Thursday, December 4, 2014

Spiritual Life - The Lights of Christmas

It never fails, the most profound things seem to always come from the mouth of my 3 year old. He has been many a sermon illustration or communion meditation, as I can see God in the questions and comments he makes. Christmas time brings with it a lot of his favorites to include lights. The other night driving home from Target, been there 5 times in 3 days...I know it highlights the need for a support group, we decided to go see some lights. While not every house is decked out yet, there are enough to enjoy with kids. My 5 year old in a 28 year old's body and my 3 year old loved identifying everything they saw and heard as we pulled over to watch a light show to music in a neighbor's yard. We had a fun time.

The next morning my son asked me, as we were driving, where all the lights were? I explained that we don't turn them on in the day because you can only see them at night when its dark. I've heard Christine Caine share a similar story about her daughter and a flashlight and it sent me into spiritual mode. As I discussed this phenomenon with my son, and answered a long string of, "why" I realized this spoke deeply to the commission God has given us and brought a certain scripture to mind.

Matthew 5:16 - In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they might see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Our light only shines in darkness. When we congregate only with other Christians and shut out the world we are wasting our light because it is doing nothing. That is not what we were called to do. We were called to shine and that only truly happens in darkness. Being with other believers is not wrong, but our time with believers should be spent encouraging and preparing us to go out with purpose to share our light.

Its easy to get stuck in what's comfortable and easy, but that was never what we were made for! Doing life should be a little messy and uncomfortable. We should be around people that challenge our views and our norms. We need to be people who are approachable and adaptable to whatever mission field God calls us to. If we are so used to being with others like us we miss out on a great gift. Why?

1. We won't grow, and growing is what brings us closer to God.
2. We won't get a full picture of who God is - we are all made in his image and when we only seek out others like us, we only get a limited view of our Father. Sure the world can taint people but find the challenge of seeing God in everyone.
3. We will miss out on what God is doing. We were meant to be apart of something bigger than ourselves and when we put a box on our experiences we handicap God from working fully in our lives!
4. We won't fully know love! The manner of love given to us by God means loving people who hurt us, and when we know love beyond an easy mutual affinity with someone else, we begin to know what the cross was all about.
5. We won't shine. We will be a boring house with lights on it but not plugged in as the sun shines on us exposes the cords. Let the sun set and plug in so you shine and shine bright!!!

In the words of Chris Rice - "Take your candle, go light your world."

Friday, October 10, 2014

Reflective Life - Everybody Hurts

A popular alternative rock band in the 80's & 90's was R.E.M. and in 1993 they released as a single, the song, "Everybody Hurts," which at the time really spoke to me. I was 13 and dealing with more than most girls my age should have even known about. I couldn't relate to my peers because the rights of passage many of them experienced seemed trivial in comparison with the tough realities in my life. I was hurting and I felt alone. Truth states I was not alone, there is a world full of people who are hurting and I felt the song by R.E.M. not only spoke to that reality but encouraged people to hang on and to do it together.

Over the past year I have watched on as people around me have had their lives rocked and what has most shocked me has been the responses to their hardship that has been expressed. I will admit that I don't always know how to come along someone and sometimes I will say the wrong thing, so I know it happens, but what I am encountering more and more is cruel words and spiritual responses that just aren't Biblically accurate! When we hurt we need the people around us to love on us and to be there. Maybe you've tried to help and been pushed away and that can also happen as a lot people when faced with hardship go into hibernation mode. This is also not what I am talking about.

What I am talking about is telling someone:

1. "You must have done something wrong for God to allow this to happen to you."

Can you hear the buzzer telling you, you just got it wrong - eHHHHHHHHH. If you think this is accurate, please read the book of Job. Traditional Jewish thought was and still is in some groups that when you go through something difficult, its because you've done something wrong. That is why Holocaust Survivors are often treated badly. Job was written to counter this. Life happens and isn't necessarily in direct correlation with your actions, choices etc. Job did nothing wrong and his life exploded in his face and God chastised his "friends" who continued to bagger him with his need to repent and ask for forgiveness. Job is also a humbling book because when God responds he definitely shows us that we cannot understand the depths of all He is! The truth is I can't tell anyone why they are experiences disease, pain or loss. There is also the phenomenon of natural consequences and while that is not what we are talking about, no one wants to hear "I told you so." So if you feel the need to say something to that affect, bite your tongue and walk away. We've all made mistakes and if we are experiences the consequences of those, hopefully we will learn.

2. "Your loved one is in a better place"

Sure, this is true, but ask yourself does it need to be said? Probably not! I mean really! Its not unspiritual to be sad when someone is gone. We can know that they are pain free with Jesus and still miss them. We loved them and our life now has this hole. People who lose a parent, child, spouse or other close relative/friend have to begin to live their life again without that person. My grandpa was killed more than 2 years ago but I still can't bring myself to delete his number from my contacts. It is what it is. People need a hug, and practical help: food, laundry, house cleaning, lawn maintenance etc. Its hard to do your everyday life tasks with the hole you feel. Everyone is different, some people respond by throwing themselves into busy life and that's their choice. Its good to be empathetic but its also good to ask, "What do you need right now?" If they don't know, assure them you will be there when they figure it out.

