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.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Musings - Restoration

In one of my recent quiet times, I was reading in Jeremiah 31 and 32.  Now, I have to be honest.  Jeremiah has some awesome passages - but it is a pretty tough book to get through also.  Jeremiah was a faithful prophet - but He went through a lot!  He was constantly bearing bad news to the most important people in the country.  And for this service, he was beaten, put in prison and even thrown down a well.  But - God was always faithful to him and he was very faithful to God.  So, as I was reading these chapters, I read some very encouraging verses that I hope will bless you as much as they blessed me.

31:2  The people who survived the sword found  
grace in the wilderness

Oh my, how I love that verse!  Now, I doubt that many of you have been stabbed with a sword - but haven't we all had an experience that felt like that?  Words that wound - feelings that get stomped on - a betrayal.  They feel like being stabbed in the heart.  We often find ourselves wandering the wilderness after such an experience.  So - here is the good news.  There is grace in the wilderness.  God knows - He sees - He cares - He will give you exactly what you need.  Lean into Him.

31:3 I have loved you with an everlasting love
therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. 
Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt.

Now after a piercing hurt - you need assurance that you are loved and valued.  The Lord promises that He loves you with an everlasting love.  However torn down you feel - He is in the business of building back up on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ.

31:13 For I will turn their mourning into JOY and will 
comfort them and give them JOY for their sorrow.

What a trade!  The Lord will take your mourning and exchange it for JOY.  He will comfort you and exchange your sorrow for JOY.  

31:25 For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh 
everyone who languishes.

Do you feel weary?  
Are you languishing? What does that mean?!?! 
*lose or lack vitality; grow weak or feeble
*fail to make progress or be successful
*archaic pine with love or grief

*suffer from being forced to remain in an unpleasant place or situation
I think languish is a good word to describe a lot of what we are all feeling.  He will satisfy you.  Anything else you are chasing after will fall short.  Only God is Enough.

32:7  Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm.  Nothing is too difficult for You!

What are you facing right now that seems impossible?  Is your hurt too deep - your betrayal to cutting - your weariness to extreme?  Not for the Lord.  NOTHING is impossible for Him!

Take God at His Word.  
He is in the business of Restoration.  
You can trust Him.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Ashley and Aaron

There is so much to be thankful for! It is beautiful here!  You can almost feel the fall coming.    

Our church here is moving into a new facility this Sunday - more room to grow and more room for kids (bring on those families!).  Our pastor's wife, Heather, just had a beautiful baby girl on Wednesday.  Life is good.

Then, yesterday, Aaron and Ashley Cauble arrived in Chicago!!  Alan and I have known Aaron and Ashley since they were 16.  We have watched them fall in love, graduate from High School, go off to college and get married. They are two people who love the Lord and truly seek to follow Him.  They have been living in Austin for the last 5 years and are stepping out in faith as they all that is familiar behind and head north! 

Little did we know that when we moved to Chicago a year ago, God would graciously send Aaron and Ashley here a year later.  They are moving here to help with a church plant in Wicker Park called Mosaic.  Aaron will be leading worship and they will both be doing all kinds of ministry. I can not even imagine all the ways they will make an impact here.  They are living with us while they raise support and decide where to live.  WE LOVE IT!!!  We are so excited to have them here and be able to be a part of 
their new adventure.

I love how God continually surprises me with such great things.  Trusting Him day by day is the greatest adventure anyone could have.  

How has God surprised you lately?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Musings - Simon, Do you love me?

In my quiet time, on the 19th, I read John 21.  Verses 15 -17 really struck me - they are very familiar but God seemed to be pointing them out to me in particular.  So, I thought I would share what He was saying to me.

This passage has Jesus asking Peter a series of questions.  3 to be exact.  This took place after Jesus had resurrected.  He was with just a few of his disciples on the beach.  It had not been too long since Peter had denied Jesus 3 times.  That can't be a coincidence.  I believe that Jesus asked Peter this question three times as a picture of redemption to Peter.  3 denials -- 3 testimonies of Peter's love and obedience. 

