Sunday, November 29, 2015

giving thanks?

When did we lose sight of what it really means to be thankful? Why have we made the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas about accumulating stuff, about having the biggest and brightest and best? We seem to have lost sight of what this season is supposed to be--

Thanksgiving has become nothing more than a placeholder on the calendar, almost a joke of a day for most of our country. It is supposed to be the day we remember how blessed we are (and we are blessed beyond measure) and how God has provided for us, but instead it is often used as a planning day for Black Friday shopping. Now, many stores are even starting their sales on Thursday night. They don't even list the day as "Thanksgiving" on their ads.

Then there's the Christmas season. Forget the idea of the secular world's "war on Christmas," because we do a good enough job of that on our own. We stress and fret and overdo everything, searching for the perfect gifts--all the while pushing the true Perfect Gift into the background of our minds. We make this season on of busy-ness instead of one of focus. Isn't it ironic that we spend so much money and do so many elaborate things in the name of celebrating the One who came to earth as a baby in a manger?

This season, I challenge all of us to have an intentional season, one of focus on the true meaning of this time.

"Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams,
a child is born, sweet-breathed;
a son is given to us: a living gift.
And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair,
He is great.
The power of leadership, and the weight of authority,
will rest on His shoulders.
His name? His name we'll know in many ways--
He will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Dear Father everlasting,
ever-present never-failing,
Master of Wholeness,
Prince of Peace."
~Isaiah 9:6, The Voice translation

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

the waiting place

I thought I was alone in the dark, lost. It was cold and lonely there, in that waiting place. No matter how much I craned my neck--no matter how hard I squinted my eyes against the dark--I simply couldn't see God.

Like Job, I wanted to say, "My days fly faster than a weaver's shuttle. They end without hope." (Job 7:6)

It's easy to feel alone in the dark, especially when it feels like that darkness is around you because you're stuck down deep in a hole.No matter which direction you turn, there just doesn't seem to be a way out. And sometimes, it seems like the harder you fight to get out of that hole, the deeper you get. It's almost like quicksand, sucking you in faster the more you struggle against it.

The thing is, I was reminded in a blog post from Ann Voskamp that the dark waiting place isn't unusual. In fact,it could even be called an integral part of faith:

~Moses's mom waited for her baby to be pulled from the river.
~Noah and his family waited for the the waters to retreat back to their limits.
~Abraham and Sarah waited until old age for a promised son.
~Simeon and Ana waited for the birth of the Messiah.
~Mary and Martha waited for Jesus to come heal their brother, Lazarus.
~Joseph waited in an Egyptian dungeon for years.
~Daniel waited in the lions' den.
~Paul and numerous disciples spent time waiting in prison.

Maybe the biggest story of waiting can be seen in Jesus Himself. Throughout His ministry, He told His disciples on multiple occasions that He would have to die. Essentially that means He spent His entire ministry waiting for what He knew was coming--His death. We see the culmination of His earthly waiting that night in the garden. The waiting was so hard that night, so agonizing, that He sweated blood. His waiting ended in an excruciating death on the cross.

Even that wasn't the end of His waiting, though. Following His death, Christ waited in death for three days before rising from the dead to sit at His Father's right hand on the throne of Heaven.

All of us are waiting for the Kingdom of God to be established here on earth. All of creation is waiting for the moment when order will be restored, when the created will all praise the Creator.

So when you're waiting in the dark, know that you aren't alone no matter how it feels. Waiting is part of this crazy, beautiful thing we call life, and it's a huge part of faith.  

Eventually the waiting will end, and God will be right there.

Waiting for you, just like He was all along.



Saturday, October 17, 2015

happy birthday, kiddo!

Happy Birthday, Sarah!
According to my mom, she walked in one night as I was saying my prayers just in time to hear me asking God to send me a baby sister...
The result of that prayer was a baby born October 17, 1989. I can remember Pop bringing her out, all wrapped up in a receiving blanket and asking Michael and me if we thought it was a boy or a girl. My prayers were answered with a brand new sister...
Through the years, she drove me crazy. We shared a room for my elementary school years, sponge painted pink...
She wrinkled her nose when she smiled, a dimple showing in her cheek...
That little girl who annoyed me beyond belief when we were little has grown into one of my best friends...

A beautiful, strong, amazing wife and mother to the little girl who is quite possibly the best niece on the planet...




I love you, kiddo :) Happy 26th!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

twisting verses...

