Small Group = Big Love

April 16th, 2018

Let me tell you about my small group.

It consists of a rag-tag bunch of individual people all working towards the same goal, Jesus. I told my hubby yesterday as we drove away from our church that before we joined them as members there….I would drive by and see the cars and all the activity – and inside my head, I would think MY FRIENDS ARE IN THERE!

Weird, I know.

But, I knew there was someone in there that I needed. Eagle Church in Zionsville, Indiana was just about a mile from my house (for the last 4 years). We visited a few times when we first moved there and really liked the service. Still, we made no commitment. The only way to my house or to the world outside my neighborhood forced me to drive right by Eagle. Never, not once did I drive by without looking over and thinking about who was in there that I needed. I know, you’re thinking I’m really strange.

One Sunday, my son and I were at morning worship when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to meet the warmest face. Instantly, we connected and she invited us to visit again and meet her small group. I couldn’t get home fast enough to share the whole conversation with my hubby. He had worked all night and was sleeping, otherwise…he would’ve been there too.

We took them up on the offer and from day one, we knew we were with our friends. The ones God kept nudging me to get in there and find.

I’ve been in many churches. I’ve met countless believer’s along the way. This group of people represents so much that it’s hard to put into words. I want to do them justice. I want to portray what they mean to our hearts.

They have LOVED with an everlasting love. (Jer. 31:3)

When I felt that tap on my shoulder that Sunday morning, we were at the beginning stages of the hardest road of our lives. These great Godly people opened their hearts and said, “Come on in!”.

They have KEPT TRACK of every sorrow. (Ps. 56:8)

Every tear, every sad rejection…this group of people offered up love and support. Not a single time did we get anything but encouragement from them when we were facing another letdown in the job search. They pushed us, with love & encouragement….they prayed like warriors and they BELIEVED in us and that GOD was (and still is) doing a great work in us. Note: When you walk through the fire, it is hard to see yourself victoriously! Find friends who can see and let them lead you on!

They have modeled STRENGTH and COMPASSION. (Phil. 4:13 – 2 Kings 20:5)

Who can you turn to when your life feels shattered? No matter how dejected or depressed we felt, our small group rallied like warriors around us. They cheered us forward, listened to our desperation and loved us in ways we didn’t know we needed. Every. Week.

They ANCHORED us to God. (Heb. 6:19)

During many of our lowest moments, these people carried us through prayer, encouraging words, a shoulder to cry on and remained steadfast & faithful! Sometimes when you’re hurting so badly you can’t see ahead, it takes the faith of another or others to hold you up and keep you focused on all that God is doing and can do in your broken life.

They have been MERCIFUL. (James 2:13)

Do you know how much shame and embarrassment is wrapped up in our social structure of life? Being unemployed and doing it for what seems like forever is not only heartbreaking, it’s embarrassing! It feels as though SOMETHING IS WRONG with you – and all the rejections that go along with that only make it worse. These folks have not judged us or looked down on us. They treated us with dignity and love! Put that on repeat. Over & over. Endless mercy.

They have been a source of ENCOURAGEMENT. (1 Thess. 5:11)

Times were hard. Friends don’t let friends stay in a hole. They grabbed their shovels of love and dug us out so many times. Who does that?

They have been a MOUNTAIN of faith. (Matt. 17:20)

We needed them, God knew it and He provided them at just the right moment. Nothing ever swayed them or their confidence in God doing what we needed just when we needed it most. My faith grew because they kept at it alongside us. They understand we are not where we want to be, but they know there’s no mountain God cannot move. We will see so much more clearly….when we look back.

They have given us their HANDS. (Is. 42)

Fumbling along, stumbling and sometimes even falling down…this sweet group of people stepped in and lent a hand when we couldn’t find our way. I’ve been around long enough to know that getting involved in someone’s struggles is life-sucking. It not only sucks it sucks the life out of you! With grace and kindness this small group of Christian soldiers handed us help in both simple and difficult ways. They are unstoppable!

