Tuesday, November 30, 2010

hope in the midst of affliction

Lately I've really been drawn back to Lamentations 3. This is a passage I refer to OFTEN, but I normally only focus on two small verses that say this, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  (vs. 22-23) It's very refreshing and necessary for me to constantly remind myself that the Lord's mercies are new EVERY SINGLE MORNING and I'll often find myself writing or quoting those sweet words.

But over the last few weeks I have found myself going back and reading the entire book, focusing a lot of attention on chapter 3. The first 4 chapters of this book are actually acrostic poems with each verse in each chapter beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 have 22 verses but chapter 3 has 66. I thought this was weird at first but then I read about it and found out it's because it is a triple acrostic. And I imagine Jeremiah (the author) wrote it this way because he needed three times the amount of lines to say all that was on his heart concerning this topic. See, in chapter 1 he is mourning for Jerusalem, in chapter 2 he is depicting God's anger toward sin, but in chapter 3 he is writing about his own afflictions, and morning for his own life. When he got to that point it was like, "Alright, and I'm making this one a triple wammy because I got somethin to say!"

He beings the chapter with a very lovely statement: "I am the man who has seen affliction..."


Well alright, Jeremiah! Way to cheer me up! I keep reading and I find things like this:
vs 2 "He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long." 

I'm tempted to stop after something like that and think, "How dare you say that! How dare someone write that about the Lord. You know very well that he has not turned against you or left you!" But the truth is, there are many times in MY life that I may not have said those words, but I sure probably thought them or felt them. They may have sounded a little more like, "Lord, why are you allowing this? Lord, where are you? Lord, how in the world is this fair or good?" But the concept was the same. The attitude was the same. I felt betrayed.

I go on and continue reading and find verses like these:

"He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship."
I'd be lying if I said there haven't been many, many times I felt that EXACT same way.

"Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer."
Again, here I am tempted to want to jump to my feet and tell Jeremiah how ridiculous that is. You know very well the Lord does not shut out your prayers! Yet how many times have I felt like my prayer wasn't making it past the top of my head? How many times have I felt like the Lord was just turning his head from my prayers? Yet again, I find myself relating... so I keep reading...

"I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is..."
Yep. I feel you, Jeremiah. Been there. Felt that.

And finally in verse 19 he says, "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me."
Yes. I, too, remember my affliction. All too well. And it sure has a way of getting me down...


But then a huge word comes. [I was told at very young age anytime you see a transitional word in the bible, (but, yet, therefore, however, and so, etc.) to pay great attention because something very important is about to follow.] After Jeremiah spends 20 verses just remembering his affliction, remembering his bitterness, recalling how he felt about the trials he faced... 20 verses of mourning, self-pity, downcast remembrance... he throws in the most important word in this entire book: "yet." 


Yet. This indicates something coming. This indicates a twist the to message. I have seen affliction and felt like my life was just absolutely HORRIBLE.... YET. It doesn't end there! It's not over. There's more to follow. And what follows is the sweetest, strongest, most refreshing promise in all of the bible to me.


vs. 21, "Yet this I call to mind and therefore have hope..."
Wait, what? Hope? You just spent almost an entire poem talking about how your life has just been one trial after another! You just spent 20 verses talking about how God had mistreated you, forsaken you, neglected you. How in the world are you now writing a 'therefore' that has the word HOPE in it!?


Here's how:


vs. 22-26 "Because of the Lord's great love we are NOT CONSUMED, for his compassions NEVER. FAIL. They are new EVERY morning; GREAT is your faithfulness! I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." 


Yes! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Yes! 


This is so beautiful! And so promising! And so true. And something I often need to go back to, to remember. 


I'm going to be very honest with you right now. I have often found myself in the place of absolute frustration with the Lord where I just wanted to lay down and cry out, "I am a girl who has seen affliction!" Sometimes it seems like right when I feel peace and rest from one burden, another enters my heart. Right when I find victory over one battle, I find myself in the middle of a new one. There's rarely a time to sit down, take a deep breath, look around and think, "All is well." There's rarely a time I have nothing to share when it's prayer request time. But what's humbling is that I know that as you read this, you can probably relate 100%. I know I am not the only one who has seen affliction and tragedy in life and yet I shamefully admit, sometimes I feel that way. Sometimes I feel like writing out the first 20 verses of Lamentations 3 and just signing my name at the end. 


