Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I have taken several different steps in effort to achieve this goal. My blood pressure is controlled by medication, and an anxiety reducing medication at that. (Propranalol...very helpful!) My goal is to be able to eliminate the meds from my life, if my body will cooperate and calm down. My husband and I have gone back to a 90 percent vegetarian diet. He is a Cook For Life instructor and would prefer being a vegan. So, our goal has become to eat this way most of the time. Our daughter is good with this, but we have to make exceptions when our son and his girlfriend join us.
My relationship with God is strong and I spend as much time as I can talking to Him and listening to Him. I purposely attended some Bible Study classes that addressed some of the specific areas where I have struggled and even went on a 40 day fast in my quest to know Him more. I have set up a few strong accountability relationships and attend one regular meeting for support every week. Spiritually, I feel stronger and am ready to get back into doing life with fellow Christ followers. I am excited as God reveals His will for me and He is my one true desire again.
For our anniversay, my husband gave a three year membership to a fitness center. (knowing that I wanted it...not as a "hint" to do what he wanted me to do.) I have been working out 3 to 5 times a week since the 22nd of January. I have lost 14 pounds and am getting stronger every week. Recently, though, a friend of mine and I decided we would take a Yoga class. During a recent fitness assessment, I was told that flexibilty is something that would be a benefit to my health. My physician had also recommended yoga as a possible way to gain strength and also to relax. So, I thought that it was a great idea and off we went.
I have been attending the yoga classes for a couple of weeks now. I am shocked at how much better I feel in such a short period of time. Each time that I go, I can balance better, hold the pose longer, stretch further, and focus easier.
I have read that the benefits of yoga are wonderful and am beginning to see that they might be true. Besides the increased flexibility and balance, my joints feel better. My bum knee is hurting less, my back has not hurt for a whole week and my body seems to be more firm. I am sleeping better at night, which leads me to believe that it is reducing my anxiety. WOW! Good news! The one thing I am curious about is if it will help my digestive disorder. I have been diagnosed with IBS a long time ago and would love to eliminate any and all attacks. (sorry, this might be icky for some readers) I did a little research on yoga and found that yoga could help me manage this condition. Just like the face turns red when one is angry, the stomach lining turns red too. Anger, fear, jealousy, anxiety, tension, etc. are emotions which influence the stomach and also alter the blood flow and the motility of the intestine. There is some evidence that yoga practices create a healthy working environment for the digestive system too.
So, I am excited to be on the right track. My health is improving, in all of these areas! I am finding that exercise is pleasurable. I really, really like the yoga. I am in love with God. My family thrills me and I am extremely blessed to have them. I have hope for the future of my friendships...old ones and new ones. I have reconciled with one dear friend after a period of distance and we have picked right back up where we left off...only better! I found new friendships that I enjoy. Even the relationship that has gone through many changes and hurt will be great because God is in it. She and I have made it through a lot and we will make it through this season too. I have hope in all these things, which feels like a long time coming. God's timing is perfect and I trust Him.
I am heading for health and will not look back. Thank you, Sweet Jesus, for allowing me to fall forward into your arms!
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
The title of this chapter is If It Were Easy It Wouldn't Be Worth Doing.
That's a hard pill to swallow.
There have been a couple of big events in my life recently that were not easy. They were both discouraging and frightening. And I threw a couple of pity parties of my own during these seasons.
One, my husband was layed off for 18 months. I worked full time while he did handy man jobs. At times, I felt very sorry for myself. Looking back, I can see that it was one of the sweetest and most peaceful times in our marriage. God used that time to mold me (and my husband) into what He wanted us to be. I finally said YES to God in my attitude and then when my husband found a job that moved us across the country, to Texas. I left all that had been familiar to me for almost 12 years, left one son in college there, and moved, somewhat against my will. I said yes and have since discovered that the entire thing was planned by God. I saw how He worked, and doing it that mysterious way that one can only recognize if you are walking with Him.
Six weeks after we got here, the second situation occurred. My mom and her husband were on a motorcycle and hit by a car. My mom almost lost her life, her leg and she did lose her husband. I cried out to God that this was not the Norman Rockwell homecoming that I desired. In saying YES to God this time, while spending two months with my mom as she was in the hospital, I saw God work in my life and in the lives of other's that I would not change for anything. I wish her husband was still here and my mother still does not have full use of her leg, but God provided, He protected, and I agreed to be part of the process...in both situations.
Had I known that I was going to have to walk through those circumstances, I would have certainly said, "I can't!" And when I found myself in the midst of them, I did say, "I can't". But my Lord said, "Yes you can. And I will be with you." I only wonder what I would have learned if I had said yes earlier in those times. Either way, I love Him more and more as He walks me through the Yes's, even though I want to say no. He is faithful!
Saying YES to God is the most thrilling way to live, even through the darkest times! Obedience and following His will for my life is worth it.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Every step that I take in preparation is another step of excitement. When we made the flight arrangements, I was excited. When I called and secured the beach house, I was excited. When I arranged to pick up my daughter's best friend, I was excited. As I have planned the get together with friends, I get excited. And even when I reserved the rental car, I was excited.
Over the weekend, I did a good deal of shopping. While I was shopping, the friend I was with kept saying, "OH! That will be great to take with you to Virginia!" And that was exciting too!
Last night when talking to my son, we made plans for he and his girlfriend to come to the beach on the weekend. He was very excited and so is his girlfriend. Now I am even more excited.
Our friends in Atlanta might be able to come to see us while we are there. Even though we see them every now and then, the kids want to make a trip to Busch Gardens, one of the things we did with them regularly when we all lived near one another. Yet another thing to look forward to and get excited about. Our kids have been friends since preschool and we have kept a close friendship for over ten years now.
