Wednesday, March 9, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

My Gratitudetuesays have now become my One Thousand Gifts. My count is being mostly recorded in a special journal now simply because I have been not well for almost two months. It has been easier to just record with pen and paper as they happen. I am not going back to count the times I recorded manna moments in Gratitude Tuesdays (although not always on a Tuesday). I am starting fresh at one. God is a good provider. He provides in mysterious and wonderful ways for me and for my family. My manna moments are mine. They may not resemble anything anyone else discovers. My manna moments may not be poetic or seemingly important in the scheme of things, but they are exactly what God provided for me in that moment to bring me grace, thanksgiving and joy. Living a life of Eucharisteo is important, especially important to me right now. It is the thing that helps keep me God focused and not self-focused. This part of my journey may seem hard but it may be the easier part of the journey. I don't know what is ahead of me. Each day brings along some challenge or struggle, but finding and naming the gifts-Eucharisteo-is a balm to my often restless, impatient and yes, ungrateful spirit. Eucharisteo in both the "easy" and in the "hard" times is important. Giving thanks then receiving the gift and living the joy even in the hard times is so critical. I am not sure how anyone can endure real suffering without returning thanks to God for it all. Faith that He has it all in control and will use this hard time for my good! It has to be with Eucharisteo! Just as Jesus gave thanks before using the little boy's lunch to feed thousands and then the gift, the miracle and the joy that follows and more thanksgiving. Just as Jesus gave thanks before breaking bread in the Last Supper leading to His death. How hard of a spot to be in, but the miracle that followed and the joy that I can have in knowing that life with Him- His grace, love, forgiveness- He alone is the reason that I can give thanks in all things here and in all things that are to come. I have the hope of communing with Him for all eternity. Until then there is the joy and the expectation of finding Him daily in the little gifts of life and communing with Him daily with thanksgiving and love. My one thousand gifts list will continue on paper but also as time allows I will record some of them here as well starting with the next journal number.

111. God's gift of a Savior
112. Hope of life with Him
113. Rainy days
114. Green grass
115. Puddles to splash in
116. Folded laundry
117. Starch
118. Ironed collars and creased sleeves
119. A happy first grader
120. School girl friendship struggles
121. Phone chats with friends dating to B.C. - what a huge blessing!
122. Jello with no fruit
123. Heading a pillow soceer ball into the sink of dirty dishes
124. Cars and PBS Kids Go!
125. Healing of all- body, mind and spirit