I was greeted a couple of mornings ago by a word of warning from my sister. Her post went right along with a series of sermons a friend from high school--a pastor now--has been giving at his church lately. In Sarah's own words (and yes, I got her permission first!): "I believe there is danger in taking a verse out of context. Every verse was put in its place for a reason, picked by God himself. If you remove that verse and use it to fit your own purpose you have changed the very essence of it."
by Sarah


It seems like such a common thing lately--people pick and choose which verses they want to put on display for one reason or another. I guess that's been happening since the Scriptures were first written down, but is sure seems prevalent now. No matter which side of an issue someone is on, it seems like they twist verses to show how Jesus would be on their side.

People dismiss the verses that make them uncomfortable or that don't fit in line with the point they are truing to make. They say, "Oh, times have changed so much since then. That just doesn't pertain today--it's too old fashioned."

The thing is, we're told in Hebrews 13:8 that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." We're also told in John that Jesus is the Word of God. That means that the Word of God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It doesn't change with the times because Jesus doesn't change with the times. God is timeless, and therefore so is His Word. And as it says in II Timothy 3:16-17, "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

All scripture, not just the verses we want to pick and choose so that we can make a point. That means the verses we want to shout from the mountaintops and the verses that make us cringe in shame because they remind us of our own personal failures. In Jesus's own words, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:3-5)

We have to be careful, especially in this world that is desperate for some small glimpse of the truth. We need to speak truth, but we need to make sure that we are speaking the whole truth. Partial truths are dangerous, partly because it is so easy to make them sound however we want them to. Our world is longing for the truth, even though most people don't realize it. As followers of Christ, we are called to speak the truth and to do so in love. We need to draw others to Christ, and then let Him change their hearts. It's important to remember that we are all sinners saved by grace, and none of us are worthy of the gift we've been given.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

hiding in the dark...a confession

I have to confess something to you.

I've been a wimp lately.

I've been turning the news off most of the time. because I'm tired of listening to it. I'm tired of hearing about heartbreak, wars, and death. I' tired of hearing about the culture wars going on right now. I'm tired of hearing politicians bash each other (and we're still over a year away from the election--good grief!). I'm tired of evil, and of people trying to pass evil off as good. I've stopped following people on facebook simply because I was frustrated by what they were posting.

Basically I'm tired of all of it, and my solution has been to just ignore it.

Pop called me on it a while back--he has a tendency to do that. He doesn't do it in an obtrusive way. If you know him, you know that he has the ability to put the equivalence of a lecture into a single question. I was talking about the facebook thing and some post I didn't agree with, and he asked me what I said in response. When I said I didn't say anything, that I was tired of fights on facebook and that the person in question wouldn't change her mind anyways, it sounded wimpy even to me.

We are called to be a light for others, but we can't do that if we're hiding.

As I've looked around lately, I've seen more and more that's made me want to hide. The world is becoming an incredibly dark place. Maybe it's been that way for quite a while, The difference is, the United States used to be a place of refuge. Now, our country has joined the rest of the world in ushering in darkness.

Our "leaders" have declared that sexual immorality is not only okay, but is something to be celebrated. They've gone so far as to say that those who oppose should be prosecuted for their "bigotry".

Parents are being applauded for playing into their children's delusions and buying hormones to try to suppress their genes (I find it ironic that people are heroes for giving their kids unneeded hormones and villains for treating animals with hormones...). There are reality shows celebrating the confusion of a man and a young boy who were so insecure in their own skin that they've chosen to hide behind looking like a woman and a young girl.

When faced with the scientific proof that unborn babies being aborted are human enough to have their organs harvested, people still claim that they are not people and therefore have no rights. Some of those same people argue that chickens shouldn't be killed for food because they have rights, too!

Yes, this world is becoming an awfully dark place. It would be easy to hide--it's always easy to hide in the dark. The problem is, hiding doesn't make anything better. One day, my kids will have to navigate this world. If all they've seen me do is hide, they won't try to do anything else. They won't claim the verse, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (II Timothy 1:7) if they have only seen the opposite to be true.

One day in the future, my kids may be called on to stand up and confess their belief in and reliance on God. I want them to have the strength and courage to do that, even in the face of darkness. I want them to shine so brightly that there would be no chance of them hiding.

This world is dark, and our country is quickly working to snuff out any lights still burning. The good news?

"This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you,
that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all."
(I John 1:5)

If we remain in Him, we don't have to hide in the dark.
So be bold.
Speak up.
Take a stand.
Let your light shine, especially now that the darkness is closing in. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

life is crazy right now...

Ahh, life... it's just downright crazy at times, isn't it? Right now, it feels like it's crazier than it has been in a long time. To be honest, there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I have to do, let alone the things I want to get done or the things I feel like I need to do to stay same (namely, writing).

