Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Guest Blog: Finding Gratitude While You Wait

Hello Lovely Ladies, This week our Fruit of the Spirit is PATIENCE! I know right? Not long ago I went through a season of what I felt was almost literally being cast into the desert ALONE. It was a time when I could have went either way... clinging to Christ or loose my way. It was a horrific time filled with despair and uncertainty. I knew then that the only way to get to the light at the end of the tunnel, even though at that point I could not even catch a glimpse of a flicker of hope of the light, was to take my Bible and dive in. There were days I did not know what to read and I would just take a hold of His word and cry out “Lord, I don’t know what it is that You would have for me today, so I am going to open this book and I am just going to start randomly reading and I know, You are here and I know You WILL speak to me.” And sure enough day after day and sometimes several times a day, when I would find myself falling apart, feel the fear moving in, and not even able to look into the eyes of another human being without a significant melt down, I would open my Bible and He would speak to me. There were times I could only cry out “Lord I love you, fill me with Your Spirit and keep me close.” It was during this time I chose to be patient. If you re-read that sentence it says “I chose”. Yes patience, although defined as a noun, is very much a verb because it takes an active choice to stand firmly on God's Word when all you want is answers and to know the outcome. When we think of the word patience we might think of the scripture verse from the Psalms... 46:10, Be still and know that I am God. And while a synonym of patience is peace, please, please, please get this: Stillness my friends is not stagnation. In the translation we understand further that patience is more over defined as endurance. Whenever I hear the word endurance I think of running a marathon. How many times in 26 miles would it be so easy to quit? It's simple enough to understand that every mile run is a movement towards the reward. The Word of God also depicts patience as an action. Here is some advice from Hebrews 12:1... "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Patience is definitely a way to grow in our faith. We find in the Bible that everywhere you find patience, you will find faith as well. Trust me when I say I have learned when you pray for patience, God does not give you patience. God gives you opportunities in which to grow in your faith. In other words, He will place you smack dab in the middle of a desert place where all you can do is wait. Girlfriends when you are in this season of your life you must be still and wait on the Him. I can assure you there is nothing more devastating than to jump the gun on God and then find the perfect ______ (fill in the blank with job, home, spouse, opportunity, shoes… whatever, has just passed you by). We wait on him, we do become still, however, this stillness is in our heart and our minds. Faith growing takes action. As The Word depicts patience, and endurance as a sporting event, we too must equip ourselves for battle and for the race ahead. One of my favorite verses from Paul’s testimony is this one... Philippians 3:13-14, "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." This says I do not know what lies ahead, I do not know what I should do, or what to believe in, but by faith I am moving forward. I am looking ahead. God has every minute of every day and He is NOT letting go of me. It also says in Paul’s waiting, he did not become stagnant. Instead, what did he do?? He PRESSED on!! For us this means facing each and every new day with joy in our hearts. There is something to be seen today. There is something to learned today. There is something to enjoy today. The light at the end of the tunnel? This may be the day that you begin to see it! A switch may pop on and then another and soon God’s message to you becomes clearer and clearer. As you learn patience, God continues to strengthen your faith through those seasons of uncertainty. He's doing this by placing those people in your life who fill you with affliction and the opportunity to be patient enough to truly get to know what’s under their surface and love them anyway. As I said earlier, this season of stillness requires us to focus on God, seek His face, dive into His Word and lather up with His Mercy and His Grace. Be aware of Satan's every move though. Every doubt, every fear, every negative event, is the enemy lurking like a hungry lion (Peter 5: 8-9). Trust me, and trust in your Savior when I tell you... You will get through this! I know when I went through my ordeal, the days would come and the days would go and I would be so excited that no matter how hard this day was, I made it through. I got in the habit of when I turned out the light next to my bed at night I would say “Yay Jesus, we did it.” God continues to strengthen me. I learned to accept each and every moment as “this moment is as exactly as it should be.” I learned in my patience to trust God. He has already gone before me and He knows where I am going. We would not take our child’s hand and lead them into traffic, nor will He with me. I began to see light in every day, I found joy in the simplest of things and I have learned there is so much to be gained in loosing it all! The wait was worth all of that I have been blessed with. I still feel many days in my life as though the blessings continue to flow due to that time in the desert, and I am thankful. Face on the floor, hands in the air filled with gratitude for my Savior's love for me. I want to close with this. Be careful. Others are watching. They are watching the Jesus in you. One day a woman showed up on my doorstep, as she pulled a little bag out of her purse she said, “I saw this and I thought of you. You are really an inspiration to many in this neighborhood.” It was a tiny garden stone with a picture of a dragon fly (which stands for peace) and it says, “Patience Is the Art of Accepting Each Moment As It Is." Joyful living is finding gratitude while you wait. Kim