My Wilderness Confession

4-5Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

6-7Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

8-9Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:4-9 The Messsage

The Lord has been dealing with me concerning my obedience and lack of dependence on Him in all things for a long time. Unfortunately, I am much like the Israelites, hard-headed, blind, too self-focused which lead to more rebellion and self-delusion that I am alright. Like the Israelites, God has taken me from my Egypt where I was quite comfortable although a slave to the activities and expectations (put there by me mostly) that kept me from enjoying being God's precious treasure. (Exodus 19:5) Now that I am in the wilderness, away from the things that gave me seemingly purpose and value, away from the comfortable climate, attitudes, values, accent, food... everything Southern! I am not comfortable. It is just stinkin' hard at times. The wilderness is hard and uncomfortable because it is exposing all those weaknesses, self-sufficiency, lack of trust, etc. that I always pushed aside to deal with later. God started me on this wilderness journey while I was back in the South, so this is not a totally Northern journey. He has just moved my physical location and I believe, has moved me away from some of the activities I was so passionate about so I could refocus on Him, His will for me and His provision alone. Like the Israelites, I can do really well for a while, reading, praying, memorizing, keeping my mind parked on things that are right, true, praiseworthy, etc. I feel at bit more at peace. But then something is said or done that brings back worry, anxiety, whispers of failure, loneliness, inadequacy, and it spirals back to my grumbling and whining to myself. Just like the Israelites in Exodus 14 among other places, I rebel. I purposefully avoid going to scripture, trying to memorize, my prayers or thoughts are more on the order of "Poor pitiful me! I don't have any value or purpose other than to clean toliets, make food, wash and iron, referee squabbles, etc. I have no friends. No one calls me to check on me- People here are so different- How will I ever find friends?! I have failed and lost out as a mommy - Why can't I find motivation to follow thru with anything- I am so lazy!". On and on the laments go, whining and complaining. I know it is wrong, but I get stuck in the tirade against myself and my situation. I might as well say that God has brought me to the North, away from children's ministry and all that I hold dear and comfortable to just waste away in boredom and self-pity. Maybe I should pray for Dana to get another job back South? That is when I fall down like Aaron and Moses and speak some sense. Stop being so self-focused and become all God-focused, Girl!!! Focusing on me and my weaknesses, my abilities, my feelings, being self-focused, I begin to rebel. I am not focusing on Truth, on God, but on the lies and me.Here is the Truth: My family and I have been led through a land that is full of milk and honey- God has provided a good job for Dana- He answered prayers fervantly prayed. How can I throw that back at God? He is good and our Provider! He knows the very path we will travel and for travel for good reason. (Proverbs 3:5-9, Jeremiah 29:11-13) I realize that I am merely afraid. Again afraid indicates I am focusing on me and my abilties or rather inabilities. 29 Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30 The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the wilderness. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” Deuteronomy 1:29-31 NIV Being afraid is relying on myself, not on God to lead me and provide for me. Unlike the Israelites, I want to trust God in this journey. I want to be thankful for the manna that He provides daily. God is good! God is going to fight for me and with Me. He will fill in all my gaps as a mom and wife. He will give me strength to face each day anew and fresh. God is all I need for today, tomorrow, for all of my needs.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habukkuk 3:17-19 NIV

So my wilderness lesson right now is to be thankful in all things- Jesus is Near!! When worry comes into my mind, replace it with prayer and finding Eucharisteo! Record the manna moments. God is near. He is providing for me and my family. He will deliver us to a place that is best for us! Don't park my mind on me- so much of that is going to be used by Satan to discourage me- it is not true or praiseworthy to just name a few of the issues with those thought processes. Focusing on that God has it all in control and is working behind the scenes for the good of me and my family. It just may not be the easiest of journeys.
Satan will use the feelings loneliness, discouragement, disappointment and doubt to derail me. If I don't dwell on these feelings(the lies) but on the truth that God has something bigger and better in store for me and my family if I simply wait, trust and am obedient to Him then He will reveal a far greater mission for my life and for my famliy's. Our promiseland is at the end of this journey.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 NIV

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Surrendering, Stronger, Joyful

What if I could be courageous enough to act and react like a complete person - a Jesus girl who has His joy in her, sustaining her, and directing her?

I am full aware that much of what I am going through is nothing compared to what many endure in this life. I have it so good. I still deal with many fears. Many of my expectations are not met in this life and that causes me great stress- Did I ever mention that I like to have things planned out, controlled and no inconveniences? Some of my expectations are not met because of my own failings, my own sin, my own willfulness. I am learning to extend myself some grace and let go- to surrender- lift my hands to God to pull me out of the danger and threatening situations. He is in total control. He has orchestrated my life and the the life of my family to be in these circumstances and environment. He does work all things for His good and for my good. His ways are higher than mine - He does infinitely more than I could ever imagine. I could go on and on with all of the truths I know about God being in control and for my need to rest and trust in Him alone. Give myself some grace and just surrender to Him. Rest in Him. Stay close to Him. All that I have encountered in my life and in the recent years has been for a reason. I am where I am for a reason. I know that I need to focus on being mom and wife and to wait and trust Him for direction in other endeavors. He is in control, He will direct my steps each day-each hour, minute and second. But I must surrender it all to Him and allow Him to use me for His glory and purposes. In return I get to see God in action, my kids and others get to see and experience His love, grace and provision as well. I am changed - hopefully, even ruined for good. I will be made stronger, better, more complete in Him. I will be that Jesus girl I so want to be- acting and reacting full of joy, sustained and guided by my LORD.

