Be Bold!

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“Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” -Basil King

The above quote is probably one of my new favorites. It speaks of such power and faith- be bold! and mighty forces will come to your aid… Basil King was a clergyman born in Canada, so I have to assume he meant be bold in the name of the Lord, and He will come to your aid. That’s just my assumption.

I’ve decided to make weekly posts with little tidbits such as quotes or photos here and there which all reflect my end of the week concept or idea. I hope that’s not too disappointing, but with church commitments, family time, community obligations, work and two doggies to keep me on my toes, I feel this is a more appropriate use of my time.

Be bold… I struggle between being boldly self-confident, and being an arrogant jerk. I could pass the years telling you how many people have misinterpreted my confidence (sometimes feigned!) for arrogance or an “I-think-I’m-better-than-you” attitude. I’ll come right out and say that my personal beliefs and convictions are just that- mine, personal, and convicting. I’m sharing them with you all out of a sense of being called by God to do so. I do not expect that everyone I encounter will agree with me. I do however expect them to respond with the same respect I give their expression of beliefs or opinions.

That being said, please feel free to respond in a respectful and informative manner!🙂

The thought that’s been bouncing around in my head this morning is how can I be bold in the name of Christ? And I decided that God will present the opportunities for me and all I have to do is act upon them. It may be in a conversation to my husband (please don’t mistake this for something it isn’t- I fully believe in Biblical submission of a wife to her husband) about some aspect of our marriage. So many couples fail to communicate out of fear or self-consciousness, or guilt. I challenge you to be bold! Boldly and bravely communicate with your spouse, or significant other, because they don’t know our hearts and minds like God does; we have to TELL them how we feel.

It may present itself as a service opportunity. There are so many times that I’ve passed up an opportunity to “get my hands dirty” in service because I was afraid of failure when I should have accepted the challenge with tenacity. Mighty forces will come to your aid! you don’t need to worry about the things you don’t have because God will supply you with all of your needs, and see to it that they are sufficiently met for all of your tasks.

It could be in just talking to a friend (or a complete stranger) about your faith. We are called to share the love of Christ with those around us and to deliver the Gospel message to those who have never heard or known. God has entrusted us with his word! That is an enormous responsibility, and we fall short of God’s grace daily. So strike up that random conversation, tell others what you believe, ask questions to which you don’t know the answers, and give where there is an opportunity to give.

“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have” 1 Corinthians 8:12

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 1 Corinthians 9:8

Stillness

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2013… the start of another year of growth in faith, maturity, wisdom, and hopefully, my sense of humor!

First things first- hello! So much has come to fruition in the past several months that blogging has gotten put on the back burner. I hope I haven’t completely lost my audience, because I don’t feel as if this blog is finished yet, although I don’t intend to keep at it forever… that being said, I have several blessings for which to be thankful, the most recent being my job. I not only secured the substitute teaching position, but as usual, God surpassed my ambitions and desires and led me (quite unexpectedly, and without pursuit on my part) to a full time job as a Teacher Assistant! Praise God and his marvelous provision.

The extra income came at precisely the right time because the car, or Sophie as I’ve come to call “her,” hasn’t been feeling well recently and her days are numbered. I trust God completely with the situation though, because blind faith aside, I’ve seen God’s care, guidance, and provision prove true again and again in real and tangible ways. More to come on that story, I imagine.

So that’s what is new. I’m currently dwelling in a period of stillness. Not the stillness of apathy,  or indifference, but the stillness of obedience and God’s peace. There are seemingly lots of external stressors that, by all earthly standards, should be causing me to be in a frenzied panic. But as I keep telling people, I feel stress, but it isn’t distress, it’s eustress; it’s a positive energy, and the fatigue of working in a school full-time, and being so busy- even outside of work- I don’t have time to dwell on the negative.

