Saturday, April 11, 2009

dandelion wishes & perfume

Awhile back, I went into a clothing store in search of "the perfect white shirt." I knew what I wanted, because I had seen a picture of it in a catalog. That was a good thing, because I was meeting with my mentor and only had about ten minutes to shop.

So, I breezed into the store and made my way quickly around the racks. After a couple of minutes, the saleswoman came up behind me and asked if she could help me. I told her what I was looking for and she immediately walked over to "the" shirt.

As she handed me said shirt, she said, "If you end up liking it, you might want to buy it at Targ*t, because they sell almost the exact same shirt for about 1/2 the price. Although I probably shouldn't be telling you that."

As if those words weren't a bit surprising, her next words took me by pleasant surprise. "By the way, what perfume are you wearing? It's really nice. I could smell it as I followed you through the store." :-)

I was instantly reminded of the following verses found in 2 Corinthians 2:14:

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God."

It's a beautiful image, isn't it? But unfortunately, while may be true on most days, there are some days (or more) when my fragrance is more reminiscent of Ecclesiastes 10:1. :-(

This week, I had one of "those" days. Geoff came home sick on Tuesday night. Instead of being able to take my sanity night as I expected, I spent the night taking care of three kiddos who weren't at their best either. (I was happy to let my man sleep; don't get me wrong, it just ended up being a rough night had by all.) :-(

The next morning, I was feeling bad about being impatient with my kids, and asked God to forgive me (later on, I asked my kids to as well.) As I was praying, the Lord brought to mind a dandelion wish. (Is that what they are called?)

He showed me that regardless of whether I am living out of His Spirit or out of my flesh, I directly affect all those I interact with. When the winds of life "blow on me," there are little seedlings that are released and planted. The seeds will sow either a harvest of beautiful flowers--OR--weeds. (And we all know how quickly weeds grow and spread.)

Every morning I wake up praying that God will increase within my heart and life, while I decrease. On my own, I make so many mistakes and hurt others with my actions or words. Either on purpose, or as my kids like to claim, "on accident." Regardless, that's not how I want to be. That's not who I want to be. I want to be like Christ and reflect His sweet Spirit and plant seeds of life, joy & love...for Him.

LIVING A BLESSED LIFE, even when I'm standing in a field of dandelions.

With hope,

Friday, April 10, 2009

thoughts on Good Friday

I spent some time this morning reading the 26th chapter of Matthew, reflecting on Good Friday and the sacrifice that my Savior made for me (and YOU!)

Christ prayed three times, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (verses 39, 43 and 44)

He had already proclaimed that he was going to be betrayed and that he was going to nailed to a tree. He had some idea of the excruciating pain (both physically and emotionally) that He was going to have to suffer. He knew that His Father was trustworthy, good and loved Him. BUT, I'm not sure that He necessarily knew what lie on the other side of the hell He was going to walk through.

He knew the gift He was giving, but the cost of that gift caused Him to cry to the point of sweating blood. My brain can't even begin to fathom all that Jesus experienced.

I have personally experienced betrayal before. Someone that I loved and trusted hurt someone that is very, very, VERY dear to me. I had no idea the amount of devastation and pain this person was capable of or what the aftermath of their actions were going to look like. Had I know, I would begged, pleaded and cried out to God to let the cup of suffering pass. (Actually, if I had known, I would done everything possible to prevent it from happening. That said, it wasn't God's plan for our lives and I know that.)

However, God knew what was going to happen. AND, He allowed it because He knew what was on the other side of the suffering. He allowed us to walk through the fires of hell. Yes, our suffering was horrific, but nothing compared to what my Savior experienced.

The new life that we experienced on the other side was something beyond my wildest imagination. Would I have chosen to allow the painful betrayal, had I known there were such amazing blessings on the other side? I honestly have to say, "NO!" My brain was unable to imagine what good could possibly have come from something so very evil.

However, I am thankful that God did choose to allow us to taste some of what His Son experienced. That in itself is such a humbling gift because God does not allow us to experience true joy, freedom, life and resurrection until we have experienced extreme pain and loss.

