Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Triumph or Disaster

I can remember, as clear as day, the moment my daughter was born.  I remember the second I laid eyes on my newborn baby and gazed into her precious, tiny eyes and held her miraculous, tiny bundle of self in my arms. That day was one of my biggest Triumphs. I was a mom!
However, I can also recall three years later, sitting by her bedside for six days in the Pediatric ICU. There had been a mistake during a simple outpatient surgery and she was sedated and on a breathing tube. I remember how her tiny toddler body looked lying there in that huge hospital bed.  I can still see the tears roll down her cheeks each time the sedation started to wear off and she would wake up in fear. I can still remember the feeling that nothing in the world mattered at all except her waking up. That was one of my biggest Disasters.
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same. -Rudyard Kipling
Kipling calls both Triumph and Disaster impostors. Why? I believe it is because both of them take our eyes off our focus, they deceive us to believe that it is all about us and our circumstances and forget about the God who is over it all. In my own experience, I am sadly closer to God during my time of disaster. The reason for this is because during my time of triumph, I am so busy enjoying my life that I forget how much I need God. I think that many of us do the same. Then when the disasters come along, we remember and fall to our knees. Our relationship and faith in Christ become stronger. There are those disasters, however, that spiritual break us. Thankfully I have never had to face a disaster like I know others have. I have never lost a child or a spouse. I have never been penniless on the streets. I have never faced death myself. There are those that have. When those times come, it is easy to blame God for the circumstance or to lose faith in His very existence. It is possible to be in so much pain, that you cannot bring yourself to come to God with it. Or, you believe that God does not care.
This particular verse of this poem has always been a reminder to me of what our response should be in either situation. We are to treat those two impostors just the same. How are we to treat them? With praise and recognition of the God that is always in control and loves us dearly. In the times of Triumph we should remember to give Him the praise for what He has done.
He is the one you praise; He is your God who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Deuteronomy 10:21
And in the times of Disaster, we are to also give Him praise. The Bible tells us that after Job had lost everything dear to him in his life,
he fell to the ground in worship and said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." Job 1:20-21
After King David found out about the death of his newborn baby, it says,
After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshipped. 2 Samuel 12:20
Remember, whatever the circumstances you will face on your journey today, praise the Lord!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dream a Little Dream

From the time I was eight years old, my dream was to go to Africa one day.  I wanted to see the beauty of the land, the people, the animals. I read books about it, watched movies about it, and even made a scrapbook of the animals I would find there. It was my "before I die..." request.
The summer I was nineteen, I stepped foot off of a plane into Kimberley, South Africa. The feeling I felt I can only assume is the feeling of one's dream coming true.  I spent six weeks in South Africa that summer with a missions team working with the people in different countries throughout the country.  Cape Point was forever written in my mind as the most beautiful place on earth.  I left a portion of my heart there (forever). I returned again three years later.

I feel extremely blessed to have attained my life dream when I was only nineteen years old. Many reach the end of their lives without ever having done so. What I have learned about attaining dreams, however, is that they don't stop once you've reached them; they grow. My dream then became a desire to serve in South Africa full time (one that I have not yet attained).
Often, as mothers especially, we feel that we must exchange our dreams for reality. In a sense, we do. Yet, I feel that it is more in pursuit of a bigger dream. "I will not pursue my dream of ____________, because I want to devote my time to raising up my children to follow Christ wholeheartedly, to be well-educated, and to have a strong family environment in which to live, and my dream would not attain that higher goal." Does that mean that we shouldn't dream, or that our dreams don't matter? No. It simply means, as Rudyard Kipling so eloquently put it in his poem If,
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
then you are able to reach for something much higher than where your dreams could have ever taken you! Dreaming allows us to realize the potential that we have in our lives. The key is to understand that our dreams are so limited and "small-scale" to the plans that God has for us.
"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
Don't allow the burdens of the everyday life cause you to lose your dreams. Take hold of those dreams as something that God has wired inside of you for some purpose, for some reason that is yet to be explained. I believe there are several ways in which He equips us for His service - by experiences, by knowledge, and by passions and dreams. So today, DREAM BIG! Just don't make dreams your master, for there is only one that belongs on that seat!
Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Monday, February 27, 2012

