"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." ~ Matthew 5:14-16

Friday, June 21, 2013

Come To The River

Day 4, final day of Stillness: "Come to the River"

I say "final day of stillness" only because today was my last official planned alone time without kids for now, but God revealed to me this morning during our time together that I can find that stillness with Him any time I need it...

I have spent the past 3 mornings having quiet time with God out on my back deck. I realized this morning that I would not have the deck available to me because it was still wet with stain. This disappointed me, and I began to think of where else I could spend that time this morning. I considered that I could just sit on the couch next to the open window, taking in the fresh smell of... (sniff, sniff)... deck stain.

And then the song "Come To The River" by the Rhett Walker Band starting played softly in my soul. "Come to the river... oh and lay yourself down.... let your heart be found... you say come to the river... drink from the cup I pour... and thirst no more."  It just kept playing over and over and over again.  I thought of a park in town that I take the boys to sometimes to throw rocks in the river. Of course! Even better than my back deck, it would be the perfect place to spend quiet time with God.

As I was driving there, I turned on the radio and wouldn't you know, the words were playing there, too, audibly this time... "come to the river..." At this point I smiled, and almost cried, as I sang along to the words that were so clearly speaking to my heart. I was overwhelmed. I was excited! What did God have in store for me this morning? What would I encounter at the river? "Must be something big," I thought to myself. For that moment, at least, I knew I was headed to the right place.

I arrived at the riverbank, sat in my chair, and looked around, taking it all in. I remembered something we had done a long time ago in a high school class. I got out my notebook and pen and started writing down the response of my senses... the trees' refection in the river... birds taking their morning baths and flying back and forth across the river... the sunlight on the leaves of the trees... the blue sky... perfect air temperature with a gently breeze... fresh air mixed with the dampness of the riverbank... the water flowing gently with the current... and a strange-looking small bird with a long, pointy beak walking along the river's edge, hunting for minnows.

As I turned to my devotion, the words spoke about asking the Holy Spirit to open my spiritual eyesight and hearing, to practice looking and listening for God during quiet intervals. So I sat and watched the river for awhile... looking, listening, waiting. And then I began to write down the words that whispered to my heart:

"Come to the River,
the river is timeless.
It has no place to be
at any given time.
It flows and goes
where the current takes it,
speeding up and slowing down
as it rises and falls.

Seek Me at the River
where I dwell in timelessness.
Look and listen,
Wait in hope for Me.
You will seek Me and find Me
when you seek Me with all your heart."

I got up from my chair and walked to the river's edge. I only had a few more minutes before I had to leave to get the boys. I stood there for a minute... then I took off my sandals, and walked in. The river is shallow right now, it came up just above my ankles. As I approached the middle of the river, I felt the current grow a little stronger. I looked all around at the trees and water that surrounded me. I closed my eyes and soaked in the sun's warmth on my face. Typically I would take a picture with my camera and store it on my computer. But I didn't need a camera, not this time. All of my senses were capturing this moment, to be stored forever in my soul.

A few moments later, I felt that timelessness beginning to melt away. And I spoke aloud, "God, I don't want to leave. I want to stay here with You. I don't want to lose this Peace. I'm not ready to go yet."

The Lord whispered back to me, "You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart. Look. Listen. Wait in hope for Me. My Spirit dwells within you."
I walked slowly back to the riverbank where the world awaited me. As I drove away, my feet still a little wet in my sandals, I tried to put everything together. Yet there were just a few words that kept lingering in my heart... "come to the river... look... listen... seek me with all your heart... My Spirit dwells within you."  And then it all made perfect sense. I know now that I can go back to that quiet place in my soul any time I need to. Whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed by the world, by the chaos, I can stop for even a brief moment and seek God where He dwells deep in my heart... and I can take His hand as He leads me out to the stillness of the River.

Friday, March 30, 2012

My Journey to Grace


It's been a rough couple of weeks. God has shown me a lot of weaknesses in myself these past few weeks. And it's been painful. It hasn't been an easy process, to have my eyes opened to things about myself that I hardly knew were there, things I don't like, things like self-centeredness... pride... irresponsibility....

