Words have power. Written words provide proof. You can read them, and reread them whenever you want. They can speak life to someone who needs encouragement. They can speak death to someone who is being deceived. The choice lies within you. How is it that you want people to remember you? Encourager...that is the gift that God has laid on my heart. To use my written, spoken, and/or sung words to lift people up. To be one link in their road to healing, restoration, joy. I have been without those things, and I claim them to be mine again. If you want me to seek God on a prayer for a specific situation...that is why I am here. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to pray God's Word of Life over you.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Teaching Sacrifice

Sacrifice. It seems almost impossible to teach such a thing. I honestly never really thought too much about teaching it to my children. I guess I could've encouraged them to want to learn about it. I could've tried demanding it, but then again, you can't demand sacrifice. A person that truly understands the heart behind sacrifice...can't be forced. They must simply be given the option...and then willingly choose...what Christ would. As we near Easter, God gave me a front row seat to a lesson in sacrifice, by my 8-year old daughter.

What I witnessed this past weekend was extremely hard for me to watch, and at the same time absolutely beautiful. Many tears were shed. Some of them were in view of those around. More important to me, were those done in secret. They were not tears of shame. They were tears of awe. Tears of pride. Tears of thankfulness. Oh how I love the days God allows me to see His hand. Even more I adore the days that He chooses to let me see evidence of His Son in my child's heart.

It was the day before we were leaving and we were all so excited about our trip this past weekend. It was our last 3 hour trek to watch my son in his final swims of his amazing season. He had qualified for the 2015 Pennsylvania State Championship Swim Meet and I was not willing to miss it. (Even though I was fairly convinced that I was getting the flu.)

The seemingly ever-struggling procrastinator in me had once again...won. I still had literally every thing left to do before we could leave. Even though the plan was to leave promptly at 8:00 am the next morning...I could not stand for one more minute. I had cooked dinner for my family, on the verge of getting sick all over it. (Sorry for that mental image.) I had loaded the washer and dryer one last time. I just could. not. stand. Packing was not going to happen that night (as had been previously planned).

The next morning I woke up...no improvement. I pressed on. Showered. Completed barn chores.  Packed clothes, shoes, swim suits, snacks and toiletries for 6. Fed the littles. Loaded in the mini-van...and off we went. Shortly into our twisty turny trip I was struggling. I could not take my eyes off the road for fear of getting sick. I could not even speak. In my silence I kept thinking of all the things I had eaten the day before. (It was not helping.) We finally reached our destination 4. hours. later. and I just wanted needed a bed. And it was there that I stayed for the entire afternoon. And evening. And most of the next day.

Two full beds, one roll-a-way bed, six people...one which now had confirmed having the stomach flu. Before our first night was spent in that hotel...there was a conversation that needed to be had.

What were our sleeping arrangements going to be?

1. My husband had other kids to think of besides just our own. You see, he was one of only two coaches that was allowed on deck for the State meet Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday morning. There were other kids counting on him to be there. He was their last minute support when their parents were not permitted to offer it. He was their reminder to relax and breathe. He was their voice of encouragement. He needed to stay healthy.

2. My oldest son was the reason we were all there. He was the nine year old that earned his way to this State meet. He needed to stay healthy.

3 & 4. My middle son and my youngest son are almost identical when dealing with flu-like symptoms. Sit/stand/lay where you are...and let the vomit fall where they needed to stay healthy.
it may. Seeing as how we were not in our own home, I had a limited number of wardrobe options and absolutely nothing with me to clean such a mess,

5. That left one. My sweet Ariel. I sat her down on the bed next to me. I explained everything that I just wrote above. She understood that sharing a bed with me for the next two nights, significantly increased her chances of getting what I had. She agreed that it was the best decision.

Sacrifice. Whether she or I realized it at that point or not, that is exactly what she did. She was given the option...and she chose what was best for everyone but herself. I was so proud of her. I was shocked by how easy the decision was for her. She did not need me to plead my case to try to convince her. She knew what she needed to do, and she did it with a smile. Jesus was there, and I know He was pleased with her.