There’s that saying, “I’m too blessed to be stressed.” It’s really resonating with me right now. God is developing my patience, but more so, I feel He is building upon my understanding. Not understanding of any one thing in particular, but of all aspects of my life; my marriage (this is the biggest area of growth), my faith, of course, and my new job. I have found that all of these periods of waiting for military related things have helped me to strengthen my patience and have given me discernment in all of the aforesaid areas. I know what God’s peace is NOT- I think we’ve all felt and experienced that turmoil before. It’s the feeling that no matter what you do to stay afloat, life keeps trying to drown you. And if that is the opposite of God’s peace, then I know what to stop dwelling on. I don’t have to know the next step, because God already does, and He promises He will catch me if I fall.

When I was in 8th grade, my dad was my principal at a small k-8 school in Northern Illinois. My dad liked to take advantage of every opportunity to have a teachable moment via assemblies or pep rallies. (or so it seemed to me) One specific motivational activity came to mind. The group was based out of one of the area high schools and it was called B.L.I.N.D. It stood for Building Lasting Impressions that Never Die… and seeing as I still remember it in my early twenties, I’d say the organization has lived up to its name. Anyway, we had all gone to the gym for various team building exercises; the trust fall, the “how do we get all the people across the ‘river’ making only one trip at a time” game, and numerous others. The time came for the final challenge- a blindfolded maze walk. The B.L.I.N.D. guides led all of the blindfolded students outside and placed our left hands on a rope. Our task was to follow the rope to the end of the maze, without peeking. But, if at any point we became exasperated and determined we couldn’t complete the maze, we were instructed to stop, raise our hands and ask to be led from the maze. Easy, right?  So I took the rope, and started to walk along, letting the rope guide me through the maze. I could hear people all around me, mere seconds into the maze stopping and asking for help. Seriously?  They had barely even tried! I kept going, confident I could find my way- after all,  I had the rope stretched out before me. Logic said if the rope went from beginning to end, then following it would ultimately get me to the exit. I kept walking. More and more people fell out. I couldn’t believe it!  Where was their perseverance? Where was their iron will? I had the courage and conviction to keep going- I was going to get through that maze! Pretty soon, I noticed that my footsteps were the only ones I could hear… had every one given up? How long was this maze? Did they forget, and leave me outside, blindfolded and alone? I walked a little slower, less and less sure of my steps. My confidence in my ability to find the end of the maze dwindled and at last, I stopped walking. I wondered if turning around and going the way I had come would get me back to the beginning… I didn’t want to be the last one left in the maze, but I certainly didn’t want to give up… I heard a guide say, “Remember, if you need help finding the end, just raise your hand and one of us will come to you…” I had disappointed myself. Not only had I stopped walking,  but here I was about to ask for help, to be led out of the maze.  I hesitantly raised my hand, wondering what the repercussions of giving up would be… a guide came to me and she asked, “do you need help?” My cheeks flushed as I admitted my own defeat. “Yeah… I think I missed a turn or something…” She said okay, and took me by the arm and lead me away from the rope. After we had taken a few steps she instructed me to remove the blindfold. When I took the bandanna from my eyes, I turned to look at where I had ended up, wanting to see how close I had come to finding the end of the maze. I was convince I had gotten close, and was still disappointed in my decision to quit. But as I turned to look back at the rope maze from which I had come, I was shocked to see that I’d been Tricked! Fooled! hoodwinked! Bamboozled!!! It wasn’t a maze at all! It was a giant loop around the asphalt basketball courts! I had been walking in circles… arrogantly, self-assuredly, and blindly walking in circles. I looked at the few of my classmates who were still trudging forward, determined not to seem weak in asking to be led out… and I remember thinking… wow, my pride caused me to look like a fool to all of these guides watching me. And I started to feel something like pity for the few stragglers who hadn’t yet gotten the point of the exercise. All I had to do was stop, admit my own ineptitude and ask for help.