3. "You need to do..."

We all have remedies and solutions to the problems we see in people's lives and social media has tricked us into thinking we have the right to offer our 2 cents. But if someone isn't asking, don't tell them your 10 step way to make it all better. You can say you've done some research and if they are ever interested to let you know, but wait for them to ask. Most of us have internet access. We know how to google a disease or look up the harmful affects of foods, environment etc. The information itself is good, but can be overwhelming or feel condescending.

4. "God does not give us more than we can bear."

If you want to say this to someone just go ahead and punch them in the face. First of all, this scripture is often taken out of context because I Corinthians 10:13 is talking about temptation and most of the difficult life we encounter has nothing to do with temptation unless as stated earlier we are talking about experiencing the natural consequences of our bonehead choices, and that is not what we are talking about here. God is a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1) and is always with us (Deuteronomy 31:8, Joshua 1:9, Romans 8:38-39), when we say, "God does not give us more than we can bear" to someone experiencing the cruel realities of life it makes God out to be some terrorist torturing us in some effort to get us to talk and that is not God. He love us and tells us that this life isn't easy (John 16:33) but in the end God has overcome it all. Most of us need more support and less judgment. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for everything and when someone is suffering, they need words that bring life and help encourage them to fight on, not words that embitter than toward God and break down their strength. Its hard to know what to say to people especially when we have no experience walking in their shoes so pray, and if you have no idea what to say, just say that and reassure you are there to walk the journey.

5. "If you had more faith..."

I do believe our words can make or break our journey and we can speak truth into our lives, but bad things happen even with faith. Isaiah 55 tells us that God's ways and thoughts are higher than our own. There are moments when faith can change our reality but to assume or communicate that the travesty they face is due to a lack of faith puts unnecessary blame in their lives and does nothing to support our friend or family member. Sometimes the answer we get from God is no or maybe God has purposes beyond our scope. We have no idea what he sees and maybe we will see it play out before us and maybe we won't, but if we trust a good, loving God than we can know no matter what He is at work.

I've shared before that when I was a pre-teen and early teen, my mom was married to a man with a lot of heartache and pain in his heart and the experiences he walked through in his life led him to alcoholism and abuse. In the years he was married to my mom, our lives were torn apart and he almost killed my mom. Fast-forward to several years ago when he was dying. I recognized that the worst years of my life were the best of his. I realized that he knew Jesus and would be in heaven because of the time with us through which he got to know God. In retrospect I drew the conclusion that it was worth it. I wanted him in heaven and was willing to accept what I'd lived through if it meant his soul being saved. It was an epiphany like none other I have ever experienced. Sure I wasn't going through it at the moment that I accepted the beauty of the end result, but that's the point. During those early years suffering because of someone else's choices, I wondered if God really loved me, but when God saw me he didn't just see the hurting 7th grader, he also simultaneously saw the woman in adulthood accepting the weight of those years and in his grace he allowed those experiences.

This life is temporary. Earth is not our home and God's purposes far exceed what is in our lap at the moment, but I learned to accept the hardship I experienced through walking with God not because someone came to me in those challenging years and told me, "I needed more faith" or even the face punch of number 4 that "God wouldn't give me more than I could bear." God was at work in and through it all and I am learning (slowly I may add) to trust him with it all of it(Hebrews 6) as the anchor for my soul. Hebrews 11 tells us that, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." So even in the darkest moment we can still hope because it isn't done until God makes the call and the trumpet sounds and we meet him in the air.

God made each of us differently and their is real beauty in that, but if we fail to see the differences in others with a equal respect then we miss a true gift. What is hard for me might not be hard for you, I can't use myself as a gauge for someone else's emotions. We experience life differently and while that doesn't change the moral code outlined in the Bible, it does mean that we may see it from another perspective and its when we come together that the whole picture can take place. Lets be the body we were made to be and stand together through the hurts. Because as R.E.M sang so poignantly, "Everybody Hurts."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Reflective Life - Suicide Selfish?

Yesterday, I got the news that Robin Williams had died. I found out on Facebook, then verified the facts looking at online news websites. Soon after the flood of trending posts began to saturate my news feed. To be honest, I didn't mind because I loved all the reminders of the movies he starred in and he is someone that has had a special place in my heart of all the stars out there in the world. A few hours after the news broke, I did find a post from a friend that went in a different direction. This friend remarked about his chagrin in having to endure a week of posts regarding Robin Williams. I then clicked on the comments and some of what I read disturbed me. Not because some people don't care about this actor, but because it revealed an ignorance to the human condition and a callous view that I cannot wrap my brain around. You see it is suspected that Robin Williams died from a suicide. Suicide can bring up an array of colorful emotions and opinions. One of the comments simply said: "Suicide=selfish" and I have to admit I have heard it before. While I get why someone would say that, I respectfully disagree or rather see a different viewpoint that trumps that perspective.