Fast forward to Saturday evening. My time of misery was passing...and Ariel's was just beginning. Even through her fever and chills, she slept fairly well. It was now early Sunday morning. It was Aiden's turn to take the pool and our hotel stay was quickly coming to an end. No matter how sick any of us felt...we had no choice but to leave.

We arrived at the natatorium just before 6:30 am. My goal was to find a seat at the top of the lowest section, to assure that it would be easy to rush to the restroom if needed. We were too late. It was not even 7:00 am...and there were soooo many people already planted in their seats for the day. We ended up half way up in the highest section. This is where the lesson was hard to watch.

My baby girl spent her entire morning laying on a cement seat, with a fever. She would sleep. She would wake. She would run down three flights of stairs. She would wait in line...to throw up...in a public restroom. Wash hands. Rehydrate. Repeat.

Not once did she complain. Not once did she seek attention for how awful she felt. Not once did she wish it had been someone else.

All day long I fought back tears that would likely not have been understood by those looking on. A large part of my tears were definitely driven from how awful I felt that I was the clear cause of her misery. But most of all, they were in reaction to what her sacrifice cost her.

When I saw her....I saw Jesus. I know without a doubt that He lives within her, made possible only by His selfless act of sacrifice on the cross. She proudly asked Jesus into her heart to be her Savior at a young age. She knelt on the floor of our dining room, and by the invitation and prayers of her older brother, she made the most important decision she will ever make.

I could have demanded the same scenario. I could have simply told Ariel that it was her comfort and health that I was going to choose to sacrifice. But if I had...I would have missed the blessing. I would have missed the heart of Jesus so evidently portrayed through her act of selflessness. And I would have missed the promise that Romans 8:28 always leaves me wanting.

When I look at my daughter, I can clearly see that God is already instilling in her, the instincts she will need to be a godly wife, mother, friend, servant. Sacrifice is a big part of all relationships. She will sacrifice many times in her life. And even when her sacrifice leads to discomfort and pain...her reward is not here. I would hate for her to settle for earthly compensation. Heaven awaits this little daughter of the King. And her reward...will always, ALWAYS be worth the selfless sacrifice.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Barely Seeing

I am not alone much these days. I took on the HUGE MONUMENTAL TASK of homeschooling my three oldest children this year. I have ONE very independent (self-taught) 4th grader, ONE forever struggling to focus (tender hearted, easily distracted and always rushed) 2nd grader, and ONE intelligent (would rather be Ninja fighting his 4-year old brother) kindergardener that is not at all challenged with the work I find for him and yet surprisingly not confident in his abilities.

What a year it has been so far. Many tears. More laughs. Some Much frustration. And more proud mama moments than I ever saw coming. I LOVE seeing the heart of my children. And I love watching them grow together. I could deal without the fighting some days...but I would hate to miss the love that I get to witness.

My point in telling you that is to say...really...I. Am. NEVER. Alone. Even when I'm showering... questions arise. Questions that clearly can't wait for five minutes. *Moms...can I get an Amen?!* I have to laugh (although sometimes I'll admit that I choose to reply with a snotty and sarcastic tone)  when they come in and ask for help.

"Mom, can you help me get some orange juice?" says child.

"Seriously. SERIOUSLY?! Are. You. Seriously. asking me that right now???!!! Am I the only person that lives here that knows how to pour a drink?! Uh...I'm in the shower. How in the world would you suggest I get you orange juice?!" says frazzled annoyed surprisingly calm Mom. *wink wink*

For those of you that don't know much about me...I live in the snow belt of Pennsylvania. Yes...the snow belt. I willingly live where we get hammered with lake effect snow from Lake Erie. I, on purpose, live where the air gets so cold it not only simultaneously numbs and stings your skin, it freezes your nose hairs and actually hurts to breathe. The only time I am 'alone' as of lately....is when I take the trek, up my hill, in snow literally up to my knees some days...to do chores on our little country farm. No one bothers me there. They stay warm and cozy...and I go out in the bitter cold to throw hay, unfreeze water, fix broken halters, pet our goat, carry firewood etc....