It was hard for me to ask for help that day, and it still is difficult today. I don’t like seeming weak or incapable to my peers, my coworkers, my friends, especially not to my husband… but that’s what we are, isn’t it? We’re all just blindfolded students on a journey to learn to ask for help when we can’t find our way. It’s not about the end of the maze, though that’s what the rope (and society) tells us. It’s about humbling ourselves and casting aside the arrogance and insecurities that keep us walking in circles, and that prevent us from experiencing the fullness of God’s peace.

It’s freeing to finally admit to myself that I’m not capable of making it through a single day in my attempts to “be a good person” on my own. It doesn’t work like that because goodness- righteousness- comes from God, and we can’t receive it until we stop walking in circles and ask Him to guide us to it.

That’s what I’ve been meditating on since the beginning of this new year- I’ve been seeking God’s strength and admitting my weakness. Because even at my best, I am unworthy of His grace, yet he extends it freely to me, and to all who humbly come before Him.

I resolve to quit walking in circles (it’s dizzying, it truly is) and to instead stop and take in the stillness, and let the Father lead me.

Soul Searching

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“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified…” 1 Thessalonians 4:3

I’ve taken a temporary hiatus in part because life feels crazy at the moment, and in other part because I felt like I was misappropriating my time. That being said, I’ve reevaluated things, and I’m back, at least for this post.😉

I was really trying to do some soul-searching; figure out what I want to go to school to study, what I want to do as a career, how I’m going to pay for my education, etc. What I found out was that in spending so much effort thinking about the what-if’s and how’s and why’s, and when’s that I took my sight off of deepening my faith and in my morning devotions had just been going through the motions. So, I took a break from everything I felt was distracting me, and I set aside some time to really think on things. I came up with a few conclusions:

1.) God indeed has a will for me, and it is His intent that I discover what His will is for my life.

2.) In order to see God’s will, one has to be in close fellowship with God; I like the illustration of walking in pitch-black darkness, with only a lighter to lead the way- the closer to the light, the more you can see.

3.) My focus should forever be on the Lord and His teachings because that is my ultimate purpose- to serve and worship God, not to go to the right college, or get the right job, or have all kinds of money. My purpose is to be a servant of God and to His people during my time here on this earth. It is God’s will that I be sanctified, or set apart and dedicated to the Lord, not living consumed by the things and desires of the world.

It was made clear to me when I did this soul-searching that my priorities had slid out-of-order and I was trying to pile my goals on a stack of uncertainties. Imagine a large stack of books teetering as you try to carry them to the shelf; the stack goes up past your head and you can’t see where you’re going, all the while the stack of books sways unsteadily as you attempt to move forward. What happens then when you meet an obstacle you didn’t see coming because of the precarious book stack? You trip, fall, and books go everywhere. I decided to put down the books and discard the few that were blocking my vision. So I picked up THE book, God’s Word, the Bible and I started to read. God’s will is for me to be a servant to the least, to throw away my pride, anxiety, and selfish ambition and focus solely on Him. That is the ONLY way to learn and follow God’s will; to learn and follow God’s teachings. Then the Holy Spirit will reveal the Lord’s truths through scripture and study.

Would you all like to know what happened after my big, epiphany of letting go of the unnecessary and focusing in on God? I’ll tell you what happened…

I had been completely preoccupied with finding a way to pay for my schooling which I would like to start back to in January. Anyway, I had been filling out financial aid forms, surfing scholarship websites and looking for grants of any kind for which I qualified. Finally, I had enough of the exasperation of searching for “free money” for school and I just turned to God. I prayed, “Lord, I don’t know what you have in mind for me, but I’d really like to. I desire to further my education and get a good job. I know my motives tend to slip toward monetary and earthly things and I pray that you’ll guide my intentions and keep them pure. God, I’m tired of searching and coming up empty and I’m ready to let go, and trust that you’ll provide a way. Even if your answer is ‘Not now,’ or ‘Not this way,’ I will be content with your answer because I know that your way is always the best way. Lead me, God, and take this burden away from me. Amen”

Later that week, I was called for an interview with the county school board for a position as a substitute teacher. I had almost completely given up on that as a valid option seeing as how I had taken the class in July, and school has been in session for almost three months now. That only goes to show you that God’s timing is not the same as my timing and that when it’s the proper time, His plan will unfold.

