Joy Unspeakable

tears of joy

She walked in eight weeks ago.  Quiet, unassuming.  Her face bore the lines of pain, a life lived hard, yet showed little emotion. Her presence peaked our interest.  This woman, clearly broken, yet seemingly strong.  Faithfully, each week she appeared.  The first one to enter.  The first one to open her notebook.  The one to quietly spread the Bible before her, highlighter held in gnarled hand.  Others spoke, others shared.  She remained quiet.

Today, she shared.  It was one of the most spiritual, most moving, most worshipful moments I have experienced in years. This woman I had come to know.  This woman I had prayed for, hoped for.  In a moment, in a room filled with her new friends and strangers she chose to let her voice be heard.  With dignity she began.  In tears and brokenness she finished.  A woman isolated, living without purpose.  A woman sitting, waiting.  She’d been told about this program, a Christian program.  She came. What makes a woman who has lived for years in isolation, without friendships, without hope, walk into a building full of strangers to attend weekly classes with other strangers?  Would I?  Today, I saw the depth of her loneliness.  Today, I saw the fullness of her joy.

My heart is full.  I stand amazed at the God I serve.  He moves in the darkest shadows, the quiet moments.  His Spirit moves in the heart of a woman alone, isolated.  She does not leave her home for church or to visit friends.  But in a moment, she gathers the strength to drive across town to enter a strange place and begin again.  I am humbled that my God would grant me the opportunity to be there in that strange place with my friend, waiting, hoping, praying.  I saw God move.  I was reminded again God’s glory is revealed when we come to Him in our brokenness.  Our hearts shatter and as the pieces fall, He fills us with His Spirit.  The tears drop and He catches them.  His love is unveiled and in the deepest of sorrow we feel and know unspeakable joy.

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Don’t Fit In

I don’t usually post on the weekends, but as I sit quietly in my “special place”, quiet house, sun glistening off the water and a cup of coffee, I caught up on some blog reading.  I felt compelled to share this post, not because you need it, because I need it.  As a woman I want friendships, I want my place to belong.  But God has been teaching me, showing me, that is not the desire of His heart for me.  I don’t want to fit in.  I don’t want to be a part of “the group”.  I want to embrace.  I want to embrace the place God has created for me and I want every woman He brings to that place to be touched and I want to be open to being touched. There is no need for group.  There is only need for relationships and love.

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2014/11/how-to-get-over-cliques-get-real-community/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aholyexperience.com%2F2014%2F11%2Fhow-to-get-over-cliques-get-real-community%2F&utm_content&utm_campaign=A+Holy+Experience+Blog+Posts

Are You Going to Do More Than Survive the Holidays? PLAN

I was asked to speak recently at a church women’s event, one of my favorite things to do.  With the holidays upon us, I was asked to speak on surviving the holidays.  For most of us that is exactly how it feels-like we are just surviving.  Much of life used to be that way for me as a strove to find success in my career, sought to have the cleanest house and most organized pantry. Life was often nothing more than moving from task to task, falling into bed exhausted, praying for a little respite to come my way.

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God’s plan for our lives holds so much  more than that.  There are no promises of pain free, sorrow-less days, but there is the promise of transformation, healing, strength, hope and joy.   We are reminded life is lived in the ordinary moments of our days as we love others.

P.L.A.N.

There is a way to develop habits and lifestyle which lead to more than just surviving the days, the holidays.  I’ve not perfected it for myself, but it gives me a guide, an accountability tool to use.  As we plan our days, determine our “to do” list, we need to filter everything through the PLAN.

P:  Purpose/Priorities

L:  Limits/Letting Go

A:  Acknowledge/Assign

N:  Nurture

Purpose and Priorities.  Too often we move through life allowing others to determine our choices and actions.  We say “yes” in order to please, gain a sense of accomplishment, fit in with a group, to avoid guilt, and the list goes on.  We give no thought to our purpose and priorities.

As I have sought to simplify my life and live a more organized life that reflects who I am as a Christian woman I have come to realize I must spend time here-in this place of determining priorities.  Scripture tells me I am to place Christ first, which means daily I must spend time with Him, study Him, seek Him.  Then I must care for those He has entrusted to me, my family.  I then consider the gifts and talents He has given me and consider ways to use those gifts to serve others, whether it is through paid employment or volunteer work.  When you set these priorities and limit your “yes” to only those things you have talents and gifts for, it really isn’t hard to determine priorities.  (The next step will be critical, so come back Monday.)  Interestingly, for those of us who call ourselves, believers, the priorities are pretty much the same.  He has a clear road map in the Bible.  The only real variance is the latter, using our specific gifts and talents.

To live according to our purpose and priorities, we must allow God to transform us.  Transformation begins with the renewing or our minds, thus the scripture reading, bible study, prayer and corporate fellowship.  Scripture also tells us the heart is the wellspring of life.  While we want to think through our decisions carefully, often those “best yes” decisions are the ones made with our whole being.  The one that just “feels” right as it aligns with our minds.  Those decisions you can smile at, settle into like a warm blanket on a cold winter night.  The one that when carried out gives deep satisfaction, peace and joy.