I have waited nearly three years to make this trip. I had some things that I needed to work through before I was able to go. It is not exactly like I thought it would be. Some of the people that I thought I would spend time with won't even know that I am coming. That is now OK. I am not staying with the friend that I always imagined I would stay with. That is now OK. Things change. Sometimes the change is sad but for the better. I needed to be in the frame of mind to go to Virginia, for fun and for vacation, not to see certain people. If I only spend time with my family, it will still be a wonderful trip. Since God has helped me adjust my attitude, everything and everyone who I see in addition to family is an additional blessing. I can now look at the people he has put in my life ... the one's who have walked in when other's walked out ... are the real friends and the one's who are worth the investment of our time. God has a beautiful way of correcting priorities. And everytime I talk to the good friend that I talk to almost daily, I say, "I can't wait to be there!"
I am so excited that I can barely work. I am ready to start packing now. I think about the sound of the ocean, rubbing my feet in the warm sand, and watching my daughter boogie board on the waves that she grew up on. I can't wait to see the neighborhood where I raised my family and how it has changed. I want to go to the movie theater that my son worked at from the first day they opened. I am excited to eat at my favorite Mexican restaurant in their new and improved location. I can't wait to wrap my arms around the friends who have walked with me through some of the toughest times in my life, to look into their eyes and know that the love we share is the love of Jesus Christ. I can't wait for my daughter to visit the place that she considers home as she figures out - in her 14 year old mind - how to put closure to some things of her own. I look forward to the healing, the joy, and the fun that will be in this trip.
Counting down! I can't wait.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I am grateful for the rain that we got in Texas last night. The grass, the trees, and the flowers are green and shiny. The birds are singing and the geckos are playing.
I am grateful for my family. My husband loves me and I love him. My children are healthy and they love God. They have healthy friendships and relationships. They are intelligent and have good goals for their lives. I enjoyed my Sunday afternoon talk with Aaron and Amy. Adam and I had a real nice talk tonight too. I am thankful that both of my adult boys make a point to catch up with their mom and dad every Sunday. Adam has been calling us every Sunday since he went to college, and Aaron and Amy spend time with us most Sunday evenings as well. My daughter is one of my favorite people to spend time with too and she was home with us all weekend except Friday night. I am grateful for time with my family.
I am grateful for my friendships. I enjoy relationships and I love people. I had so much fun shopping with my closest friend here in Texas, Lori. We shopped on Friday night, not coming home until after 11:00 p.m., and got up the next morning and went at it again. What fun. We no sooner got home and the husbands decided they wanted to take us out for dinner. I love knowing that both of our men have no jealousy or control issues to where we have to limit our time together, but just enjoy our friendship. It was like a weekend retreat, but we stayed home. I spent time with some other friends today, after church. We enjoyed a nice brunch out talking about what it means to "do life" together. I saw my neighbor and friend, (also my son's girlfriend's mother) and we had a nice chat in the front yard for a good while. After taking a nice long nap, my husband went to have dinner with his friend, Jim, who was here for a lay over. (he is a pilot) While they did that, Jim's wife, Nancy, and I spent two hours on the phone. Even long distance friendships can remain very close and very satisfying. I am so blessed to have such good relationships.
I am grateful for good movies. Fred and I watched a movie, Why Did I Get Married, on Saturday night. It was thought provoking and funny. The movie was about four different couples who were very close friends. They took an annual trip together every year to evaluate their marriages and deepen their friendships. God actually used that movie to confirm something that He has been telling me for a while. Funny, last weekend I watched a different movie, Reign Over Me, that God used to give me the very same message. Do I see a theme here? I hear what He is saying. I think it is cool that God will use something I enjoy very much, movies, to reinforce what He is teaching me.
I am grateful for my job, which I will go to tomorrow. I am eager to get to my desk and accomplish things that make things work better for the doctors that I work for. I look forward to encouraging and coaching my employees. I even am grateful for the meeting that I attend every Monday that keeps the communication open between all the departments. It is so fun for nearly 30 managers to come together every week and work as a team. It is encouraging and beneficial. I look forward to my commute, where I will likely talk with my friend, Tina, like we do quite often. (this might be a future blog post!) I enjoy our morning chats while I drive into the office. And I will enjoy the commute coming home, where I will talk with my mom or my friend, Ashley. I love having that extra time to keep up with important relationships.
I am grateful for my very comfortable house. God has blessed us so much to have such a nice home. We have more space than we need, nice cozy furniture, a cool pool to play in, a huge back porch to entertain on. I have books that I can read, televisions that I can watch, and computers that I can use for work or play whenever I want.
I look around and am overwhelmed with how wonderful life is. I am so grateful for so many things that I can only sigh with pleasure at how blessed I am.
I love life.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Hello, my name is Liz and I am a recovering skeptic.
I love my church.
That picture is a picture of my heart. It is how I feel after having traveled a long journey where the enemy walked with me some and I found my way back to God. This is how I will look this weekend while shopping with a friend, while babysitting for another friend, while attending the worship service at a fabulous, God seeking church. It is how I will look when I watch a movie with my husband this weekend, and how I will look when I go to work on Monday. Very importantly it is how I will look when I am in Virginia, visiting friends and spending time at the beach. I will be free of pain and anger. I will have boundaries in place (I have read ALL the boundaries books, for you who want to know) and I will be free to experience all the joy and abundance that God has to offer! (I wish I could add that the body is as voluptuous, but not true! It is a picture of the spirit...the attitude, not the physical! smile)
I have to say that I feel more free than I have felt in such a very long time. The pit has been deep and the bondage was strong.
The work I have done, the circumstances that God allowed in my life, and the closure in something that occurred yesterday has allowed me to feel like a 3000 pound weight has been lifted out of my heart!
Praise God that He satisfies every desire. Praise God that He finishes what He starts. I said goodbye yesterday and that sends my spirit souring!
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Repugnant as it is in itself, sarcasm becomes even more distasteful when we find it comes from the Greek very "sarcazo," which means to tear flesh. It is that form of irony in which the speaker is motivated by scorn.
