Tuesday, August 22, 2017

We Have Lift Off.

I don't know where summer went but now I am a day away from taking my son and 2nd child to college.   I had 19 years to prepare myself for this and it still sneaked up on me.
I am hoping that we prepared him for life...that this day will prove that he has the form, stamina and power to launch into this new world on his own.   Whatever the case this bird wants to fly, the rocket is ready to launch whether I am ready or not to see it happen. I think he mentally left a year ago and has been coasting to this day ever since.
Whatever motherly demands he puts to me, my response has been, "19 years is my limit now its time to make your own food!"   I am somewhat joking but seriously, when its time it's time.  My sentimental sappy mom side wants to get all Hallmarky but honestly, I know it's time and I couldn't be more thankful that he is excited to go.  That makes me excited for him and for all the new experiences he will have.  So I guess I can, somewhat, pat myself on the back that I am not pushing this bird out of the nest but he is jumping...it's much easier that way on everyone.
What do I want him to know as he leaves?
1.  I will always love you no matter what. No grade, accomplishment or path you decide to go will change my love for you.

2. Sometimes college and life is not so fun.  We all remember the best times but...loans have to be paid back, relationships can be heartbreaking, and the cafeteria food will definitely be disappointing.
Hopefully you will have enough sense to work hard when you don't want to, remember that there are other fish in the sea, and your mama's food will taste better than you remembered when you come home.

3.  Kindness, forgiveness, and love go a long way.  No amount of talent or cleverness can replace good character.  Be kind. Love big. Look over an offense.

4. Don't be a push over but do listen and hear people out because even though you think you know everything you don't and listening to others will help you learn and help you make a well informed opinion.

5. Your opinions do and will change but don't compromise the absolute truths you have learned and know from experience.

6. There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother and His name is Jesus.  Keep close to Him and share Him with everyone.

Here is a tip for mamas who are crying into their coffee mug every morning because their babies are gone.
1. It's okay to cry.  Raising a child to adulthood is the most important and difficult job you will have and maybe somewhere in the middle (some of us at the beginning) we wanted to quit but somehow, in the end, we just feel so sure we can't live without them. Going cold turkey from the addiction of motherhood is tough, it takes time to get used to our new normal.  The truth is they will be back and we will be able to adjust but it's okay to cry, you earned the right.
2. Stop crying. Keep it together for their sake and save the blubbering for the long ride home.  I know the scene that you keep creating in your mind of the long and emotional goodbyes...driving away waving and blowing kisses as you watch your son/daughter become a dot in the distance as they wave and watch you pull away.  This is it mama's we have trained them and they are ready to launch don't interfere with take off by making them responsible for your
feelings. Trust God to be with them when we cannot and if that scene you created in your mind doesn't happen, its okay, just remember when they were difficult and you wished them to grow up and thank God they did.

3. Celebrate. This is a great day!  Our kids are doing it!  They are embracing their future and walking into the great unknown.  It is good to rejoice in the passages of life.

4. Enjoy your new life.  Find the good and embrace the new things God can do in your life. Don't feel guilty about doing things that you never had time for, I am sure God has some great opportunities planned for you...after you stop crying. 

I hope these days of change will be a way to trusting a Love that is bigger and better than yours for your children's future and yours too. 

" O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me. 
 You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. 
 You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do. 
 You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head...

If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me. 
 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night— 
     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you."
Psalms 139:1-5, 9-12

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Wholesome 30 Challenge

 Last month I jumped on the band wagon and did the Whole30. Those of you who do not know what that is, I will give you a brief description from co creator Melissa Hartwig:
Certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it. Are your energy levels inconsistent or non-existent? Do you have aches and pains that can’t be explained by over-use or injury? Are you having a hard time losing weight no matter how hard you try? Do you have some sort of condition, like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies, or chronic pain, that medication hasn’t helped? These symptoms are often directly related to the foods you eat—even the “healthy” stuff. So how do you know if (and how) these foods are affecting you?
Strip them from your diet completely. Eliminate the most common craving-inducing, blood sugar disrupting, gut-damaging, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days. Let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. Push the reset button with your health, habits, and relationship with food, and the downstream physical and psychological effects of the food choices you’ve been making. Learn how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day-to-day life, long term health, body composition, and feelings around food. The most important reason to keep reading?
This will change your life.
I cannot possibly put enough emphasis on this simple fact—the next 30 days will change your life. It will change the way you think about food. It will change your tastes. It will change your habits and your cravings. It will restore a healthy emotional relationship with food, and with your body. It has the potential to change the way you eat for the rest of your life. I know this because I did it, and millions people have done it since, and it changed my life (and their lives) in a dramatic and permanent fashion.

