Life is all about change. When you trust an unchanging God - you have the ability to embrace change and trust Him in the midst of it. Join me as the Lord leads me through a new phase of my journey.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thankful Thursday - It's Christmas!!

I love Christmas.  I love everything about Christmas.  I love the music, the movies, the decorations and gift giving.  I love seeking out that one gift that will be a surprise.  I love watching my loved ones open those gifts and feel loved.  I love cooking for everyone and spending time just being together.

I love the story of Jesus' birth.  It is not your typical birth story which seems so very right to me.  I love that there were common shepherds that got to be the first to see this baby Jesus - the promised Messiah.  I love that Jesus was born in a lowly place among His creation.  I love that Mary pondered these things in her heart.  I do a lot of pondering myself, so I can relate.  I love that the Magi were seeking after this promised Messiah and were willing to dedicate a good portion of their lives to finding Him.  I love that they brought gifts.  I love giving gifts too.  I love that as a boy, Jesus had to move a couple of times.  I love that He followed in both of His father's footsteps.  I love celebrating the human entrance of my God.  I love that God came near.  I love that He walked among us.  Emmanuel.  He knows, He understands, He cares and He supplies everything that we need to walk in this same world among very similar people.  

Christmas is about gifts - getting them, giving them and celebrating the ultimate Gift -- Jesus Himself.  I like that the first Christmas gift was a wrinkled, crying baby who came to save mankind.  Who but God could arrange something like that!

Merry Christmas to all of you -- may the ultimate gift of our Savior Jesus fill you with JOY unspeakable.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thankful Thursday - Three Aunts in the Woods

I am having a great time in Texas seeing both friends and family.  I am very blessed with both!  A highlight of each December is a trip that my Mom and I take to see my three aunts in the woods.  I headed down to Waco on Monday afternoon and then headed to Livingston on Tuesday for a quick, but fun visit.

My Mom is the youngest of 5 children.  She has one brother, Allen, who is 86 - and three sisters - Nell, who is 94 (turning 95 in January); Jean, who is 93 and Ruth who is 81.  My Mom is the baby at 75.  You would never guess any of their ages.  They are the youngest senior citizens you will ever meet!  

Nell, Ruth, Allen, Ann and Jean

Why, do you ask?
*They have good genes - you just can't deny that.  My grandmother died at 79; my grandfather at 95 and my great aunt at 98.  People live long lives on both sides of my family.

*They never have slowed down.  They remain active in their community, in their church and with their family.

*They keep their minds sharp.  They watch tv, read and do puzzles.  They know more about what is going on in the world than I do.  You can have a great conversation with them on almost any subject.

*They love the Lord and have amazing faith.  They trust Him with their futures.  They have lived their lives for His purposes.

*They have positive attitudes.  They have been through a lot and all of it has not been pretty.  They have had family tragedies and heartaches - just like everyone else.  Not everything has gone as planned, but they are always looking for the positive and believing the best about people and situations.  When life knocks them down, they just get up, dust off and go on.

*They have generous hearts.  They are extraordinarily kind and generous with their time, their talents and their resources.  They care about others and always want to do what they can to help.

Ruth reading to my girls.
 *They have great senses of humor.  We laugh so much when we are together.  They are always telling funny stories from growing up and they love to tattle on each other.  

Ruth and Jean have lived by each other their whole lives.  I have wonderful memories of being at their houses when I was little.  They lived 2 houses apart.  I would run back and forth and spend time with both of them.  Their houses always felt like home.  When we went to see my grandparents, the highlight was always to go see Ruth up in her room.  She was a school teacher and she always had loads of interesting things in her room.  She did a lot of fun things with us and spoiled us to death.  My Uncle Allen and his family lived in a house right behind my grandparents so we got to spend a lot of time over there too.  I loved my cousins.  So many great memories.  My three aunts live on the same dirt road in the woods.  They watch out for one another and take care of each other.  My uncle lives in town, but they see each other often.

Spending time with these precious aunts and uncle is a gift.  They have loved me well for 51 years now.  They are modeled how to live a life of significance.  They have cheered me on - visited me all over the country and been a huge support in my life.  I truly aspire to be just like them.  

Nell, Ruth, Ann and Jean

So today, I am so very thankful for my three aunts in the woods (and my sweet uncle!)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thankful Thursday on Friday -- Traveling Mercies

My Thursday was one long day!  I got up at 6:45 to get ready and load up the car.  I backed out of my garage in Chicago at 8:20 and headed to Lake Shore Drive to connect with I55 heading south.  I started in snow and 16 degrees and ended up in TX at 56 degrees!  In between - a lot of miles (about 1000!) and a lot of countryside.  

I drove through Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.  I went through a few big cities and a lot of small towns.  I got to see a lot of Christmas decorations and the lights as it got dark.  I ate some pretty bad food and made really quick stops so that I could make it here in one day.  It took 15 hours - so I arrived at Ashley's apartment at 11:20.  I had thought I would stop and spend the night somewhere, but once this Momma got on the road heading for her baby girl - there was no stopping me!

Time in the car is good for reflection.  I thought a lot about how much my life has changed in the last several months.  I live in a new city, go to a new church and have a lot of new friends.  Basically, everything about my every day life is completely different than it was at the beginning of August.  When I stop and ponder all that has happened, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness.  

God has been so very REAL and so very PRESENT in every moment.   He has blessed my life in so many ways that I stand in awe of His goodness.  As I drove, I thanked him for so many people that have been added to my life.  I prayed for them by name and just gushed with thankfulness.  I prayed for a friend's son that is trying to get his life where he wants and needs it to be when I drove through his hometown.  I thought about God's character and all the ways that WHO He is makes my life complete.  As if God was spurring me on, I got to see an absolutely gorgeous sunset as I was driving into Oklahoma. (Yes - I did take this while driving with my phone camera!)

I listened to music off my ipod function on my phone the whole way down.  I listened to a mix for a good while, then to some great worship music and wrapped it up with Christmas tunes.  Quincy was navigator and traveling companion, although he slept most of the way!  He was one happy puppy when he was able to get out of the car and run around!

I was thankful for safety.  I had one trucker almost run me off the road (I was halfway on the shoulder!) - but I was okay.  I stayed awake and alert without any problems.  My car did great.  These things are important when you are traveling by yourself.

Arriving in Texas and seeing Ashley and getting to talk with her until the wee hours of the morning - a priceless treasure.  