And it is there, when I am finally alone, that God has been speaking to me lately. He's been giving me illustrations to write about. And by the time I make the frigid trip back down, still through snow up to my knees, and to my loud, cozy, question-filled house...they are forgotten. Sigh.... What is wrong with me? How could I be that excited about His inspiration...and then just forget it?! GAH!!

So the other night I had a long phone conversation with my dear, sweet friend, Sheli. I tell her that God has given me several illustrations to write about...and I have forgotten all but one. Her response...why don't you put a notebook and a pencil in your barn coat?

*insert light bulb here*

So simple...and yet completely effective. And so that night after we hung up...I did just that. And a few moments later as I was cutting open bales of hay...God reminded me. 'Walking in dim light.'

A few weeks ago I was in my hay mow after the sun had set. I prefer NOT to do chores in the dark....but the ever busy, squeeze in one more thing before you go, struggling procrastinator in me sometimes wins out. Haha!

I turned on the lights downstairs...and climbed the wooden staircase to the mow. There is one lonely light way at the top of a high ceiling. It is not enough, considering what a HUGE space it is. And to make it even worse...right now there happens to be a half-full wagon of hay blocking most of the light that is cast down from that one. little. far-a-way. bulb.

Dim. I would definitely say the light is dim. So when I came from a barn floor full of lights and walked into the dimly lit mow...it made it all the harder to see. I was a bit taken back, wishing I had remembered to bring my flashlight, but unwilling to go back for it. I knew there were obstacles between me and the hay...and I was not sure how to keep myself from tripping over all of them. I squinted...it did not help. I waited (for a whole 3 seconds)...it did not improve. So I walked.

Gingerly I stepped. Guessing. Remembering what was there in the light. Small steps. Larger steps over whatever obstacle I thought I could see. And then...something happened. The shadows looked, less dark. My vision became more clear. The dim somehow, seemed brighter.

And that is when God spoke. "My child. You may be able to (barely) see in the dark...but you weren't meant to camp and find comfort there."

We are surrounded by darkness. Not necessarily always within...but forever surrounded. Darkness meant to harm us. And darkness seeking out those within our circle of influence. Some days it feels completely overwhelming. Sin that attacks from all angles, from all people, regardless of relationship. Those so broken, that you exhaust yourself to show them truth and prove it realness, only to find they won't accept it. It's as if they feel like it can't possibly be for them. The sadness that camps all around..some days seems to weigh me down.  But why?

Had I been choosing to struggle through the dark with only a poorly lit path...

Is that truly all that God had in mind for me...

                    Psalm 119:105-112 (NIV)

105 "Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
    that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much;
    preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.
108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,
    and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
    I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me,
    but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
    they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees
    to the very end."

...or have I simply not been consciously choosing to find light? It is there. Did you catch it? Black letters on the white pages of my Bible. "YOUR WORD is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." If you find yourself barely able to see past your own circumstance. Or without answers for what the next step is. Start choosing light. Open up the Living Word of God...and gain strength in your faith.

God may choose to smack you with it when you least expect it...but more often He, the gentleman, will nudge instead. 

You pause in the middle of your morning rush when you see your dust-covered Bible. Nudge.
You hear a message on the radio that inquires about your quiet time. Nudge.
You hear a song that stops you in your tracks because it seems the lyrics were written specifically for you. Nudge.

Don't walk around stumbling and yelling at inanimate objects for 'being in your way'. Shed some light in your dark. Choose. Consciously choose...to search not only for a lamp for your feet(your next step), but also a light for your path(what is to come). 

"My child. You may be able to (barely) see in the dark...but you weren't meant to camp and find comfort there."-God

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When Weeds Become Beautiful

She walks in the door. A sweet smile spread across her face. Hands behind her back. The 'surprise' possibilities truly are endless. (I am hopeful that I can rule out creepy crawley... anything. I have made it clear those are 'Daddy-type' surprises.)   ;-)

I wait for her to approach. No words are spoken. Just a small, dirt covered hand is thrust into my face. Weeds. She is this happy and excited about...weeds? They are in my face and I HAVE to have the right reaction. There is only one that she is looking for. Any other will send her away. Head drooping. Feet dragging. Disappointed. I hate to disappoint such a precious and fragile heart.

