Monthly Archives: February 2015

What I learned about prayer – Ecuador, part 2

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In the weeks leading up to our mission trip to Ecuador, we would get emails with details of things we needed to do.  The real excitement came when one email had a video attachment with more than 20 minutes of information – what we needed to bring, what to expect, and my favorite: what we would be doing! Months of planning and dreaming about how this trip would go, and I was about to hear exactly how we would be spending those precious 2 weeks!
I got comfortable and got my people and the three of us watched it together.

Now, keep in mind this is my first out-of-the-country mission trip. What I typically assume a mission trip to be: build a church and spend days with beautiful kids at an orphanage.
While we watched the video, I hear “gather to pray,” “prayer adventure,”” 4 a.m. prayer” (that’s right, A.M., baby)… And I should be too embarrassed to tell you this, but I often share more than I should, so here is what I said after watching the video –
“I hope we do more than just pray. That sounds lame.”
Boy, did I have some stuff to learn.
In fairness to myself, I have to tell you I don’t think prayer is lame. I happen to love talking to Jesus. I just thought prayer sounded like something I could do from my couch in my comfy PJs rather than travel to another continent.
Turns out… prayer was more meaningful to me during this trip than anything else could have been and I am so grateful.


Prayer is a big deal
. There was a serious focus on prayer during this trip because it is the absolute most important thing we can ever do. Ever.
We prayed at a small shop owned by a lady of the church in Ibarra, for her business and her family.
We prayed for “Houses of Prayer,” home Bible studies led by young missionaries dedicating more than 2 years of their lives at a time to help get the churches going.
We prayed for the cities we were in, stopping at parks, schools, markets, and malls to pray in specific ways for the people living there.
We prayed in such detailed ways for the church – ways I would have never thought to do on my own. Praying for the people, the electricity, the sound and computer equipment, the building, the neighbors, the salvation of the landlord, the influence of the church sign (a prayer that was answered even as we were praying), a television screen the church needs … you name it, we prayed it. Beautiful. (For those of you who go to Huntington First Church with me – I’m super excited to say we are going to try this out at our church next Saturday, Aug. 23!!!)

We had a prayer meeting for 2 hours, beginning at 4 a.m.! We shared and prayed for each other in very specific ways. Definitely worth the early wake-up.

We prayed for a man at the park, who asked us to pray for his mind and his thoughts.

We prayed for healing for our friends.

While praying from my couch would have gotten through to God, and it would have been good, there is something to be said for being in the presence of what you are praying for, and inviting the presence of God to join you there. Touching the wall of the school, sitting on the doormat of the church, sitting in the grass of the park, sharing a Coke with a store-owner as you pray for her shop – those are things that put passion in my prayers. I meant what I prayed, and believe that God will answer.

In Mark Batterson’s book, The Circle Maker, he said, “…I’ve come to the conviction that one prayer can accomplish more than a thousand plans.”

Our speakers during our trip kept reinforcing that prayer is ministry. Prayer isn’t what you do simply because you are supposed to, or because there is nothing else you can do. It’s the most important thing.

We could have met and discussed ways to come up with money for a television for the church, or planned fundraisers, but instead we spoke to the One who owns everything already and told Him every need.

Prayer is the best. Knowing that the God of the universe wants to hear from me… Wow.

Pray. Go to God like you mean it. Give Him thanks and praise, and tell Him every concern, need, fear, desire…everything. He wants to hear it. And what a privilege.

Thank you, Father, for listening and answering.

“Pray continually…” I Thessalonians 5:17

“Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” I Chronicles 16:11

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” I John 5:14

Praying for the church in Ibarra ❤

Praying for the church and city of Ibarra

Praying for the city of Ibarra

Shawn and Noah in Ambato, right before we prayed for the city.

Noah and me right before we prayed for the city of Ambato.

Our group posing for a picture during our prayer adventure in Ibarra

Shawn, during the prayer service

The three of us in Ambato before prayer

What I learned about fear – Ecuador, Part 1

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This is part 1 of a 6-part blog on our 2 weeks in Ecuador this summer… I would love for you to take this journey with me through this blog 🙂

I am pretty much afraid of everything. Water, heights, the dark, deer, owls – you name it, I have some level of fear of it.

So making a move from my safe, comfy home in Barboursville, WV, for two weeks in Ecuador, brought with it an entirely new list of things to fear – forgetting our passports and missing the trip, flying, spearing, malaria, being detained in Ecuador, kidnappings, the bus driving off the side of the mountain,  natural disasters, etc.