As I sit here this morning, hung-over, I'm ashamed after having supposedly given up alcohol for Lent. When I woke up today, I thought to myself, "This is NOT a good place to be in as I approach Holy Week." But maybe that's the point. The more I thought about it, I realized that I actually had it all wrong! In fact, this is the PERFECT place for me to be... in desperate need of God's grace, and totally and completely undeserving of it.

Several weeks ago I asked God to teach me about grace, having absolutely no idea what I was truly asking for. I can confidently say today that He has certainly answered that prayer, and here is my response:

Heavenly Father, I don't really have the words right now to express my gratitude and thanksgiving for this new day, for your incredible love, for the sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ. Every morning you provide me with opportunities to grow and learn. Every day you provide for my every need. Every day you shower me with blessings. And every day, I totally screw up. I'm so grateful that I don't have to earn your love and grace, because if I did, I would fail miserably. Thank you for opening my eyes to my weaknesses, for putting me through the pain that I needed to go through in order to understand your grace. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A strength not of my own

I wish I could walk into every day the way that I did on Monday... with excitment and anticipation, peace, total acceptance of whatever the day would bring, and complete submission. Monday was eye-opening, and God taught me something that I've been yearning to know for a long time, but perhaps had just a sliver a fear that stood in my way.
For about a month now, I've been having thoughts of fasting for a day, as in, not eating. I don't know where these thoughts came from... well actually, I know they came from the Holy Spirit because several times lately I've been led to scripture about fasting and how when God's people would fast and pray, God's will would become clear to them. But I guess a more accurate question I had was, "why, God?? Why, now? Why me?" Because of that, and a few fears I had about the idea, I kept putting it off. But I should have known better, because in my past experience, God doesn't take "no" for an answer very lightly, and He keeps prodding.
The last scripture I read that really struck me and made me say, "OK, God. I'll do it," is Matthew 4:4, when Jesus was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil. He had been fasting for 40 days and 40 nights! Seriously?!? I can't even imagine. Anyway, Jesus told the devil:
"It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
This is the verse that pushed me forward to accept God's calling, and it's what kept me going all day. And it was amazing. I've fasted many times before a colonoscopy prep, which is one of the reasons why I fought it. Hunger sucks.
The other thing that pushed me forward is that I'd just been feeling a little spiritually disconnected lately and I wanted to reconnect and rejuvenate my spirit, and figured since this was so heavy on my heart, it might be the way to make that happen. So on Sunday I decided that Monday would be the day.
The morning was little bit rough, making breakfast for the kids and preparing their snack mid-morning. I'm the type of person who typically needs to eat breakfast within the first hour of being awake, so by mid-morning I was already famished and wondering how I was ever going to get through it! I was definitely tempted... just a little nibble! One little fishy cracker? But then Matthew 4:4 would come to mind and give me encouragement. I received in those moments a strength that was not my own.
I made a realization at that point, that my desire to obey God's plan for me that day and my desire for spiritual fulfillment was greater than my desire for physical nourishment. Wow. That was something I didn't really expect, although I truly tried not to have any expectations coming into it. I was just open to whatever God wanted to teach me.
I made a few other realizations throughout the day. By afternoon, I realized how much I take food for granted! I just always expect it to be there, and thankfully, it is. But for so many people, it's not there all the time, and my compassion for them grew ten-fold. It's funny that this was the topic of the Sunday school lesson that I taught only the day before, feeding the hungry.
Along with that, I also experienced a much deeper appreciation for my husband, Frank, who works SO HARD every day, who has a great job that provides him the opportunity to put food on our table every day!
As evening set in, it definitely got harder. I was getting REALLY hungry and I was struggling, especially as I prepared dinner for my kids. I wrote in my journal, "I'm starting to really reach up in prayer, asking God to help me though this, asking Him to give me strength and energy to get through the rest of the day, to continue to fight the battle of temptation for me. And I have 100% faith that He will."
My biggest lesson of the day is this: I've always known that God's strength and endurance have been there for me at any time, in any circumstance. All I've had to do is reach up and receive it. But I have to admit, I guess I wasn't really sure HOW to do that, how to get past the habit of relying on my own strength, and the fear of disappointment that comes with the truth of my weaknesses.
But yesterday, I had no choice but to recognize my weakness for what it was. And thoughout the day of fasting, God taught me how to fully accept His mighty strength and power. And to think that Jesus went 40 days and nights without food, relying only on His Heavenly Father's spiritual nourishment! It's totally amazing to me, and I am in awe. But I understand it now.
The dreaded bedtime came. I HATE going to bed hungry. It makes it hard to fall asleep, and I have a hard time falling asleep anyway. But I was committed to continue my fast until the next morning. So again, I reached up in desperation and prayed for God to take my hunger away, and for Him to fullfill that need.... and He did. Within a couple minutes my hunger was totally gone, and I was at peace, ready to complete my "mission."
This morning I fully expected to wake up and be totally famished and ready to "eat a zebra," as my 4-year-old would say. But to my pleasant surprise, I wasn't at all. I was totally fine. n fact, I felt energized, peaceful and rejuvinated!
And most of all, I feel stronger than ever. And I know now how to access that strength. I wish I could experience the spiritual peace and clarity every day like I did yesterday... but of course without the hunger.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wow... this whole "acceptance" thing is pretty hard! Based on my first lesson that I wrote about in my last blog entry, I thought this was going to be somewhat of an easy journey, because it came so natural at first, I hardly had to think about it. And I had so much peace! I thought that's just how it was going to be. Acceptance? No problem! Ha!