 I was reluctant to subject myself to this pain of deprivation but I figured I could do anything for 30 days, right?  I was right, although there was some grumbling in the desert of Gluten-Dairy Free, I did survive, but no one should ever have to live without cheese. I have a new compassion for those of you dairy intolerant people, I'm so sorry.
So the question asked, “How was it?”  “How do you feel now?” Honestly, I did feel better and I didn't die without bread and dairy (not literally, anyways) but my bigger take away was that I could psychologically conquer matter with my mind...albeit, with a little crying.

Did it change my life?  Well, let’s be totally honest, I can't give it that much credit. I am all about a good detox and resetting my body; I can even be a health guru sometimes,but let's get real... nothing can change your life like Jesus. So, while I was in the whole30 desert I decided I would create my own whole30 challenge for true life change, because we all need a good detox from wrong thinking and the only way to do this is knowing truth.
...And because we are all dense and need the hammer of truth to sink it in deep, this idea came to me right in time for our new series titled Toxic. Here is the description of this week’s sermon: “Need a little personal poison control? Are there relationships, thoughts, or behaviors that quietly compromise our well-being? How can we learn to recognize and remove the hidden dangers in our lives? This morning Pastor Mark will unpack the ways that we can reject poison in our life and replace it with God truth.”  Coincidence? I don't think so...that's how the Holy Spirit works so, this is what we are going to do, I am challenging you to a wholesome30 and eating all the bread you want...the bread of life I mean:
Certain habits (like slander, gossip, or entertaining negative thoughts about yourself and others) could be having a negative impact on your  heart and spiritual walk without you even realizing it. Is your prayer time inconsistent or non-existent? Do you have bad attitudes and strained relationships that can’t be fixed? Are you having a hard time keeping friends no matter how hard you try? Do you have some sort of heart condition, like jealousy, self hate, impure thoughts, or chronic potty mouth, that you can’t seem to get a handle on? These symptoms are often directly related to the things you feed your mind….even the “healthy” things you try to do once a week are not enough to help you. So how do you know if this isn’t you?

Strip negative talk from your life completely. Eliminate the most common wrong craving-inducing, , gut-damaging , inflammatory talk  for a full 30 days. Let your body mind and spirit heal and recover from whatever effects those negative thoughts and words may be causing. Push the reset button with your mind and heart, habits, and relationships, and the downstream physical and psychological effects of the words and thought choices you’ve been making. Learn how the thoughts you’ve been indulging in are actually affecting your day-to-day life, long term health, church body, and relationships. The most important reason to keep reading?
This will change your life.
I cannot possibly put enough emphasis on this simple fact—the next 30 days will change your life. It will change the way you think about yourself, Jesus and others. It will change your desires. It will change your habits and your cravings. It will restore a healthy emotional relationship with your family, friends and everyone you meet. It has the potential to change the way you live for the rest of your life. I know this because I did it, and millions of people have done it since, and it changed my life (and their lives) in a dramatic and permanent fashion.

Ready for a life change?  You can do this...it’s just the start to a better life of freedom from poisonous, potentially life threatening habits.