Friday, April 20, 2012

Press On

I don't know what you're going through. I don't know the pain you feel. I don't know the battle you're facing. But if you're anything like me, perhaps you've felt defeated at times. Maybe you've come to a point in your life where you find yourself asking God on a daily basis... "Is this really worth it?" Don't be ashamed to ask God this question. Oh friend, I've been there more times than I'd EVER care to admit. Life is hard. Life is challenging. Life is exhausting. Life is overwhelming. This road... this journey... it's filled with potholes. The pavement is broken. There are ditches and valleys and twists and turns. This road of life is complicated. And I know the pain and the disappointment and the weariness that comes from traveling too long on a stony path. But for the Christ follower - God tells us in His word that we have hope! You see - satan would like for nothing more than for us to reside in this place of defeat. He came only to kill, steal and destroy. He has come to rob us from anything that God intended for good in our lives. And we need to recognize those attacks when we are faced with them. We need to familiarize ourselves with the thoughts satan tries to plant in our minds to destroy us. Like... ... you're not good enough. ... you're not smart enough. ... you're not pretty enough. ... you'll never have enough money. ... who could ever love you after what you've done. The reason this world feels so foreign to us is because it's not where we belong. We, as Christ followers, have a heavenly residence that awaits us after our journey on this earth comes to an end. I know first hand that these thoughts can hinder us from living in the fullness that Christ died for us to experience. Just this morning I was struggling with some personal issues that kept me feeling defeated and rejected. And it's amazing the ways God will speak to us if we tune our ears in closely to what He has to say. Just this morning I was encouraged as I turned in His word to Luke, chapter 13. Jesus was busy. He was healing the sick, giving sight to the blind and resurrecting the dead. He was teaching and preaching and sharing the love of His Father with the Pharisees as He journeyed on His way. His ministry was alive. He was doing the will of God, and yet I imagine if truth be told He was getting a little tired. I imagine Jesus was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the very calling on His life. My guess is that He was even a little fed up with the rebellion and the disbelief that He encountered in His journey. But He never lost sight of why He came. He never gave in to defeat. He never let the world distract Him from God's master plan. He knew the way was rocky... and He went anyway. He knew the road was marked with circumstances that would threaten to jepordize His entire existence and He pressed forward anyway. And then I came upon these words that lept off the pages of my Bible and straight into my heart... Luke 13:22, "Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as He went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem." Notice what is says there.. "ALWAYS PRESSING ON TOWARD." If Jesus can press forward knowing what was in store for Him, we can certainly press forward knowing we have a Savior who stands beside us waiting to help us through. We serve a redeeming Savior who stands prepared and willing to battle with and for us. We just have to be willing to press forward. Good things wait for you dear one! Good things wait for me!

Finding JOY in the JOurneY,

Friday, March 23, 2012

Giveaway Winner

The winner of the Bible Study Workbook for Duty or Delight is...

Thank you Diane for your entry and congratulations!!! I will be emailing you soon.

We pray that you will enJOY Duty or Delight and that it will strengthen your walk with Jesus!

Finding JOY in the JOurneY,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Giveaway!

It's THAT time again... time for another book Giveaway here on The Journey!!!

I am super excited to announce our next Women of Thanks bible study!

Thursday evenings, beginning April 19, we will be offering a brand new bible study entitled Duty or Delight.

This 6-week bible study written by bible teacher, Tammie Head, is sure to challenge us as we discover God's best for us.

God is not looking for us to perform for Him, He's looking for us to delight in Him. Many of us hit invisible barriers when we seek the Lord with questions like:

~ Is God happy with me?
~ Does He really love me?
~ Am I doing enough?
~ Why do I feel guilty all the time?
~ Why can't I seem to grow more spiritually?

We will embark on a journey together to overcome spiritual insecurity using six foundational truths from Ephesians 1:3-23. We will discover the beautiful news that God has not only chosen us for a deep, soul-satisfying relationship but He also constantly supplies everything we need to know Him this way.

ENTER TODAY to win your FREE COPY of Duty or Delight (a $12.95 value).

To register to win:
Leave a comment on the blog (below this post).
Tell us your name and contact information (email address).
Tell us the area you seem to struggle with most in your spiritual walk or one area you would like to see improved through this study.
Become a follower of The Journey (upper right hand portion of the blog).

