Saturday, June 24, 2017

Faithful through the Fire

When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;…
Isaiah 43:2-3

By your Spirit I will rise
from the ashes of defeat
The resurrected King
Is resurrecting me
In your Name I come alive
To declare your victory
The resurrected King
Is resurrecting me
Resurrected – Elevation Worship

It has been exactly 2 months since my apartment went down in flames.  That day I watched everything burn and I clung to the promise that God is still God and that He is good, even in the midst of the fire and destruction.  And now, I can shout it from the rooftops that He is God and He is good!  What could have destroyed me has only made me stronger in Him.  I cannot even begin to explain how many times He has provided for me in the midst of all of this.  There have been so many instances of His grace, provision, mercy, compassion and love.  He has used people to bless me beyond what I ever imagined or can comprehend. 

My school family poured out upon me and enabled me to buy a new wardrobe, shoes, computer and basic necessities.  I keep thinking also of the one student (I don’t know who it was), who donated a dollar, because “that is all they had and they wanted to help”.  It reminds me of the widow’s offering (Luke 21).  Even that dollar has been a huge blessing!

Since the fire, I have closed on a house, moved to Arkansas and started making this house a home.  My insurance has provided an opportunity to put new floors in the house, pay for a wedding and help get out of some debt.  Again, what the enemy could have used to destroy me, God has used to bless and provide.  I have not been destroyed; I have been provided for, loved on, blessed and seen His goodness in the whole process.

I wish I could explain all of the instances where “it just so happened” (because of God!), and how He has worked out the intricacies…..but I don’t even know where to begin!  Maybe in time I can share all of it.  But for now, He is my victory!  I have walked through the fire and not been singed.  He has been my constant help, strength, provider and He has resurrected me from the ashes of defeat because He is the Resurrected King!  All honor and glory to Him alone!



Monday, May 08, 2017

Overcome

It's 2am, and again I cannot sleep.  It seems to happen quite often since the fire.  I wake up and my mind won't turn off.  So here I am, pecking away at the keys, sharing my heart because I don't know what else to do.

Grief or Joy.  It’s a choice I’m faced with each day as I wake up and stare at walls that are not my home, at belongings that are unfamiliar, and look back at once was and is no more.  Watching my home be destroyed by fire could consume me, the flames could have overcome me; but as I watched everything burn that fateful Monday two weeks ago, I realized that I have the One thing that is most important to me… I have Jesus.

I stood there across from my apartment and watched the firemen work tirelessly to put out the flames and I realized that all I owned… I was either wearing it, holding it in my purse or had it in my car (which in this one time, I wished I kept a stash of shoes in my vehicle like my friend who shall remain unnamed!).  My cat was still in the apartment and I didn’t know if she was alive or consumed by the smoke and flames.  Even my Bible was in there.  I stood on that hill with tears streaming down my face, grief hitting and yet felt His peace consume me because I still had Him.  I had friends and coworkers standing by my side, holding me up in prayer and taking care of my basic needs (although I was unaware of this at the time).  I was not alone.  God did not leave me.  Even in the midst of the fire I knew in my gut that He is good and that He is still God.  I had a choice to make:  let this fire overcome me or choose to overcome it.  I chose the latter.  I’m not going to lie…I still have moments where grief strikes and I cry over temporal things, the familiar things that are lost.  But then I do the only thing I know to do, I count my blessings and I share them with Him.  I speak out what He has provided, what He has done, and what He will do.  I cling to His promises for my life.  

Waking up the next morning in borrowed pajamas, I again was faced with that choice:  be overcome or be an overcomer.  I stood in the make-up aisle of Walmart crying because I couldn’t even remember what color foundation I was using. I was wearing unfamiliar clothes that people bought for me, unfamiliar shoes, and crying.  I let that grief hit and I stood there and prayed in that Walmart aisle.  I prayed that God would take all this pain, grief and devastation and use it for His glory.  I prayed that His promises would prevail and that others would come to know Him because of this.  I had to choose to overcome by His strength and His grace.

I’ve also had to learn to receive.  That’s been the most difficult lesson in all of this.  I find it so much easier to bless others than to be on the receiving end.  But this time, I needed to receive.  God has used so many people to bless me but it has not only been a blessing to me, but to my family as well.  My family has witnessed (from thousands of miles away) people showering me with gift cards, finances, prayers and encouragement and it is causing them to turn and thank God.  

