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 29, 2011

Thankful Thursday - 2011 Review

Well - here we are at the end of 2011.  I don't know how the years fly by faster and faster - but they do.  It has been am amazing year and I could not be more thankful for all that the Lord has done in my life.  I'm also thankful for the struggles that have drawn me closer to the Lord and more dependent on Him.

*I'm thankful for my neighbors and the relationships that I have with them.  One couple moved to MN (miss you Alison and Ryan) and another dear neighbor family (Ryan, Michelle and Hannah) are moving to Cleveland in February.  I am thankful for every moment with these friends.

*I am thankful for the growth in our church.  Destination has grown from around 35 people when we first started attending to a pretty steady 100 now.  We moved from the comedy club to a school auditorium.  It has been a true blessing to see more people coming to know the Lord and being involved in the community of this church.  

*I am thankful for the many painting projects at Hamilton Elementary and Prescott Elementary.  They bring me so much JOY.  I am grateful for the staff, teachers and students that are such a blessing to me.

*I am thankful for time with my family.  We have had some great times in Chicago, Colorado and Texas.  I'm thankful for emails, facebook, pinterest, text messages and phone calls that keep us connected - even with the distance.

*I am thankful for city life in Chicago and country life in Colorado.  I have the best of both worlds and I do not take that for granted.

*I'm thankful for friends near and far.  I feel so fortunate to know so many amazing people that make my life rich, indeed.

*I'm thankful for a personal Lord that loves me too much to leave me alone.  He challenges me, teaches me, encourages me and loves me.  His grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness mean everything to me.

*I'm thankful for another year stretching out before me - a year full of potential and opportunity.  I love not knowing what is around the corner - but knowing that no matter what it is - Jesus is already there.

I think it is a good practice to reflect back over the past year.  For some, that is a painful process - for others it is full of great memories.  For most - it is a mix.  There is always much to be learned from the experiences we have had.  Most of all, I see God's faithfulness in the good times and the bad times. 

I am wishing each one of you a Happy New Year and praying that you see the Lord in new ways and experience Him at every turn.  Praying that this next year will draw you closer to Jesus and that in turn, you will be more like Him.  Blessings friends!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Musings - God Came Near

This was a really different Christmas for us!  It is our first Christmas where both of our girls were with their in-laws.  Apparently, we have to learn to share over and over again our whole lives!!  

Fortunately, I really like my husband - so all is well!  It has been a quiet holiday.  Even the usual neighbors here in Colorado are out of town.  We have seen very few people and it has been SO quiet.  We walked down to the lake this afternoon and it was so still, so quiet and so beautiful.  I think it was God's Christmas present to us.

Our shadows + Quincy

This Christmas has been a good reminder of some pretty important things.

*You need to develop your relationship with your spouse all along - even in the midst of raising children and busy careers.  When it gets back to just you two - you want something to be there!  I am fortunate to be married to my best buddy and I truly enjoy being with him.  I'm thankful for that!

*Christmas is Jesus.  I love everything about Christmas.  I love Christmas trees, buying gifts, cooking, sending cards and watching Christmas movies.  I love being in Colorado and seeing snow out my windows.  I love the down time and the fun that surrounds the holiday.  Most of all - I love that we pause to just praise God for carrying out such a scandalous plan!

*Those things that you love about Christmas - continue to do them throughout the year.  Give that unexpected gift.  Have people over.  Write someone a card.  Let people know you love them.  Praise God for the gift of Jesus.

It sounds a little hokey to "carry Christmas in your heart throughout the year" but as a believer, that is exactly what we are to do.

After all ~
Christmas abides in us.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thankful Thursday - It's almost Christmas!!

Jesus loves me this I know 
because He graciously allowed it to snow. 
Flakes showering down just like His grace.  
Oh, how I can't wait to see His face.

It is a little hard to see - but the snow is coming down!  I asked the Lord if we could get some fresh snow for Christmas so I truly believe that He thought it would be fun to surprise with this fresh snow!  Waking up to it this morning was such a treat.  By the way - I'm not launching a song writing career - so no worries! 

Being in Durango is always fun.  We went into town yesterday.  Here is something fun we saw - just made me laugh!
I got to start out my day getting my hair done by my friend, Janelle.  She is such an amazing girl - just love her.  

We even ran into her at Walmart on Sunday and got to meet her husband Erick.  I started going to Janelle about 5 years ago.  I just walked into a salon to see who I could make an appointment with.  Janelle had an opening.  I would say it was a divine appointment!  I have loved journeying with Janelle through life and listening to her stories about her family.  She is such a hard worker and has such a tender heart.  When I got to the salon yesterday, she was just finishing up with a client.  She was hugging her and crying - telling her that she was not going to charge her for the services and that she was giving her a gift certificate for another cut and color in the future.

After her client left, she began to tell me what was going on.  She told me that her client's sister was a friend of hers and that the sister had been killed in a plane crash at the beginning of December.  That sister had wanted to give her big sister a gift certificate for Christmas to treat herself to a hair treatment by Janelle.  This big sister had practically raised her since their Mom died when they were 15 and 7.  Losing her little sister was like losing a sister and a child.  So difficult.  

I love that Janelle had such a tender heart that she wanted to fulfill that little sister's wishes to bless her big sister.  Janelle was one of the last people to talk with the little sister before her death, so the big sister just wanted to know what they had talked about etc.  Janelle totally surprised her and blessed her by treating her to a relaxing salon treatment for free. 