We all do at times. We all have those seasons, days, moments when we are just heavily burdened. We all have those thoughts and feelings (that we probably aren't bold enough to put into words like Jeremiah did) where we just say, "He has made me walk in darkness. He has shut out my prayer. My soul is downcast." Jeremiah was writing about his own personal afflictions, but he was also writing about mine. And yours. 


But just as we share in his afflictions and his downcast feelings, we share in his "yet." 


Yes, life is so unfair at times. It's hard. It's dark. It's scary. It's lonely. We have no answers. We feel forgotten. We feel mistreated. We feel misunderstood. We feel like we would rather just disappear than have to face one more moment of this life. YET, in the midst of this, we know that although these things are very suppressive, they do NOT consume us.

They may crush us, but they do NOT destroy us because we are surrounded and held up by the UNFAILING great love the Lord has showered on us.

We are not consumed because he has compassion on us and he sees us in our desperation and offers us hope.

We are not consumed because EVERY SINGLE MORNING he meets us in our awakening with brand new mercies and compassions to fill our hearts.

We are not consumed because we know that as we wait on him, he is faithful. He becomes our portion and HE. IS. ENOUGH.

We hold on. We press forward. Because we know with everything in us the the Lord is GOOD to those whose hope is in him. We know that in HIS time, he will deliver us. In his time, he will heal us. In his time, he will save us. And as we wait for that time, as we wait for that delivery, as we wait for that peace, rest, joy that we know is coming... we have to let his great, unfailing love be enough.

His great love has been more than enough for me and I pray with all my heart you let it be enough for you. Fight hard to see your "yet" in life and praise him for it!


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

parenting.

What a topic.

I've gone through a few significant phases of parenting in my life. The first was obviously being parented. As a child, the only concept I had of parenting was the direct experience I had with my parents. Parenting was simply a sum of decisions, rules, guidelines, and relationships that my mom and dad presented to me. For the most part, I was unaware of any other style or type of parenting. Sure, there were the occasions when I would notice that certain friends had slightly different rules or ways of doing things and this would kind of weird me out as a kid and get me thinking a little... but when it was all said and done, my parents were the only parents I knew. And their way of parenting was the only way I was aware of.

As I entered high school I had a major paradigm shift with this. My life experiences grew, and so did my view of parenting. I started realizing that my parents' parenting was NOT the only parenting there was. I became overwhelmingly aware of MANY different parenting styles and procedures. This was when I first REALLY appreciated my parents and their parenting. This was the stage when I was actually thankful for the all times my parents said, "no." This was when I looked back and realized how right they were SO MANY TIMES (although this was NOT the stage to admit that). This was when I was able to see that my parents' parenting was not perfect, but it was definitely a part of my life I had taken for granted. As I grew in wisdom and was able to see different parenting my friends received and compare it to my own, I knew how blessed I was.

Then, the next shift happened. And this is the paradigm I am currently in. I think. I shifted from just realizing that there are many different ways of parenting and acknowledging that, to actually considering them and deciding which ones I want to put into practice myself. For the first time, I started looking at parenting with ME as the one in the driver seat. Whoa. The first time this happened it FREAKED ME OUT! I think I was about 19 and I was with a family whose child acted in a way I did not like. I listened and watched the mother's response and thought to myself, "That does not seem very effective. I don't think I want to parent in that way." And only a few days later I was with that same family and observed a completely different situation which made me say, "Now THAT was cool parenting." Stuff like this started happening ALL THE TIME.

As Marty came on the scene and our relationship got serious and started pointing toward marriage, we had these conversations a whole lot. We've both said many times how thankful we are for SO many examples of what we want to do and what we don't want to do. We've been able to watch from the outside many things that are very effective, and many that just make us cringe. [Now, please let me say this-- We are NOT, in any way, being judgmental toward any parents. We both know very well that until we are in those shoes, fulfilling those responsibilities, making those decisions, there is no way in the world we can even begin to THINK we "know" how to do it.]

Now I said that I think  I am currently still in this last stage. I said I think because lately it's kind of taken on a new development. I've found myself going beyond just saying, "I want to do this as a parent" to actually having a stirring in my heart and prayer on my lips for very specific things. I have found myself, MANY times, just expressing to the Lord something that is on my heart in the area of parenting and just asking him to give me wisdom in whether or not that is something I should implement in my own parenting. I have recognized some parenting strategies that are very important, yet I know must be very difficult on the mom and dad, and have been praying in advance for strength to do those things the right way, even when it might be hard for me to do. I have prayed for friends who will serve as mirrors for Marty and me reveal our blind spots and tell us the things that we may not want to hear, but that will benefit us in being better parents. I have prayed for parent friends who we can share our experiences with, pray with, learn with, and be held accountable with. I have prayed for many, many more things like this... and lately, these prayers have become a daily habbit.