Entries must be submitted NO LATER than midnight on Thursday, March 22. The winner will be announced via the blog and facebook ( on Friday, March 23.

Below is Tammie talking about this new study. Check it out! (Make sure to pause the music below in order to hear the sound)...

I can't wait for this study!

Praying for YOU!

Finding JOY in the JOurneY,

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Today is my wedding anniversary. Fifteen years! I can hardly believe it! Where has the time gone? Wasn't it just yesterday when we walked down the aisle? Wasn't it just yesterday when I got butterflies in my stomach at the sight of you waiting for me in that church sanctuary? We were so young. We were so ridiculously in love. We didn't know then all that we know now, but yet I wouldn't trade these past 15 years for ANYTHING else in the world.

You have taught me more about love than any single person on this planet. You have loved me on the worst days of my life. You have forgiven me countless times. You have led our family courageously. You have given more than you have ever expected in return.

You save me every day of my life.

And I am grateful!

Today... I celebrate who we are together. I am convinced that I am better WITH you than I could ever be withOUT you. You... complete me.

Remembering when... and loving you for...

... The time you TOLD Rural Electric that we WOULD have a wedding reception at Sauk Valley in the middle of the worst ice storm this county had seen in a long time. No power... too bad. And guess what? We had a beautiful reception. With heat. And lights. :)

... The time you had Salsaria's deliver food to me when I was home from work and sick in bed. They don't deliver. They did for you!

... When I was in labor with Chloe, our nurse insisted that we have "birthing music" during the delivery. We didn't know what "birthing music" was but that didn't matter. You ran right home to get a CD player with 20+ CD's for me to choose a song for our sweet Chloe to be born to. I fell in love with you all over again that afternoon!

... That first Mother's Day. You went to Bath and Body Works and couldn't decide on which scents I'd like - so you got them all! A bag filled to the brim with years worth of goodies! You knew the way to my heart back then!

... The time you came to my rescue when I had my accident on Ridge Road. "How will I know where you are?" you asked me. "I'm pretty sure I'm the only blue car in the middle of the field." I cried in response. You have always been my Superman!

I love you for so many other reasons..

For always letting me choose where we're going to eat.

For always being on my side... no matter what.

For keeping me grounded.

For scratching my back.

For you honesty.

For the way you love Chloe.

For the way you surrender more bed space just for me.

For the way you love to surprise me.

For the way your eyes light up when I look at you.

For the way you care for me when I'm sick.

For supporting your girls.

For loving animals.

For loving long rides to the lake on Sunday afternoons.

For being real.

For being so selfless.

For being kind.

For leading by example.

For serving God.

For loving me so well.

I love you more than I will ever be able to say! I want to spend the rest of my life loving and serving you with all that I have and all that I am.

All Because Two People Fell In Love,

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Even When We Can't See

It was a couple months ago and I was having one of "those" days. You probably know what I'm taking about. The kind where when about 9 in the morning you're reconsidering whether it was wise to have even gotten out of bed or not. There was nothing particularly wrong with the day. I felt fine. The sun was shining. But it was just one of those days when my to-do list was overwhelming me and I was all-consumed with the events of the day.

After dropping Chloe, my eleven-year-old, off at school, I began attacking my list. Laundry, dishes, mopping, vacuuming, dusting, organizing, planning for dinner, shopping and paying bills. I had books to return to the library, movies to return to the video store, shirts to drop off at the dry cleaners and tickets to pick up for the upcoming daddy daughter dance. Somewhere in the midst of all of this I had to remember to schedule an appointment to get the dog groomed, pick up a birthday gift for my nieces upcoming birthday party and reschedule a dentist appointment due to an overbooking conflict (their error). I had emails to respond to, homework to check up on and a meeting to prepare for all while trying to figure out IF and WHEN I might be able to get a shower in. (Tired yet even reading this??)

Aside from a few minor hiccups in my day, I managed to get everything on my list accomplished AND make a batch of chocolate chip cookies! Now - before you call me Superwoman, stop right here! In a hurry my lunch consisted of 2 of those cookies and a large Sprite. I'm pretty sure Superwoman would have had time to prepare a much more sensible meal for herself providing much more energy for the hecticness of the day!

When the kids arrived home later that day (my great niece and nephews were staying with us at the time) all they were really concerned about was "What's for dinner?" You see - they had arrived to a clean house. The came in to a vacuumed living room and a stocked pantry filled with food from the day's shopping trip to the market. They might have seen the mess that morning, but upon entering that house that afternoon, they came into a perfectly spotless environment.