Has God shown up in some unexpected places today? Has He blessed you in ways that you could not have imagined?  Here's hoping that you too will be gushing with thankfulness.  Blessings friends!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Musings - SNOW

I love snow!  We got our first snow of the year on Saturday.  It came down most of the night and then a good part of the day.  We ended up with 4 - 6 inches.  Why do I love snow?

*It transforms everything! Even a pile of junk looks beautiful covered in snow.  Bushes, trees, grass, rocks, buildings - all enhanced by white, fluffy snow.

*It makes you feel child-like.  Snow really brings out the kid in me.  It makes you want to run and jump.  It inspires awe and wonder. 

*It beats the heck out of cold and rainy :-) and Quincy loves to play in the snow.

*Snow screams Christmas!

 *Snow highlights God's wonders.


*Snow reminds me of God's amazing work in my life.  

"Come now, and let us reason together,"Says the LORD," Though your sins are as scarlet,They will be as white as snow;Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.  Isaiah 1:18

I grew up in Houston TX so I didn't see snow until I was a senior in High School.  I just couldn't believe how beautiful it was!  It gave me a whole new appreciation for the wording in that Isaiah passage - whiter than snow.  Snow is WHITE!  Even white things don't look white in the snow.  God is doing a powerful work when He takes our sin stained lives and makes them as white as snow.  

So - next time you are annoyed by snow (you know who you are) just remember that it is a continual message from the Lord that His mercies are new every morning.  He is ready to forgive and to cleanse us as white as snow as soon as we bring our sin to Him.  Just as each snow flake is unique - so are each one of you and God has a plan to use your life in a unique way.  
So . . . let it snow!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thankful Thursday - My Baby Brother

It is always hard for me to decide what to write about on Thankful Thursday because I have so stinkin' much to be thankful for!  I've been missing my brother, Kevin, so I decided to write about him today.

I have one brother.  He is my my oldest and dearest friend.  I have known him since the day he was born :-)  I'm not sure how I made it my first 2 years and 2 months without him!  I don't remember a time when I didn't absolutely adore him.  We played and played together as kids.  We dressed up, rode bikes, climbed trees and played games.  No matter what, we always had each other.  

Kevin is a great athlete.  He could play any sport once he gave it a try and he was always good.  I couldn't beat him at so much as a game of checkers!  He played football, baseball, basketball and soccer.  He even did a little track and field!  His real love was basketball and that is the sport he chose in High School.  I loved getting to see him play.  I spent a lot of years at all kinds of sports fields watching my brother play and I was always so very proud of him.  He went to Temple Junior College  for one year to play ball.  After that year, he transferred to Texas A&M and was a walk on for the basketball team.  It was a great experience for him to play a year on a Division I team.  He was a Petroleum Engineering major - so studies overtook basketball after that year.  

Did I mention that my brother is really smart?  Well, he is.  He made great grades and seemed to be able to figure out just about anything.  He has always been a hard worker and highly motivated.  After graduation, he moved to New Orleans to work for Chevron.  We got to share some great times together in High School and during our college years.  Life was always more fun when I got to hang out with my baby brother.  

One of my favorite memories is when he was 18 and I had gone back home for a visit.  He went and saw Friday the 13th with some of his buddies.  I was already asleep when he came in.  My door opened and there was my big, hulking brother (did I mention my baby brother is 6'5"!) coming in with his pillow and slept on the floor right by my bed.  He knew I would protect him!

It has been my privilege to watch my brother grow in to a man, get married and raise 4 kids.  He is a man who loves the Lord and loves his family.  He is there when anyone needs him and has such a generous heart.  He is a good man.  He is gentle and he is incredibly strong.  He is someone that I admire and adore.  

Kevin lives in Australia now and I don't get to see him very often.  I miss him but know he would be here in an instant if I needed him.  I am so thankful for my baby brother.  I see Jesus in him. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Musings - The Power of our Words

We had a guest speaker at church yesterday.  He had a good word for all of us.  This was not a new word - but always a good one.  He spoke about the tongue - the power of our words for good or for evil.  As he put it, we all carry a concealed weapon!

The average person speaks 16,000 words a day.  That is a lot of opportunity!  We always have a choice as to what we do with our words - we can choose hasty words, harsh words, hurtful words, words of gossip, critical words and words that are less than truthful!  We can also choose thankful words, loving words, encouraging words and kind words.

What's the key to choosing our words carefully?
"Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."  Matthew 12:34

So the key seems to be the condition of our heart.  When we get jostled, what spills out is truly what resides within us.  Sometimes - it is not so good!  Always a red flag as to my spiritual condition.  We not only need to "walk the talk" but we also need to "talk the walk!"  Our words, our actions and our faith need to line up.  Our lives must be a consistent picture of Jesus to those around us.

"The words of the wise bring healing."  Proverbs 12:18

We can choose to use our words to wound others.  It is easy, actually.  Critical, sarcastic and judgmental words seem to flow out easily - even effortlessly.  We have to choose for our words to bring healing.  We have to listen more, choose our words deliberately and carefully and generally speak less!  I never cease to be amazed at how powerful a good word  is to one who is wounded.  It can literally turn their life around.

"But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger."  James 1:19

Too often - I get those mixed up!  We tend to be quick to speak rather than quick to hear.  I have been learning to just be quiet more often - to really listen and think before I say anything.  I have also learned that it is okay to just be quiet.  Every thought does not have to escape my lips and every comment does not necessitate a response. 

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."  Ephesians 4:29

"The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin."  Proverbs 13:3 

We can not do this on our own!  It is impossible to tame the tongue without the power of the Holy Spirit!  We need to lean into the Lord and rely on Him for every word that comes out of our mouth.  We need to be aware of situations where we know we are at risk to join in on gossip or criticism.  We need to continually ask the Lord to show us the good in every situation and every person.  Is it challenging?  Yes!  It it impossible?  No - but only because of the power of our Almighty God.

This Christmas season - you could give no greater gift than the gift of encouraging words.  On that gift tag, include a word of blessing.  In that Christmas card, include a word of thanks or encouragement.  What if when you hand someone a gift, you hand them a word of blessing also.  Wow - what a difference we could make.  Let's do it!!!

Friday, November 26, 2010


Thanksgiving is such a great time.  I love a gathering of friends and family along with some fabulous food.  We were fortunate enough to have Ashley and James here with us.  We also had about 20 from our church here.  One thing about moves is that you learn that family is a much larger concept than you previously thought!  We have a great church family here.  Here are just a few of the things I am thankful for when I look over the last very eventful year.