No, I'm not pregnant. I have no idea if or when God will bless us with children. But I know that if he does, I want to be as ready as possible. I know that there are so many things you can NOT prepare for when it comes to this, but I do believe God can get your heart, mind, strength and wisdom ready. And I'm praying he does this for us. Both together, as a parent unit, and individually, as a mom and a dad.

And I know that above ALL else, our best (and really, our only) preparation comes from us seeking and walking with the Lord. The idea of ME being a MOM is so exciting, but I'm not going to lie, it still freaks me out! Big time! There are so many "what-ifs", so many "hows", so many "not ready fors". In my mind, I'm not sure that I will ever consider myself capable of fulfilling such a huge responsibility. But I guess  it's because I'm not capable. I don't and never will have the wisdom and strength it takes to truly parent the way the Lord desires. But He has the wisdom. He has the strength. And I have faith that He will provide exactly what I need, when I need it, and ultimately, He'll parent the child through me. Through Marty. Through us. Now THAT is something I can't wait for!


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

i don't want to forget this night

Tonight is one of those nights that most would not want to remember, but it's one that I don't want to forget.

Disclaimer: I wouldn't say I am a perfectionist... but I'm close. I can't stand just doing "good" on something that I know I can do great on. I like to do my best. Always. I believe in putting all my effort into whatever I'm doing and I can't stand just doing something half-way.

When it comes to our Wednesday night youth services, this same idea applies. In no way do I think the services are about us and how good we do. I know that it is ALL about the Father and HIS glory, but I feel that we should do our part in making sure our best effort is put forth in serving him. I like to be more than prepared in every aspect... the music, video/audio, set-up, my talk, etc. I go over things twice to make sure it's all prepared. The majority of the time things go really well. I work with a GREAT team of friends who are SO faithful to make sure they do their part. Our band is phenomenal and they have huge hearts for serving the Lord. But, of course, we are humans with human flaws and sometimes things just don't go right.

Tonight was one of those nights.

Let me just recap the night.

Starting at 5:00 the band practiced a run-through of the songs. Again, our band is TOP NOTCH but tonight it just was NOT sounding right. I didn't know what exactly was wrong because I am musically dumb but I knew something was wrong. This was frustrating and the practice took a lot longer than normal so we didn't really have time to address the issue. The band was just going to have to play and hope it sounded better in the real deal.

I did the welcome and then we were starting the night with the music. The band started to play and NOTHING was right! The mix was awful. Instruments were turned WAY down and one of our lead singer's mic was straight up dead. HOW does this happen in the 15 min between practice and real deal?? I have no idea!

So our worship leader had to put his guitar down and leave the stage to try to figure out what was going on. In the meantime, I ran back on stage to kind of kill time and help kill the awkwardness. As I walked across the stage, my foot got tangled in a mic cord and I sent a mic crashing to the ground. If the students weren't distracted yet, they sure were now!

So then I tried, very horribly, to entertain for a few minutes. Pat (the lead guy) came back and attempted to somehow start over with grace.

They just straight up skipped the first song because by this time we had wasted almost 5 minutes. They just started with the second song, but the mics were WAY DOWN and nobody could hear the voices. AND the guys forgot to turn the screen on so the words weren't up. In the meantime I was trying frantically to find the remote to the projector to get the screen on, but I don't normally do that so I had NO IDEA where it was. I got the screen on then realized the computer wasn't in presentation mode. I tried FOR-EVER to figure out how to put it in presentation mode. No luck. So here I go having to walk ON STAGE and interrupt the lead singer so he could come fix his computer.

And there I was, trying to entertain again. AWKWARD.

So the band patiently finished with 2 more songs and I just prayed for no more distractions. Guess God laughed when I prayed that because he sure knew that I hadn't even SEEN the beginning of distractions for the night.

From that point on it was DISTRACTION AFTER DISTRACTION! The whole time during my message people kept walking in and out of the room. We got interrupted because someone needed a car moved. A guy came in and had to "talk to" our sound guy in the south booth which is RIGHT NEXT TO THE STAGE! Needless to say, all eyes were on them. And things like this OVER. AND. OVER. AND. OVER. AND. OVER!!

