Thursday, December 19, 2013

Time for Something Different?

The drive thru window was dressed in red and green and looked quite joyful, but the attendant was really distracted, even abrupt as I waited on the coffee I ordered.
So I said, trying to strike up a conversation to see what might be wrong, ..."are you excited about Christmas?" Her reply went something like this - "Excited??? I have so much shopping to do, I am so not ready, I need more time, more money, and someone to help with it all, I am just ready for it to be over with".
I looked at her face. The eyes that darted back and forth. Her downturned mouth. Her countenance showed me she really meant what she said.
So I suggested something... "Then just don't shop this year."
She looked at me like I was on crack.
"What? What do you mean? I cant do that!"
"But why?" I asked.
"Because! I mean, everyone expects to get presents!"
I said "Well sure, little ones do, but the older ones and adults in your life - they're old enough to understand it's not about them at all, right? That its about being together, being thankful, about celebrating the birth of Christ. What if you just decorated, watched some Christmas specials together, cooked a big dinner together, and found a new tradition?"
She blinked several times then said "What do you mean? I don't get it".
I told her that we do gifts for our kids, but that the adult siblings/family members, etc stopped exchanging gifts a long time ago. And that my husband and I never have really - we just decided when we got married to make that for the kids and to either plan a getaway together or get something for the house we needed as a present to one another. No stress, no pressure, and that our Christmases had been peaceful ever since. I shared that we find Christmasy activities to do around town together, watch certain specials, go look at lights, find somewhere to give a little of our time and money to, decorate, go to church Christmas Eve services, have a family Christmas Day dinner, etc... but that all the stressful things had purposefully been removed years ago.
"What if you did that?" I asked her.
She stammered out "well, I just, I don't, I can't... what would they all think?"
I said "You may be surprised at how grateful they all are that someone finally put an end to all the craziness, and may decide you just gave them the best gift or all".
She was still blinking and looking at me like I had three heads when I pulled away. I don't know if she'll consider it. I hope she does.
There's nothing wrong with gifts and the like, not at all. It can be a joy to give things, it should be! But when that becomes a source of stress, of making you uncomfortable, becomes a financial hardship, or just takes any joy and focus away from the reason for Christmas at all - its time to reconsider.
My friend Brad blogged the other day that Christmas was really all about us - in the sense that Jesus put on flesh and left Heaven FOR us. But that's the ONLY way it's about us.
To be honest - there are only a few actual gifts I still remember getting as a kid with great clarity. The year I got an easy bake oven, the year I got my record player (yes, I'm old enough to have gotten a turn table), and my first ten speed bike and skateboard.
The things I remember most are the trees, Dad playing Candy-land with me over and over by the tree and never complaining when I asked for one more time, the homemade fudge and candy, the lights around the city we went searching for in the car each year to see who had the best ones, the nativities, and that it took way more years than it should have for me to put 2 and 2 together that my Dad was never at home when "santa" called me every Christmas Eve.
I hate for anyone to "just be ready for it to be over with"... slow down, relish what Christmas is and what it actually could be for you and those you love. A time of joy, love, and peace on earth - even if just for one day
I hope you have the Merriest of Christmases!
Joyful on the Journey

Friday, November 1, 2013

Audio entry: "The Line in the Sand"

Every "Yes" Costs Something...

One more bible study. Go to one. Lead one.
Plan the next big event.
Meet peoples needs at church, or anywhere. Or everywhere.
Taking on one more project wont kill me. I'll say no to the next one. This is important and affects a lot of people.
A mission trip is always a great idea. They need our help in the worst way, don't they? Many of my friends go - shouldn't I then?
What about the homeless? I can't ignore that. Everyone I know seems to be serving meals or something.

But every 'yes' costs something. I HAVE to weigh the costs carefully, because I'm never the only one that pays the price.

That sounds really cliché doesn't it?
But... does that make it any less true though?

John 15:8 says - When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

To be honest, when I first even thought about not saying yes so much, to start to really be picky about what I spend my limited time on, it sort of made my stomach queasy to even consider it. Speaking as a PK (preachers kid) and a woman, I was pretty sure I was only wired to say yes.

But had I allowed the world to wire me instead of discovering how God truly intended me to live?

Saying no was very hard at first. Painful even. It still is sometimes. But it has meant more meaningful time with my husband and family. Time to care for our home better (and I definitely needed to do a better job of that - my low riding dachshund at least has less dust built up on his belly now). Time to rest and recharge (now THAT was a foreign concept to say the least!) and even get away regularly. To read and study more. To pray with and walk alongside a couple of ladies on their journey. And I'm praying about the one place right now where I can volunteer to use any gifts and talents I have to make a difference. And for its season, that will be the one single thing I devote that time too.