Our flight was from Charleston, W.Va., to Atlanta, which took less than an hour. Not scary. I was proud of myself. Then after a 9-hour layover, the fears came flooding in.

Noah, waiting to board the plane in

Charleston

Occupying ourselves during the layover 🙂

At the last second there were “mechanical problems” that were fixed in 5 minutes. (Does that mean it was a tiny problem, or did they do a not-so-thorough job at fixing whatever problem it was?) Then we had problems with our boarding passes, and literally had them thrown to us to get us on the plane as quickly as possible. Being the last ones on, everyone else was happily seated and buckled in, while we were scurrying around the plane searching for carry-on space.

Then came a good hour of flying, with the sun setting and glowing all pretty, and all of a sudden, turbulence and the blackest, meanest clouds I’ve ever seen up close, and several hours of flying left to be done.

I was rather confident I wasn’t going to make it out alive, and began praying pretty hard and preparing to meet Jesus in person. Somehow during that time, God brought me peace.

 
Our group after arriving in Quito, Ecuador…

we were so tired

All these other things I had been afraid of before didn’t make me panic after that. We landed in Quito and took a 2-hour bus ride to the city of Ibarra, and stayed there for a week. I had peace and enjoyed each minute.

Then we took a 5-hour bus ride to the city of Ambato. A couple days into that city, we were awakened early to the sounds of loud, angry Spanish-speaking voices in the lobby of our hotel. That was followed by the sounds of banging and glass breaking. Then silence.

Fear came rushing back. I honestly don’t know if I have ever felt that scared in my life. Not knowing what the voices were angry about, and not knowing that the glass was just the porcelain basins of the lobby water jugs rather than the glass walls and windows, compounded with not knowing how to call the police – I was a mess. Crying and praying hard.

Some of our group helping to clean the

hotel lobby after the scuffle

Turns out, it was a scuffle in the lobby between a hotel guest’s drunk friend and the owner of the hotel, not a group of mafia-style men out to get all American Christians staying in the hotel (as my 5 a.m. mind led me to believe).

I know I have blogged many times about fear. And I like to think that one day I will have it all mastered and will not need to keep learning lessons about this, but until then, hopefully someone else can be learning along with me.

Fear keeps sneaking in. But God gently reminded me, again, that when I am afraid, I am not trusting Him.

Whether it’s about our safety, or my fear of not making a difference while on the trip, if I truly believe God is who He says He is, I won’t be afraid. I have no reason to.

God is big, powerful, limitless, loving, and because of this, I can’t fear.

Do I trust Him? Do I believe that whatever happens, God will use it for His glory? Yes. Ultimately when I think it through, that is what I want – His glory.

While a perfect flight, health and a great trip sound wonderful, God’s glory and His plan are what matter most.

Even if difficult things in life happen (malaria, lost luggage), I don’t need to fear, because I am never alone.

God reminded me that His sovereign will is what will happen on the trip, and that is what I wanted and needed to hear. Thanking Him for His peace

Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.”

8/10/2014

God is good, all the time

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Noah cracks me up; he gets his sense of humor from his dad. There are times when he says something so funny, I have no words. I just laugh and look at him, then say, “I love you.”

Once, after I said that, he laughed and said I just love him when he’s funny. He was kidding, but it made me wonder why I say  it so often during times he makes me laugh or does something sweet. I do love him then, but I also love him even when he is being obnoxious, or in a mood. My love for him isn’t based on what he does. I just love him all the time.

There is something our awesome worship leader says at church frequently: “God is good, all the time; and all the time, God is good.”

It is true. Often I hear other people, and I will say it myself, after something goes really great in my life and we talk about how good God is. Like, getting extra money that was needed, or a surgery going well, or making it home safely. And He definitely gets the credit for all those things, and I am extremely thankful for each one of them.

But I have to make certain I know He is good even when…

Even when money doesn’t come, or there are complications, or car trouble. God is good.

His good isn’t proven by His actions. He defines good. All the time.

In the Bible, a guy named Hezekiah was King of Judah and was doing an excellent job at it. II Kings 18, verse 5 says, “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.” He kept God’s commands and was very successful.

But he wasn’t perfect. In chapter 20, some visitors from Babylon’s kingdom stop by for a visit after Hezekiah had been so sick he nearly died. He welcomes them in and shows them every single thing he has in his kingdom.