I was so frustrated!!! I coudln't even focus. I just had to stop in the middle of my message and gain some composure. I don't know how I got through it other than the fact that I KNOW my friends were praying me through.

It was seriously like Satan was ALL UP IN THAT SERVICE trying to do EVERYTHING he could to hinder us. And he came close. But one thing He forgot is that God is SO MUCH BIGGER and when God wants his name praised and his truth taught, he'll get it. Regardless.

And he showed up tonight. Truth was taught. The Holy Spirit worked. And that's ALL that matters about tonight. I got to pray with quite a few students who were very convicted by the Word tonight. I got to talk to a few who just really needed some comfort.

Satan could test us by letting EVERYTHING go wrong by human standards, but he could NOT touch God's work! I needed that reminder. We didn't need ANYTHING but Truth to have a worship service. Let that be a gentle, or not so gentle reminder, that God DOES NOT NEED US to have His work done! He DOES NOT need our talents, our efforts, or even our best. He demands them. He wants them. But He sure doesn't need them. It's ALL ABOUT HIM and what HE can do and what HE has to say.




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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

over a week behind!

I've been such a bad blogger this past week! Sorry!

Last week was one crazy week. It was filled with activity, emotion, exhaustion, and LOTS of prayer. I'm thankful for the growth that came of last week, but glad it's over.

Although I didn't blog, I did still write down a list of thankfuls each day. In this list I'll just catch up the past 8...9 days!

-Scented candles. They're so soothing.
-Trees. Think about ALL the ways trees serve us... breath, food, shade, shelter, paper, not to mention giving us a GORGEOUS view this time of year!
-Socks. Last week my feet were FREEZING.
-Hair.
-My ability to hear. I take this one for granted WAY TOO OFTEN.
-Lotion. This girl gets ASHY in the wintertime!
-Discernment.
-Teeth. Yep, teeth.
-A bed. I was tired.

But the thing I am most thankful for coming out of last week is rest.

Rest.

Just reading that word makes some people long. Some of you reading this have no idea what that word means anymore. That's so sad to me. But, I've been there. Last week, I was there.

This past weekend I was able to just rest and catch up with life. It was so good.

I read Hebrews 4 Saturday morning about 6 times... it's kind of deep and when you're simple-minded like me, it takes a few reads to really get it. But once I did, DANG... it spoke! And I just prayed and let it soak in for about an hour. Then Marty and I went to Mt. Nebo. Some friends of ours were getting engaged and the guy had asked me to come take pictures. These two are very special to me. Kyle and I have been friends for almost 14 years now and Becca and I met when she came to Conway for college. She's in the bible study I lead and I have grown to LOVE HER! So this was a huge honor to do this for them.

Marty and I went about an hour ahead of them so we could kind of scope out the area and find the best hiding place. We were able to spend a little bit of time beforehand just looking the absolutely BREATHTAKING display of fall foliage. Seriously, it was gorgeous. (Marty makes fun of me and calls me a grandma because I absolutely love to look at nature. I love just driving and looking at the trees.)

 Then it was time for the proposal. I had a really big zoom lens on my camera so I was about 60 yards away hiding up in some trees. It was difficult to get good pics, but I think they turned out just right! It was such a beautiful, perfect moment. And I'm so happy for them!

This was our view while driving up the mountain. I was driving so it was hard to take good pics but I had to at least capture a few. 



I wish I could post all the pics I took like this. It was so amazing. This might be my new favorite place.



"Becca... will you marry me?" 


I think it's safe to say she said, "Yes!" Ha.


She couldn't stop looking at the ring!


Congrats, Kyle and Becca!!!







Now that I have caught up with myself, I vow to be more faithful with this thing. Afterall, the holidays are upon us! I can't let this stuff pass without recording it!

Have a blessed day!

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

tissues.

Today, I'm simply thankful for one thing: tissues.

Tissues? I know, right? Random!

Well, let me explain...

Tissues have always seemed to carry with them a little touch of love. Think about what we use them for... to wipe that child's nose who, bless his heart, just can't wipe it himself... to hand to a friend to wipe away tears flowing from a broken heart... to clean up a bloody knee. There have been so many acts of love and service I have seen through the use of tissues. Most of those acts were performed by the female population. (Although, I do think it's absolutely precious to see a dad wipe his kid's nose.)