Sin, shame and embarrassment - repentance, relief and redemption.

I've always loved that part.  I wonder if Peter would have been as effective of a leader without this particular encounter.  But - this is not what the Lord was speaking to me about this time through.  

I was focusing on the three questions  and commands - or maybe more accurately - one questions asked three different times and three slightly different commands.  I don't believe that Jesus wasted a word - EVER.  His time with His disciples was short.  There is something here for all of us.  John 21:15-17

15After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"
   "Yes, Master, you know I love you."
   Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
 16He then asked a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
   "Yes, Master, you know I love you."
   Jesus said, "Shepherd my sheep."
 17-19Then he said it a third time: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
   Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, "Do you love me?" so he answered, "Master, you know everything there is to know. You've got to know that I love you."
   Jesus said, "Feed (or tend in my version) my sheep.

Tend my lambs
Shepherd my sheep
Tend my sheep

Now, I could read some commentaries and study the Greek - but I really just wanted to hear what the Holy Spirit wanted to teach me.  Here is what He pointed out. 
These statements are very similar, but there is a slight difference in each one that I think is significant.  

When I think of "tending to something" - meeting basic needs come to mind - such as food and shelter.  I think that tending is very necessary but it is also pretty basic.  Now basic is important. If food and shelter are not taken care of - all the other stuff is not going to matter much.  

Tending to lambs means a couple of things to me - tending to the young and tending to the spiritually young.  I need to make sure that the basics of food (real and spiritual) are met and that I can provide or am myself, a safe place.  Young in my life right now is typically young adults in their 20's.  There are some pretty special kids around that I can apply this to also.  I have cooked a lot of meals since I arrived in Chicago for a lot of people.  I love doing it and tending to these needs opens the door for a lot of great conversation.  It is a tangible way to love on others.

Tending to sheep reminds me that adults of all ages need tending to.  I need to love on my friends my own age just as much as the young adults.  I need to have them over and be a safe place to talk about what is going on in their lives as well.  The spiritually mature need love, care and encouragement too. What a privilege. 

Shepherding can really only take place after tending is taken care of.  In shepherding - there is also guidance, leading and protecting.  When I think about shepherds that we see in scripture and in many parts of the world today, I know that they tend to the needs of their flock.  That is a must - but they also lead them to good pastures, make sure that their water is safe and protect them from wolves or other predators.  They take care of their wounds and know them by name.  

Since arriving here in Chicago - the Lord has given me a flock to shepherd.  It is a rather eclectic herd and I love it!  He has given me women and even some young men to tend to and to shepherd.  I need to seek to meet their needs - feeding, caring and sheltering (being a safe haven and sometimes actually providing a bed!) and also leading, guiding, listening, teaching and praying over.  It is all encompassing.

Small groups are gearing up for the fall in a few weeks.  I'll have a group of women to love, teach, guide, learn from, take care of and completely enjoy.  I can not wait!  I also have neighbors to love on, a school to invest in and friends to care for.  

Jesus asks each one of us, "Do you love me?"
Tend my lambs
Do you love me?
Shepherd my sheep
Do you love me?
Tend my sheep

Are you up for the challenge? 


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Thankful Saturday - Better late than never!

It has been a busy week - full and fun - but busy.  So here I am - on Saturday - trying to catch up with Thankful Thursday.  The good news is - every day is a good day to be thankful!  Here are just a few of the things I find myself being thankful for right now.

*Chicago summer - GLORIOUS - many beautiful, sunny, 75 degree days that are amazing.  I think I can handle this - even if it gets up to 85!

 *Baby showers - I have given two baby showers since I got back and it has been so much fun.  These young Moms are such a huge blessing in my life.  It was fun to get the girls together and ooh and ahh over cute baby clothes . . . and eat cake.

Heather and Amanda - both due in the next week or so  

*Babysitting for my neighbor - I got to spend time with my youngest neighbor - Hannah.  She is such a sweet, happy baby.  Love, love, love her.