Everyday for 30 days we are going to pray for these things:

  1. Transform my heart and renew my mind so my thoughts are pleasing to you. (Ps. 51:10 Romans 12:2)
  2. Let my words give life and help me to hold my tongue when I want to say something that is not helpful or edifying about myself or others. (Proverbs 18:21 Ephesians 4:29)
  3. Give me love for those who don't like me or hate me and not repay evil with evil but help me to sincerely do good to them. (Mt. 5:44 Luke 6:35, 1 Peter 3:9)
  4. When I am feeling anxious, fearful or worried help me to trust you with every need big and small. (Phil 4:6-7 Matt 6:25-34) (1 Tim 1:7)
  5. Help me to think of others more highly than myself (Phil 2:3-7)
  6. Help me to forgive more and judge less myself and others. (Matt 6:14-15, Matt 7:4-5, Eph. 4:31-32, 1John 1:9  Ps. 103:12)
  7. Let your word speak to me and give me new revelation of who you are, who I am in you and your love for me. (Romans 10:17, Hebrew 4:12, Ps. 119:11, Eph 2:10)
  8. Take captive my thoughts and make them obedient to your truth.  (2 Cor 10:5)
  9. Help me to not entertain poisonous conversations and know when it's time to walk away from an unhealthy relationship. (Proverbs 26:20-22, 1 Cor 5:11, 1 Cor 15:33, Prov. 13:20 Prov 14:7)
  10. Help me to protect my heart and put good into my mind. (Proverbs 4:23, Luke 6:45)

Friday, March 18, 2016

No More Excuses...Be. Awesome.

Beginning a new year is always refreshing.  We all take it as an opportunity to start over and do better, to finish things we have never finished and to start things we have never started. To become more efficient, proficient, and achieve a long list of personal goals.

Of course, a new year is just a new year.  It holds no magical powers to make us super human...all though some of us try hard to pretend it does.   I do.  Every year without fail, I set myself up for just that..failure.  It may be the hype from those around me that make me jump on the band wagon, but I can't blame others for my failures.  So, this year just like every new year, I prepared myself to do something new and improved...to allow my God given talents to take flight and stop making excuses because it's a shame to let them all go to waste...yep, that was a sarcastic sentence.  Well, my new found confidence lasted about 2 seconds.  I won't go into the ugly details of my lowest moments...my husband can tell you all about it, though... it was pretty pathetic.  Not wanting all my pathetic "loser" moments to go totally to waste, I like to share them with you.
Surely, someone out there can relate to my story.  Over and over we get to the edge of the mountain and we allow fear to creep in and we just can't soar.

Fact # 1  When you are the most vulnerable is when you are able to hear the best.

That day I realized I wasn't exactly killing it, is the day God sent my son in to reenact my life.  It went something like this:  He gets home from school.  I hear a lot of shouting, followed by a loud bang.  I run down to see what was happening and to possibly assert my authority by joining in the chaos with yelling. My three other children are eager to the point of giddiness to retell the whole story..."He was yelling and upset at ____because they were teasing him.  He can't take a joke and was so mad he kicked that table and now he is sulking and keeps yelling that, ' he doesn't want to talk about it!' "   I used my in charge mom voice and  summoned said kid to a private place to interrogate him.  It turns out he was upset about the teasing but also about some other things that happened during the day...something that made him doubt himself.  I want to stop here and say I never do that..I never get mad and take it out on everyone else because I am upset about something else, I don't know where he gets that from?!

Fact #2  I have said it before and I will say it again,  God uses my kids to slap me in the face!  It's like a live action lesson to "bring home" something He has been trying to tell me.

 My son's story was just a reminder of my own that day. He let someone make him doubt himself and although he wanted to blame someone else, all responsibility of his actions and reactions were on him.
  We never have to question our worth in Jesus Christ.  We may slip up, say the wrong thing or maybe we do a tumble down the mountain type fail...it doesn't matter with Jesus we can be restored, we are forgiven.  So lesson # 1: God says who you are and that is all that matters.
The real kicker to the whole thing is my son was correct!  Here is the scenario...you're surrounded by a group of your peers, 3 or more I would say, and they are all telling you the same thing...just assume that they are not all wise or good counsel, but they are negating what you just said..to be looking at the king walk in naked with no beautiful royal clothes on and say "He is naked!"  while the crowd shuns you for thinking such a crazy thing.  Guess what?
The king was naked.    So lesson #2.  When we choose to follow Jesus, not only does He say who we are but with Him we are always the majority. He is the only backing we need, His cheers and His opinion is the one that matters...even when you are faced with opposition from someone you have looked up to for your entire life. 

Fact # 3 If God has given you a dream; a job to do; a burden, then you can be assured that it is Him who will give you the ability to achieve it. 