What’s the harm in this? It doesn’t sound that bad, but it’s possible Hezekiah is doing this in an effort to sway the Babylonian kingdom to his side in fighting the Assyrians, just leaning a little to the side of depending on human power rather than God’s.

Isaiah quickly brings a message from God, saying that Judah will eventually be taken over by Babylon, leaving nothing. While this won’t happen during Hezekiah’s lifetime, it has a devastating impact on his descendants.

Crummy, right? But Hezekiah’s response…

“The word of the Lord you have spoken is good.”

God’s word is good because God is good. He defines good.

Seriously, read this book… So good…

In Jennie Allen’s book, “Anything” (which I HIGHLY recommend, by the way), she talks about her friend Rachel, who had a damaging childhood, with lasting effects into her adulthood. Yet Rachel is filled with joy and love for others, even for those who had hurt her, and most especially for her Jesus.

When asked how she could not feel like a victim, she answered, “You have to thank God for the seemingly good and the seemingly bad because really, you don’t know the difference.” (page 59)

She knew beauty could come from what seemed bad, and the same can happen from what seems like our bad as well.

We really don’t know the difference, just looking at a situation as it’s happening. Only God does. We have our own ideas for sure, but our scales aren’t weighted the same as God’s. He can see with an eternal sort of vision.

We can be much like a kid would see a good lunch as one filled with Cool Ranch Doritos and gummy worms, but a parent would know that vegetables and fruit and protein are good for helping the child grow and thrive. The parent knows what ultimately is good for the child. God knows what is good.

It is easy to see God as good when we are given the metaphorical Doritos and gummy worms, but He is just as good when we are given the metaphorical carrot sticks. He knows what is best for us, and ultimately what is best for bringing Him glory.

And trusting Him in this, it is the most freeing thing we can do.

If you are in the middle of some crummy stuff, trust God. This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. If you believe He is real, and He is good, then you can trust His plan. And that trust can bring with it peace and rest, which is way better than worry anyway.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good;

     Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” – Psalm 34:8

7/07/2014

A lesson from some lightning bugs

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The sunshine had gleamed off the pool water just hours before, but suddenly a storm was rolling in. What seemed to be one enormous black cloud that covered most of the sky was moving quickly toward our home, and the wind ripped through our neighborhood. And just like that, the electricity was gone.

As the evening turned to nightfall, with the storm long-gone, the hope for a quick fix was beginning to fade. I stepped on the porch, looking at my usually busy and well-lit neighborhood and seeing simple darkness.

But the longer I stood there and let my eyes adjust, I began to see a few lightning bugs in our tree. Then as if they were multiplying, there were bunches of them in the tree, and as I looked across the street, the other trees in the neighborhood began flicker with their light.

This isn’t my picture, my yard or my bugs,

but it was a pretty picture 🙂

It was beautiful. In that moment, I felt God’s presence and began to thank him for the lesson he was teaching me.

Every evening those fascinating little bugs could be filling the trees and I miss out on them. Between my busyness and the lights and distractions all around me, they are hard to see, and I don’t take the time to stop and look for them.

Often, I’m sad to say, my time with God is similar. I let so many other things distract me from purposely taking moments of my day to focus on Him, listening for his words that He is speaking just for me that day, and sharing things from my heart with Him. Sometimes it’s hard to hear Him when I let so many other things take priority. It’s not how He intended it to be.

Our time with God is crucial. When I don’t take those moments with God, my fears get bigger, my confidence weakens, and my sense of direction gets skewed. God knows how much we need Him; He created us to be with Him. But there is someone else whose main job is to keep that from happening. Satan doesn’t want us to focus on God. He knows the power that comes with that, and for him that is bad news.

Thankfully, there are times in our lives when we are forced to slow down and make him a priority. Often those times don’t feel like a blessing, muck like the loss of electricity with its frizzy hair and cold showers didn’t feel like a blessing in the beginning. But when I begin to see what God is trying to show me during those times, it is worth it.

Spending time with God has so many benefits… Seeing new things in scripture, feeling a sense of direction, peace just when we need it, a reminder of how much we are loved by the creator of everything.

So together, let’s make it a priority to spend time with God daily. We need it. And keep your eye out for the lightning bugs… they really are beautiful.