*Painting at Hamilton - it is good to be back at the school.  I painted two bathrooms this week.  Here is a picture of the boy's bathroom in the basement of the school.  I've learned from experience - so I got this done BEFORE the boys came back to school.  Let's just say that the bathroom smelled just fine.

*My friend, Jana, came to visit me.  I got to spend 3 days with her and it was a blast.  I loved this special time and I so appreciate her friendship.  

What are you thankful for this week?  God's blessings are all around you.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts: One Year

Today is the 1 year anniversary of our move to Chicago.  I can not believe how very quickly this year has gone by.  As they say . . . times flies!!

Time flies when you are having fun - but it truly flies when you are engaged in what God is doing where you are.  When I think back over this past year - I am in awe of what the Lord has been doing around me and what I have had the privilege of being a part of.

*He directed our steps to the exact condo we needed to live in to have the neighbors we have.  Beyond a shadow of a doubt - I know we live in this spot for a specific reason.  We love our neighbors.  They are like family to us.  When I think back to first meeting them and where those relationships are today - I am floored.  

*He directed us to our church.  Really?  My friend Sheryl gave us a print out on Lakeview information.  Destination Church was listed on it (about 35 people attending at the time - now we average 80!) and it was just down the street from us, meeting in a comedy club.  We visited there the first Sunday after moving in and we have been there ever since.  Who does that?  Who moves to a new area and finds their church the first Sunday they live there in a big city where they don't know anyone?  WE DO.  Only God.

*He has given me ministry opportunities - more than I could ever have imagined.
     *Leading small group Bible studies
     *Loving on my neighbors
     *Making friends at the gym
     *Painting at Hamilton
     *Meeting with Kate
     *Loving on Alan's staff

*He has given me a love for my City.

*He has sustained me on days when I miss my girls so terribly - assuring me that they are serving Him where they are and so am I.  

*He has given me purpose - increased my faith - dispensed enormous amounts of grace and loved on me in huge ways.

I have a JOY that is so far beyond any certain circumstance.  I wake up grateful and I go to sleep thankful. (This is a very good kind of redundancy!)

I came here anticipating great things - anticipating God being at work - moving in my life and in the lives of others.  He has been faithful to do that.

One year ago, today . . . I could have never imagined what kind of a year I would look back on.  I am humbled - I am thankful - I can't wait to see what the next year holds.

What a difference a year makes!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Heroes

Well - it seems I'm on a movie kick.  We went and saw Captain America tonight with some friends.  It was actually a very good movie. Who doesn't love a hero? They swoop in and save the day.  They make all the wrongs - right.  It got me thinking about the heroes in my life and how grateful I am for them.

There are many different kinds of heroes to be sure - some heroes have already left this world and gone on to the next one.  Some are in my life right here.  Here are just a few of my heroes and why I am so thankful for them.

My Mom and Dad - they are two of the most generous and kind people I know.  I have learned so much from them.  They are my heroes.

My friend Dana -  She is a school counselor and she has invested in countless numbers of students over the year.  Dana is also a daughter and she has a Dad that suffers from alzheimers. Dana faithfully drives up to her parent's house every Saturday to spend time with them and help out her Mom.  Dana loves her Dad and she loves serving Him.  She is my hero.

My friends Lynsay and Bill - they run an orphanage in Asia for children with serious medical problems.  They are selfless in their love for these children.  They are totally dependent on the Lord and trust Him for literally everything that they need for these precious ones.  They are my heroes.

Pete and Judy Obregon - the work with Medical Ministries International.  Pete left a very profitable career as a surgeon to use his gifts for missions.  He and Judy (who is  a nurse) travel all over the world to minister to those in need.  They have the kindest hearts - I've learned so much from them. They are my heroes.

Bob and Amy Little - they serve on the mission field in Africa.  I am always humbled when I read their updates.  They are so passionate about seeing their people group come to know the Lord.  They have made many personal sacrifices to follow their call.  They are my heroes.