30 Teens, 30 Hours w/ No Food, One Amazing Weekend

This past weekend our youth group participated in their 3rd 30 Hour Famine through World Vision.  This time we had 30 teens go for 30 hours without eating.  The weekend was more amazing than I ever expected. 
To be honest, as the teens started to arrive, I was nervous.  Last year's famine, we only had 15 teens.  We were doubling this year.  Not 15 minutes into arrival time, we had confiscated items.  There were already teen girls that were running through the halls giggling.  I had received a phone call earlier that my all-night female chaperon was sick. Thank the Lord, my spiritual gift is faith. So, I took a moment to recognize that God was in charge of who attended this weekend, not me.  I took a deep breath, put on my best smile, took a sip of my Pomegranate-grape juice, and got to work!
The famine went off without a hitch.  The teens were in high spirits the entire weekend.  They worked hard, played hard, and slept hard (no, really, they slept at a lock-in!).  We played the TRIBE games, which, to the credit of World Vision, are incredible learning tools for these kids.  Each year we have prayer stations throughout the weekend and time to speak to the "Fam Cam" about their experiences.  I could definitely see a change in them throughout the weekend.  We watched educational videos and had worship.  Saturday afternoon we spent in community service.  We were able to split into 3 teams this year and managed to clean out our church's bus garage, pick up our sponsored portion of the highway, and go door to door through the neighborhood collecting food for the hungry in our own community. They also raised a total of $600 for World Vision.
As we closed the 30 Hours, we had the teens do the "meal ticket" activity, during which they were to write down 2-3 things that they learned or that impacted them over the weekend and submit that to us as their ticket to eat.  I wanted to post some of their experiences here:
I know this is my 3rd Famine, but it never fails to amaze me just how much I take for granted.  I realize just how much God really has given me and the responsibility I have to bless others and serve them and lay down my selfish desires.  I realize just how trivial a lot of the things we do, or talk about, or fight over, really are... (16 year old participant who celebrated her birthday during the famine!)
Even though I am sick after not eating for 30 Hours, I know that at six o'clock I'll get to eat as much as I want.  A lot of people aren't this lucky and have to go days without food and even then only get a little bit to eat before they have to go days without eating again.  I've learned that hunger is everywhere and if I want to help and make a difference, I need to start in my own community first. (16 year old)
This is my second year doing this 30 Hour Famine.  I thought it would be easier, but for whatever reason, it was harder.  I got really weak after 12 noon on Saturday. It made me realize how they must feel - constantly - and yet I know when my suffering will end. (13 year old)
I learned that there are so many opportunities we can take to help people that we don't, and that we need to look at the world in a more selfless way, so we can see the problems. (14 year old)
One of my thoughts that I had is that most of the people in the United States don't realize what's going on in the other countries, and we don't know everything they go through. (14 year old)
I learned that everything isn't about me, it's about putting others first along with following Christ.  And that I need to change my old ways of life. (13 year old)
I have been doing the famine since I was 16 years old and I still love to do it.  I love to see the change come over the teens as they get a glimpse of a bigger world.  I love to empower them with the sense that they can do something about it.  I wanted to share this experience with you, my reader, because I am so incredibly proud of my youth!