 I have to give a warning here...God never goes against His word, if it doesn't line up with His word than it is not from Him.  God also gives us a guide called the Holy Spirit...learn to discern and listen to what He is saying to you.
My family and I spent 13 years living in Russia, as you can imagine, life in Russia is very different and it's culture took time to understand.  One of my memories of these nuances was seeing a vendor on the street getting someones attention by there product and/or very clever sales pitch.  It only took one and soon another would stop and from there it was like a magnetic miracle to watch the crowd grow. Just because it seems to be a good idea to one person and leads others into the same direction doesn't make it a great idea.  Make sure you are not being influenced by love of popular views or the need to be recognized...check your motives. Whether it is needing to be a part of the crowd or trying to be the maverick that stands alone, both can be wrong when done in the wrong attitude and wrong motivation. Here is a hint: All glory and all honor belongs to God.  If we are looking for an achievement to complete us or for selfish reasons at all, we are sure to come up empty. Even when we try to disguise it as something we are doing as "unto God" we may fool others but God is never fooled, He knows the inner workings of our heart. You cannot hide the truth from Him.

Fact #4 God + us+ trust in God=unstoppable. 

Fear of what we could be if we really surrendered ourselves...our sickness, weakness, insecurities, etc.. to God keeps us stuck in the slave land of "what if?"  We have been living with our own sicknesses so long we would rather be enslaved to that sickness than be free. The familiar, yet unhealthy, comfort of it keeps us from being who God really made us to be.  Example:  Those crazy Isrealites whom God delivered out of slavery, who were so fearful they wanted to go back to slavery again! This is what they said to their leader Moses:

"Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” 

Exodus 14:12 

Moses replies: "Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”  Exodus 14:13,14

Fact #5 There is growth in the desert.

Being free from our "stuff" doesn't mean that God is going to expect us to do something radical...
alone, because He will ask us to do radical things but "He will fight for us." we just need to stay calm.
 I don't know about you but I would rather be free and living within "the land of milk and honey" than be enslaved, but to be free we have to trust God through the healing...through the desert. Trusting God through the desert is a game changer, it puts everything in Gods hands because when we can't He has to; fully trusting Him.  We lose ourselves in the desert along with all the stuff that hinders us and we start to become more like Him.

So, now we are in March, a perfect time for new beginnings.   Don't be afraid to be awesome.  Because when we are fully in Jesus He is the awesome we cannot be.  Embrace Him and His purpose in you.   No regrets.  When you let yourself be awesome, you inspire others around you to be awesome too.

 2 Corintians 12:9-10 The Message

Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Friday, January 1, 2016

It is finished.

It is finished...gifts, laughter, family, friends, food, cookies, games and stories...
the celebration of Christmas and the New Year of 2015 is now a sweet memory and for some of us it will linger in the form of debt. I may or may not be one of those people. Ugh!
It is said that it is better to give than receive and every year we join the throng of consumers and charge the best gifts ever..so we think.  I am among the consumers that buy into the madness of getting the perfect gift.  I myself am "gifts" in love language lingo, so getting the perfect one for that list of friends and family is for me, one challenge I love to conquer and well..it is better to give, right? "Tis the season" and "giving is getting" and all that stuff, but hold it...we all know that lesson  the Grinch learned the hard way, "What if Christmas He thought, doesn't come from a store what if perhaps Christmas means a little bit more."

Fade Grinch scene and bring up the lights on the home of baby Jesus at the time the Wise Men arrive. 

