what I know for sure is that the God who created all of this beauty around me is in total control. No matter what, He is here and present, never leaving the daughter He loves. I ponder all He has given me. All to take in and explore how mighty He is. If God can do all this and provide for the smallest of creatures, how much more is He going to do for me?

We can lose sight of that at times. Our sanctuary is invaded, our faith is shaken, and we lose sight of what we know for sure. Satan blankets us with doubt and there goes our sanctuary. Where is your sanctuary? We all need that place we can go to experience the extraordinary of God. 

Life can beat us up so badly that we think there can never be peace found. So much can go wrong in a day. So much hurting around us. Often it's almost too much. I'm learning that peace isn't found in the perfect of the day when all is good and right. No, it's found in the midst of the storm. It's that God-spot that can only be found when trust and belief meet. 

Don't lose hope, my friend. Keep hope alive in your sanctuary. Pretty soon your sanctuary isn't just a place you go to escape. It becomes something you take with you every place you go.

"Don't you yourselves know that you are God's sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?" 
1 Corinthians 3:16

"Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with god through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Romans 5:1

"And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:7

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cowardly Admittance

It will be two years this coming Halloween that we had to say goodbye to our seven year old Dachshund, Daisy. From the moment my husband and son gifted me with this precious pup I was in love. Just didn't know how much a pup could change me, teach me, and bring such joy to my life. 

I've written about Daisy many times. She was not only smarter than most people I know, she was funny contagious. Her personality shined through every antic and her heart shown mighty big through each time she stayed near my side when I wasn't feeling good. I tell you, that pup knew when a migraine was about to hit. 

She loved without fault. She knew no limit of time. When we left the house, no matter for ten minutes or three hours, when we returned it was like we had been gone for months. I still can't think of her without a smile and a tear ready to fall. I never knew it was possible to miss a pup so much. But for those seven years she graced our home we were side by side. Everything thing I did throughout the day she was with me. 

Early this morning I was dreaming and in my dream there she was running through the house ninety miles an hour, spinning as her feet hit the curve of the kitchen, sliding around and then heading off to go at it again. I sat up in bed expecting to see her. But she wasn't to be. It was just a dream, but one that brought sweetness to my heart. 

When Daisy was about three she hurt her back. That first time was serious and extremely painful for her, but she recovered after nearly eight weeks of being still. Try that with a Dachshund LOL. Not an easy feat. That wouldn't be her last back injury. They would come more frequent and as she grew older it would take longer for her to heal. Just as she had always been at my side, I too was next to her, praying, and helping to bring her to healing. But this last time was much too serious. She had never been in such pain. I knew. My husband knew. It was time to say goodbye. 

Years before I had made a promise that I wouldn't just keep Daisy here for my own selfishness. But to say goodbye would break my heart. But I prayed that I would know when that time came that I would know what to do. 

It was Halloween day. I was waiting for my husband to get home so we could go see our grands all decked out in their Superman and Wonder-woman costumes. Daisy had been recovering from her last bout with her back. I knew it was taking longer than usual and felt something was wrong. My husband and son walked through the door and Daisy moved wrong and that was it. She was wretched with pain like never before. I knew I had to call our veterinarian immediately. He couldn't come to us right away and we couldn't move Daisy to drive her to him. So, we waited and it was excruciating. 

My husband, the farmer, who had never been attached to any kind of animal, loved this pup as much as me. He looked at me through tears and said, "Babe, go to your mom's house and I will call you after Gavin has left. You can't be here. It's too much for you." Through tears, "I can't leave Daisy. But how I can I watch her in such pain?" I got down on the floor and snuggled up close to Daisy. I kissed her head and ran my fingers through her fur as gently as I could and shared with her that I loved her. She knew she was loved. Daisy was a pup that seemed to speak with her eyes straight through to the heart.

I went to my mom's house and met my daughters with the grands. My husband knew that with me at Daisy's side was causing her to move even more and it was better if he could be with her quietly and wait for Gavin. I sat at my moms with tears streaming as I shared with my mom that Steve was waiting on Gavin to come. My mom cried with me. I seen my grands and oh, they gave me such a blessing. How could I not be there at home with my husband? What was wrong with me? Was I such a coward that I couldn't be there? Yes, I was. I have carried that with me every day. 

My phone rang. Through tears my husband said, "Rob, you can come home now". I drove in silence. Nothing but tears streaming. How could I walk into our home and not see Daisy meet me at the door? How could I not see that living room curtain move as her poked her little head through to see who was home? 

You know, I think my husband needed that time alone with Daisy. It had always been me with her for weeks and weeks, sleeping next to her on the floor while my hubs was working and unable to be with her. He wrapped his arms around Daisy and as Gavin entered our home. As much pain as Daisy was in she was still excited to see him. 

I came home that evening. I walked into the kitchen and picked up Daisy's favorite blanket and covered my face in it. I noticed only half of it was there. I looked at my husband. He knew my question. This man, this farmer, my husband, looked at me and said, "Babe, it was her favorite. It's what I wrapped her when I buried her". My heart broke for him. He carried Daisy outdoors that evening, wrapped in her blanket and buried her in our yard. How could I have allowed him to do all of that alone? 