I have always thought it was so sweet to see someone hand a tissue to a tearful friend. There's just something about the gentle act that screams, "I love you!" to me. However, I never really get to experience that myself because I never... mark my words... NEVER cry in public. (I'm trying to get better about this... the older I get, the more emotional I get... so maybe my tissue-needing days are coming soon!)

But, there was one time in my life when I did experience this. And this is when I fell in love with tissues. I was sitting on the front row of my dad's funeral. I had been pretty strong so far... mostly just silent and without expression... but then the slideshow started playing and suddenly the dam in  my tear ducts opened up. I lost it. I was crying and I had no idea what to do. My best friend at the time, Katie Heigel, was sitting right next to me and what she did is something I will never forget.

Without ever even looking at me, she slowly reached down into her purse, grabbed a couple of tissues and gracefully moved her hand toward mine. She placed the tissues in my hand.

At first, I froze.

Tissues?? Who needs tissues? They're for the weak.

I just sat there, gripping them so tight, mad at them in a way. I didn't need these stupid things. But the tears kept falling... harder and harder... I couldn't see, my face was soaked, my nose was snotty. I needed tissues.

I slowly raised my hand and tried to somewhat resurrect the poor, crumpled up tissues in my palm. As they regained their original form, I wiped one eye, moving slowly across my face to the other eye. Then I wiped off my cheeks and finally stopped the fountain coming from my nose. It felt so good.

At this point I asked myself, "What do people do with them now? They're disgusting. They're covered in tears and snot." So, like any sanitary person, I put them under my chair. As I did, the tears kept coming, but so did the tissues. Every time they came, she handed me more. This continued throughout the entire service (which seemed to last FOR-EVER).

We never spoke about that moment. We didn't have to. The actions spoke way louder than any words could have.

Ever since that day I've had a desire to be that kind of friend... the tissue-giving friend. I'll be honest. I'm not. At least not naturally. I am HORRIBLE in situations when people are hurting or sick. I just freak out and don't have a clue what to do.

My gift is my words. I am very comfortable speaking and teaching and talking to people during hard times. But, when it comes to the moments that don't need words, just need presence and small acts of love, such as handing a tissue, giving a hug, holding a hand... I'm not so gifted. I'm not so comfortable with those. But, I've learned in life that just because something is not natural or comfortable for you doesn't mean you can't learn to be better at it, and maybe even good at it.

So, I say ALL that to say this: I am slowly but surely becoming a better tissue-giver. I'm not NEAR as awkward in those situations as I used to be. I'm actually learning to embrace them and use them as ways to love on people. I'm still not even close to being good at it, but I'm way better than I was. And every day I strive to be more and more like that.

Those tissues that day taught me a very big lesson in love and friendship. I was so thankful that they were there that day, and I'm thankful for every tissue in the future I will have handed to me, and every one I will hand to others.

Today, I'm thankful for tissues.


...And on a VERY random side note... I realized today that my office was actually MISSING tissues! Seriously! How does a girls minister not have tissues? Do you know how many times I've been discipling a girl and we've gotten into a tearful conversation and I had nothing to hand her?? Not to mention my nose has been running ALL week and I've made some very inconvenient trips to and from the bathroom.

So today, I took care of this problem. I made a very important trip to Target to supply my wonderful office with a nice box of Christmas Kleenexes.

When I went, they had this box with a "J" on it. It's actually holographic (I think that's the right word?) and when you move at different angels you also see an "O" and a "Y". (That spells JOY in case you're confused.) But, I saw the "J" and the Christmas and just knew this box was for me!


Now I am equipped and prepared to be a tissue-hander. Don't think I'm weird for this, but I actually prayed over that box and asked God to bless every conversation that may use those tissues.

I'm excited. I can't wait for someone to cry now!

Have a great day!


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weekend thanks!

Friday's thankfulness was very simple: CHRISTMAS TREES!

I didn't want to put my tree up TOO early this year because I really wanted the moment to be just right and I didn't want to look back on it later and wish I would have waited for a more special time. This is our first Christmas so we had to make sure everything was just right. I had planned to do this a few weekends ago, but it was like 80 something degrees outside. No thanks. I gotta have the Christmas feel!

This weekend we had plans to go to Oklahoma with a whole bunch of friends, but those plans didn't work out when I found out I had a luncheon to attend after church Sunday morning. So we stayed behind. We were bummed, but decided to make the best of the weekend anyway. And how else to make the BEST of a weekend? The weather was cold, the mood was right... it was time! (Plus, I have been ITCHING to put this thing up. I think I would have gone crazy if I waited one more day.)