You see when I was 18, I had an abortion, another choice often labeled as selfish. The thing is, I was and am adamantly opposed to the act of abortion. I couldn't believe I had done something with which I fervently disagreed. That sent me not only on a journey of healing, but one for answers. I found some answers 8 or 9 years ago when I heard a speaker, Greg Hasek, say that the problem with "True Love Waits" and other like conferences challenging teens to save sex for marriage is that people don't make choices out of their moral compass and what they know to be right and wrong, instead people make choices out of their fears and insecurities. That simple statement turned a light bulb on in my head. I got it. The key to aiding others in life is not just in education but in helping them face and tackle their fears and insecurities. I made my choice to have sex outside of marriage and then to have an abortion after I discovered I was pregnant because I was scared. That fear took over everything I knew in my head.

This newfound understanding took another step when I learned how the brain works. You see when someone gets emotional, the surge of emotions blocks blood flow to the brain and inhibits someone from being logical because your brain needs that blood flow to work in making logical choices. This was an even greater a-ha moment because it makes a lot of sense. I have encountered countless women who are freaked out and feel alone, choose an abortion, then later beat themselves up, like I did, because they knew what they did was wrong. This phenomenon while applied to my abortion story, isn't limited only to that area. How many of us get caught up in a sale only to later have buyers' remorse? And while buyer's remorse isn't that serious, unless we just bankrupted our entire family, this true biological experience can devastate lives. Someone dealing with clinical depression or severe bullying or abuse may in a moment of emotional overload make a choice to end their lives. But they don't have the luxury of regret. That choice was final. Maybe it is in the end selfish, but I hate defining it as such because I would say 90% of what we do is selfish. That is not a cold hard statistic, but the reality is we are selfish people. The American culture breeds a "look out for yourself" mentality. So if we are going to start labeling things selfish then we better be ready to spend a great deal of time. Selfish isn't the point, hurting is. Frankly, I think its selfish to point the finger at someone who is desperate and decides to take their life and say "selfish" because my question would be, what are you doing to help those people?

We live fragmented, lonely lives. Sure we have thousands of Facebook friends, but when life goes south and its out of your control, who can we really turn to? Who is there to help us pick up the scattered pieces of our lives? I heard it once quoted by Fredrica Mathewes Greene that, "A woman doesn't want an abortion like she would want an ice cream or a Porsche, but like an animal caught in a trap, gnaws off its leg to become free." This reality can be said for many of the desperate choices people make to include suicide. We have an obligation to each other, and when people fall it is all of us who are to blame. If you want to know more about where my passion for this came from feel free to read my post, "Like Me." We obviously, can't make the decisions for others but we weren't made to be islands either. We need each other to survive. There are times when we do all we can for someone and it still isn't enough. Maybe you are a lucky one with a strong support network, but not everyone can say that. You can't be all things to all people, but if you chose to show up in one person's life you can make a huge impact through that one life.

People like bullet points so here are a few steps all of us can take.

1. Choose to be Selfless - Thinking beyond ourselves is a choice. We must first decide if we even want to attempt living life for anyone else.

2.Take a time out - All of us have environments we frequent often: work, the gym, the golf course, a bar, church, etc. Pause your routine and next time take note of the people around you, maybe someone that is in the peripheral.

3. Check In - Take a minute to connect with someone new, maybe its someone you say hi to every day but it never goes beyond that. Invite them to coffee or just stop and see how they are really doing. Showing someone you care, can make a huge difference.

4. Move In or Move On - Truthfully we can't make a connection with everyone and expecting to save the world all by yourself is a set up for burn out and failure. If you don't connect with someone, you made an attempt, move on and try it with someone one else. If you have connected in a surprising way, put yourself out there enough to get to know them. Allow this new person into your life. Relationships are baby steps so make sure to have realistic expectations.

5. Repeat - Whether it works the first time or not, the truth is if you choice to continue to live this way, it will change your life. Thinking of others is always a good thing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Spiritual Life - Finding Nemo Epiphany

Lately, my son has been on a "Finding Nemo" kick. So I have seen it several times over the past few weeks.

Often children's movies and books lead me to ponder spiritual concepts, and this is no exception. As I have been watching, my mind has wandered to the issue of my anxiety and fear. In previous posts I have talked about my fears and how this year I was facing them. A recent trip to the counselor's office, revealed a huge amount of anxiety that I just live with on a regular basis. The great news for me personally is that our discussion was in fact an answer to prayer because I have been asking God, "Why am I so easily angered?" I can now see a direct link between my issues with anger and my level of anxiety. Now I can attack it head on. I've started with an anxiety journal to track my freak outs and the roots of them. It has really placed me in a quandary, questioning what I am even afraid will happen if my "worst case scenario" were to actually happen or what that even looks like. I know most of it comes from some of the negative experiences I walked through as a child. The things that made to question God.

When I watch Marlin in "Finding Nemo" I see a fish with the same issues that I face. His character experiences an act of fear and subsequent loss. That one act paralyzes him from living. Fear has him limiting his experiences and his son's (did you ever think a Disney movie would ever spawn such a deep thought?)and then he faces another barrier when Nemo is taken. That leads him on this adventure where he stares in the face of all that his mind could ever fear. At some point he just has to give in to the journey and trust. There is no more reasoning and others are acting on his behave without his knowledge and he just has to have faith. Who knew Dory actually spoke Whale and the Whale wasn't going to eat them but help them?!

