Thursday, March 28, 2013

"Two women looked through prison bars..."

(She is seriously the sweetest baby ever. My's just too much!)
When we want something wonderful to happen, it takes forever. But when we are wanting things to slow down a bit, life flies by too fast!
It's been slow at work, and while that is definitely tough on the wallet, the rest of life has been busy busy! The break from work has given me so much more time to spend with my family and getting to know my Jesus better though, I am grateful. A friend said recently "When I'm going through the tough trials, I just ask God to help me LEARN what He's trying to teach me RIGHT I don't have to go through it again!" How true is that? In all the rough patches the last two years, I am earnestly asking God to change me and grow me through I don't have to do it again!!

One of the topics in the "Contentment" Bible Study we are doing (see this post for info) was on "Content with Circumstances". Wow, how easy is that? I can know I shouldn't compare, worry, and say "if only...", but that knowledge rarely stops my action. The more I read through Philippians 4 though, the more God is showing me that the key is where my thoughts are. Actively "rejoicing", "praying" and "thinking on" is how I move past regret and disappointment and on to all that God has done...and will our lives.
(My girl loving her girl. It's beautiful to see.)
There was a story in the study of a young women who happily married her United States Marine fiance and thought it would be romantic and exciting traveling the globe with him. Only a couple years later, she was miserable and sent a letter of complaints to her mother. She hadn't made any friends because she didn't think learning the language was worth it since they would leave soon, and her husband was never home. Here is my favorite part of the story:

"Her astute mother faxed a reply consisting of just two lines.

       Two women looked through prison bars
       One saw mud, the other saw stars. 
                                                                                       (Dillow pg 29, Calm My Anxious Heart)

Oh, how true that is! I couldn't help but see this and remember a journal I had started years ago, to just list all the blessings I see around me. It's been far too long since I wrote in it.
(This picture makes everything else worth it. So totally Spencer, and so totally a daddy loving his baby girl.)
So, here's just a sampling of all God has done this last week for us. What does your list look like, friend? Can we choose to "see stars" instead of staring at the mud below us? I think so!

My "Philippians 4:8" List

* I get to kiss baby cheeks every day
 * Sweet teens who have struggled to see God, still want to meet each week and read His Word  with me. Truly a blessing
* Spencer got a job and a drivers license! (you have NO IDEA how exciting that is to me- EVERY DAY I drive him to and from school, the gym, work, church, and whatever else needs to be done. I think I feel more freedom with that license then he does! No more 7 am car pool for me! After almost 2 years of it, all I can say is- Woot woot!)
* Jasmine was given a safe car to drive her family in
* Jordan is maturing and proving it by actually doing his schoolwork
* Steve is satisfied at work and is feeling healthier each day
* The sun came out!
* Family relations are healing and it's wonderful to watch
* Easter is coming- my favorite holiday
* We have a home, the electricity is on and there is food in the fridge

 The list could go on and on- so I will keep adding to it every day! God bless you!
(What a family!)
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9

Saturday, March 16, 2013

It's all in the timing.

It's pretty funny how we can be told the same things over and over, but not really hear it. Until the time is right.

I have being feeling bone tired for months. Not so much from lack of sleep, but just a tiredness in my spirit. Granted, its been quite a month. But even that wasn't it. Until this week, I really couldn't explain it to you. But now that I think I have found the reason, it feels AMAZING to know it can be treated.

Back in the fall I started a Bible Study with an old friend (hadn't seen her in years!) and some ladies from her church. It was such a blessing during a time of big transitions. Not being able to lead youth accountability groups, not really having any thing else to encourage study time, this was just what I needed.

Never could I have imagined how perfectly timed it would be. Getting to know these women has been such an encouragement. And then we started a new study this last week. It's by Linda Dillow, called "Calm My Anxious Heart". Timing! I have always been such a worrier. My husband says it's my "favorite hobby". I can worry about why there is more moss in the grass at 2 AM and find nothing wrong with doing it. At 2 in the morning.

Well, in just the first week of the study, God is bringing me His peace. It's awesome to experience. Of course, I had to read the whole book right away because a good thing is too hard to resist. But as I spend the next couple of months going over each chapter in depth with my little group of ladies, I can not WAIT to see what God does in my heart.

