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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Loving Them Well



I started writing this around Thanksgiving and seemingly got busy and sidetracked and never quite finished. Fortunately, I can say with some certainty that it wasn't too much of the 'holiday rush' that consumed me, but just having a family. And that's a good thing. It's a good thing to have people to love. It's even a better thing to love them well.

All year long, most of us pour our lives into our people... our families our friends. And this is unquestionably a season where we intentionally set aside time, funds and thought to others outside of our circle. During the holidays, we make an effort to extend that extra hand in particular those that are in need. It's what we are called to do at all times, to love. But as we celebrate the gift of Christ each Christmas, we are reminded to love and give to those around us. We go above and beyond. However, going above and beyond for many of us may just mean to start at learning to love the people in our lives better.

We live in this era when there is something to be said for just being there in that moment without having to document it for the world to see. There is something to be said for loving our people well...for no other reason than just because. Not for a photo op, not even to make ourselves feel better, but just because those are the people that have stuck by us, will stick by us and they deserve our best and our better most days.

Earlier this year, I really felt God tugging on my heart to step out of my comfort zone to love my people better. I'm a home body. I'm perfectly comfortable pretty much never leaving the house. I adore my friends and I love my family, but getting up and out takes work and energy.  Mustering up the words via email or a text or vox to let someone know I have their back when I wont actually leave the house to have their back seemed pointless. So I knew God was calling me to stretch a little and make sure the people who have laughed with me and cried with me knew that I loved them truly.

As the body of Christ we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus to this world, but I  have always had a problem with the person that can be kind to the stranger or will give more time and thought to the passerby in their life, yet fail to treat those who have always been in their life with respect, honor and kindness. I don't want to be one of those people.
I happen to believe most of my family and true close friends are God given. Those are the people who have defended us, who will repeatedly forgive us and who will go on trusting us over and over again when others wont. Those who will try and talk us out of the bad decisions or even tattle on us when we make them are the people who love us. And first and foremost, if we are to practice love, we need to learn to honor them with our time, our integrity, and our sincerity... I truly believe if we can learn to love our circle of people well, that love will spill over naturally to the world outside of our circle.

This past February, we very unexpectedly found out my dad had to have open heart surgery. I don't want to say I was scared, but I was prepared. At least as I could be.. And I made sure I was there every moment possible of his 10 day stay in the hospital. With four kids, school, my husband being out of town for 5 of those days, it wasn't easy and I was exhausted. But I knew how important it was for me to be there. It was important to me that I was there for him, and I needed my dad and mom to know how much I loved them. The previous year, my mom went to the ER and was told she was a week away from a heart attack. Those are hard and scary moments. I'm a faith girl and I believe in the promises of God, but those moments are just hard and I am thanking God for his peace through every moment.

Since then, I've thought a lot about whether I've shown my love and support for family  and friends the way I needed to over the years. And until this year, I don't think I have. At least not as well as I could have. And over the course of this year, it's something I'm still working on. I've been selfish. I've been negligent. I've been busy. But I've come to this place in my life where I realize a lot of the 'issues' we have with our people simply aren't worth the inner fuss and they definitively aren't worth the fight. Our goal in life is simple. To love. And to love well. To be there first for those God has placed  in your life and that are there just for you... and let that ministry of loving well, then, seep over to others... on the outside as well.

I'm really good at saying I love people, because in my heart, I do. I am empathetic. I am sympathetic. In my heart, I rejoice with those when it's time to rejoice. I mourn with those when it's time to mourn. But love isn't an empathetic feeling or a smile or a tear alone. Love moves you. And I want it to move me to be present in the lives of the people that mean the most to me.
In between the week of starting this post and today...One of my aunts who I am closest to had a stroke.... My heart aches. I see her almost weekly... at church, on visits, we spent Thanksgiving laughing and cracking as we all played Heads Up and Catch Phrase, we spend every Christmas Eve with her and her family, and she always has such a giving heart and is such an example of faith to me. And as I've witnessed and experienced these hard moments with people I love these past 2 years, somewhere in between shock and heartbreak, I am reminded how much I really love them, but even more, how much more I could be loving them. And this isn't my goal for 2016, but it's something God has been laying more and more on my heart. Love them well. From now on and forever, love them well.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, who are those people?  Who are the people that have been there for us? Who are the people that we spend our holidays with? Who watched us get married or came to a funeral of someone we love to support us? Who cared enough to tell us like it is when we messed up?  Who cried with us when we lost someone or something? Who texted us to ask if we were okay? Who laughed with us over and over at the same dumb joke? Who visited the hospital when we were sick or having a baby? Who taught us to be more like Christ? Whose words of wisdom have stuck with us? Who hand held ours? Whose arms hugged our neck? Whose shirt was wet from our tears? Who forgave us over and over? Who trusted us again after we hurt them? Who trusts us enough to tell their frustrations? Who looks up to us to care for them? Who do we laugh so hard with we need our inhaler to breather (ahem...)?

