Monday, April 30, 2012

You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

You know those days when you know Satan is fighting God for you?  The ones where there is something the enemy desperately wants you to avoid because he knows how powerful it will be in your life?  This weekend has been full of obstacles for me, and here's how it happened.

When I started seeing all the tweets about the (in)RL conference, I realized I'd forgotten all about it!!!  I quickly registered thought for a really long time about whether or not to register (because I'm completely indecisive) and finally decided to go for it.  I printed all my handouts and read all the information I would need.  I, true to character, was prepared!  Comfy pants, water bottle, and my laptop- all ready for something amazing.

"Establishing connection..."  This is what I saw.  For thirty minutes...

And I won't lie- I was frustrated.  Really frustrated.  Like the snap-at-everyone-and-feel-guilty-later kind of frustrated.

You see, I live in the country, and while I love it more than you can imagine, I can only get satellite internet.  Which means streaming is likely to be an issue.  There was NO way I was watching this webcast at home.

So I immediately came up with an alternative plan stomped around the house and whined for awhile, then decided to hit up Panera with my iPad for the final showing of the day, the 8PM showing.  Mind you, it's a 30-minute drive to anywhere from my house.  Leaving in plenty of time to order some yummy food, I headed out the door, only to discover, about 15 minutes out, that I'd forgotten my ear buds.  Ok, this isn't a big deal. I'll just turn the volume down really low.  Mmmhmm...

Guess what, friends--- Panera closes at 9PM.  So if you're ever trying to watch a two-hour webcast that starts at 8, don't drive 30 minutes to find one.  

You can't make this stuff up!!!

My other option?  Chickfila.  I could hide in a booth and eat a salad and watch my webcast and take notes and everything would be perfect!  So that's what I did.  Until some teenagers sat in the table next to me and felt the need to shout random, useless things and ruined my little grilled chicken salad utopia.

To the car I went. My iPad, the borrowed Chickfila WiFi, and my frustrations.  We all sat in my car for an hour.  I got home after 10PM.  I was exhausted.  

Fast forward to Saturday morning.  Day 2 of (in)RL!  Eight videos to watch, and since they aren't live webcasts, they should work, right?  Ok, surely you know where this is going by now...  Nope. Nothing.

No big deal, I thought, I'll just head to Barnes and Noble, find a comfy chair, (remember my ear buds this time) and watch!

The chair was brown (and I may or may not have thought about how many other people had sat in it), in the middle of the store (much to my chagrin), and it was comfy.  There was only one problem- the videos wouldn't play.  I promise you I tried everything, but my iPad just refused!  So... I got up, at this point almost laughing at how ridiculous this had become, and walked out to my car.  

Long story short...or long story long... I did finally get to watch!  (Thankful that I have keys to my school!!!)

I found myself wondering what God had to say to me that was making the enemy so angry!  What did God want me to hear?

Well, I know now.  I know exactly.  And you will hear more about that very soon.


Always Counting...
#497 Calming peace in opposition
#500 Community found- (in)RL
#502 Precious openness in friendship
#503 Morning prayers from a friend
#504 Cute couple at photo shoot

Friday, April 27, 2012

Realizing our Rescue

"As a good girl, my worship was small and my service was toxic because I didn't understand the completeness of my rescue." -Emily Freeman, Grace for the Good Girl

When I read these words, I stopped, grabbed my trusty pencil, and scratched a heavy "that's me" in the margin.  I also underlined it and drew a star.  I want to remember these words.   I want to remember how they describe my life so perfectly.  I never want to forget.

I'm so blessed to be guest posting today at One Small Town Girl where my precious friend Ashlie shares her heart as her Savior speaks.  Please join us over there to read the rest of my post!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Trading Dresses for Denim

She's beautiful and has it all together.  No stress, no worries, no struggles.  I look at her and wonder if she ever gets angry with her husband or resents her coworkers.  I wonder if she has bad hair days or days when she just wants to lie on the couch and do nothing.

In my mind, her life is roses and her character is faultless. She's content, she's humble, she's everything I'm not.  A true Proverbs 31 woman.

And so I hide behind my mask, convinced that people won't think I'm worth their time.  Constantly comparing, I work and wait for the day when I can be like her... when I can BE her.

But then I get to know her.  We let our guards down and begin digging deep.  Hearts are opened and spirits begin to free, and I'm surprised at what I uncover.  This girl, her heart beats to the same rhythm mine does.  We share the same struggles and failures.  She, too, wonders if she measures up or meets the standard.  And suddenly I realize...