*the fun times with Heather preparing for her wedding
*working along side Heather in her classroom
*all the kind and thoughtful things my friends did in preparation for the wedding - I have the greatest friends.
*the wedding of Heather and Cooper
*sweet times shared with Ashley and just watching her great love for ministry and people
*summer in Colorado - YAY!
*moving to Chicago
*finding Destination church and such great friends
*my neighbors here in Chicago - so wonderful
*Ashley's engagement to James and all the fun that comes along with that
*God's unwavering presence through all the changes
*His goodness and faithfulness to me even when I am not faithful
*Alan - such a good man and a wonderful husband - living life with Alan is a great adventure
*opportunities to serve and enjoy being God's hands and feet in a variety of ways
*Life - lived to its fullest - such a blessing

Having just celebrated my birthday and Thanksgiving - I am truly overwhelmed with all the people that the Lord has placed in my life.  I don't deserve it - it is purely a gift of God's grace.  Sometimes I think my heart will burst with such JOY.  Thank you for being a part of it!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Musings - Thanksgiving Week

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year!  I love a week that focuses on being thankful and is all about family, friends and food.  Hard to beat that!

I love Christmas too - because one of my love languages is gifts -- I LOVE TO GIVE GIFTS -- but I know that can also be a source of stress for some people.  The great thing about Thanksgiving is that we can do for others and just enjoy each other without any expectation of reciprocation (I like that phrase!)  

I was born Thanksgiving week and I get to celebrate my birthday on Thanksgiving day every so often which is particularly fun.  My sweet friend, Heather Sweetman, gets the Thanksgiving Day birthday this year and I get to celebrate it with her - that is a pretty sweet deal :-)  We are having a bunch of people over for Thanksgiving dinner this year.  It will be a very special time with family (Ashley, James and Alan) and our church family that are in town.  Lots good food, lots of fun and great fellowship.  So very much to be thankful for.

If there was ever a week for an attitude of gratitude - it would be this one.  Count your blessings.  My friend Kerry, who lost his sweet wife Jill in August due to a motorcycle accident, is facing his first Thanksgiving without her.  He is struggling but he is looking for the good - he is thankful for his kids and for all the years he shared with Jill.  It's hard - but he is doing it.  

Hebrews 13:15 says, "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that openly profess His name." 

For some, this Thanksgiving may be a really tough time.  Like my friend Kerry, you may have lost someone dear to you and facing your first holiday without them is a daunting task.  For others, you may be experiencing a difficult circumstance in your life or you may be facing a huge disappointment.  In those kinds of situations, we have the unique opportunity to offer a sacrifice of praise.  How very pleased the Lord must be when we acknowledge that He is what we are thankful for - above all else - regardless of our circumstances - regardless of our pain - He is still worthy of our praise.  
Thankful Thursday will be on Thanksgiving this week - double attitude of gratitude.  Celebrate with me.  Take time to write down some things you are thankful for and share them at your Thanksgiving meal.  Honor the Giver of all Good Gifts. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thankful Thursday - Ashley and James

What an amazing week!  I have been so busy with all my secret keeping that I didn't even have time to write a blog on Monday!  

I have known that James was going to propose to Ashley on Tuesday for 6 weeks.  Now, I'm a great secret keeper with all those years of youth work behind me, but this one was tough!  The excitement about this day built up like crazy over that 6 weeks. It was such a relief when we got on a plane last Saturday to head to Texas.  Of course, we had to be sneaky and lay low until Tuesday, so we landed in Dallas and immediately drove to Tyler.

We had a great visit with Heather and Cooper.

Not to mention my granddog Miles.

We got to hang out, go to church and I got to help in Heather's class on Monday.  I love to watch Heather teach.  She is so wonderful with her kids.  I loved every minute of it.

We headed to Southlake on Monday night.  My parents, Alan's folks and my niece Hannah were already there.  James had all of Tuesday planned out.  He came to see us on Monday night and we all got very excited about the big day!!

Ashley got her first surprise on Tuesday when we picked her up for breakfast.  She didn't have any idea we were in town or that all this wonderful stuff was about to take place!  She cried - I cried.  It was great :-)  We took her to breakfast and when she walked in, she saw the rest of the family.  So much fun!  She got to have lunch with her closest friends and then shopping to get her ready for the big night.

She looked drop dead gorgeous!  James had planned out a very sweet proposal and a nice dinner at one of Ashley's favorite places.  There was an engagement party at one of their favorite cupcake places.  It was so much fun.  What a very special day!  So - another spring wedding at the Goad household.  We could not be happier!

I forgot to mention that it was James' birthday - he chose to make his day a special day all about Ashley.  I can't even tell you how much I love that.  

Time with my girls is such a treasure to me. 

 I am so very thankful for my sweet girls, their sweet guys and all the good times ahead.  Welcome to the family James!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thankful Thursday

My heart is overflowing with thankfulness today.  I just feel like jumping up and down and hollering -" Yahoo!  I serve an awesome God and He is accomplishing so much all around me!!"

It has been such a great people week - which always makes for a good week in my life.

Friday - I got to have brunch with Karen, Kara, Rachel and Heather; go to the Chicago Art Institute with my friend Beth and then meet her husband and Alan for dinner.  Rich conversation and delicious food :-)
Saturday - the 1 hr. 15 minute spin class (so much fun); coffee with Christen; had Rebecca, Jennifer, Alison, Ryan, Jamie and Kevin over for dinner.  These friendships are becoming so precious to me.  
Sunday - Destination church and lunch out with Karen and Steve.
Monday - coffee with Lisa (more great conversation); painting at Hamilton Elementary (hilarious conversations with students!)
Tuesday - coffee with Meghan (such a sweet soul); painting at Hamilton Elementary; dinner out with Karen; chocolate fondue party with a bunch of the girls at Heather's house.
Wednesday - boxing class; Target (that just makes me happy); visit to the dentist (good checkup and a chance to talk with Carly - the hygienist - super sweet girl); small group at my house with 15 absolutely amazing women.
Thankful Thursday: spin class, lunch and great discussion with Julie; Costco :-) and then a benefit for NEST -(an organization that gives small business loans to women in third world countries)  My neighbor Rebecca is involved with this effort and it was fun to go and support her.  I got to spend time with my neighbors Alison and Jennifer there also - and I got to meet Rebecca's sister.  To top it off, as Alison and I were talking outside on our street, a guy came by with a beautiful Bearnaise Mountain Dog.  We started talking to him and learned his name is Adam - he lives just a block from us and he and his girlfriend Tess are getting married in Avon, Colorado in January!  He was so nice.  I think we found a new friend.

