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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Coffee Time Video #2! Do The Hard Thing *Live!*

I am loving doing these Coffee Time videos!! If only because it forces me to shower more often (which makes my husband love these videos too!)

I wrote a post the other day called Do The Hard Things. You can click on the link (or watch the video) for a synopsis.  

When trying to decide what to talk about today, I flipped through my Beth Moore study (Daniel) to see if there were any nuggets that I could talk about. Of course, my workbook is LOADED with notes and "nuggets" because I always learn so much from her studies. I am currently on week 9. I flipped back to week 2 and found this written in the margins (which I wrote January 2!!) 

"God calls us to do hard things"

Wow. There you have it God obviously wanted me to talk more about Doing The Hard Thing. 

Okey dokey. So I did...



Here is the link to look at more of my friend Ebony's AMAZING jewelry pieces! --->



Here's the link to the specific necklace I was wearing today. 

Until next Thursday!! 
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Do The Hard Thing

My husband Joe and I had a disagreement the other day. 

When I say we had a "disagreement" I mean I wanted to gouge his eyes out. 

He offended me and I felt absolutely justified to hold a grudge, give him the cold shoulder, and hate him forever. 

I went for a long walk and I put on Pandora. I asked God to speak to me while I was walking off some steam. 

I was hateful and indignant. With every stomp of my foot, I recounted the ways Joe upset me. 

As I walked in a beautiful neighborhood on a gorgeous day with the sun shining and people out playing in their yards and visiting their neighbors, the music soothed my soul and I was quiet enough to hear God. 

And it's not as if He spoke audibly to me, but I definitely felt a message being pressed against my heart.

Do the Hard Thing

And I resisted it at first. I turned up my music and waited for the song with lyrics that would assure me I was in the right and Joe was in the wrong and I merely had to wait patiently for his apology. 

Instead, song after song played extolling the virtues of grace and forgiveness and mercy and love. 

This one in particular by Sidewalk Prophets hit me right between the eyes:
See now, I am the man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then I turned away with the smile on my face
With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night I still called out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life

[Chorus:]
But You love me anyway
Oh, God, how you love me
Yes, You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known
Yes, You love me anyway
Oh, Lord, how You love me
Yes, You love me,
Yes, You love me
Yes, You love me,
Yes, You love me
How You love me
How You love me
How You love me

Did I mention this took place on Easter Sunday?

When I had just sat through an amazing church service where I cried the entire time over Christ's forgiveness and grace. His mercy and  unending love was fresh in my mind.

So I couldn't ignore it. I couldn't pretend I hadn't just bawled through an hour of glorious praises to my Savior--the Man who died in such a gruesome and humiliating fashion...for me...knowing all my faults and short-comings.

I had to pause in the middle of my tantrum and realize Jesus did The Hard Thing. Every time.

He lived like a nomad, with nowhere to lay His head (Luke 9:58).

He was pursued by church leaders and broken people day after day, some trying to make Him look like a fool and others begging for healing. He often retreated by Himself to recharge (Luke 5:16).

He chose to be beaten and bruised and nailed to a cross for me (Matthew 27).

He definitely did The Hard Thing.

With each step I took, my resolve to be angry and indignant melted even as my resolve to be the one who does The Hard Thing grew stronger.

I realized this surpasses my marriage. Doing The Hard Thing extends out to my everyday life:

Offer grace to the driver who cuts me off in traffic.

Offer patience when my children test me.

Offer mercy when a loved one hurts me.

Be brave enough to have the hard conversations when sweeping it under the rug seems easier.

Be humble enough to admit when I have fallen short and ask for forgiveness.

Be generous enough to cheer someone else on, even with a bruised ego and even at my own expense.

Be like Christ and put others ahead of my own selfish desires.

Doing The Hard Thing and being more Christ-like when doing The Easy Thing seems better and a whole lot simpler, is when I will be the closest to Christ; that's when I will be strongest and in the center of His will.

And that is easily The Best Thing.



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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Our First Coffee Time! And...I'm a Judas

It's our Inaugural Coffee Time!

Please disregard my technical idiocy. 

There are 2 videos because I don't know how to "Pause" and instead, I hit "Stop". 

Anyway...I will eventually add in the typed version of what's on the video for those of you who can't and don't watch videos. 

Thanks for joining me for our first Coffee Time!