Isn't that so like our Savior?  He knows our hurts and He seeks to heal those wounds.  He heals the fresh ones and He heals the ones that have scabbed over and scarred up - yet are still painful.  He uses us to love on and bless each other.  Janelle was an extension of His grace.

I am thankful for people like Janelle that are tender to those who are hurting.  I'm thankful that we have the privilege of loving people in such tangible ways.  I'm thankful that the Lord saw fit to give me Janelle as a friend here in Colorado.  Her enthusiasm, joy and tender heart are always a blessing to me.  

Where have you seen God's grace extended?  
How can you be an extension of 
His grace this Christmas?

Christmas is really hard for some people.  I feel like loss and pain are somehow magnified.  
the great hope is in that message of Christmas - a Savior born to us - Emmanuel - God with us.  
God came down to show us how to live and 
then He died for us on the cross and 
rose again so that we might truly live.  
Even in the darkest moments - 
this is good news.  

Merry Christmas to all of you! 
Thank you for being such an encouragement to me!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Musings - Do you wish?

It was hard to decide what to write about today.  I feel like the Lord has been giving me so much rich food from His Word this week.  Perhaps it is because I have been in Colorado and can really focus and take all the time I want to soak it up.  Maybe I should learn from that??

I decided to go with what I read this morning.  I feel like we need to always be recounting what the Lord is teaching us daily.  Keep it fresh and pay attention to what He is doing now.

When Jesus saw Him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, 
He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?"  
John 5:6

This comes from the story of the Pool of Bethesda.  An angel would stir the waters and the first person in would receive healing.  This man could not get to the water fast enough in his condition.

I think this passage is so interesting.  The whole idea of an angel coming down - the angel of the Lord - is fascinating.  It speaks to heaven's grieving over disease.  It speaks of God continuing to interact with His people, even though, as a whole, they had moved far away from Him.

Why did Jesus pick this particular man?

I don't know, but I find it very curious.  I find the question He asks him fascinating as well - do you wish to get well?  I don't think Jesus would have asked this unless there was something in this man that drew that out.  Jesus is not cruel or uncaring.  He needed this man to address that question.

Do you wish to get well? 

Thirty eight years of disease, discouragement and being disillusioned.

Sound familiar?

Maybe not 38 years - maybe only a short time - or perhaps, you too, have been suffering for a very long time.  Perhaps you have grown accustomed to your own kind of paralysis or your own brand of illness.  I had to ask myself this question -

What am I living with that the Lord 
longs to give me freedom from?
Is He stirring in me that desire to get up, 
take my pallet and walk?

Why take the pallet?  It has to be a bit nasty.  It may have even been falling apart after many years of use.  Perhaps Jesus wanted him to take it to remind him of just what he had been freed from.  We are sometimes so comfortable in the crap (sorry - it just fits) we know that letting it go is scarier than the hope of freedom on the other side.

Let me assure you that the freedom on the other side is worth the risk of standing up on your weak legs.  

If Jesus bids you to do it - do it.  

In the words of Kelly Minter - whatever God is urging you to clear away cannot begin to be compared to what He ultimately wants to bring you.

Do you want freedom?
Do you wish to get well?

Praise God that we do not have to wait for a stirring of the waters.  He is here - He is near - He is waiting to give you freedom.

So if the Son makes you free you will be free indeed.
  John 8:36

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thankful Friday - Consuming Fire

Thursday was another travel day for me - so I waited until this morning to sit down and write.  Alan and I drove from TX to CO yesterday, watching the temperature drop and the snow begin to show up.  This is what I saw when I looked out my back door this morning!

Seriously!  I could stop writing right now and that would be more than enough to be thankful for!!

I have been reading through Hebrews in this last week and when I read this verse, I thought - Wow - I am so thankful for this truth!

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;  
Hebrews 12:28-29

Our earthly kingdom is often shaken - literally and figuratively - things happen every day that disrupt our lives, disturb our spirit and realign our plans.  Nothing is as it seems.  Just when things appear to be moving along "normally", we are thrown a curve ball and are left shaken.  ONLY God's kingdom is stable, secure and strong.
What is acceptable service?  I'm not sure and again, I confess that I am not a Bible scholar!  But, I think it needs to be service that God has initiated or called me to do.  It needs to be done for Him.  It needs to be done with the right motivation and the right heart.  It needs to be done with an attitude of gratitude and reverence for Whom I am serving and awe because I have the privilege of serving - all for God's glory.  

Do you consider your service in that light?

I love the imagery of God as a CONSUMING FIRE.  It is such a powerful imagery.  On the earth, fire destroys and even takes lives.  In minutes, forests are set ablaze and homes are destroyed.  Having said that -  we are also captivated by it.  We love gazing at campfires and are drawn to sit by the fire in our fireplace.  I suppose that fire under control is the most satisfying.

In God's kingdom, fire consumes what is worthless but it purifies and refines what is of God.

I am thankful for the refining process of God in my life.  It is ongoing and He is faithful to burn away what is not of Him and refine those things that make me more like Jesus so that He can use me to further His kingdom.  In this case, fire is not under my control - it is a work of God.  It is a humbling and amazing process.