It's ok to be me.

We are two, simply searching for our value, in stubborn disbelief that we are His beloved daughters.  We are loved because we are His; no other accomplishments are needed.  If those around us reject us, it doesn't mean we aren't good enough.  If we miss the mark and need His grace, it's not a chance for self-deprecation but a chance to fall deeper into His arms of rescue.

And the more women I meet, the more I realize that we're all in the same boat!  We all have hangups and insecurities, and most of us are afraid to admit them for fear of rejection.

We are always hiding, yet we believe we're living.

This mask that we wear has been fashioned by human hands, by our own hands; it was not crafted by a loving, protecting God.  We wear it to cover up the Godless nature that was created in the Garden when the serpent stabbed sin into our hearts.

It's the reason we can't trust others.
It's the reason we compare.
It's the thing that pushes us inward.
We know sin well, and we've convinced ourselves that nobody else will understand.

So rather than reaching out to others, we retreat, settling for a colorless and lonely existence.

Oh, the blessings we miss while we waltz around the masquerade, fake smiles plastered on our faces.  Isn't it time we traded dresses for denim and got rid of our glittery masks?

"Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders." (Deuteronomy 33:12)

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Monday, April 23, 2012

God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for...

Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.  For on him God the Father has set his seal."  (John 6:26-27)

Dear Lord, thank you for this day and all that you've given us. 
Dear God, thank you for this food.
Dear Jesus, thank you for my friends and family.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for.... yourself?

This passages finds Jesus speaking to the people after He's fed them with 5 loaves and 2 fishes.  They're following Him everywhere, and He can't get a moment alone.  The problem with this is that many, if not most, of them don't know who it is they're chasing around the countryside!  To them, He's the guy who talks a lot then feeds them!  And boy, are they hungry!  They want food!  They want stuff!!!  

But the only thing they really need is Him.

Something happens when we come face-to-face with the Provider and Giver of all things.  Eventually, we stop looking around at all the cool stuff He gives and we can't help looking up at the One who gives!  Somewhere in the counting, we realize that the reason for the counting is to see Him!  He is our goal, our end, the one thing we desire.  We no longer labor for the things that will fade away, but rather, we labor, strive, desperately seek His face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace...
Always counting...
#484 Hammocks in trees
#485 PERFECT weather
#487 Teens praying before drama performance
#488 Lights that work until curtain!!!
#489 Freedom from resentment
#492 Understanding friends
#494 HUGS!
#495 Confidence blooming in lives of girls

Saturday, April 21, 2012

And Some Slapped Him...

Surprised at sudden confrontation, I feel the tears sting.
Without prompting, I am blamed.
Defenses deep inside threaten to overflow.

"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." (Luke 6:27)

I know this command.
I remember what this Savior did when He was reviled.
I realize what my response should be, but I fight it hard.

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them." (Romans 12:14)

Oh, how my heart wants to be angry.
This undeserved shame and pain gives me a right to be, doesn't it?
I've been wronged!!!

"Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him." (Matthew 26:67)

And I am stopped.

"But Jesus remained silent..." (Matthew 26:63)

Father, forgive them...

Monday, April 16, 2012

11 Random Things [and a new pic!]

My friend Nikki tagged me in her post and asked me to share 11 random things about myself, post a new picture, and answer her 11 questions.  So here goes!!!

11 Random Things About Me:

1. I hate most pictures of myself.  I am a photographer, and I much prefer to remain behind the camera!  (Yes, I took 30 before I got this one...)

2. I feel closest to God when I'm out in nature.  As I type this, I am sitting on my deck listening to the birds and watching the clouds.

3. I have been teaching high schoolers for 8 years.  When I was 5, I knew (as much as a 5yo can know anything) that I was going to be a teacher.  Convinced I would never teach any grade above 2nd, I got my degree in elementary education.  Have I ever taught young ones?  Nope.  My first 3 years were middle school and now I spend my days with 7-12th graders.  And I have never been happier!

4. I managed to get out of high school without reading most classics.  It's sad, really- blame it on a bad curriculum.  But this last year I've become an avid reader, and I've even thrown some classics in there!  

5. I thrive on cultivating deep relationships.  Having a large number of friends isn't important to me; I'd much rather invest in the lives of 3-4 people.