[Here's the blog I used this year for "Resurrection Eggs".]

If you can't see the videos in your email, click HERE.


Whoopsie! Here's the conclusion:


Here is Natalie Grant's amazing video Alive (get some Kleenex!):



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Monday, April 14, 2014

Lay It Down

I know how you feel right now.

You're drained. 

You're exhausted. 

You can't pick up another toy. 

You can't fetch another meal. 

You can't get another drink. 

You cannot possibly answer another question.

You're done. 

Toast.

Your heart is heavy and your shoulders are slumped.

You've replayed all the times you failed that day.

You contemplate tip-toeing back upstairs to wake them up.

To apologize.

To tell them you love them one more time.

To reassure them that they are one of the greatest things God has ever blessed you with, despite how you may act sometimes.

Short answers, snapped responses, harsh words.

Impatience.

Frustrations.

The weight of the world on your shoulders.

Did you hug them enough today?

Did you say I love you enough today?

Did you kill their spirit in the name of discipline?

Did you totally screw them up?

Yes, I know exactly how you're feeling tonight.

I wake up every single day with the best of intentions.

I don't think anyone goes into the day intending to fail miserably.

But life happens, schedules are tight, frustrations rise, stress boils over, demands are many...

And at the end of the day we are left with all of our shortcomings.

But I'm here to tell you that's not the end of it.

By all means, if you feel you need to or if you want to--tip-toe back upstairs and kiss that angel.

Tell them one more time how much you love them.

Pray with them.

Ask for forgiveness.

But don't carry the guilt around.

If you love your babies, and you do your very best to love them, don't carry the guilt around.

We will fail, mamas.

Sometimes by forgetting a lunch.

Sometimes in bigger things.

We will lose our tempers.

We will say words that we wish we could take back.

We will fall short in so many ways…

But we haven't failed.

Our babies know we love them.

And tomorrow is another opportunity to show them.

As we apologize and explain where we fell short, it's an amazing opportunity to be an example of Christ's grace.

Our children learn as much from our mistakes as they do from the times we get it right.

And praise the Lord that they do! I fear my children learn far more often from the former.

But God is good.

You see, He knew that we would fail. He knew that we would lose our temper. He knew that we would say something we wish we wouldn't have.

And He forgave us anyway.

He chose to die for us anyway. 

Long before we even made the mistake.

Is there something you're holding onto tonight?

Is there something you need to lay down at Christ's feet?

Is there something you need to confess and receive forgiveness for in order to move on?

We cannot receive tomorrow's blessings when we are holding the stones of judgment from yesterday.

Let it go.

Lay it down.








Tuesday, April 8, 2014

When God Shows Up

I see God everywhere.

Not a floating, pillar of smoke, but more like in nuances and subtleties. 

I see Him in themes and repetition. 

In words I read or that are offered to me by a friend or an acquaintance.

In verses that "randomly" pop up everywhere.

I believe it's God's way of whispering, "I'm here. I see you. I hear you. I care about you."

For example, I was having a conversation with a friend who is struggling the other day. She is frustrated in waiting for God's timing. (And who hasn't struggled with that, really?)

I shared with her the verse that our pastor shared in church that morning from Isaiah 43:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine."

And I also shared with her about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel.  They were thrown in a blazing furnace because they refused to bow down to the king. The king was so furious about their insubordination, that he had the furnace turned up 7 times hotter than normal. It was so hot, in fact, that the soldiers who tied up these men and threw them in the furnace were killed.

But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not killed, They were not left with so much as the smell of smoke on their clothing. The only things burned off were the ropes that bound them!

I shared all of this in an effort to offer my friend some semblance of hope that her situation is not forever and that God is in the details. That He is always there for us, even when our situation seems impossible.

And guess what showed up in my newsfeed today?



Yep, God is everywhere. 

And He cares enough about my friend to offer this affirmation. And He cares enough about me to put it in my path so that I can be a small part of ministering to her. And this kind of thing happens to me all the time!

Be aware. Look around you. Start noticing where He shows up in your life in seemingly random ways. 

He's there. 