Who knew the umpteenth time of watching this beloved Disney story, that it would speak to me exactly where I am in life right now. I can't control every detail of my life. Worrying about it doesn't help, yet I walk out in fear and anxiety about things out of my control because its what I've done for so long, its my auto-response. Taking a step back, a deep breath and asking myself some reflective questions are the start to a new life of just trusting in God when its out of my control. Its asking him for guidance when it is a decision I have to make and trusting him walk it out with me.

If we are all being honest, I believe we get good at living life in autopilot. Stop. Take a deep breath and join me: question your choices, your routine, your reactions and begin to reprogram the answers that do not make any sense. And when the whale says, "let go." Just do it, and embrace your inner Dory.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

DIY Life - From Drawer to Shadow Box

Consignment Warehouse had two of these great drawers that really were nothing much to look at but the possibilities in ways you could utilize them was endless.
So I bought one!

All it needed was some TLC. I sanded it down, peeled off the liner in the drawer and then used Valspar's Rushing Stream on the edges to frame my drawer (soon to be shadow box). I also got the paint for FREE! Real Simple magazine had a coupon for a free sample size, which was all I needed!

I purchased a yard of gray and whiteish chevron print duck cloth at Hobby Lobby (used my online coupon through my phone for 40% off). By the way, they are no longer allowed to alert people to their coupon on their website, but if you have a smart phone, just google it in line and give them the 4 number code. So while I was there I also grabbed some furniture tacks. I got some in gold that were larger to border the edges and a package of matching smaller silver ones for contrast to use on the drawer itself.

The next step was selecting my items to go in this new creation. (Truth: this is a story unto itself, but summarizing for time sake). Then I had another quandary. I had no idea how to fasten things into the box without damaging some of the items of sentimental value. I reached out to my DIY creative Facebook friends and got some great (and some silly) responses. No, I am not going to use Duct Tape, but thanks for that suggestion :). So I got some clips and magnets, Velcro (had it already), and Command strips. I used the Command strips on the hand prints and Velcro for the ballet slippers. I hot glued magnets to the cloth, the clips were magnetic so they just stick to it. I used the small tacks to attach my Clipboard styled clip, Voila!

The top left corner is my oldest stepdaughter, below her is my younger stepdaughter, top right is my son, bottom right is me and the middle is my husband. I included an art project from one, hand prints from the other two, my ballet shoes and a card my husband made for his parents when he was little and of course, there are pictures of all of us as babies.
The process looked something like this:

I am a creative person, and I have more Pinterest boards than one person should, but the truth is the best creativity doesn't come from coping someone's idea it comes from the journey of walking out one of your own. Get the tricks of the trade off Pinterest, but make something new to pin!

Friday, June 20, 2014

DIY Life - Hallway Projects

So first let me just say I have an problem with making decisions. I recently re-read my Myers Briggs Personality Profile, ENFJ, to discover that it is in fact my personality that is to blame. Okay so its not just my personality but it would appear I'm predisposed to indecision, so at least some of those decision issues can be summed up with the phrase, "It is what it is." That knowledge nugget was given to you so you will understand the dilemmas I go through even in simple projects.

Several months ago, we started updating our house, I would say remodel or renovating, but those words would involve some actual money, which we don't currently have for anything other than bills and debt repayment (Thanks Dave Ramsey!). When I saw the wonderful look of the outside of our house after a paint job, I decided the inside could use one too. So I started in the hall with the pantone color, String, it didn't come out quite like I'd hoped at first, but with new faceplates for the electrical switches, new pantry knobs from Hobby Lobby, new light fixtures from Habitat for Humanity's ReStore shop, it was well underway. I found a great mirror at Kirklands on sale (sales make me super happy FYI) so instead of redoing the one we had in the hallway, I decided to buy one, call it done and actually save a little money in the end in comparison with what the supplies would have cost for me to punch up the one we had. Then, as a result of my mutterings to God, I found 2 frames on clearance at Target that I had been stalking for well over a year. The frames were originally $30 each and I got them both for $20, another great sale score!

Then I went to see my sister and mom in Ohio. I was in awe of my sister's house. So I came back on a mission to find some unique pieces and ones that spoke to me.

That is when I found the Consignment Warehouse and discovered some great pieces, of course, my indecision issues started to sprout and I did my share of hemming and hawing, and actually lost out on a few things I liked because of it. But I found a great architectural column to use on the wall.
I got that wall done then went back in search of some other pieces. I found an old drawer and decided I could use the kids handprints and make my own shadow box for the wall.
I got some paint (free by the way, coupon in the Real Simple magazine), and used my 40% off app to get some nice fabric and furniture tacks at Hobby Lobby. I did however run into a snag. I couldn't find my oldest stepdaughter's hand print. I couldn't do 2 out of 3 so it was back to the drawing board. After a great deal of searching and anxiety attacks I came up with a collage of memorabilia from all of us, all 3 kids and the hubby and I. I think it turned out great. (For those of you who wanted to see more about this project, I will do a whole post devoted to it).