Chances are there are several people, friends, family members, leaders, pastors, classmates, co-workers, etc that fit several of these categories... Chances are these are your people. People that are in your life, right here right now, that need your time, your patience, your generosity, your forever support... These are the people you need to love well.
My husband always teases me when I drive through Starbucks or am on the phone with a customer service rep. Apparently, I  talk "pleasant." He's messing around me with me because my voice gets extra high and perky and I suddenly pull out the ultra nice card. I get a good laugh out of him joking with me. But the truth is, it convicts me of how I treat and talk to him or my kids or the people I truly truly cherish. Why do they not get this 'pleasant' side of me? Am I more kind to a stranger than I am to my own people? Do I put more thought into how I treat someone I don't know than how I treat those I love?

It's certainly something to think about...

I pray as we embark upon another year, our hearts aren't broken or afraid or tattered before we learn to love and cherish our people. I pray today, right here and now, before difficulty comes, we stop and make the decision to really love.
To realize and remember those that really impact our lives and we all learn to love, love them really really well...




Monday, November 16, 2015

Your Future Is Bright




Over the weekend, I've been trying my best to process what is happening in our world. The evident evil taking over otherwise happy, everyday moments of so many lives in so many places. From threats of terror to movie theater and school shootings, life can really feel unpretty these days. Like the rest of the world, my heart was aching the moment I heard about attacks of concert goers and city dwellers in Paris. My heart was aching and my mind was fearful. Then articles started pouring in about suicide bombings in Beirut. And hashtags start switching from #prayforparis to #prayfortheworld as people around the world began letting their voice be heard of their own tragedy.

Everytime I hear of a mass attack on humanity by any means, two things automatically cross my mind. One, what happened to these people? These were once someone's tiny sweet innocent babies, full of life and purpose. How did they get to this place where this was okay in their mind? And second, why oh why have I brought children into this world? I am just one person and can only protect them so far, so how do I protect them from things like this, because it seems to me, no one is immune.

In the midst of all our facebook filters and hashtags rallying support around others that have had tragedy strike, we either live in fear or we keep convincing ourselves to just keep living fearlessly, because we may as well make the best of our life, do the most that we can, while we still have breath to breathe. We know our true future is in Heaven, but what about now?

My 12 year old son was showing some concern on and off over the weekend for the "what ifs?" What if it happened here?  How do we arm ourselves and our families? How do we not show up at the wrong place at that wrong time? And as I was looking to the Lord, he showed me that our only answer is to know His voice. We need to know the voice of God's spirit. We need to learn how to let it lead us, how to let it stop us and how to let it give us the go ahead. The Holy Spirit was given to us as our comforter and helper, to reveal to us the deep things of God and to show us things to come.
1 Corinthians 2:10, John 16:13.

In times like these people tend to think that God doesn't care, but the fact remains that he gave men dominion of this world for this time period. They do with this world what they wish. For some, it's evil. For other's its selfishness. For others, it may be just living life oblivious to what we are truly here for. But while he gave mankind dominion, He gave believers the Holy Spirit so that they would allow Him to lead them and guide them throughout their life. And we better have our ears tuned in to His voice, because our future and life depends on it.

It frustrates me at times, watching the enemy working on the lives of Christians, getting them to a place where they compromise truth for lies. They compromise living lives in close communion with the Lord to living lives based off quotes and memes on the internet. Honestly, when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter how inspirational a person or his words are, if it's not the whole word of God, it's not truth. And memes and quotes aren't going to save anyone when the enemy is working on someone's mind to blow a up a building that you just walked into. Being led by God's spirit and knowing His voice is our only hope and comfort in this time. We need to know Him and be willing to obey his leading. We need to stop getting in our own way, stop playing the devils games and get serious about this life, friends. Clearly the devil is serious. He means business. He is at constant war with humanity because his sole enemy is the God who created them. So why do we play games in a world he's infiltrating?

I know this is a serious post, but this is a serious time we live in. And sometimes I fear for people that want to say as long as we love Jesus, everything is okay. Love Jesus or not, if we don't know His voice, how will He ever warn us or show us things we need to know? Time away from this 'world' and spent soaking in God's presence is key. I believe God will and does show all kinds of people all kinds of things they need to know for their future, but if you are too busy following all the other voices that are beckoning you in this world, online, in books, on youtube or even in our own mind... you will always second guess or flat out disobey his voice--His voice that was trying to show you things that will protect or bless you and your family.

I get tired of the gross darkness that is attempting to cover our world and even infiltrate the body of Christ. And I just had to say it. It's deceptive. It's sneaky. And It's meant as a distraction to water down the power and presence and anointing of God in our lives. And ultimately, it's meant to deter the body of Christ from hearing His voice and doing what they are called to do. God's love is bigger than acceptance which seems to be the mantra these days . Jesus came to set people free from the things that hold us captive, to give us authority over the enemy, and then He left us with His Spirit to keep us growing, moving, protected & guided. All incredible acts of His incredible love.

And right now I'm thanking God for all the tools He's provided for me. I'm thanking God I don't have to live in fear. And it's my hearts purpose to make better use of what He left for me to use, both for myself and for the world around me... I'm thanking God my future is bright. My kids future is bright. My husbands future is bright...

And yours can be bright too, friend.