In John 6:28-29 they asked Jesus...
“We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

Everyone needs a re-wiring sometimes. An occasionally, like me, a complete overhaul.

It's supposed to be out of the overflow of His grace and love for me and out of my belief and worship of Him that I serve where I am most needed.

"In your presence there is fullness of joy, in Your right hand are pleasures for evermore." - Psalm 16:11

If I'm actually still enough in His presence each day to ASK him what He wants from me instead of presuming He needs me to do it all - THAT'S definitely a more fruitful way to live.

And God created way too many of us for me to ever think I'm supposed to do it all :)

Should I always be open to learn and experience new things? Yes!
But always mindful of not adding something of significant time and commitment to my plate without taking something off my plate first.

So what about the voice that still creeps in and tells me sometimes that to be a good little Christian girl I need to be serving here, and over there, and what about what all your friends are involved in? A resounding 'NO' needs to be said out loud to that lie!

God loved me first. He loves me for who I am and who He created me uniquely to be. For His glory. Not mine. To serve others, yes. But to worship and spend time with Him first. Then with the immediate family He has given me. Then I reach outward. But not with octopus arms - with the only two hands I have been given.

Psalm 115:1 - Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness.

Joyful on the Journey

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Happy Birthday America!

As we celebrate our 237th Birthday as a country today I am sooooo grateful for the men and women who gave so much, so long ago to start over here. For those who wanted to start over based on such precious foundational principles, and that longed to see others prosper freely in every way. Its one of the reasons I love going to Washington DC... Yes, there is much that needs to change (as do I in many ...ways) but I love seeing so much evidence on so many buildings, monuments, and in salvaged documents, that there were a group of people who had a desire to see God given principals lived out in a way that honored every person no matter what. I love my country, and I love those who have served and currently serve to keep us and others free as well. 
I still believe there can be good days ahead, that there are good people who only want the best for every man woman and child, and that there are many who truly love one another with a selfless love that can overcome. We are not a perfect country or a perfect people - but there is so much good here.
God thank you for Your abundant blessings, even when we don't live as if they are from you. And thank you for our country and the beauty that is here, in both creation and in mankind - Happy Independence Day America!

Joyful on the Journey

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Most Ingenious Evil Plan of All


Do you ever find yourself in the middle of the rest you have told God you so need, only to find yourself thinking that you SURELY have to get up and go do something?
I'm sitting the outside on my deck after an extremely full yesterday. All necessary things to be done that accomplished a lot not just for us but for others in our lives.
But today the birds are tweeting, the breeze is blowing, I'm in the company of someone I love, my heart is whispering words of release and appreciation for the creation around me, and I'm thankful (or so I think) for the answered prayer of rest on this day. Ahhhhhhh yes. 

And then it begins. You know what I mean. I know you do.

The voice in my head starts saying things like “There's still things I need to get done. Look at that dirty patio table. I should so get some rags and clean that. Wouldn't take but a minute or two. And I think there are enough towels to make a fairly good size load. And the kitchen counter is getting pretty piled up again, maybe I’ll just go in and go through all that stuff for a little bit, then I can really relax”… why IS that???
It’s the idea that each and every moment must be filled, then I will be fulfilled.
It’s the idol of busyness.
And to put it bluntly - it’s satan’s agenda.
If he can keep me tired, busy, distracted, feed my selfish need to be patted on the back for getting something accomplished, and push out the voice of my God calling me to just enjoy moments with Him and the people He has gifted my life with – well, then satan wins the day.
I hate it when he wins. So then why do I let my ears be tickled, and my mind be consumed, by his lies, taunting, and prodding? Because I somehow let myself be trained to feel guilty for not doing enough, not being enough, not accomplishing enough. Its really the most ingenious evil plan of all.

As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”
The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”
   Luke 10:38-42
I let satan steal my God moments way too often.

God designs moments for me to hear HIM, be with HIM, learn more about HIM, enjoy the gifts HE has given me in people and His blessings. But I tend to blow it listening to every agenda but His.

When I’m present in the gift God has chosen to give me for the day - HE wins my day - and that’s the only time I win too.