I have also seen God’s provision and favor.  Six hours after the fire, I went back to the apartment and spoke with the fire chief about my cat.  Before the firemen left, he asked them to check my apartment one last time and they found my cat...drenched but alive.  And then when I met with my insurance a few days later, we were standing in front of the apartment and found out that no one was allowed in.  The fire inspector “just so happened” to be there and overheard our conversation.  He began showing me pictures of my apartment and when I saw my grandmother’s paintings untouched by the fire, I told him that’s all I wanted.  Unbeknownst to me, he had the authority to allow us in.  He decided to take me into my apartment to retrieve those paintings.  At the same time, I was able to grab my Bible which was untouched by water or fire (while everything else around it was soaked).  The kindness of the fire inspector allowed me to retrieve sentimental possessions and provided me with my Bible again (3 days without one in something like this is difficult…I am thankful for His Word tucked in my heart!). 


So even in the midst of devastation and destruction, God is still good, He is still God and His promises never fail.  I can overcome because of His grace, mercy, strength and power working in and through me.  And I’m learning that those treasures stored up in heaven are the things worth fighting for.  All these things on earth can be replaced, but the lives of my family and friends…. that’s what matters.  My prayers for people are more fervent now than ever before. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Monday may have won today, but my dukes are up and I'm stillfighting!!!!

Sleep eludes me. It shouldn't after the Monday I've had, and yet it does.  And as I lay here wishing the sandman would visit, I'm left pondering so many things and being overwhelmed with gratitude.

I'm grateful that everyone made it out safely. I'm grateful that the firemen went into my apartment hours later and found my cat, still alive and well. I'm grateful that quite a few of my belongings are already in Arkansas. I'm grateful for friends, who just happen to be the family I work with, supporting me throughout it all today. And that they went shopping for things I didn't even know I needed (like tweezers for those pesky chin hairs).

And I lay here overwhelmed. It's hard to think about all the things that were lost today. Grandma's and great-grandma's paintings. Family furniture. Tokens of memories from Brazil and my other travels. All of my favorite clothes and shoes. Even medicine, contacts and glasses and essential oils. My Bible.

You never know what you need until it's gone. Like my phone dying but my charger is buried under water and smoke. Or the paperwork for the house I'm buying. Or my car title that I had just received. Diplomas. My computer that housed my checkbook (that could spell trouble soon!). Blankets my mom made for me. Or how about when I walked in to the gym because I needed something normal, and realized all I had were the clothes on me and the boots I was wearing (and I just simply walked on that treadmill as is!).  And good grief....I need hair stuff! And face moisturizer. And sports bras again. Ugh!!!!

But really, it's all just stuff.  I know that grief will come in waves, and I also know the way for me to press on is to remember and recall all the things I can be grateful for.

1. A to call home this next month.
2. My cat asleep at my feet.
3. Everyone is safe!
4. Daniel coming up here to help.
5. My workplace that is family.
6.  Friends who actually like to shop and know my style (I despise shopping...and now I have a lot of it ahead of me)
7.  Things can be replaced (just with effort).
8. Renters insurance
9. I wasn't at home when that fire broke out!
10. God is still God and He's still good!!!!!!
11. It will all be ok.

Thank all for your prayers and support. My phone and Facebook have exploded today. I cannot respond to everything and everyone because it's just overwhelming at the moment, but know I appreciate it all. Thank you!!!!

Now Mr. Sandman....please come pay me a visit! 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Someone shook my snow globe!


My grandma’s house contains a menagerie of snow globes.  She has all kinds:  ones that light up, musical ones, the old twisty kinds, the click-of-the-button new kinds, and just the good old shake’em up kind.  I loved as a kid to make them all go at once.  I would sit there and get as many of them to sing at the same time and/or light up and then I would shake them all and watch the snow swirl around in them until it finally settled down.  There was always something magical about it.  Something that once was calm, only to be shaken up with snow swirling so forcefully that the little villages and figures are hidden, then watch it calmly float down and settle again into a different spot.  Even after the snow was stirred, the scene always returned to a thing of beauty.

I feel like my snow globe of life has been shaken up a little.  Back in the fall I was minding my own business teaching and serving at church.  I had finally come to terms with my singlehood, my life, and all that it was.  I was content, in heart and in mind, and with God.  Content but not complacent.  And then the snow started swirling as if someone had picked up my life and started moving things around.  But it was a gentle movement.  It was a good movement, a happy kind.