Just in case anyone was wondering,  I'm teaching Math 7, Math 8, two classes of Geometry, Algebra I, and Algebra II this year. That is keeping me busier than I ever imagined possible, but I have to tell you that I'm starting to see all those kids as my own. And I have to say, my new favorite phrase is when one of the kids says, "Is that all you have to do?" after they realize that something in math isn't as hard as they had thought.

Nathan and I are also the new Junior class sponsors, which entails working a concession stand (manned by high school kids) at the home Razorback games. And yes, that's as chaotic as it sounds.

We're finally moving some boxes out of the house and into storage (since we don't have any extra space at home right now), so if you looked at our house right now you would probably wonder what tornado came through.

At times, it's pretty overwhelming.

To top it off, I've found a writing contest I would really like to enter. It's definitely not a necessity, but it feels like an opportunity I need to take advantage of because it could be such a great thing. The deadline is the end of November, though, so I'm not so sure I'm going to be able to pull it off this time. Even if I can't finish by the deadline, though, what I'm working on right now is something I feel like God is telling me to write (because it's definitely not something I want to do--I've started over more times than I can count).

On the plus side, though, it is great to be home again. We're in the middle of nowhere, which is exactly where we want to be. The kids can wander through the field or through the woods, and at night the only man-made lights are miles away. You've never seen the Milky Way until you've stood in the middle of a field at night with your head thrown back and nothing else around.

Life is crazy busy, and sometimes that makes me lose sight of how blessed I have been.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

when God doesn't seem faithful

Today is always such a strange day for me. Today marks 11 years since my brother was killed in Iraq.

11 years--more than a decade without being picked on by the guy who always told me it was his job to keep me humble and to teach me how to throw a punch.

Life has changed so much; I'm not even the same person I was the last time I saw him in person, 3 January 2004--my wedding day. I can't help but wonder what he would think about the person I am today, and I sure wish I could watch my kids play with their uncle.

There are moments in life that change you forever, moments that happen in a heartbeat yet affect your entire outlook. Sometimes those moments are so dramatic that it seems like the rest of the world should be changed, too. I think that's one of the hardest things to deal with--the fact that the rest of the world simply goes on. At times, it seems like it's going on without you.

There are lessons in everything in life, even though sometimes it takes years to grasp them. For a long time, I didn't want to even think about what I was learning from Michael's death quite simply because I didn't want to think about the fact that he was gone. My walls have slowly been coming down, though, and as they are chipped away I see glimpses.

The biggest lesson I'm still learning is that God is faithful even when it doesn't seem like it. That one's hard for me. If something appears one way in life, I tend to think that that's how it is. I'm a pretty literal, logical person most of the time, so I struggle with things that aren't that way.

When Michael was killed in that tank in Najaf, Iraq, I have to admit that it sure didn't seem like God was very faithful.

There's one of those acronyms that floated around church camps back in the late 90s: PUSH. Pray Until Something Happens. In a simplistic faith, we pray and keep praying until God does what we want Him to do. We prayed for
Michael's safety over there in Iraq. We're a praying bunch, so there were lots of prayers. Do you know what the  PUSH mindset tells you when your prayers aren't answered the way you want them to be? I must not have been praying hard enough or I must have been using the wrong words somehow or what's probably even more common, I must have done something wrong and God's not listening to my prayers.

I still don't have answers to all my questions. I haven't been given some divine revelation about God's purpose. A lot of the time, I'm still walking through life in the dark. The thing is, through it all God truly is faithful. He's in control even when I can't see it, and He's there even when I can't feel Him.

He is faithful...even when it doesn't seem like it.

Monday, August 10, 2015

road blocks

So...life. I have to tell you, sometimes I really don't understand it. Just when it seems things are headed one direction, a bend in the road suddenly reveals a road block.

Sometimes a road block is an attack from the enemy, something he throws in the way to keep you from accomplishing what has been planned for you. When that's the case, it's our job to keep pushing--to find some way to break past the road block and get back on the right road. In those cases, we need to fight with everything we have to move the road block out of the way.

Other times, a road block is something God puts in the road to show you that you're headed the wrong direction. When that's the case, we have to back up and figure out where we took a wrong turn so that we can get back on track. We have to stop pushing and realize that that road is being blocked for a reason.

The problems start when you can't figure out which side created the road block.