If I have ever used this weapon against another person, I promise myself not to do it again. I have no right to scorn anyone, since I can never know what created their need to behave as they do.
Today I will remember to make an effort to blend gentleness with firmness to add a note of harmony to my relations with others instead of tearing and destroying. I will realize that the wounds made by sarcasm are slow to heal, and may defer the longed-for improvement in my life.
A scorner seeks wisdom, and finds it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understands.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I called a friend of mine in Kansas to set up a weekend visit and the conversation was positive and full of excitement. My half sister is getting married in a town where I used to live, so I am looking forward to her wedding and then some time with my old and dear friends who I was in a prayer group with for many years. Life is good.
I started my day at work, handling problems which takes up a good portion of my day. Oddly, I like to solve problems, and I was on a roll. Midway through the morning, something happened that changed my entire attitude about the day. Instead of pausing and thinking it through, I took action immediately. I had several people holding me accountable to NOT doing exactly what I did. Ugh. So after I did what I had done, I had to make some phone calls and turn myself in, so to speak.
So, I set up a plan to not let it happen again. I am grateful for those people in my life who walk me through my mistakes, listen to me and love me in spite of them. One of my favorite friendship quotes is posted on my blog, "A friend is one who walks in when others walk out" and I experienced that today. Sometimes, I am surprised by who walks in during hard times and disappointed by the ones who don't. But today was a day that I accepted things as they were. Even though some who I thought were my friends really aren't, I discovered the ones who really are and it is a beautiful thing.
The day got better. I talked to a few people and then I let myself experience what I was experiencing. I cussed, I took a walk, I fumed, and then I prayed. Finally. Then I cried.
Afterward, I went back to doing my job and it was good. I was productive. I was thinking clearly. I gained control of my attitude and accepted my feelings, my mistakes, and moved into taking positive action.
I left my workplace and went to the gym where I work out several times a week. I knew my husband was there, so I found him as soon as I could. He walked to greet me and saw the look in my eyes. I told him what had happened and he said the most loving thing ever..."Liz, I have watched you deal with this for a long time. I have seen a huge change in you in the three years we have been in Texas. Your anger and bitterness are gone. I live with you, I see it. Let it go." LET IT GO! Oh, the acceptance of a man who loves me for who I am. What a wonderful blessing. I went on to work out and ran the best time that I have since my start back to physical fitness. (12.4 minute mile...x3!...I know it doesn't sound like much, but it is quite an improvement since January!) Plus, I measured my body fat and have lost 2%! Little steps. A reminder for me and how to take action. Little steps. Keep it simple.
I left the gym feeling on top of the world. I came home to a comfortable home. I cooked dinner with my husband. I took a bubble bath. Then my daughter and I went to a meeting. (she babysits and I attend a recovery meeting) I reported to my sponsor and the others in the group the type of day that I had. They listened. They loved. They did not judge. And they helped. More accountability. Words of encouragement and truth about what I can change and what I cannot.
The day started out beautiful. Something happened that threatened to steal my serenity and my joy. I even messed up, doing something that I had resolved not to do. But it is OK. The day was still beautiful. And I won a CD to boot! (See Lelia's blog) I can't think of when I have ever won anything! But I did, and I expect what is on the CD is exactly what I need to hear. That's the way God works and that is how He has worked today. He is sovereign. This entire day was planned for me. He is so good and the day was perfect!
The day started off beautiful and full of hope. The day ended beautiful and full of hope. Full circle.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The first thing that caused me to stop and think was the description of a "naysayer." Naysayers do not understand people who are choosing the life of radical obedience. Lysa states, "They don't understand you. They don't want to understand you. And often what you're doing makes them feel convicted. If someone is quick to find fault in something good someone else is doing, that person is usually wrapped up in his or her own self-centered outlook. Naysayers make themselves feel better by tearing others down." This statement caused me to evaluate the naysayers in my life and also the times that I have been guilty of being one myself. Ouch. I found it interesting to read the section in this chapter regarding naysayers since my blog post from yesterday: Fear Is Gone
was about a naysayer in my life. So, I appreciated the encouragement and the reminders to live in the truth. The questions Lysa posed - Is the person active in pursuing a relationship with the Lord? Is the person answering God's call on his own life, producing evidence of God's fruit? Does he have my best interest in mind? When the answers are no, I will look for any truth that might be in what this person has said, forgive him for any hurt he may have caused and let the rest go. I also appreciated the wisdom from Lysa on what if this person is a strong believer and the sound advice from her friend, "Never let others' compliments go to your head or their criticisms go to your heart." Good stuff.
Grace. The next topic in this chapter and something that I need. Grace for the journey. It was helpful for me to look at the two foes to grace - acceptance and rejection. They do lure me and the battle is on. But my Jesus is standing there between those two gatekeepers of Satan's and HE is waiting to embrace me in the security of His truth. I love these truth's, that "No matter what choices I make, His love is not based on my performance. His love is based on His perfect surrender at the cross. But, I must choose to accept this love and walk this truth for it to make a difference in how I journey through life." This is meets me right where I am.
Peace like a river is what I get when I choose to worship over worry. I love it and I want it. I have known the scripture and I can hear the sentence in the old hymn, but the concept of peace being like a river was new to me this week! A river? It is not calm and it is not inactive. A river is moving constantly and it is cleansing. Think of how smooth a river rock is. The moving water wears down all the roughness of the stone and leaves it smooth. Peaceful? I believe so. And a river knows where it is going and is confident of the direction it takes. That, my friend, is peace. How wonderful that our Lord gives us that.
And my favorite...the story of Lysa's little Brooke at dance performance. I read it when it was the devotional for Proverbs 31 and it touched me then. It was just as beautiful reading it again.
What a perfect way to end the chapter and the perfect ending to this post. God wants us to dance through life with our eyes fixed on him, just like little Brooke was the night of that performance.