SO Friday while Marty was still at work I ventured out to find us our new Christmas tree. I had a six footer already, but my grandma was wanting a smaller one and I was wanting one a little bigger, so we gave her ours and she bought us our first tree. I'm so thankful!

That night I made dinner (spaghetti) and then the festivities began! What we thought was going to be pretty simple actually turned out to be pretty complicated. Our humble home is pretty small! The bedrooms are very large but the living room is TINY! Needless to say, we had to basically rearrange the entire house to get our tree to fit. But by golly, that big seven footer was going to fit! Now, when I say we rearranged the entire house, I am so serious. There are now tables, lamps, paintings, etc. that don't really GO where we have them now. We had to MAKE some things fit. It looks a little funny in some places, but hey, it's ALL WORTH IT for that tree!


Here he is... opening our tree for the very first time! (The box was a lot bigger than it looks in this pic.)


He was a really good sport the whole way through. He enjoyed every part except the fluffing part. He tried... but he needs a little more practice. I'm sure he'll get plenty of that in the coming years!




Is there ANY joy like the joy of putting the Christmas tree up???




There she is! Not quite complete. We still have to get a tree topper, a new tree skirt that matches our new living room, and a few other things to make it pretty. I wanted to put more ornaments on (I had 2 more boxes full) but  Marty thought we should stop there. I submitted.... for now.


After moving around the ENTIRE LIVING ROOM, this is where we finally decided the tree had to go. It's a little big for our humble home, but that's ok. We love it! Oh, and notice my Willow Tree nativity scene? I LOVE IT! I got that as a wedding gift from the Staff. It's so pretty. 


I LOVE THIS! This is the "S" ornament Lynzie got me for one of my showers. We almost forgot to put it on the tree! It's right smack in the center.


This was our best attempt at getting a pic of us in front of the tree with the self timer.



So Friday... I was simply thankful for Christmas trees. For the joy they bring. The peace they resemble. The gifts they bear. The memories they hold.


Saturday we spent the day in LR doing a little Christmas shopping! I also needed some CLOTHES! If you know me at all, you know this is a huge ordeal. Finding clothes (that don't have butterflies, peace signs, and hearts & ruffles) to fit me is DIFFICULT. I  love Target and Old Navy in the summertime because they have XS in most stuff. However, for some reason their winter clothes run way bigger and their XS stuff is even way too big. SO, we went to the mall.

Here's my hott driver. :)


Had to pay a little more than I would ever want to pay for clothes BUT they fit, don't have hearts, and they'll probably last a lot longer anyway. (I hate spending a lot of money of stuff like this.)

So Saturday... I was simply thankful for clothes. For the means to buy clothes. For the clothes I have that fit me. Even for the ones that don't fit just right. Just the fact that I have an abundance. WAY MORE than enough. It's ridiculous, really.


That's about it for Friday and Saturday!



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Thursday, November 4, 2010

do life together.

One of the reasons I love my church so much is the emphasis we place on doing life together. It hasn't always been that way around here, but lately we've really taken a dramatic shift toward more biblical discipleship and fellowship and I LOVE IT!

I stated in a few posts my love for I call lifestyle ministry. Here's an excerpt from that post:

"I seriously LOVE lifestyle ministry. Not the religious kind of ministry. Not the paperwork kind (although I do know its importance). Just ministry by doing life with people. I love just living-- and through living-- encouraging, building relationships, teaching, nurturing, discipling. I absolutely love being around people and just getting to know people more, hearing their stories, learning what they like, etc. I love it. I love teaching them as they teach me at the same time. I love experiencing things together. I love discovering truths together."

I love this! And this is why I love Thursdays! Thursdays are probably my favorite day of the week (I know, I JUST said that yesterday about Wednesdays... but hey, every day can be a favorite, right??). Mondays and Tuesdays are spent mostly on the paperwork, data entry, email responding, phone calling, studying, lesson planning, etc. Then Wednesdays are all focused preparing for and teaching that night. I go to bed Wednesday nights EXHAUSTED because of all the prep, energy, and emotion that goes into each Wed. night service. But then Thursday mornings I wake up so refreshed and ready because I know what's coming on Thursdays-- people!