Even though almost two years has passed my heart still aches over not being there. I wasn't there for Daisy and I wasn't there to walk through this moment my husband nor I had ever faced before. I feel like such a coward. I can tell you that I have yet to share my heart with my husband. Even as I write these words I feel ashamed that I wasn't here. I know he asked me to go. He knew my heart. He knew this wasn't a situation that was going to just pass. He was protecting me. But in the same time I should have told him, "No, I'm not leaving you. I will sit right here with you and Daisy". 

See, the truth is, I wish I could go back in time to that day. I would have held her a little tighter so she didn't wriggle out of my arms and injure herself more. She was always so excited when her family came home. I would have taken more time and not been in such a rush to leave the house that day. Most of all I would have remained at the side of my husband, the man with a heart that has grown the size of Texas. Saying goodbye to Daisy was one of the most difficult moments in my life. 

But, if I'm honest I have to admit that if I could go back I wouldn't have wanted to be there. What does that say about me? I hope I get to see this little one again one day. I don't know how all that works. Maybe I will see her in heaven. Maybe God has a special place for those pets that have truly brought healing and so much love to our hearts. I do know I still miss her. Still think about her each day I drop food while cooking or see a dryer sheet float to the floor. When you have a pup everything about your day seems to move around them. She certainly left a love print on my heart. 

It's been almost two years and I'm still working these emotions out in my heart. I had been there for Daisy every single time. I never left her. But here, in this moment when she needs me the most, I left her. She wasn't alone. She was with my husband, her buddy. They were such friends. Amazing how this pup changed the heart of my husband and created room for more grace in his heart.

Friendship with a pup is life lasting. No matter how much time we share with our pets they leave an imprint on our heart that changes us. God certainly knew what He was doing when He opened our home to this beautiful Diva. Our lives will be forever blessed. I know without a doubt she would forgive me. She was my friend. My companion for seven years. She was a pup full of life and love. That's exactly what she brought into our lives. We still have her leash wrapped around the front door. I'm not sure how long it will remain there, but for now, it's our way of saying, we will always remember

Five Brides by Eva Marie Everson

I was delighted with Eva Marie Everson's newest release! I'm a huge fan and always expect a blessing, but this novel went far past my expectations. It is thus far my fave of Everson's writings. This girl is definitely carrying her gift with the intent on not only sharing a great story that captures the heart, but sharing the gospel and a faith for the soul. She is extraordinary in giving the reader an opportunity to not only meet the characters, but fall in love with them. I notice it even more so in this selection. She brings the characters penned on black and white to life. She gives enough detail to allow the reader to have the feeling they are present and leaves enough room for the imagination to soar. I'd say for sure that Eve Marie Everson is a true word weaver!

This story is genius. It could be described as similar to girlfriends sharing a pair of jeans, but it's so much more! These girls all come from different backgrounds, come together, and purchase a wedding gown to be used when each of them marry. The last bride will be the keeper of the gown. Love it!! 

Some of the characters are explored a bit more in detail. Could that mean there could be a sequel? I loved each of these girls and love how Eva gave us characters who are not perfect. We see their struggles within the heart, wanting to be loved, valued, and accepted. They come from a decade that captures my heart, but seems far from what Americans view today as love and proper. Oh, if I could go back in time, but wait, Eva gave me that opportunity in this beautifully penned novel. 

It's extraordinary and a fantastic read in which I took my time reading. Oh, I wanted to flip pages as quickly as I could. There was always something with these girls that was ever-changing and left me hoping for them, but I wanted to enjoy every morsel. I knew it would come to end far too soon. This is what makes a exceptionally gifted writer. When she leaves the reader pondering and stirs their heart, she is creating room for the reader to grow and expand their senses into a world most of us can only dream.

If you're searching for a great summer read choose, "Five Brides"!! This novel was enchanting. I wish I could go back in time to this period when all seemed so much different than today's world. Ah, but Eva has given me a bit of that gift through this extraordinary novel!

This novel was a gift from Tyndale for sharing my review with you. 

Eva Marie Everson is a multiple-award-winning author and speaker. She is president of Word Weavers International, director of Florida Christian Writers Conference, and enjoys coaching new authors through her company, Pen in Hand. Eva Marie and her husband are the parents of three fabulous children who have blessed them with the world's greatest grandchildren.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Is Love A Fairy-tale?

I can scroll Facebook and see young women sharing their broken hearts, pages from their story, tears of confusion, and how deeply they want things to change. Is love a fairy-tale? No, it isn't, but our world's perception of love is. We have a perfect description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. This entire chapter tells us what love is and isn't.  As young women we can have a distorted view and many times it isn't until we are older that we truly understand. 

I ache for these young women. I too remember asking myself, "Am I ever going to find someone who truly loves me?" Oh, yes, I was that girl who thought I could change the guy. It'll all get better in time. I'll just stick with it until I know for sure it isn't going to work. By then, my heart was broken into a gazillion pieces. Was it all worth it? I taught my children to ask themselves, "Can I picture spending the rest of my life with this person? Can I envision us marrying and spending our whole lives together?" If you can't envision being married. If this girl or guy isn't the one you would walk down the aisle with then you don't need to waste your time or their time. 