Now - most likely that was more information than any of you wanted to know.  My point is - people make life rich and I am thankful for the amazing richness of my life this week.  I never get over how many wonderful people are all around us all the time - sometimes we just have to initiate a small conversation and there you go - a new friend.  I have decided that I am a relationship millionaire and I'm going to share the wealth with as many people as possible! 

One of these days, I'll get to see the heavenly interest that has been earned on such an investment.  Join in the fun.  Hope your heart is overflowing with thankfulness too.  It sure is good. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Musings - Remember the Orphan

November is a month set aside to remember the orphan.  There are approximately 147 million orphans in the world.  WOW  That is a number that is hard to get your mind around.  So - what can we do?

Scripture tells us that we are to care for the orphan. Period.  It is a mandate - not optional.

What does that look like?  It can take on many 
different looks.  

*For some - it means adoption.  Once someone adopts, they become adoptions biggest advocates!  I haven't met anyone yet who regretted adopting.  International adoptions have grown tremendously in the last few years.  More countries are opening up their borders to international adoption - others are really slowing down . . . It is an emotional, difficult journey - but one that is well worth the fight, the wait and the money spent. Is this your calling?

*For others - it means helping couples adopt.  Some people are called to financially help those couples who are adopting.  It is an expensive endeavor and if you can give financially to help someone fulfill their calling and their dream - do it!!

*For others - actually for everyone - we can pray for the orphan.  If this is all you do, it is something huge.  We can intercede on behalf of these children who do not have an earthly advocate.  We can pray for them to find families; we can pray for their caregivers; we can pray for their daily provisions; for their health; for their precious souls.  We can pray for God to move on behalf of each orphan and move the process along as quickly as possible - removing seemingly insurmountable obstacles such as government bureaucracy, paperwork and financial mountains.  We can pray for the many orphanages that are tirelessly working to provide care and future families for these precious ones.

*For all of us - we can be an outspoken advocate for the orphan.  Let others know about people that you know who are involved in adoption.  Their stories are inspirational!
     Bill and Lynsay - friends of mine who run an orphanage in Ch*na.  They take in babies with serious medical problems and they see amazing miracles all the time.  It is exhausting and trying, but they are faithful.  Bill was adopted and they have adopted two precious girls from the states.
     Dwight and Linn - friends of mine who have adopted 7 children from different countries and the USA.  They also have 3 biological children.  Their oldest daughter is coming home soon with her new baby son from Ughan*a.  What a legacy this family is leaving!
     David and Amy - friends who adopted a sweet baby girl "E" from Ethi*pia.  They are in the process of adopting a second baby. 

There are many others with amazing stories.  Just being aware will perk up your ears to hearing more and more about these families.  

Orphans -- we have all been one.  What?  When we were apart from God - we were orphans in need of a Heavenly Father.  He chose to send His Son so that we could become His children.  He adopted us into His family.  We now can call God Himself - Daddy.  Who do you know that is still a spiritual orphan?  Let's remember those orphans too.  Let's continue to let people know that they have a huge family in the body of Christ.

I want to encourage you to seek God about what part He would have you to play.  He very well may want you to adopt a child.  He may point you in the direction of financially helping someone else to adopt.  I know He wants you to pray.  That's a no brainer!!  Let's all lift up God's precious children and see how our Heavenly Father will move on their behalf.  Wouldn't it be amazing if as a body of Christ - we could bring that number down to 0?  I think it is possible.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thankful Thursday - Purpose

I was thinking today how thankful I am for my life here and all that has happened in the last 2 1/2 months.  To say that life has been full would be an understatement!  

In Ephesians 2:10 - we are told that the Lord has prepared good works for us beforehand so that we should walk in them.  What a privilege it is as a believer to know that our life has a purpose and that there is a plan.  

I have had such a heightened awareness of what the Lord would have me do since moving.  I guess that a brand new start just gets your adrenaline going!  Of course, part of moving somewhere new is discovering why the Lord has brought you here and what it is you are supposed to be investing your life in.  Day by day, that has been made very clear to me.  One baby step at a time, I am seeking to follow the Lord's lead and be just where I need to be.

So many people today talk about having no purpose in life.  Life has no meaning and they are just miserable in their job, their home and generally in their life. People do a lot of crazy things trying to find their purpose. That just breaks my heart.   We have to slow down and seek after God longing to hear His voice.  Without Him, we will not be able to discover our true purpose.  We need to act on what we know at the present and trust Him with each step.  When a change of direction or big decision comes along, you have already been in step with the Lord and what comes next will make sense.  He will prepare you ahead of time in ways that are truly mysterious!

Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite scripture of many and for good reason.  The Lord tells us that He has a plan for us - plans to prosper us and not harm us - to give us a future and a hope.  Wow!  That is great news.  It goes on to say that we must CALL on Him, PRAY to Him, SEEK Him and SEARCH for Him with all our heart.  FAITH IS SO VERY ACTIVE!!  

So, what is your purpose?  How are you investing in the kingdom right now?  Take time to pause and thank God for the good works that He has prepared beforehand that you have the privilege to walk in them.  Honor Him in that walk.  Thank Him that you have the privilege of calling on, praying to, seeking after and searching for God Almighty with all your heart.  He longs to be in relationship with you.  We have so much to be thankful for.  Join me in a big THANK YOU to our God for His purposes in our lives.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Musings - God is at Work

I had such an amazing week.  It was one of those weeks where I could see God at work around every corner.  I just love that!  I'm amazed at what can happen from a Monday to a Monday.

I had my first small group study at my house on Wednesday.  What an amazing group of women!  There are 16 of us all together and we were only missing one person that first week.  We are going through a book called "Undefiled."  It is a book about sexual redemption.  It is very good - very challenging and definitely gets in your stuff, if you know what I mean! We had such good discussion and just a good spirit in the group.  I see many good times coming with these women.  It is a privilege to know them.  God is at work.

Friday was the wedding at my house.  I had a blast getting everything ready and trying to make it special.  My sweet friend Beth came over and helped me get everything together.  She was a lifesaver.  The night could not have gone any better.  This sweet couple was so excited and it was so meaningful to see them make this decision to commit to one another and to commit their relationship to the Lord.  Although they have been together for some time, this is a brand new beginning for them.  It is a choice to put the Lord at the center of their home.  We had such a great time all being together and celebrating.  It was a gift.  God is at work.

Saturday, I got a text message from one of my neighbors on the street that she needed some help getting ready for a Halloween party.  She needed Fran Dresher hair (aka The Nanny).  Rebecca is adorable.  She came over to the neighbor party I had a couple of weeks ago.  I spent a hour teasing her hair and spraying it to withstand a hurricane.  She looked hilarious.  What is so special about that?  I got to have some great conversation with her and deepen our friendship.  God is at work.