At this moment I have to see the beauty in weeds. I admit, I don't normally. But this day. Which has/needs no occasion. I have to find beauty in ordinary. I feel my mouth forming into a smile. A genuine smile. It is caused by the joy that comes when my kids bring me gifts of all most kinds. (The tadpoles, bugs, toads and such have not been my favorites. I still have a version joy...just from a distance.) Wait, when did I learn to love weeds?

It all happened without my permission. It happened subconsciously when I realized that they were thinking of me. These kids of mine that love to explore and imagine...think of me. They stop sword fighting to include me. They might not always. They are growing despite the brick that I threaten to put on their heads. They come back from their make-believe-land far far away because they found a worthy gift. How dare I deem it otherwise.

In this moment I am reminded of how God truly wants to hear from us. He does not just tolerate us! (As we sometimes barely do with each other.) He, instead, absolutely adores us. Just as, and even MORE SO, I do these 'adventurous explorers' that I once carried within me.)

We sometimes wait until something is impossible for us, to bring it before God. But He really really WANTS to be included in our ordinary. Some days He will choose us to do extraordinary. But on the days He doesn't...He still longs to hear all about all the highs and lows.

In our heads, these prayers/conversations with God will seem like weeds. Nothing special. Just a nuisance. But to HIM...His baby girl is talking. His daughter is including Him in her story. He will listen. He will hear. He will respond. He knows us more intimately than anyone ever could. He sees the secret. He sees the mistakes. He sees the failures. And yet, He still chooses US! He still longs to be engaged in conversation with us.

I don't think we always remember that our heart is heard in Heaven. Let that sink in. Soak in it today. You are heard by the God of the universe. When you talk. When you cry out. When you scream. When you are silent. He always hears you. Talking to Him is so that you don't  forget about Him. He could never forget you.

Faith like a child is real. It is untainted by disappointment. It does not keep record of failure. It does not assume the worst. We can all learn from a child we know. Follow them around for a day. See this world as a masterpiece. See ordinary things to be beautiful. And talk to God as often as you can. With excitement and passion. He created you to glorify Him. Never forget that.

John 8: I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
54 Jesus replied, If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
58 Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, before Abraham was born, I am!” 

Wait...did you catch it? *Vanesa picks jaw up from floor* Reread verse 54. 
Jesus. Even JESUS did not desire glory for Himself. Of ALL the people that have ever lived...He was the only one who was absolutely without fault. He had every opportunity/temptation and yet he simply did.not.sin. He could have demanded glory, being both the Father and the Son. But since He took on the form of fully man while He walked this earth...He knew that all glory had to come through God. 
Wow. For those days that I tried to claim glory for my accomplishments...I am humbled. For the days that I desired glory...I stand corrected. It is HE that I desire to lift up higher than me. Now I pray that I never choose to forget it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wisdom vs. Knowledge

We all know them. Those people who seem to almost take pleasure in shoving their gained knowledge into your face and down your throat. It is like you are in some way less because you do not know what they have come to know. They are in the world. And there is a good probability that they are in your family and church. Their knowledge has probably shamed you on occasion. Maybe blatantly intentional. Maybe not. You pair a lack of knowledge with a little (or a lot) of insecurity...and you are the knowledge. lovers. magnet.

Let me just be absolutely clear right now. Knowledge is an amazingly wonderful thing. I am not about to imply that you should stop learning and growing. I am not condoning a life of couch potatoism. <--That is a verb. The act of doing...nothing. Uh, wait. Is 'doing nothing' a verb? Wowza...I need to take an English class! Geesch! >:-/ Hahaha!

The love of knowledge is within you. Maybe not to the same degree as 'those people'. But it IS within you. God created us to want to KNOW. He designed us to not be content with something that causes us to wonder. The subject though...it has to be something that we care about. Something that sparks our passion. Without focused love of knowledge, we would not have professionals. And we need professionals. We need scientists that share what they have learned. We need doctors that have studied what they found fascinating. We need contractors that know the how to and why's of structure. And sometimes we need authors to make things that we have complicated....extremely simple.