Sometimes, no matter how often you pray for guidance, God is silent. That's not something that gets preached a lot; we all want to hear that God will answer every prayer the minute we pray it in a way we'll understand. In those times when we don't get a nice, neatly worded answer, it's hard to trust. For me, that was the word for 2015: trust. I should have known that this year would require a lot of trust when that was the word that came up back in January. That's been the case each year since I started taking part in the "one word" challenge. I guess that's been God's way of preparing me for what's to come each year, because those words (faithful, follow, do not neglect your gift, and trust) have definitely foreshadowed the year.

Right now, I don't know if all the road blocks being thrown in front of me are things I'm supposed to push past or if they are things God is putting in the way to try to get me to turn around. Honestly, I don't think I would be surprised by either one. At this point, I really don't even care which it is--I would just like to find out which it is. Until then, like David I'll remind myself:

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble. 
 Those who know Your name trust in You,
    for You, Lord, have never forsaken
those who seek You.
Psalm 9:9-10 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

a bit lost...

It seems I've been doing this a lot lately--staring at a blank piece of paper (or screen in this case) with no idea what to write.

I know I need to write. I can feel something inside me withering because the words haven't been coming lately. Every time I try to, though, I just get...lost. The words seem to be getting stuck somewhere, and I'm not sure if it's the wiring in my head, heart, or hands that keeps getting crossed. Maybe it's a mix of all three.

In all honesty, I'm at a bit of a loss right now. A loss for words, but that's not all. I feel a bit lost in general. Does that come as a surprise? It has to me, to be sure. 11 and 1/2 years into my marriage, after 2 kids and 2 degrees, and now after we've moved back "home" to the hills of Arkansas I feel a bit like I'm wandering aimlessly with no idea what direction I should be going.


You would think that after writing a devotional all about following the Way when you can't see the path, I would have that figured out for myself, but I haven't found that to be the case. Sometimes, it seems to work that way...I can teach a lesson before I've really come to terms with it myself.

This would be the time when I would normally figure out just what it was I was trying to say, but it really just isn't happening this time. Life is all crazy and things seem bent out of shape, and I can't quite wrap my head around what I should be doing or which direction I should be headed...

So instead, I'll leave you with the verse I've had on my mind a lot lately:
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
~Philippians 1:27a

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

love mercy...

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."
~Michah 6:8

Mercy. In the dictionary and concordance in the back of my Bible, it says mercy is forgiveness or compassion. In another sense, though, we have an opportunity to "love mercy" in a very tangible way.

If you've never heard of the Mercy House, you should hop over there and check it out. To give you the short version, the Mercy House is a place for young ladies who are about to become mothers. They move into Rehema House (Rehema=Mercy in Swahili) where they are loved by beautiful servants of God, and where they are shown that their lives and the lives of their beautiful babies are full of promise because of God's love for them. It is the result of one woman (and her family) saying yes to a crazy dream God put in her heart.

Now, though, God has opened doors that lead all over the world. Through those doors are artisans who are now being given the opportunity to support themselves and their families using the skills and talents God gave them.
About a month ago, I received a beautiful pair of earrings from artisans in India.
(Mine are just like the ones on the far right--sorry, in the move I can't really get to the right cords to connect my camera and computer to show you a real picture!) They came to my mailbox through the Fair Trade Friday Club. You can get a new pair of earrings each month, along with a trinket bag to keep them in. If the earrings one month aren't your style--or if you look at them and say, "Oh, my sister would love these!"--you can give them to someone else using the gift tag that gets added to each bag.
 
If you aren't an earring person, there's also an option of getting a box of goodies each month, full of beautiful things that are giving some beautiful people the chance to earn a fair wage.
 
I haven't started the club yet, but once I get an address (oh, the joys of moving!) I'm going to be signing up. What a beautiful way to love mercy...
 

when we forget

It feels like the world is falling apart. In all honesty, it's been falling apart since the moment sin entered the Garden. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says that order tends to chaos, meaning an ordered system will become disordered over time, and that's exactly what has been happening since this earth began.

We've been sheltered here in the United States, to be truthful. We've had the chance to live in a country founded on belief in the Creator, started by men who knew that only God's blessings and mercy could sustain such a country. But now, it seems as if our country--and those leading it--has turned its back on God. We've redefined life, marriage, love, right, and wrong, things that were never ours to define to begin with. We've accepted sin--even condoned it--in every facet of life: greed, sexual impurity, envy, deceit, gossip, arrogance, disobedience, and faithlessness are all commonplace (see Romans 1:24-32).

As we look around at our country and see how quickly people have turned against God, I think it's easy to forget.

We forget that God is still in control, that His throne isn't shaken just because people have refused to recognize Him as King.

We forget that His power isn't dependent on us, and that He said, "My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please" (Isaiah 46:10b).