Matthew 6:33

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” 

7/01/2014

Kohl’s, lighting, and a lesson at Taco Bell

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I hate trying on clothes. Shopping is fine – I’m generally pretty optimistic as I pick things up in the store. But something happens to me emotionally as I cross the doorway into the fitting rooms at Kohl’s. Reality sets in and I know that at least 85% of what is tried on will end up hanging on the “Back on the Rack” hook. And the other 15% is more like “If I don’t breathe, this could work…”

I could blame the lighting. Clothes look better on in some places than others. And I’ve heard people use terms like “harsh lighting” versus “flattering lighting,” so I guess it makes sense. Some fancy ones even come with dimmer switches to let you adjust it precisely the way you like.

Regardless of the lighting, though, if it is my body not fitting in those jeans looking in any mirror, it’s the facts. It might be pointing out an obvious truth, one I wish was covered up by soft, dim lighting at flattering angles.

But sometimes coming face to face with truth is important. I have experiences like these frequently, and not just about my body or in a dressing room.

A recent example was at a Taco Bell drive thru. I was finished grocery shopping on a Monday afternoon, but hadn’t had lunch yet, so I made a left and turned into my Taco Bell. I placed my order, including a medium Pepsi. When asked if I would like to upsize it for just 30 more cents. Without even much consideration, I nonchalantly said something like, “Sure, why not?”

Then the woman said, “Would you like to donate a dollar for our program to help keep kids in school?”

Immediately, I responded with a clear, “No, not today.”

As soon as she gave me my total and I pulled away from the menu board, guilt began pouring all over me like the icing I smear on my cinnamon rolls… dumped on all at once and then quickly covering every part of me.

I was willing to give 30 cents for more caffeinated calories that I don’t need and probably would let go to waste in the bottom of my cup along with the melted ice anyway, but I wouldn’t even consider for a second if a program to keep kids from giving up on their education was worth 70 cents more.

Talk about harsh lighting…

Getting a real look at myself as I turned that drive-thru corner, I saw the selfishness that was likely always there, but sometimes easier to keep from focusing on.

In 2 Peter chapter 1, Peter talks a little about how we are to grow.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” – 2 Peter 1:5-7

This reflection of me at Taco Bell, when I suddenly came face-to-face with how I often don’t put others first is just one of many examples. Some pretty bad. I don’t like seeing myself like this. But…

Seeing myself this way, and becoming aware of the problem is the first step, right? And once we know there is a problem, we can get to work on it.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t tell us these things to make us feel crummy, though I will admit it does make me feel pretty low. Instead, it’s a call to change. A new assignment to work on. It’s a blessing. God will continue growing us and shaping us until heaven, and it is a wonderful thing. We know we aren’t perfect and we all have areas to work on, we just sometimes need a sweet reminder to get us going.

When you have these moments, don’t get smothered by the guilt. Instead, learn from it. Grow. Accept the challenge to become more like Jesus. What could be better?

I’d love to hear what God has been teaching you 🙂

6/26/2014

Meanwhile… and Bon Jovi

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I love Jon Bon Jovi. Period. When I was in junior high and MTV still had music videos, my heart would melt as I watched him sing about how I was born to be his baby, and he was made to be my man. So naturally, I was super stoked when he was scheduled to be at the Greenbrier Classic a couple of years ago, and thrilled beyond belief when my sweet cousin texted me to tell me she had scored some tickets and asked if I wanted to go with her… Um, yeah!!!! It was beautiful.

But even Jon Bon Jovi had a time before he was singing to me from my television set. He was a kid. He was a teenager. He had jobs. Turns out, while he was trying to make it as a musician, he was working on and off as a janitor.  Can you even imagine? Walking down a hallway somewhere and there is Jon Bon Jovi with a dustpan… Awesomeness.

This was Tara and me and a few

other random people at the concert…

It was pretty much awesome 🙂

While Air Supply was singing about being “All out of Love,” and Queen was declaring that another one had, in fact, bitten the dust, Jon Bon Jovi was cleaning something somewhere, all the while making demos and hoping for a break.

Other “Before They Were Stars” include Madonna working at Dunkin’ Donuts, Jennifer Aniston working as a telemarketer and a waitress, Morgan Freeman with a paper route, and George Clooney trying out for the Cincinatti Reds, but not making the cut.

Acts 7:53 gives us a glimpse into the Apostle Paul’s “Before They Were Stars” moment.