We simply aren't capable of understanding the gift of light until we have experienced absolute darkness.

We aren't able to comprehend true love until we have experienced deep hatred.

We aren't able to receive life until we have in fact died.

We aren't able to have true compassion for others unless we too have suffered in a way similar to them.

I have a far greater understanding of what Jesus did for me because of what God allowed me to walk through. Jesus has a greater compassion for humans because God allowed Him to walk in our skin and flesh. Incredible, isn't it?

Deep thoughts on a Friday, eh? I know that much of what I am saying will come across as Greek for those of you who have yet to experience your own Garden of Gethsemane. If you have yet to find yourself begging God to take the cup of suffering from you, only later to find yourself on the brink of death feeling completely abandoned by your God, my words may fall terribly flat.

On one hand, that's good because pain STINKS. On the other hand, please know that if/when life deals you a devastating shock, hold tight. There IS life after death and joy after pain. Really.

"From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, ama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:45, NIV)

There were days in the midst of our grief and pain that we felt forsaken. It was so painful and frightening. And yet. We were never alone. God was with us, leading us and preparing us to be able to fully comprehend His power, His grace and His incredible love for us.

If you are in the middle of a storm right now--if you are grieving, hurt or feel alone, I am extremely sorry for your pain. As much as I want to reassure you that God is still good and that He loves you very much, this is something that He longs to show you for yourself.

I can tell you that He is still with you, you are not alone and there is a more going on than what you are able to see. Keep walking through the fire. It is meant for your good (your refinement) and not your harm. Yes, it's painful, but it will result in new life! I promise!!!

God loves you so very much, my Friend. I guarantee you that no matter how deep the pain or how significant the loss, He will not let a single moment of suffering go to waste. God IS love.

I pray that your days leading up to Easter are full of quiet moments of reflection and time spent talking to the One who gave His precious life and love for you (and ME!)

LIVING A BLESSED LIFE because of a carpenter who allowed His body to be nailed to a piece of wood on my behalf.

Grateful,


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

coffee, anyone?

Are you a coffee drinker like me? Or maybe a fan of hot chocolate? Well, guess what? You can have your java (or chocolate) AND make a difference in the world.

I just joined forces with 963 Coffee in an effort to raise funds on behalf of Ethiopian widows and orphans. 100% of the funds we raise will be sown directly into a ministry who is doing incredible work for God's Kingdom and those who are dear to His heart.

So, ready to go shopping??? I just did! I'm a big fan of dark roast AND cocoa. I also snagged a cool t-shirt and coffee tumbler for me man. Shhhh! ;-)

Simply go to 963 Coffee (which is a Christian organization based upon Psalm 96:3). One of the great things about 963 is that their heart is to bless coffee farmers by giving them a fair price for their coffee. To learn more about what that means, check out the trailer of Black Gold.

Using the above link makes sure that Defending the Cause (more about that soon...) gets credit for your purchase.

ALSO, please know that you can also have the coffee/cocoa shipped to you on a regular basis via the Monthly Obsession option. How cool is that?!?

I know that coffee and cocoa are truly not essential to LIVING A BLESSED LIFE. I really do. However, for myself, they sure are an added perk. And, to know that I am making a difference in the lives of widows, orphans AND coffee farmers, makes my heart smile.

Here's to good coffee! :-)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

feeding 5000 (or was it 10,000?)

About a year ago, God brought to mind the New Testament story about how Jesus fed 5,000 men (along with their wives and children) on fives small loaves of bread and two fish. I was in the middle of an intense season helping my three children to heal through a type of neuro/physical therapy. I was feeling incredibly worn out, overburdened and like there just wasn't enough of me to go around. (There wasn't!) :-)

When the Lord brought this story to mind, I felt Him speaking to my spirit that no matter how many needs I had, no matter how many needs my children had, He would meet every single one. And so I began to pray. Every time I started to worry or feel overwhelmed, I gave those feelings to Him. It was incredibly freeing to know that while on my own, I may be able to handle some of my life's responsibilities, but God was able to meet all of them, plus MORE.