Do I remember that Jesus, my friend and Savior, is also a CONSUMING FIRE?
He is to be approached and served 
with reverence and awe.

Lord Jesus - may your refining fire continue to make me more like You.  I praise you for your unshakeable kingdom.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts: Hope

Monday musings were muddled - so here we are at Tuesday's thoughts.  It has been a whirlwind of activity since I arrived in TX on Thursday.  I have been to Tyler hanging out with Heather and Cooper; been in Dallas meeting my new great niece, Sophie Grace
 and go to Courtney Collin's (and Adam's) graduation from PT School (so proud of their achievements!);
to Arlington to hang out with friends (I even got to stop by and see my in-laws) and then over to Haslet to be with Ashley and James.  Not a lot of sleep but a lot of fun!

So many things have been going through my mind.  I feel like the Lord and I are in constant dialogue and I am learning something all the time.  This is what I read last night.

"This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil."  Hebrews 6:19

not optimism
not a wish
not a dream
not luck
not fate


Hope is not a feeling
Hope is Jesus
Jesus = Hope

I have had some discouraging things happen over the week in the midst of a lot of really great things.  The major discouragement I had was like a punch in the stomach.  It literally took the wind out of me and I was enveloped in sadness.  It caused me to take a long, hard look at what my hope was based on and ask myself why I felt like I did.  It wasn't fun - but it was good.

Here are some questions I asked myself.  Perhaps you need to ask and answer them also.

Is my hope anchored in Jesus or is it tied up in people or performance? prestige or principles?

How can I tell?  Perhaps by how easily it is dashed.
How do I react to disappointments?  

Am I able to keep my eyes on Jesus or do I immediately look inward and spiral down?

Am I trusting Jesus with those I love - 
with those that I have invested in?

Am I so anchored in the Lord that when the tidal waves of disappointment or discouragement come my way - I remain steadfast in Him?

Do I trust that my anchor will hold?

The word hope is used frequently in scripture 
My hope is in You
You are my hope
Hope does not disappoint
Rejoicing in hope
the hope of righteousness
the hope of the gospel
the hope of glory
the hope of salvation
the hope that is in You

I have seen those huge anchors for cruise ships and warships.  They are massive!  My hope in the Lord is massive too.  It is good to be reminded that He is the only One that I should be placing my hope in.  If I can rest in that - I am freed up to love without reserve and to give without limits.  


In the words of an old hymn:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
           On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
           All other ground is sinking sand,
           All other ground is sinking sand.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fun Friday

I have made the trek to TX - much to tired when I arrived at 11 last night to post!  I am thankful for safe travels and being with my sweet daughter Heather and her husband Cooper.  I even get to see my grand-dog Miles!  I went to school with Heather today and got to help her with her 4 year olds in the HeadStart program.  Never a dull moment! 

Here I am with all the kids.

I didn't get a chance to write about the Santa Hustle 5K that Alan and I did last Saturday.  A group of friends got together and ran it - hilarious!  We all brought toys for Toys for Tots and our entry fee went to a charity that does a running program among the homeless community - pretty interesting.  It has been found that setting goals and building self esteem through running is beneficial to a segment of the homeless population.  

The morning was rainy and cold - but we were very fortunate that the rain stopped just in time for the race to begin.  It was quite the sight to see 4,200 people running in their red Santa shirts, hats and beards.  Here are a few pictures just for fun.

Ashley Cauble and I before the race.

Alan and I
Alan - Fully suited up and ready to go!

Can you see the twinkle in my eye?

Our group of friends who ran the race - Mike, Jessica, Lesa, Alan, myself, Greg, Ashley and Ray

                         myself, Alan, Ashley and Lesa
Quincy joining in on the fun when we got home

I am thankful for such a full life that is fun, friend-filled and just a little bit frantic.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Musings - God's Presence

We had a guest speaker at church yesterday, Byan Mowrey, who was a great communicator!  He did a presentation of God's presence that was so awesome that I wanted to share it with you.  I love when someone takes something familiar to me and turns it on its side - just to allow me to see it a little differently.  I love that at 52, God continually surprises me with new revelations of Himself.  Here are some of his thoughts mingled in with some of my observations.

God's initial presence is revealed in Genesis 1 - "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." Wow - God is hovering - He is moving.

Next, we see God in the garden, walking and talking with His creation.  Love how God is all about relationship.

Next, God presence is seen in a burning bush as He is speaking to Moses - take off your shoes for this is Holy Ground!

Next, we see God's presence on the mountain.  Moses climbs up the mountain and speaks to the Lord.  Moses brings the word of the Lord down to the people.

Next, we see God's presence in the tent of meeting and then the tabernacle.  There was a cloud by day and fire by night.  That gives me chill bumps!

Next, God's presence is seen in the ark of the covenant.  The Israelites took it with them wherever they went.

Next, we see the building of the Temple and God's presence dwelling there . . . the holy of holies.  Only a priest could enter the holy of holies once a year and there was a heavy curtain that hung there - partitioning this off.

Then, we have the books of the prophets. 
Ezekiel 36:26-28  Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My ways .  .

We see some transitional language here and we can tell that something very new and different is on the horizon.
And . . . indeed it was!  

The gospels tell us that the very presence of God came down to earth in the form of Jesus.  God came near.  Wow - hard to wrap your mind around.  The presence of God dwelling in a human body!  Jesus lived here in this earth - died by being crucified on a cross to cover our sin - and overcame death as our Resurrected Lord to give us eternal life.