I have become a fan of string nail art. I made a piece for my office at work, and I found it not only to be a great art piece, I also found it to be therapeutic. There's just something about hammering nails to get out the tension and stringing them to help bring focus and calm. Its great! I had purchased the first piece of wood from ReStore, so I headed back that way when looking for something for the hall. I got a nice, sturdy piece of wood for about $5. I found some inspiration off Pinterest and ventured out in the same direction, but found I needed a few changes at the end. All in all I am pleased with the results.

I then paired these great pieces with this awesome frame I found online through a local Facebook group dedicated to selling your stuff. I am still working on a few more items for the hall, but I am looking forward to putting my efforts toward the living room soon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Spiritual Life - A Game of Pick Up Sticks

Someone really special to me is my Pappy. Pappy is my mom's father. When I was 7, due to a string of circumstances, my mom and I moved from our home with the Davidson family in North Carolina to Indiana where our new life included living with my Pappy in his two bedroom trailer. We lived there for 4 years. In that time, my mom gave birth to my sister. The three of us shared a room and a bed on the opposite side of the trailer from my Pappy's room. During those years, my Pappy became a surrogate father to me and my sister. He taught me to ride a bike, we'd go to Dairy Queen together and I would ride his quads and golf carts with him. One of the activities that Pappy invited me to join him in was whittling. My version of this skilled craft was to cut off a few pieces of the wood, then just paint a design onto its surface. Pappy however, would actually carve shapes. 

Years later, Pappy presented me with my very own Cedar carved set of the game, Jack Straws, aka, Pick Up Sticks, that he had carved just for me. It was a game he had that we would play when I lived with him. As an older teen, this gift meant something. It gained even greater value when he was killed two years ago.

For those who may not know, pick up sticks is a game where a bunch of different shaped (or colored) sticks are placed in a clump on a hard surface and players must use the hook stick to free sticks from the pile without moving other sticks. The sticks are given value based on their shapes or colors. The person with the most points when all sticks are freed, wins.

I was thinking about this game the other day and saw a spiritual connection.

Our lives are like this game. Each of us have walked through life with fears and insecurities, we've encountered hardships or nasty behaviors from others and through these things we've developed a stack of sticks that need to be examined and "organized" to live a life of stability. When we open our lives to God and allow him to be our Lord, we give him the hook stick. He gently extracts sticks from our clump, but in the process it may shift another stick (issues) in our life. Maybe you are like me and want it all handled at once, but the truth is if God did that, it would destroy us. Maybe also like me, you feel like you have gone to counseling or worked with a mentor to deal with each issue in your life and you've checked it off your "needs to be resolved" list, only to see it come back. It can feel discouraging, but the truth is some issues have multiple sticks and God has to get them all. I can feel discouraged or overwhelmed by the buffet of weaknesses that stands before me. I see the sticks in my life and just want to quit trying. Its in those moments that all of us need to put on some proper perspective. My pile of sticks is smaller than it was 10, 5, or even 2 years ago. Perseverance and humility will aid me in journey of getting to a stickless life.

If you've been discouraged like I get at times (a wave just hit a few weeks back), get a hug from a good friend, adjust your perspective, thank God for the journey that's been cleared and keep on. You are worth the journey and seeing the issues completely healed and dealt with by God. God can and will do the job if you let him.

Remember these words:
Exodus 14:14
"The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Spiritual Life - Tethered?

Tether in its simplest definition means being connected to something else that restricts movement. When you use a rope to tether a dog to a tree, it keeps the dog in an area around that tree that is restricted by the rope’s distance.

There are many things we are tethered to in life, whether we recognize it or not. Some are pleasant experiences, others are not. I am tethered to Kevin Guy in marriage; I am tethered to Verizon Wireless in my phone plan with a contract. I am tethered to a job, a house, a car, bills, kids and the list goes on. Tether is a connection but a connection that can be restrictive, dependent upon to what you are connected. What are your connections?

If you are tethered to something that adds to your life then the tether really isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it probably keeps you from bad things, but if you are tethered to the wrong thing, it can be an awful, limiting and possibly even dangerous experience. It’s important to know what you are connected to and pay attention to how we get tethered. You may think of tethered in the scope of marriage or employment, but it goes beyond that. When you hang out with people or get into a book series or tv show you are being tethered through their beliefs. What you believe isn’t just seen in what you would say in a conversation with someone, but in how you live your life. If you believe someone is a bad influence you would show that by choosing to stay away from that person.

Our connections with the world around us can limit us in our relationship with God and that can be a dangerous to our spirit. We often don’t realize this reality until it’s too late. We find ourselves believing things that aren’t Biblical and inevitably putting distance between us and God. Take some time to mimic the words of David and ask God to reveal to you where you have strayed and lead you back to him. (Psalm 139:23)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cooking Life - Seriously Easy Dessert!

Today was Memorial Day, and I planned on making a cake for dessert for a family meal.  But it was 97 degrees, my house was hot and we discovered the AC wasn't working right, so that meant the oven was not coming on!  