My day starts off with our food pantry workers coming in around 9:30. This is a group of (mostly) older men and women from our church who volunteer their time each week to serve those in our community needing food. These men and women are AMAZING and I just can't sit up in my office knowing they are downstairs. So I always make my way down there to talk to them for a good 15 or 20 minutes. Then the rest of my day is pretty much discipleship. I meet with a girl at 10:00, someone at lunch, another girl in the afternoon, and then lead our college girls' bible study at 7:00 that night. I LOVE IT! THIS is my favorite part of ministry. I meet with someone for discipleship every week day now, but Thursdays are by far the most discipleship-packed days.

Today was just great. Conversations were great. Growth was evident. I loved it.

So today, I'm thankful for Thursdays. For discipleship. For conversation. For girls who are eager and willing to learn and be molded. For the opportunity to serve in such a cool capacity.

I'm also thankful for...
-Faithfulness. Last night was a huge reminder of the importance of faithful volunteer workers. Workers who are faithful to be there. Faithful to be prepared. Faithful to serve HOWEVER, whenever, in whatever capacity. Thankful for students who are faithful to come, parents who are faithful to bring them. I'm thankful for a band who is faithful to prepare, practice, and show up to lead our time of music. I'm thankful for the group leaders who are faithful to contact their students. I'm thankful for Sunday morning teachers who are so faithful to be there, prepared, ready, on time, etc. This simple concept of faithfulness is one that is SO IMPORTANT, yet SO taken for granted. I wake up every Wednesday just expecting these people to be in their right places that night... and 95% of the time, they are. But the few times they aren't, it DEFINITELY makes a difference and wakes me up to realize how essential that faithfulness is. So I am SO THANKFUL for faithfulness and for people who are willing to be faithful, even when it's hard or not comfortable or just plain not fun.

-Means of communication. I'M SO THANKFUL we can communicate!!! What if we couldn't? That would be SO HORRIBLE. My own thoughts would drive me INSANE. I'm also thankful for the technology that makes long distant communication possible. I got a message last night from a best friend on the other side of the world and the timing of the message was perfect. I needed her.

-A jacket. It was cold today! But, I was warm. I'm thankful that I have the means to be warm and clothed.

-The weather today. It wasn't too cold, but cold enough to sense Christmas is just around the corner. The sun was shining and leaves were bright red. It was perfect.

-Pictures and the ability to take them. I love pictures. I love having my office filled with wonderful faces and wonderful memories.


There are so many more things, and that in itself is something for which I am thankful. God's good. All the time.


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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

wednesdays are my favorite

I love Wednesdays because of one simple reason: I get to see my youth kids! Wednesday nights are the best!

This was a good Wednesday.

On this Wednesday I am particularly thankful for...

This stuff got me through the day:


I love me some purple Gatorade rain! No matter how I'm feeling, this ALWAYS makes me feel better. I drank two bottles today!


I know this one seems REALLY random. But today it hit me, I am SO THANKFUL my office chair has wheels on it! I have a fridge in my office and I am constantly going to it. I have learned the perfect way to push off with just enough force to roll me from my desk to my fridge in just one kick. It's quite convenient and today I just realized without those five wheels, I'd be getting up an awful lot. So I'm thankful for them.


Okay, okay... those make me seem REALLY shallow, I know. But, I'm thankful for good, spiritual things, too! It's ok to be thankful for the little every-day things, right? Like medicine. What if we didn't have it? What if we didn't have the ability to create it? That would stink. I wouldn't be getting out of bed today. 

Some other things that just really hit me today:

--Kids in my church. I am so thankful for every little hand that holds mine, every little set of feet that run up to me and little set of arms that wrap so tight around my waste. I'm thankful for the way they love me, the way they look at me, the cute way they talk, the excitement they get when they see me. They make me feel so loved and I LOVE them!

--A heater in my house. Tonight when I came home it was FREEZING COLD in here, and all I had to do was simply walk to the thermostat and turn it up. What a blessing.

--Shampoo. Soap. Facewash. Hand sanitizer. I am obsessed with being clean. I hate being dirty. I take the fact that I CAN be clean for granted WAY TOO OFTEN.



Of course, there are more, but those are the main ones today. 



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salted caramel hot chocolate

So, I'm posting this on Wednesday, the 3rd but I really wrote it on the 2nd. Just forgot to publish it!

Last night was not a fun night at our home. We had to deal with something that is very very difficult, painful, tiring, and just plain filled with brokenness. Marty and I both stayed up way later than we usually do and I don't know that either of us got much sleep.

Some days you just have to wake up and thank God that you did and trust He'll pull you through the day. That's how today was. I woke up with such a burden on my heart. I was exhausted in EVERY aspect. But I came to work, I sought the Lord, and He provided.