I have come to ask myself this very important question as I try to make that final determination between “want to” and priority. Will doing this “thing” affect someone’s body, mind or spirit.  If not, if it only affects me or has no real relational value, then I don’t do it.  It simply isn’t part of how God has designed us.  Now lest you think that means you can quit cleaning toilets, exercising or all that other mundane, not so much fun stuff, stop and think.  As a wife and mother (or husband and father) the care of my home impacts my family’s mind, body and spirit.  A clean, well managed home provides them a place of shelter in which to find safety, rest, health.  It is a place meant to refresh and prepare them to go out and carry out their purpose and priorities.  Exercise helps me maintain or regain strength.  It offers an opportunity to release stress and ensure my cardiovascular system is staying healthy.  I can then serve better, care for others better.  I can inspire or encourage those around me to do the same for themselves.

Get it?  Setting our purpose and priorities is about perspective.  To have the right perspective you have to stop and give it thought, look in scripture for guidance and seek His counsel that your mind may be transformed and your life may spring up from within your heart.  That is the place of peace and joy.  That is the place that even when tragedy or mishaps occur you can carry on.

What are your purposes and priorities this holiday?  Have you given it any thought?  Mine are:

  1. Create a home environment in which friends and family find peace.
  2. Keep our schedule open enough we have time to fellowship one on one, with family and close friends.
  3. Establish times to serve as a family, remembering Christ came to love, to serve and to save.

Set your “P” today.  Don’t rush into the holiday one more day.  Step back, get some perspective and decide your purpose.

Enough- Do We Just Keep Saying It or Do We Mean It?

I promise you at least a dozen times this weekend I heard someone say, “Enough”, “I’m tired of this”, “Are you kidding me, still?”. I said it myself.  “Enough” of this not getting the chores done.  “Enough” of these busy weekends.  “Enough” of the complaining. We all thought it as election day came and went.  “Enough.”

As I struggled with my own “enough” I had to admit that those things I most often say “enough” over, are the things I am hesitant to confront or change.  They are those things I feel compelled to do because the world offers them up as ‘important’, ‘necessary’, ‘obligatory’.  They are those things I fear will cause me social harm if not done.  They are those things I assume everyone else is doing, juggling with success.  But I must tell you, the more I sit and listen.  The more I find myself seeking to be a hearer and not a just a doer, the more I realize that very few people are meeting success with overbooked, overfilled, over stimulated lives.  In fact, it seems most of us are saying, “Enough.”

I decided to be deliberate.  I wrote down those things I felt were my “enough” items.  I prayed over them during the course of the weekend.  I was reminded most of what I had had “enough” of, was worldly.  We run, racing from one event to another. We fill our kids’ schedules to overflowing afraid they won’t make the team, or be “in” with the right group if we don’t keep up. We choose athletic practices over Sunday evening bible study or Wednesday discipleship.  We choose extra curricular activities, social events over dinner around the table with family.  We guilt ourselves into being at every church event lest those church ladies begin to gossip and judge our spirituality.  We run.  We race.  We grow weary.

God took me back to a scripture so well know.  Romans 12:3.  “Be not conformed.”  How easily we read the words.  Many of us can quote them as easily as we quote John 3:16.  But do we live them?  I don’t.  In those moments of “enough” I realize I vital the scripture is.

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God calls me to live differently.  My life, my calendar should not look like everyone else’s.  It should not resemble the calendar of one who does not serve the risen God.  My life should look different.  My calendar should look different.  His pattern leads to refreshment, peace, joy in the midst of trials.  His path leads to victory as I release the hurts and fears to Him.  I have to make a choice to renew my mind.  I can’t keep racing.  I can’t just keep going.  I have a decision to make.  In that moment of “enough” if I am to live transformed, I must stop and ask myself, “Is this necessary?  Is this the best for me, for my kids, for our family?”  I don’t have to just say, “Enough” and carry on.  I need to stop.  I need to let my “Enough” be a sincere word, an end to the crazy running, striving, seeking affirmation.  “Enough” should drive me to my quiet place, the sitting in stillness asking for Him to speak, give me scripture, guidance.  “Enough” should drive me to live transformed, to quit living conformed.

I challenge you today.  If you have uttered the word “enough” in recent days.  Go back.  What is it you have had “enough” of?Dare to let the “enough” drive you to deliberateness of thought, action.  Dare to stand out from the crowd.  Dare to live as you, as I, as we His church have been called to live-transformed.  Quit being conformed.  Enough is enough.

