Monday, July 7, 2014

Becoming Missional

Recently, I took a 13-week class called Engage at my church.  I honestly signed up because I desired to grow deeper in my own personal relationship with the Lord--as I have been the beneficiary of His goodness & extraordinary provision.  I was surprised to find that the course had a very outward focus.

While I love community service and being involved in positive-change ventures, I really haven't been comfortable with sharing my own faith in everyday life. I was a bit nervous when we were challenged to share a new way of discovering truth with the people we encounter, but as the weeks went on, some really cool things started to happen.

Initially, I was amazed by how the Lord spoke to me and used His word--especially in our marriage. Then, I was offered a position working on a project with a ministry that serves working women and it was a blessing to have an easy way to start Christ-focused conversations, especially concerning the place where many of us spend most of our waking hours during the week.  And we were able to share the technique with others through the simple example and almost everyone we've shown was ministered to in the process.  It was really neat to see how God can use common people to teach the truth that resides in His guidebook--the Holy Bible.

After this journey, we continued to pray about how we would be used as a family.  We hoped to continue with a local youth ministry, but wanted to do more.  The Lord then provided a way for us to use our home to serve Him.  In my work and in this opportunity, things did not go the way that I expected.  But the more I dig into God's word, the more I see this is the case more than not. It can be discouraging in some ways, but if we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28), we can continue in His purpose without fear or defeat.  

And despite unmet expectations, that have already stretched me in a good way, I am praising Him for awakening our hearts to a holistically missional mindset.  I don't fully know what that looks like, but I do know that we don't have to wait until we travel abroad or even show up to volunteer with our church.  Becoming missional is something we can do everyday.  It's ensuring that our kids are taught God's word, it's recognizing that ALL things come from God and that we are merely stewards--including our time, it's stepping out into a conversation with a stranger or friend at work as the Holy Spirit leads--risking rejection because the cost of not sharing God's Love & freedom is too high.  And when uncommon opportunities with high risk come along, it's prayerfully doing what others might not do because you we are made perfect in our weakness.

Praise God!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Quiet observation of ordinary

I took a break from blogging because I felt overwhelmed by the good, but time consuming information that floods our lives & I didn't feel it was necessary to pretend to be an expert in something or type about personal details as I am continuing on in this leap of faith that involves more uncertainty than "wisdom."

But as I am discovering, part of the beauty of the journey is looking back over where you've come from and seeing the changes that have occurred and the neat ways that my faith has been made real. 

As I was reminded during Chik-Fil-A's Leadercast session today, one of the toughest demotivators with exercise is that it takes a while to see the progress. This is true in day to day life as a mom who is navigating faith, family, relationships and calling. You read a little without retaining and feel like you'll never get it. You correct a child over and over again using well researched techniques & you get no change in attitude. You're transparent & invest in the lives of people who seem to never grow beyond superficial acquaintances. You work hard, aim high and hit a home run only to have a boss come along and change direction of the ship, chalking your hard work up to a one-time victory without a sustainable impact-so it seems. 

But this week, I don't know that there was any big sign or major victory. There was no road sign indicating that the promised land of success was just around the corner. No, this week, there was disappointment. There was a messy house and canceled school and a fender bender. There was a meeting that went terrible. And there was a severe allergy attack that made up for the past couple of years I didn't suffer that left me speechless.

But somewhere between the moment I put down my coping mechanism of my phone and decided to be in the game, that I realized how very remarkable and hopefully this broken, messy, disappointing life can be. 
 
And for a moment, that same ol' sun that was here all week was setting and the sticky-faced squealing children stopping begging to be pushed and simply played independently--running around the yard, dancing in and out of the radiating sun beams. I reached for my phone to take a picture, because one day I'll want to remember this moment. After all, I so enjoy going through old memories even now.

But their independence changed my mind, as I remembered that all too soon I won't have the chance to just watch them frolicking. They will not beg me for the attention that makes them feel important.  

 We make things too hard. Sometimes, all you have to do is show up. You don't have to do anything, but walk forward, even silently if you don't want to or can't speak. 