What they didn't see was the work it took to get it like that. What they didn't realize was that their mama was working hard behind the scenes to make sure that they were taken care of. What they didn't see was that they had someone who cared so much for them that they were willing to sacrifice a day of sanity so that they could enjoy an evening of peace.

And it started me thinking... isn't that what our Heavenly Father does for us?

Think about it...

Think about all the work that is involved with making sure we are taken care of. Like that near-miss accident this morning on your way to work. That guy who swerved the center line just before passing you on the express way. Had you been a couple minutes earlier, he might not have missed you and things could have been so much different.

Or what about the storm that hit just as you arrived safely to your home?

Or all the green traffic lights you were able to hit on your way to the hospital to be with a loved one in an emergency?

You see God is constantly working behind the scenes to make sure we... His children... are taken care of.

He protects.
He provides.
He loves.

Oh how He loves!

One of my favorite passages of scripture is found in Exodus 33.

Moses was given clear instruction by God that he would be the one to lead God's people, the Israelites, out of Egypt. However, due to their disobedience and stubbornness, God was going to send an angel to travel with them. This displeased Moses and he responded to God saying, "If you don't personally go with us, don't make us leave this place." (vs 15). Moses knew how necessary it was for God to travel with them personally. He knew that God's presence among them set them apart from all other people on the earth. He knew that apart from God - he could do nothing.

Verses 20-23 just might be my favorite. These verses reflect God's amazing goodness as He changes his mind and decides to go personally with Moses on this journey.
"'But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.' The Lord continued, 'Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.'”

Moses was told not to look at God's face directly because God's face shown so brightly that anyone who looked upon His face would surely die. God allowed Moses a glorious experience - and to see a glimpse of His glory - but He would not allow His face to be seen. Instead, He would show Moses His goodness, and express His character, marked above all by mercy and compassion.

God did something so compassionate in verse 22, it nearly brings me to tears... "I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by."

Oh friends! Isn't this Good News?? Isn't this just like our gracious Father to protect us in this way? Isn't this God's working behind the scenes on our behalf?

We are on His mind constantly. I do believe that.
Our protection, our well-being... they are always on His to-do list.

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (Romans 8:28)

He is working it out girlfriend! He's got this! Give it over to Him and allow Him to show off His mercy, grace and love!


Finding JOY in the JOurneY,

Friday, February 17, 2012

Week Five: A Perfect Mess

It was another exciting night as we continued our journey through A Perfect Mess by Lisa Harper. Chapter five, When God's People Lose Their Groove, proved to be another rich chapter as Lisa shared with us, her readers, how God's love frees us to grieve honestly while never losing sight of the supernatural hope we have in Him.

The basis for this chapter was this... What does Psalm 42 teach us about dealing with our less-than-lovely emotions?

What? Less-than-lovely emotions? Are you kidding me? Are Christians entitled to having less-than-lovely emotions?? Really?

Well I certainly hope so!

Last night I shared very openly and candidly with our women's group about my most recent messy-life story. I bore my soul about a situation that happened recently with my daughter and how I let my less-than-lovely emotions get the best of me during an event that should have been nothing less than joyful for her. But thankfully we serve a God who is bigger and better than any problem we face. Thank God for His mercy and grace and for allowing us second chances as we struggle through the failures and frailties this side of Heaven. And as Lisa says on page 77, "Thankfully, the gospel frees us from pretending everything in our life is honky-dory when it's not. God doesn't demand that we be perpetually perky." I really needed to read this... especially this week!

We see a sort of internal wrestling match going on in Psalm 42 as the descendants of Korah express their obvious lament for happier times in their lives. You can see the struggle they had between knowing that their God was the rock of their salvation and finding hope and strength in Him, all the while feeling so defeated by their obvious struggle. It's clearly demonstrated in verses 9 and 10 when these words were penned from utter despair... "O God my rock,” I cry, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?” Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”

And isn't that our struggle at times. Lisa describes an example of this on page 80. Our mind wonders why suffering takes place at the very same time our hearts are praising along with "How Great Is Our God" on Sunday morning. Hands raised with heavy hearts.

I remember a time recently when I experienced this type of lament. When I felt this sort of wrestle with God.

It was 4 days before Trevor's surgery (a major life-threatening surgery) last June and I was at church. Here I was... a believer. A Christ-follower. The first person to tell about the goodness of a merciful God and yet I couldn't stop the flow of tears from my eyes as the worship music began. I knew my God "had this" and that no matter what the outcome would be - God was still good and I was still loved. But even as my head was filled with this knowledge, my heart was hurting and heaving for all that we were facing as a family. I can relate to the words of Psalm 42 as these were my own in those terrifying days of uncertainty.