This meant plan B for a lot of the meal.  I opted to do potato salad instead of baked potatoes and thought I'd try something different and cool for dessert. I ran to the new Walmart market down the street with a few ideas bouncing around and perused the aisles for a plan.  After grabbing several things that made their way back to their shelves I found this.
I then grabbed a can of cherry pie filling, fresh mint and some heavy cream.  I recently found a great recipe for homemade whipping cream on Pinterest from the blog below.  I used powdered sugar (though not a lot) and then added peppermint and almond extract.  It was delicious!
I filled the cups with cherry filling, topped with whipped cream and...Voila!
I grated some of a chocolate Hershey bar and topped with fresh mint.  They were delicious! And best yet, easy!!!
There was even time for a silly shot...

On a serious note before I sign off, I just want to say, how honored I am by the men and women who've served our country in the military to protect people like me. I'm especially touched by those who gave their very lives!  You are not forgotten!!!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Spiritual Life - Facing Fear, A Journey

I stood in the Staples Center last October, not for a Laker game, but for the Hillsong Conference. As I stood and worshipped God, the song, "Oceans" ministered to me. It became my heart cry. You see a month earlier, God had started me on a journey to show me where I was and where I needed to be. I have seen through the last 6-9 months that if fear were a cancer, I would have only have minutes to live because I am riddled with fear. Yet despite that reality, I seek to be fear free. I seek to do just what Oceans says,

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wonder, and faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior."
In the fourth grade I remember having a vision from God. I saw a man in my vision with a camping backpack on looking out into a desert and I heard God say, "Carrie, this is you. I will lead you where you have never been before and where you never thought you could go." What I have learned since then is that word wasn't for me then, but was something for my future. God often gives us a word as a hope to hold on to in the journey. We can get discouraged thinking he's forgotten, but he hasn't. So when I sang this song, that vision came back to me and I felt like now was the time. Now was the time to venture out in faith. To seek God in new ways in my life. The obstacle in my way, was and is fear.

I know I am not alone.

Paul walked on water out to Jesus seeking Him, but getting distracted by fear. (Matthew 14)

Elijah came against 450 prophets of Baal (I Kings 18) and killed everyone. He saw fire come from heaven and was empowered by the strength of the Lord, then Jezebel threatened him and he fled. He was distracted by fear.

I have been brought back from the dead, healed from a vegetative state, healed of a rare blood disease, been protected during abusive situations, stood up against the enemy for countless people and seen victory and yet, I get distracted by fear.

Since September 2013 God has been revealing the degree to which I fear. It has astounded me. I really never saw it before at the magnitude that it stands in my life. I have seen how I love my life walking through a minefield of fear. Its debilitating! So I am seeking out to walk in faith and turn from fear. My first step has been recognizing my fear responses so I can replace those with faith responses. Its a glacial speed but I am still hopeful that I will be someone full of faith and rid of fear. Yet, I love the journey. One of my greatest fear facing challenges was seeing that God is like Amazon. I've discovered how crucial praising God is in this journey and the power of our words.

Recently, another area of fear was brought to my attention. Kevin Leman in his book, "Have A New Kid by Friday" discusses how procrastination is a symptom of, you guessed it, fear. He goes on to explain how children of perfectionistic parents often procrastinate as a method to avoid criticism and that the procrastination sets them up for failure and keeps them from moving forward in their lives. It was an eye opening read. As I read it I saw how I don't go for things out of fear. I become like a deer in headlights. I put off and put off, instead of facing it head on.

Maybe you can relate to my journey. I share my soul, not to get advice or as a cry for help, but in the hopes that those of you out there that share in my fear will see it for what it is, give your fears to God and seek to live a life of faith. Often in the journey of life we can get so good at masking our issues and fears that we can begin to feel isolated. We see beyond our mask but only see the mask of others and think, "Its just me struggling with this." But the truth is, we all have struggles and fears and in accepting it and running to God's truths we can find freedom. May you find the freedom from fear in your own life and see what a faith walk can really be like!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Reflective Life - Leaving a Legacy

The passenger driver side window of my car is covered in fingerprints from, you guessed it, my three year old boy. He knows how to make an impression in so many ways and in this case its using his fingers to mark up my windows. It got me thinking about the marks we leave in life. We all leave our own fingerprints on the lives of the people around us and on the world we live in. The thing is we don't get to chose if we leave a mark, just the type of mark we leave. I don't know about you, but when I think about the word legacy, it brings with it a positive connotation, but that isn't true always true. A legacy by definition is "anything handed down from the past..." which means that a legacy includes the negative stuff too.

I was watching a preview for a show about World War 2 and I just pondered the thought, "Hitler left a legacy." Honestly, I would rather leave little positive legacy than the bombshell negative legacy that someone like Hitler left. When you think about the domino affect of Hitler's choices on the world as a whole its a scary image. A few years ago, I watched a video of the Germans who walked through a death camp at the end of World War 2. They were in horror of what had happened there. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well this video made the word count rival that of the number of stars in our universe. The Germans did not have a picture of what Hitler was doing to the Jews and those with special needs (and the list goes on) until it was over and they saw the aftermath.