We forget that He is still working miracles in the lives of His children, such as His beautiful daughters in Kenya whose lives have been touched by the Mercy House.

We forget that He said, "Turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, My mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear. They will say of Me, 'In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength'" (Isaiah 45:22-24).

From our view, order tends to chaos. From God's view, though, everything we see as chaos He sees as moving toward His purpose.

Monday, June 29, 2015

so...blank space

Well, it's been a while...I've been pretty well silent this month, haven't I? To those of you who check in with me from time to time, I apologize for my silence. Honestly, there are a lot of big changes happening right now in our family, so things have been crazy!

Just as a quick catch up...

We're in the process of moving from Ohio back to Arkansas, where Nathan and I will both be jumping in to the world of education. Him in history, me in math. 

We're working on figuring out how to make all of our earthly stuff fit into a house roughly half the size of the one we're moving out of.

We're teaching our kids what it means to live in a small town where everybody knows everybody else instead of in a big city where people tend to avoid interaction.

I'm sitting through 3 weeks of learning how to teach (after getting my MSE in education and physics...and teaching high school for a year...and teaching college labs for 2 years...but I digress).

I'm remembering what it's like to live in hills, curvy roads, and nature instead of cities, cornfields, and straight roads.

Life has been a bit chaotic this summer, and in all honestly it's just the start of a year of chaos. I promise, though, I'll get back into the swing of things pretty soon!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

an open letter to my brother on memorial day

You know that I'm still mad at you sometimes, right? Mad at you for leaving me behind, despite all the times I insisted you wait for me when we were growing up. I thought it was just some crazy reaction that I was totally by myself with, but I'm not the only one who has said that if her brother walked through the front door today she would hug his neck and then punch him. And since you taught me how to punch, you know that wouldn't be one of those wimpy punches, either.

Sometimes, I still let myself believe for a few minutes that you aren't really gone. When it gets too tough and I just don't have the strength to miss you, I let myself picture a "Bourne Identity" situation for a little while. It doesn't work for long, but sometimes it's long enough to let me swallow the lump in my throat and move forward.

This week has been full of those moments. Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and I don't know how to react to it. My kids--your niece and nephew who would adore you--are excited because they don't have school Monday, but how do I explain to them that while I'm glad they are excited, it's too hard for me to be excited?

I know why you went to Iraq instead of taking the "safe route" in South Korea when you were commissioned. I understand the passion that drives people to dive into the deep end instead of wading in slowly. After all, that passion and drive were things Pop and Mom instilled in all 3 of us (though our baby sister, believe it or not, seems to actually think before she acts...crazy girl). I know what it's like to have a dream that's so much a part of you it feels like you can't breathe when you aren't living it out, so I know why you were in that Najaf cemetery that scorching August day. I know you were there doing what God called you to do--fighting for those weaker than you who weren't able to stand on their own. You were being a soldier, and that was who you were made to be. Like Rambo said, "Live for nothing or die for something; your choice."

Yes, I really did just quote John Rambo. Aren't you impressed?

It's hard living in your shadow sometimes. I thought it was hard being "Little Mike" when I started high school your senior year, but that doesn't even begin to compare. It seems a lot of people like to see you as perfect now. As your little sister, I feel it's my duty to remind you that that's not true. I don't think people know how to talk about you anymore, and it makes me crazy to see the sad, uncomfortable look on people's faces when I mention your name. I don't blame them--nobody ever really knows what to say. But just so you know, I haven't forgotten all the times you picked on me, or when you taught Jeff the lovely French phrase, "Elle est bete!" that the two of you loved saying around me, or when you came home from college telling me, "Sprechen Sie Deutsch!" and refusing to speak to me in English.

My goodness, you knew just how to annoy me!

I wish you were here. I wish I was still just a little bit oblivious as to the true meaning of this weekend. I wish I could make fun of you for being a big softie with your two beautiful nieces who would have you wrapped around their little fingers. I wish I could see you with your nephew who seems to have his "teelings" right at the surface like you did when you were little. He's a protector, too, like you. He came home one day talking about how he didn't care if the bully was mean to him, but he wasn't going to let him pick on one of the other boys.

I miss you every day, sometimes overwhelmingly so. I've tried to be strong, and I hope you're proud of that even though sometimes I fail miserably. I'm not quite the peacemaker you were because I let my emotions get in the way, but I'm trying.

Know you aren't forgotten.
Know you're loved.

"Bless you, my darling, and remember you are always in the heart--oh, tucked so close there is no chance of escape--of your sister." ~Katherine Mansfield

I love you, big brother. And I may get in trouble one day when I step through the gates of Heaven and punch you in the shoulder before I hug your neck, but just so you know that'll be your fault.