Joyful on the Journey

Monday, May 6, 2013

How Deep Are We Digging our Ditches? **a tweaked timely repost - well, for me anyway :)

In 2nd Kings Chapter 3, there were three kings that joined forces to come together to fight Moab. No big deal right? Strength in numbers and all that jazz.
But they found themselves in a very lengthy battle. In other words numbers didn't matter. They found they were in the desert with nothing to sustain them or give them the edge they need to fulfil the mission they had been given. They needed rain. They needed water. Sustenance. Pretty desperate situation. Pretty desperate people.
Ever felt dry and desperate before?
Then Elisha gives them a word from God... to dig ditches. Dig ditches. In the desert. Not a cloud in the sky as far as the eye can see. Uhhhhhh, yeah, ok.
Desperate times call for desperate measures right? Or another word for that might be 'obedience'.
Not a word I'm always as familiar with as I should be :)

But the three kings and those they served with in battle obeyed and dug the ditches. 
And they awoke to ditches filled to the brim!
This is a passage I never thought a whole lot about honestly, until my pastor shared it at a prayer walk we did at our churches new property recently.
What I have been meditating on (yet again) is how my pastor used it that day to encourage us for an uncomfortable time of growth surely to come.
How the fact of the matter was that they received the abundant blessing they needed and more because of two things: They dug WHEN they were told to dig, and that they dug DEEP. They went all in.

It's not the easiest thing to do, to dig when its dry. Imagine the heat, the sand flying in your mouth and eyes - sticking everywhere there is sweat - blinding you to everything that is ahead in a barren landscape, when you can't see the outcome in front of you... but dig they did.
Sometimes we are asked by God to do things that don't make a whole lot of sense, so we only do them halfway maybe. If at all. Sometimes we we are asked to do things that make perfect sense, the next logical step in the process if you will. But we still only do them half heartily because we only expect the next logical reaction to the step we take. We're not expecting miracles.
Our Pastor made this comment - that most of the time not only to we not dig our ditches as if we are expecting to receive enough but for sure not deep enough for the abundant blessing intended.
What could happen if we just give God bigger reservoirs to fill?
What if we really believed He is bigger than our minds can comprehend?
What if we honestly knew in our heart of hearts that He does love us, wants the best for us, wants to give us all we need and MORE?
What if we truly believed that as long as we seek Him and the desires HE has for us in the center of His will, that He is waiting to bless us and those we serve in amazing ways?

Each day I say I want to be ready, really ready to change the world. I don't know where all the ditches should be dug. I need to depend on God to reveal that to me. Do I trust Him at His word?
Our ditches will be in different places, in different shapes, at different times, for different reasons. But one place I think that the life Jesus lived showed us that we should ALL be digging is in people, in our relationships with one another.
I need to be better at preparing to have God pour out His mercy and grace in abundance, to anxiously be looking for glimpses of Him working in the lives of others BECAUSE through my own life and actions each day I'm digging into their lives too.
He intended us to be more about the business of helping one another open hearts, minds, ears and eyes to receive the love, hope, joy, and blessings from Christ.

Think about how dry, parched, cracked, and thirsty the lands some people are treading through right now are around you. Maybe that's the sod you are placing one foot in front of the other on today too. Mine are definitely a bit dust covered at the moment.
We, they, ALL need to be filled so desperately with what only God can give.
In a dry season the digging becomes harder. All the focus is on the need and the pain. We have to really throw our backs into it. Focus. Commit.
But remember, the ditches we dig He will fill.
I believe His Word here is so clearly teaching us that the deeper we dig our reservoirs the bigger the blessing. THEN we can see His glory - we see Him revealed - and we realize it was never about us. It is always about Him, about how we all can be filled so that the excess pours out into the ditches of others in need.
Grab a spade, a shovel, a spoon, a bulldozer - whatever you need to begin with to get started. Just start digging where He tells you to. Then keep digging. In fact don't stop digging until the refreshing waters come!
Joyful on the Journey,

Friday, April 19, 2013

You ARE Beautiful :)

Watch and be blessed, and know you are more beautiful than you realize - beleive you are as you have been created, unique, and MORE!



Friday, February 22, 2013

A Stained Cushion = Love

The life group that my husband and I lead are doing a group study called "Not A Fan" based on the book of that same name by Kyle Idleman.
The other night we were watching the accompanying video and Kyle was telling the story of the time his daughter spilled bright pink fingernail polish on an off white couch in their home.
As a young child can you just imagine her horror?? The fear of what might happen to her?? What her parents would think?? What they might do?? And she did what many of us do - she tried to hide her stain. She turned the couch cushion over, and quietly walked away.
Oh no, I can't relate to that, you?!
Well of course, the stain was found one day when Kyle and his wife were cleaning (key foreboding music, dum dum dum).
They lined up all of their girls in the same room to ask them who did this. The youngest daughter that made the bright pink stain cracked before they could even get the question all the way asked - she fell to her knees and broke down crying.
As they knelt next to her to discuss what had happened she asked this question through her sobs - 'do you still love me?'
She learned a valuable lesson that day when she was shown unconditional love with these words from her parents "honey, you could never make a stain so big we would stop loving you".
But the most telling thing of all?
The fact that they noticed as a little time passed she began actually showing off the stain when people came to their house - she would take them to the couch and tell them that this is what she did but her mommy and daddy still loved her and it was all okay!
Wow. What a picture of forgiveness, love, and confidence in who she was and who loved her!