I could go on but I won’t. I am challenged to be a better me because of them. When we drove away from them yesterday, I cried. Not only tears of sadness, thankful tears… filled with inspiration and DEEP LOVE! I KNOW – I KNOW – I KNOW, they are still right behind us (no matter how far we wander away from Zionsville) and cheering us on and praying as we discover whatever it is God is calling us to do.

That’s my small group. Small in size but big in love!

God,
You orchestrate the most amazing experiences for your children. I consider my small group one of my greatest blessings. I pray for them, that rag-tag of humans all combined to make one big dynamic Christ-like force. I pray that you would bless them, keep them safe….push them forward while we are away and pour all over them the love they deserve. Each of them have a precious piece of my heart and I will never forget the kindness & love they’ve shown. My people, YOUR PEOPLE! Thank you for every single one of them!
Amen

Can I challenge you?

Tap someone on the shoulder, invite them into your life. You never know, they may be just who you need for such a time as this!

I’ll Be Happy When __________

April 14th, 2018

I’ve had pain that I didn’t deserve… but, I’ve had pain that I needed. (Jack Deere)

Have you ever said, “I didn’t deserve this”? If I’ve learned anything in this last ALMOST 2 stinking years of my life it’s that very unexpected and ugly things can happen to you. For me personally, my problems are nothing compared to so many who are walking through real fire. Joblessness is pretty horrible but it’s not the suicide of a beloved family member or a child wracked with drug addiction. It’s a loss but it’s a whole nother kind of loss.

Loss that I can logically make sense of and cope with (ahem, yea….coping) and I can trust that there is an ending of some sort to my pain. The other kind of loss threatens to never let the person suffering from it free again.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sat and dreamed that my circumstance would suddenly turn for the better and my life would pick back up where it left off September 9th 2016.

I’ve wished.
I’ve prayed.
I’ve lamented.
I’ve begged.
I’ve let go.
I’ve gone to bed.
I’ve dried my tears and got back in the game.
I’ve given up.
I’ve fallen down the pit.
I’ve leaned on my husband.
I’ve sat alone.
I’ve hoped for good interviews.
I’ve wished calamity on the ones who caused this.
I’ve aged.
I’ve died to old ways.
I’ve made new friends.
I’ve given up a lot.
I’ve lost trust.
I’ve stopped expecting.
I’ve walked away from dreams.
I’ve believed that there was no hope.

In all of that, I’ve selfishly told God that I would be happy when _____ happened. Of course, my _______ is a great job for my husband again. Somehow, I’ve convinced myself that this one thing is the hinge to my well-being. The truth is that a job will not be my source of happiness. Oh, it can make me feel peace again and it can pay my bills…but happy? That’s an inside job!

I could wallow in the pit and cry about WHY THIS HAPPENED to me (to us) or I could wise up and trust that God is orchestrating this time in my life for something so much better.

Maybe I didn’t deserve it, but I needed it.

I’ve needed every hard day, every sad moment, every out-of-control feeling, every tiny piece of hope, every bit of stripping down and every I’ll be happy when ____!

I’m becoming who HE needs me to be.

I can’t do that lolly-gagging along in a perfect life. I’ll be happy >>>

    now!

Right here, right now.

God,
You haven’t missed one thing in my life. 20 months of waiting, wondering and begging for a new job has rocked my life and the life of my husband. Still, I know YOU ARE GOD and YOU ARE GOOD! Help me stop putting barriers on my joy and to live right where I am with purpose and peace! Thank you for your mercy and grace.
Amen

Don’t Look For Me

April 13th, 2018

For months now, I’ve been trimming down my life. I’ve hauled junk away, given stuff to everyone who needed or wanted it and I’ve sold some treasures too. All of it, necessary.

Who needs stuff?

I only miss some things. The rest of my belongings are packed away in storage and I can crawl around in there trying to find special items but it mostly makes a big mess of everything packed up. I end up feeling overwhelmed when what I’m hunting for is buried underneath a ton of boxes.

