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, August 30, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Mom Time

One of my favorite things about my time in Chicago is getting to know the young moms in my neighborhood and my church.  I miss my daughters so much - and I think the Lord knew that I would need young women in my life to get me through.

Yesterday, we had Mom Time at my house.  We went to the playground near my house and tried to wear the kids out . . . then came back and had lunch together.  I just recently got my good camera back to work and got to snap some pictures of these sweet little ones.

It was a spectacular day.







Lindsey and Maddox - don't you love that expression!





Heather and Paisley
These women and these kiddos are such a blessing to my life.  I also get to practice my grandmother skills.

I am thankful for the amazing people that the Lord has brought into my life here in Chicago.  I am blessed, indeed.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Musings: And yet God . . .

Do you have those times when there are just a lot of things swirling around in your head?  Do you have times when you have decisions to make that could be personally costly or times when you are just overwhelmed?

Me too.

Take a look at Psalm 74, verse 12.

Yet God is my king from of old,
Who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth.  

This Psalm was written during the period of the Babylonian exile.  Jerusalem had been all but destroyed.   Virtually all of the leadership had been carted away to Babylon along with all of the articles in the temple.  The protective walls were knocked down and the gates were burned.  The city was basically in rubble.  The first 11 verses of this Psalm are verses of desperation and lament.  The people who were left in Jerusalem were a haggard lot at best and a depressed, dysfunctional mob at worst. 

I love the shift in verse 12.  It is as if during this rant of despair - Asaph pauses and says, "Yet God."  He describes how mighty his God is and the great things that He has done.  He acknowledges God's goodness and sovereignty.  

In verses 18-23, He calls on God to defend His own Name - to save the people for His honor.  Notice the shift in focus?  

There are times when my circumstances or even just the injustices I see overwhelm me.  There are other times when I can't make sense out of things that are happening in my own life.  

What a powerful thing to step back and say - AND YET GOD.  

It changes everything.  

He is the unknown variable in the equation of life. We typically think of life as:

My knowledge + my experiences + my circumstances = Life

God can actually turn that equation inside out or upside down.  He has no limitations or boundaries.  He is . . . He always has been . . . He always will be.  With Him in the equation, nothing is impossible.

He is Almighty God who restores what 
has been broken 

Who rebuilds what has been burned

Who brings light where there is darkness

Who brings beauty out of ashes

He is the One Who changes Everything.

And Yet God

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Recounting God's Goodness

Psalm 105 is an account of God's faithfulness to Israel.  It was used as a reminder and as an encouragement to the people when they were going through difficult times.  As I was reading through it, I thought it would be fun to look back over my life and recount God's goodness to me.  It is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it was fun to see that thread of God's goodness and faithfulness in my life.  I highly recommend it.

*God's provision of 2 parents who loved Jesus and raised me with the the truth of the gospel.
*Churches that took care of me and nurtured me as I grew up - Willow Meadows Baptist Church and Tallowood Baptist Church.
*An extended family of believers.  I had godly grandparents, aunts and uncles - people who affirmed the truth of God's great love for me.
*The ministry of Young Life during my teenage years that truly brought my faith to fulness - thank you Kim Talley.
*My years at Baylor University that sharpened me, challenged me, matured me and encouraged me.  Experiences and people that have had such a godly impact on my life.
*God's provision of Alan as my husband.  Boy - God sure knew what He was doing.
*Our growth and community during our young adult years at First Baptist Arlington.  These people are still our dear friends.  We had such amazing mentors who poured so much into our lives and they still do.  
*The birth of our girls - evidence of God's graciousness to us as He entrusted us with these treasures.  
*Bible Study Fellowship - such great Bible study training as a student and as a leader.  These 8 years shaped me so much.
*Our move to New York - such a bonding time for our little family of 4 - changed our perspective on our neighborhood and our world and taught us to "do" church in an all hands on deck small church.
*One year back in TX - As He would have it, it was an important time for us to be near family.  I also got to teach a women's bible study class that year that prepared me for many things to come.
*Move to Ohio - so much growth and maturity through parenting, Bible Study Fellowship, Youth Ministry and our church family at Karl Road Baptist Church.  Our girls were loved and nurtured by so many people.
*Move back to TX - we had a one week notice of this move and it was hard.  We learned to trust and rely on the Lord in new ways in this quick and difficult transition.  His faithfulness was lavished on us in so many ways.
*Coming back to our First Baptist Arlington family - our involvement in the Youth Ministry, small group and camps, mission trips, new friends, Young Life, our neighbors, Martin High School and Bible Study. Threads of God's grace and purpose through all of those aspects of our lives - priceless.
*Our girls time at Baylor - so grateful that we lived close and got to share in that time.  What a privilege to watch the Lord grow and mature our girls into women that love and serve Him.
*Our time spent in Colorado - our neighbors and church - The River Church.  God has used this place as a point of refuge, rest and encouragement.
*Gold's Gym - such a great time of ministry, friendship and fitness.  
*Sweet time preparing for and hosting Heather's wedding to Cooper.
*Our move to Chicago - God has richly blessed our life here with great new friends, our church Destination, our neighbors that we love so much and many ministry opportunities.
*My painting and volunteering at Hamilton Elementary and Prescott Elementary.
*Sweet time preparing and hosting Ashley and James' wedding.
*God's graciousness in bringing dear friends from TX to live in Chicago - love having Ashley and Aaron Cauble, along with Beth and Morgan Fairweather.  We are blessed beyond measure.