This has been a tough week consisting of so many less-than-ideal circumstances. My kids have taken turns being sick, now we're on Week 2, and I can feel myself starting to get sick. I'm trying to fight it, but based on the sneezing and sore throat factors, I'm thinking it's inevitable. I haven't been able to participate in any of my "normal" activities... going to the gym in the morning (i.e. time to myself), playdates, and just getting out and doing fun things with my kids. Of course I can't put my kids around other kids when they're sick. And then there's the weather. It's so hot outside that we haven't even been able to get out much. I don't imagine 90 degrees is any good for a fever. So that's left us pretty much inside.

And it's left me struggling with a lot of different emotions, a few of the main ones being lonely, depressed, frustrated and weary. I don't remember feeling like this during other times of sickness, but maybe I did.

A friend told me on facebook to try and see the blessings in my circumstances. And she's right. I've been so focused on the things that are totally out of my control and wishing they would change so that things could be easy. I almost forgot that through my most difficult times is when God's glory shines the most. And it's mostly during these dark moments, when I'm feeling so weak and vulnerable, that God is hard at work... teaching me, comforting me, encouraging me and loving me.

A few things came to mind when I read her post...

1. The song "Blessings": "What if your blessings come through raindrops, what if your healing comes through tears, what if a thousand sleepless nights is all it takes to know You're near; What if the trials of this life, are Your mercies in disguise."

2. I need to recognize and accept the things I can't control here so I can be at peace and my heart will be open to whatever God is trying to teach me. I can't control when sickness comes or goes. I can't control the weather. I can't control when my husband's business trip are scheduled. I can't control all the things that come with these circumstances. But I can control my own reactions to them.

I can't even try to begin to understand why God places certain circumstances upon me, and why sometimes several difficult things seem to compound at once. Maybe I had gotten to busy and being at home is giving us all a chance to rest, and giving me a chance to just be with my boys and love them and nurture them and play with them the games and things that I'm sometimes "too busy" to do.

Earlier today my 3-yr-old wanted to go outside, so begrudgingly, I did. I had hoped that I could just sit in a chair in the shade and watch them play out in the sandbox and wallow in my suffering. But oh, no. He wasn't having it. Oh, it was so hot! But just then, a gentle warm breeze started across my face and through my hair, as if God was whispering to me, reminding me of His presence. The breeze, although warm, made the heat much more bearable. I welcomed it!