Love isn't just fun stuff. It isn't just dinner dates, roses, gifts, going to parties, and spending each waking moment together finding something fun to do. That stuff is pretty remarkable, but after a while the heart needs more. Love isn't just sex and giving some dude all of yourself until he tires of you and finds someone new and more exciting. Love isn't some guy who wants to change everything about you. He isn't going to ask you to stay away from your family. He isn't going to ask anything of you that will cause you to stumble. No, this guy or girl is suppose to inspire and encourage you to be the best you that you can be. 

Picture this girls; If you were to get sick today would he take care of you? If you were to wake up next week with cancer would he give all? Would he stand by your side with no hair and throwing up day after day after he drove you to receive chemo treatments? Say you can envision being married. Would he help with chores? Would he cook and clean and most of all make a great dad? Would he work hard to provide for the family? Would each of his choices be those that are made for the benefit of his bride and children or would he be more self centered and have to have his time away with the boys? 

See, it's important to envision these circumstances, these times in life that aren't so fun. In time we age, we are no longer a size 4. Our bodies change, our emotions change. And he too will do some changing. His hair will recede and he'll gain a few pounds in the middle. In our economy he may lose his job. He could hurt his back and not be able to work for a while. 

Love isn't losing a part of yourself. It isn't giving up who you are for another. It's gaining more of yourself as you and your love grow together. You bring out the best in each other. You excel together as you dream and laugh together. Love is being so comfortable with one another that you can truly be yourself. 

When we're young we don't often think of all of these things. We just think of right now and the fun we are having. But at some point that first argument will come. You will either learn to communicate and work things out or you will fuss and fight and destroy one another by always trying to win. Marriage isn't keeping score. But it sure isn't fighting every day of your life. That isn't love. Sometimes we are more in love with the idea of love than the guy we are trying to be loved by. 

Love sure isn't name calling, and placing one's hands on another. It's not leaving bruises and apologizing only to leave another. It isn't making excuses for one another. It's when we are in these kinds of relationships that we wonder if love even exists. 

Love comes easy. Marriage is hard work, but it doesn't seem like a job. You want to fold your husband's socks and take him a cup of tea. He wants to do the laundry and dishes for you. Marriage or any kind of relationship isn't 50/50. Never is it just 50/50. Sometimes it's 20/80, 60/40, 30/70, but always in the heart it is 100/100. It's helping one another, not because you have to, but because you want to. You go out of your way to make the other feel loved. 

See, love is picturing each other growing older. It's a young man holding your hair when your tossing your cookies. It's a young girl who will help her husband cut wood. See, it's doing for one another expecting nothing in return. It's love in action. 

But see, most of all, and I want you to pay attention. A young man who truly loves you isn't going to ask you to crawl under the covers with him before your wedding day. A young girl who truly loves you will not be asking you to come over when her parents are gone so you can have alone time. She will respect herself and you. If we don't have respect for ourselves how then can we expect others to? 

Too often we don't have good examples in our lives in which to compare. Our parents marriages failed. We witnessed arguing and things children should never see. But see, we do have One in which we can look to for who and what is right in our lives. That is Jesus Christ. He is our Example in what love truly is. 

Hold your standards high. Have patience. Never just settle. Never think you don't deserve to have someone love you as if you are a princess or a prince. You know what? There's nothing wrong with you for waiting. There's nothing at all wrong with saying, "Hey, I enjoy being single." Get to know yourself and who you truly are as an individual. Don't feel that you have to have a dude on your arm to be valued. Guys, don't feel that you have to have a girlfriend just because you're lonely. Mature, grow into the person God has created you to be, and in His perfect timing He will send along the mate of your dreams. It's then you will know she or he is the one! Measure everything against the Word of God and you will never go wrong. 

See, today I would travel to the moon and back for my husband. It's been twenty-five years for us now. I love helping my husband. I love doing things he loves, like hunting and gardening. He knows I love the city, the museums, and the zoo. He hates the city, but he takes me there and he enjoys being with me. We enjoy each other's company. If we're just laying in bed in silence, watching television or reading a book, I simply love just being next to him. 

He brings me wild flowers he's picked himself. Every single day he tells me I'm more beautiful than the day before. He makes me feel precious, loved, and valued. He sees my dreams and he says, "Babe, you can write that book. You have such a gift. If I were the only one to read it, then it would be worth it." I bless him. That's pretty amazing love. 

I fell in love with him even more a few years back when he was laid off of work for three years. Three long years we struggled. You can envision that time. He took side jobs. Worked jobs he never imagined working. One was for minimum wage. He never went a day without providing for his family. He didn't do these days alone. I put in applications and resumes to help him. I would strive each day to make his day wonderful and carry some of his stress. It was a time in our lives that we laughed more and shared more together than many of those years before. For Christmas he purchased me a sock monkey. I had always wanted one, but never received one. He took the last twenty dollars in his pocket and bought that gift. I can tell you that gift means more to me than any other gift, and I've had some amazing gifts! 