Lysa's beautiful words express so clearly what is on my heart at the end of this chapter:
"The touch of His gaze wraps about me, comforts me,assures me, and makes the world seem strangely dim. As long as my gaze is locked on His, I dance and He smiles. The snickers and jeers of others fade away. Thought I hear their razor sharp intentions, they are unable to pierce my heart and distract my focus. Even my own stumblings don't cause the same feelings of defeat. My steps so often betray the desire of my heart, but it is not my perfect performance that captures His attention. Rather, it is my complete dependence on Him that He notices.
He then whispers, 'Hold on to Me and what I say about you. For My words are the truth of who you are and the essence of what you were created to be.' I then imagine Him pausing and, with tears in His eyes and a crack in His voice, He adds...
Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free!"
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
I sometimes struggle with fear. Fear that I am not good enough, fear that something bad will happen, fear that people might abandon me, or even fear that people will take things away from me that are important to me. I am pretty sure that this type of thinking is a result of having experienced a fair amount of tragedy in my life. People were taken from me, bad things did happen, and I have constantly struggled with feelings of unworthiness.
Fear is not from God. Experiencing His perfect love expels all fear. I am beginning to understand this in ways that I never thought I would grasp. The struggle with fear is becoming something I deal with less and less. I rejoice over this because a situation recently occurred that would have had my heart stopped in fear a few years ago, but I was not afraid this time.
So, I sit here and rejoice that God has freed me of a fear that has been part of my life for way too long. I want to thank those who have prayed with me, prayed for me and stood by me as my friend(s) during this journey! The counsel that I have received from you has been heard and acted upon. And God gave me the opportunity to see that He has changed me, that I can trust Him and that He IS faithful to His promises and He does answer prayer. God's love is perfect and it certainly expels all fear!
Fear no more!
Romans 8:15 Amplified
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!
Monday, April 21, 2008
Today is my husband's 50th birthday! He doesn't look 50 years old, he doesn't act 50 years old, and he certainly is more healthy than many 50 year olds!
To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to throw him a surprise party! That was the secret! I started planning it the middle of March and the more I tried to plan, the more I thought that I might have to cancel it. His best friend was going to be on call, another friend was not able to fly in like I had hoped, and I really wasn't sure I could get very many people to come due to the fact that we have only lived in the area a couple of years. But, I planned on, praying and putting the whole thing in God's hands.
I snuck into his computer for emails and phone numbers. I sent out invitations. I planned a menu and secretly purchased food and decorations. All without him finding anything out! The day started like any other Saturday. He even changed the breaks on my car. Around 4:00 p.m., my mother arrived. He knew she was coming for the weekend, but what he didn't know was that his mother had come with her. He was excited!
To get him out of the house, his mom asked him to take her to Walgreens,s o of course he did! When he got back, almost everyone was here. We stood in the entry way and yelled, "SURPRISE!", blew horns, popped poppers, and threw confetti! He was smiling ear to ear!
Fred's mom made his favorite cake, a Texas Sheet Cake! He was happy about that and it was really good!
The Lin Family arrived first, Kevin, Jennifer, Paul and Suzy(not picutered here). Jennifer was dressed in Korean Formal Birthday dress. She looked beautiful! They all helped me finish the cooking and putting things on the table while Fred was out with his mom. They were a big help and an absolute joy to have at the party. They brought a gigantic tray of homemade, fresh sushi and it was a huge hit!
Here is Fred's mom, Etta, with our middle son, Aaron. They both enjoyed the party. Aaron, who will turn 21 in a couple of months, actually complimented the party. That was a huge compliment coming from him! And it was extra special visit from Fred's mom. It is only the second time she has been down to see us since we moved to Texas!
Here is a picture of Fred opening some of his gifts! He got some really cool things. One of them is the antique cane that he is using. :) He got some funny gifts and some serious gifts and he had a lot of fun opening them. He felt very special.
One of Fred's favorite gift came from this little guy, Collin. He is five years old, and our friend, Tricia's little boy. Rebecca babysits him once a week, so he is special to us. He cleaned out his own piggy bank, wrapped the money, and presented Fred with this very special gift just from him. Fred thanked him with a big, old man hug! Collin will be back to do some swimming in the backyard pool as soon as it gets a little warmer. I am sure that Fred will be out there playing water games with him. It was fun having a young guy around the house and we look forward to spending more time with him.
The ladies enjoyed sitting and visiting with one another. In this picture from left to right is Ashley, my mom Mary Ann, Tricia, and Erin! I have known Erin since I was in the sixth grade and it was great to spend time with her and introduce her to Fred! We did a good amount of catching up!
Here is Fred's best friend, Dan. He is laughing at Fred while he blows out the candle on his cake! He shares the same birthday with Fred....only he already turned 50! We are SO happy to live near he and his wife, Lori, again!
Gunny and Theresa are spoiling our dog, Rusty! They are so fun to be around and we were both happy they came! Every time we are with them, we wonder why we don't get with them more often. Hopefully, we will!
Outside enjoying the beautiful Texas spring evening are Dan and Lori and Geoff and Debbie. These are the airport buddies and Fred loves hanging out with them. I think they could talk about airplanes for days on end and never run out of something to say. It was great that Geoff and Debbie drove in from Ponder to spend the evening with us!
Here is my mom, Tricia, and Erin. Aren't they lovely? I wish I could have had more time to just sit and chat with these ladies.
And here are the young ladies. They were perfect hostesses, they entertained Collin, they watched all the adults have a great time, and they looked forward to the day that they turn 50! NOT! They could not even grasp how old that is since all of these beauties are 14 years old. They were way fun to talk to and we were so blessed that they attended and spent time with all the old folks.
Happy, Happy 50th Birthday to the best looking 50 year old I know! (Well, all the other 50 year old men are pretty good looking too...go back and look at these photos...it will prove it to you!)
So, the secret is out! The party was a hit!
