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.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Thankful Thursday

I'm not getting to this until Friday morning  - but I am still just as thankful!  

My sweet friend in laws (Heather's husbands parents!) live in Tuscaloosa.  Seeing those pictures of all the devastation, I am so grateful that they are okay.  At this very moment they are ministering to some students from the University of Alabama.  Dan is a pastor, so I know that they have had people in their congregation that have also been impacted.  Three of our students from Arlington, TX are at Alabama and they are also all okay.  With so much loss of life and destruction of property, I am very grateful.  I am also so deeply saddened for all of those that did not get such good news.  I am praying that people will know the God of all Comfort in a profound way.  I'm also praying for my dear friends Dan and Julie and they minister to their community.  They are amazing people and servants of Jesus.  

This is Alan and I with Julie and Dan after the wedding last year.  We love them!
I am thankful for the opportunity to get back to Hamilton Elementary this week!  I had really missed being there while I was out of town.  I got to paint the kindergarten bathroom this week and I think it is one of my favorite projects so far.  One of the teachers told me yesterday that suddenly, all of her students need to go to the bathroom so they can see the painting.  Here is what is looks like.
One fish, two fish

Red fish, blue fish

Fanciful Fish

Circus Fish!

Thin Fish!
I seriously think I have more fun than just about anyone I know.  Of course, part of that is that like my Mom, I think almost anything is fun!  Seeing the children at Hamilton smile and laugh at the painting is such a gift.  I will be forever thankful that the Lord orchestrated this opportunity.  

So today - we can be thankful for the most basic of things - such as safety, shelter, food, water, clothing and all the extras that most of us have when so many have just lost everything.  We can also be thankful for the opportunities that the Lord gives us to enjoy life, be creative and bless others.  Life is always a mix of sorrow and of joy.  Let's be mindful of both.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday Musings - New Life

We are Easter people - that is if you know Jesus.  It is all about the resurrection!  Without it, we are people with no hope.  Because of it -- we have hope beyond hope.  

I journeyed back from TX last Wednesday and was able to be here in Chicago for Easter.  We had some pretty decent (maybe spring is coming soon) weather.  The service was a wonderful celebration.  We opened up our home to anyone who didn't have family to spend Easter with and we ended up with a great crowd - 61 for lunch!  It was so much fun and such a beautiful picture of the body of Christ.  I looked around the house and was truly just in awe of the amazing people that the Lord has put in our life over the last 8 months. People were everywhere - and I could not have been happier.

What does the resurrection mean in our lives?
*It means that we serve a Living God - not someone that is dead and buried with a tombstone marker.  He lives!
*It means that all our sin, all our shame was nailed to the cross on that Friday.  We do not have to carry it.
*It means that when I am willing to die to something in my life, the power of the resurrection will bring something new and better into my life.
*It means that hurt, anger, bitterness, suffering and injustice have been conquered.  While these things cause us pain and frustration in this world, ultimately - they are defeated.
*It means that the power that God used to raise Jesus is the same power that He offers me in my life - to live a life that honors Him.

As believers, we should - above all else - be people of HOPE. 

We have a God that loved us so much that He allowed His Son Jesus to die on the cross in our place.  

But . . . He didn't leave Him there.  He Rose - just as He said He would.  Good news indeed.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thankful Thursday - What a week!

I have had a great last week in Texas.  All my focus and energies were on the wedding.  It is 4 weeks from Sunday!  Here are just some of the sweet blessings I experienced in the past week that I am so very thankful for!

*12 1/2 hours in the car with my very dear friend Kay, traveling from Colorado to TX.  We finally got to do some catching up!!
*6 full days at Ashley's house
*hours and hours of great conversation and laughing with James and Ashley
*Heather came up for a wedding shower - sweet time with her!
*Wedding shower in Arlington - such an incredible blessing.  These friends have known me longer than any of my friends and they have helped me raise my girls in so many ways.  It was a time of sweet fellowship.  Ashley loves these women and she felt so loved and cared for by them.  A truly special time.
*Wedding shower in Keller - it was fun to meet some more of Ashley's friends in Keller.  They put together a sweet shower and we had a lot of fun.
* We met with our favorite florist in the world - Tracie Alexander.  She did the flowers at Heather's wedding too.  She is not just our florist - she is a treasured family friend!
*Lunch with some close friends in Arlington and my Mom!  She came up for the shower and I got to spend some extra time with her.  Loved it!
*Appreciating each and every gift -- We had so much fun looking through everything and looking over the list as to who gave what - just plain fun and so humbling that people are so very gracious and kind.
*There is not much that means more than other people loving your children.  Heather's wedding - and now Ashley's wedding reminds us that we have such a wonderful group of friends who love us in such tangible ways.
*I made my 15 hour drive back just fine. Quincy was my co-pilot.  He doesn't complain about my driving and he is always smiling.  Perfect :-)

As usual, my heart is torn between Texas and Chicago.  It feels good to be home and I'm looking forward to seeing my friends here and being in my church, but there is always a part of my heart back in Texas with my family and friends.  I'm thankful for the many ways that we have to communicate these days!  There is no better place to be than in the center of God's will and I truly believe that is where I am.  