So we see the Wise Men bringing their gifts and laying them at the feet of Jesus...what a wonderful picture; gifts given to a King, a king who needs nothing and yet here they were giving gifts in honor of Him. Those gifts compared to the gift of Him was down right embarrassing! Although, it was not the gift but the attitude of heart, the bending of knee, the sacrifice of the gifts.
Christmas begin because of one great gift...the gift that can not be out done and will never get old or out of style.  To celebrate that gift we like to give gifts with a perfect presentation of colorful paper and pretty bows that make our hearts fill with expectation. What if the gifts we gave were attached with an attitude of true benevolence.  What if we gave from a place of true sacrifice like Jesus.  What if we decided that presents without the right attitude were not truly giving at all.
Last year my husband's New Years word from God was "giving" and so it became my word too...because his giving is in essence my giving...and so I decided to embrace it without a fight.
Giving is not always monetary, of course, and sometimes giving something of myself in service seems like more of a sacrifice...more risky.  I have had to give my time and love in ways that others were surprised I would do.  God has asked me to give in ways that others could not or would not...but I can't say I didn't hesitate or wish that God would ask someone else.  My heart aches thinking of all the missed opportunities we have lost because we were afraid or selfish...the gift we want to give is one we choose, not that one that bows low...not the one that makes us feel too much or puts ourself in a vulnerable place. If I put money in the bucket and buy those shoes that give shoes to the needy, that's good enough.  
 I am glad God didn't say, "that's good enough." when He came to earth...He finished what He was brought here to accomplish.
So as we consider resolutions for the New Year and what we plan to accomplish to better ourselves and make life more comfortable, efficient and productive, I challenge you to take a different kind of inventory, one that focuses on God's gifts...what He presents for us to accomplish with the gifts that we have been given.  The world is aching and groaning for Him and we all see the results of a spiritually poor and lost world, instead of looking away from things that overwhelm us let's give in ways around us that may make us uncomfortable and maybe even weep. "...Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!" Luke 12:48   I have been given so much... I live a blessed life. I want for nothing in any way. This life of mine was not a freak mishap or an accidental happening..it was intentionally and responsibly hewn from a host of people before me who were given great gifts and passed on these gifts to people who gave to other people until those people were my people who gave to me.
Not all my gifts were received through the obedience of others but some are God given gifts that He built right in me. I may want to ignore them because I fear being big...being noticed....or I let others steal my gifts by there own insecure and self seeking attitudes towards them.
 This year choose to shine despite those who may want to diminish your worth or your gift...to make you small so they feel big.  Shine in ways that you yourself never thought you could but know you should because God is calling you to something more.  Shine when you are tired and lonely because you know, "The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped." Proverbs 11:24-25 Shine because to not do so is wrong because He created us with these gifts to be used to fulfill His purpose in us and for His glory.

Look at what God has put in your hand today and give your all. Be the best you can be not with prideful arrogance but be great because you can be...in Jesus Christ we are the gift that the world needs, that our family needs, let's start living that way.
"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life." I Timothy 6:17
The truth is we are indebted to Jesus...I mean the kind of debt that is impossible to repay, yet we live debt-free...and so it is never a sacrifice but an offering, just like the Wise Men gave. Let's bow low and take our place at the feet of the King and lay down our gifts at the feet of the Creator and Author of all of them...the ultimate Gift Giver.  Don't stop at "good enough" but finish strong.  Make this the best year ever by giving your all. .Ready, set, go...and may the force (Jesus) be with you!

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

                                                                                                                       Jim Elliot


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

No Room in the Inn

I never thought 2 years ago we would be still searching for a home.  Really, all you have to do is ask my husband and he will tell you the rants he has endured.  I had written a blog post the year we started this new journey about being homeless, before I knew it was going to be a longer journey of homelessness than I thought.  I have come full circle of excited anticipation to confused, angry, frustrated, and back to content and full of anticipation but not in the same way.
I always say I never plan more than a year or so in advance because God usually changes them anyways.  Well my plan was to buy a house in the woods, plant a garden, buy some animals...all good stuff, right? Well, that's not in the cards for me yet.
Thinking about advent and the eve of His birth I am reminded of my Christ who left His home and came to mine.  But he didn't come and land himself in the most comfortable place...it was, frankly, the worst place.  He came and was born in the most humblest places into a humble family.
So this year I recognize that even though this hasn't looked like I thought it would 2 years ago, it has provided for more opportunities to be a part of the bigger picture of reaching everyone with the Good News of Jesus. It is God reminding me that the best things in life are eternal and intangible, that Him landing us right in the heart of this small city might be worth more to me in heaven than whether I had a garden or goats. 
Whatever situation you find yourself in, look for that thing that you didn't see before, pray that you will take in this moment in your life to live it the best and most fulfilling way, focusing not on the seen but the unseen.
I can't imagine how Mary felt through all of this.  I know if it were me I would be complaining and ranting the whole way...maybe the peace that passes all understanding rested on Mary.  Maybe Mary was wiser at the age of 14 then me at the age of 44. If a stable and a manger are my God's choice then what should be mine?
I am thankful for all I have and it is more than enough, I am not in want or need. I am content and my cup runs over with all the best gifts, those unseen ones. I hope I am pouring out all of them to everyone who is in want,
who are poor in spirit even if rich in material wealth.