Then, came Penecost and the Holy Spirit came down to indwell believers.

Are you ready for this . . . God's presence is now in each one of us.  Now, this was not new news for me and it may not be for you either, but nonetheless, I am blown away by the truth of this.

It isn't about buildings, or a day of the week or a certain posture.  It is about the living Jesus dwelling in each of us that have embraced Him as Savior. 

We are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Don't gloss over that -- we are temple of the Holy Spirit!  As we begin to understand Whose presence we are in - it changes everything.  What we say, what we do, how we think, interact and react - are all done in the presence of Jesus. 

Life is hard sometimes.  We struggle, we grieve, we strive to be enough.  God, the I AM, dwells in me.  This tells me that I AM is enough.  In other words, as I live and breath with Jesus as my Savior, I am enough.  It isn't about where I live, what I do or what I own.  God's presence is with me.  I am never alone.  What a profound gift - the very presence of God that indwells someone as undeserving as me.  

Only grace . . . Only God.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Legacies

I'm getting to that point in life where there have been some very special people in my life that have passed away.  It is always hard to say good-bye.  Even when we know that someone we love is no longer suffering and is with the Lord, it is still painful to feel that loss.  Last week, my dear friend, Aimee, lost her Dad.  Here is what the obituary said.

Lacy Worley Jr., age 73, passed into the presence of the Lord on Wednesday, November 23, 2011. He was born to the late Lacy and Mittie Worley on August 9, 1938 in Sprague, WV. Lacy was an active member of Karl Road Baptist Church, where he loved to serve. He was a Navy veteran, having spent four years on active duty and 18 years on active reserves. Lacy retired from Englefield Oil Company, but didn’t stop working his two favorite jobs as a construction assistant with his son Sean and as a Red Coat at The Ohio State University. He loved the Lord, his family, and the Buckeyes. He will be dearly missed. In addition to his parents, Lacy is preceded in death by brothers, William Worley, Ray Worley, and Ed Worley; sisters, Margaret (Worley) Spadafore, Mary (Worley) Reed, and Evelyn “Jim” Worley. He is survived by his faithful wife of 46 years, Judy; loving children, Aimee and Sean; devoted granddaughters, Alexis and Elizabeth Worley; mother-in-law, Juanita Pierce; sister, Mae Worley; brother and sister-in-law, Jack and Dannie Worley; sister and brother-in-law, Jim and Ruth (Worley) Kitchen; numerous nieces and nephews and friends.

This is what the obituary couldn't cover . . . 
*Lacy made you feel like family.  You were loved, hugged and cared for from the first moment you met him.  
*Lacy would do anything to help you.  If he heard about a need, he wanted to meet it.  There is no telling how many houses he has worked on, yards he has helped in and families that have been blessed by Lacy's heart to serve.
*Lacy loved the church.  He loved greeting people on Sunday morning and helping around the church building.  Everyone knew who Lacy was and felt welcomed and cared about when they walked in.
*Lacy loved his family.  He and his wife Judy were a team.  They held together during tough times and laughed a lot during the good times.  They did a great job raising Sean and Aimee into two amazing adults.  Lacy loved his granddaughters Alexis and Lizzy.  He was a safe place and a rock of stability for them.
*Lacy loved The Ohio State University.  As most of Columbus, he was a huge fan and he served as a Red Coat during the games.  He considered it such an honor and he made a difference to everyone who worked with him and all those who walked past him in the stadium.  

When someone leaves this world, it makes me think about the impact they made while they were here.  My life has been forever changed by my grandparents, my aunt, my friends Marcy, Janeth, Dave, Jim and Jill and many others that I could name.  I have been touched by the way they lived and by the way they died.  There is such peace when you have the assurance that they have not just passed on from this life but that they have crossed over to be with the Lord.  They have all left their mark on my life and I aspire to love and follow the Lord as they did.  

I am so thankful for the legacies that these dear friends have left.  They soaked up everything that the Lord had for them and lived life to the fullest.  They inspire me to do the same - and for that, I am very thankful. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts: Leadership

In my daily readings - I am in 1st Thessalonians.  In reading chapters 1-3, I was struck by all the descriptions, advice, exhortations and encouragement to leaders.  Let's face it - we are all leading someone.  You may not be leading a Bible study or a small group - but you are leading.  You are influencing the people around you in many ways so this really applies to all of us!

When I read this - I was thinking that leadership and shepherding have a lot in common.  They really go hand in hand.  Here are some great guidelines for those of us (that is all of us!) that are leading or shepherding others.

1st Thessalonians 
1:2   Pray for those the Lord has given you consistently and fervently.
1:3   Appreciate what the Lord is doing in their lives.
            work of faith ~ labor of love ~ 
          steadfastness of hope in the Lord
1:4   Remember that they are beloved by God - His choice.  There is something about the word beloved that is just another level beyond loved when I think about how the Lord feels about each one of us!  Love that. 
1:5    Recognize that the power for your teaching, your influence and the power for change is ALL the power of the Holy Spirit (in other words, it is not about your own power - praise the Lord!)
1:6 - Remember that it won't be easy - they will receive the Word with tribulation and yet with JOY
1:7  Their lives will be an example to others!
1:8   God's Word will "sound forth" from them - I like to say that it will bubble up!  As they fill their lives with His Word  - it will bubble up in the way they speak, think and respond to others.
1:9   They will "turn from idols" to serve the Living and True God (I really loved this because I am leading a study right now about turning from the idols in our lives and making room for Jesus to reign in our hearts!)