"Mommy, be a T-Rex!" Benjamin exclaimed. This is where I run around chasing him, roaring like a dinosoar.
"No, honey, it's too hot to be a T-Rex today. Mommy doesn't feel like it."
In a much whinier voice, "Mommy! Be a T-Rex!" Clearly, he didn't realize or understand how depressed I was feeling, nor did he care. "Please be a T-Rex!"

I had a choice. I could sit and listen to my child's disappointment that I "didn't feel like" playing with him, or I could suck it up, and be the best T-Rex that I could be in that moment.

I gave out a half-assed "roar" with my hands outstretched in front of me and started towards him. That was all he needed. His smile and laughter returned and he started running. It really did take so little of my energy to do this. So I continued, again, with the best meager roar that I could come up with. After a few minutes, I actually started to feel better! And a smile came to my face as well. Imagine that.

I'm not sure exactly if I have a point to all of this right now. I'm still figuring it out, just writing through it. I feel like most of this is just a lot of babble right now, but I think my focus is changing and I'm taking steps that will bring me closer to accepance and peace.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.

~ Reinhold Niebuhr

As I was pondering the latest lesson that God has been teaching me about acceptance, this Serenity Prayer came to my mind. When I first starting thinking about it, the first line about accepting the things I cannot change seemed to really fit with what I've been reflecting on the past few days. I looked it up to find out who wrote it because I wanted to include it in my blog entry, and I had no idea there was more to it! I had never read nor heard the rest of the prayer before. I really like it, especially what the author says about taking this world as it is... "not as I would have it"... and surrenduring to God's Will.

I actually looked up the word "serenity" on dictionary.com, too, because I was curious about the official definition. It comes from the word "serene": calm, peaceful, or tranquil; unruffled. So that makes so much sense to me... asking God for peace to accept the things I cannot change. And when I think about the things I can't change and what that means, they are things I have no control over, the things that God controls, the things that are part of His Will. So then I'm actually accepting His control, trusting His Will, and I'm at complete peace with it. Interesting how this all came together for me this past week.

Last week we drove out to Virginia for a week to visit family. I was really looking forward to the trip, which has been about a year in the making. My aunt and uncle have recently retired to a lake house and I was just really looking forward to some quality time with them and with my sister and her husband who live about an hour from my aunt and uncle. I planned to go in late May thinking the weather would be really good and warm at that time there, perfect for doing lake things. I was watching the weather forecast the whole week before, each day hoping it would change. There was nothing but rain and cool temperatures forecasted for our vacation destination. Boo!

I don't know how I came to this state of being, but instead of getting upset and disappointed that the weather could very well "ruin" our vacation, I just had this odd sense of acceptance. And not just acceptance... but peace. Although ideally I would have planned the weather differently, I just had this trust that God had something wonderful planned for us, and that our time in Virginia would be good, no matter what the weather brought.

It was strange that I was viewing things this way, because normally the weather really affects me, as I think it does a lot of people. And I realized on this trip how much of a dependency it is in my life! And it felt good to break down that dependency a little bit by just accepting whatever it was going to be.

The day we got to my sister's house, where we would stay for the weekend, it was cloudy and misty, not what I would consider nice at all. But the temperature was warm, and despite the bits of mist and rain on and off, we still got the kids outside with their balls and ended up having a lot of fun! Benjamin even said to my sister, "This is the best time ever!" I was pleasantly surprised! That night we had a fire outside and cooked hot dogs and smores, and just had such a nice time being together, and watching the boys experience something new. And the next day, again forecasted to rain, turned out to be gorgeous. We took the boys to the park and soaked in some excellent sunshine all afternoon. The only time it rained was on our way home from the park!

The rest of the week was more of the same... every day was just filled with God's unexpected blessings and surprises! It hardly rained at all. I'm still in awe and having a hard time putting it all into words. And I know if I could put it all into words this blog entry would take hours to write! But I guess the lesson I'm thinking that I'm learning is that I don't know if I could have recognized God's blessings this past week if I hadn't been accepting of my perceived circumstances. I wouldn't have been open to His Will because my focus would have been on those things that I can't change, like the weather.