6. I fell in love with music because of the youth choir at my church.  I had the most amazing music director who allowed me to use my gift of playing the piano to serve the church.  He implanted a love for singing and lyrics, and that love has only grown since then.  There are some songs we used to sing that will, to this day, bring tears to my eyes.

7. I do not drink soda/pop/coke (Did I cover all the geographical regions?) at all.  I can't stand the taste, the bubbles, or even the thought of it.

8. I wish my hair would grow out more quickly.  I've always gotten tired of my hair and chopped it off, but I'm determined to get through the middle-length annoying stage and let it grow.  It's stick straight, but I have to use a straightener or it will do a really frustrating little "flippy thing."

9. I can't stand being cold!  I will often take shower just to warm up!  Hubby thinks I'm crazy when I pile on 4-5 blankets and he's throwing them off as quickly as he can!

10. I hate being the center of attention.  

11. Things are very black and white to me, and I have a hard time finding any middle ground.  Something is either right or it's wrong, period.


Ok, now for Nikki's 11.  

1. What consists of a perfect evening for you?
Honestly, a perfect evening for me is just staying home.  I'm very much a homebody, and I like my quiet time.

2. What is your ideal birthday cake?
Um, one made of fruit?  I recently changed my diet drastically, so I won't be eating sugar for a long time!  But if I did, I would have to say, hands down, my best friend Megan's cake with cream cheese frosting.

3. Are you a morning person or night owl and how does it compare to your spouse?
I was always a night owl, staying up until midnight or later.  These days I'm up at 5:00 and I've found that I actually prefer mornings!  I thrive on that time alone every day.  Hubby can go either way, although he'll easily sleep in on the weekends!

4. What’s your favorite Bible verse (for today)?
Right now, it's Isaiah 43:19.  "Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?"

5. What are you currently reading?
Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman and God is the Gospel by John Piper

6. Aside from Jesus, what character in the Bible challenges you the most and why?
Hmm, maybe Noah?  I have such a tendency to be a people-pleaser, and it always blows my mind to read about he kept on building that huge boat despite the ridicule.  His faith inspires me.  (Oh wow, just thought about the fact that I will get to meet him one day!!!)

7. How would you describe your style?
Casual and comfortable with a touch of cute flair when I can pull it off.  

8. What do you like about your favorite season?
My favorite season is spring because of new life, warmth after a long winter, and color everywhere!

9. What six descriptive words would you use to describe your personality?
loyal, deep-thinker, introverted, optimistic, responsible, and "fixer"

10. What’s your favorite wall color and is it in your home?
Pale turquoise blue.  Not on my walls because I'm terrible at making decisions!

11. If you could vacation anywhere, all expenses paid, where would you go?
Alaska. Hands down.  I think I would be so taken in by the beauty of God's creation that it would blow my mind!

Ashlie@One Small Town Girl!!!  Guess what?!  It's your turn!

Always Counting...
#475 A day at home alone
#476 Friendship that makes me want to do cartwheels!
#479 New exercises
#480 Studying James in Sunday school with my girls
#481 Perfect Sunday afternoon
#482 New flowers for the yard
#483 The comfort of my Savior

I've created a simply[his] facebook page.  Feel free to jump on over!

Friday, April 13, 2012

To Say Goodbye [FMF]

Generally, I hate goodbyes.
Too often, just as I'm getting settled in and comfortable, the end comes and I find myself reluctantly raising a hand to wave.
I'm not much for change; I prefer the status-quo.

That is, until now.

image credit

This year has brought the biggest, most life-changing goodbye I've ever experienced-
I've said goodbye to myself.
Not even wanting to turn back, I have about-faced, leaving that loud-mouthed, selfish, lukewarm girl behind.
I wasn't trying to get rid of her...
but God was.
He'd been trying- calling and prodding- for years, and every single time I'd ignored, done my own thing, and been happy about it.

I thought I had everything I needed and I was happy to check the boxes, but I was dying.
Falling farther away from where I needed to be.
Missing the point.
Rebelliously shouting "NO" in His face.

He's bid me come and die.
He's asked me to get rid of her forever.
He's given me a reason to turn.
To say goodbye.

"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." (Philippians 3:7-8)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ripping Open the Box

Side-by-side, we sit.  The words come slow but welcome; the kinds of words that sit heavy on my heart and push me to prayer for days after the hearing.  I wonder this and that and she answers freely, without hesitation or fear.  Things in the past and struggles in the here and now; they've invaded the normal "fine, how are you" replies.  The deep, painful stuff of life is what strengthens the bond we've been blessed with, and I realize that although this is what I've desired all my life, I've always pushed it away.