My point? Knowledge is not EVER where it was to end in the spiritual realm. To KNOW what is right, is not enough. To KNOW what goes against God's Word, is not enough. To KNOW the answer to save people from eternity, is not enough.

Levi pedaling as fast as
his lil legs will go. It
clearly does not matter that
he is approaching a hill. Can anyone
hear me?!?! SLOW DOWN!
As a mother of young children, I admit to allowing a certain amount of 'letting my kids figure it out'. (Less of it than my husband...that is for sure!! Haha!) BUT, when it comes to an issue of safety, I am much more willing to scream share my knowledge. They still have the choice as whether to listen. For me to know what they should do would be useless. Them knowing what to do and not doing it would not serve the intended purpose as to why I shared my rant. (Anybody with me?!)

Levi...in a ditch. 
Knowledge. Applied. Now THAT is something! Applied knowledge has a name. Wisdom. If you don't have it...you should pray for it. It is sooooooooooooooo important! Wisdom turns a detail-driven-factual-religious type of person, into a person who has an actual relationship with their Savior. It turns a know-it-all into a spiritual counselor. And wisdom turns a seemingly 'boring stay at home mom'...into a warrior.

1 Corinthians 10: For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Wisdom thinks first. Wisdom listens before assuming. Wisdom does what the Father asks. Wisdom speaks from a place of experience. Wisdom believes what is true and not what seems. Wisdom trusts the heart of God. Wisdom never stops learning no matter how young the teacher. Wisdom always knows...there.is.hope.

Proverbs 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
for gaining wisdom and instruction;
    for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
    doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
    and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables,
    the sayings and riddles of the wise.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Today. Right this moment. I challenge you to pray for more wisdom. You will not be disappointed. I pray that you notice it. I pray that you see how God gives you opportunities to apply your knowledge.  And I pray that you will choose what is always right and true. I pray that it will finally make its way from head to hand/heart. Get going...you have some applying to do! And know that I am praying for you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Seeds Require Faith and Action

The seed.

We have all probably read and heard 'The Parable of the Sower' many times. I am just not sure that we all know how often this parable applies to our lives. In my 33 years of life, I have come to realize that the seed represents an unending number of things, specific to each of us. To go along with the countless seeds, there are also an unending number of tactics that the enemy will use against us, to try to ensure that the seeds never root themselves to become secure.

Let's read the parable, spoken by Jesus, just to refresh our rememberers for the point that I am going to make. ;-) No matter how rushed you are, take the time to read it because Jesus took the time to speak it for YOU!

 Mark Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
    and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’[a]
13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

Right now, even if it is just in our minds, let's list some examples of seeds that God has given us. 

The seed of Salvation. God spoke to your heart before you knew Him. He may have used a pastor, a friend, a television, His Word, etc. The seed was planted and you had to choose what you did with it. 

The seed of a dream. God gave you a dream or a vision (not necessarily in sleep/dream form) of something He was calling you to do for His glory. The seed was planted and you had to choose what you did with it. 

The seed of hope. In a seemingly hopeless situation, God gave you a sense of hope that you would be forever changed if you allowed Him to intervene. The seed was planted and you had to choose what you did with it. 

I know those are very general...so I will give you a personal specific example of a seed of dream in my life. Many of you that know me, or that have been followers of my blog www.pagesofprayer.blogspot.com ....know that I have three children that have already entered the Kingdom of Heaven and (not so anxiously) await my arrival. You also know, or can safely assume, that the loss of those babies was something that took much time and even more Jesus to heal from. 

After having my third miscarriage God told me clearly that I was to write about my experiences. He told me that there were people that would need to see Him in their circumstance of loss...and that I was going to be His hands. The very first person that I told immediately doubted as to how I could actually do it. Without the money to publish such a book, 'the how' seemed too impossible to tackle. 

That seed. That dream...was plucked quickly from my heart. I chose not to write.

Time passed and the seed was again planted. This time by a mother who had just lost a baby. She sought council from me and I answered her heart the best I knew how. With experience and compassion. The seed rooted a bit deeper this time. After a few more broken, grieving mothers crossed my path... I 'kind of' did as I was asked. It wasn't a book...but it was a blog. I blogged about each pregnancy...reminding myself of the pain of my losses and the joy of new life.