Don't Deal in Lies

Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hate. - Rudyard Kipling's "If"
One of the reasons that Christian women often feel so burdened down is because we put so much pressure on ourselves with unreal expectations.  The world itself is constantly dealing out lies to women about how they should look, act, shop, dress, work, parent, even think, through tv, magazines, ads, books, and even other women.  Women, even young teens, are pressured to give themselves away.
Christian women can be told even more lies...We are expected to be all of the above, while being supermom, having a perfect looking home, having personal Bible study and prayer time, attending and volunteering for all church events, pleasing our husband all the time, and strictly adhering to the church's standard of behavior.  Oftentimes we simply label this perfect model of a woman "The Proverbs 31 Woman."
THIS is being lied about and dealing in lies.  THIS causes us to give way to hate...ourselves. THIS is what causes us to lose the joy of a life found in Christ.  THIS is what burdens us down, enslaving us to Satan's lies.
So how do we see these lies for what they are?  We learn who it is we serve and what His expectations of us are, and we don't worry about anyone else's opinion.  "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32  All throughout the New Testament we see that Christ came to offer us freedom.  We are set free in order to live a life for him without burden.  So about these lies?  Here is the basics of what God asks of His women:
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Titus 2:3-5
So what are we to do? 
1) Watch that our behavior is positive (reverent, not slanderers, not drunkards, self-controlled, pure, kind). 
2) Love our family.  It does not give a criteria of what we must accomplish each day for our husbands and children, nor does it give the 5 steps to have the perfect child.  It simply says to love them.  How easy is that?
3)  Be busy at home.  What?!  Yes! The word busy was used! However, if you notice, there is no indication as to what type of home you should have, how it should be decorated, how clean it should be, nor how many cute pinterest ideas you have incorporated into your hall closet!  It just says to be busy at home.  This opens up the doors for you to use that creativity that God gave you to create the living space for your family to fit your family.  It opens the doors for you to do what needs doing and not worry about what doesn't get done.  God doesn't expect you to have everything done each day; He expects you to be busy working on it.  As I type, I have 3 baskets of laundry lying on my bedroom floor waiting for me to fold them.  Are my kids still alive?  Yes.  Is my family still functioning with my laundry on the floor, unfolded?  Yes.  Should I have stayed up until midnight last night folding it?  No.  God doesn't want a worn out, sleep-deprived version of you.  He wants you at your best!  So take the time needed to rest, without feeling guilty for what isn't done.  Then, when the day begins again and it is time to work, be busy at home (not on facebook or the other wonderful, mind-sucking sites there are!).
4) Be subject to your husband.  As much as we would love to deny it or ignore it, God wants us to let our husbands be the head of the household.  Does that mean that you are just a slave to him and that it doesn't matter what your opinion is on things?  Not if you are in a godly, loving marriage.  It simply means that God will hold your husband accountable for the things that go on in your family.  It means that it is your husband's job to manage everything.  In our family, I do the planning and the organizing and the finances!  I do these things because my husband asks me to because he knows that God has gifted me in those areas.  Yet, I always make sure to tell him exactly what I have going on - approve it with him, in a manner of speaking.  Allow your husband to be responsible for that which God will hold him responsible. 

So today, my dear sister, don't deal in lies, and don't give way to hatred.  Live a life of freedom and truth...and love!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Not Be Tired by Waiting

This week we are discussing Rudyard Kipling's poem If and how we can apply it to our lives!  Today I want to focus on one line of his poem:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Waiting on God can be one of the most exhausting times in our life.  It is during these times of waiting that we truly need Christ to fill our cup.  Yet if we can have the right understanding of our situation, we will see that there is purpose in our waiting.  Oswald Chambers shares with us in My Utmost for His Highest,
When God brings a time of waiting, and appears to be unresponsive, don't fill it with busyness, just wait.  The time of waiting may come to teach you the meaning of sanctification - to be set apart from sin and made holy - or it may come after the process of sanctification has begun to teach you what service means. (January 4)
I can recall during one particular time of waiting in my life, I felt broken and abandoned.  I cried out to God daily to reach down and break open the flood gates that were holding back that living flow from Him that I so desperately needed! Looking back I can see the wonders of what He was doing in my life and in my husband's.  He was trying us by fire, so to speak.  It was our time of wandering in the desert so that His Spirit could sanctify us and prepare us for the work He had for us.  What followed?  We entered into youth ministry.