Too often, vulnerability and truth have seemed too hard, so I've folded my sins up neatly, placed them in the tattered box, and hidden them away for that perfect friend I would find some day who would be the everything I was looking for.  Never wanting to get too real, I've shied away from the ripping away of the thick skin.

And while I thought I was helping and protecting myself, all I was really doing was creating isolation.

But today, as I sit and listen with unconditional love that can't be shaken, no matter the confession, I am thankful for the learning of what friendship really is.  It's not just the having of someone to go places with or even the having of someone who will hear your words; it's the having of someone with whom you trust you heart's desires, fears, sins, and needs.  Yet when we find ourselves fearful of reaction and rejection, we miss the beauty of the bond that God allows.  The more I surrender self, the more I come to understand that, in spite of what I've convinced myself of, we all have struggles and issues and fears.

Finally, after days and weeks and years of the wanting, the hoping, the praying and the begging the God of the universe for someone who understands, He's answered and blessed and given.  I've come to realize that all that time, when I cried out in loneliness, He wasn't ignoring my pleas.  My precious Jesus knew full well that I wasn't ready to receive this kind of friendship, but more importantly, He knew I wasn't ready to BE that kind of friend yet.  For how can you really be someone else's "truth-telling-in-love-that-is-able-to-be-real-and-offer-grace friend" unless you've accepted truth and love and grace yourself?  How can you give truly unconditional love unless you've begun to understand that it's been imparted to you?

I'm finally ripping open the box and God is giving me a tiny glimpse of heaven- of Himself.  And I find myself wanting to do cartwheels in the street!!!

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” ― C.S. Lewis

Monday, April 09, 2012

Choosing Barabbas

"The real suffering on the cross was when the Father turned away from the Son and strapped our sin on Jesus’ back and inflicted the punishment that sin deserves and we’ll never know." 

I read this today at (in)courage (Sarah @speakingoftruth) and it's been sticking with me all day.  Tonight I read all four gospel accounts of the crucifixion, and it kept coming back to me.  So often we focus on the physical aspects of the crucifixion but really, that wasn't the worst part.  The worst part was bring rejected by His father.

Think back to John 1.  In the beginning was the Word (Jesus)... God and Jesus had a good thing going, and Jesus had to leave the perfect place where everything was just as it should be.  He had perfect fellowship with His father yet He had to leave that to come to earth.  And now, the reason He came is being fulfilled.  His only purpose was to die so that we wouldn't have to pay for the sin we commit.  And since God can't abide sin, He had to break fellowship with Jesus, the sin-bearer.  And I think that those moments when He was dying, and God had forsaken His sin-riddled body, were the most horrific, lonely, miserable, agonizing moments in his life.  Forget the flogging.  That didn't compare to this rejection.

I think about being rejected myself, and how much it upsets me, and I realize that the rejection I feel is NOTHING compared to His.  I don't even think I can begin to understand the severing He must have felt.  He was completely empty at this point.  He had nothing when He didn't have His Father.  They had a perfectly complete relationship; they were one.  And now they were ripped apart.  

The part I really want to "get" is that this was for me.  

He experienced this because He knew I couldn't be righteous without it.  There was no other way.

Oh what love the Father has lavished on us, that we would be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)  

Yet we daily...momentarily... reject Him.  We are the ones shouting, "Crucify him!"  Often choosing Barabbas, we're content to do things our own way, and we'd rather Him not get in the way.  We are content to live in our sin, and when we do, we might as well look Him in the eyes and tell Him that what He did- this agonizing separation from His very life-giving relationship- isn't enough.  We want more.  We want what we can provide for ourselves.  We don't really want Him.

As you move through this upcoming week, try to really drink in the immensity of it all.  Ask Him to reveal the depth of His love to you.  Let this be the time you fall on your knees in awe and humble thanksgiving!  

Without Him, I am nothing.
Without Him, I am hopeless.
Without Him, I am dead.

Am I living like it even matters?


Always counting...
#459 First day in youth ministry
#461 Study of 1 John with juniors
#462 The ability to run
#463 Connecting to God in worship
#464 Favorite colors (seriously, God totally did NOT have to do that for us!)
#465 Duggars' testimony of faith after miscarriage
#468 "We will overcome!"
#472 Long weekends

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

[dear friend]

When you first shared your struggle, I have to admit I was stunned and surprised.  I had no idea what to say or think, for yours was a wrestling I'd never encountered before.  Yet you were so free with your words and your trust that I found my heart bleeding with compassion for yours.