Our actions have weight. How we interact with our own lives matters. I recently heard Francis Chan in a video entitled, "Rethinking Church" compare people in church as one goes to the movies verses going to the gym. One is an onlooker being entertained and the other a participant interacting in her environment. As I have delved into this thought, it occurred to me that this comparison also works for life in general. How many of us live our lives in a passive manner, just dealing with whatever crosses our path? We live as if we are in a movie theatre taking whatever the screen of live throws at us or being a victim being crushed under the daily assault of bad deals, put downs and devaluing interactions. What if we took more ownership of our lives, what if we looked at our life as a gym, building ourselves up, starting where we are? Our legacy isn't about being some great person, its about taking what we have and building on it. To do so we have to start where we are. Often we are too scared to take a deep look in our lives to even see where we stand and therefore don't have the tools to move forward.

Hitler wasn't a bad person because he was born evil. Hitler was a person that faced the hardship of life and allowed it to mold him into a man capable of massacre and cruelty. Had he instead taken control of his life and chosen to be better himself, he may have left a better legacy just as impactful but for the good of humanity. So what will your legacy be? Will you live your life in a passive manner or take control of what you can, face the reality of where you are and seek to be someone that can leave a fingerprint that will help bring healing into the world? The choice is yours. I choose to leave a legacy of healing and love.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spiritual Life - Focus

Matthew 14:25-33

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them:“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” "Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Tonight, I was talking to a friend who was just given some pretty tough news. Her heart was broken and as she spoke I could hear the fear in her voice as she looked into the situation with so much uncertainty and resulting questions. This was something I identified with as I often play life out way into the future when there is no guarantee my scenario will even happen. My last words to her were pretty convicting to me. I told her to look at God not at the circumstances. I reminded her that Peter walked on the water as long as he was looking at God. He faltered when he let the waves distract him from Jesus.

Easier said than done, right?!

The truth is, life is extremely hard, there is no guarantee of an easy or even bearable life (the "God not giving us more than we can bear" is often misquoted, but that's a topic for a different day). God makes us the promise that he will NEVER leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He promises he has a plan for us and we can know he loves us and has our best at heart. This is truth, even when it feels so counter to what sitting in our lap at the moment. I John 4:4 encourages us with the truth that the Jesus in us is greater than our enemy, Satan.

We all face something and that something can and will kick our butts if we let it. But if we look at God, we may just beat those hard licks and tell them whose boss. Jesus spoke to the waves and they listened. Are we speaking into our lives with the command of Jesus or falling prey to whatever befalls? The waves were no match for Jesus, he was bigger and no matter what you face, remember to take heart because our God has overcome the world(John 16:33). If we look to him we will know he's got it and we can live at peace in our challenges, but if we look instead to the trials, we will forget the power that Jesus possesses.

A friend of mine is in ICU as I write getting ready to have a large mass removed from her brain. She struggles with Fibromyalgia every day while being the primary care giver for her father with stage 4 cancer. So needless to say, discovering a brain mass the size of a tennis ball wasn't exactly something she'd hoped to encounter. The amazing thing in all of this is her spirit and her attitude. I am in awe, because I'm not sure I could do the same. She is not letting her circumstances dictate her direction or attitude. She is a true example of keeping her eyes on the Father and trusting him to handle it and to hold her in the process. She's an inspiration!

I love the song, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" because its a reminder of what my job is if I expect to survive this thing called LIFE. If you know the song please sing the words below with me, and if its new to you, then read them and be inspired.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
Look Full In His Wonderful Face
And the Things of Earth Will Grow Strangely Dim
In the Light of His Glory and Grace

Friday, April 4, 2014

Decorating Life - A Case Study of Unique Findings in One House

A few weeks I went out to Ohio to surprise my mom and we stayed at my sister's house. She and her husband have been married for a year, so this is the first time I've stayed at their house (visited once before). I marveled at the unique items and decorations they had at their house and since I'm a dedicated Pinterest addict, I felt their was a world of pinning just in her house. I took some pictures of the unique findings and figured I'd share them with all of you.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Miracle Life - The Hope of Things Come - Remembered!

In March of 2009, a church friend, Elaine, and I set out on a trip to Thailand. It was her first and my third trip, so it was not an unfamiliar expedition for me. We did go to a city on the Thailand/Myanmar boarder and visit a refugee camp that was an amazing story, but for another day. After that adventure we headed back to the villages I had been before and come to love. I was talking to Siami, the Musekee village director and amazing woman. She asked me about children as my husband and I had been married for 4 years. I told her we had tried to get pregnant but had no success. The next day she told me about a woman we needed to go visit in the village. She explained about this thing called a womb massage. She said other women in the village who had not been able to get pregnant, who had womb massage, ended up getting pregnant. I thought I would give it a try. So I went to her house and lay on the bamboo floor. She started the massage and it wasn't relaxing like the massage you get in any day spa, but instead was very uncomfortable and even painful at times. When she finished she explained through a translator that my womb was twisted and off to one side. She pushed it back into place and told me not to ride in a car over bumps or anything else that could move it for a couple of days so it had an opportunity to heal and stay in place and not just get pushed back into the old spot.