God has so many blessings stored up for you, but like any good parent, He will give them to you when the time is right and only He knows when that is.  He may have plans for you that are bigger than anything you can conceive right now.  He may have an opportunity for you through someone that you haven't even met yet!  If you are single, He may just be preparing you for that "special person" so that your future marriage can be strong and united in Him!  There are so many reasons why God may be silent right now. Yet in His Word, He gives us direction and hope for times like these:
He says, "Be still and know that I am God;" -Psalm 46:10
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; -Psalm 23:4
Wait patiently today, friend.  God will never abandon you or leave you alone.

Friday, February 24, 2012

If You Can Keep Your Head

Sometimes it is astonishing to consider what a crazy world we live in, full of chaos and darkness.  The Good News is, there IS hope in this darkness and we are supposed to deliver it!
This week we are discussing what our lives would be like If Busy Didn't Mean Burdened.  Our inspiration comes from Rudyard Kipling's poem If.  Here's the first stanza:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowances for their doubting too.
Keep your head when all about you are losing yours!  Yes, this world is a crazy place and sometimes we feel like we are going to go crazy with all the responsibilities and situations that life throws at us.  But we must keep our heads; we must keep focused on our purpose - to shine the light of Jesus into this darkness.

Trust yourself when all men doubt you.  If you are a woman on fire and passionately in love with Jesus Christ, then there WILL be those that doubt you.  Be confident, however, that if your focus is where it should be and you are following the call given to you by our Savior, then you can trust yourself.  We should be able to exeplify what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:13:
If we are "out of our mind," as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
We should be perceived as Crazy if it is for God, but we must be the voice of reason and sanity to those that are seeking Him. 

What follows this realization then, is that we make allowances for their doubting too. One of the hardest parts of being a Christian for me is to relate to those that have not had the awe-inspiring, 'mountain-top' experiences that I have had, those whose acceptance of Christ does not move forward into a crazy, love-driven relationship with Him. I don't understand how they can be exposed to Him and not find themselves swept away by Him.  But we have to make allowances for those people.  We have to share those experiences with them, draw them into love with Christ by being open and revealing about our love of Him.  We can't expect everyone to be in the same place as we are or to have had the same revelations that we have had about him.

My dear sister, I pray for you today that you may trust yourself enough to let yourself fall head-long into love with Christ.  Allow Him to give you what you need to Keep Your Head!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

If Busy Didn't Mean Burdened

So often women feel burdened and weighed down by their business. Our lives don't have to be that way!  In fact, when I looked up "burden" on, there were 49 results!  Clearly, being burdened is a human plague!  But this is what Christ said,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matt. 11:28-29 (NIV)
So how do we do all the things that God has clearly called us to do (being a mother, wife, working to support our children, teaching our children, caring for the home, ministering to others) without feeling burdened?  The number one way is to allow Christ to fill us.  The only way that we are able to do any of the things we do is by the overflow of our hearts.  He can fill us through prayer, meditation, encouragement of others and time spent in His Word.  If we are able to do this, then suddenly our business doesn't mean burdened and we can lead the joyful life that Christ has called us to!
Another source of inspiration for me is the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling.  I would like to take the next week or so to break this poem down into pieces and see what insight we can gain into our own lives!

IF, by Rudyard Kipling

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Don't Run Dry

I want to start this blog to be an encouragement to moms out there like me who are wearing 50 hats in one day, trying to juggle it all and...well, running dry.  God has so much more planned for us than to be worn out, burnt out, and a constant wreck! 
Psalm 23:5 says, "You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." (NIV)  This may be a verse we have heard often, especially if we grew up in the church, but what a beautiful picture it paints of peace and abundance. 
1 Thessalonians 3:12 says, "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you." (NIV)  We must overflow with joy, peace, love.  How can we do that if we are merely surviving the whirlwind of our lives?  We live in an age where it is normal to be doing multiple things at a time, to give only a portion of our attention to any one thing, and to miss out on many of the blessings in our lives! 
God is waiting to fill your cup with blessings so that you may overflow to others.  My hope is that this blog be a place that will help to fill your cup - give you that boost of spiritual coffee, if you will - that you may overflow in your life!