God has brought this same story to mind recently. However, this time, He is showing me a new facet of the same story.

Funny enough, I turned on the radio a couple of weeks ago to listen to while I was sewing a curtain for Chelsea. There was a pastor preaching on a station I have never listened to before. I was ready to switch the channel to another station, but my ears perked up as soon as I heard his Scripture reference--John chapter six. :-)

The pastor talked about the fact that on our own, what we have to offer God (and the world around us) can seem pathetic. Yep, that was the word he used. Pathetic. He said that when we hold on to what we have, it stays pathetic. BUT, when we trust the little we have to God, He can (and will) make it extraordinary.

The little boy only had enough for his own lunch, and yet he gave it away and in turn fed 10,000 people with enough left over to fill twelve baskets. I call that extraordinary!

The widow gave two small coins, all she had, and in turn was acknowledged by Jesus and remembered for eternity in God's Word.

The preacher went on to talk about how our marriages, relationships, jobs, etc., can all be "pathetic" in our own hands, but when we release them to God, He is able to work miracles and make them extraordinary.

On the flip side of that, when we hold onto what we own (or rather, think we own), we not only stop God from blessing us, but we prevent Him from using us to bless others.

In Crazy Love, Francis Chen wrote, "We are loaded down with too many good things, more than we could ever need, while others are desperate for a small loaf. The good things we cling to are more than money; we hoard our resources, our gifts, our time, our families, our friends. As we begin to practice regular giving, we see how ludicrous it is to hold on to the abundance God has given us and merely repeat the words thank you...The concept of downsizing so that others might upgrade is biblical, beautiful...and nearly unheard of. We either close the gap or don't take the words of the Bible literally." (pages 120-121)

Challenging, isn't it? Please don't take these words are a source of guilt, but rather inspiration. Our life in America is comfortable and I know that I too often take it for granted. If I hop in the shower and the water is anything but hot, I'm disappointed. I like to have my ice-water very cold. If it's luke-warm, I don't want to drink it. How quickly I am to forget how precious clean water, flowing directly into my house is.

God isn't asking me to give up the perks in my life, but He is calling me to share the abundance that He has given me.

It's an invitation to an amazing adventure. It's also a process of learning, surrendering and trusting that as I let go, He won't leave me stranded. The truth, however, is spoken in three small words found in 1 John 4:16: "God is love." My desire is to rest in His love and to trust that He always has my best in mind, regardless of what my circumstances looks like along the way.

This is never a boring journey, is it?

Praying that you are resting in His love today and LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Sweet blessings,

Monday, April 6, 2009

seasons

"Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king." Daniel 2:19b-23 (NIV)

While I write this, I'm sitting by my bedroom window watching my kids play with their friends across the street...in the sprinkler! We've enjoyed a few days of glorious Spring weather. My friends, however, in Colorado and Illinois are feeling frustrated that their yards are covered with snow and ice.

There's a well-known verse found in Ecclesiastes that states "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." (Chapter 3, verse 1)

It's true not only of the seasons that affect our weather and climate, but also our lives.

My family is a season of planning and preparation as we anticipate adding another precious child to our family. Several of my friends have already brought home their new children and enjoying the process of settling in as a new family.

My neighbors are in a season of packing up their home to relocate to China; they are excited about the adventures ahead. My children, on the other hand, are already feeling sad that their good friends will soon be leaving.

I have a friend who is pregnant with her second son, while another is trying to make sense of a series of miscarriages. My heart rejoices with one and grieves with the other.

Sometimes, we find ourselves in mixed seasons. We find ourselves trying to hold in tandem the blessings of life and joy while also processing loss and pain. Sometimes our seasons make sense to us, and other times we can feel so devastated and confused that it's impossible to know which way is up.

Whatever season you find yourself in, I pray that you're eyes fixed upon the Lord and that He is showering you with His grace and peace. His promises are just as true in the Winter as they are in the Spring.

LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!