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








Monday, October 12, 2015

Leaving the Ninety-Nine





Over the past few years, I've discovered a lot inside myself that I enjoy and love, actually. That sounds weird to say, but I don't think it's crazy to love the things God has stirred and placed inside of you. I don't think it's crazy for you to love YOU. Especially when the you that you are loving is really just the things He put on the inside of you. All those things that make you, YOU... are really just Him.

A few weeks ago, I spoke at a women's breakfast we had at our church. Public speaking is still semi new to me and I've only engaged in it a hand full of times. I'm still in the place of feeling completely awkward, but also "Okay, I can do this." I've sort of fallen into the role of coordinating our ladies ministry, but never really feel comfortable saying "Ok, listen up Ladies. I've got something to say and I think you need to hear it." I'm fairly confident when I hear from the Lord, but I'm never sure of other people's confidence in me, so I hesitate. I step in and sort of just micro manage all the event details of this area in our small church without really having to 'teach' for fear of "What if I'm wrong?"  

But at the same time, I know when I'm hearing from the Lord. I'm careful as to when I speak up or when to keep silent because God is speaking just to me. I've learned over the years when to...and when not to... You live and learn.
I was weighing (overthinking) all the pros and cons of  stepping on stage with a mic in hand and all my notes in front of me, saying "God said...". I told a friend my hesitancy both because I was unsure, but also because I told her I didn't want people to think that I thought I knew it all, because I don't. 
(that darn fear of people).

And her reply stuck with me...

"It's okay to be confident in yourself and your abilities. It's okay to know you are good at something. It's okay to do something  you believe in with boldness and anticipation. It's okay to know you hear from God."

That was the jist of it. It's okay to believe in yourself.
It's okay to love who God made you.

I've done a lot of digging these past few years, deep within myself, and I have to say , I love where God is taking me. It's not big and flashy. It's not really bold and sassy. But it's me and it's Him. And it's unique. It's beautiful. And it's ours. And I love that. 
Sharing my heart, using way too many words, dancing with creativity-I love it all.

And it's okay to love who He made me.

I truly thrive and find such purpose in being used by the Lord to speak truth and life and encourage others. I love watching Him work, not because I am so great, but because I am willing.
And it's okay. 

It's okay for us to be happy and excited with where God has us. It's okay if He promotes us to different or or even monumental spheres of influence. And it's also okay to want to be used more and more by Him. I don't shy away from it as much as I used to , because more than anything, I know if I can't do it, He can... and He's just using my life and my story and my mouth to tell His story. 
His story of redemption. 

But what I keep finding out over and over....and what I keep hearing the Lord ask me is, "Is it okay if I keep you here for awhile? Is it okay if this is just your season, if this is just your place for awhile? Are you okay with just being a friend? Are you okay with just encouraging people with a smile or a conversation? Are you okay with letting your small be  my great?" 

Taking giant leaps in life doesn't always glitter or feel snazzy. Maybe just a few see you sparkle from close up. Maybe no one sees you sparkle at all. Or maybe you don't feel like anyone sees you, because not enough see you. Are you okay with just letting him use you in His way? Not yours?

I was reading the 'parable of the ninety-nine' earlier this week in Luke 15 and it struck me in a new way. In this parable, Jesus talks about the shepherd who had one hundred sheep (or one hundred followers, if you will) and he lost one, but he left his ninety-nine in search of the lost one. That lost sheep was valuable. Clearly, he was a wanderer. He was probably dirty and smelly, which isn't cool. He didn't follow the crowd and wasn't in the corner coffee shop sipping on a chai tea latte keeping tabs on hipster subculture. But he was important enough to leave the ninety-nine that were...
In this technology savvy culture we live in, where we shine our bright lights on the small hand held screens of our peers and our fans, would we be okay leaving our 'ninety-nine' to reach the one lost and hurting one? Or have we so exhausted ourselves undertaking the masses or even just the busy-ness of life, that the small lost sheep gets shuffled aside? 
It spoke something fierce to me. I'm just like the rest of you. We all want people to notice us, our hard work, our deep thought out sentiment, our creativity... but would we leave all our likes and favorites and follows behind, would we pause our busy lives if there was just one small person that needed us? Would we notice them?

And that is where I got stuck all week. Am I noticing them?

God was saying, "Who is that one person that you've been thinking of lately? Are  you willing to take the time to step away from the hype and glam to reach just that one person? Are you willing to use your influence for something small? Are you ready to stop being too busy? Because if you are, what you might deem as small and perhaps insignificant, I am calling great. 
I want to open my life for God to use me, but I'm just more and more seeing that His ways are so much more grand than mine. His thoughts are higher than mine. And we are filled with so much contentment, satisfaction and everlasting joy-- when we aren't getting in the way of his big work in us and through us in seemingly small ways.

Matthew 25:23
His Master said to him 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little. I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.


"We long to see God's power and glory, the miraculous and supernatural breaking into the temporal. But let's not forget the one. Don't forget the one next to you-the person to whom you can be Jesus' hands of compassion. In God's economy, the person who just reaches out to one and sees that one find grace is just as important as the evangelist who leads thousands to Christ."-Heidi Baker













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