Life wasn't always easy. There were early years when he was fighting for his children and carried so much anger. I was often the target of his anger. He wasn't angry at me. He was hurting and angry and didn't know how to let all that go. I prayed. I prayed. I prayed. I couldn't fix all that was hurting my husband. I could be there. I could support him, but it was God that was going to have to fix the broken and bring to beauty the ash of the pain. That is exactly what God did. Today my husband is filled with grace, mercy, and such powerful love! He's so tender. God has given him such a heart of forgiveness. He is truly a man I admire.
I too have felt the prayers of my husband as there were many, many days he spent beside hospital beds that held me. When you live with chronic illness, you never know what's to come, but no matter the circumstance, he has forever loved me, and lifted me to the Lord. In fact, it was my husband that taught me about Jesus. When you have found a man to stick beside you no matter what comes your way, that's a mighty good man for keeps!

Our life together holds so many stories to share. Life wasn't always easy. We made mistakes along the way, just like others. That's a part of growth. Now we can look back at all that we have learned and now we know the true grace of God. We see how He has blessed us and has never left us. 

Our children, all five of them, are grown and have blessed us with grandchildren. I can tell you that my husband is the best granddaddy I have yet to see with their grandchildren. He would say the same about my relationship with them. Everything has come together as our years have brought us closer. 

I've been that young girl messed up in a relationship that wasn't going anywhere. At least anywhere that I wanted to go. I spent a long time trying to {fix} the guy and hope that he loved me as much as I loved him. But today, I can tell you that then I had no idea what love was. I only had the fantasy of what [love] is. Now I know what love is. It's sacrifice, but never sacrificing who you are as a person. It's growing together, exploring who each other are, and then spending day after day bringing out the best in the other. It's dreaming together and coming together to make those dreams come true. 

It takes courage to leave a relationship. Sometimes we are insecure and we want a relationship to make us feel better about ourselves. We should be able to trust our mate. Trust shouldn't be an issue. If it is, take a good look at the relationship you are now in. Could it be time to say, goodbye? Never allow another human-being to take advantage of you and make you feel small. 

Reach out to your family and trusted friends for advice and guidance. Don't stay with a guy just because you have hopes it will one day get better. Tell him or her what's wrong and be honest. Love yourself enough to have deal-breakers! Have confidence in yourself and know without a doubt that you deserve nothing less than the best! 

Love isn't a fairy-tale when love in based in godly faith and the Lord is the center of your relationship. Any guy or girl that makes fun of your faith or tells you how ridiculous it is, it's time to walk away. He or she doesn't respect you. 

Stop wasting your time on people who don't truly love you. Just think, you're giving yourself into a relationship that in your heart you know isn't going to end well. Make sure the hand you hold will love you when your hands are wrinkled with time and aged with a beauty that only the one who loves you will appreciate.

"Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Empire's End by Jerry B. Jenkins

Empire's End was a quick read for me. Maybe even more so because I have been studying the life of Paul. It was enjoyable in the fact that it opens the door for the imagination to explore the life of Saul, his beginning as he persecuted  Christians, and his experience on the Damascus Road, when was changed from old flesh to brand new as Paul. The story flowed, but I found myself stopping frequently to ponder the mysteries that we can only experience through imagination. 

Paul is one of my favorites to study. To truly ponder all that his life entails for us. God brought this sinner to find grace and to live an extraordinary life as he surrendered all for his Savior. So, to read a novel about the life of Paul brings me to open my Bible even more, to dig deep, and find the details for myself. 

And that brings me to explain that is exactly what this book is. A novel about the life of Paul. It's Jerry B. Jenkins, who I admire greatly as a writer, bringing to us truths of the Bible, and pondering as to what Paul's daily journey was all encompassed with as he traveled miles in sandal feet sharing the love of Jesus. 

For me, this novel is in the same premise as the new series, A.D. There are biblical truths throughout the novel, but that is exactly what this is, a novel. It's to touch our hearts, broaden our scope of imagination, and bring us closer to experiencing a life where we are focused on growing in our own spiritual journey. 

I encourage you to open up the Word if you want to learn about the life of Paul. The Bible, as we know, gives us so much information. Some things are simply left out. We don't get to know every detail. So, yes, picking up this new novel will give your imagination a new ride into what it could have been like for Paul in his daily life, his struggles, his family, and his blessings. There's nothing wrong with pondering. It's through our questions that we grow in faith and closer to the people God has created us to be. 

This novel was a gift from Worthy Publishing for sharing my review with you. 

Jerry B. Jenkins is a New York Times best-selling novelist (Left Behind Series) and biographer (Billy Graham, Hank Aaron, Walter Payton, Orel Hershiser, Nolan Ryan, Joe Gibbs and many more), with over 70 million books sold. His writing has appeared in Time, Reader's Digest, Parade, Guideposts, and he has been featured on the cover of Newsweek.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Legacy Trail of Nothing But Love

What if we woke up one day and as we looked in the mirror to wash the sleep from our eyes we seen on our foreheads a digital counter keeping time just like the clock ticking away on the wall? But this one isn't moving forward. It's going backward and it almost seems as if it's moving at warp speed. We would probably think we were in the middle of a futuristic dream. These aren't just digital numbers. It's a date. A date we see into the future, 

What could it mean? As we ready and leave the house for work, hoping no one else can see the digits on our forehead, we notice that everyone in passing also has a date. This date is the day and time we will say goodbye on this earth. 