What are you thankful for today?  Take a moment to make a list of some specific things that you are thankful for in the last week.  I guarantee you that it will make you smile.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Musings - Walking - Even when your feet hurt

I prayed this morning asking God what He wanted me to say today.  When He answered me, I said, "Really?"  Well, I asked, so here it is.

"But now says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I have given Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your place.
Since you are precious in My sight,
Since you are honored and I love you . . .
Do not fear, for I am with you."
Isaiah 43:1-5

Have you ever walked a difficult journey with someone you love?  Maybe even someone that you don't know all that well?  I imagine, like me, you have.  I think it is an amazing privilege to walk along side of someone who is on a hard journey.  It is also very hard sometimes!  It can be draining and emotionally exhausting.  But, I truly believe that we are called to walk - even when our feet hurt!

I have a long line of these experiences and I believe that each one in some way prepares me for the next one.  I have had the privilege of standing by students who found out they were pregnant; a friend whose baby died of cancer at the age of 1; a student who contracted meningitis and died within 48 hours; a student's Mom who died of cancer; my dear friend  who died of cancer; students with broken hearts; friends going through divorce; beautiful young women with scars from abuse . . . the list goes on. 

I read Mary Beth Chapman's book, "Choosing to SEE" this week.  Wow - truly a gut wrenching, powerfully honest account of dealing with tragedy.  So many unanswered questions and yet choosing to rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father and believing in His goodness.  I highly recommend it.

When you are walking this kind of journey with someone, it is very challenging to your own faith.  You are asked a lot of questions that you certainly do not have the answers for - many that will only be answered on the other side of this existence.  You listen a lot - and talk much less.  It is also a challenge to empathize (essential) but to not stay there.  I believe God uses us to help others move ahead - one baby step at a time.  You pray and you plead with God on this friend's behalf.  You struggle for the right words to say and count on the Holy Spirit to give you the right words.  He is faithful to do that.

I'm spending time right now with a sweet young girl who has experienced some major trauma in the last few years.  I did not know her before - a God thing brought us together.  I have listened to her, cried with her and offered encouragement and comfort.  I feel very inadequate most of the time and yet I believe that God brought us together for a purpose.  One thing that I am finding really interesting is the picture that God is giving me of this sweet girl's future.  I have such a clear picture of her being happy, healed and whole - married to a wonderful believing man and I have even pictured her with a child playing with her in the front yard.  I picture her laughing and praising God for how very far she has come and how faithful He has been through the process.  I see her looking back with amazement and awe.  I share this with her often.  I believe it with all my heart.  I'm so proud of her for embarking on this very painful journey of hope and healing.  I am privileged to walk with her.

Is there a cost to this kind of ministry?  YES  Would I do it again? YES  Any thing that this costs me is but a pale shadow of what is it costing the one that is hurting.  On days I feel drained and heavy hearted, I remember that.

We have a choice.  We do not have to walk beside people in pain.  God will provide for them, but we really miss out by not participating in this process.  God allows me to grow and to mature when I choose to step into this messy process.  He challenges me to put feet to my faith and trust Him with the outcome.  It has a lot of ups and downs.  Carrying one anothers burdens can be hard but we are instructed to do so.

Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2

Have you been avoiding sharing in another's pain?  Are you drained from walking along side someone going through a difficult journey?  Are you bearing a heavy load in your own life?

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden if light.
Matthew 11:28-30

It is easy to become heavy with others struggles on top of our own.  It is always good to go through the process of telling God and turning those things over to Him.  He alone is the answer and He alone can bear all the burdens, hurts and heartaches of this world.  We are called to be ministers of reconciliation - even when our feet hurt.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Remembering Janeth

My sweet friend, Janeth, has been on my mind so much lately.  Janeth left this earth 5 years ago (so hard to believe it has been 5 years) but she is ever present in my life.  Let me tell you a little about Janeth.

We met a long time ago - when her son Seth was 5 years old.  I moved in and out of Arlington a couple of times and when I moved back in 1999, Seth was a junior in high school.  Janeth was involved in the youth ministry and so was I.  We picked our friendship right back up and it was pure joy to spend time with her.  She was one of those people who had endless energy and a continual smile.  

In 2003, Janeth got some devastating news.  She had stage 4 colon cancer.  It was such a shock to all of us.  We were optimistic, but concerned.  I remember going to see her in the hospital after her first surgery and just crying my eyes out when I left.  I just couldn't imagine life without her.  I begged God to heal her and allow us many years with her.