~Mandy 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

lessons from kids' songs

Songs have always had an impact on me. I have (quite literally) 45 different playlists saved on Spotify, each with its own purpose. I've had different theme songs at different times in my life, and even now when I hear one of those it brings up the memories of whatever was going on in my life at the time.

There are songs I sing when I feel on top of the world and songs I sing when my heart is breaking. Whatever the emotion, I probably have a song to go along with it--happy, sad, or anything in between.

Sometimes, though, a song comes to mind at a rather odd time. Take yesterday. I was mowing (it seems that something like that makes my brain start working, too) and two songs kept running through my head on repeat. They were both songs I've most likely known for as long as I've been able to talk, thanks to my mom. They were also both songs I haven't thought of or heard in a long time.

"He's still working on me
to make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars,
the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be,
'cause He's still working on me.
There really ought to be
a sign upon my heart:
"Don't judge me yet, there's an unfinished part."
But I'll be perfect just according to His plan,
crafted by the Master's loving hand."

"I am a promise,
I am a possibility.
I am a promise
with a capital P.
I am a great big bundle of potentiality!
And I am learning to hear God's voice,
and I am trying to make the right choice.
I am a promise to be
anything God wants me to be.
I can go anywhere that He wants me to go;
I can be anything that He wants me to be.
I can climb the high mountain,
I can cross the wide sea,
I am a great big promise, you see!"

Since I couldn't get the words out of my head, I started thinking. When kids sing those songs, you can see how much they believe them. The joy pours out of them as they sing about how much God loves them and how He has amazing things in store for them. They know that those words are true because they know that God is true to His word. There simply isn't any other possibility.



All they see ahead of them are amazing adventures. They are truly full of promise and potential, not because they know what the future holds, but for no other reason than that they know Who holds the future.


I'm sure you were like that once. The future was bright, even though you didn't know what lay ahead. God's promises were all you needed.

But then, life.

Somewhere along the way, life happened and you started singing those words with less joy. You started questioning the future, wondering if you would ever amount to anything, ever find God's purpose for your life, ever become who He intends you to be.

"I thank my God every time I remember you.
In all my prayers for all of you,
I always pray with joy
because of your partnership in the gospel
from the first day until now,
being confident of this,
that He who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus."
~Philippians 1:3-6

God has promised to carry His work on to completion--in you. Not just in the world, not just in those people you see who seem like the superstars of Christianity. God's still working on you, and He's dedicated to seeing you live up to your full promise and potential.

You are a Promise.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

prep work

I was talking to Pop on the phone last night and told him, "I'm not very good at this whole 'patience' thing." To his credit, he didn't laugh me off the phone for stating the obvious.

You see, I've felt like life lately--for a few years now--has just had me hurry up and wait. I've never been very good at waiting. Even when I was little I would tell people to "wait real quick," because I've never been a big fan of waiting a long time.

As I've seen time and time again, God's timing doesn't really fit with mine. You would think I would have a firm grasp of that concept by now, wouldn't you? The thing is, I still have to be reminded of it from time to time.

I've mentioned before a sermon series my parents sent me, from Dr. Tony Evans. In one sermon, he talked about how Joseph's timing and God's timing were quite different. In Genesis 40, Joseph is in prison with Pharaoh's cupbearer and baker. They both had dreams, and Joseph interpreted them. I imagine that Joseph's timing would have had him getting out when the cupbearer did, but that wasn't God's timing. Instead of bringing Joseph up to Pharaoh, verse 23 says, "The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him."

I wonder what Joseph's thoughts were for the next two years while he was still hanging out in prison. I wonder if he felt forgotten, abandoned. I wonder if he struggled with impatience, if he wondered if he would ever find his purpose.

That's my biggest struggle right now:
I'm desperate to know what God's purpose for my life is;
what He wants me to do with all the mixed up interests I have;
how He's planning on using me.

But the answers aren't clear. As much as I would like for them to be written out plainly, they aren't.

What I've come to realize, though, is that God has been investing a lot of time in preparing me for now and for whatever comes next.

In 2012, when this blog started, it was with the word faithful.
2013 was the word follow.
2014 was do not neglect your gift.
2015 is trust.

4 years of prep work, of God getting me ready for whatever He has in store. 4 years of Him telling me to lean into Him and to rely on Him. When you think about it, 4 years is a pretty big investment. Like Tony Evans said in that sermon series I mentioned, God has been preparing me for my purpose and my purpose for me.