James Gray - he is the principal at Hamilton Elementary here in Chicago.  He came into this school when it was literally on its way out.  He has brought it back to life - increasing its enrollment and getting the community involved in turning this school around.  He is selfless with his time and efforts to see this happen.  He is my hero.

Mike - Mike is my cousin.  He lost his battle with cancer yesterday.  He served in Vietnam as a medic.  It was such a hard place to be and he didn't talk about it a lot - but He helped save many lives and comfort those he could not save.  He was a great man.  He was my hero.  

I could go on and on.  There are many heroes in my life and I am so grateful for them.  What do they have in common?

Obedient to their call

Who are your heroes?  Let them know.  Even heroes can use some encouragement.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Musings - Appearances

Alan and I went to see the last Harry Potter movie on Saturday.  Now - I know that people have lots of opinions about those books and movies - and that is not what this is about!  That is between you and Lord and I'm staying out of it!  The reason I mention it is because it got me thinking about appearances.

Three characters really struck me when I thought about what they looked like and who they actually were. 

*Voldemorte - He looks evil and he is evil.  Everything about who he is on the inside is very evident on the outside. 
*Severus Snape - He looks pretty creepy - but at times you are just not sure.  As the stories go on, he seems to be more and more evil, and yet in the end we find out that everything He did was for a good reason and ultimately to save Harry's life.
*Nigel - He is a very unassuming student who in the end, shows incredible courage and strength.  He really saves the day in many ways.

Now - if you are a Harry Potter expert, you might find flaws in what I am saying.  Stay with me . . . I do have a point.

When I was watching Voldemorte on the screen (which is hard to do - he is really nasty looking!) it got me thinking about what the world would be like if our character was evident on the outside of our body.  We know that appearances can be deceiving.  

What if they weren't?  

Now if you are like me, that might make you a little nervous.  Not everything about me is pretty, if you know what I mean.  Some things might look okay - but I would have to at the very least have some kind of big old ugly wart on the end of my nose - probably some kind of big mark on my cheek and possibly a few other things that would not be attractive.  On the other hand, some folks might come out looking really beautiful as their godly character presented itself in beautiful physical characteristics.

There was a movie that came out a number of years ago called Shallow Hal.  Again, everyone has different opinions about movies, but this one had a very interesting twist.  Hal was one of those guys that would not give the time of day to any girl who wasn't pretty close to a Victoria's Secret model.  In some supernatural way, suddenly, Hal only sees women as their character is displayed in physical attributes.  In his eyes, he sees an absolutely gorgeous girl and falls hard for her.  His friends can't understand why since she is not the typical knock out that he tends to go for - even far from it.  So - he learns in the end that beauty is indeed more than skin deep.

I just think it is an interesting theme.  It made me pause and think how really beautiful I want my character to be and how I want the Jesus in me to be evident on the outside.

Scripture tells us that we have beautiful feet when we share the gospel.
We are told that the Lord makes all things beautiful in His time.
We are also told that our inheritance is beautiful.
As our character becomes more like Jesus, our beauty grows.

So, spiritually speaking, are you beautiful? 
Are you willing to look at people for who they are rather than just 
what they look like?
If your insides were on the outside - what would you look like?

Just a few things to think about . . .

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Women

I just have to honest . . . I love men.  Seriously - I chased my first boyfriend in kindergarten and I have loved boys ever since.  That being said, there is just something about women friends that is just balm to my soul.  I love making new friends, spending time with long time friends and everything in between.  I have never had any success setting up couples - but I'm good at introducing friends to friends and nothing brings me more joy than to see those friendships grow.  

I got to go to the "mom's" group today.  It is made up of several women from church and a few other women that are friends with someone in the group.  I took my neighbor today with her baby Hannah.  It was so much fun!  We went to a park and the kids played and the women talked.  Michelle really enjoyed everyone.  It was just such a sweet time to share life with these women.  They are such an encouragement to each other.