That began one of the hardest and most amazing journeys I have ever been on.  Several of us began to meet weekly with Janeth for fellowship and prayer.  We were to be her support team, but from the beginning she didn't want it to be all about her.  We met weekly for the next 3 years.  It is hard to even describe the changes that happened in all of our lives during that time.  We decided that maybe she was actually the support team we needed!  Here are some of the things I learned from Janeth:

Health is a gift: enjoy it when you have it and do your best when it is failing you.  So much of those 3 years, you would not have even known anything was wrong with Janeth unless you were already aware of it.  She kept going and doing at an amazing pace.  She so valued the time she had that she fought for every moment of it to be used well.

It's not about me:  If anyone had the right to make it about them, it was Janeth.  She endured so much as she fought to live another day.  She did about every kind of treatment, surgery etc. that she could.  But - she never made life about her.  She was always looking out for others and asking me how she could pray for me and what could she do for me.  We tiled my kitchen backsplash together during this time.  We laughed a lot and cried a lot.  One week I took her to chemo and her blood work wasn't where it needed to be for the treatment.  We left the hospital and Janeth wanted to go shopping and out to lunch.  She insisted on buying me a gift for driving her to chemo in Dallas.  She bought me a red pancake spatula!  I think of her every time I see it.

One of my favorite memories was being with her at chemo in Arlington.  I was spending those hours with her to help her pass the time, bring her lunch and just hang out.  At one point, a woman across the room was having her first chemo treatment.  She was very frightened and she was crying.  Janeth got up and pulled her iv setup with her over to this woman.  She offered her encouragement and comfort.  She prayed for her.  Seriously one of the most profound moments of my life.  Jesus with skin on to be sure.

There is something better:  We often said that the closer Janeth got to her death, the more heaven there was in her.  As it became evident that the treatments were not working and that the cancer continued to spread, Janeth began to plan for the future.  Those last few months, it seemed as if she had one foot in heaven already.  There was such an incredible peace about her.  She didn't want to leave her family or her friends.  There were still so many things that she wanted to do - and yet there was such anticipation about seeing Jesus face to face.

I had the privilege of being with Janeth when she died.  She left this world and moved on to the next with peace.  It was very surreal, and to be honest, sometimes it still is.  For the longest time, I would wake up and for a moment just forget that this had actually happened.  I would think of calling Janeth or stopping by her house - and then I would remember.  

Jesus is all that matters:  If there was one message that came across loud and clear over and over again - it was that.  Janeth took every opportunity to tell everyone she came in contact with about Jesus.  She lived out her faith until her last moment on this earth and seamlessly went on to the next one.

Janeth was funny, smart, creative,
faithful, loyal, caring, kind, forgiving,
nurturing, giving, warm, loving, a servant to all.

Janeth was a wife, mother, daughter, aunt, friend and one of those people that impacts your life forever.

I will be forever thankful for her friendship and the example that she set for me.

Heaven is the richer for our loss. 
I'll see you soon my friend.   

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Musings - Second Chances

Happy Monday!  I have had a whirlwind of a weekend but a great one.  Wanted to share some of the things that God showed me in a very tangible way this weekend.  

I had the honor of going to the wedding of my former Young Life leader, Kim Talley, this weekend.  If I had to pick one person who had the most impact on my spiritual life - it would be him, so this was especially sweet to me.  (Look back at my post from Monday, August 30th 2010 to see my story about Kim.)  Alan and I drove to Amarillo TX - spending one night in Oklahoma City.  It was a long drive - but well worth it!

Kim had been married before and has three beautiful children.  The youngest is in college - so they are all grown up.  One of his sons sang at the wedding.  Amazing.  When Kim's first marriage broke apart, he was devastated.  He would never have seen himself in that place.  It has been a long journey for him and it is so exciting for me to see him step out and risk love again.  He could not have chosen a more perfect partner for himself in Lisa.  They compliment each other in so many ways and I see them having many happy years together.

God is the God of second chances.  No matter what has happened, in Christ, we have the privilege of getting back up and receiving God's grace again.  He is enough.  His grace is big enough to cover all our sin, short comings and seemingly failures.  He is so good that He can even take those failures and turn them into something good.  Those are often the times when He is doing the most work in our lives as we reach the end of our own resources and have no choice but to lean into Him - depending on Him for everything.

So many Christians and not-yet-believers keep kicking themselves over and over again for that one thing they can not forgive themselves for.  It could be anything since we all walk a different journey.  I really believe that satan loves that - he loves to kick us when we are down.  He loves to whisper what a complete failure we are - unworthy of God's love.  


God's Word tells us over and over again that He works in our weakness (2nd Corinthians 12:9-10); His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23); He forgives us (Colossians 2:13-14).  God's resources are unlimited He waits for you to just give that "thing" up to Him.

What are you holding onto that is in reality holding you back?  Where do you need a second chance?

I love the good Word in Joel 2:25 - "I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten."  

When  a swarm of locust descend on a field, it is left devastated.  There may be days, months or even years that you have felt were wasted in your walk with the Lord or just wasted in your life.  We have a Mighty God who can restore what you have lost in a way that you can not even imagine.  

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.  Amen.
 Ephesians 3:20-21

Embrace the God of Second Chances today.  What are you waiting for?