The seedling was weak as I wrote. I had listened...but it was still not absolute surrender to my King. He asked for a book and I gave Him a blog. One took faith and the other took only obedience. As soon as I finished my writing on miscarriage...I once again dropped the dream. A book. That was my calling. That IS my calling. 

Now that I again know...I have the choice. What WILL I do?

What was your seed? A seed of hope? A seed of God inspired dreams/goals? It is not too late to obey in faith. Pick up your cross and follow Jesus! His road leads to prayers answered. Lives changed. Dreams fulfilled. The choice is yours. Will you follow His call...or will you let the enemy snatch your seed?

Saturday, September 13, 2014



Ugh, that word. Failure. The word in and of itself causes the level of stress to raise in most people. It causes their hearts to sink and their heads to droop. Sometimes just at the mention of the word failure, people seem unable to continue to maintain appropriate eye contact.

I know much about you. 
I've been haunted by you in my darkest days. 
I've been reminded of you while laboring/climbing to my greatest successes. 

I'm onto you. 
I will defeat the shame of remembering you. 
Because of the Great I Am. 

I forget some days in the struggle, that He is within me!
I don't always live like I believe that He gave His life to defeat you, Failure.
But you, Failure. 
You will never be able to forget it!

Many of you have probably noticed that it has been over a year since I last posted. Last September I did a 30 day challenge on my blog, in which I woke up at 5am every day to write. During those thirty days (and for many months afterwards), my family experienced a very personal attack from the enemy who was disguised as fellow Christians. I am not questioning their salvation. (I am not the judge they'd need to be concerned with anyway.) What I am saying is that they allowed themselves to be deceived and used by the enemy.

Since the finish of that post on September 30th, 2013 I have not written.

I still had words. What I didn't have was drive. I still had a purpose. What I didn't have was focus. I heard the unchanging, unshakable voice of God. What I listened to was the taunt of the enemy.

Failure. It has been with me all along. It was failure that I felt when God told me to write for my brother and I did not listen. It was failure that I felt when God told me write for my niece and I did not even try once. And it was failure that screamed the other night when I was with a friend who was in a pit that she had dug by her own choices.

Today, I am celebrating. Today is a new day. At this season in my life I am busier than ever and yet I am choosing to be obedient. God is asking me to be His hands. My passion to write never left. I am picking myself up...failure and all...and I am diving in. I am getting stubborn in my days. I am making time by sleeping less and planning more.

Why? Because the heart of God must be heard! If not me...then who?

I ignored His request even though He never does mine!
I pushed His will out of my chosen area of focus, knowing that He would never have forsaken me.
And I failed Him above all the others that He had placed before me.

The broken.
The confused.
The hurting.
The lonely.
Even though I failed them...what hurts most is to know that God was choosing me to help heal. And I let myself fail by never trying.

Failure has endless faces. Failure is clearly visible on the faces of millions across this world we live in. And failure holds people back from making choices they know to be right. Today that can end. You don't have to be a failure. You don't have to choose the path of your past. It will still call...but you are stronger than that. Say it out LOUD!

"Love. Must. Be. Sincere. HATE what is evil; CLING to what is good." Romans 12:9

Monday, September 30, 2013

Color Wars (Day THIRTY-30 Day Challenge)

Yesterday morning we had something called Celebration Sunday! We were recognizing all of our church family who have been saved and baptized in our constantly growing little community church. As I was looking on, I could see that almost all of the people who had been baptized were wearing the same bright blue shirt. Each of them carried the same message on the front; 'I Took the Plunge'. As I was taking pictures of the group standing in front of the congregation, God gave me a cool illustration. In the fictional story below, all of those in the blue shirts are going to represent the saved. We are also going to pretend that those that did not have the blue shirts on...represent the unsaved. I'm choosing to write it from the perspective do someone who is lost(unsaved).

The alarm goes off and I wake up. Another monotonous day, sigh, more problems to face. I dress myself all in black because I have little happiness these days. I have nothing to look forward to and everything to fear. I wonder, 'Is this really how everyone feels? Am I missing something?'