Note:

I’ve ordered new Social Security cards.
I’ve bought a new hair dryer.
I’ve ordered another birth certificate.
I plan to buy whatever jewelry I want when I find things I love.
I’ve stolen my daughter’s charger for my toothbrush.

I know, it’s just stuff.

This week is our last here in Indiana for a while. We’ve been, once again, packing. This time, even skinnier than before. Everything we want to take just won’t fit and I think God knew that’s exactly what we needed.

Go lightly.

Maybe leaving some of our things behind is closely related to leaving behind the jumbled up hurts we’ve endured this last year. Only, when I return…I do not plan to unpack any of the hurt part. We need to drive away from our life and we actually get to do that. It’s part of the plan that we never knew could happen to us.

I’ve done a little fretting about taking this or that but the truth is that I don’t need any of what I think I need. I have everything I really need. I just need a few cute shoes, my sweet Miss Lizzy & hubby and a soft place to lay my head. Bonus: I get Imogene to shack up in for the next however long so, I am psyched!

Adventure begins in 5 more days. It’s exciting, scary and challenging to even think about. My heart is everywhere and my head too. I don’t want to miss anything in my kids lives (even though they are grown and living it up!). I have so much growing to do myself and I can’t do it hanging out here just waiting for the next door to open.

So, I’ll be happy with every item I’ve packed. I’ll trust my hubby to handle our rig along the world’s highways (no more snow mountain). I’ll let God grow & mature my kids while I’m away…trusting that they need me to go just as much as I need to for me. I will use this time to turn my already rocking marriage into a MIGHTY FORTRESS! I won’t waste a minute of seeing America as I drive its roads & park in its beauty. I’ll make friends (of course!) and I’ll even take my church along with me on Facebook Live every Sunday!

I’m going to be okay.

Don’t look for me. I’m not here.

I’ll be HERE —>

Grace Hoarder

April 4th, 2018

Confession: I withhold grace from people I love.

I’ve always known this about myself and I’ve worked on being better a million times but yesterday as I walking to the mailbox, I felt God whisper to me my inability to extend grace. At first, I wondered where that thought came from then….I realized God was nudging me, reminding me to snap out of it.

So much has happened this year. I’ve had time to reflect on my life and how I’ve lived it. Maybe more than I really needed. Nothing is wasted with God so, I’ll take all of the looking back as a lesson in becoming better.

My children experienced my graceless mothering over the years and I know they love me and even forgive me…but, I can see how that has crippled much of my relationship with them. They feel as if they can’t please me and I blame it on my wielding the sword of perfectionism over them. Each of them are beautiful, unique and wonderful people. I’ve always known it and I’ll always believe it. It’s me that pushed too hard, blazed over them when they made mistakes and left them hurting by my angry silence.

That grace, the holding it so tightly….hurts everyone.

My kids are all grown and gone but I can see the effects of my grace hoarding in their lives. I can tell that they handle me with caution. I don’t think they do it to hurt me but I know it is just a consequence of my own doing. I grew up with a mom who couldn’t give grace. There was no moment in my life where she said, “Hey, that’s okay!” “Don’t worry about it!”. She was the opposite. She lauded her fury over me, beat me down physically & spiritually. I never received the grace I needed from her.

No one has ever been given more grace (BY GOD) than me. He has gone over-board loving me fully and unconditionally. My life, many times has been like a trainwreck! Still, G R A C E was plentiful and even sweet over my foolishness.

Why? Why have I lived hoarding my own grace?

I can’t answer. I won’t blame. I’ll just make it my priority to offer it out every chance I get.

Grace for you.
Grace for me.
Grace for everyone.
Amen.

Top 5

April 2nd, 2018

It’s not too late.

I wonder how many think it’s too hard or too late to lead someone to saving faith in Christ. Thinking from my own perspective here and I know how many times I’ve turned the other way KNOWING someone I care about needs Jesus.

It’s a shame.