Here are a few things I've learned over the years about nurturing our friendships with other women:

*Be an initiator - If you want to make friends, you very well may need to make the first move.  If you find yourself drawn to a particular woman, ask her to go to coffee or out to lunch.  

*Start in the middle - I've moved quite a bit - so I never assume I'm going to be somewhere for a long time.  So - I start in the middle!  Share something important even in that first conversation.  For me, I try to share something about my faith and my family.  I'm not much for small talk!

*Listen carefully.  By really listening to what someone else says, you learn about what is important to them and learn about the things they like and don't like.  You can learn how to best encourage that person.

*Give them lots of freedom.  Women can tend to get territorial about their friends.  It's not pretty - but it is true.  Give your friends the freedom to make other friends and spend time with other people.  It is healthy for the both of you.  No one can be everything that someone else needs.

*Express your appreciation for who they are and what their friendship means to you.  Everyone likes to know they are loved and we too often hold those comments inside.  Go ahead!  

*Introduce people you like to each other.  Before you know it, you will have a great group of friends who also enjoy each other.  This makes for some fun gatherings.

*In closing:  Be slow to give advice - Be quick to listen - Never criticize another woman's children, husband or mother!  If they are complaining - just listen.  They will get over it but they might not get over your comment!

I am so thankful for the amazing women that the Lord has put in my life.  I am so very fortunate to know every one of them.  They add such richness to my life.  

Who needs you to be their friend?  What is holding you back?


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Monday Musings - Affirmation

Affirmation ~ af·fir·ma·tion[af-er-mey-shuhn]

*the act or an instance of affirming;  state of being affirmed.
*the assertion that something exists or is true.
*something that is affirmed;  a statement or proposition that is declared to be true.
*confirmation or ratification of the truth or validity of a prior judgment, decision, etc.
I have been back in Chicago for 4 days.  I have to admit that it was hard to leave my girls in Texas.  I would think that would get easier each time, but honestly, it was hard this time.  I really want to be a part of their lives - as in, being close enough to go have lunch with Ashley or help in Heather's classroom.  But - that is not where God has me right now.  I know that.  I want to be where He wants me to be even more than I want to be close to my girls (and that is saying a lot!)

God knows that I want to please Him - He knows that it is hard to be so far away.  He has been so incredibly generous and kind to me since I got back to Chicago.  
     *I have seen and had conversations with all of my neighbors that are like family to me.
     * I got to have my sweet friend, Lauren,  and her Mom stay with us while they were doing some work on a condo that Lauren rents out.  I even got to go paint with them and help out a bit which was so much fun.
     *I got to go to Destination and usher (which I love to do).  I got lots of hugs and truly felt like I had been missed while I was traveling these past 5 weeks.  I got to meet our newest addition to Destination - Israel - 6 weeks old.
     *I got to talk to a new young woman who was visiting the church and invite her to come to my house tonight - and she did.
     *I got to go to a dedication ceremony for a new garden at Hamilton Elementary and see some of the people that are dearest to me there.  We even got to talk about new painting project ideas!
     *I got to see my great friend and workout buddy, Marifran, and go to spin class at the gym.
     *I got to have 4 friends over for dinner and reconnect.
What I am trying to say is that the Lord knew my heart - He knew that I was aching a bit from leaving my girls behind  - and He knew that I needed to be reminded that He has me here for a reason - for many reasons, in fact.  With affirmation, after affirmation - He encourages me to trust Him - to follow Him and to embrace what He has for me NOW. 
 Affirmation:  a statement or proposition that is declared to be true.
confirmation or ratification of the truth or validity of a prior judgment, decision, etc.
I love that definition.  That is exactly what the Lord has been doing for me these past 4 days.  He is validating the decision that Alan and I made to move here - to buy this house - to meet these neighbors - to go to this church - to volunteer at Hamilton - to open up our home.  
He doesn't have to do this.  That kind of affirmation - that kind of encouragement is just simply the kindness of the Lord.  He is loving me through each one of these things.  I feel His pleasure - His smile.  

And that is more than enough.