I still don't know what that purpose is. I don't know what's ahead on what has already been a pretty crazy path.


I do know, though, that God has promised some pretty amazing things:

"I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go,
and I will bring you back to this land.
I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."
~Genesis 28:15

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
'This is the way; walk in it.'"
~Isaiah 30:21

"Because You are my help,
I sing in the shadow of Your wings.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me."
~Psalm 63:7&8
 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

the difference between the head and the gut

I've grown up knowing what my family refers to as the "Sunday school answers." I grew up going to church every time the doors were opened--and even times when they weren't, because my parents had a key even before Pop became a pastor.

I was in Children's Church, Sunday School, Girls in Action, Bible Drill, Kid's Choir, Acteens, Vacation Bible School, Youth Group, Summer Summer...you name it, I did it. I could sing the books of the New Testament (To this day I still have to sing them to know the order) and recite the books of the Old Testament. My Bible was underlined and highlighted. I had the 23rd Psalm and the Lord's Prayer memorized, along with countless verses.

I had the head knowledge down pat.

The thing is, when times get tough the head knowledge isn't enough.

Now, don't get me wrong--the head knowledge is important because it helps you know where to turn. That's what makes verses pop into your head during the rough moments and reminds you where to look when you're struggling.

As I was reminded Sunday morning at church, though, there's a difference between knowing something in your head and knowing it deep down at the core of who you are, from your gut.

The stuff in your head? That can be forgotten or reasoned away. That can be pushed aside and ignored when life has you knocked flat on your face.

It's the stuff you know deep down in your gut, the stuff that's a part of you, that sticks around when you're down in the pit, lost in the darkness. When life has you wrung out and trampled, it's what you know in your gut that matters.

You don't have to remember all the right answers, but there are some things that you can't ever forget.

1. You are loved--deeply.
    At the core of who He is, God is Love. His love is unfailing, no matter how many times you fail.

2. You are not alone.
    Even when you feel abandoned, God's promise stays the same: "The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 31:8)

3. He is more than enough.
    When things seem impossible and you don't have anything else to give, God has more than enough strength to carry you through. Ephesians 3:20 tells us, "Unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we think or ask, according to the power that works in us.'

When all the head knowledge in the world doesn't help, cling to what you know in your gut--God's promise to be with you.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

He is risen...

"When He had finished praying, Jesus left with His disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and He and His disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed Him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with His disciples. So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to Him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?'
     'Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied.
     'I am He,' Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)
     'When Jesus said, 'I am He,' they drew back and fell to the ground."
~John 18:1-6

We talk a lot about the fact that Jesus was crucified, and with good reason. It was His death on the cross that saved us, His blood being shed that covered us and made us pure in the eyes of God.

We talk about the Pharisees and Pilate and Herod. We quote the crowd who yelled out, "Crucify Him!"

But we tend to forget one major point: "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again." ~John 10:17&18

Jesus was crucified, but it wasn't the mob or the Pharisees or the rulers in Jerusalem or the nails holding Him to the cross that day.

This was the One who simply spoke "I am He," and those who had come to capture Him fell to the ground, the One who put a man's ear back on his head when Peter cut it off with a sword.

This was the One who willing laid down His life for us,
"Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made Himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself and became obedient to death--
even death on a cross!"
~Philippians 2:6-8

His love for us was so great that He allowed Himself to be crucified--the very action that gives us the word "excruciating"--just so that each one of us could be saved.

As is said in the Passover Seder, "It would have been enough." 
But the story doesn't end there.

On the cross, looking out at the people who put the crown of thorns on His head and the nails through His hands and feet, He said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

In the midst of His crucifixion, Jesus prayed for God to forgive us.

"It would have been enough." 
But again, the story doesn't end there.

"On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, 'Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again.'' Then they remembered His words."
~Luke 24:1-8

Again, it would have been more than enough.
The amazing thing is, the story doesn't end there, either.

He is risen indeed. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

best laid plans...

I pulled out my quote notebook this morning (yes, I have an entire notebook dedicated to the quotes I find and love and just have to write down somewhere--doesn't everybody do that?). I was looking for a very specific quote, and I had a post planned that would fit nicely with it.

The thing is, my quotes aren't organized. Kind of like in my life, physics and writing and Bible verses are all jumbled together with no real rhyme or reason. I can usually remember which side of the page a specific quote is on, but that still means I have to scan through at least half the book before I can find what I'm looking for.

This morning, while looking for the Mark Twain quote I was going to write about, I came across this:

The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me;
Your love, O LORD, endures forever--
do not abandon the works of Your hands.
~Psalm 138:8

I've struggled a lot with not knowing what's in store for me. Here in just over a month, I'll finish my Master of Science in Education and Physics, which follows my Bachelor of Science in Physics...but I have no idea what I'm going to do with my degrees.