And so I was comforted when I read Lisa's words on page 81... "There is no shame in confessing we feel far away from God; it certainly doesn't surprise Him."

We all face those times when we feel as though we've lost our groove. And you know what? It's okay! Psalm 42 "reminds us of the freedom we have to pour out the messy sorrows of our hearts to our heavenly Father instead of trying to suppress the sad stuff." (Page 83.)

I was stopped dead in my tracks as I read the line on page 83 that says, "And trying to cruise through life in the single gear of 'happy' makes for an ineffective witness. How can we expect others to connect with our faith story when we've edited out the hard parts, the parts they most identify with?"


And so... I ask you this...

Are we becoming a road-block for people on their faith journey because we lack authenticity and a life that demonstrates our weaknesses thus highlighting God's goodness through us?

Our society tends to think censoring our pain is the real deal... but I disagree. I think it's time to "do real" with others. Just be real. By being real we will allow them to see that God can do so much more with us through our brokenness than He would ever be willing to do with our attempted perfectionism.

Lisa says on page 85, "Some of the most joyful people I know - certainly the most believable believers - are those who've waded honestly through woundedness. Those who've trudged through difficult seasons only to come out communing with God more deeply."

Through our brokenness... we can be made whole with our Savior.

And she says it again on page 86, "Authentic joy is often forged in the kiln of ache. Horrible messes really can lead to hope-filled messages."

She ends with this most beautiful imagery on page 87... "When we tell God where and why it hurts, we will experience divine embraces that last until our souls stop quivering. We will hear comforting whispers that mute our cries of distress. We will sense nail-scarred hands, reaching down to tilt our faces toward Him, followed by the promise, "I'm right here... I'll never leave you."

Oh thank you Jesus!

And so I end with asking this question of you... What happened on your most recent terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?

Tell God about it. Tell Him where it hurts and how horrible you feel. He understands the suffering. Remember - He too felt the shame of undeserved punishment. He felt alone and deserted. He felt rejected and abandoned. He knows. He cares. He loves and He has promised to never leave you or forsake you.

He can and WILL use you if you give Him all of the broken pieces of your life.

You are beautiful. You are loved. You are a child of God.

Finding JOY in the JOurneY,

Friday, February 03, 2012

Week Three: A Perfect Mess

Wow! If there was a chapter that has ever hit me square between the eyes... it was this one. Chapter Three: Tumbling Toward Approval, was indeed a chapter this weary soul needed to read. And will need to keep reading in the future I'm sure of it!

This week our Psalm focus was Psalm 139... and how it describes the way God sees the beauty behind our blemishes. I love the quote she highlights at the beginning of the chapter... "Unfortunately, often our faith doesn't penetrate to our unfavorable feelings about ourselves." - Marva Dawn.

And isn't that true? We know we serve a God who loves... we know the scriptures are clear about the way He loves and we tend to believe it with our whole hearts yet its often hard to accept the personal application to our lives. We struggle with the hard questions like "I know God loves me, but how can He love me intimately?" and "How can God love me after the messes I've made?" These are questions I know I have wrestled with in my own life. And more often than I'd care to admit.

My personal struggle isn't that I don't see how God could love me intimately or even after the messes I've made (and I have had my FAIR SHARE of mess-ups in my life). My struggle seems to be with the expectations I put on myself. The expectations to be perfect. I seem to struggle with the person I am and the person I know God has called me to be. It's the gap between that seems to be my biggest weakness. This hole leaves room for doubt. I place so many expectations on myself that when I fail at any of these I feel as though I've disappointed more than just me. I feel as though I have let others down and fear that God will be displeased with me as well.

I hope I'm not alone in this struggle.

On page 43, Lisa says, "It's easy to fall prey to the feel-good addiction of other people's approval." But she continues, "life-by-scorecard is exhausting."

I've been there before. Saying yes to anything I was asked to do just to be accepted and respected. Always trying to outdo my last big thing so that others would take notice and perhaps like me more. And so much of these feelings stem back to our youth, don't they? If you're like me, you spent years trying to make your daddy proud of you. Maybe this manifested itself in negative ways - like acting out to get his attention. Perhaps we had a mom who demanded excellence from us leaving us feeling as though we could never quite measure up to her expectations. Maybe your parents expected all A's from you on your report card, so when you brought home that C+ in Biology your Junior year of High School, they're disappointment in you was almost unbearable. Maybe it's a boss you've always worked so hard for or a husband you're always striving hard to please. But chances are - at some point in your life you've struggled with gaining approval of others. In one way, shape or form, you've wrestled between the excellence factor and the label of perfection.