“…Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”

At this point in the book of Acts, Stephen had been doing all sorts of miracles and sharing Jesus’ story with everyone, causing nonbelievers to get worked up. They accused him of blasphemy. When asked if these things were true, Steven goes on to give a beautiful speech, summing up a great deal of the Old Testament and accused them of resisting the Holy Spirit. You can imagine how well that went over.  They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.

“Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”

We get a subtle introduction of some guy named Saul. Saul, a man who would later be known as Paul and do miracles, write at least 13 books of the New Testament, and lead continents to the Lord.

His “meanwhile” was holding coats for people who were killing others for preaching about Jesus .

But God had other plans for him. I’m so thankful for God’s plans.

What plans could God have for a girl who, meanwhile, was writing a blog…

For a guy who, meanwhile, was painting some cars…

A woman who, meanwhile, was cooking in the cafeteria…

A man who, meanwhile, was unemployed…

A woman who, meanwhile, was teaching 3rd grade…

It’s exciting to think about… We are going about our daily business, and God steps in, and mixes things up, making even more beautiful things happen.

Listen for His direction.  (Sometimes He goes drastic to get our attention – you know, like with the whole 3 days of blindness for Saul). Sometimes it’s in line with what we are already doing. Sometimes it isn’t. Follow the passions He has put in your heart. Say yes when He gives you an opportunity. Show His love everywhere you go.

If we are still breathing, God can use us. Our stories aren’t finished. Thank you, Lord!

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11

5/28/2014

Compassion and a sweet little bird

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“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love wtih words or speech but with actions and in truth.”  – I John 3:17,18

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”  – John 15:12

I’ve said before I’m not much of an animal person. I’m glad there are animal people in this world, but I am not one of them.

But then one comes along and makes me eat my words.

On Election Day, Noah and I were hanging out at home (still in our PJs after lunch time… heaven). He was resting on the couch feeling crummy after five vaccinations from the day before. All of a sudden, we hear a thump on our glass window and see a bird flopping around on our front porch.

I felt guilty that I had done such a great job with the Windex that morning, until later when someone told me that the bird didn’t think he was flying into my living room, but that he saw the reflection of the “outside” instead. (Which makes sense, because I actually never do a great job when it comes to Windex, or most cleaning, if I’m being honest).

I was going to go the route of “Just don’t look out the window again until your father comes home,” but Noah, being a much more compassionate soul when it comes to God’s creatures, hopped up and ran outside to check on him.

The poor thing had a floppy wing and a bloody mouth. I was really pulling for him to take off and be okay. I was praying for him. I had other people praying for him.  Noah tried to give it water to drink and rinse it’s mouth out, which was working quite well. It was still able to walk a bit and fly a foot or two. But that was it. So we went inside to give it some space.

*At this point, I am sure some of you are thinking we ruined the situation by being too close and touching the bird and leaving our “scent” on the little guy. I will point out that he was a regular bird, not a baby, and I will share this link http://www.snopes.com/critters/wild/babybird.asp to prove that the scent of a human doesn’t mean the end even for a baby bird, let alone one that is full-grown.


I saw a couple of other birds nearby, and felt relieved that they would come help our injured friend. But they didn’t. I watched them, expecting them to at least get close to inspect it, offer it a nudge, or at the very least, offer some sympathy. But they gave him nothing. They went on about their business like he wasn’t even there.

I thought if anyone could help our bird, it would be other birds. A bird would know what a bird needs, right? I had no idea what our little friend needed.

But the birds didn’t bother stopping to help. They kept on doing what birds do, looking for worms and chasing each other (it’s spring after all 😉 ).

I had to wonder if God ever feels that way about us. I was watching out my window, feeling so disappointed that those other birds were so self-involved that they didn’t bother showing mercy or compassion to our wounded buddy. Has He seen us do the same thing?

Has He watched us become so busy with our own stuff that people around us who are hurting or sick suffer alone because we don’t take the time to share their pain? Has He watched us pass by someone who is so sad, without taking the time to care because we are busy or don’t want to be all up in their business?  Has He watched as people suffer starvation while we throw out our leftovers?

I am preaching to myself right here. I need to pay attention to those around me. Family, friends, neighbors and strangers. If there is an opportunity for me to show the love of Jesus, I need to do it. Father, forgive me for when I haven’t. My prayer is that my eyes will be opened to these opportunities, so that I don’t stay focused on myself, my needs, my goals, but that I will actively show the love of Jesus to people around me every chance I get.