I know, that's a quite a bit to ponder. But let's just imagine it's so. Some may have a date forty years from today, while others is only a few hours away. Would it change us? Would it change how we treat others? Would we engage in life in a different way, maybe a new respect for people, for time. 

Instead of chewing someone's head off for cutting in front of us, would we realize that it really didn't matter much in the broad scheme of things? Instead of putting dates off, would we now be more persistent in seeing those we love? Might we be more eager to spend time, to forgive, and give second chances? 

Maybe we would kiss our husband more, and hug our children a little tighter. Just maybe we would allow people to step in front of us at the check out counter. I think everything would change for us. We would be more compassionate knowing that our neighbor only had a year left. 

Ah, is this why God didn't give us this information? It would kind of be a cheat sheet, wouldn't it? Even the angels don't know when we shall leave this planet. Just maybe God kept this information to Himself so we could figure it out and learn that life isn't to be taken for granted. It's to be respected and honored. I think we would love more, give more, and change our entire outlook on life. 

Maybe it's just me, but I've been pondering how we treat people. We aren't always very nice, are we? Just maybe we would be more understanding. We would take more time to get to know people, their life, their dreams, and just maybe we would come together to make them happen. 

I don't know. Maybe if we knew how much time we had we would make more of an effort to live life to the fullest. We wouldn't wait, wouldn't put off the things we would love to do one day. Just maybe we would embrace who we are and accept others in love. 

Just maybe we wouldn't live life in such fear, but be excited for each and every day, embracing what comes with a hope and joy that we can partake in and share with others. Most of all, don't you think we would share Jesus with others more easily? 

I'd like to think we wouldn't anger so easily. That we would let things go that really didn't matter, but be aware of the things that did and make a difference by stepping up and being the person that gets involved. You know, a person who truly cares about others. I think we would be more bold and help others in whatever circumstance that touched their lives. Don't you? Isn't this the life we should be living? 

Just think of how things could be. No more pity parties. No more complaining. I think even if are digital date ended before others we would want to make a difference in the lives of those around us. A legacy trail of nothing but love. 

It takes courage to live a life well-lived. It isn't just a life of comfort and ease. It's stepping out of our comfort zone. It's being ready and willing. It's looking into the eyes of others and taking time to get to know those around us. I think we wouldn't waste so much time. We would think before we speak, and ponder our actions before we step. 

Isn't this how the Apostles lived? Isn't this how Jesus lived? The Disciples lived a life knowing their time here wasn't forever and in the mean time they were going to make the most of every single moment. They were intent on living today, right now. They weren't about waiting until tomorrow. 

No, they didn't walk past people as if they didn't even exist. They didn't push their way around and belittle others. They simply lived a life of pure love. This is the kind of life I want to live. The life I dream of living. How about you? 

None of us know the date we will leave this world, but we can begin living a new kind of life right now. One that's filled with goodness, kindness, gentleness, and compassion. We can live in such a way that we make a difference, leaving behind a footprint that points to a Savior who has given us a heavenly inheritance.

See, it isn't the date we were born or the date that we leave this world behind that matters. What's most important is what we do with the time in between. 

"Therefore, God's chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on the love-the perfect bond of unity. and let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Colossians 3:12-17

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Make Time To Slow Down

How does one find time to do it all? Can we really do it all? I'm not so sure we really can  do it all and now that I'm penning these words I'm wondering if I really do want to do it all.

It's like we are a people who have to show the world how busy we are and just how wondrous of a job we are doing it to feel valued. Yep, we must work hard at keeping up with others. Life shouldn't be a competition, but isn't that exactly what we have created it to be? It's not that we are competing with ourselves to be the best, we are competing with our family, our friends, our co-workers, and yes, even our church family. We feel the need to be seen and to be seen doing something that makes others feel a little less about themselves. Oh, we do it in hushed form. We wouldn't dare say it out loud, but we do enjoy feeling superior in one way or another. 

It may be in how we do our job as a wife, a mother, a stylist, an artist, a writer, a pastor, take your pick at any job. We want to be the best and we want others to know we are the best. At least we want those around us to know how busy we are and how much time we really don't have to spend at home. 

Home seems to be the last place people want to be. If we are competing than we have to be out and about at a continual rush, making ourselves look great while we rush through every activity under the sun. We not only do our own stuff, but we jump in head first doing other's stuff. One job isn't enough. The more we do the more people will see and the more they will believe we are important and valued. Whew...are you tired yet? I'm exhausted and we're just getting started. 

We compete with other moms. Instead of encouraging other moms to simply be the best momma they can be, we more or less make other moms  feel less valued as we try our best ourselves to the top. Whether we are a mother who stays at home with her children or a mother who works outside the home too, we tend to make one other battle for first place. Any position other than first just doesn't cut it, so we strive hard to cut down one another while we jockey for the winner's seat. 