Snow, Sunshine and Grass

I have described the ever present snow as God's grace that quietly and gently falls on us each day. It silently and often unbeknownst to us it covers us. In the midst of a white snow covered world, the sun comes out and shines so bright and crisp off of the snow. It is such a contrast to the mostly gray days that you have to notice it and just enjoy its warmth. I have described the sun as God's glory and majesty- His great power! His glory, majesty and power are something to behold and not easily ignored. It is a stark contrast to the bleakness and darkness of a life lived in sin or apathy of right living. Focus on the trials and struggles of this world can also lead to a pretty bleak and gloomy outlook. God's glory, majesty and power is amazing, warm, awesome. It gives one a sense of warmth, comfort, hope and brightness that there is more to our existence than the dull, gloomy, and bleak toils and struggles of living life here. We have a hope of life in the eternal light and warmth of God in heaven!
But as the snow melts and becomes stained with car exhaust, I am reminded that we can forget that God has given us grace. We take it all for granted. Sometimes we need a renewing of our minds and hearts. Worship, study, prayer, resting, trusting, serving are all ways to renew ourselves. When we are renewed, hopefully, daily, then we can appreciate the snow. Enjoying the renewing process is like seeing the green grass after so long covered, it gives us a reminder that the Creator is busy and at work in our lives just as He is in the creation and the changes of seasons. His glory and majesty are a displayed again in a vibrant way. God is good and God is great! I am thankful for the quiet snow falls, ever impressed by the warm and bright sun, and thrilled for the soft green grass.