Join me? Let’s look for opportunities even today.

5/22/2014

Makeovers, hippies, and direction

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I love a good makeover movie. She’s Out of Control, where Ami Dolenz’s character goes from nerdy girl to to high school beauty in a five-minute montage, is one of my favorites. Another is Pretty Women, where Julia Roberts’ character goes from prostitute to Richard Gere’s character’s love-of-his-life…


(I’ve included a much-too-short clip at the end of this blog…When she goes back in to see the sales ladies after some shopping- LOVE IT!) 

And I was inspired myself to give a hippie a makeover. Probably a year or so ago, Noah and I were shopping at a yard sale at the church I grew up in. He found an antenna-ball-smiley-face-hippie that we just had to have.

My hippie looked rough after all these months in the elements – faded, bald, and missing her accessory. I considered buying a new one, but decided a makeover sounded so much more fun. So she got one.New coloring, new hair, and a new headband. She looks like a new woman 🙂

My Hippie – Before and After

When we bought that cute hippie at the rummage sale, I had no idea how essential she would be for me.

I thought it would be much later in life before I needed to make special arrangements to remember where I parked my car, but the time is now. I have wandered the parking lot many times looking for my car, where it’s like looking for the low-fat section of an Olive Garden menu… you know it’s there, yet can’t quite put your finger on it… And there were times I had nearly gotten into a car that wasn’t mine (It looked like mine, okay? I’m not completely crazy yet). But thanks to my adorable hippie, I can spot it easily (Most of the time I still don’t know where my keys are, but that’s another story).

My hippie gives me direction. Her smiling face says, “Here… We’re over here! You’ve found us! We’re waiting for you!” And I clearly need the direction 🙂

My Bible is like my hippie. It’s my direction. Psalm 119:105 describes it like this…

“Your word is a lamp to my feet

     and a light for my path.” 

That’s His Word – lighting our path so we don’t lose our way. Showing us which way to go. Guiding and leading.

If you’ve ever had to walk in the dark, you know it’s easy to lose your way. Even a trip to the restroom during the night can leave me bruised up from misjudging where the footboard of our bed or the doorframe is. But with a nightlight, things go much more smoothly. Outside at night, a flashlight or a street light can help you see where you need to go. You’re not mistakenly headed down any wrong paths.

The Bible is full of so many great things. I have been reading it more regularly over the last couple of years and I am falling in love with God’s Word. There’s wisdom, helping me know the things that are important to God – loving Him, loving other people, having mercy, living selflessly. There are examples of God’s faithfulness, directing us to trust Him because we have seen how He can be trusted. And there are some crazy stories I had never learned or heard, like Ehud and the fat king (Judges 3:12-30 in case you have missed that all your life too). And sometimes scripture is a message from God to you, meeting you right in the messy situation you are in. I’ve had Him use verses to speak to me that way, just when I needed it, bringing with it peace that could not be explained.

So read it. Not because you have to, but read it because it is what you need.

Here is the Pretty Woman clip 🙂

5/16/2014

Do your thing

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Carny started out in our family as a tiny goldfish Noah won at the Barboursville Fall Fest more than a year and a half ago. He fit nicely in a tiny bowl, with a tiny plastic plant. No filter required, just a fresh bottle of water every other week. We haven’t had a fish last longer than three months except our miracle fish, Moon. Carny continued to grow, so we upped his tank to a  2.5 gallon tank, still just changing the water as needed.

**Side note – Moon, the miracle fish, happened when Noah and I had walked through Wal-Mart one day, looking at the pet supply section, with Noah asking for a fish. I told him we would need to discuss it as a family, rather than just getting one and going home with it. Noah must have talked to Someone above me, because late that night, there was a ringing of the doorbell. I ran to see what it was, without considering how unsafe it is to just open up your door at 11p.m., and found a water-filled-baggie with a tiny goldfish. I still don’t know who did it, but I’m pretty sure I know Who told them to do it.

Carny kept living and growing. So with little room to function in the tank, we decided on a 10-gallon tank, complete with filter and light. Carny didn’t adjust well. He had all this new space to swim and explore, but he kept himself in the back corner. It was like the light and the buzzing of the filter were too freaky for him and he couldn’t handle it. So here was this huge space for him to enjoy, relax, explore, and navigate in, and instead, he stayed hunkered down near the back corner floor, only coming up for food occasionally. It was hard for me to understand… If only I could speak “fish” I could’ve told him it was safe, it was better for him, that he would love it! I would’ve told him to trust me.