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Monday, April 7, 2014

Developing Patience

I am so excited to be over at Time-Warp Wife's site today talking about 5 Effective Ways to Develop Patience based on Chapter 9 of her book The Virtuous Life of a Christ-Centered Wife

If you are here from Time-Warp Wife's site, or Facebook page, WELCOME!
I look forward to getting to know you better!
CLICK HERE TO READ THE POST ON PATIENCE.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pride = Anxiety (Part 2)

Yesterday, I shared about Jacob & Esau and how reading that story with fresh eyes helped me see how it relates to my anxiety.

This past Sunday I was floored by reading the story of Naaman in church.

Seriously, it blows me away when something from the Old Testament relates so closely to my life. 

Naaman is found in the book of 2 Kings, chapter 5. 

Naaman was a Man's Man. He was a highly decorated soldier. 

The Bible says:

"Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but..."

And the next part overshadows all the medals of honor, all the glorious battle wins, and all the accolades from superiors.

"...but he had leprosy."

Leprosy is a horrible disease. It can cause, among many things, loss of feeling in hands and feet, fingers and toes, softened bones that break very easily, the nose bone to degenerate and detach from the face, and open, running sores. Naaman, the mighty warrior, knew this was what lay ahead for him.

His wife's servant girl suggested that he go see Elisha, a prophet of God, to be healed. 

So, Naaman got a letter of recommendation from the king of Aram and traveled to see Elisha. 

When Naaman got to Elisha's door, Elisha sent a messenger to tell Naaman what to do to be healed: Go strip naked and dip in the Jordan River 7 times.

That's it. Easy Peazy.

To say Naaman was ticked is an under-statement.

Verse 11 says, "But Naaman went away angry..."

The Message version gives a better visual:

"Naaman lost his temper. He turned on his heel saying, 'I thought he'd personally come out and meet me, call on the name of God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and get rid of the disease. The Damascus rivers, Abana and Pharpar are cleaner by far than any of the rivers in Israel. Why not bathe in them? I'd at least get clean.' He stomped off, mad as a hornet." (verses 11-12)

The NIV finishes verse 12 with, "So he turned and went off in a rage."

lost his temper...

stomped off...

mad as a hornet...

went off in a rage...

This sounds too familiar. I am embarrassed to admit how many times I've stomped off like a toddler, angry that things didn't go the way I wanted them to. 

He was so angry and walking at such a pace that his servants had to rush after him. Verse 13 says, "But his servants caught up with him and said, 'Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn't you have done it? So why not this simple 'wash and be clean'?"

Bam!

Did that hit you between the eyes like it did me?

Naaman was used to entire cities falling at his feet in battle. 

He had accolades by the truck-load from superiors and noble persons.

His knee bowed to only one man on the planet and that was the king of Aram.

There was no battle he hadn't conquered. 

So, when Elisha could not even be bothered to come see this great man Naaman was offended. 

When Elisha dare suggest this warring giant dip himself in one of the filthiest rivers around...Naaman was incensed. 

Naaman even said, "I thought he'd personally come out and meet me, call on the name of God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and get rid of the disease." 

You see, Naaman had a plan. He had a preconceived notion about how this was all going to go down. 

In his mind, Elisha would be wooed in his presence, like everyone else always was, and fall all over himself to heal Naaman. According to Naaman's plan, Elisha would majestically wave his hand over Naaman, say a prayer, and voila! All better.

Instead, Elisha zeroed right in, bulls-eye, on Naaman's pride; which was massive.

Being required to strip naked, removing his royal clothing and battle armor, and dip in a filthy river not once or twice, but seven times...unthinkable. And humiliating. 

His servants brought up a great point, though (and I wonder if they did so nervously). They pointed out that Naaman would have gladly done something "hard" or maybe something "showy" to be healed. Something that exemplified Naaman's strength and prowess.

But the idea of stripping down and completely humbling himself was too much.

Anybody feeling this with me?

Finally, after his servants appealed to him, he went down to the Jordan River and stripped naked. He walked into the water and dipped himself 7 times. 

And he was healed. 

His life was transformed in an instant. 

His once broken, oozing skin was "restored and became clean like that of a young boy" (verse 14b).

I am so much like Naaman.

I worry and pray and beg for a healing, but when God tells me what to do, I fight Him.

I say, "No, Lord, Not that. Heal me this way!"

"Don't make me strip down and humble myself in your sight and in man's sight, Lord. Don't let me look weak and frail, Lord."

But, like Naaman today and like Jacob yesterday, God requires that we humble ourselves. He tells us to strip ourselves of any pretense and any false bravado; any strength that comes from ourselves. 