So I sat quietly. Watching. Undistracted and engaged in the little moments that lead up to big important changes I want in my life.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

IF God is Real...

Last month I attended a virtual conference in the basement of a complete stranger with her friends and a few other visitors like me.  It sounds totally sketchy, but it was awesome and reminded me of the way that the disciples traveled from town to town staying with people "of peace" that they didn't know, but trusted that the Lord would use the hospitality of strangers to bring a blessing.

And that's exactly what happened.  From the local host to the ladies in Texas that started the conference, The Lord brought a blessing & inspired a movement.  And I have to say that attending the IF: Gathering was a leap of faith in itself.  The description of the conference was vague.  I wasn't sure what to expect at all.  Also, the speakers came from diverse Christian backgrounds, so I was not sure that we would be on the same page with some teachings.  But my soul was pleasantly surprised.

The "un"conference conference idea was another iteration of a theme that I've seen a lot lately. Throwing off the things that hinder us to get back to the basics of getting to know Christ through His Word, understanding who we are through His Word, and understanding our place in this world and living accordingly. I liked it.  The ladies I joined after the conference were no longer strangers.  They were my sisters in Christ living as if God is real.

There's so much more I could say about the teaching, about the women in the room and on the screen, about the way that God brought me to one of seven couches in that basement.  But I won't for now.  I am still waiting to see how it all unfolds.

But for now, I will say that I left encouraged to dig into the Word even more, and burdened to find sisters to grow with in Christ--despite possible differences in our Christian walk.  After the conference, the phenomenal list of ladies including Jennie Allen, Ann Voskamp, Jen Hatmaker, Christine Caine, and so many other amazing Christian teachers have produced a daily devotional that makes it so easy to get into the Word and learn for yourself.  They call it IF: Equip, but I call it IF Snacks because if I'm feeling hungry, but don't have a lot of time, it's my go-to resource for Living Water.  It's a brief digestible section of the Bible that you read & answer three basic questions.  It's perfect to sustain you through the day or in addition to another study.

I hope to share some of the rich lessons and life-changing happenings as I continue to spend time in the Word through IF: Equip & I'm so excited to continue to build community with other women who are living as if God is real!

Stay tuned!


Friday, March 7, 2014

Broken, bound and blessed.

I can't pretend it's been easy, but maybe that's why it means so much to me. We both can say that we've seen days of better and for worse played out.  And I know that we're just beginning.  But what did we expect when you take two broken people, from broken families trying to fight the odds without fighting each other in order to do more than just make it work.

You get tears, you get periods of uncertainty and darkness.  You get long hugs and lots of apologies.  You start seeing your love as much more than a means to your happiness.  You find the opportunity to truly see a human as God sees him.  Faults, failures, hidden treasures and all.  You find ways to become a better you because your partner shines light on the areas where you need grace & God gives you the courage to address those places. You find peace and joy in dying to your self in order to glorify something that goes far beyond who you are, yet is near enough to make you realize who you can be.

You learn that broken cisterns can't hold water & that he will never fill what only He can. And when you fully grasp your brokenness is an invitation to come before your Savior, He can and will fill you up until you overflow with patience, kindness, contentment, discretion, humility, self-sacrifice, politeness, self-sacrifice, restraint, and forgiveness--without fail--because He is the source of love.

You get real, raw, ragged and refreshed.  And The Lord continues to refill your heart when you abide, because you know that on your own, all you care about is your own happiness.  But when you abide, you understand deep respect & the power it takes to submit.  He gets to love you by laying down his life. It's a very beautiful cycle.

It may look different for some, but that's what we've experienced in our beautifully broken, redemption-filled five years of marriage.