Throughout the day I noticed a number of things I was thankful for, but I found it difficult to have the true heart of thanksgiving that I should. Yes, I was thankful but I wasn't FULL of thanks. Not until I stopped and opened my bible and spent a few minutes in the Word, just letting Him speak to me and strengthen me. In that time I realized that He was the one holding my up, keeping my eyes open, making my lungs breathe, keeping my heart beating. I know He does those things for me daily, but on a day when I was just straight up WORN OUT, it was even more obvious.

From that point on, my cup of thanksgiving just seemed to be overflowing.

Today I am thankful for...

-My teachers. From Kindergarten all the way through my college professors. I had GREAT ones who challenged me, shaped me, molded me, had patience with me, and most of all, loved me.

-My Sunday school teachers. Man... how often do THEY go unthanked? I sat down today and wrote out a handful of cards to past Sunday school teachers just thanking them for their time and love that they poured into my life.

-Friends who are mindful to call or text the next day just to check on you after you had a rough night.

-Brian Ratliff always bringing/making food for us up here at the office. When I get fat, it's all on him.

-Bright colors that fill my office and bring me inevitable cheer on discouraging days.

-Chad and Natalie Hogan who brought dinner to us tonight just because they wanted to. I LOVE THEM!

-Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate from Starbucks. It was my first time to have one... OH MY WORD! Soooo good.

-But.... even more than that, the thing I am MOST thankful for today is the opportunities to just sit down, chill out, talk, and rest. Tonight after dinner we decided to take advantage of the somewhat Christmassy feeling weather and we went on a little Starbucks date. He ordered the Thanksgiving Mix coffee (YUCK!) and I got the chocolate. We just sat and talked for about an hour. And it. was. great. JUST what we needed after just a draining night.


Oh, and I'm thankful for that ring on his hand, so that everyone knows he's MINE! ;) 




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Monday, November 1, 2010

thank-ful

The month of November is often associated with the world thankful.

This is the month that we all try our best to be more aware of the blessings around us and take time to thank God and thank other people for making us smile and providing us with what we need. This is the month that we are extra thankful.

Or are we?

A few years ago I did a lesson with the youth over the idea of the REAL meaning of the word thankful and it's one that God has just stuck in my mind ever since. See, I think we've forgotten our basic grammar when it comes to this word.

Look at it: Thankful.

Now let's dissect it and look at it from a slightly different view:

THANK-FUL

There are two parts to this word: "thank" and "ful". "Ful" is a suffix that, when tagged onto the end of a word, adds the meaning, "full of". Therefore, the word thankful literally means "full of thanks."

Okay, now you're probably thinking, "Duh. I'm not an idiot. I went to school too." You're right. It's not that complicated and most of us know, or at one time knew, the actual, grammatical meaning of that word. I don't question our knowledge about the word, I just can't help but question if we're using it right.

Think about it.

How many times do we say we are "full of thanks" when really we should say more along the lines of we "have SOME thanks in our hearts"?

This might sound WAY out there or you just may not really be clicking with me right now. If so, that's ok. This is for me and something God has REALLY used to open my eyes to what it truly means to be thankful. Ever since I had this epiphany I've tried REALLY hard to really be someone FULL of thanks. However, life clouds my view sometimes and I'm not always as full as I'd like to be.

So for this month of November, I'm REALLY jumping on this challenge for myself. I have a marker board in my office that I write a bible verse or quote on every day to challenge me and and keep my focus right. Along with that verse, I'm going to fill that board up, every day, with things I am thankful for. Some big, broad, obvious things... but also some little, everyday things that often get overlooked. And then I'm going to blog about it.

So my blog, for the month of November, is dedicated to things I am "FULL of thanks" for!

Today's is rather simple: Encouragement.

I am so thankful for encouragement! I'm thankful that we have the ability to encourage. I'm thankful that there are people in my life who encourage me. I'm thankful for the friends who DAILY encourage me and the random people who send me just the encouragement I need at just the right point in my life. I'm thankful for encouragement that comes from watching other people. I'm thankful for the command to encourage one another.

But mostly, I'm thankful for the encouragement that comes straight from the Lord. The Scripture that just resonates in my heart and makes me feel as if the Lord wrote those words just for me. The Words that just breathe life into my soul when it's worn out. The mercy that restores me when I feel like I've just screwed it all up. The grace that refreshes me when I just need newness.

I'm thank-ful. So full of thanks for encouragement.



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