WOW - I would really encourage you to take a look back over time - in both the hard things and the good things and see that thread of God's faithfulness, His purposes and His grace.  It is a faith builder.

I am so thankful for my God who walks each step with  me.

He is faithful.

He is steadfast.

He loves me so.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Musings: Broken Cisterns

There is a change in the air, here in Chicago.  Our highs are topping out in the mid 80's (although today our high is 75) and our lows have even ventured into the 50's.  You can feel fall coming and it will be here before we know.  It has been a grand summer here in the City.  I am so glad that we got to experience a full Chicago summer and share such sweet times with family and friends.  

I sure do love the fall, though . . . 

I have been reading through Jeremiah this month.  You just have to feel for Jeremiah.  He had a really tough job as one of God's prophets.  Unfortunately, God's people were not doing much of anything that they should have been.  This made Jeremiah's message one full of warnings and rather gloomy predictions.  Let's just say that the people did not take it well and Jeremiah suffered in many different ways.  He was committed to obediently following God's direction, even in the midst of persecution.  He really challenges me to be obedient ALL the time - not just when it is easy.

I was reading in Jeremiah 2 and came across verse 13 about broken cisterns.

For my people have committed two evils:  They have forsaken Me - the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

One of the things that you notice living in a big city is the high level of brokenness around you.  I'm not saying that there isn't brokenness everywhere, but when you live in a city where everyone is living in very close quarters and it is all out there - you are tripping over brokenness everywhere that you turn.  When I read this verse, it really spoke to me about the state of my city.

What a picture of our broken world - a world in which many turn their backs on the only One who can truly give us life.  Instead, we grab up everything we can get our hands on -- trying to hold on to water that continually slips through our fingers and throwing the few drops we can hang on to into a vessel that leaks.

What God offers us a an unlimited supply of living water.  We don't have to save it up.  We don't have to capture it in any kind of a vessel because it becomes a part of us.  But this water is not meant to store - it is meant to be shared - given out - spent.

This living water renews.  It brings us JOY.  It builds our faith.

Let's pour out this water on the brokenness that surrounds us.  Let's be intentional about listening, caring, meeting the needs that we can, offering encouragement, praying, giving, loving and noticing.

Let's choose Living Water.

Let's allow Jesus to be Living Water through us.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thankful Thursday: All of Creation

After seeing so much beauty in God's creation this past weekend - I thought I would just share some pictures and let you glimpse the glory of God's handiwork.  Romans 1 tells us that God has made Himself evident in creation.  I have to agree!  Michigan is a beautiful state.  Enjoy.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hands and marked off the heavens by the span and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and hills in a pair of scales?
More than the sounds of many waters, 
Than the mighty breakers of the sea,
The Lord on high is mighty.
Your testimonies are fully confirmed;
Holiness befits Your house,
O Lord, forevermore.
The grass withers, the flowers fade but the Word of the Lord stands forever.
Add How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
 He will be like a tree firmly 
planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; 
 Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
 Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy

From the rising of the sun to its setting The name of the LORD is to be praised.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday's Thoughts: Power

I got to spend the weekend in northern Michigan to attend the wedding of two sweet friends - Nik and Theresa.  Alan and I took an extra day to vacation up there - beautiful!

The water up there looks like the waters of the Caribbean.  Seriously, I could not believe it was Lake Michigan and other lakes that feed into it.  It was one of the most beautiful areas I have ever seen.  We already want to go back!

I've been reading in the gospel of John this past week.  I love this gospel and the way that John sees things.  His perspective is unique.  Of all the apostles, John lives the longest and offers us so much insight into the life of Jesus.  I read the account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead this week.  Wow - what an event!  He was a close friend of Jesus'.  Jesus gets word that He is seriously ill and then He waits 4 days to go and see him.  By this time, Lazarus is dead and already buried in a tomb.  There are wailing mourners, upset sisters and puzzled disciples.  And then this happens . . .

"When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice,'Lazarus, come forth.'  The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, 'Unbind him, and let him go.'"
John 11:43-44

There are a hundred lessons in this account of Lazarus' death, Jesus' response, the reactions of Mary and Martha and the questions and comments from the disciples.  So this time, as I read through the account, I was struck by Jesus crying out with a loud voice - Lazarus, come forth and the sheer power of that.

The same voice that brought creation into existence also brought a dead man back to life.  

Death shook in terror at the voice of Jesus.

The same thing is true of spiritual death.  When I was dead in my sin, Jesus cried out and called me out of death into life.  He unbinds me from a life of self focus, pride, emptiness and purposelessness and brings me into a life lived with Him and for Him.