I started dating someone that I have known for many years (13-14 years I think).  For anyone who knows me, they know that this is kind of a big deal.  Me dating?!?!  I just don’t.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve dabbled in the whole online dating thing and found out that it definitely was NOT for me.  But to be in a serious relationship….nope, not something that I had experienced much before.  So my life is different now.  And I like it!  The only problem is that he lives in another state, 6 hours away!  So now I have the privilege of being in a long-distance relationship!  The snow in my snow globe of life is swirling a little more, changing the scenery a little.  And it’s beautiful!

Enter January.  It’s the month when real snow should be covering the ground, but it’s 60 degrees outside and I wore flip flops today!  However, the snow in my life is swirling so much that the scenery is now hidden, but it’s not a bad thing, I like it.  In my grandma’s snow globes I always enjoyed this part because I knew it would all settle and create a beautiful calm picture in the end.  Sometimes shaking needs to happen in order for God to work out His ways.  That life that I knew in the fall, well it won’t be my life this coming fall.  Within this short month of January, I have put in my resignation at one job, interviewed at another and been offered the position and accepted it.  With this new job also comes one last move for me.  A move to Arkansas to be with my guy and his kids (and his whole extended family 😃).  Life next fall will involve teaching at a high school, in a small town (population 8000….8001 with me joining), and forging ahead into unknown territory for me.  Nothing will be the same.  The job, the age of kids I’ll be working with, church, culture (hello south!), personal life.  All the unknown. 

My life has had many of these snow globe shakings.  Some have been pleasant, others ferocious.  But this one…this is peaceful, joyful and filled with excitement (okay…maybe some tears…I’m a girl after all!).  I will not lie and say that I’m not scared.  I am.  This is the first time I will be moving for someone.  That’s a scary thing!  My heart is on the line.  But over and over, he has reiterated to me that I am not alone in this, that I am wanted, cherished and loved.  All this waiting that I’ve done for someone great for so many years, well, I’ve got him.  He’s found me, and he’s found a good thing.  And I am blessed by it.  As scary as it is, I’m more excited about it than anything.  And here’s why:  God, well, He is definitely at work shaking the snow around.  He is the one that I keep turning to and He keeps answering.  I have never, in all my adventures with my jobs and moving, etc., had anything go as smoothly or as quickly as this has.  Maybe it helps that the entire time (since September before all this even started), I have been praying:

Barricade the road that goes nowhere, grace me with Your clear revelation.  I choose the true road to Somewhere, I post Your road signs at every curve and corner.  I grasp and cling to whatever You tell me; God, don’t let me down!  I’ll run the course You lay out for me if You’ll just show me how.
Psalm 119:29-32 MSG

He has done just that.  This path has been ridiculously smooth so that only He is the one who gets the credit.  It is His alone.  So as the snow swirls around me, I stand in Him waiting for it all to settle and I anxiously await the beautiful scene that He is creating.  I’m not standing alone.  God is here and my guy is here, and his kids.  So as the snow settles, I’m guessing there will be a little less of it thanks to the south, but it will be beautiful none-the-less. 

And that folks, is the next chapter He is writing.  I am looking forward to it!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Stories

Stories.  Movie and books are full of stories.  Words are everywhere, creating stories all around us.  And lately my heart and mind has been fixated on this particular word: story.  It's been mulling around in my ever constant thoughts, it's been showing up in my quiet times and in the loud times at work.  And then just yesterday it's what I felt God pressing on my heart to share with a group of middle school FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) students. 

Life is a story; a story full of individual chapters, cliff hangers, flashbacks and foreshadowing experiences.  As I've pondered this, I've also come to look at the Bible in the same fashion.  It is full of stories of the lives of those who have gone before us.  And in these stories, we are privileged to see chapters of their lives.  For some, we get to see the beginning chapters (ex. Moses, Jesus, Samuel, David), but for others we are only able to see a glimpse into a couple of chapters of their story.  Yet even those glimpses provide powerful testimonies of God's faithfulness, mercy, goodness and love.

What about in my life?  In yours?  What chapter of your story are you living out right now?  That's the question I posed to the students yesterday.  What is God writing in your life at this exact moment?  Is it a chapter of trials and pain?  Joy and blessings?  Family issues or school trouble?  What is it that is going on in your life right now?  What is this chapter going to look like for you? 