How grateful I am that when I was younger SOMEONE prayed for me, shared with me and loved me enough to not let me go to hell. The world is hurting, people are lost and believers are instructed to share the GOOD NEWS. But just like satan wants, many just sit idly by never mentioning the free offer of salvation to the people God puts right in their path.

What is the reason?

Fear, laziness….unsure what to say?

Maybe all of it. The truth is that God is always seeking us out. He is ready and waiting for each of us to choose Him, to trust Him and to believe what He says about who we are to Him.

It’s never too late. Until it’s too late. I read a testimony of a lady who just wasn’t sure of her father’s position with God. He’s very sick, has cancer and she is afraid he might die and go to hell. I can’t tell you where I got the courage to just blatantly ask my own mother about her salvation when she was nearing death. But I did it.

Someone you know right now does not know Christ personally.

Maybe many someones.

What are you doing about it?

I only ask because I feel this push to pray for the people I know aren’t followers of Jesus. I’ve gotten sidetracked by NOT wanting to infringe upon them my own faith. See how crafty the devil is? He convinces us that we are weird and that NO ONE wants to hear about our JESUS! He wants you and me to feel embarrassed about our faith in Christ.

Oh trust me, he does a jam up job telling us that we are out of line caring for or seeking out leading others to God. I mean, how many times have you ran into trouble with someone you love by telling them something about God? Many are resistant to seeing themselves as sinners in need of a Savior.

Who wants to be told they are wrong?

No one. Ever.

I’m ashamed of myself for being so wishy-washy with my prayer life for others. I’ve fallen for the “they don’t want Jesus” so why should I bother focusing on them. How wrong of me and how selfish of me to ignore their need for salvation. But, God tells me…it is not too late! Start praying! Soften my heart for the lost and keep on keeping on for their sake!

I’m challenged to pray for my top 5 friends or family members who do not know Christ personally. I commit to praying every day for as long as it takes. Can you think of 5 people who need you to pray for them? Listen, if you haven’t already figured it out…satan wants to confuse every living soul to the truth of who Jesus is and he is more than ready to lead every person to an eternity in hell.

He will make it as easy for us as possible to ignore the needs of others. Especially spiritual needs.

Do not harden your heart to the lost in your circles. No matter how awful they are about faith, pray. No matter how lost they seem, pray. No matter how many times they tell you to bug off, pray. No matter how much they tell you they don’t need Jesus, pray. No matter how dark their life gets, pray. No matter if they profess there is no God, pray. No matter if they walk out of your life (crazy Bible banger!), pray. No matter if they call you names, pray. No matter if they say you suck, pray. No matter if they say, “Leave me alone!”, pray.

It’s not too late.

Go, write down your top 5 and get started. Watch what God will do with your faithful prayers.

Lord,
Forgive me for being selfish and keeping you all to myself. I don’t want to see the ones I love go through life without you. Thank you that I can do something powerful in their lives by praying for them. Help me to be light in this dark world. And God, hear my prayers for every lost soul.
Amen

(Don’t Click Post)

March 30th, 2018

After getting into a little fender-bender with a friend on Facebook this last week…I got a little taste of what people mean when they announce on social media they are cleaning up their friend list or taking a leave of absence from Facebook/Twitter/Whatever.

I couldn’t stand the icky feeling I had all over me (inside & out) after going back & forth with another believer over a stupid video. All I could think of is how can I wash this crap off? My heart felt dirty and the truth is that social media just isn’t for everyone.

I admit, I like having access to friends and family. I love reconnecting with people I’ve not seen in a coon’s age. I try to be a healthy user of social media but I haven’t always made it with a clean heart or mind. It’s full of clutter, meanness and bonkers opinions (mine included, I’m sure).

I read an article today about how unhealthy the habit is to get hooked on social media. Duh. Not shocking. Over the years, I’ve noticed more and more kids have social media accounts. The writer encourages parents to put the kabosh on their kids having a Facebook or whatever page as long as possible. Really, no middle schooler or below at all should have social media at their fingertips.