I arrive to work and begin the process of waiting for the time that I can leave. I hate being here and I want it to show. I set my stuff down at my station and look up. Here comes the new guy. And WHY is he smiling? What could he possibly have to be happy about this early on a Monday morning. The guy is dressed down like the rest of us but his shirt...it's so bright. Everyone else at work is dressed all in dark, drab colors. It is almost as if our clothes represent our mood. Cold and dark. I find myself annoyed as he walks toward me. I can't handle being/seeing 'chipper' and 'fake' this early on a Monday. I look down as he walks by...hoping he will get the hint.

His feet stop right in front of mine. I can now see his hand stretched out in front of me. I, unwillingly, look up with a face void of expression and shake his hand. For just a moment I feel a warmth radiate through my body. This man's face is kind and gentle. His voice is calming and somehow reassuring. I quickly pull my hand away and cold resumes. I have no idea what he said...I was too distracted. I just knew that it.was.weird.

At lunch I kept my eye on him. In fact, for the next few weeks I did nothing but study him while we worked. I was waiting for the day that he came to work, dark, broken and bitter like the rest of us. It had to come, right? Isn't that what is inevitable in this world? Wait, what is that I just saw? One of my co-workers. The man that works right beside the new guy...now he has the same shirt. His face and his countenance seem different. He seems so...happy. What happened?! We all work the same job, what do they have to be happy about? Instead of asking...I just continue watching. From a distance, hopefully unnoticed, but I am sure watching!

A month or so goes by and I still can't get that first handshake out of my mind. As I mindlessly work I feel a tap on my shoulder. It is my boss telling me that I have a phone call. Instant panic its me like a bus. My gut tells me I don't want to hear what I am about to. My body is numb and drenched with fear as I walk toward the hall phone. It is a familiar voice, but one I had chosen not to hear for a while. I only heard the first few words that came from my mother's mouth. 'Your father is very sick. If you want to see him...today is the day.' I remember the last fight I had with him. And I remember the awful things that I said as I stormed out. I couldn't face him again...

I remember little of how I got to where I now found myself next. I do not remember hanging up the phone or walking. But here I was with tear-filled eyes as I reached out to tap the shoulder of the new guy. I didn't know him in the slightest. I had only ever watched him from a distance. But something from within me was drawing me to him. Something told me that he could help. As he looked into my eyes, his eyes immediately filled with tears and his face showed his evident compassion. Right there, surrounded by a crowd of dark, I poured my heart out to this stranger. 

Several times as I was talking I wondered 'Why am I still talking?!'...but, looking looking at the floor, still I continued. As I finished, he began. He was talking, but his eyes were closed. His hand was on my shoulder and I felt that same warmth I had felt before. He wasn't talking to me at all. He was talking to God about me. I remembered praying with my parents when I was little, so I closed my eyes. My heart felt like it hung on his every word. I clung to them as if my life depended on it. He was praying for my last conversation with my dad. He was praying things that I didn't feel...but that I desperately wanted to. Love. Forgiveness. Joy. Restoration. Peace. A new life.

Just before we parted ways he extended an invitation. Church. Ugh...he was inviting me to church. For some reason, that felt out of my rational control, I agreed. I walked away confused, but a little bit lighter. I didn't feel so lost and dark...and I figured anything was worth a try at this point. In the days leading up to the next Sunday I started to look around as I walked. There it was again and again. That same blue, followed by the same kind smile. It was as if people were being changed. It wasn't just about the color. That was what first caught my eye...but it was far more than that. Something within these people was different than what I had.

Here it was. Sunday. Anxiety almost got the best of me. I thought about going back home, but I was already in the parking lot. I hesitated just a few minutes. I decided to go in late so that I could avoid feeling awkward. They were having some sort of celebration that day. I heard name after name of people coming forward. There was that blue. There was that countenance that I kept seeing. They were all gathered together, proclaiming that they would never be the same. They were making a public statement in hopes that people would keep them accountable? After all of the clapping stopped the people returned to their seats. 