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Every Decision Matters-For THIS Moment

Our family has had ample opportunity this past month to discuss the importance of decisions.  There have been the normal school decisions, friend issues, but added to that our family circle and community have been impacted by infidelity, pregnancy outside of marriage, loss of life, crime, etc…  Those “big” items that cause you to stop.  As parents, my husband and I have found ourselves pausing to think long and hard about how to explain.  How to teach grace, justice and accountability.  It is not easy.  It often doesn’t make sense.  We want our girls to be forgiving and gracious, yet we want them to understand that no place in God’s word does it say that forgiveness means no consequences, no judgement, no accountability.  They have questions.  We have questions.  We admit all we do not understand.  We share what we know to be truth.

One thing became abundantly clear as we had these discussions over the course of the past few months.  God’s word is not void of instruction.  His word is clear we have choices, which means we have decisions to make.  Every decision matters, for THIS moment and for eternity.  What seems like a seemingly singular event can carry heart ache or patterns of behavior through generations.  One lapse in judgement can create life.  In some of the situations we discussed, our girls could quickly see a pattern of decisions/ a series of decisions, that led to the hardship.  In others it is not so clear.  For some, they are innocent, yet the choices/the decisions of those around them have had impact upon them.  It is much like dropping the stone in the still water.  Circles form, spreading out through the entire lake.  Even the smallest of stones can create a small wave, movement of still waters.

While there were many “Why” questions left unanswered, one lesson was learned by us all.  We were reminded our decisions matter.  Our decisions impact others.  Our decisions are for THIS moment and eternity.  Whether our decisions be good or bad, they have lasting impact.

I am not glad the situations we discussed exist.  They are difficult.  They carry pain and sorrow.  They bring disappointment. However, I am glad the situations led to discussions which led to realizations.  In THIS moment we are conscious of our every choice.  I  know we will not always be on high alert, although we should be.  But for today we are.  I pray the consciousness lingers.  I pray we remember.  I pray we choose His truths, His ways, and we decide obedience.

Quit Blaming Your Stuff: 3 Questions to Help You Be REAL

So often we blame our STUFF or our CALENDAR for the stress in our lives.  Neither is correct.  Each of those are as they are because of choices we have made.  Choices to purchase something, to keep something from mom or grandma’s attic, to commit to an event or activity or project.  We have no one to blame but ourselves.  Ouch.  That hurts.  However, it is the truth.  The longer we live in denial about that fact, the longer we will live in stress, in overwhelmed, in over drive.

It is easy to accumulate.  We accumulate things, tasks, events, people, debt, the list goes on.  We get caught up in “the world” and the way everyone else lives.  We move through life on auto pilot or so busy and distracted we fail to even notice the moment, the people, our choices, our words, our actions.

My desire is not to just be organized.  My desire is to live a simpler life.  I want to live in each moment.  I don’t want the pull of the next task or event to distract me from this moment.  I don’t want the mounds of laundry, overflowing kitchen cabinets, or piles of paper to keep my mind abuzz with “you should”, “you ought to”, “you failure”…  I want life to be simpler.  I want it to be organized. I want it to reflect my style-my heart.  That life requires decisions.  It requires honesty.  It requires knowing where my time will be spent today.

Here are 5 Questions I ask myself:

1.  If I bring this task or thing into my home where will it go?  For tasks, that means where on my calendar will I put it?  For things, that means where in my house will I store it?

2.  Why do I want this thing?/Why do I want to do this task?  I am a firm believer that things need to have a purpose-even if that is to simply sit and look pretty and bring a smile to my face.  I am a firm believer that tasks I do need to fit my Life Statement.  Does this task help me reach a goal or meet a need for the people holding highest priority in my life?

3.  Can I maintain this task or thing?  I have to look ahead at my schedule and my space to determine if next week I can still find time on my calendar or will still have the space for this item.

If I can’t answer these questions, especially number 2, then I give myself 24 hours.  If the thing or task fits, I’ll know.  If I remain uncertain then I let it go, having faith that in due season if it is a necessary thing or task, the opportunity will re-emerge.

I don’t want to go through life on auto pilot.  I don’t want to miss that moment to connect with another.  I don’t want to miss the whisper of the Holy Spirit, because I failed to sit and rest.  I don’t want a home so filled with things that bring me and my family joy, but are never shared with another.  If I don’t, then I have to.  I have to quit blaming my stuff, my calendar or others.  I have to make a decision.

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The Race to Nowhere In Youth Sports

Shana Chaplin:

An incredible, heart felt article that touches on much of what I think about, pray about.

Originally posted on Steve Nash Youth Basketball Blog:

By: John O’Sullivan

Source: http://changingthegameproject.com/the-race-to-nowhere-in-youth-sports/

“My 4th grader tried to play basketball and soccer last year,” a mom recently told me as we sat around the dinner table after one of my speaking engagements. “It was a nightmare. My son kept getting yelled at by both coaches as we left one game early to race to a game in the other sport. He hated it.”

“I know,” said another. “My 10 year old daughter’s soccer coach told her she had to pick one sport, and start doing additional private training on the side, or he would give away her spot on the team.”

So goes the all too common narrative for American youth these days, an adult driven, hyper competitive race to the top in both academics and athletics that serves the needs of the adults, but rarely the kids. As movies such as “The Race to Nowhere

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