Also on Saturday, Steve and Karen Cunningham came to stay with us for two nights. We had the best time hanging out and getting to know them. They moved into their apartment today just a few blocks from us.  They are a couple our age (YAY) who knows our pastor's wife from her days in Kansas City.  Steve got transferred up here.  Coincidence - I don't think so! (that is for you Kay.)  We know that the Lord has purpose in moving the 4 of us here.  We now make up the senior group at Destination Church!  We are so excited about getting to know them better and serving along side of them.  God is at work!

Where do you see God working?  He is busy all around you.  Open your spiritual eyes and just be amazed.  Jump in where you can and be a part of it.  What a privilege we have as God's children to be involved in His work.  Pray for me when it comes to mind.  I am jumping up and down with Holy Anticipation!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thankful Thursday - Mentors

I have been so fortunate to have some amazing mentors in my life.  I'm thinking about two of them in particular today and I want to tell you why I am so thankful for both of these women.

LaVon Link:  LaVon is my mentor as well as one of my closest friends.  I first met LaVon when I was in my twenties.  She and her husband Larry came to First Baptist Church Arlington for Larry to be the Education Minister.  I became a part of LaVon's womens class on Sunday mornings.  These were some life altering years!   To sit under her teaching for several years was such an amazing experience.  LaVon made the scriptures come alive!  She was great with practical application.  She had this way of encouraging me and challenging me all at the same time.  After learning from LaVon, she began to ask me to teach for her when she was out of town and occasionaly when she was in town!  I was so nervous.  She is a tough act to follow!  She kept encouraging me to step out and use the gifts that God had given me.  I have enjoyed many years of teaching since that would not likely have happened without her prodding and encouraging.  For the last several years, we got to teach together in a womens class.  It was so much fun.  We have shared years of friendship and been by each others side in both times of great sorrow and great joy.  I can't imagine my life without my forever friend LaVon.

Ann Shaw:  When I moved to Ohio in 1993, I didn't expect to have another friend like that but the Lord knew that I needed someone who was further down the road in life to challenge, encourage and mentor me.  Ann Shaw stepped into those shoes.  I was in my mid 30's at this point - raising two elementary school age daughters and encountering many more questions than answers!  I met Ann at our church there in Columbus - Karl Road Baptist Church.  I got to know Ann because I had one of her boys in youth group.  From the start, Ann came along beside me and offered friendship and support.  We began meeting together once a week - sometimes for coffee and conversation and sometimes for Bible study.  Ann is wise, kind, caring and just intimidating enough to keep me on my toes!  When it came down to making a decision about applying for the Youth Ministry position at our church, it was Ann who encouraged me to apply for it.  Her belief in me gave me the courage to go for it!  She was faithful to meet with me, helping me every step along the way.  Those years of ministry were such a highlight for me.  The Lord grew me up in remarkable ways during those years and He used Ann in a mighty way to accomplish that.  I will be forever grateful for her presence in my life.

Both of these women continue to have a profound influence on my life even though I do not live in the same city as either one of them.  I can't really even express how deeply I love these women and how grateful I am to both of them for seeing something in me that I couldn't see and encouraging me to be the woman that the Lord wanted me to be.

I feel like it is crucial to always be looking for a mentor and to always be looking for someone younger that you can mentor.  We all have a lot to learn and a lot to share.  Who will you choose to walk along side?  Who will reach their potential because you invested in them?  Who do you need to initiate spending some time with - either to mentor or to be mentored by?  You will never regret stepping out and making an eternal investment in another.  

Men - this is for you too!  Young men desperately need older men who are walking with the Lord to come along side them.  There is such a gap in this area.  Will it cost you some time? YES!  Will it be somewhat inconvenient?  YES  Will it be worth it?  YES

Let's love one another is some practical ways that make a difference.  Mentor away . . .

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Musings - Opportunties

Opportunity -- a scary and exciting word all at the same time.  Every time we have moved, Alan's conversation at work starts with the words . . . We have this opportunity for you.  

Well, really, every day is about opportunities.  They begin with the moment we wake up and don't stop until the moment we fall asleep.  I have had a week full of opportunities. 
     *I had the opportunity to exercise.  Now that is an easy one to decide against a lot of the time - but this week I took every opportunity to exercise.  I even went to a new boxing class at the gym.  It was tough, but fun.  It was also an opportunity to meet a new instructor whom I ended up seeing again later in the week.  His name is Chris - so it was easy for him to remember my name as well.  Those little connections make a difference.
     *I had the opportunity to hang out with friends last Monday night and have some chili.  Honestly, I kind of like being home on a week night, so it is a challenge at times to gear back up and go somewhere.  Glad I went.  I got to have a conversation with a young woman who is taking a step toward purity and marrying her boyfriend whom she has been living with for quite some time.  They are so excited about honoring the Lord with this decision. Where is the opportunity?  I get to host the wedding!  They are getting married in our house this Friday night.  I get to plan the dinner and make things special for them.  What a privilege!
     *I had the opportunity to hang out with some women at breakfast on Friday.  It was such a sweet time of fellowship and an opportunity to deepen and develop those friendships.  I left that breakfast just praising God for these new friends that are such a blessing to my life.
     *I had the opportunity to spend Friday with Beth  - my new favorite day - Beth Brown Fairweather Friday.  I love Beth - I love hanging out with Beth and exploring the city with Beth.  We rode a water taxi - we talked - we laughed. We get to share our hearts.  
     *I had the opportunity to spend Saturday with Ben Crill and his wife Erin.  I had Ben in youth group in Ohio years ago.  I can not even tell you how encouraging and wonderful it was to see Ben as a grown man, following the Lord and loving his wife.  
     *I had the opportunity this week to make an apology to my neighbor for an oversight on my part.  I inadvertently left the garage door open and she had a bike lock, a tire and an old bike stolen.  It was my fault.  I felt terrible.  Admitting you messed up is no fun but she was so incredibly gracious to me.  That ended up being an opportunity for a deeper relationship with her.
     *I had the opportunity to have some more neighbors on my street over this Sunday.  I only had 3 come this time, but I am so excited that I got to meet them.  Taking that opportunity will lead to more opportunities - even with those who could not come.
     * I had an opportunity today to meet with the principal of an elementary school near me to see if I could help.  I had been looking at the schools close to me to see which ones had the lowest scores, least amount of parent involvement etc.  When I looked at this one, they had a wish list and on there was the need for someone to do some painting :-)  That is as close to a neon sign as I am going to get!  He is so excited that I want to do some painting at the school.  I'm excited because I love to do it and I will love seeing the kids get excited when flowers, bugs, sports balls and some of their favorite literary characters begin to appear on the walls.  