I looked out into the sea of people in that congregation and they were dispersed everywhere. Little pops of color. The people wearing blue stood out over all the rest. You couldn't help but notice them. They were bright and cheery. They looked as though they had something to celebrate. They all had something in common...but what? Do I dare ask them why they are so happy? Do I dare strike up a conversation with one of those 'peculiar' type? Why did they scatter among those who were dark? Why not stay huddled as a happy group? What good are the dark going to bring them?! Wouldn't they be safer to just stay away from those who are not like they are? I have to ask. I have to know...

If we could see each other from the heavenly realm, rather than from our earthly view; I wonder if we each radiate a color? I wonder also if the color could change depending on...our mood. Our faith. Our strength. Our mouth. Our thoughts. Our actions. Our circumstance.

If the darkest colors of the rainbow represented our lives without Christ...and red was an indicator that we were clearly on fire for Him...where would you rate yourself? Not just right this second...but when you first wake up. When you rush around to get out of the house on time. When you see someone you are uncomfortable with. When you are on a mission in Wal-mart and a stranger interrupts and asks you for a favor. When your husband leaves his clothes on the bathroom floor. Lol! (Where did that one come from?!) When someone attacks your character. When someone gossips. When someone hurts your child. When someone proves themselves to be two-faced.

I think this survey is worthy of asking yourself...but I would also encourage you to ask a few people that you confide in. Rate each other. Do not be malicious...but do be honest. If the vibe you are sending is cold and demeaning...wouldn't you want to know? Those feelings that people get when they first see you can help or hurt your witness. Who wants to have Jesus so they can STILL be miserable and void of joy? I can assure you...no one!

If you are on fire though...why and how? What did you have to go through to get to be that red hot mama? ;-)  Why is it so important that you commit to staying that way? Because people are watching! Some with a microscope. Some with binoculars. Some want to be sure they go over you with a metal detector, a fine tooth comb and a little 'religious condemnation' if needed. Others will not get that close to what they don't understand. They will only watch from a distance. Far enough to go unnoticed...but close enough to see. Either way though...when they come to a place where they are out of options; they will know to whom they can turn. They will have seen you be tested and come out stronger. They will see that your color of faith did not fade. It did not waver under pressure. It did change shades, but not how the enemy expected it to. It became even more vibrant and beautiful!

And when those who have been watching you come...you will welcome them with a heart of compassion. You will pray and rejoice with them, because that is the heart that strives to be like Jesus. Your color does not go unnoticed. Your passion is seen and heard. And when people come to their appointed time of a new beginning...they will reach out to someone who has been standing solid and firm within their view. They will spill their life into your path in hopes that they will be like those who are forever changed.

My crowd at work is FULL of color now. I could.not.would.not.shut.up about how that day at church changed me. To be among people of influence with The Answer to joy and life everlasting was what first inspired me. I now boldly proclaim why I have joy. I live what I know to the best of my ability because I see those without hope. I see them watching. And I can't wait for the day that I see them walking lighter and looking more like Jesus. I am redeemed. I am free. I am a blue-shirt wearin' fool...because I now understand the cost. The cross gives me hope and every reason to live like I have something to celebrate.

What about you? In these last 30 days...how has God revealed your true color to you? If you aren't where you thought you were...or are not where you want to be...what will you do? Today I would love for you to pray about finding a partner to war with you. Find a confidant to help you discern. Find a fellow Christian who will commit to pray for you to have contagious joy. Bold faith. Extravagant generosity. Complete humility. And passionate convictions.

And I, my friends, I pray for new ministry opportunities for you all. I want this world, your household, your workplace, your communities to be set ablaze. I want the many traits of Christ to be evident and free flowing! I'm praying for you because my ministry has me right smack in the middle of it all. I see lost. I see broken. I see deceived. But I believe for faith, restoration and healing to come soon. I proclaim it!

I LOVE YOU ALL! Thank you for your support during this challenge. I definitely picked the right word. Thirty day CHALLENGE! Wowza! Oh, there were trials. There were bumps. There were bruises. The enemy tried hard to quiet my voice...but I will not be silenced. Will you?!