Lisa begins the introduction of Psalms 139 on page 44 with these words, "On those days - or weeks! - when we feel like we don't measure up, like our lives are one long blooper reel, we can find hope in what King David wrote in Psalm 139: 'O Lord, You have searched me and you know me.' (Psalm 139:1)"

We continue on with more of that same Psalm, "You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord." (Psalm 139:2-4).

Ladies - God KNOWS us. He knows our thoughts. He knows our ways. He knows us completely and intimately. And I don't know about you - but that is reason enough to SHOUT with joy!

Lisa says on page 45, "He doesn't merely deliver me, but wholeheartedly delights in me." Amen!!

I had a recent experience with my daughter that left this mama reeling with emotions. Chloe is 11 and she is really struggling in her sixth grade year! I have to admit that I saw it coming. I remember my sixth grade year and I can honestly tell you that it was the worst year of my entire school career. But Chloe has always LOVED school... so it's been completely out of character for her to come home in tears day after day expressing her sincere detest for school. It's gut-wrenching to see her precious face marked by sadness when just last year she craved school on a daily basis.

One evening as I was on my way to bed, I heard some whimpering coming from Chloe's room. My first thought was that she didn't feel well, but upon further investigation I discovered it was, once again, tears of sadness at the mere thought of facing another day of school.

We spent some time talking about "so-called friends" who had changed and no longer hung out with her. We talked about bullying and how hard it was to stand by and be a witness to sixth grade injustice. And I tried like any good mom to reassure her that these times, they would soon pass. That these kids, they all still liked her and furthermore were probably going through the same emotions as her. That these experiences, were something each of us had to go through. I tried to explain that God calls us to go THROUGH these difficult situations, and not just "in" to them, expressing to her that there would indeed to a light at the end of the tunnel. But as hard as I tried to explain away these frustrations, the more I realized all she really needed was a mama who listened. All she really needed was for me to "know her" and "love her" intimately enough to not allow her to be alone in her misery. So - - I crawled right up beside her in her bed and with my arms wrapped snug around her... I cried with her.

I knew no other way to comfort her soul... but my prayer was that my presence with her on that Sunday night, would be felt by her years later as she recalled the difficulty enduring sixth grade.

And oh that's so much like our Heavenly Father! On page 47 I find Lisa's words so comforting, "On our worst days, when we're trying to hide our misery or conceal our failures, our perfect God doesn't stand at a distance, waiting for us to pull ourselves together. He crawls right in beside us, amid the dust bunnies and clutter of our lives, to show that we're never alone in our messes." She continues, "No matter where we go, no matter what we do, God is with us. His holy hands won't let go of us."

He crawls right in beside us! What wonderful imagery!

Psalm 139:13-14 says, "For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

Ladies... WE are fearfully and wonderfully made! And more reassurance comes from the pages of 48 & 49, "Before your biological dad ever made the first pass at your birth mom, God knew there would be a YOU. He planned your first breath long before your mama's obstetrician smacked you on your bare bottom. God fashioned every cell, sculpted each bone, and painted the color of your eyes and skin. Then He stepped back and said, 'Isn't she lovely?'"

Isn't she lovely?? (You've got that Stevie Wonder song stuck in your head now, don't you? ;)

You see - there is no one we should aim to please more than our Heavenly Father. He adores us. We are His craftsmanship and His prized possessions. He longs for us to spend our lives concerned only with what He has to say to us and about us.

"God's love frees us from performing so we can relax and rejoice with the assurance that He knows us completely and adores us just as we are." (Page 53).

At the end of my life I long to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant." And really... that is all that really matters.

Thank you for continuing on this journey with us through A Perfect Mess. I trust that God is working on your heart as you seek to please Him!

Finding JOY in the JOurneY,

Saturday, January 28, 2012

We Forget

Unfortunately I had a less-than-lovely encounter with someone this morning that left me feeling a bit disheartened. And I hate it when that happens. I hate it when I allow someone else's bad mood to interfere with my joy... I really do.

My daughter had a 4-hour play practice this morning at 10 at the school. It happened to be on the side of the school that isn't unlocked on the weekends which made it pretty difficult when we arrived.. on time.. to a prescheduled practice yet unable to get in. Thankfully there was another student who had arrived a bit earlier who graciously held the door open for us or we wouldn't have been able to get in. We would have had to get back in the car, drive around to the other side of the building to see if that door was unlocked which would have made us late for practice which would have cost us as the director charges for every minute you're late (which I am not arguing isn't a good idea... I find lateness totally intolerable).