"My grace is sufficient for you," says the Lord, "My power is made perfect in weakness."

What is holding you back today?

What causes you anger or anxiety or resentment?

Is there anything you're holding onto because you want to do it your way?

I am learning that when I give up my desire for control, that's when I feel most at peace and most confident. 

If I don't know where I'm going, be sure I will follow the guy with the map. 

Jesus has the map.

He's telling us that He's got this.

Whatever it is we're afraid of: loss, harm, sickness, injury, pain, humility...

We will never feel peace until we hand over control to the outcome to Him.

Pray with me?

Father, too often, we are so stuck in wanting to do things our own way. Please forgive us for doubting You. Please forgive us for going off the trail You have already blazed for us. Please give us confidence and trust in You. I pray that You will give peace and comfort to those going through loss. I pray that You will consume them with Your presence and Your peace. I pray that You will give them assurance that even though they don't know where they are going--or maybe even where they are--that You do. Letting go and letting You lead is the only way to arrive. Thank You so much for caring for us and for understanding that we, as humans, are so limited with our trust and understanding at times. In Jesus' name, Amen.

*Are you struggling with anxiety, worry or fear? Please feel free to reach out  to me by email mandypmommyof4 {at} yahoo {dot} com. I struggle with anxiety so badly, but as I have written this series, it as alleviated so much. God is teaching me that He is the answer for my anxiety. 

Sometimes professional intervention is necessary. There is no shame in seeking help. Click HERE for a list of resources. 

Post #1 is HERE.
Post #2 is HERE
Post #3 is HERE
Post #4 is HERE
Post #5 is HERE
Post #6 is HERE
Post #7 is HERE


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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pride = Anxiety (Part 1)

"I trust you, God...but..."
I've said that so many times. There have been slight variations, but it's always the same idea: I prayed to God for something and told Him how I trusted Him...but still worried He wouldn't come through.

Or...worried He wouldn't come through the way I wanted Him to.

I've come across 2 stories recently that tie together so beautifully with this theme.

First is Jacob and Esau.

I was at a women's retreat last week that taught the story of Jacob & Esau. It's an "oldie but a goodie" so many have heard it.

But there is SO MUCH that I had never seen in those chapters before.

If you struggle with anxiety, I hope you'll get the same things out of them that I have. They've been a huge comfort and wake up call.

Jacob and Esau were twins. When they were born, Esau was born first with Jacob holding onto his brother Esau's foot. He was named "Jacob" which means "He grasps the heal or he deceives." Perhaps where we get the phrase today of "he was pulling my leg" to infer someone was telling a lie.

For his entire life, Jacob was angry that Esau was the oldest son, and therefore received the father's blessing. Esau (and his mother) put together a scheme to trick the father (Isaac) into giving Jacob the blessing, thus stealing it from his brother Esau.

Looking at the same words over years can make them flat and static. But, if you go back and re-read, putting  yourself in the place of the "characters," it's amazing the new perspective you can gain.

Jacob was obsessed with receiving his father's blessing. So obsessed, that he hatched a plan to deceive his father, and once Esau found out, he set out to kill Jacob after their father died. Their mother sent Jacob away for his own safety, where he lived with his uncle for 20 years.

And I thought I had family drama.

It wasn't until those 20 years later that he was traveling back home and heard that Esau was coming after him with 400 men. Esau intended to settle the score. Apparently, 2 decades had done nothing to dampen his anger.

It's in the next few hours--the hours between Jacob finding out Esau was coming after him and when he and his brother finally meet face-to-face-- that I learned more about myself and my anxiety than I ever could have imagined I would.

During that time away, Jacob had been very successful and had plenty. The blessing his father had given him, even though it was given under false pretenses and not meant for Jacob, was still over Jacob. Coming home, Jacob had much in the way of animals, family, and servants.

As Jacob gets word that Esau is coming for him...with an army and full of pent-up rage from the past 20 years...

Genesis 32:7 says, "In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups..."

In great fear and distress...

The Message version says:

"Jacob was scared. Very scared. Panicked, he divided his people..."

He was terrified. That night, he prayed to God reminding Him how He had promised to prosper Jacob and make his descendants "like the sand in the sea".

After he prayed, he tried to sleep. And apparently, the night got the better of him with too much time to simmer and think.