Opportunities - sometimes we miss them.  We are easily distracted and we are busy.  Scripture tells us "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15-16

I have missed a lot of opportunities over the years.  I have also grabbed hold of a good many.  My goal from here on out would be to take every one of them!  It will take discernment, some inconvenience, some sacrifice and a lot of courage.  

What opportunities are you taking? What are you doing with them?  Make the most of them.  Be wise.  Be an opportunist - in the very best sense of the word :-)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thankful Thursday on Friday

What a great week!  Cool, crisp days with fall color in this wonderful city.  I am blessed.  Here are a few of the things that I am thankful for this week:

*Monday night chili supper at the Sweetman's house 
*Boxing class and spin class - so much fun
*breakfast with some sweet friends
*Beth Brown Fairweather Friday
*Greek Town
*Chicago water taxis
*The Elevated Train
*Destination Church
*God's daily care and encouragement

It has been a good week.  I am amazed at how at home I feel in a new place after two months.  The Lord has been so good to affirm each step.  He has provided friends, fellowship and lots of fun too.  I am just overwhelmed by His care for us.  I pray that God's goodness to you in evident in your life and that you will take a moment to thank Him specifically for all His goodness to you this week.  Blessings friends.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Musings - Who Lives Next Door?

Who lives next door?  That has not ever been a very tough question for me!  For most of my adult life, I have lived in a neighborhood of single family homes - your traditional neighborhood.  Urban living is quite different!

My street could possibly have 350 to 400 people living on it.  Now - I like to know everyone on my street, so that is a rather daunting task!  Well, I decided to tackle it a small bite at a time.  I invited the four buildings to the north of me over for dessert and coffee yesterday.  Out of a possible 17 possible guests (including 4 kids), I had 8 come.  I thought that was a pretty good turn out!  Most of these people had never met each other - even some of the people in the same building!  It was fun to meet each one and to see them enjoy each other.

Among the group, there was a married couple who has lived on the street since 1993.  It is second marriage so there is some yours, mine and ours in the discussion!  Geoff's daughter grew up in Downer's Grove and as it turned out, graduated from high school with one of our other neighbors, Jennifer.  What are the chances of that!?! 

Next door to Geoff and Deb are two older men that have lived on the street since 1980, Jim and Kelly.  They have seen a lot of changes over the years.  They are both writers and political activists.  Kelly is blind.  He does remarkably well around here.  He takes the train to work every day.  I really admire that kind of spunk!  They had some great stories and are a piece of Chicago history themselves!

Two buildings up from them is the building where Jennifer and Rebecca live.  They just moved in October 1st.  They are not new to Chicago but they are new to our street.  They both went to the University of Illinois.  They are the age of my daughters, so I loved them immediately.  Rebecca teaches Phys Ed in the Chicago Public Schools.  Jennifer works for a firm that does market analysis for the restaurant industry.  They are beautiful girls who are full of energy.  I look forward to getting to know them better.

In that same building on the 3rd floor are Ryan and Alison.  They have been married for a year or so and are an adorable couple.  We discovered quickly that we both love the Lord!  It was so exciting!!  Alison is an accountant so she and Alan got to talk some number talk.  Ryan is a structural engineer.  We look forward to spending more time with them and together, reaching out to our neighborhood in the name of Christ. 

I invited the three buildings to the south of me over for next Sunday, so we will see who else we meet!  I'm so excited to see what the Lord is up to.

The Lord has placed you on the street where you live for a purpose.  It is no accident that you are in that house, in that apartment, in that place, by those people!  Be an initiator!  You don't have to do anything fancy.  You can't get much easier than coffee and dessert.  You may not become best friends with everyone you meet, but you also may come across a lifelong friend.  You may encourage someone else to get out and meet some people.  You might really get something started on your street!  

The Lord loves and cares for all those who are around you.  He could use your hands and feet to love on them.  He could use your words to encourage them.  You never know how much a small word of warmth and encouragement can make a difference to someone.  There are a lot of great people out there.  I don't know about you - but I want to meet as many of them as possible!

As far as I am concerned, the whole world is one big neighborhood.  Let's all be good neighbors.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I love fall!  It is especially fun when you live somewhere with distinct seasons and fall color. 

Ashley and Heather playing in the fall leaves in New York
The first "real" fall that I ever experienced was in New York.  We lived there in the early 90's.  I grew up in Houston, so I had really never seen fall color.  I would be driving around NY and have tears in my eyes because it was so beautiful!  I felt like I got to see a whole new aspect of my Heavenly Father.

I have also experienced a Colorado fall - spectacular!
My Dad and I in Colorado  

City fall has its own beauty.  Here is a glimpse of Chicago fall.

The sidewalks and the streets are covered in yellow and orange leaves.  I think this foreshadows our heavenly streets of gold!  There is beauty in every season of the year and in every season of life.  I am so thankful for the beauty around me and the life that the Lord has given me.  God's creation testifies of His goodness.  Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday's Thoughts

I've had the privilege of having friends here for the last few days, so my Monday Musings turned into Tuesday's Thoughts this week!  

The Chicago Marathon was this past Sunday.  Our friend Rocket Thompson came to Chicago to run the marathon along with 45,000 other people! That got me thinking about the very familiar image of life as a race that we want to finish well.

Training:  I have watched Alan train for a marathon.  It is tough!  It takes a lot of commitment, time and thought.  Everything revolves around that marathon when it is coming up.  Rest, nutrition, running and planning all play a part.  You can't just go out and run a marathon - but from what I saw, a few folks tried!  It was an unusually hot day here last Sunday and if you had not prepared and prepared well, you were really hurting early on in the race.  We watched the runners at mile 7.5.  Some of them were really struggling with 19.7 miles to go!  They had registered, they had their number and they got out there to run - but they were not prepared to actually run the race.  You can look the part and not finish the race!

Mental Toughness:  Runners deal with all kinds of obstacles on a regular basis - whether it is blisters, sore muscles or uncooperative weather.  In a race, they have to choose what to focus on.  If they start to focus on their blisters, the pain becomes unbearable.  The more they think about it, the worse it gets.  They may even choose to stop running the race if the pain overtakes them.  There are also runners that have blisters but they don't allow their mind to go there.  Excessive heat becomes a challenge to overcome.  They persevere and focus on finishing the race.  The goal ahead is enough to get them through the adversity.