Now some of you might be reading this and thinking, she's crazy, this sounds like some sort of wacko idea that's too far fetched to be anything. I did look it up when I returned to the states and found it had Mayan roots. I prayed over it and asked God to use this woman to help me conceive. Several months after returning, I found out I was pregnant!!!! It seemed this unconventional idea in fact helped. Unfortunately, that pregnancy ended in miscarriage. But mid 2010, I got pregnant again and now have my precious and precocious 3-year old son.

I often think about that woman and have wanted to express my gratitude. I have given her money from time to time and feel a connection with her, though honestly, I couldn't even tell you her name. Recently, my dad and step mom left to go to Thailand and Indonesia. I asked them when they got to Musekee to find the woman and give her some money from me and show her pictures of my boy. I woke up this morning to find Kay and my stepmom, Beth, had gone to see her and Beth sent these gems in my email. I was so touched I started to cry. The picture of her house brings me back to the moment, that moment when I needed something to give me hope that I might have a baby. What a miracle my little guy is to me. I'd love another, but pictures like this remind me, I asked God for one and he gave me a wonderful one and I am forever grateful!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spiritual Life - God is like Amazon

I've known what Amazon is for a long time, but didn't become the frequent buyer I am today, until I had my little boy. Kids and shopping can be a pain and being able to click and have it shipped in 2 days is a huge blessing. I've gotten some bad product and have had the privilege to see Amazon does really well with returns. They are a good company and I have come to trust and rely on them. So how may you ask is God like Amazon?

Well, I am glad you asked. A couple of years ago, I did a workshop at the Hartland Women's Conference on the "Power of Praise." The Bible seems really clear about the role of praise in our lives. We are to be thankful in all circumstances (I Thessalonians 5:18), we are told the Lord inhabits the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3) and we need to have faith in the victory before we see the results (I Corinthians 15:57).

So, as I processed this recently with some current situations, I thought, God is like Amazon. I know I have bought something when I pay for it, not when I receive it. I have faith that my package will come. It is mine the moment I confirm the purchase. Our answers to prayer happen when Jesus died on the cross. He made it possible that we could be his. He made it possible for sin and death to have no hold on us (Romans 6:14), should we decided to turn our lives over to him (Romans 8). So when I ask for things with faith (James 1:5-8) and ask according to his will (I John5:14-15). I can have confidence in his power to overcome what I face. When I praise him for that I am making the path available for his work (Psalm50:14)when we praise, it releases the power and glory of God into our lives. We often wait to praise when the work is completed, but the work is completed before we see it, just like our packages with Amazon.

We look at circumstances and think God is absent or just doesn't care, but we aren't looking at it from his perspective. He sees what we cannot (2 Peter 3:9) and doesn't just want us happy or physically healed. He wants our spirit healed first and foremost. Not only is his priority our spiritual walk, but we can block his work that belongs to us with negative or anti-faith words (James 1:5-8).

Next time you go before the throne of God, remember God is like Amazon and what you ask for in his will is yours when you ask, not when you see the answer. Walk in faith and make way for the Lord in your life. But be aware: when you allow God to move, he will, and you will never be the same!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Physical Life - Forever Young

As a kid, I thought I would be at my best in my 30's. I couldn't wait until I got to be "that" age. Now, here I am in my 30's, 35 to be exact and it feels weird. Not that I am unhappy or discontent about it, honestly, I think I rock at being 35 and am doing it with style. The part that is weird is that I feel the same as I did at 20. Who I am hasn't changed. Sure I've matured and look at life with a more experienced perspective, but it truly feels like the last 20 years were mere months ago.

I've been working with teenagers since I practically was one and at first I was the hip, cool leader close to their age and now I'm the quirky lady who is the same age as their parents. Where has time gone? I know it only speeds up from here and must be an even further gap as the years pass, because the woman at 80 no doubt feels the same way. Sure our body changes and our pace might slow down, but the spirit of us doesn't change. I connect with people of all ages. Its usually people who hold onto life with a child-like spirit, not to be confused with immature, that I most feel at home around.

I live my life ageless, its not until I get a public reaction that is age appropriate that I realize, oh yeah, I'm 35! Someone recently commented about my 40th birthday being in 5 years and I just thought, is that even possible? Maybe its because I've been working with teenagers for the last 15 years that keeps me focused on life in the younger years, or maybe its because I have a 3 year old and am an older mom. I know one day I will be 80, unless we get raptured beforehand, and that will probably happen before I know it, but I will be forever Carrie, forever young and forever the girl who loves life, travel and hanging out with a lot of people. I will love jumping up and down at concerts, Karoake and road trips.

I'm excited for the journey ahead even though it will continue to get weird as the woman in the mirror begins to look more foreign to the girl inside. But who I am will not change, so when you look at me, or anyone else, don't see the age, see the person. That older woman down the street was your age at one time, and even though you may not see it, that is still who she is.