I don't know what the future holds for you, but I'm finding that He's drawing me to lift up prayers, begging for grace and peace in your world.  Frankly, I'm a little scared that He won't answer, for perhaps this is all for His glory, and like the thorn of Paul, it's meant to bring Him glory.

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' " (2 Cor. 12:8-9 ESV)

What if your pain is for Him?  What if He's chosen this for you and it will not change?  Your struggle creates a struggle in my own heart, and I'm left to wonder if that's part of the plan.  Does He want my faith to grow too?  Do I need to share in your battle so He can win the one in my own heart?

I know this God is great and completely powerful; He's our healer and He's the grace-giver.  I do not doubt his love for us, and I do not question His sovereign plans.  So what's left for me to do?

Have faith.
no matter what

I don't understand why the affliction has fallen upon you, at least not in my earthly mind.  I pray for deliverance and new life. I pray for healing and peace.  I beg for a miracle.

yet I will surrender to His will.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Captivate Us

"Captivate Us" - Watermark

Your face is beautiful
And Your eyes are like the stars
Your gentle hands have healing
There inside the scars
Your loving arms they draw me near
And Your smile it brings me peace
Draw me closer oh my Lord
Draw me closer Lord to Thee

Captivate us, Lord Jesus
Set our eyes on You
Devastate us with Your presence
Falling down
And rushing river, draw us nearer
Holy fountain consume us with You
Captivate us Lord Jesus, with You

Your voice is powerful
And Your words are radiant bright
In Your breath and shadow
I will come close and abide
You whisper love and life divine
And Your fellowship is free
Draw me closer O my Lord
Draw me closer Lord to Thee

Let everything be lost in the shadows
Of the light of Your face
Let every chain be broken from me
As I'm bound in Your grace
For Your yoke is easy, Your burden is light
You're full of wisdom, power and might
And every eye will see You

Monday, April 02, 2012

Beautiful Things

You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of us.- Gungor
Dawn came this morning and as I opened my eyes, excitement took hold.  Today was the first day of a new journey for me- the beginning of something that God's been prepping me for awhile now.  Breakfast was a time of music and reading, mostly in Psalms, and I was pumped and ready to go!  And then I got into the car

and panic set in.

Text messages sent with words like "I am pretty sure I am about to cry," and "I might throw up" were met with encouraging words from dear ones reminding me that God would carry me and that I was made for this.

but still, I was terrified.

Today was the day we launched our new church campus, the day my ministry began, the day I would walk into the unknown and serve.

and in spite of my fear, my God is in the details.

Finding myself in a building with which I was unfamiliar, God allowed my sweet friend to arrive at the moment I did.  Not knowing what was expected, He reminded me that I should just be myself and everything would end up perfectly fine.

Ok, I don't know about you, but I was always one of those kids who stood in the corner of youth group, terrified that someone would make me play one of those horribly embarrassing games.  I am definitely not a large-group-fun kind of person, but the Lord has such a sense of humor!!!  Today, I found myself running clumsily  from people on basketball court lines and pushing people on scooters around cones, all while wearing a skirt!  (Yeah, I learned my lesson on that one- jeans next week for sure!)  My worst nightmare had come true.  I was in the spotlight; people were watching; there was a video camera!

yet I had courage and laughed.

Then came the time for small groups, and we really had no idea what was going to happen.  My friend and I had been assigned to the 9-10th grade girls, but there were only two!  We didn't know how we'd structure the lesson or anything!  And of course, there was the fear that nobody would say a word and they'd just stare at us for 30 minutes.

but God knew what we needed.

The two precious girls in our little group of four were handpicked just for us.  These two very practical, girl-drama-hating, reading, writing, introverts spent a half hour sharing, answering, talking.  In a large group, they would be silent, much like I was at their age (and even now many times!)  So there we were- four quiet girls discussing the entry of the Savior of the world into Jerusalem.

and I knew at that moment that I was made for this.

He really does make beautiful things out of us.

Always counting...
#451 Glowing sun on leaves
#452 Time to talk deep
#453 Laughter with new book
#454 Wedding photography
#455 Thunder and lightning
#456 A new phone
#458 Sweet potatoes


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