The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
And then when I have to keep a secret, as in a fun secret, I find it extremely difficult. I have revealed my own secrets...like when I buy a gift for someone...I tell it WAY too often! Or, it just slips out. One time I was talking to my son and actually said, "....when you see the shirts I bought you for Christmas." and didn't even realize it. I will never live it down.
I know that I am more open than a lot of people. That's OK with me. It has it's good points and it has it's bad. I have learned what is "Too much information" and also learned that not everyone is as comfortable with themselves as I am. God gives me a gauge to go by and the longer I walk with Him, the easier it is to read.
But right now...I have a secret! And I am busting at the seams wanting to let the cat out of the bag! I cannot, I will not, and I should not. As the days progress closer to the revealing of this secret, more things start to happen that make it even more exciting and even more difficult to not squeal. I received news today that makes the secret even more of a secret. What fun I am having! And it has almost just popped out of my mouth from sheer excitement.
Obviously, this is a fun secret. I cannot wait until it is unveiled! Somethings are just too much fun to hide. I almost don't want this part to end....but I really want to see the result! God is so fun and He has such a sense of humor. I am glad to have Him along since I can tell Him about all of it and He will keep the secret. In fact, He is even helping me hide the secret until the proper time. He is the God of fun and the God of joy!
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I love the title of the chapter - You Never Know How God Will Use You Until You Let Him!
It is so simple, but so true.
In my life, the times I have been used most by God were the times that I thought I was simply living life, minding my own business and He placed a person or a situation in my life in which He intended to use me. Many of those times, I was unaware that it was happening until after the fact. What I do understand now, those were all times that I was already walking daily with Him and I was spending time with Him regularly. Often this happened even in the midst of what He had called me to do in my service to Him...which I believe is the point, but I am always surprised! There have been times when I said yes and was having to walk out in faith, total blind faith. There was a time my husband and I said yes to helping with a church plant, the first time that I sang a song on stage, and then scarier yet, ALONE! I experienced saying yes when I first worked with youth and thought they knew more than I did, then teaching adults was even more intimidating. Even relocating from Kansas to Virginia and then from Virginia to Texas. Those were both times that we had to say yes to God and He intended on using through the move and where He put us. The list goes on, but I have said yes to Him when I knew without a shadow of a doubt that the only way that I could do what was asked was through His power. And then I found out that He would use me! I would never have known the blessings of helping another person come to understand the reality of my Jesus could also be theirs! I wish that I could say that I have always been in a position of saying yes to God, but I have not. Lysa's words stood out to me on page 70 of the book. Her words are:
"I am not a woman who should be labeled unable. I am a woman on a journey of learning how to make sure my reactions don't deny Christ's presence in me. I am a woman who says yes to God not because my emotions and reactions are always perfect. No, I say yes to God because He is perfectly able to forgive me, love me, remind me, challenge me, and show me how to weather trials in ways that prove His Spirit resides in me. I remind myself often that people don't care to meet my Jesus until they meet the reality of Jesus in my life."
Sometimes I find myself believing that I am unable. I believe Satan's lies. I believe the discouragement of other people when they witness my weakness and do not see Jesus. But, I do have a God who's Spirit is within me. And I am able to say yes no matter what the enemy tries to tell me or what my enemies have to say. God tells me different and He tells me the truth. My growth is not pseudo, my motives are not to hurt, but my heart is genuine before the Lord and I know that He is working in me, and my true desire is to please Him and find joy and satisfaction in Him. When I am doing this, I allow myself to be used by Him, and I have more opportunity to say "Yes, God!"
And I know He hasn't given up on me. He has given me plenty of opportunity to be radically obedient to Him. At this moment, He has given me the chance to say yes to Him in some changes He wants to make in my heart. I know it is Him. I could not do it without Him and I am excited to see what He plans to do in my life when I am on the other side of obedience. And He puts people in my life who do not know Him...always in situations where they will see the reality of Jesus in my life. There are two of these relationships in my life at this moment, and I feel so unworthy to be in such a situation. But, I pray and I am honest, with my struggles, my hopes, and my absolute faith in Christ that He will work all things for good when I continue to seek Him. And, if one of these persons seeking God sees me fall, they will watch me cry, and reach out to the God who is able to lift me up and love me back into His arms of mercy.
I love Psalm 31: 10, 14-16, 19, 21
My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning: my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak...But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, "You are my God. My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love...How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you...Praise be to the Lord, for he showed His wonderful love to me."
I am challenged by this chapter to open my eyes a little wider to where I can say yes to Him today because I want to find out more about what happens when women say YES to God!
Thank you, Lord for your peace. Help me live for you, every moment...loving and honoring you and the ones that you put in my life. Thank you, Father, for my family, the safety of my child through this tragedy and for today!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Last night I went with some friends to a concert. We spent almost 4 hours at the American Airlines Center in Dallas listening to Daughtery and Bon Jovi! What a blast!
I love Daughtery. They are a great band with great music. I think it is another wonderful example of how American Idol is doing a great job of finding talent and these folks are entering into the music world. Daughtery being a Christian band under a secular label and doing so well is icing on the cake. Plus, to tour with one of the legends...Bon Jovi!
So let me talk a little about my night with Bon Jovi. I have enjoyed his music for almost 20 years. As soon as the Lost Highway CD was released, I bought it that day. I think he is very talented, extremely good looking and a genuinely nice man.
But...ladies (since I will only be talking to ladies here...unless you are gay) this man is HOT! (yes, my husband knows that I think this!) I think he has gotten better with age. If I ever swooned, last night would have been it. His voice was perfect, his song line up was perfect, the band was rocking, and he was such a flirt. He did select one beautiful young lady out of the audience to dance with him during Bed of Roses. All the rest of us watched in absolute jealousy as she nuzzled his neck with her arms around his perfect shoulders - and then he kissed her right on the lips! All of the women around me (myself included) melted, we were like a bunch of young teenagers. How fun it was to loose ourselves in the fun of watching this music legend, this sex symbol that attracts generations of women, sing and dance and entertain us.