And just what has the winner won? Oh, she may have won the elation of others, but somewhere along the way she has let things slide to the backseat, the trunk, and even left at the curbside in her exhaustion to rise to the top as mother of the year, Christian of the year, servant of the year, just all around best of the best award. 

When are we going to really get it? I mean truly understand that it isn't the elation of others that makes us who we are. It isn't that pat on the back from our co-workers. It's not how much we can fit into our twenty-four hour day. It's not how much we can extend ourselves. It isn't anything of the sort. We aren't to compete with others. If that's what our life has come to it's time to wake up and realize that the competition of wanting to be seen is causing us to be unseen in the areas that truly matter. 

Spending time with our children, giving our husbands a chance at our time, just taking an evening and being together is so important. When can we just put the phones down, walk away from the computer, leave the television off, and simply get busy being un-busy with our family. Putting our family first, yes, above everything else in this world. 

Church activities and serving is important, but it should never come first above our family. When we do choose to serve it needs to be that it's God's calling for us, not just an opening and a need to be filled. This is where we get into trouble. Because then we are the girl who will soon be involved with more activities than she can keep up with and something is going to get left at the way side. 

We are most often the person that gets left to the way side. Why? We work too hard at making everyone in life happy and we're fearful in saying, no. We are people pleasers who spend our lives walking on egg shells, afraid to offend anyone, but it would be a horror to us if someone were unhappy with us. Soon we are so involved in making others happy and doing for others that we soon are telling our family, no, because we are so used to saying ,yes, to others. There are two extremes. We can completely be self involved or we can go the total opposite and be completely at the mercy of others and what they need from us. It's a sad fact that too often we do for so much for others, while we leave our family wondering how much they really matter to us.

If we have a family at home our family is our first priority. Nothing should come before our family. If there are activities that are coming between you and time spent with your family, let those things go. Our children grow so very fast and you know what? They need us! Our children and our husband need us. It's their eyes we should be looking into, not the world's eyes to see how well of a job we are doing. Our value is met through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through Him we are valued most high. When we begin to live for the audience of One we will begin to really get it. 

Simply put, we are too busy to even enjoy life. We are so hurried we in turn hurry our children. We hurry through the week only to get to the weekend that we have now jam packed full of stuff. If we would only untangle ourselves from all the activities that we think we have to partake in and just let go of trying to do it all we would find that life isn't as hard as we make it out to be.

Can I be honest? I can't do it all. I can't be everything for everyone. And in reality, I don't want to be. I want to enjoy time with my husband on his days off. I want to spend time with family and friends. Of course, I know everyone, including me, doesn't have the luxury of just visiting with family and friends. But what do we do? We tell people, "Hey, let's get together", and what happens? We don't make time. I think we enjoy saying, "I'm so busy. I just don't know when I'll have the time". Yep, we like to feel important. The day will come when we won't have to worry about making time, because those who tried so diligently to spend time with us will no longer be on this earth.

The thing is, we have to make an effort to slow down, to spend time that truly matters. If we could actually sit down with paper and pen and figure up how much time we spend on everything in life, just where would our family fall in line? Under one more church function? One more extra client to see? Under when we have more time?

I wish we could go back in time to having a phone on the wall, (which we still do), and hear someone knock on the door once in a while instead of sending texts and emails. We have taken the personal out of life and we have now introduced our kids to notebooks and gadgets of all kinds to keep them busy while we're busy.

Gosh, I know we can't toss it all out. There are things that must be done. People have to work. Our children are involved in activities. I'm just saying, change our priorities. Take out what has us frazzled. You know what? If God hasn't called you to do it, He will send another. Don't live your life feeling like {no} is a bad word. I encourage you, for a week, one week, turn everything off and see what happens. Cancel some appointments. Facebook doesn't have to be checked on every single day. The world will still move about without your status update.

Slowing down isn't a bad a thing. Have some dinners with the parents. Get the games out with the kids. Create a life that you love, not one that you later wish you had lived. Take time and breathe in some of the life you've been missing out on since busy has taken over.

"The most important work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home."
President Harold B. Lee

“We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.” 
Andy Stanley

“If you want to have the time of your life, change how you use the time in your life.” 
Tim Fargo

Monday, June 8, 2015

Living Boldly for Jesus

I grab my coffee cup and fill it until it's about to overflow. I sip slowly as not to spill any of it's goodness. I clean off the kitchen table of just folded clothes and set my Bible down. I open it to the ribbon marker that has kept my spot in Acts. I have been reading and rereading this book over the last month. Each time I read it I glean something new to chase my heart into motion after a God who created me for more than what this world offers. 

I'm reading about the disciples and the cost of following Christ. For some reason we sit back in our comfy chairs today with our feet kicked up and think they had life easier than we do. Are times really so different? Ponder that before you answer. My first answer was, of course times are different today. We are different, but after reading and pondering the Word, I have a different answer. 