There are so many ways that I can apply this lesson to my life, I feel like this past week I was just barely scratching the surface. And it's exciting! I even found myself applying it to my attempt at quitting smoking. I've been able to accept the fact that quitting is going to be hard. In the past I've tried doing different things like wearing the patch and chewing gum and changing my focus when I'm having a craving in order to make the quitting process easier. But there's just nothing easy about it. So instead of wishing it were easier and wishing the cravings away, I'm trying to just accept it for what it is. It's hard. It sucks. I'm probably going to be crabby and impatient for a few days. And I might break and fail a few times. And I accept that. And I welcome it. Because I know experiencing that hardship is the "pathway to peace".

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Lesson in Faith

Back in January I wrote about a new year's resolution of sorts, a word that I decided to try to guide my life, my thoughts, my actions, and my reactions... faith. There were a few different words at the time that kept coming to my mind, but "faith" just stuck with me. I wasn't sure why, because I felt that I already had a pretty strong faith and I wondered what else God could possibly teach me about it. Maybe He would test it in some way? I supposed I would just go with it and find out.

The first few months of this year I didn't really feel like I was growing in faith at all and I wondered if I had chosen the right word. But in the past month or so, it's become much clearer. I realized that I didn't have as stong of a faith as I thought I did. I had what I would call a hopeful faith, a wishful faith. When I would pray, I would hope for God to answer. I wished God would answer. I knew He had the power to answer. But I didn't expect Him to answer. I didn't really trust Him as much as I thought I did. I would pray, but still carry the burdens, feeling like I was still in control, like I still had some sort of responsibility to answer my own prayers through my own actions. Perhaps I was also a bit impatient and didn't really know what it meant to be still and wait.

Through several different circumstances that have occured over the past couple months, God has really taught me that He does have complete control! And in His own perfect time, He does answer! So I've been slowly learning to really "let go, and let God." I know that's sort of a cliche, and it's something I've always tried to live by, but didn't truly know how. He's been teaching me more about faith through my study of Isaiah, and through the devotional I'm reading, "Streams in the Desert." There have been several entries that have helped me to realize what faith really is, one of which I wrote on my facebook page not too long ago. The entry was discussing passive faith versus active faith:

"Active faith gives thanks for a promise even though it is not yet performed, knowing that God's contracts are as good as cash." - Matthew Henry

That was something I'd never considered before... thanking God for a promise, for an answer, even before I receive it? Before I'm even able to see it and experience it??? It was at that moment that I realized my faith has been quite passive. And I had to make a decision. Am I going to continue to be passive in my faith, or active? When I make a request going forward, am I going to trust God completely, and give him thanks for His answers and promises at the same time as I make the request? This is a different concept for me, thanking God for something I have yet to receive, knowing and trusting 100% that He will come through in His own perfect way and time.

This past weekend was Emmaus Sunday, and as a deacon of the church it was my responsibility to coordinate the brunch following the service. Well, time just flew by and this day totally crept up on me. At the beginning of last week, I started to get so overwhelmed! I hadn't done anything to plan or prepare! The church would provide soup, but we needed people to make sandwiches, enough for an entire congregation! I had never planned a meal for that many people before. I had no idea what I was doing. I should have been planning weeks ahead of time, having sign-up sheets out. But here I was, 5 days before the event, and I had nothing. And so of course I started to doubt myself, and apparently doubting God in the process.

I started questioning, "What sort of deacon am I? God, are you sure you've placed me in the right position?" One particular night I just cried and doubted and felt like a complete failure. The next morning, I talked to the other deacon who was in charge of this brunch with me, and he was so calm about it, and he told me, "Hey, God will provide. Everything will be fine." After that I did feel some peace about it and realized, yeah, perhaps He will. I did make a few phone calls and an email was sent out asking people to help make the sandwiches, but we didn't get much response and several people I called weren't home. Again, I started to get a little nervous, but the words came back to me, "God will provide." And I went ahead and said my prayer of thanks.