What a night. I am still on cloud nine, my head swimming with the music and the beauty of this gorgeous man. When I go home tonight, I will ask my husband to serenade me with a few Bon Jovi songs...lucky for me he will do it...and that will do it for me! I will fall in love with my perfect husband all over again, but today...my head is filled with memories of last night.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
However, our dinner tonight was fun even though we missed Adam. Most Sunday's, Aaron (my other son) and Amy (girlfriend) join us for dinner. I heard Rebecca (my daughter) tell a friend that we always have pasta or meatloaf on Sunday nights. True and sort of funny. Tonight was Italian night. We also included a friend of mine and her two children. It was fun...crazy but fun. I choked on black pepper and thought I would die coughing! Then, I accidentally let Amy's dog out and fell down while trying to catch her. Fun stuff. I am certainly too old to chase dogs and apparently too old to eat pepper!
We have a new family member. Our niece delivered her baby last night! Makena Ryan Grace Voyle entered the world last night at 8 lbs and 5 oz! This is our first great niece! Wow! I feel really old since I am a GREAT aunt.
Ok, I thought only old people fell asleep in church! Ha! I did that today and don't even really know why. The message was good, I was just so tired. I think I kept my mouth closed and I am pretty sure that I did not snore, but I can hardly believe that I did that!
I went to see a movie last night with some girlfriends. I can say that I didn't feel that old because the movie we saw was based in the 1920's! We saw Leatherhead and it was very good. But what did make me feel old was watching George Clooney and Renee Zellweger play young parts. One of the girls that I was with is around 30 years old, and she said that George Clooney was old and that Renee looked a little wrinkly in the movie playing a 31 year old. Now, I was thinking that they looked pretty good and were able to pull off the young parts. I happen to know that George Clooney is exactly the same age as myself...is that old? Anyway, the movie was good...go see it if you get the chance. It is a decent chick flick about football! Who would have guessed?!
Speaking of old...it is past my bedtime. It is after 9:30 and that is when I usually go to bed. My kids think that I am really old because I go to sleep on the couch if I don't go to bed at my bedtime!
So, I guess some people might think I am old...but I know that I am young at heart!
Saturday, April 12, 2008
So, I am learning that when I think about letting go, I must remember that there is a natural order to life...a plan...and it is not my plan but God's plan. When I let go of a situation, I am allowing life to unfold according to HIS plan. I open my eyes to see what He wants to accomplish, and sometimes it is different than what I want. I am able to see new ways of thinking and new ways of behaving. When I let go of another person, I am affirming their right to live their own life, to make their own choices and to grow as they experience the results of their own actions. (no matter what) God is there for them as well as me. I must trust Him with those who I want to control. My interference in their lives disrupts my connection with them as well as my connection to God.
I am learning and practicing that I am the only person that I can control. I am my own top priority. By keeping the focus on what God wants me to control, I can let go of other people's problems and cope with my own. I am powerless over anyone else. I can only live my own life. Changing myself for the better is the only way I can find peace and serenity.
I will let go and let God!
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I have spent the week really trying to keep my eyes looking toward heaven and paying attention to the beautiful people and things around me. I must say, sometimes it has been easier than others, but as the week has gone on, it has become easier even though the week had many challenges in it.
Thunderstorms have been fierce in Texas for the last couple of weeks. I have had many nights that thunder, lightening, and tornado sirens have interrupted my sleep. Since I really like my sleep and get cranky when I don't get it, it has been difficult at times to see the positive with all the sand in my eyes from lack of sleep. But I thought about the nice sound of the rain, the water that we will not have to ration this summer during the dog days of summer.
Speaking of dogs, mine has been sick. He is getting old so his bowels are not holding as well as they did when he was a younger dog. There have been several accidents on the floor when I wake up in the morning, which is not the most pleasant sight to see first thing. Especially with that sand in my eyes! So, my husband (bless his heart) cleaned the carpet and just a few days later, yet another poo poo boo boo on the rug. But I thought about what a wonderful pet that he is and how his loyalty and companionship brings so much added joy to our home.
The passing of Vanessa was a horrible tragedy, but as I said in my post earlier this week, her life was such an honor to God. I thought about how thankful I was to have been witness to the glory she brought to Him.
There is a Bible Study that I have been doing with a group of ladies since January. It has been a struggle to do the homework, but two nights this week I stayed up late to spend time with God. It added to my being tired but I really wanted to get finished since this week was our last meeting. It is a Bible Study on Spiritual Bondage that I purchased back in 1999. I have tried on 3 prior occasions to work through it and somehow allowed the enemy to stop me. I was determined this time to get it finished. It was hard work, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I sometimes felt defeated and hopeless. But I focused on tearing down those lies, focusing on the truth of who I am in Christ, and got it done!...Nine years later! And God revealed some things to me that can change my life if I choose to let them.
Even though I am so excited to make this trip to Virginia this summer, there are some very burdensome things that will go into the trip. I will be faced to face (even if not actually face to face) some relationships that have been very damaged. This is scary to me and I want to protect myself. But I choose to think about the people who will welcome my visit, the real friends that I have there and be OK with the ones who are not. Even though part of the trip will be sad as I bury parts of who I was during my life there, I look forward to cutting loose of the chains that have held me in bondage. I focus on how I will allow God to heal the hurts that occurred there. I will create new and fresh purposes for being there, and bask in the relationships that are happy and healthy while basking in the sun.
And I mourn the state of relationship with the one dear friend. There has been pain and hurt that is being worked through and our relationship has been strained as a result. In the past, she was the one that I was in daily contact with, like sisters. We talked about everything and I loved it, even after I moved away. So, it has taken a fair amount of energy to try to get used to not talking to her as much. We still talk, but while we are working on things I still have to make the conscious effort to not have her in my day to day life. Every day that goes by, the hole tries to grow larger. But I focus on letting God fill that hole. And the more I am able to do that, the smaller the hole will become and the more joy I will have.