Once Jesus ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit came upon them they grew as disciples. They were emboldened and strengthened as never before. They faced surmountable obstacles, but nothing ever kept them from believing! Stonings, floggings, and prison. They were willing to give all they had for their Savior. They knew there was more than what this world offered.  They were filled with the Holy Spirit. They knew their mission. They were to spread the gospel and to love those in this world with a love that only comes from a Jesus of grace, love, and redemption. 

Our mission is no different today. If anything it's easier for us today, but for some reason we make it so much more difficult than it really is. Our biggest issue? We don't want to offend people. How offensive will it be when at the end of this age those we never spoke to about Jesus one day stand and ask us, "Why didn't you tell me?" 

We call ourselves Christians. We attend church. We get involved and we do charity work of all kinds. But yet we don't talk to our neighbors. We leave our family alone because we don't want to rock the boat. We don't share with co-workers because we can't take the chance on losing our job. We skip out on sharing with friends because, well, we want to keep them. We definitely don't want strangers thinking we're off our rockers. 

We live in a world of busy. We live in a me world. I think there are times when the world might even question if I'm a Christian. We are so fascinated with moving forward in today's standards of happiness that we forget what this life, our life, is all about. It's not about me. It's not about you. It's about Jesus. Without Him what is there? Without Him at some point our last breath comes and what do we have? A life lived for what? A legacy that states what about us? 

When I read about the lives of the disciples I see men and women who gave all. They lived love. They didn't just go about a motion of daily activities and wait for the weekend to arrive. They shared Jesus in many ways. If the world around them were to look into their lives they would have been found guilty as charged as being a Christian. Would the same be said about us today? What are we willing to give up for Jesus? 

What we don't really want to give up is our comfort. We don't want to be inconvenienced. We don't want to give up our time. Sure, we give some. We do some. But in the end we often wonder, what's in it for me? Where's my spotlight, my pat on the back for all the work I'm doing? Will anyone even notice and if they do will they appreciate all I am doing?

Bottom line. We are to live our lives for the audience of One. It doesn't matter how many thank you's we receive or if anyone even counts us as valuable. Because we are valued to the One who created us for greatness and glory! The work we do does matter when we are doing what He has called us to do and doing it for Him and no other reason. 

The disciples moved about to the voice of God. He spoke and they listened. They were in tune with their Savior. We are too busy to listen to someone else try to direct our lives, when in fact we know exactly what we want to accomplish. If we could only get it through our heads that it isn't about our accomplishments. It's all about Him. 

When we live for Him and not this world things our lives change. We come to realize what's really of importance. We need to love people enough to offend them. I'm not speaking about walking around judging others and telling people how they ought to be living. God is in the saving/changing business. We are to be in the people business. We are to be living in such a way that our lives make an impact on others just by witness. 

To love doesn't mean to be a doormat. The disciples stood up for themselves. They knew when to speak and when to remain silent. We have to remember they too were sinners saved by grace. Love means standing up for those who cannot stand for themselves. Love is making a difference. It's sacrificing our comforts and easy going lives to stand up and be ready to follow the call of Christ. 

As I close my Bible I ponder the disciples and the lives they lived. I want to be that kind of disciple ready to give up my comfort and ease for a life well pleasing to God. I want to walk those dusty roads and meet people face to face with a loving hello and mean it. I want my feet and hands to be calloused of doing God's work. The work that He has called me to do. That doesn't mean I over extend myself. I've done that and it is exhausting.

Sometimes that work is right here at home. Sometimes it's giving my own time to care for my mom. Sometimes it's putting my plans on standby when my children need me. It's getting the toilets cleaned and the wood floors shined. My work isn't always outside my door. I need to remember to pay as much attention to what's right in front of my face as I do the calling outside of my door. Sometimes the work will be fun and exciting and other times it may feel like nothing is moving in the right direction at all. But see, what I'm learning is that being a disciple of Christ is simply listening to His voice and following in obedience. 

Friends, if we have received Christ as Savior we have the Holy Spirit within us. We can live empowered lives through Christ. There's nothing we have to fear. I want to live a bold a life. Not just behind the computer screen, but in my day to day life as I meet others. I want to speak with wisdom and move with grace. This can't happen on my own, but the more I allow Christ of my life, the more I will witness His glory. And right now, nothing seems impossible! 

"Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." Philippians 1:27a

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Damascus Experience

I have been reading through the Book of Acts and have found myself on the road to Damascus. In reading about Saul's transformation on the Damascus Road I found myself reading again and again these chapters of this man who knew the Word, studied the Word, found himself killing Christ's followers and thought it not only okay, but the right thing to do. Saul was arrogant and vicious. He knew the Word, but he didn't know Jesus, the Savior. That's what was missing. Much like us today. We can know the Word, we can memorize it, speak it, and claim it, but if we don't know Jesus, I mean truly walk intimately with Him, we need to find ourselves on the road to Damascus. We need a Jesus experience!

Just like us today, Saul had his own mission in mind. God's mission, on the other hand, was something entirely different. It was something bigger than Saul could imagine. Jesus was getting ready to introduce Himself to Saul. Saul was about to meet face to face with the Jesus he was living to persecute. Right there on that road in the middle of everything Saul was transformed. He not only heard Jesus speak, but Saul seen the Savior before him. They shared a powerful moment that was beyond anything he could have ever imagined. He now knew what the Apostles knew. He believed. He was a changed man. Not only was he transformed into a new man, but he was given a new name, Paul. 