I wouldn't trade one single thirsty second for flaky, superficial satisfaction.  I want the real, awe-inspiring, humble love I get to chose every day. We may be broken, but we're blessed and what God has brought together, no man can unbind.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Southern Hospitality

Over the past several months, I have been stirred to cultivate & engage in meaningful community. After years of networking, I long for more meaningful, deep relationships that transcend greetings and facilitating superficial connections.  Don't get me wrong, there is a place for networking and it can be a way to initiate community.  But when I think about our modern society, something strikes me as more than odd in the way that we can continue in long-time relationships, never really understanding more than the causes we stand for & the basic information we'd list on our Facebook profile.

So while I'm in the midst of my season as a homemaker, I recognize the blessing of being able to invest more time with my children and serve my husband more readily, but I also see the responsibility of serving others outside of my own little bubble through the blessing of one-on-one service.  The kind were you get to know people instead of an organization.  With the intentions of serving specific needs--whether it's the basic physiological need of food or the deeper need of friendship or belonging through a meal and hosting gatherings at our home, we have kicked off this year with a couple of special days.

In early January, we invited our neighbors over to an open house modeled after the idea of a Neighborhood Cafe.  It was a great time with several new relationships initiated.  We hope to host another Springtime gathering outdoors in April.

Thanks to some friends at church, we hosted a last-minute, kid-friendly Super Bowl party.  Sad to say, there was not much entertainment on the tube, but the kids provided plenty of action.  We really enjoyed the night and we were grateful to host.

This week, we are hosting a French exchange student and having my first Super Moms Supper Club all in one week.  Timing was a little off due to weather, but I'm excited to see how they turn out.  The goal is simply to serve and observe what God can do through His love.

As I engage in living out Christ's love through the notion of Southern Hospitality, I am reminded of the way that my Grandmother had an open-door policy and a ton of messy and beautiful relationships.  I hope that 2014 will be a year of open doors & broken down walls.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Family Meal: Healthy Baby Food muffins

My little guy is going through a picky eating stage. He was a terrific eater until he started his most recent teething phase. One of our favorite tricks we learned with our picky 3-year-old was to make everything into muffins. So in order to combat today's melt-down on a need-to-grocery-shop day, I used stuff we have  and really you can modify these however you want. 

Recipe: 
1 c flour
1 c quick oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. honey
1/2 c Cocunut oil (warmed)
1/2 c or 1 jar of baby food (I used sweet potato, but I think anything would work of they normally like the taste)
1 c applesauce 

Pre-heat oven to 350. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Pour in wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Spoon into muffin pan. I used mini muffin pan & cooked for 15 mins. Cook for 20-25 with larger pan. 

Let cool, then serve. 



Friday, February 14, 2014

Be Refined Valentine

Love was tough long before we met.  The products of two broken marriages, we had never seen an Ephesians 5:33 marriage.  But I did know a lot about marriage.  Like many American girls, by the time I was old enough to spell the word "love" I had watched movies, read books, heard stories, listened to songs.  My mind was full of information about love & marriage.

So when you told me you loved me almost 6 years ago to the day, my heart fluttered like it was supposed to. Then the following year, we would enter into the world of "Happily Ever After." But even before we said "I do," layers of my modge-podged fairy tale castle were ripped off, leaving lots of pieces everywhere.  

Unsure of what to think or feel since my storybook had been ripped apart by the reality of relationship built with irrelevant and ineffective tools, I started digging into the Word where I remembered the truest love story ever created.  A story of perfect, flawless love giving, serving, forgiving, encouraging.  

After almost 5 years of marriage, I have learned that our love wasn't born out of romance. True love was found in the process of being refined; chiseling off the pieces of us and allowing pieces of Him to shine.  Breaking apart the hardened, petrified parts is uncomfortable and sometimes painful.  Sometimes submitting seems like I'm losing a part of me.  Being humble is not easy.  But what comes out of the refining process is a rare gem that is lovely and carries value-not a weighty rock that can't even scratch the surface.  

Yes, love wasn't born out of romance, but in the refining process, we've created our own romance.  There is depth to it.  It's genuine & significant.  

Happy Valentines Day dear lover!  May we continue to be refined & reflect His brilliant light!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Reflection

Snow.  While it is rare in the South and causes mixed reactions among many, I marvel and enjoy its beauty.  For the second night in a row, the night sky--usually pitch dark in my wooded neighborhood--looks as bright as a new dawn making the time seem slower and the days seem longer.