So today if you find yourself contemplating the story of Christmas, take some time to pause at the thought of "no room in the inn".  Out of all things I never want Jesus to be wanting for room in my inn.  I want my life to be directed by him even when I lay out my own plans, His plans are so much better...richer.  

"While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." John 9:5
From "my" home to yours! 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Unexpected Seasons

A few weeks ago we got hit with 42 inches of snow...but a couple of weeks ago Buffalo, New York got hit with 6 feet of snow!!  SIX FEET!   That is taller than me and colder and whiter...ok, I got off track. The point is, that's a lot of snow!
When we got hit with all this snow I was enjoying the constant scroll of snow pictures on my FB feed.  Some comments under those pictures were from optimistic snow loving people, rejoicing in all the beauty and recounting memories of blizzards gone by.  Then there were the glass half empty people, grumbling about how early and unexpected it was and how terrible it would be for the deer and hunting.
I feel you.  I feel the joy of the school kids getting a snow day and I feel the pain of having to shovel and shovel and shovel...and shovel some more.
Sometimes it's times like these that I start to see the lessons of life from life.  Unexpected seasons can sometimes shake us up.  We like to be able to predict that snow will not show until the day winter starts on the calendar.  Some people would like..say, summer, to last longer than the calendar says.  I would like to put in my request for Autumn to last 4 months long with the brightest colors on those beautiful trees lasting just as long.
If we could control our climate, our working hours, our salary, our vacation time, our life span...our kids attitudes, oh, now it's getting good, oh, wait...our neighbors dogs or our neighbors for that matter.  Uh, huh!  You know you have wanted to.  Guess what?  We are in control of so little in our life, but there is one thing we have complete control of, our attitudes. In other words, our actions and reactions to all the things we can't control or predict.
I have found myself  hit with winter months when I was just enjoying the summer.  I can tell you that my reaction was one of shock, anger and resentment.  I had a choice, not in my circumstances but in how I decided to deal with them. Why would God interrupt a perfectly good season?  Or why would he bring a blizzard to add to the 42 inches I already have to deal with?  Oh, wait...it wasn't really me that the world revolves around?  Well, God did make a world for me and not only did He make this world for me He sent His son to die for me and than His son went back up to heaven to prepare a place for ME.  The God who created the world and holds the storehouses of snow, does not need to explain...our feeble minds cannot fathom his ways.
Solomon had it right when he wrote about times...
"There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
  a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,    a time for war and a time for peace."  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
We can't die when we are being born and we cant plant during harvest. So it is December first and the advent season is upon us reminding me of one of the most important things that makes all of life's unexpected happenings bearable.  Jesus.  Whatever season we are in and in whatever circumstances being thankful is always appropriate, always the right response. 
"...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
 I Thessalonians 5:18
We just ended our Thanksgiving season and the constant newsfeed of thankful pictures and posts on Facebook are down in numbers again until next fall when they will start to pop up again. Although I welcome these thankful sentiments, my heart says, why not every month...or every day be a day to give thanks.  So if you didn't get your thankful posts in don't worry I am proposing a new trend, let's give thanks everyday and in every circumstance...even when the world says it doesn't make sense. Surrendering control of something that isn't ours makes a whole lot of sense and giving thanks because HE is in control and is good and can make beauty out of ugly is really not for Him but for us.