After my own grown up experiences there I realize that handling such a tool takes wise discernment and serious maturity. If I can get lost in a rabbit hole for hours, imagine what our kids who don’t have jobs or responsibilities can do. Also, if I can get in a tiff with another GOD LOVING adult…think of all the troubles a kid can get into.

Facebook isn’t evil, persay…but it isn’t a holy place nor is it set up to be a reality that you and I truthfully have thousands of close friends. So, just think for a minute some of the things you’ve shared or confessed on Facebook. Would you do that at the grocery store? Or the doctors office? Because that’s pretty much the same thing. People who mean zero to you or even strangers can see what you’ve said. Ewww.

Look, the truth is….we not only treat our kids as if they are self-employed and can manage themselves, we forget to manage our own lives.

We need managers. Our kids, need managers. Our role is to help train them to protect themselves, their hearts, minds and reputations. Also, if we haven’t learned that responsibility ourselves for our own lives….we are in trouble!

I’ve written my own reasons to pump the brakes on Facebook:

1. It robs you.

If you have FB on your phone, you probably peruse through the posts every chance you get. That sucks time from you and the ones you should be investing in. It steals hours of your free time. Stop letting it do that. Use it sparingly!

2. It opens your heart to sin.

Whether it be you get angry with someone who’s posted something ridiculous or you lust over the many vacation posts, shopping trips, new something or another’s or even someone sporting their bikini bod. You and I are made of flesh. We get jealous, we wish we had what someone else is showing off and we also have cruddy thoughts because of what we are exposed to on FB.

3. It dumbs us down.

Believe it or not, social media plays a giant role in molding us. It triggers impulses to follow whatever hot topic is on the books for that time. It also tricks us into believing something someone posted was true. We see it, it looks legit and we mark it down as so. Pretty foolish of us, but we do it. Look up what you see online before you share it or post it yourself.

4. It wrecks relationships.

I got into a rumble with a friend. Seriously. It’s not worth it. I have also been contacted by people who were trying to make the smooze on me. Nutballs are on there for not so nice reasons. Don’t get yourself in a situation that threatens your real relationships. How many kids have you seen on the news in trouble for an online relationship?

5. It does nothing for your soul.

You will more than likely never become a better you because of Facebook. The goal of social media has nothing to do with your eternal well being. It’s all about information and sharing it to further their agenda. Just last week it was revealed that Facebook sold yours and mine information for money. All the time you thought you were just making a good old connection with friends….Mark Z was cashing in on you! Beware!

6. It’s addictive.

I can think of a lot better things to be addicted to and social media isn’t on the list. Don’t do drugs either! It sucks you in for hours and in the meantime, your house is dirty, you haven’t exercised and everyone’s hungry. Don’t fall for the trap!

7. It jacks up your real social activity.

You and I need people. We need interaction, face-to-face! Relationships help us grow and mature. Iron sharpens iron. Social media can help but it can also stunt our growth. If all we do is hide behind a screen…we aren’t getting out there and mingling with the world. Go love someone and get loved back. Go talk with a friend in real life. Don’t just message and make promises.

8. It opens us up for temptations.

I’ve experienced my own moments of wishing I had what someone else was posting. Sounds stupid but that’s a form of temptation. I’m not looking for love or anything like that online but many others aren’t either and end up destroying marriages and families because of something they found online.

9. It can leave us looking foolish.

Just scroll back through some of your comments or posts. Yikes. I want to run screaming from the FB room just thinking of it.

10. It doesn’t give you real life friends.

If you ever made it out of middle school alive then you know NOT EVERY ONE IS YOUR FRIEND! People will chummy up with you simply to get the juice of your life and they don’t always have good intentions. Why open yourself up to such a risky thing. Go make real friends. Do actual things with people who want real relationships.

I’m not giving up my Facebook page. But I am changing a lot of my habits and ways. As with anything in this world, caution is a must. I have wasted too much time on social media. Time that I cannot get back and I regret it. Especially when I find myself all upset over something I saw or read there. Why would I do that to myself on purpose?

I NEED A MANAGER!!