As we enjoyed the fresh-laid snow last night, my son asked why the sky was so bright, making note that it usually wasn't this light outside at night. All day I had been thinking about the "snow" covering and how it transformed the view from a harsh wintery landscape to a pure new wonderland. In the same way that Christ covers my harsh, imperfect life and creates a sense of wonder and purpose in the land that once seemed desolate. Of course it's the snow white covering that reflects the existing light to produce a less bleak scenario.  Considering his inquisition, I also recalled how John the Baptist talked about reflecting Christ's light.  I responded by sharing both facts.

May we realize that when we are covered by His great grace, we can reflect His light, which reveals truth and direction in even the darkest of nights. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Be still

Anyone who knows me, knows that I stay busy. Always churning ideas, getting involved, doing something. 

That something used to be fulfilling my career goals, dreaming of business ideas and trying them out and engaging in my community through leadership & service in local nonprofits. 

All the while I was raising and making babies and trying to juggle. But then I stepped out of the boat and on to the water to walk toward Jesus and He has allowed me to make little fisherman--at least for a season--despite my inadequacy. And anyone who has babies-especially three-knows that things are constantly humming. No quiet ever. 

So as I have continued to pray for wisdom in the upcoming season of my life. He Speaks:

Oh how hard it is to Be Still. When you're so conditioned to movement. It may even be painful to stop. 


video

But God has called me to Stop Striving.  So that I can know Him better.  And recognize that He is the ruler of all the Heavens & Earth.  Including my life. He is to be exalted. 

And the significant trappings of busyness will grow dim as the amazing light of his glory overpowers the present circumstance & prepares my heart for things to come. 


Saturday, January 11, 2014

You're Designed, Now Fearlessly Innovate

Last week, my plans to host a family visioning session were thwarted by subzero temps that shocked us Southerners and our pipes.  Fortunately, I discovered ours when a plumber was next door & helped tremendously.  It was a reminder that while we can carefully plan and diligently execute, goals/plans/schedules, etc can't dictate our lives, they should be intentional but fluid as well.

After speaking with a friend, I was reminded that I needed to carve out the time and try again this week.  As I logged on to check out my email, my screen showed a link from Ann Voskamp, one of my favorite online writers.  I hope to read One Thousand Gifts soon, but until I fulfill my promised to my husband to finish my already purchased books, I will snack on her incredible, inspired blogs.  

Her post includes a few videos that are MUST SEE.  I've included one below that will leave you with no excuses, only prayerfully asking God to use what He created and equipped. 


Ephesians 2:10 asserts "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  

Such a good video to talk about with our families, right?  We ALL can be used to do great things. Like Christopher acknowledges, through Christ we can do all things, despite our weaknesses.  He is our power.

So as we consider the dreams that we have, know that Christ will bless and empower the dreams within His will.  This doesn't mean that we all have to become missionaries, but can serve as a light to the world in whatever occupation, community or season we're in.
  

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Years Realizations & hopes

This year, like many others, I tried to think of a few attainable resolutions that went beyond fitting into a smaller dress size into territory that affected more lives than my own. In the middle of last year, I began practicing a bit early and I do believe it's beneficial to start "today" rather than waiting for the perfect timing. With almost six months of small life changes under my belt, I ring in 2014 with realizations versus resolutions and hope that this year may be even better than the last. Here are the changes that I hope to carry into 2014 (not in order of importance):

-multitask less & fully enjoy fleeting moments 
-remember my very first love & seek to reignite the scandalous romance with Him (break out the Gospels & indulge in His goodness)
-less sarcasm, more sincerity 
-spend a lot of time with people who inspire me.
-spend time with people who need to be Inspired
-eat foods that leave me feeling terrific & leave foods alone that don't
-workout like your partying with your best friends & never turn down a party with the kids before bedtime.
-do good work, not guilt work or busy works
-give more
-fear less