As we made our way in I thought it would be a good idea to tell the director about the experience we had and let her know that the doors to that side of the building were not unlocked. I thought it would be something she might want to be aware of. Since we struggled to get in, I was certain there would be others who would struggle as well and perhaps she had something to wedge in the door to keep it unlocked for others. Her response was, "I don't have anything in my back pocket." She then proceeded to tell me that the others would need to figure out a way to get in. She and the others were where they needed to be. They were inside the building... warm and safe and taken care of. But there were others who would struggle to get in and be left out in the cold because we failed to offer them a way in or at the very least, provide a way to warn them about the locked door.

As I walked back out of the door and to my car I noticed that there were several kids who were walking back to their own cars after having attempted to come in before noticing that the doors were locked and there was no access. Thankfully I was able to catch a few and help to let them in before I had to get into my own car and drive away.

As I drove away I began to think of this scenario from an eternal perspective...

Isn't this sometimes how we Christians can become?

We accept Christ because of a sacrifice someone else made to get us there. Maybe it was a school teacher who spent some extra time with you because she saw so much potential in you. So you ended up having conversations about Jesus with her and because of the investment of her time, you accepted Christ as your Savior. Maybe it was a coach who became your mentor and through his personal sacrifice of spending quality nights away from his family while coaching and mentoring you, you surrendered your life to Christ. Maybe it was a singe parent or a best friend or a Sunday School teacher or a pastor. But more than likely, there was someone who gave up something to share the gospel with you. Someone invited you to church, someone prayed for you or someone read scripture with you... but chances are someone in your life cared enough about you to make sure that they would see you again in eternity.

So what happens to many of us after we have crossed the line of faith? Unfortunately what happens to so many of us is we forget. We forget what it's like to be on the outside. To be searching. To be lost. To be afraid. To be without Jesus. We forget. We become numb to the hurting world because of our security. You see - we're safe. We've got our act together. We know where we're going... but we forget that there's a hurting, dying world out there lost without Jesus. We forget that we might be the only link they have to a Father who desperately longs for a relationship with them. We forget.

When we accept Christ we're safe. We're an insider now. We... like those few kids and the director who made a way inside the doors this morning... are warm and content. They found their way. But what about the others? What about the ones who were left outside? With no way in? The ones who were left out in the cold? What about them?

Isn't it our job to spread the Good News of Jesus to the world? Mark 16:15 says, "Go into ALL the world and preach the Good News to EVERYONE." (Emphasis mine.)

And this was Jesus' command to us believers. I don't think it was a suggestion - but rather an order. And it was intended for ALL the world - not just a few. He said it pretty plain and simple... everyone.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Be imitators of me, as I am in Christ." And wasn't it Paul who turned from Christian Persecutor to making his life's missions to see to it that the Gospel was presented to as many as he could?

There is a hurting world out there who needs to know how much God loves them and what great length He went to to prove it. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people who will suffer an eternity separated from God because they don't know this man named Jesus who had them in mind when He hung on a cross for their sins. Salvation is not just for you and for me... it's for everyone. It's to be an offer for all people of all tribes and nations. Salvation isn't something we take for ourselves and hide from the world. It's something we were made to share. It's something we were meant to pass along. It's a gift that we received and that gift is to be given away so that others can experience the same freedom we've found.

I don't believe God intended for us as Christ-followers, to stay inside our warm, safe homes and churches and schools, while there are cold, hurting, hungry people who will miss out on the greatest gift ever given if we don't do our part to introduce them to Him.

It's up to us. We have the choice. We can either hang a sign on our door that says, "The door is locked - good luck finding your own way in" or we can unlock the doors, creating a way in for lost people and embrace them with the love of Christ.

Let's not forget that we, too, were once lost...

Finding JOY in the JOurneY,

Friday, January 27, 2012

Week Two: A Perfect Mess

I am blessed beyond measure for the privilege and honor of being with some amazing women on Thursday night. I know I'm sounding a bit like a broken record, but there is no where else I would rather be than with these ladies for this hour and a half on Thursday night! Thank you, Jesus, that you made a way for us to study Your word and for loving us enough to meet us where we are but for not being content to leave us there. I am in awe of Your mercy and grace!

Chapter two, Leaping Over Legalism, proved to be another rich chapter as we discussed the ways "religious rules" can get in the way of our relationship with the Father.