Pacing:  The ability to pace yourself is huge in a marathon.  You have to know at what pace to run each mile in order to finish.  If you start out too fast (easy to do with the adrenaline rush!) you will wear out and really slow down as the race goes on.  You have to know your own body, stick to your plan and run your race.  You can't run the other guy's race - you must run yours.  They even provide pacers to help the runner's stay on their optimal pace so they can run their best race.

Support:  Just imagine how many spectators there were with 45,000 runners!  A LOT!  I would say that most runners had multiple people there to cheer them on.  When the going got tough, they could hit a mile marker and see the face of someone they loved.  You could see runner's perk up and pick up their pace when they heard a familiar voice cheering them on.  

The finish line:  We stayed at mile marker 23 for a good while.  At that point, the racers are told that they only have a 5K race left - just 3.2 miles.  For most, I think that was very encouraging.  There were a lot more miles behind them than there were before them.  The finish line was looming and the race was drawing to a close.  That extra push that was needed suddenly seemed possible.  The winner was a man from Kenya who ran the marathon in 2 hours and 5 minutes.  I imagine that last runner finished around 6 hours - maybe more.  And yet - they both finished.  What an accomplishment!

Training:  What is the race that the Lord has set before you?  How will you train to be ready for and to stay fit for that race?  What kind of commitment and discipline is required?  Do you merely look the part or are you the real deal?

Mental Toughness:  What obstacles are you currently facing?  How do you respond to adversity?  Do you focus on the difficulty or embrace the challenge? Do you see your God through the eyes of your circumstances or do you see your circumstances through the eyes of your God?  Do you keep your eye on the prize?

Pacing:  What steps are you taking to run your race?  Did you start out strong and then fade away - or are you committed to keep up the pace for the long haul?  Who is your pacer?

Support:  Who has the Lord placed around you to help you run your race?  Are you allowing the body of Christ to be your support?  Who are you cheering on?  

The Finish Line:  Hey - we are all heading toward the finish line.  I don't know about you - but I want to finish strong and finish well.  Unless I live to be 100 - I'm already past the half way mark.  In order to finish well, I have to keep my eye on the prize - stay spiritually fit by abiding in the Lord - staying immersed in His Word and praying without ceasing.  With all that in place, I need to be obedient to the race that God has called me to run.  It is tempting to take my eyes off of that and look at another guy's race.  Maybe I like theirs better - perhaps it looks easier or more exciting.  The truth is, if I am looking at someone else's race, I will probably trip over my own feet!  I must keep my focus on what the Lord has asked me to do.  Each race is important - each race is unique. 

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Hebrews 12:1

Here's my goal:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  
2nd Timothy 4:7

Oh, how I long to be able to say that with my last breath.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Wow - it has been a good week.  Absolutely beautiful here this week.  The trees are changing and the temps are perfect.  Loving it!

I went to a spin class today and the instructor (Rob) did a little Thankful Thursday spiel.  Of course, he didn't realize it was Thankful Thursday but he just started stating everything great about this week.  It was very cool because he had a bad week last week - and he was just trying to encourage everyone to hang in there if they were having a bad week because they pass - and good weeks come along.  I just loved that.  Thanks Rob for such a good reminder!  Rob loves his wife and his daughters - I am thankful for that!  

I got to spend the day with a good friend yesterday.  It was such a fun time.  Right now - Sheryl is my peer group so I am thankful for that!  

I have friends coming to visit this weekend - Larry and Rocket Thompsom (Rocket is running the Chicago Marathon) and my dear, dear friend Dana Bishop.  Wow - I am really looking forward to time with these dear friends.

I am missing my girls so much right now - I miss so many dear people, but missing my girls is just an ache.  God is good to remind me all week that He cares about my needs and will provide for me.  For now, phone conversations will have to do and I am thankful for daughters who like to talk to me! 

I am thankful that Amanda, sweet friend of mine and Heather's, is pregnant!  I got that news yesterday and I am just bursting with joy.

I am thankful that Jennifer Johnson Little delivered a healthy baby boy this week - Hudson.

I am thankful that E-girl got to go to Disneyworld to celebrate her 3rd birthday with her adopted family.

I am thankful that I'm not focused on provision - but on my Provider.   I am thankful that I'm not focused on creation but on my Creator.  I am thankful that I am not focused on religion - but on my relationship with Jesus.

What are you thankful for today?  Send up the praises.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Musings - A New Path

I have several things tumbling around in my head, so I'm not sure what part is going to come out of this.  I have had so many interesting conversations over the last week - and there have been some common threads.  I think I'll explore one of those today.

There are a lot of people who have hurtful, even horrible, things in their past.  They often feel trapped by those things - doomed to repeat unhealthy patterns and make bad choices.  There are so many different stories here - I've heard hundreds over the last 30 or so years of ministry.  I have ached for the hurt, discouragement and wounds that others have experienced and the fear that they experience wanting so desperately to choose another path.  But . . . there is good news.  

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  Behold, the old things passed away:  behold new things have come."  2nd Corinthians 5:17  This is true for every believer.  I heard a story last week from a sweet friend about her mother.  Her mother had a mean mother - her mother's mother had a mean mother.  Hateful words were exchanged and hateful words were passed down.  Encouragement and love were in scarce supply if not non-existent.  But guess what - my friend's Mom changed that.  She chose to love.  She had children and she loved each one of them.  She has encouraged them to pursue their dreams and be who God created them to be.  She broke the cycle of hateful words.

People who come from dysfunctional families have families that are loving, caring and whole.  People who grew up with abusive parents are loving their children.  People who are fearful become courageous.  People who are depressed find joy.  People who are self destructive find freedom and life.  

I have had this conversation numerous times and about numerous situations and it is TRUE.  As a believer in Jesus, you are not a prisoner of your past.  You are not a prisoner of a pattern in your family.  You are not a prisoner of your habits and mistakes.  You are not a prisoner or nature or nurture.  You are a new creation!

So, why do people repeat these patterns and stay in these places of destruction?  I'm not a professional, but from what I have seen, they do not believe the truth.  They do not embrace who they are in Christ and they do not live out that truth but they live out the lie that satan is so very happy for them to believe.  