So, here I sat in the middle of my bed with Bibles spread out across my quilt. As I spoke the Word aloud tears began to fall. I shared with Jesus, "I want to be on that road. I want a Damascus Road experience!"  I met my Jesus right there and poured my heart out to Him. I asked Him to meet me right where I sat and He showed Himself to me like never before. Tears are now pouring. My words were not thought out. They were not practiced. I didn't ring out excuses or explanations. My heart poured out from my lips and I was changed. 

How do I know I was changed? I felt my heart move in a way like never before. It was the Holy Spirit moving within me and me allowing Him room to move. Me asking Him to move on my behalf. A peace washed over me and His mercy flooded my soul. I poured myself out to Him and He filled me in a way that only He can. 

I was reading at the life of Paul. All he had been and all he would become. God knew Paul when he was Saul. He had been planning his life since before he was born and He kept His eye upon him. This is love! Such wondrous love and mercy from a God whose people were persecuted by this man. This man who would change on the road to Damascus, never looking back, but never forgetting their meeting. He was used mightily of God. In ways that was made perfect just for Him by a God who loved him. 

This is the girl I want to be for my Jesus. I want to give Him the room He needs to create in me beauty beyond anything I could imagine. I want to say, yes, to Him and be His obedient daughter. Yes, I want to follow my Savior. There isn't anywhere I want to travel where He isn't present. I want my life to about Him, not about me. Oh, how I so often make it all about me. 

I would later share with a friend that I knew something powerful was different within me. One reason I knew was because Satan was now on attack in my thoughts and attitude. I could feel him pressing against me, but there was the Holy Spirit giving me witness to say, "Not today, Satan! Today you may attack, but you will NOT win any part of me!" 

What I have learned is that my walk with Jesus is a journey. If I'm not continually growing I will allow myself to be stagnant. But for me to grow I have to walk aware of God's voice. It's His voice that leads me. Please hear me when I say, we can never get too far away from Jesus to hear His voice! That's part of Satan's scheme he wants us to believe. His grace is always bigger than any sin in our life. He is always willing. The question is, our we? 

"Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." 
Romans 5:1-5

Friday, May 29, 2015

Untangled by Carey Scott

Anytime someone shares their story they should be applauded. When we share our story it gives others courage to share their own. It allows others to know they aren't alone. This is what Carey does. She is transparent as she openly shares her story of being lost in insecurity. There are all kinds of chains that keep us held captive and being insecure is one of them. 

First I would like to share what I did enjoy about this book. Carey opens up and shares what has been bottled up inside of her for years. Through Carey we witness that coming clean from the untangled mess opens the door to freedom. Before we can be honest with others we must be honest with our self. That isn't always easy. Sometimes it's easier to just remain in what's comfortable no matter how much it hurts because it's what we know and change is something that takes courage and determination. 

She has opened up a platform for women to realize being honest is not only okay, but key in finding our true self and becoming the woman of God He has created us to be. We don't have to give Satan room in our life. He can only take from us what we are willing to hand over. We can stand against the enemy by snuggling in close to our Savior. 

Carey shares how women can become tangled in expectations, in children, our husband, friendships, social media, and the snare of success. If there was one chapter that stood out to me it would be the chapter on social media. Too often we can seek to find applause and acceptance from others on social media. 

Carey too shares scripture and asks questions giving the reader an opportunity to ponder her words. What I love is that her prayers are untangling prayers. She's easy to relate too. She's not only the woman next door, but she is me on different occasions. We have all faced the turmoil that Carey has battled. But the beauty of it is that we see her growth in all she shares.

I too love the words her husband shares in the Epilogue. We are witness to a great and mighty love between husband and wife. 

I love walking away from a book being encouraged and inspired. Life lessons for me to carry in my walk with Jesus. This book didn't so much give me that. I applaud Carey for being so transparent and allowing the reader into her intimate space. If we are not careful we can come across as we are complaining and much of this book seemed at times was more about complaining than giving the reader the tools they need to march onward out of being tangled into a freedom of security. Which I understand. This is where Carey found herself in her journey. 

It's kind of like being in a circle of girlfriends who are all feeling the same as you and you find yourselves wrapped up in discussing more so what's wrong instead of sharing truths to help aid in the issues that bind us so. You find comfort in coming together to share all, but at some point someone has to step inside the circle and say, "Girls, let's stop our complaining and figure out what we can do to not feel this way".

You may pick up this book and find yourself. You may choose this book and come away a changed girl from reading it. It may be just what you need. As I said it is always beautiful when one shares their heart. So, please know, this is only my opinion of the book. 

I do applaud Carey for being brave and giving other women courage to be truthful with themselves.

This book was a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you. 

Carey Scott is an author, speaker, and certified Bible life coach who challenges women to be real--not perfect--even when real is messy. She speaks to women's groups and writes an online devotional designed to help women be who God created them to be. She lives in Colorado with her husband and their two children.
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