So, I am practicing taking my thoughts captive to the truth! God loves me. He blesses me. He satisfies my every desire. I think of ways that I can give to others. I helped a coworker by running an errand for her that was near my home. (she lives a distance a way). I am helping a friend with her children this weekend while she takes a needed break from the day to day life of being a single parent. Even going to Walmart yesterday, I saw people who made me smile...a father and son practicing funky dance steps as they entered the building, a young mother who had a very talkative toddler that she was trying to entertain while she was shopping, a newborn baby, an old man buying fruit. The simplest things were beautiful and I had to remember to not be sad about the things in my life that I can't control.
I can't control the Texas thunderstorms. That's God's job. I can't control my dog's aging and failing health, but I can keep him comfortable and clean. I cannot control the devil, but I do have the answers to win the battle. I cannot control the way other people view me, but I can continue to confess my sins and allow God to change my heart. I have zero control over my friend, her thoughts or desires regarding our friendship, but I can control the way I behave toward her and the way I pray for her.
And I can walk through my day looking at how I can meet the needs of others, enjoy and encourage others, and see the beauty of the earth. I can think about life with the mind of Christ. I can develop a more positive attitude.
Seize the day!
Lookin' to heaven!
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
This woman was an amazingly talented young (34) year old woman of God. She was married and had been in full time ministry for many years. She was beautiful. I have heard her lead worship, sing, and speak on many occasions. She was admirable and I know that when God looked at her, he was pleased.
So, I have been sad...sad for the loss of her life on earth. Sad for her husband who loved her. For her parents and sisters who will miss her. For her best friend, who also serves on staff at FC. And sad for those of us that will no longer have the opportunity to be encouraged by her sweet spirit, to worship under her lead, or to hear her beautiful voice.
As I ponder these losses, I have remained in a state of prayer, that God will provide peace and comfort for all of us left behind, but also that no moments will be wasted when it comes to spending time with those I love. How quickly life can pass into death. How much time do I waste, how many relationships do I ignore, and how many blessings do I miss out on when I am focused on the wrong things?
I know this post is very cliche' in such a time as this. But it is so true. If any one of my loved ones were to pass from this life tomorrow, have I done all that I need to do to be right with them and before God? Have I reconciled all the bitterness that I have held in my heart? Have I shared Christ with the ones who God has placed in my life who need to know Him? Do all my children know how much I love them and am so proud of them and glad to have them in my life? Do my parents know how much I appreciate them? Does my husband know that I would marry him all over again if I had the chance? Has my life brought honor and glory to God?
My chance could end in a moment.
I pray that I will savor each moment and make it count, that the one's that I love will know it, that amends will be made to the one's that I have hurt.
I pray for comfort for Vanessa's family and friends. Thank you, God, for using her in the lives of so many people. She was a display of Your splendor!
Sunday, April 6, 2008
I have to say, it was an answer to prayer. We know more people there, even today, than we do at Fellowship after two and a half years. And the pastor is the most wonderful communicator that I have ever heard from the pulpit. He speaks the truth and does it with the perfect blend of humor and Biblical truth that I can't help but be amazed at his fantastic gift.
But today was the bomb as far as services go.
I have experienced some serious skepticism when it comes to people in the ministry and the organized church. I know that all people are sinners, even pastors and leaders in the church, but some of what I have seen is enough to make a person want to give up all together. But I haven't and I am so grateful that I have not.
Today, the message was on the Nine Pastoral Prayers for The Village Church. They were gut honest and Biblically solid. The reason that Matt (pastor) shared them was because he wanted to communicate what The Village is all about. He says things that are true...the type of things that people are thinking but might tiptoe around. He is so refreshing. One of the things he addressed today was the Seeker Sensitive church. This was an interesting topic for me having been a part of two of these type of churches. I used to believe it was necessary to pull "Christian" things out of the service to not wig out the unbelieving attender. I no longer believe that and was thrilled to hear that Matt agrees with me. (Ha! Or me with him...either way...we are on the same page) So, today when we had a live baptism, raised our hands in worship, prayed on our knees and participated in Communion, Matt shared that The Village was a church of honesty and integrity. We would not hide what we, as believers, enjoy doing in worship, to keep the unbeliever from thinking we are weird. He said, "You might feel uncomfortable. I know I did when I first witnessed these things. But it is OK. Just watch. Enjoy watching us (Christians) enjoy what we enjoy." This is a congregation that is growing by leaps and bounds...over 3000 people in the last 3 years. Most of them are young adults, under 35. It is so cool to be witness to.
Another thing that was addressed was the new facility. The Village just purchased an old Albertson's Grocery store for 4 million dollars. And they raised the money in two months. Since we have attended this church on and off for a couple of years, I am on the mailing list, so I receive emails and letters regarding the happenings at The Village. As an outsider, I witnessed this miracle...and it was a miracle! It happened quickly. The opportunity presented itself and Matt stood before the church that week...NOT just the leadership...but the entire congregation, and said, "We have the chance to place a bid. We need 4 million dollars - NOW!" The church went directly into prayer and fasting...there were no secret meetings, no confidentialities (I have seen all this junk in other congregations and always thought it was strange), and the entire church family...even those like me on the outside...knew every single step from the moment the opportunity came about. And the building belongs to the Village...outright...paid in full! Praise God for a godly leader!! And see what He will do when He is in charge and secrecy is not in place. And today, Matt spoke of this miracle. He said with total integrity that he did not ask not even one person for a donation. He made no phone calls or contacts to assist with the financial goal. He used the word "schmooze" I laughed out loud! He said he did not take one person out to coffee or dinner to schmooze people into giving. (Schmoozing is wrong, and especially so in the ministry - yuck!)
And the baptisms...the old fashioned baptism! How beautiful it is! At this church, every person who is baptized tells the story of how they came to know Christ - from the water. So Biblical and I know it must please God and all His angels as we all rejoiced! And the person doing the baptizing tells their story of why they are doing the baptizing, about their own walk with the Lord and what part they played in the new believer's story.