Soul Tired

Soul tired- how that term resonated with me this week! That word is the perfect word to describe how I have felt for so long- tired from the inside out. This condition did not occur overnight. No, ma'am! This condition has been coming on for a few years now. I remember sitting in Pastor Mike's office about 2 years ago and him expressing some concern about potential burn-out. I assured him that I had been there and done that and well knew the symptoms, yet I did nothing significant to prevent burn out from overtaking me. I kept right on going and doing all that I could for Kidsville and its little ones and the mommies in MOPS. I was good, I told myself and everyone, I get to worship with the little ones, I have my study prep I did for the Bible studies I was leading along with the ministries' preps. I even led a study about rest as a spiritual discipline. Oh, yes, I was not going to burn out! No, siree!! But when the trials and stresses of Dana's job came - almost like a wreck you saw coming but denied it was going to happen- until.... Well, it became more difficult to stay focused and to keep going. I knew God was going to use this season in life to work on me because I was out of whack- no balance and most of all soul tired. No worship, no significant and intentional time with God, no prayer except the 911 issues that come as a mom, wife and minister. But there is another cause of soul tired. That would be Satan. I am confident that he is so pleased when I or anyone else for that matter focuses on themselves and their circumstances instead of focusing and relying on God. He is going to make sure that I am soul tired and continue to keep my attention on the negatives and other difficult issues. It becomes a cycle- negative thoughts lead to more negative thoughts and feelings which zaps one of joy, peace, thanksgiving, looking upward, hope, kindness and then the guilt and wondering "what is wrong with me?!" sets in and more negative feelings ensue! So I end up soul tired!
I know the cure, the treatment, the remedy for this and that is simply choosing to surrender it all to God and make a choice of staying as close to Him as possible.
Psalms 63:1 O, God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water. If I would intentionally spend time with God in the Word and in prayer much of my soul tired condition would be healed. By getting closer to Him, I also know that my focus would change. My thoughts would be dwelling on the positives in life and not the negatives. I would be more positive in my thoughts, words, more energy and enthusiasm. I know full well that God is with me and in control. He is directing my paths, His plans for me are already laid out. I simply must trust- must surrender my fears, my control, my insecurities, my will for Him and His will for myself and for my family. This is not a terminal illness unless I allow this soul tired condition to be the only thing I live for. This is just a viral type condition. With the proper rest (abiding and resting in God alone), and with a prescription of prayer, reading, memorization and obedience I can make a full recovery quickly. I alreay am feeling a bit better.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Moving to Ohio has been a challenge for our family. For me personally, I have left the comfortable and known life of the South and of life in Milledgeville behind. While it was not a perfect place and I would have and still would love to be closer to my family, it was a known entity and comfortable. I am far from being comfortable and at home here but it has only been about a month and it has been so cold of late that I could almost be a hermit in order to stay warm.
While we have said all along that God has plans for us here, it is hard to be patient for them to be revealed. Yet, I look back and am reminded that even in the transition time I have felt I know a bit of God's plan, at least for me. For some time, I have felt the need to delegate or relinquish some of my responsiblities of the ministries I led to better focus on my own family. I did do some of this but not near what I probably needed to do. Also, I need to trust God in all things. Easy to say but so hard to do. God has His own plans for Dana and the children, but for me my valley has been letting go of a lot of independence, self-sufficiency and identity and control issues. God has been with me all the way and provided for my every need. The time that we were separated as a family and I was coming to terms with my own sin issues was actually bittersweet. The time I spent in prayer, journaling and reading was wonderful. I felt God beside me yet I was grieving and still struggling. These issues are still present. It is kind of like an addiction. The tendency is there, but I am more conscious of the triggers and the symptoms or characteristics so I am just more are and sensitive to it all.
I love that my family is together and I really believe Ohio will be okay to live in, once I get used to the cold and snow. Snow is not all that it is made out to be.....
Of late I have felt pretty down about things for me personally. I miss my home and so want it to sell. Please Lord, provide a buyer quickly. I am nervous about eventually buying here after we sell in Georgia because I am nervous about Dana's job security and the sale of a home in Ohio. Not at a peace or maybe it is that lack of trust. I am lost most days. I know of house work that needs or should be done, yet I have no desire or motivation to do it. Forrest needs someone to play with him and to teach him a bit. So sadly, I lack the energy or desire to even do this. Finally, I have time to scrapbook! But the desire and energy are not there. I am involved in a Bible Study. This is the one highlight of my week. I haven't really made any friends or connected yet. However, I do feel some peace and serenity here. The other activities including the church we are attending, I don't feel peace about at all. I still feel lost and homeless. One of the things I know is that my personal time with God needs and should be renewed quickly. I need uninterrupted time with God to keep my eyes and heart on Him. I will never hear His call for my life here in Ohio unless I get close enough and tuned in well enough to hear. I need to be in a praise and gratitude mind set. Instead of naming my disappointments and focusing on the things I don't have, I need to be counting my blessings. Remembering that one of the reasons I believe I am here in Ohio is to focus on my two kids and my husband. I need to reconnect with them. For so many years, I have talked a good game about being a good wife and mommy, yet my family probably wouldn't agree that I was one. I have become grumpy, impatient, unhappy and business like with my little ones. Seeing me smile is a rarity that they notice and comment on. Why is that? I don't enjoy being mommy and haven't in a long while. They are loved deeply but I have viewed them as interruuptions and bothersome details in my life of ministry. I need to focus on being there physically, emotionally and mentally for my family. I need to take care of getting healthy spiritually before all the other parts fall into place properly. Mary Louise in particular needs a good mommy role model. She also needs a safe haven to come home to after a long and challenging school day. Snippy and distracted, grumpy and impatient mommy in cluttered house is not it!
While I know for certain that God has called me to Children's Ministry and I love it! I don't miss the details and the volunteer shortage issues that happen each week. I miss the kids and I really miss the team members I got to serve with. I miss so much of CM, but I don't miss it at all. That doesn't make a lot of sense, I know. I have long needed a break even if it was in delegating some of the many tasks. So much of the weekly prep work happened solely because of me. I don't say that to praise me, just the opposite. That was one of my sin struggles. First,God was left out of the ministry. I totally relied on my physical and mental abilities to handle it all. Secondly,I wouldn't train up the team members and bless them with the opportunities to do a lot of things they could have done to help. I did a lot of physical work, but God did all of the spiritual stuff for the kids, families and staff totally without me. I was selfish in the service and it came at a great cost to me spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. My family also paid a great cost. Lesson learned is balance is critical. Balance in family and ministry and balance in public and private time with God. What does God want of me in Children's Ministry now? I don't know. I do know He has something prepared for me. He has not given me the experiences and opportunities at NCC to not go on somehow in CM at some point. I am watching, waiting and praying for the right time and right work for Him.
In the past weeks, I have felt lost and alone. While God did provide some contacts here for me, I don't have and honestly, didn't have in Milledgeville, the girlfriends factor. I had some ladies that I could call and chat with while the kids played at Chic-Fil-A. There were some ladies that would call me for advice or some sort of help. I had lots of people that I saw and talked with weekly at church. But someone to bear my soul to? Nope, there wasn't anyone I could talk with about Dana's job and stresses with it, the struggles I faced in CM and home and child-rearing or even the lack of shopping options or a good recipe. I was in a crowd but often very lonely. So why is it so hard now to feel lonely? Maybe because no one is calling me anymore about anything and I don't have those familiar faces to check in on each week. I find that my bloggy friends are the largest comfort yet again to me. I just wish for one good friend to do life with here.
Again, I need to focus on God and His call for my life right now... That is to focus on making my home a safe haven for my stressed husband and for my daughter; to focus on giving my son some fun and intentional learning experiences; to focus on managing home and household in a godly and right way; to wait patiently on God and the revealing of any other purpose for my life, particularly in regard to Children's Ministry; to simply trust God in ALL things; to get myself back in shape physically, mentally, emotionally and especially spiritually which means time intentionally spent with Him in reading, journaling, memorization and prayer. It can not depend on how well connected I feel to a certain church, girlfriend or dwelling place. It must depend totally on my focus on God as the provider of all things and healer, comforter and sufficiency in my life. God is great - God is good- I need to live like I really believe it. Focus! Focus!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tough Week