This continues in Chapter 2 with some good words for leaders, shepherds and those who influence (Yeah - that is everyone!)
2:4   As a leader - you have been approved by God - entrusted with the gospel- your goal is to please God, not men for God will examine your heart.  Wow - that is a huge responsibility and a huge blessing all in one!
2:5-7   Characteristics of a leader are given here:  
have integrity
lead with gentleness
hard working
exhibit loving concern
2:8   This is the heart of ministry - I so love this!
. . . to impart to you not only the gospel, but also our 
own lives, because you have become very dear to us.
If you think that leading ends when you walk out of a study or a classroom - you will most likely be very surprised.  You will be imparting your very life for others.
2:12  Our hope and prayer as leaders 
that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory

For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation?  
Is it not even you, in the presence of 
our Lord Jesus at His coming?

3:8   Is this your heart as a leader?
But now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.

Being a leader in any capacity - being an influence in your family, among your friends, in your workplace - these are all positions of great joy and great responsibility.  Sometimes it is hard - sometimes it is tiring - sometimes it is discouraging.  These verses were such an encouragement to me and really a call back to what it is all about.  Take a look at the closing prayer at the end of chapter 3 - I think it says it all.

May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for all people - that He would 
establish your hearts without blame before
 the Father when Jesus comes.

Where has the Lord given you leadership responsibility?
Are you empowered by Him or are you trying to muster up your own power and strength?
Are you faithfully leading and influencing and trusting Him for the outcome?
Are you praying for those that the Lord has given you?
Are you allowing the Lord to give you His heart, His eyes and His love for each one?

Embrace the privilege . . . depend on Him . . . be faithful.  You will not believe all that the Lord will do in and through your life when you do.  
All praise to Him.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful Thursday - On Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving - how I love Thanksgiving.  I have truly wonderful memories of Thanksgiving from as far back as I can remember.  This is one of the years where my birthday falls on Thanksgiving!  My birthday celebrations have always been special because it always falls around a holiday spent with people I love.  It was extra special to celebrate year 52 with all my kids here in Chicago - and some really dear friends that joined us.  I love cooking for everyone!

It has been fun to look at the posts over this last month on facebook as people have been recounting all the things they are thankful for.  I try to make it a habit to do this often -- to soak up every days blessings and to approach each day with a grateful heart.  Since I just turned 52, I thought I would post 52 things that I am thankful for - and then I thought how very long that post would be and I would lose most of you quickly - so I'll do 24 for the 24 days of November.  If I live as long as the list of things I love - I will live to a very old age!

1.   My Savior - Jesus.  Without Him, I wouldn't have this life that I am so thankful to live.
2.   My husband Alan - my closest friend and my favorite person to hang out with.  He is faithful and he loves me so unconditionally.
3.   My daughter, Ashely - my first born - who makes my life so rich.  She loves the Lord and she makes the world a much brighter place.  Spending time with her is amazing.
4.  My daughter Heather - Joy personified - she lights up a room when she walks in and she makes me laugh hysterically all the time.  Any time spent with Heather is a great time.
5.   My son in law - James - Ashley's husband.  If I could have ordered a husband for Ashley, it would be him.  He loves the Lord and he loves Ashley.  What more can I say?
6.   My son in law - Cooper - Heather's husband.  Cooper is a passionate guy about all of the things he loves - including Heather.  I appreciate his sense of humor and His love for the Lord.
7.  My parents - I feel so fortunate to have such amazing parents that are happy, healthy and a whole lot of fun. 
8.   My in-laws - they raised a mighty fine man that I am married to.  They are kind and giving.
9.   My out-laws - in other words, my son in laws' parents!  James and Sharon Thorne - Dan and Julie Brenton - Amazing people who have blessed me so much.  It is so wonderful to know that my daughters are a part of these great families.  
10.  My church family -- this includes people that I am still close to from First Baptist Arlington, Westchester Baptist in NY, Karl Road Baptist in OH, The River Church in CO, Destination in Chicago and the two churches that I grew up in - Willow Meadows and Tallowood.  Churches full of people who have shaped me and continue to do so.
11.  Young Life - without this ministry, my life could have taken a much different path.  I will be forever grateful for the volunteers and staff that saw something in me worth investing in!
12.  Kim Talley - I can not make a post like this without being thankful for Kim Talley - that YL staff person who was Jesus with skin on to me.  Eternally thankful.
13.  My dog Quincy - my constant companion.  
14.  My home states -- TX, NY, OH, CO, IL
15.  My mentors - Mom, LaVon, Ann, Rosemary and Doris - godly women who have showed me what it is to walk with Jesus at every stage of life.
16.  Teenagers - I have had the most amazing experiences with teenagers over the years in teaching high school,  YL and in church ministry.  
17.  Mountains - I love Colorado and the mountains speak to me in a way that no other terrain does.  It is as if the Lord is whispering my name as soon as I see those first snowy peaks.
18.  Cities - that's right - I love the mountains and I love big cities.  Living in Chicago is such an incredible experience.  I love the variety of people, the neighborhoods and all the ethnic food.  
19.  Working Out - I love to exercise - running, spinning, lifting weights, hiking . . . I love all of it.
20.  Friendship -- I have had the privilege of walking through life with some of the most amazing people on the planet.  
21.   Bible study - I love studying the Bible on my own and I love small group Bible studies.  God's Word is endlessly fascinating and dear to me.  My Bible is my most prized possession.
22.  Neighbors - I LOVE my neighbors.  They are my Chicago family and they bless me so much.  
23.  Music - I love to listen to all kinds of music.  Music touches my soul like nothing else.
24.  Grace - my favorite word - my driving passion.  Without the grace of Jesus - I would be no where. 