I cannot fully explain the joy of being part of a church that is Biblical, honest, down to earth and still outside the box. My heart sings with joy and gratitude of how He lead us back to this wonderful place and I am excited to see what He has in store for us as we figure out where we belong in this family! I am praising Him for the fact that there are churches who are doing church like HE wants, like exampled in Acts 2...and doing it in a relevant, contemporary way without watering down the truth of the gospel, without hiding the consequences of sin, the freedom of the Holy Spirit or even the disciplines of being a follower of Christ. Praise God.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. ~Acts 2: 42-26
I saw some of this today!
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Last night, my best friend, also my husband, and I had dinner with our oldest and dearest friends. We lived across the street from them almost twenty years ago in the state of Kansas and now live just a little more than a mile from them in Texas. It is so relaxing and so fun to spend time with them. We laughed about some of the things we did so many years ago, reminisced about the first time we met, about how the husbands share the same birthday, and on and on. After a long time at the restaurant, we still were enjoying our friendship, so we went to the Bass Pro Shop and walked around. At one point, my husband's friend and myself were at a counter talking to a sales representative. He assumed we were married to each other. We laughed as I said, "No, this is my husband's best friend and HIS wife is off in another part of the store with MY husband." The sales rep raised his eyebrows and we all laughed. Within five minutes all four of us were at the counter together, planning a trip for the four of us. Friends. Comfortable and such a blessing.
Today I went with a friend to the gigantic flea market and Trade Days in Canton, TX. I have only known this friend for about a year and a half, but she is a fun and comfortable friend to hang out with. We both worked for the same company for about six months, both of us detesting it, but making the best of it while looking to move on. Part of what made it OK was our developing friendship. After we both moved into other jobs, we decided to keep up the friendship and today was a day that we set aside to do that. We shopped until we dropped and laughed until we popped.
Tomorrow I will have coffee with another new friend who celebrated her birthday today. I bought her a gift to let her know she is important to me and I am looking forward to giving it to her. What a blessing to have new friends especially after feeling a little down about friendship. God always gives us second chances and fresh starts.
Friends have been so important to me in my life, I guess because all relationships that are important are some form of friendship. My mother is a great friend, my husband is my closest friend, and as my children become adults, our relationship is becoming more like friendship. My daughter, although 14, is like a friend as we just finished watching a movie together and she will be slumber partying with me while her daddy is out of town. And then I have scores of other types of friends as well. I have read several different books on friendships (Becoming Friends, The Friendship Factor, and others) that continue to teach me how important friends are and how to treat them with the love and respect that they deserve. All friendships are a gift from God...or at least they should be. And then the friend, who sticks closer than a brother, Jesus. Now, HE is a friend!
I am presently rebuilding old relationships and searching for new ones, ones that I hope I can protect. I don't want to try to survive without friendships, some intimate, some close, and some casual. I discover who I am and who God wants me to be through my relationships with others.
The purity of a relationship is directly proportional to the undivided attention we give to those shared moments, hours,experiences, and being THERE with one another. This communion with each other is the celebration of life and God.
I will look for opportunities, every day, to give of myself wholly in my friendships. The blessings will be more than I can count.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
If you have been reading my blog in past months, you will know that I sometimes hear Him say things, then realize I heard Him, but misunderstood part of the message. Those of you who know me also know that I am a strong willed personality and have the tendency to mix in my own thoughts with God's message. This happened recently regarding a post that I titled "Genuine Pearls". I was certain, for a period of time, that God was requesting that I end a very close friendship of mine. It even seemed that He confirmed this "message" in other messages as suggested in Lysa's book. And it was true, but due to my own sin, I translated part of the message incorrectly. As weeks went by, I discovered the message was true, but I was applying it in a way that I manipulated suitably to my own desires. What He REALLY meant was that I had my own work to do, that HE was the genuine pearls, and that His desire for me was obedience. I came up with six very specific things that I needed to turn over to HIM in order to do what He was requesting. Wow! This was difficult and I did not want to say YES. I still struggle with maintaining the YES.
Even so, I will take the 5 Key Questions in this chapter:
Is What I'm Hearing Line Up with Scripture?
Is What I'm Hearing Consistent With God's Character?
Is What I'm Hearing Being Confirmed Through Other Messages?
Is What I'm Hearing Beyond Me?
Would What I'm Hearing Please God?
And challenge my decisions in this relationship, and in all decisions against the answers to these questions.
I pray that I have not caused so much damage that I have lost this dear friend, but I know it is a possibility. Going forward, my attitude is totally about saying YES to Him...no matter what. It might not make sense...and it doesn't right now, it is certainly beyond what I know that I can do without His love, strength and help. Consistently, He gives clues and hints and confirmations about what He is telling me. OPEN MY EARS, LORD!
My response to the Bible Study is as follows:
In my walk with God, some things are somewhat easy to discern and other times, I struggle back and forth with what He really intends for me. Recently, I have struggled with one particular friendship...not knowing what God REALLY intends, but knowing He desires a change. I love the 5 Key Questions and even though I know them, it is such a wonderful reminder to lay them out before the Lord when I feel He is leading me in a particular direction.
My desire is to please Him. Lelia, I love the illustration you used, about your High School classmate, John, and his Polo Cologne. I want people to taste Jesus when they are in my presence too...and I know that I don't always allow that to happen. So, I will continue to put my struggles to the test of these 5 questions...again. And act according to what He says. Dear Bloggy Friends, if you have read any of my blog posts, it is clear that there has been betrayal and bitterness in my past. All I want is to say YES to God. I know that He has the very best in store for me and I continue to look forward to what He will reveal by doing this study. I covet your prayers and love the testimonies of each of you. Thank you for sharing what God is doing in your life.
I am blessed to have the opportunity to share my heart.
Blessings to you, my dear friends and sisters in Christ,