This week was Pastor appreciation week.  It is one weekend out of the year that the church honors and thanks their pastors.  Since my husband is a pastor, I have the privilege of being included in this honor. It so happens that all the pastors and their families were called up to the front.  Well, my lovely children did not jump up to stand next to us even though they were called up too. Standing there as I have done many times before, I kinda felt like I wanted to be sitting down like the kids and probably not for the same reasons (those rebellious PK's) but because I felt like I really didn't need to be thanked and the honor really goes to God, yet I know that it isn't so much for my husband and me but for the people that we serve. See being thankful is an important posture for us to take, it says, "I am not an island, I need others and others need me and we need Jesus to help us all!"  So there it is...from season to season we have so much more with Jesus than we deserve and being thankful is not just words its a lifestyle that acknowledges the fact that we are not in control but we have a loving God who is, and is there to listen to our hearts joy and pain and give us unimaginable gifts of priceless value that we never knew we needed.
Next time you want to curse at your neighbor, try thanking God for them and praying that He will give you the love you need for them and when you find yourself thrown into a season you weren't ready for, do something radical, thank God and let Him carry you through. The quicker you go to Him the easier "winter" is and the more you can appreciate the beauty of a season filtered through the lens of God's camera.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Unseen Wounds and a Silent Killer

30 years ago I held my new baby nephew in my arms marveling about what a miracle he was. He was no ordinary baby boy and although, I may be bias, I know those who knew him would whole heartedly agree that he was a pretty amazing kid. Talented and scary smart, he had so much potential to be most anything he wanted. As all well meaning, loving families do, we imagined what he would be when he grew up and being a compassionate boy we thought of all the people he could affect in whatever capacity he decided. Time and years went by and my deep thinking nephew's demeanor and focus seemed to be erratic and full of anxiety.Years heavy with the weight of feeling helpless, his parents were unable to pinpoint the cause of their sons behavior and in his adult years had no power to make him get the medical help they knew he needed.
Mental illness is a reality.  I have been encouraged by the awareness and exposure that I am seeing in the media.  I hope that as a Christian we will not rationalize these real disorders into a spiritual discussion.  As a Christ follower I believe in the power of a mighty God and I believe that He can and will one day heal all our disease and sickness but I also know that when we say cancer or diabetes our knowledge and understanding tell us that sometimes people die and good people are not exempt from these illnesses. No one would say that people cause their own cancer and hinder their own healing. The same needs to be recognized with mental illness. Mental illness goes unseen and misunderstood but has been taking lives for so long under the labels of "troubled" "demonic", "attention seeking" among other things. 1 in 5 people suffer from some form of mental illness.  Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in people ages 15-44 and 90% of those are attributed to a form of mental illness.
I cannot and will not point fingers at God or at any person struggling with the weight and burden of a disorder or disease that is the outcome of a dying and sinful world.  Yet we have hope:  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16)
What can we do to help?  We can do what we can to love without limits, give what we can for those who suffer and not let our ignorance be the defining judgment on any one who finds themselves suffering.  Learn. Love. Give.
I challenge you to take a look at the world around you and LEARN, be aware so that you can help and LOVE in the best, most affective way you can.  GIVE as you can to help in bringing awareness and treatment for the sufferers, they represent our grandmas, brothers, best friends, nephews, sons, granddaughters, ourself.
Two months ago my nephew died.  His struggle with Schizophrenia went untreated and took his life. Although my nephew's face and name go unrecognized to you, he wasn't the only one who died from a mental illness that day, there was another whose face, work, life, and name is recognized by almost everyone, Robin Williams. No one is exempt.
My sister gave a very special, heart wrenching, sincere speech at my nephews funeral. In it she said that when Zach was born the rush of responsibility of not just nurturing physically but spiritually overcame her. Overwhelmed with emotion she wept and asked God to take Zach's new life into His hands. She dedicated her life to doing the best she could to raise him in the full knowledge of the Lord.  Many times Zach chose to turn from God but in the last months of his life he had made it known that Jesus was His hope and nothing was more important to him than that relationship. Scripture was flowing from him, scripture that was hidden deep inside him from all his bible quizzing years. So on that day my sister was able to address everyone at the memorial with a thankful heart to God for the reassurance that she would see him in heaven and when all is said and done that is all that really matters. We wrestle with grief in his absence but are comforted in the thought of a joyful reunion one day.
 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
This is the verse that Zach had posted on his Facebook cover photo a month before he died:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Click here to give in honor of my nephew, Zachary Allen Kirk, towards research and help for those who live with mental illness.
I also live in a place that is not unaware of the heartache of loss of life from mental illness, click here to support the documentary being made about Daniel Olson's story.