If you have not come up with a list for today - take time to do so.  Your heart will be overflowing with all the good things in your life - even if times are hard.

I am thankful for those of you who take the time to read City Chat.  It has been a growing experience for me and I truly appreciate your encouragement.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Musings - How do you smell?

Aromas  - they elicits memories (cookies after school) - they arouse hunger (dinner in the oven!) - they can make us smile (greenery at Christmas) and they can even make us nauseated (that awful airport and bus smell).  Smells are powerful. Think of all the words that are associated with smell -- from aroma and fragrance . . . to stink and stench.   I believe that 2nd Corinthians 2:14-15 addresses this!

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing."

So - how do you smell?  

Not that we are literally going to smell like Jesus - but that my life, hidden in Christ, draws people to Him - just like that smell of chocolate chip cookies baking or that brisket roast that has been slowly cooking all day in the oven or fresh baked bread.  People tend to gravitate toward those kind of smells.  

My life should carry the scent of my Savior.  How does grace, mercy, love and forgiveness smell?  I'm not sure - but I know it when I smell it!  Just as the stench of death is unmistakeable - Jesus is the unmistakable aroma of LIFE.  

We are assured that it is God who leads us in triumph - He is the One who manifest Himself in this "sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him".  There is not a body spray to buy or a perfume to dab on. No one can conjure up the aroma - only the Holy Spirit can do that.  

Join me in praying that the Holy Spirit will clean out the stench of sin from our lives and replace it with 


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Eternal Perspective

Sometimes, I see all the things that are happening around me, or I watch the news or see internet headlines and I am just overwhelmed by all the hard things that people experience.  It breaks my heart and I feel helpless.  It can all feel like a heavy burden.  So much sadness, so much grief, so much heartache - when will it end?

I was reading in 2nd Corinthians yesterday, and I was really struck by the hope in this verse (4:16-18)

Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 

There is no doubt that my outer body is decaying - things wear out faster and heal slower - but I just can't get over the joy of knowing at the same time -- my inner spirit is being renewed day by day.  Just as surely as I feel my aches and pains - I feel my spirit growing healthier and stronger.  The longer I live, the more in love I am with my Jesus and the sweeter life is.

When things happen that just make me gasp - I have to remember that this is not all there is.  Although our afflictions do not seem "light and momentary", the truth is that in light of eternity, they are.  I love that we are promised that these struggles and sorrows are producing in us "an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison."  What I see now - what I experience now - is temporary.  There is so much more!  

So today, I am thankful that in Jesus, I can have an eternal perspective.  When I feel discouraged or disheartened, I can say to myself ,"This too will pass."  

I can live out each day in the JOY that I possess in my relationship with the Lord.  Truly - walking each day with Jesus is my greatest honor and what I am most thankful for - everything else pales in comparison.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Musings - Mirrors

Is anyone else like me?  You look in the mirror and you say, "Who is that?" because in your mind you are still 25? 

Mirrors have some interesting qualities - for the most part, they show you how things really are.  Of course, there are some mirrors that are intentionally made to distort.  I'm also convinced that some dressing rooms have mirrors that make you look thinner.  When I get home and put that same thing on - it never looks quite as good!  Mirrors also reflect light beautifully.  They can make a space seem larger and bring the outside into a room.

One of my favorite verses is 1st Corinthians 13, verse 12.

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, 
but then face to face; 
now I know in part, 
but then I will know fully 
just as I also have been fully known."

There is something so comforting to me about reading that verse - I sometimes audibly sigh!  It is encouraging to me to know that I can't see everything for what it really is.  I can't know what the Lord is up to when things do not seem clear to me.  I look at a situation and it seems fuzzy - it seems distorted - or even looks like one of those old mirrors where the silver is worn off in spots and it has a foggy look to it.  

Even those days when my insight seems keen - it is still a dim picture.  My mind is only capable of absorbing so much and it pales compared to the Truth.  

Every time I read this verse, I am so encouraged.  My heart leaps at the thought of seeing Jesus face to face.  I will know fully - EXCITING - but I also rejoice that even now, I am fully known by Jesus.  When you move around a lot - it is so grounding to know that Jesus fully knows me, even if no one else does!  My heart rests in the fact that He fully knows me.  He knows everything about me.  


My heart rejoices as I try to imagine the day that I will see Jesus face to face and truly grasp all that He is.  In the meantime - I am praying that each new day will bring a new revelation of Who Jesus is.  I am praying that in the mirror - I will see the reflection of my Savior and that in turn - that mirror will reflect His image to the world around me.  A world that desperately needs to see His reflection.

What do you see in the mirror?
Is it the reality of who you are in Christ - 
or is it a distortion that is standing in the way of 
all that He could be doing in and through you?