I can just imagine that God would love to tell me some similar things at times, if only I would listen. 

Often it takes me too long to get on board with what God wants me to do. I like to be sure 🙂 But I waste so much time and miss out on so much because of fear. Sometimes I wimp out completely and don’t do it at all. The times I haven’t let fear hold me back have been so meaningful and beautiful that I should never let fear bully me again.

I mentioned in a previous blog that God had been nudging me to open my home to neighbors for a Bible study, get to know them, involve myself in my community He has placed me in. I prayed about it for more than a year, and finally got the nerve to do it earlier this year, passing out flyers to every neighbor in my subdivision. We just finished our first book study, and these four ladies mean so much to me. The conversations we have had, things we have learned from each other, prayers prayed over our families and our problems, and friendships formed – I couldn’t be more thankful. We are starting a new book this week!

I would’ve missed out on all of this if I had stayed hunkered down in my corner of the tank.

God didn’t make me swim out alone. He was there right beside me, giving me what I needed, when I needed it. He said in Isaiah 41:13,

“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.'” 

Is there anything God is asking you to do? Know that He won’t make you do it alone. God has purposes for each of us. Sometimes it’s a big thing… Adopt a kid, teach a class, change occupations. Sometimes it’s a seemingly smaller thing… make dinner for someone, babysit, cut someone’s grass, smile. Each one of them is important.

Whatever it is, do that thing. It’s your thing. It’s the thing that God has planned for you right now. Don’t miss it. There’s a whole 10-gallons out there that God wants to share with you.

5/18/2014

Hiking, hillsides, and dads

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“…There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son…” – Deuteronomy 1:31

Saturday was such a beautiful day, it seemed a shame to spend any more of it inside than we had to. So by afternoon when we had some free time, we decided to go to the park and enjoy nature. Our idea of enjoying nature and Noah’s is usually a little different. Mine is a walk, or sitting under a tree, reading. Noah’s is soccer, Frisbee, badminton – things that make me tired. So this time Shawn and I decided it was only fair to do both. We did the hike first (genius, btw. After a 4-mile hike, he wasn’t as ambitious with the Frisbee).

The trail we picked was the River Trail at Barboursville Park. Noah used to think it was a little scary, so it is not his favorite. I like that it has very few inclines #gettingbywithaslittleaspossible #lazy. It also has some beautiful spots, like this one. (Right before this picture, I pointed out to Noah how beautiful it was, “I hate this trail,” how that stream of water could be on a postcard or calendar, “the other trails are better…”)

The trails Noah prefers are the ones on the side of the mountains, up and down all over. Once we were geocaching on a muddy trail (never found the cache, btw, so if anyone wants to cheat and tell us where it is, that would be great 😉 . We had climbed up this steep, muddy hillside to check out an area. The trick was getting back down. We couldn’t do it. Noah was scared, and I won’t lie, I was scared too. Naturally Shawn went back down with no trouble, but Noah and I were apprehensive, to put it mildly. Shawn planted his feet firmly in the ground and reached for Noah, placing him safely back on the trail, easy peasy.

In the Bible, Moses reminded the Israelites of the times God also did the same for them. The Israelites had wandered around in the desert for a super long time after leaving Egypt. In Deuteronomy 1:31 he said, “…There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son…” He was recounting all the times God had been there for them. He didn’t want them to forget how they were once slaves in Egypt, but in ways only God could do, he set them free.

Each time God helps us through something, or carries us, our faith in Him should be a little bit stronger. When we see how much He cares, how He rescues in ways that we know can only be from Him, we become more certain that the next time we face something, we can count on Him.

There are so many times God has done this for me. When depression overwhelmed me to the point I didn’t want to keep living, God carried me. When we suffered two miscarriages, God carried us. When my marriage was at it’s roughest point, I was sure it was over. But God carried us.

If you are in the middle of your own desert, questioning if you will make it out, carve out a few minutes right now. Make a list – mental or on paper, whichever works best for you. Remind yourself of the times God has been there for you. The times He has carried you, as a father carries his son. Pick a couple that come to mind and keep going until you feel your faith in God renewed.

I’d love for you to share with me a time or two that God has carried you…

“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.'” – Psalm 31:14

4/29/2014