It was my Senior year of high school and I was... well... to put it mildly... a little on the rebellious side. I didn't care for "rules" so much. I don't think it had as much to do with rules not applying to me as much as it did with my inherit desire to see how far I could test the waters and get away with something clearly identified as a "rule". I knew rules applied to me. I knew I was expected to follow them, I just wanted to push the limits as far as I could to see if I could actually get away with disobedience.

And it worked a lot of the time. It worked for me my Junior year when our skirts would get measured at the beginning of the school day to make sure they were to the knee or below. I'd get measured and then immediately run to the bathroom where I would hike it up and roll it down at the waist in order to look cooler with a shorter skirt. And it worked my Senior year when I would park in the teachers lot because it was closer than the Senior lot and no one ever noticed. Well.. until that teacher came back from maternity leave. And even then I figured something else out that worked even better.

And here's the thing... I know we have rules to live by. I know that. I know you shouldn't kill your neighbor. I know you should drive the speed limit. I know you should not wear white after Labor Day. I know these things. But I just wonder how many of our "rules" as Christians are actually tripping up new believers in such a way that it's actually turning them off to their faith in Jesus.

I heard the lyrics to a song the other day that made me thing of this very thing. It's called Jesus Friend of Sinners by Casting Crowns. There's a line in the first verse that says, "People are on there way to Jesus, but they're tripping over me."

I don't want to be a stumbling block for people. I don't want to be in the way of their authentic relationship with their Savior. Just the opposite. My heart's desire is that when people who are non-believers look at me - they will see something in me that they want for themselves. In other words... I want God to use me in such a way that my daily walk with Him alone will make such an impact on the world around me that they, too, will want to know how they can have a relationship with the Living Water.

That is my sincere desire and my daily prayer for my life.

But living in our world is messy. It's difficult. And often times painful... even (and sometimes especially) for Christians. We give our lives to Christ with sometimes a view of perfection for our future, yet the opposite is true. Carrying the cross... which Jesus instructs us to do (Luke 9:23)... is a difficult task. A serious act of obedience and a necessity of Christian living.

And there's clearly been rules spelled out in scripture that we must live by if we desire to live a Christ-filled life. Rules like the ten commandments which God designed for our protection and well-being. But focusing on rules as opposed to a relationship can often times be a deterrent for a seeker in search of grace.

I love what author, Lisa Harper, says on page 29, "Walking in faith means trusting in God alone, not in what we say or do or wear. It means being honest about the fact that each of us is a mess and we need God's mercy. It means recognizing our complete dependence on His protection, provision, and providence."

She goes on to say on that same page (29), "I think fixating on our own competency - or obsessing over our incompetency - is one of the biggest mistakes believers make. Because when we focus all our energy on trying to be in control, we forget our innate sinfulness and our desperate need for God."

Our Psalms verse this week is Psalm 62. It's a psalm written by King David during a time scholars believe he was facing a family crisis involving his son, Absalom, who betrayed his father in some of the worst ways imaginable. In the beginning of the Psalm (vs 2) David pens these words, "He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken." However, when you hop over to verse 6, David seems to have shifted his thinking and gained some strength by saying, "He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken."

I shall not be shaken. Period.

Lisa writes on page 33, "David's still the same mistake-prone man he was when he started the Psalm. In fact, the slight mood swing from verse 2 to verse 6 reflects the genuine wrestling of a regular guy, not the fake piety of someone pretending to be perfect. David isn't playing the part of a big hero here; the Holy Spirit just reminded him of how huge his God is."

I wrote at the bottom of my page, "In our weaknesses and inadequacies - our job is to make God great through them."

And you have to love what she says on page 34, "No one but God deserves our absolute devotion. Whether prosperous or poor, human beings aren't worthy of worship. If we put our hope solely in humanity, were going to need a whole lot of Prozac." Amen to that!

Lisa ends the chapter with this on page 36, "God's love frees us from meaningless rules and religious propriety, which means we can live authentically and abundantly by relying on Him instead of ourselves."

Here are some of my bottom lines to this chapter:

We, as believers, are called to stand out. To be set apart from the world. But we can't allow our rules and regulations to misguide people who are in desperate search for the Savior.

We must seek God's face daily and listen to what He has to say to us.

We must recognize our complete dependence on His protection.

God used David in a mighty way in spite of all of his failures... because he learned how to give praise to God in and through anything and everything.

It's not about us - it's all about Him.

Thank you for joining us for another week of A Perfect Mess. I believe God is just getting started with the transformations He wants to make in our lives! Praise Him!

Enjoy reading friends!

Finding JOY in the JOurneY,