Teach? Maybe, but I've come to find out lately that to be able to teach high school I will have to go through an alternative license program (despite the fact that I've taught and that part of my degree is education--gotta jump through those hoops, though).

Write? Maybe, but I've come to find out that it doesn't go very far in paying the bills.

To be honest, I'm scared about the future. I'm not good at not knowing. I told my best friend that not too long ago, and she told me that apparently that's something God is wanting me to be good at since that's the lesson He's been trying to get through my thick skull for so long (those weren't her exact words, but when you've known somebody for 20 years--wow, that's a crazy thought--you know what they're really saying when they're trying to say it nicely).

The thing is, even though I don't know, God knows. He has a plan in mind, and He's working every little thing in my life to bring me to where He wants me. Maybe I'm taking the long road because I'm just so stubborn that I fight against Him trying to shape me into who He needs me to be, but no matter how many twists and turns there are in the road, it still leads to His purpose for my life.


Yes, sometimes--most of the time--I wish God would clue me in on His plan. I wish I had a road map, something to show me the whole path planned out nicely. But God doesn't work that way. He does, though give me a promise:

"...He who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus."
~Philippians 1:6b 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

laughter in tears

This past week, my family said goodbye to one of the best men I've ever known, Charles Edward DeLozier. I've been trying to find the right words, but they don't come. Last summer I wrote about both my grandfathers and how blessed I am to be part of the legacy of each of them, and those words are no less true now that both those men have stepped from this world to the next.
 
While there were tears at Papaw's, there was also something that might come as a bit of a surprise--laughter.

Lots of it.

It filled Papaw's house as old friends told stories and family dropped by to reminisce. It came from tales of stock car races, mowing escapades, and rescues from possums. It came from finding trays from t.v. dinners, bowls from frozen pot pies, and popsicle sticks--all neatly organized and saved just because you never know when you might need them (popsicle sticks make great splints for broken fingers, you know).

It was at the funeral home office when they were straightening out all the details and my uncle asked, "Is that your best offer?" because his dad always haggled for everything. It was at the funeral service when my dad said that maybe Papaw's comment of "That boy could tear up an anvil" was meant as a compliment when taken in light of Papaw rolling a dump truck, getting a mower stuck in a pond, and falling through a roof with the chainsaw still running. It was in my cousin's words in an essay read at the service, saying if you weren't doing something Papaw's way you weren't doing it right.

It was at the graveside when the family stood around talking for far too long, remembering good times and people gone on before us. It was in the thought of reunions taking place in heaven and the memory of "singings" held at houses long ago. It was filling the church building as people ate food prepared and brought by loving hands to serve as a comfort.

In the midst of tears, there was laughter for only one reason--because in the midst of our tears, there was God. Because of Him, there was peace in the knowledge that one day we will all be together once more, for eternity. There was comfort knowing that Papaw didn't have to struggle to breathe. There was joy knowing that he was reunited with his wife, brother, grandson, nieces, and a whole host of family who were all there to greet him, and I bet their laughter mingled with ours was a beautiful sound in Heaven.

Beauty above the storm

On the ground looking up, the sky was gray and dreary. The forecast was calling for thunderstorms with damage possible from hail and wind gusts. It looked like it could get rough, something every farmer was hurrying to get ahead of. It was supposed to be time for the sunrise, but the clouds kept it hidden from view. We flew up into those clouds, and the pilot warned that we were about to hit some weather. Out the window, all you could see was gray.

But then, we passed through the clouds.

The sky all around was bright blue, the sun shining so brightly that t was almost blinding to look out the window. Below us were those clouds, that ones that seemed so dreary from below. From above, they were thick and fluffy and white, the sun reflecting off them with a brightness seldom seen from the ground. In the midst of the storm it was ugly, but above the storm there was incredible beauty.

It didn't stop with the fluffy clouds, though. We rose higher, and the clouds spread to form a solid blanket beneath us. As strange as it sounds, they almost seemed to be protecting the world below. The radiance with which the sun shone off of that blanket of clouds was unbelievable--I wish I had had my camera with me to capture just a hint of what I saw.

When you're in the midst of a storm, everything is dark and dreary. The Light seems so far away, and beneath the clouds it's easy to wonder if it's still shining.

But above the storm--up there, God's light still shines even brighter than you can imagine. His radiance is blinding, made brighter by its reflection off of the storm.

So hold on--the Son will come again.