Instead of resting in the promises of God, the very promises he just recounted to the Lord Himself, Jacob hatched a plan.

In his plan, he divided up over 500 of his best animals as a peace offering to Esau. He divided his family up in a certain way and rehearsed with them what to say when they encountered Esau's men. Some may call this a bribe...and I think I will.

He's got this.

He knows God has promised to protect him, but just in case...

And then he stays back at camp.

After sending all of his livestock and his wives and maidservants ahead of him.

It's there that Jacob wrestles with the angel of God.

From out of nowhere, out of the dark, Jacob is attacked and wrestled with this angel all night.

"When the man [the angel] saw that he could not overpower him [Jacob], he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man."

Then the man demanded that Jacob let him go.

I think in that moment, it became clear to Jacob that this wasn't an ordinary man. He realized that the man he had been wrestling with all night had the power to kill him in one touch.

Jacob demands the man's blessing.

And the angel does the craziest thing...he asks Jacob what his name is.

Now, stop with me here and realize something...

If this man is an angel...and I think Jacob was quickly brought up to speed with that information...why is he asking Jacob what his name is? Surely, he had some idea who he was?

The next few lines tell us:

"'Jacob', he answered.
Then the man said, 'Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.'"

You see, Jacob--this man who for his whole life had counterfeited everything about himself, even going so far as to steal his brother's identity and blessing, who was even named "Deceiver," had finally come face-to-face with who he really was. 

He wrestled with that angel until that angel forced him to admit who he really was.

No pretenses. No counterfeiting. No lies.

Just truth.

It wasn't until that point, when Jacob was at his lowest physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, that he was able to acknowledge before God who he really was.

Because the angel had wrenched his hip out of the socket, Jacob had a limp. I'm sure every step was excruciating.

The next part of this story shows Jacob's family still separated out in a methodical manner.

But Jacob is at the front.

As he sees his brother coming on the horizon with his 400 men, he walks on ahead...and he bows before his brother along the way 7 times.

He bows

And he bows

And he bows

And he bows

And he bows

And he bows

And he bows.

Each step like a knife through his hip.

Each labored movement as he lowers himself to the ground and struggles to stand back up reminding him of the wrestling match he had with God.

Each searing pain met with gritted teeth and a determination that he knew now who he really was.

And who he wasn't.

And do you know what happened?

Verse 4 of Genesis 32 says,

"But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept."

Jacob then presented the gifts he had prepared to Esau.

And It's when I read those words that I realize I am Jacob.

I often take matters into my own hands when I don't trust God to handle it or to fulfill His promises.

When I don't like the path I see myself on, I change course to something I'd rather instead of going the way I'm meant to.

When I fear that things aren't going my way, I pray to God for His protection and guidance with one breath and devise my own plan with the other.

Like Jacob, when I get wind that trouble is headed my direction, I want to trust God, but I doubt God's sincerity or willingness to follow-through.

I forget or set aside His sovereignty in favor of my comfort and peace of mind.

But, also like with Jacob, the irony of that is, in an effort to feel more secure, I step outside of trusting God, and that's when I lose all comfort and peace of mind.

When I try to be someone I'm not...in many cases that's God...I lose my real identity.

When I go the way God wants me to go...like Jacob finally did when he walked ahead of everyone else...that's when I find the greatest courage and peace, even in the midst of pain.

We may not wrestle with an actual angel, but how many of us wrestle God in our minds? How many of us refuse to let God tell the story and direct the show, and acknowledging before Him who we really are?

And, more importantly, who God really is.

How many of us don't trust God to really protect us and be there for us and prosper us?

I am raising my hand and waving it frantically in the air!

I don't.

But here I come, limping, ready to give this gift to God. The gift of control--or the illusion that I have it.

I'm ready to give it back and tell him I am Jacob.

In that moment, when I fully acknowledge who I am before God, He will tell me who I have become.

I am Israel. Because I have wrestled with man and God.



See Post #1 HERE
See Post #2 HERE
See Post #3 HERE
See Post #4 HERE
See Post #5 HERE
See Post #6 HERE
See Post #8 HERE.

*I am not a medical or mental health professional. If, at any time, you contemplate hurting yourself or someone else, seek help immediately. There is no shame in seeking help. A list of resources can be found HERE.

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