Rejoice that you are made in His image and that one day - we will be seen as we truly are - we will be know the One who loves us most for who He is.

Rejoice that even now - He knows you fully and 
He loves you just the same.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Celebrations

I started my morning at home in Chicago - with some snow flakes falling and the temperatures dropping.  I then got on a plane and I am now in Texas!  It is hard to believe that all this has happened in one day!  

I flew down for a number of great celebrations this weekend.  

*Friday - I'm helping to host a bridal luncheon for Blair Bishop - the daughter of one of my dearest friends, Dana Bishop.  What fun to be able to do something special for Blair (whom I have known since she was in the womb! - Dana and I were pregnant at the same time and Blair and Heather were born 3 weeks apart.)

*Friday night - a family get together at Alan's parents' place - good food and good times.

*Saturday - I am helping to host a wedding shower for Drew and Kate.  Drew was in youth group when Alan and I were leaders.  He was also good friends with both of our daughters.   He spent a lot of time at our house and we had so many great shared experiences.  I love him like my own and it is so fun to get to meet the woman that has captured his heart!

*Saturday night - Blair's wedding!!  This will be so special for so many different reasons.  I can't wait to see how absolutely beautiful Blair will be - and I also excited to get to share this time with so many close friends.

*Sunday - I'm heading down to Waco to see my Mom and Dad - and my grandmother.  I can't wait to sit on my parent's porch and just RELAX.  

All the while - I will also get to be with Ashley, James and Heather (Cooper has something else going on this weekend or he would be here too!)  

I am so thankful for the privilege of being involved in these fun events and having people that are this special in my life. 

I can't even believe all the awesome people 
I get to know.

So - I'm thankful for this weekend away and the opportunity I have to be with friends and family.  I'm also thankful that on Tuesday - I get to head back to Chicago to people that make my life so very rich there.  

But most of all, I am thankful for Jesus who fills my life with more JOY than I could have ever imagined.  

He knows my heart and He delights in filling 
it with all the things I love.

I am so very THANKFUL.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Musings - IKEA

Monday morning started out with a trip to IKEA with Ashley Cauble.  FUN  We trekked out to a Chicago suburb and entered the welcoming doors of IKEA.  We knowingly entered the maze and began the feast of eye candy.  Model rooms . . . kitchens . . . hardware . . . lighting . . . dishes . . . linens . . . rugs . . . frames . . . beds . . . desks . . . tables . . . chairs . . . an endless array of color and creativity.

IKEA really is a maze.  They are smart marketers and they wind you through the store so that you see everything and decide that there are some things you surely can not live without.  Around every corner is something new and fun. This is not a place for a quick run in and buy.  Get comfortable - you will be here for awhile. 

BUT . . . there are short cuts.  Every so often you see an opening to go directly to a different part of the store without walking all the way around.  It's tempting - you can cut straight through to find the bed of your dreams or just the right kitchen.  

Sounds great - but what are you missing?

I think the Christian life is a lot like that.  There are sure times when a short cut sounds good.  Lord - can you just send me straight to godly character with a side of JOY?  Could you give me patience - IMMEDIATELY!  Can't I know your Word and have Your wisdom without studying and developing a daily relationship with You?

We are on a journey that takes us on a long road.  Along the way, there are some great things to see and experience.  There are life changing moments and incredible opportunities.  There are some hard things too.  There is pain and suffering that we would not choose.  Character is built and integrity is tested.  BUT - there is beauty, there are promises and encouragements in the Word, there is friendship, there is family, there is purpose, there is ministry and there is Jesus - who ties it all together.

So - take your time.  Walk slowly and soak up all that the Lord has for you.  Allow Him to fashion you into His child.

  Turn the corner with anticipation. 

There is more than you could ever imagine ahead.

1st Corinthians 2:9

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday - November

I love the month of November - it is all about being thankful!  Of course, we get to the ultimate Thankful Thursday on Thanksgiving!!  Can't wait!

The leaves are falling of the trees here - some rain and wind is hurrying up the process - but wanted to post a few pictures so you can see what I am seeing - truly awe inspiring!

I am thankful to live among such beauty in the middle of a big city.  Pretty amazing.

I am thankful for a new opportunity that I have to paint at another elementary school - Prescott Elementary.   Only God could have brought this about and I am looking to Him to see what His purposes are in placing me in this new spot.

If there is ever a Chicago Public School Bathroom Tour - I predict I will be famous (HA)

It is fun getting to know another school, another courageous principal who is making a difference (hats off to Mr. Roche) and hopefully brighten up someone's day - even if it is while they are washing their hands!

I hope that you can look around today and just soak in how many things there are to be thankful for - even if life is hard at the moment.  God is good - He is faithful in all circumstances.  He is the giver of LIFE.

All praise to Him on this thankful Thursday!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Musings - Go Home

I'm sitting in my den, looking out of the window at the beautiful fall colors.  I love the changing of the seasons and the transformation that it brings to the trees around me.  In the midst of this transformation - I was reading in Mark 5 about the demon possessed man in Gerasenes and the transformation in his life.  When Jesus encountered this man, he was possessed by a legion of demons.  He had been living among tombs as a mad man - completely disengaged from family, friends and any semblance of normal, everyday life.  He screamed, cut himself and lived in constant torment.  Jesus set him free from all of that - and there he sat, clothed and in his right mind.  As Jesus was leaving, he implored Him to allow him to come with him.  Jesus said, "No - Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you and how He had mercy on you."