As I sit and ponder the situation and my upcoming interview, I still wonder things like, “will this position pay enough to cover the costs of my tuition?’ or ‘Will I be able to handle the demands of the job AND the demands of school?’ and ‘If I have the opportunity to work full-time, should I take it and postpone my schooling until I’ve managed to save some more money and go back to school with my husband after he gets out of the corps?’ Following God’s will doesn’t mean you will stop having questions. If anything, closer proximity to the Lord has only raised more questions in my mind. Now that I know this, what comes next? But I think that’s the way God made us, so that we’d be continuously seeking HIS wisdom, and HIS insight, and HIS will because HE is the only one who can answer our plethora of unending questions.

God at Work

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God at Work

Once again, I am floored by God’s perfect timing, and moved to tears by His awesome power.

So about the change I was feeling the need to make yesterday… I kept hearing God’s voice, but I wasn’t sure what it was saying. I kept making tiny changes to my whole day- breakfast, dinner, my clothing, the way I brushed my teeth, the foot I put a sock on first, and any other quirky little thing you could imagine.

Usually, I do my 2-3 mile run in the evenings, when it’s cooler, the sun is just setting, and it’s slightly less humid… Well, I was being told to change something. So I went online and found a running club in the area, and I decided to meet up with them to run 3 miles this morning… at 5:00am! I am not in the habit of being a morning person, so it took 2 alarms to get me out of bed. I haven’t been putting in much mileage recently either, but I got dressed, inhaled some yogurt, grabbed my water bottle and run tracker and headed off to meet the group.

It was a good run. I kept up with the leader of the group through the first mile and change, but then sort of started to get wheezy, what with the rain, humidity, and my mild case of asthma… So one of the other runners, Jan kept me company. It was just the two of us, until we met back up with the leader, Amila, around the 3 mile mark. We had talked about how we ended up down here in the area, and the subject came up that Amila was a military spouse as well. The more we talked, I started to piece things together until I realized that our husbands were not only in the same unit, they were working together at that very minute!

WOW! something as small as altering the time I go running opened up a door for a new friend with so much in common, and I never would have met her otherwise! Praise God for speaking to me in a way I could understand and using a common ground, like running, to connect me with someone who will understand exactly what I’m going through when we don’t have our husbands to lean on for comfort and support. God was telling me to move, literally! He told me to get up and go run, and embrace what would come of it! I can’t wait to see what else He has in store.

If that’s not proof that God is living and active, I’m not sure what is.

Me at a track meet in high school… I ran distance so I had a lot of spare time between events.

A Change

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A Change

Have you ever had that moment when you are fully aware of the Holy Spirit speaking to you, but you’re not sure what it means?

Yesterday at church our preacher spoke about Mark chapter 8 and the distinct shift Jesus made in going from preaching to all people about salvation to specifically teaching his disciples about who He is. Pastor George asked the question, “Have you ever made a decision that makes a life-changing shift in your relationship with God?”

Pastor George went on to reference Mark 8:34. He said that Jesus taking up his cross, to him, represented Jesus obeying God’s will for Him to die for the salvation of all mankind; that the “cross” is to know and follow God’s will. What is God’s will for me? God knows what He wants me to do, so I have to ask Him.

What is it I’m doing, and what is my “cross”? Pastor George left us with the thought that we should discover God’s will, and act upon it; that we should seek a change, or a shift, similar to that in Mark’s gospel.

Well, I woke up this morning and turned on the TV. It was on the Today Show, and the first thing I heard as I turned on the television and the picture came in to focus was, “Make a change; Change something…” and then it went to commercial break.