In the very first chapter, the author calls us out on what causes our anxious hearts. Lack of contentment. I don't know that I would have gone right to that, but as she cruises us through Philippians 4 and 1 Timothy 6, our worry and anxiety is so often rooted in a lack of contentment, and a lack of TRUST, in what God sees fit to give us.

Dillow tells of a friend she has, who's mother is the picture of contentment. Just the kind of woman that you want to rub shoulders with. Yet, this woman had lived for over 50 years with pygmie tribes in Africa. No running water, air conditioning, healthcare...the most coarse conditions. Her name is Ella, and Dillow's friend came across an old diary entry that Ella had written..and it is worth sharing:

"Ella's Prescription for Contentment"
1. Never allow yourself to complain about anything- not even the weather.
2. Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.
3. Never compare your lot with another's.
4. Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.
5. Never dwell on tomorrow- remember that [tomorrow] is God's, not ours.

                                                                                  (Dillow, Calm My Anxious Heart pg 13)

WOW. I immediately felt shamed...and the next line the author said the same thing. Coming from a woman who spent her entire adult life "slaving" in a sense, for the love of her Lord and His lost people, how can I not see the truth in it? I had forgotten to really mean it when I said, "Thank you, Lord". For everything.

I am walking around today with a smile on my face. For no other reason but God is good, and His ways are good. He has a plan, and a purpose for each one of us. And that is an AWESOME place to be. God bless you, friend. The daphne bushes are blooming, and Jesus lives. May you look into your OWN cup and thank the Lord for what He has done. The wonderful things that overflow our hearts, the fun things that make us laugh, and the hard things that grow us into a people that look more like Jesus.

Maybe someday I'll be able to say what Paul said in Philippians 4:11-13:
  "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Little Bit...

("Why, yes...I do know how to whistle.")

I love this sunshine. A little bit.
I love seeing my son laugh with his friends when he watches the NBA. A little bit.
I love seeing my daughter become an amazing mother. A little bit.
I love the fact that no matter how confused or anxious I feel any given day, God never fails me.
Not even a little bit.

2 weeks of having the title "Grandma". I still just say, "You have got to be kidding me." Grandma. Not yet 40 years old. Something is wrong with this picture. But as I hold this little Bee and kiss her chubby cheeks, and laugh at her silly sounds, and take pictures of her funny faces...everything feels just fine.
(Precious hospital photo- but sooo expensive!)
I was reading in Hosea and got stuck in chapter 11. The author is speaking of the early years of Israel, and how he dealt with them lovingly, as a father with his son. And yet, they turned away from Him. When I read the words in verse 4 I was reminded of God's character. And it made me want to be more like Him (Check out this chapter, it's amazing!)
"I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them." Hosea 11:4
("My mama thinks I'm too cold. I'm not...")

As I try to live with the people around me, I am so thankful for the wisdom of God in this world. Even people who do good things without knowing Jesus, only do them because God showed them GOODNESS somewhere in their lives. To lead "with cords of kindness, with ties of love" sometimes feels impossible. Until you look up. 

There are days I want to be bitter. Bitter over lost opportunities and dreams. Bitter from hurts that still sting. I want to kick people in the shins actually. A lot of the time. I think of the hurtful words, the cruel looks, or worse- the silent treatment we have all experienced at some time or another. And then I remember what kind of God we have. And the kind of life He calls us to. 
(Best baby in the world right there!!)
  Hosea 11 goes on to talk about the iniquity of Israel for a minute, bu then it turns right back to the character of God. Here's some bits. Sooo good:
"How can I give you up, Ephraim?
    How can I hand you over, Israel...
My heart is changed within me;
    all my compassion is aroused.
 I will not carry out my fierce anger...
For I am God, and not a man—
    the Holy One among you.
They will follow the Lord;
    he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
  his children will come trembling from the west. "

I want my heart "changed within me". I want to allow my "compassion to be aroused". I want to love those who are unlovable as much as I love this little baby Bee lying next to me. Our God is one who has the RIGHT to be angry because of how rotten we are. And yet, He chooses to call us out and hold us close. Oh, that makes me happy. That makes it possible to love my peeps even better and be kind to those who don't deserve it either. 
("It's how I roll.")
Thank you, Lord- for being the God who will not "give up" on His children. Thank you for showing us your ways and loving spite of us.