I was thinking about that.  If I had been that man, I would have wanted to go with Jesus too.  I would have wanted to travel by His side and tell others of the great things He had done in my life.  Surely - that would have been a fantastic testimony to have around as Jesus spoke to different groups!  And yet, Jesus tells him to go home and tell his own people - the ones who have known him forever - the ones who have seen him as this beastly man - that his life had changed.

I'll be honest - sometimes it is easier to go and tell than it is to stay and tell.  I have never been a long term missionary - but I have been on a lot of short term mission trips and I loved sharing with others.  I somehow felt bold and fearless in these new surroundings with this express purpose to the trip.  I can hear Jesus' voice telling me that He loves that I want to do that - but that really, what He needs for me to do is to "go home to my people and tell them what great things the Lord has done in my life - how He has had mercy on me." 

BUT LORD, those people - those people that I have been around and that really know me -- it is hard to share with them.  It is hard to tell them that you have changed my life when they see me fail, make mistakes and act anything BUT like You.  What if they won't listen?  What if they are too busy or disinterested?  What if they just think that I am really strange?  

What if I just what if myself to death?

All of us have a story to tell.  If you belong to Jesus - you have gone from death to life.  This is your greatest story.  The Lord has done great things - He has shown tremendous mercy.  I want to have the same boldness and purpose here - in Chicago - in my every day life - that I would have out on the mission field.  

It's true - people who know me know my shortcomings.  I am anything but perfect.  But - maybe that is truly good news because my life is proof that God can change anyone - that He can work through anyone and that no one is beyond His grace.  Like this mad man among the tombs - Jesus has taken my life that was reeling out of control and transformed it.  He took what lacked meaning and made it meaningful.  He took my wandering and gave it purpose.

Where is home for you?  Who are your people?  
How has God shown mercy to you?  
Will you tell your story?

I really believe that Jesus is waiting for each one of us to be His people right where we are - whether that is in your hometown or in a new city or even a new country.  Your story of mercy is His story of hope to someone else.

Here's to mad men and Jesus transformed lives.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday - OHIO

I headed out of Chicago on Wednesday.  I drove through Illinois, Indiana and ended up here in Columbus, Ohio.  There was beautiful fall color all along the way.  Seeing the familiar skyline just made me smile - I love everywhere that the Lord has sent us over the last 29 years.  Columbus was a very special place.  

We lived here for 6 years in the 90's.  Our kids went to school here during some really formative years.  They both made professions of faith and were baptized in our church here.   Alan and I worked with the youth and our girls were youth group mascots.  They got to learn so much and had lots of big brothers and sisters that loved them dearly. 

I'm here visiting my good friend, Aimee, helping her with some remodeling in her basement.  Hanging out with Aimee feels a lot like coming home.  We spent a lot of time together - as much family as friends - and it just feels so good to be in the same place for a short while! 

Being here reminds me of God's faithfulness to me over the years.  It is not easy making moves across the country, but I wouldn't trade the experiences that we have had for any amount of comfort.  We grew as a family.  We grew in our faith.  We made friends that we will have for a lifetime.  We learned a lot about life  - we made some mistakes and we received a lot of grace.

I am thankful for the 6 years that the Lord placed us in Ohio - for the ways that those years shaped me and prepared me for all of the years since.  I have full confidence in the future because He has been so faithful in the past.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Musings - Unexpected Freedom

Freedom - something that we value highly and are very appreciative of.  I was reading Acts 12 this week and the subject of freedom came up in an interesting way.  In this instance, freedom was the opposite of imprisoned. 

Acts 12:5-7

5 So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. 6 On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. 

Peter was facing death due to Herod's attempts to please the Jewish leadership.  Peter is already in prison - but even inside he is heavily guarded, actually chained between two guards with another set of guards outside.  And yet - he sleeps.  There is such trust in the Lord that he can actually fall asleep even in these dire circumstances. I love that the angel had to poke him (it actually says, struck him - a deep sleep?) to wake him up so that he could be led out of the prison.  Although these believers had seen many miracles, I don't know that they could have envisioned anything like this!  The intervention of God through an angel - pretty amazing.  Freedom instead of death.  God always has the last word.

Sometimes things look bleak and there appears to be no hope.  Death may even seem certain.  It could be an illness, a loss of a job, the death of a dream or the end of a relationship.  That stench of death may feel like heavy chains hanging around us.  I find that at times, there are chains around me - some of my own making and some from the outside.  The truth is, the Lord wants to set me free from those chains - they can fall to the ground just as those chains fell from Peter's body.  He holds the key, but there are times that I hold on to the chains even when they are unlocked.  It is about trust - it is about fear.  

We can become very comfortable in our chains - no matter how destructive they are.  Freedom awaits - but we are more afraid of the unknown freedom than we are of the known heaviness of our chains.  We have been accessorizing for so long that we are not sure we can do without them.  

Will you risk letting those chains fall? 

Will you stand up and walk out of that prison and into freedom?  

No doubt - this was an incredible miracle, but I believe that the Lord is waiting to perform that same miracle in many lives right now. 

What chains are binding you right now? 

The One Who loves you most is waiting to set you free.