That Sunday morning I arrived at church at 8:30 to start preparing the soups. As it got closer to the start of the service, people started trickling into the kitchen with platters of sandwiches. Before long, the fridge was completely full! I couldn't believe it! I was just in complete amazement at how food just started appearing! In addition, we had leftover food from a funeral reception the day before. As I started getting all of the sandwiches out and ready and placed everything on the table, I could barely fit it all, there was so much! And to think I was worried that it wouldn't be enough!

At some point in the middle of the bruch, my co-coordinator came up to me, pointed to the table of food, and whispered, "This is what happens when God provides." Um, yeah, you can say that again! And we joked that the lesson for that day should have been how Jesus feeds 5,000. We had more than enough, and plenty leftover for the youth group that evening, and some for the local shelter.

Wow. I suppose I chose the right word afterall, or God chose the word for me, because apparently He had some things to teach me about it. I'm expecting there will be more lessons to come.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Countdown to Christ...

I'm doing something a little bit different this year for lent than what I've done in the past. It seems to be common practice to give something up for lent, to sacrifice something that's a big part of our lives to signify the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us. Last year I gave up a few things, one of them being daytime TV. I don't even know how I ever had the time for it, but apparently at that time in my life, watching my soaps were pretty important... not that I planned my days around them... well, ok, sometimes I did, I'll admit it. So I gave them up, deciding instead to spend that time with my kids. And it was great! In fact, once lent was over, I allowed myself to watch soaps again and I suprised myself when I found that I no longer wanted to watch them, that I enjoyed that time much more with my kids and doing other things. And I also came to realize that soaps, along with many other shows that I used to watch, go against so many things that I believe in... they go against all of my values. So it turned out to be a really successful learning experiencde for me. This year I attended the first Ash Wednesday service that I've ever been to. It was actually pretty cool. Our pastor spoke about something in her sermon that made me think. She threw out the idea that instead of giving something up for lent, that we might consider adding something to our daily lives that we're not used to doing. Or maybe it's something we've struggled with, like patience, or showing kindness to strangers. For me, at this time in my life, I decided that approach would be something I'd want to try. So for lent this year, I've been trying to add more patience and love to my everyday life. Patience is something I've been struggling with for a long time, whether it's with my kids, or in the car, or in the check-out line at the grocery... I always seem to be in a hurry. For what? I'm not quite sure. This approach I would say has been slightly more difficult for me than giving something up. It's forced me to really work on things about msyelf that I don't like. And boy, has it been tested! But a woman in my Bible study fellowship discussion group helped me with that. She shared about how she's decided to add prayer to her life every single morning when she wakes up. Her exact words were, "I hit the snooze and I hit my knees." "Wow," I thought. "That's a really good idea." I do pray throughout the day, but I'm usually waiting until the moment when I'm totally struggling and sometimes in tears. So I thought trying a different approach could really help me. So that very week, I tried it too! I can't say that I "hit my knees" literally, but as I'm laying in bed each morning (or at least most mornings) for those few minutes before I have to get up, I pray for patience, and for God to help me show love in everything that I do and say. And it's been amazing what a difference it's been making! And in turn, I notice a difference in the days that I don't. It's just not there. I'm grumpy, I'm impatient, and love does not show through in my actions. I've been able to show more patience and love toward my kids in their whiniest of times. And in those moments when I do feel myself feeling like I might lose it, God brings those words "patience" and "love" to my mind and I'm immediately able to respond. And I like that me so much better! And I swear, almost every day that I've been out on the road this past week, I've been behind someone who's going what I would consider to be slow to quite slow. And instead of getting impatient, even when I'm running late, it's been so much easier for me to just sit back, enjoy the ride, and tell myself "I'll get there when I get there. A few minutes isn't going to make any difference in anything." And it's helped me to just slow down. I really like this change in my attitude and my life. So far, it's resulted in more joyful, and less stressful days. So I would definitely say that this approach to lent has been very successful and I can't see myself going back!