I had a boy in youth group years ago.  He was just one of those kids that you wanted so desperately to see succeed.  His growing up was not ideal but his current situation was better.  His mom loved him - his stepfather was a decent man and he had siblings that he cared about.  He had been in trouble with drugs and alcohol but was ready to make a change.  And for awhile, he did.  He had some good months and I saw some changes take place in his life.  But it didn't last.  Before long, I was visiting him in his orange jumpsuit at a county jail.  No more juvenile detention center.  In some ways, he seemed to be broken and ready to truly turn around but he wasn't.  Not long after getting out of jail, I went to pick him up to go get some job applications and he was stoned.  I took him anyway.  It was a bizarre afternoon of nonsensical conversations and strange behavior.  I was heartbroken.  He eventually went to prison and is now out - but life is not any better.  

Why?  Why do some people choose to embrace what they have in Christ and others don't?  I sure wish I had the answer to that - but all I can say is some choose to believe who they are in Christ and live accordingly and some do not.  I don't mean to be simplistic.  I know that many situations are very complicated and there may be numerous steps to wholeness.  But I do believe that Jesus Christ wants everyone to be free from whatever imprisons them.  He longs for us all to be whole.  He came to set the captive free.  

Maybe it just seems too good to be true . . .

But it's not . . .

"You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free."  John 8:32

Believe it . . . Embrace it . . . Take the first step . . . Find someone to help you . . .  Value yourself as much as Jesus values you.  He died for you - live for Him.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Another great week - so many things to be thankful for so here is a list of my blessings in the last week.  

*beautiful fall weather - one tree on our street has decided to change colors.  You know, there is always one :-)
*spin classes at the gym - so good!
*bakery cupcakes
*being able to walk most places
*how easy it is to ride the train when I can't walk somewhere
*new friends - meeting so many fantastic people
*having ladies over for brunch this morning
*phone calls with my girls
*getting to paint some walls and make this place my own
*long time friends who are so faithful and encouraging
*the fact that I have driven places, gotten back and successfully parked in the garage (come and visit me and you will know how amazing that truly is!)
*God's faithfulness - His Word - so precious to me.

What are you thankful for today?  Make a list and go ahead and count those blessings!  Woo Hoo!  Our God is Mighty.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Musings - Everyone Has A Story

I am one of those people that just evokes lots of personal information from people - seriously - I don't even have to ask!  It is also not necessary for me to know the person.  People just like to tell me things.  I have to say - it makes life very interesting.  I get to know the most interesting people and the phrase "never met a stranger" should probably be tattoed on my body somewhere.  Apparently this is genetic since my Mom and Dad have this same tendency as do my girls.  

Actually, I don't mind it at all.  I think that people's stories are fascinating.  Everyone has a story and I like to see what makes people tick.  At any given moment, there is so much going on with people that we are unaware of.  Some years ago, I had a friend lose her precious one year old to cancer.  I will never forget going to the grocery store after leaving the hospital and just walking up and down the aisle trying to figure out how I could go home and cook dinner as if nothing had changed when I felt like everything had changed.  No one in the grocery store knew what had happened - no one knew that I could erupt into sobs at any moment.  It just struck me that I had no idea how many others in that store could be going through something very difficult as well.

In some ways, that experience changed me forever.  I see the impatient driver, the rude salesclerk or sharp tongued check out girl in a very different light.  Generally, I believe that there is something going on under the surface and I want to show grace in that situation.  I have seldom had someone refuse to let me pray for them or encourage them.  Sometimes just showing interest is mind boggling to someone who feels like no one cares.  People are overwhelmed, sad, lost and confused.  As a followers of Jesus, we can offer peace, a way to make order out of chaos, joy, salvation and clarity by sharing the love of Christ.  This approach requires that we step back, get out of our "self" focus and tune in to what is going on around us - a huge challenge at times!  

I got to have three really great conversations with people I was just meeting for the first time yesterday.  I just asked a few questions and I learned a lot.  Who doesn't like to have someone show interest in them? I know all about the guy who installed our surround sound who immigrated here from Romania 10 years ago.  I have had so many people ask me, "Have you met your neighbors yet?" meaning the people in my building.  Wow - are you kidding me?  I had them over for dinner and absolutely love them!  

I will admit that talking to strangers is not natural for everyone.  Not everyone has the gift of hospitality or a listening ear - or even a schedule that lends itself to doing that.  But - this I know.  We all need to be aware of those around us.  We all need to be willing for the Lord to interrupt our schedule and put someone in our path who needs those very things.  We all need to look below the surface when others behavior annoys us.  We all need to be willing to listen, to slow down and to be used in even a small way to bless someone.  

Have you allowed God to reorder your day?  Have you had someone just start pouring their heart out to you?  If you haven't, you probably will!  How will you respond?  Are you just too busy or in too big of a hurry to slow down?  Are you so busy doing things for the Lord that He doesn't have much say so in what that looks like?  Are you remembering that being (abiding) is as important as doing?  Only by abiding will we be aware of these opportunities when they come.  Keep those spiritual eyes open and you will be blown away by the ways the Lord will use you to bless others.  Share your stories - I would love to hear them.  Blessings!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thankful Thursday on Friday -- Friendship

Friendship - what a tremendous gift from the Lord!  God could have created us to only need Him or to be self sufficient to the point of not needing others - but in His wisdom He created us to be in relationship with Him and with one another.  

I happen to think that I am blessed beyond anything I could have hoped for in the area of friendship.  I have had wonderful friends as far back as I can remember.  One of the things I love about moving is  arriving in a new city with no idea who my friends will be -- and then watching God steer me one direction or the other and seeing all the people He puts in my path.  Who will my new friends be?  Who is going to change me in some way forever?  Who will I be able to love and encourage?

This week, I have had the privilege of having one of my very best friends here visiting me in Chicago.  Aimee and I met when I lived in Columbus, Ohio.  We met at church and we both worked with the youth.  We just have a great heart connection and love so many of the same things.  We both love the Lord, the lost and ministry of all kinds.  Aimee played a huge part in helping me raise my girls when we lived in Ohio.  She was another caring adult and good sounding board for them.  Her genuine love for them has had a lasting impact on both of their lives. 

I think the Lord knows how precious friends are to me and He is always faithful to give me close friends wherever I am.  I have lasting friendships from each city we have lived in.  Friends keep you sharp - they encourage you and challenge you.  They love your family and help you with your children.  They listen when you just need a listening ear - they offer words of advice and even the occasional snap back to reality challenge.  My friends make me better.  They call out the best in me.

When I look back over the last 50 years at all the amazing people that have been in my life, I could not be more grateful.  Being a friend and having a friend is one of life's greatest privileges.  I think we need friends who are younger, friends who are older and friends who are in our same season of life.  We learn so much from all of them.

Thank you for being my friend - for how very rich you make my life.  Thank you God for choosing to give me such wonderful friends who point me straight to You.