Somehow yesterday I wound up sharing about my middle school experience with the kids.  I did not set out with an intention of sharing that information, but that's how God works sometimes.  It's a bit difficult for me, a teacher, to share with the kids the tumultuous time I had in middle school.  The bad grades, the major band geek I was, the family strife and the trouble I got in to.  I mean who really wants to share that they received failing grades in middle school?  Not this teacher!  But then I was able to share about how those chapters are part of my story and have brought me here today where I have the honor and joy of working with middle schoolers....and actually LOVE it!!! 

There will be chapters in your life that are ugly and you may wish you could delete them.  I'm guessing King David felt the same way!  But look what happened.....instead of deleting his affair, David humbled himself and God wrote a story of redemption full of blessings (after a little bit of pain) and creating a powerful legacy from it.  So those ugly chapters in your life...well, God may want to do something beautiful with them.  And those chapters may be the testimony that someone else needs to see and hear in order to be encouraged to press on through difficult times.  Sharing a part of your story, a chapter, is your testimony.

God is in the midst of a creating a new chapter in my life.  I'm still learning to put words to it, they are still stirring deep in my soul.  This chapter has been one that I've longed for, for so long that I don't know how to share it.  It's not what I expected, but it is so much better than I could ever have imagined.  Maybe in time I will be able to put words to this chapter.  But for now, I am able to look back at all that God has written in my life and I can see His hand....His mercy, grace, provision, protection, forgiveness, redemption and most importantly...His love.  And for now, that is my testimony.  God is good and He is love.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Feet to Faith

Sitting in a foster/adoption class is a scary thing.  Sitting here as a single female...terrifying, yet exhilarating.  This may not be how I envisioned this all going down, but I'm sitting here nonetheless.  If I were to be transparent with ya'll, I had this pretty picture of my husband and I taking this adventure together, with our 3.5 children ready for new siblings, and our dog happily chasing squirrels in the front yard near the white picket fence.  But that's not what life has dished out to me; and instead of wasting more years playing the waiting game, I'm finally putting feet to faith and to my dreams.

And so here I sit.  Single.  Almost 36 (just three more days at 35...sigh).  With a cat who uses the wall as a trampoline.  And wondering how I wound up in a training class when I thought it was simply an informational class on foster care and adoption.  Must be God's sense of humor! HA!

Do I think this is an ideal situation?  Nope.

Do I want to do this alone?  Nope.

Do I have all the necessary tools and qualifications?  Nope.

Do I have an open heart and home?  Yes.  A resounding yes.

Am I willing?  Yes...by God's strength.

So here I am, venturing out beyond the shores into the tumultuous ocean waves of the unknown.  But I am willing and that is all He asked of me.  As Peter walked out onto the water, so I am stepping out.

Will I be perfect?  Not in the slightest.

Will I fail?  Every single day/moment.

Am I willing?  Yes, even in my weakness, I am willing.

There are kids out there in need of consistent, Godly love, and my heart is ready.  Will it break?  In a million pieces for these kids every single day.  But I am willing to be broken to give out what God has poured into me.

 
"Love isn't about how much money someone's willing to lay down for you, but about how much life they're willing to lay down for you."
~Ann Voskamp
 
"Pour out your life in small moments - because it's only these moments that add up to the monumental.  The only way to live a truly remarkable life is not to get everyone to notice you, but to leave noticeable marks of His love everywhere you go."
~Ann Voskamp
 
I'm not doing this for the accolades or the attention.  I will probably wind up with more gray hairs, dark circles under my eyes, bruises on my knees from constant prayer and a heart that is broken again and again by the pain these kids have experienced.  That sure doesn't sound attractive, and will probably put me on the "do not go near her list, she's too complicated and that gray hair is out of control" ...which means I may remain single.  HA!  And in all reality, this act of faith may not come to fruition for another year or so....which means those pesky gray hairs can stay in hiding a little longer.
 
But really, all God asked of me was if I was willing. 
 
Yes.  Yes I am.  So here I am...feet to faith.
 