Then I read my devotion and it centered around Romans chapters 9-12, and that we should live sacrificial lives in response to the grace God has already given us, using our spiritual gifts to serve the Church… Then I read Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I hear you, Lord! I hear you, but I don’t understand what you’re trying to say! I feel like Samuel! I keep hearing God speak, but I don’t know what it means! What am I supposed to change? Which aspect of my life requires a shift in a different direction? How am I not using my spiritual gifts that I SHOULD be?

I don’t know. I know that there has to be something that needs to be renewed or shifted or changed, but I don’t know what that something is. I’ll wait. I’ll ask God to continue speaking to me through any means he chooses… I’ve been doing tons of things differently today in an effort to stumble across the thing(s) that needs shifting… I’ve done a different yoga series, I ate a different breakfast from my usual, I unconsciously wrote the check for our water bill differently… I want to know and understand… Pray that God will show me and open my heart and mind to be receptive to His message. Word of God, speak! and let my ears hear!

Friends and Family

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Friends and Family

“The same Jesus Who turned water into wine can transform your home, your life, your family, and your future. He is still in the miracle-working business, and His business is the business of transformation.”  ~ Adrian Rogers

My mom just got remarried over the weekend! Congratulations, Mom and Jim!

They are stopping by our place on their way back home and like any good daughter, I’ve been scrambling around the house cleaning like Mom always did when we had company😉 After all, I don’t want them to think we live the way we actually live with clothing thrown over the back of the couch, dog toys scattered throughout the house, and empty water glasses on every visible surface…

Anyway, the separation of my parents and their lives with their new significant others got me thinking about God, and family, and His power to transform a negative situation into a positive one. I think about my childhood and I remember good times I had with my sisters and brother; kickball in the back yard, bike rides around the cull-de-sac, playing in mud and convincing my youngest sister that it was dark chocolate pudding, roller blading around the neighborhood and the wrap around porch… There were some good times. Life wasn’t all bad, although I wasn’t oblivious to the struggles that were present.

I think what I’ve learned most about family is that it’s not just the people whose genetic make-up you share that count as your family. It’s about the little old ladies across the street whose houses smell funny, but they’ll always invite you in for some Schwan’s Ice Cream. It’s about the friends you had, then and now, who call just to see how you’re doing, and will come and sit in your living room and not do much of anything at all, but be content in spending time with you. It’s about the people you meet in the midst of chaos and struggle who choose to stand by you anyway. My friends are my family, and my family make up a great bunch of friends.

This is important; so much more now that I’m grown, married, and live hundreds of miles away from my little sisters. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I were closer to them and my brother. But I’ve seen first-hand how God can take something broken and hurting and use the pieces to build this brand new thing that’s more complex and beautiful than anyone could have imagined it to be. I imagine the fictitious bird, the phoenix, bursting in to flames, and then rising majestically and beautifully from the ashes.

If you think about this transformation in regards to Christianity, you see that the very best things, the only things worth living for come out of death. In marrying my husband, I died to my single self, and became one with him in body and spirit. In the separation of my parents, two new couples emerged with the blessings of step-siblings (and I’m still the oldest😉 ) From the pain and adversity that came with the divorce came faith the likes of which I have never seen displayed before by my parents. By the death of Jesus Christ came salvation for my short comings and failures; righteousness from the torture and death of an innocent and pure man.

Some times, strong things or people have to take a hit so that a weaker being can survive to be strengthened in the future. In the same way, sometimes, weak things have to die to make way for stronger things to emerge in their place.

I see God working in ways I never really understood but I see now that he had a plan for my family’s mistakes; he had in mind for us all to be stronger, more courageous, and more faithful than we had previously thought possible. And I will praise Him every day for the rest of my life for that.

Left to Right: Mitch, my husband; Step-dad, Jim; Mom, Amy; and me