There are times when remarkably enough - I find myself trying to climb back into that stinky tomb.  I grasp at dirty bandages and attempt to reapply them.  In those times, the voice of Jesus cries out - death jumps back and life returns.  The power of spiritual resurrection always prevails because Jesus conquered death.  Death has no hold on me physically or spiritually.

Whenever I get a whiff of that stench, I have the choice to grab hold of the resurrection power of Jesus.  I do not have to stay in that place where I am imprisoned by my old, crusty bandages.  Jesus offers freedom.  Not only are those bandages removed - but I am then let go.  I am free to respond to God's call on my life.  I am free to love others and move forward in a healthy, whole way.

How do you see yourself today?

Do you see yourself as free - or are you wound up tightly in old bandages?

Maybe you have never allowed Jesus to remove those things that bind you.

Maybe you have just forgotten to call on that 
freedom that is yours.

Maybe you are standing in the doorway of the tomb, seriously considering going back in there.  After all, a tomb is a dark, quiet, safe place.

It is also a place of death.

Grab hold of the power of the resurrection of Jesus.  

In it there is life.

In it there is purpose.

In it there is freedom.

Jesus said to them, 
"Unbind him and let him go." 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thankful Thursday: My Refuge

I was reading in the book of Nahum this week and came across chapter 1 - verse 7.  I love this verse.  It reminds me of how thankful I am for my God.

The Lord is good
A stronghold in the day of trouble
And He knows those who take refuge in Him.

I am thankful that the Lord is Good.
It is so important to know this and continually remind myself of this.  He is good - all the time - no matter what. 

He is my

safe place 

my stronghold 

my refuge.

No matter what is going on around me -- I can find safety, peace and mercy in Him.  He is my Retreat.

Turning to Him in times of trouble deepens my intimacy with Him.  It shows my dependence on Him.  It shows my trust in Him. 

Only in Him will I find help, strength and 
perseverance through the difficult times.

I love the promise that He knows those who take refuge in Him.  When I call out to Him - He recognizes my voice.  He knows my weakness, my struggles and my pitfalls.  He knows everything about me and He knows exactly how to help me.  

Do you know, beyond a doubt, that God is good?

Is He your stronghold in times of trouble - 
or do you turn to other things or other people?

Do you take refuge in Him?

I am thankful for a God who is available every hour of every day.  I am thankful for a God Who loves me just as I am.  I am thankful for a God Whom I know is Good.  He can not be anything else because He is true to His character.

I am thankful.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Musings: Drink Up

"Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am He.'"  John 4:26

I have always loved the account of the woman at the well.  Every aspect of this story stirs my heart.  She is a Samaritan.  She has been married multiple times and is living with a man at the time.  She is an outcast - coming to draw water in the afternoon when no one else is around. 

And then Jesus . . .

This woman who has lived a life wrought with disappointment meets the Giver of Life face to face.  A Jewish man engages her in conversation - What's up?  Not only that, but He seems to know everything about her life.  What?  Her spiritual curiosity is immediately peaked. 

So . . . she finds herself in a conversation at a well with God Himself.  

I love how Jesus reveals Himself to the most unlikely people in the most unlikely situations.  It was so unexpected.  It was so Jesus.

The outcast gets to share a drink of water with God Himself.  In this brief conversation, Jesus reveals much about Himself.  He tells her that He is Living Water - that He is All-Knowing and that He is True Worship.  He actually reveals Himself as The Christ - which He rarely did in such emphatic terms.

Why?  What was it about this woman and this encounter that was so different?

Maybe that the depth of her need was so great?

Maybe because her curiosity was peaked?

Maybe her brokenness?

Maybe the fact that her heart was still tender in the midst of her sin and suffering?

I'm not sure, but this encounter was life changing for both her and her whole village. 

I think it was important for the disciples as well. 

It served notice that everything was about to change.

It was a sign that the gospel was about to burst forth and break down multiple barriers.

They needed to know this.

I love that Jesus chose to declare His deity to a woman in Samaria who hadn't a friend in the world.

He is still doing this today . . . will you be His hands and feet in this radical revolution?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thankful Friday: Jana

Well, if you are following my posts, you can tell that this week has been a little crazy!  It has also been really good and for that, I am very thankful.  My sweet friend, Jana Harwell, arrived in Chicago yesterday afternoon for a visit.  

This was taken when we got to share time in Colorado.

I love Jana.  I like to call her my "hippy" friend because she is fun and funky and super creative.  She has such a great sense of style and she is the one and only, unique and wonderful Jana.

She is also a godly woman who encourages me and challenges me.  She has such a heart for people - an amazing heart for worship and gifts and talents to do both.  She sings, plays the piano, writes music and teaches voice.  She is heading back to school this fall to get her masters.  I am a BIG FAN of hers.

We have shared some really amazing times and also helped each other through some very difficult times.  Our souls and knit together and our friendship is eternal.  

Thank you, Jana, for being my friend.  You are an amazing gift to me - straight from the Father Himself.  I love you!