I remember such a time in my life, when I tried really hard to hide a stain - after the divorce in my first marriage when I spent most of my time trying to cover it all up so it didn't show, to quietly walk away from it all like it never happened. I also remember feeling like that stain and the related ones I had a hand in creating, were so very big. Too big. And wondering where am I now in this life, and where is God, and could He ever look at me and love me the same again?

Colossians 2:13-14 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.

The answer is a resounding yes! It took me some time to process through it all, but my God has proven Himself faithful to show me forgiveness, restoration, unconditional love, and that He LOVES using my messy big stains to do great things!

If you have a great big old messy stain that you are trying to forget, to cover up, to walk away from without bringing it to the light of day, why not just walk right up to your Heavenly Father today and say "Here I am, stain and all. I'm sorry I've tried to hide it. Forgive me for that. I trust you to fix it, to make it beautiful and worth showing off. Because I believe you can take it and use it in a way that it can glorify you... use my stain to show me your unconditional love so I can show that same love to someone else!"

He's not mad at you. Let God turn the couch cushion back over, right side up, and look at the stain through His eyes for what it truly is - something He wants to make beautiful. He still loves you :)

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Joyful on the Journey,

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lady Bug Lessons

Ever been “taken to school” by a lady bug?
I have. The wise little creature came to occupy space and time on my desk today,and she taught me a lot. The tiny delicate red visitor with black polka dots, in fact, reminded me by the end of the day of what I want but sometimes lack – focus and perseverance.
See this little lady bug, for the better part of almost 8 hours today I might add, was searching and seeking and working at whatever it was she was trying to accomplish. She was, in a word – diligent.
Ok, add one more word – committed.

She toiled. She was consistent.  All day long she took to task what was before her.
Philippians 3:14 says “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Me? I can become lazy – procrastinate – and then before I know it have never finished what I started. Or even if I do it’s not the result it should have been. But she just kept at it – her eye on whatever goal it was she was after that day.

But it was all in the WAY she approached everything on this day that REALLY got me.

# 1 – I noticed she rested. I would first see her crawling and moving and running and being about her tasks, but then she would simply just stop. For a while too.  And she stayed perfectly still as if awaiting further instructions.
Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Me?  I can swing totally to the opposite boundary and get so caught up in my busyness I look up and all the hours in the day or week are completely depleted – and so am I. And the way I am doing life is not pleasing my family or most of all my God either. I need to continually stop long enough to truly listen for my instructions from the Lord. If I do this, then the results are two-fold for me according to God’s Word and His promises above - I get the rest that sustains me and my family, and the knowledge and guidance that will help me accomplish what He wants that will truly glorify Him!

# Two – I saw that she never strayed far off the course. The path she took had to change occasionally when something got in the way, but she maintained the set course through it all. When she encountered my coffee cup for instance, she went around part way and then explored it awhile, hanging out on the lid even for a bit. But then she crawled down the other side and continued on in the exact same direction she had been heading to begin with.  She stayed the course and she didn't let an obstacle stop her from the course she was instinctively on.
Psalm 119:1-2 says “You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. 2 You're blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him.”
Me? I can become so distracted, frustrated, and then I can allow that to affect how I approach my goals for the day, or even for a season. And before you know it I’m off course – even giving up on the plan a few times. I can let things that come up out of nowhere that seem in my way defeat me sometimes.

Quite the little lesson for this New Year I think - and from a critter so small and that I could simply have overlooked it.
Focus, persevere, rest, eye on the prize – Lady Bug Lessons 101. 

Our God does indeed work and speak in mysterious ways :)

Joyful on the Journey

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Today I looked up some of the definitions of unconditional ~ without a qualifying condition; absolute; all out; all in; not limited in any way; complete.
I am contemplating this evening the love we are given in Christ and the love we are called to GIVE in His name - unconditional... and I must readily admit I'm so still not as good at this as I want to be.
Knowing that unforgiveness, fear, pride, and even the bitter taste of complacency can close a heart to loving in this way each day has not kept me from embracing them at times. Holding onto a past that is just that - the past, fearful and unsure of those I don't understand, and too focused on myself and my needs to see sometimes what the needs really are right in front of me has caused me to be jaded and blind to the needs of others around me at times - but all the while saying "God use me"... Irony = one of the many words my picture must be next to in the dictionary.
I am loved so unconditionally by a God who saw what I was and wanted to know me and help me anyway... Oh God help me remember that limitless, absolute, all in, poured out, and complete way you love me -  a person with not one single qualifying condition, that you CHOSE to die for - and that all you ask in return is I love you and others the same way... help me CHOOSE to love that way!

And they asked Him "Lord, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: “ 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love others as yourself.’ " Matthew 22:36-39