This has been a tough week for me personally. I have felt so lost and out of place and out of sorts. In the past month, I have given up my house that I love and the nice appliances that make life more convenient. The things I did like Children's Ministry I have given up and but more importantly, I have been stripped of anything that resembles a purpose. I have had a really hard time getting into a routine and finding joy in housekeeping and just being home all day. Groceries are expensive. I am concerned about the cost of living here - the gas heat is on a lot and gasoline and food is expensive. We no longer buy OJ because it is about $4/gallon. Ouch! I feel a bit cut off from people. Like I have been dropped here and am all alone I am cold and the snow has finally started getting old to me. I don't find the snow fun. It is pretty but after a while all of the white and the gray gets old. Maybe it is seasonal emotional disorder or depression or cabin fever. Plus I have had a sore throat and not felt super. Simply put, I haven't been very happy this week. A pity party of sorts perhaps. But honestly, I have really struggled. I am trying so hard to be positive and patient. But at the same time, my feelings are just the opposite.
Then I am confronted in my Crazy Love Bible study about the greatness - a word that is not sufficient- of my God. I am reminded that this life is not about me. My life is not about me. It is all about God. God is using the present circumstances for His glory. He is going to use this sad and frustrating time to show me and others how He continues to provide and will use me for His glory.
I am also reminded that the mundane things like laundry, dusting, scooping litter and playing Legos is important and God is using me for His purposes in those things. I need to remember to praise Him and honor Him in all of those things.
There is so much more I want to describe, but for now I will leave it with the video from Chris Tomlin.