"Real love is in the really small gestures - the way your hands, your feet, move to speak your heart."
~Ann Voskamp
 
#TheBrokenWay

Sunday, October 02, 2016

The Waiting Place


I have been blessed with the opportunity to be part of a book launch.  Not just any book launch, but Ann Voskamp’s!  If you don’t know who she is, well, you are missing out!  As part of this launch, I have been grafted into a community of other believers who have the chance to read Ann’s (we’re on a first name basis…she liked one of my posts, after all) new book, The Broken Way, which is being released later this month (October 25th to be exact).  With this community we are able to share our stories of brokenness and healing.  I’ve read stories from all of these women (and men) and my heart has grieved with them and rejoiced with them.  I’ve watched as they have posted about how the book is stirring new things in their broken hearts, how it has encouraged them and drawn them closer to God with a deeper understanding and meaning for their brokenness. 

And then I’ve waited.  I’ve waited for something to strike the core of me as I’ve read, because I knew it would come.  Books have that way with me.  Words have a way of piercing my innermost being, striking a match and lighting a flame of passion for God, and a flame where the ugliness inside of me can be laid upon a burning altar for God to purify. 

Then came Chapter 6.  Oh dear, sweet chapter six.  The words hit home…a home run to my heart with the battles I’ve been waging as of lately!

“Look, the whole lot of us are done with waiting room theology.  We are done waiting for some elusive future moment to say life is good enough.  We are done waiting for some big enough house, some big enough step up, some big, exciting enough experience to finally think we’ve arrived at the abundance of being and living enough…. we are done with waiting room living.”  (p.87)

I don’t know if you’ve ever read “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss.  If not, go to your local library and check it out NOW!  It’s not just a book for kids.  Trust me!  Anyway, back to Ann and her words.  When I read that quote, I thought about all of the times I’ve waited and I thought about the waiting place in Dr. Seuss’ book.  Waiting is hard.  Waiting makes me feel like life is stagnant.  You know, that quiet still pond that is buried underneath that green-smelly moss?  That kind of stagnant.  Blech!  And I feel like I’ve been waiting lately.

“Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go, or the mail to come, or the rain to go…. everyone is just waiting…NO! That’s not for you!” (Dr. Seuss)

I don’t want to wait around for life to find me.  I want to live an abundant life. It’s what has been my heart’s cry lately…ABUNDANT LIFE!  And I feel like this nugget in chapter six was written just for my heart! 

“What if instead of waiting for good enough things to happen to us, we could be the good thing to happen to someone else who’s waiting?  What if we could cure our own waiting room addiction by making room in our life to be the good others are waiting for? … What if abundant living isn’t about what you can expect from life, but what life can expect from you?” (p.87)

Ann goes on to say, “the world is brokenhearted and full of suffering, and if you listen to what life needs instead of what you need from it, you could fill the brokenness with your own brokenhearted love – and this will in turn fill you.” 

Ahhh…. the truth that I couldn’t put into words.  Living to give myself to others is when life becomes abundant.  Really, if you look at the life of Jesus, didn’t he do this?  Wasn’t He giving Himself so that others could have life.  He gave everything.  So why do I hold back giving of myself, giving of my time, my energy, my talents, my love?

“What if living the abundant life isn’t about having better stories to share but about living a story that lets others live better?” (p.92)

I want an abundant life that lets others live better.  I have been through things that have torn my heart to pieces.  I’ve watched friends go through difficulties that have rocked them to the core.  And I’ve watched those same friends give out of their brokenness, even though it broke them a little each time they did so.  Their pain and their brokenness allowed others to find healing and in the process they found healing, and abundant life.  I want to do the same, use my broken pieces of my past to help others find healing, find life.

“When you are filled to the brim with the enoughness of Christ, the only way you can possibly have more is to pour yourself out.  The only way to more life is by pouring more of yourself out.” (p.93)

Abundant life = pour out receive more pour out receive more repeat

“Live for something worth dying for.  Let love break into you and mess with you and loosen you up and make you laugh and cry and give and hurt because this is the only way to really live…Don’t waste a minute on anything less than what lasts for all eternity.” (p.95)

Eternity.  What is the one thing that will last for all eternity?  People.  It’s time for me to live that abundant life that I have been praying for.  It’s time to pour out on the people around me, at work, on the kids at the therapeutic riding center, at church, to the people I run into in the community.  It’s about people.  So maybe my prayers for an abundant life start with giving of myself.  Thank you Ann, for your words in chapter six.  They were exactly what I needed in this moment as I grasp the abundant life.

 “You are where you are for such a time as this – not to make an impression, but to make a difference.” (p.91)

For more information, check out the book at:  www.TheBrokenWay.com