People Are Watching

Do you ever get the feeling you’re being watched? Brad and I love to “people watch”. Downtown is a great for this place because there’s always something going on and plenty of people.

This weekend we went to Acacia Park downtown. Immediately, we saw three young men doing flips. “Brad, look!” One would flip. Then the other flipped and then the next. They paused a moment, caught their breath and repositioned. Then bam, bam, bam; they each did it again, and again and again.

Mesmerized, we got out of the truck excited to see more. And we did. All over the little park young men were running, jumping and twisting into the air doing complete arial somersaults. Some were hanging in trees and a few were jumping from the trees to other objects. A young man climbed onto a four foot wall bordering above a playground. He stood like a diver ready to make a complex dive. Suddenly he sprung off the wall tucking, twisting and arching to spin wildly in the air before landing in a soft bed of mulch.

Nearby, a group was gathered by the small amphitheater where a semi-circle obstacle course was arranged. This was the competition ring for the Jump Fest Event Parkour Festival; a ‘Tranquil Movement’ event.

Every couple of minutes a new heat started in which two men laid flat on their backs –the official start position. At start, they sprung from laying on their backs to jumping up, on, over, thru, under and around large crates, parallel bars, over-size tires and monkey bars.

These athletes were strong, elegant, daring, fast and fluid. We watched, in awe.

A few came close to falling. “Oh, no, no!” My mother instincts had me wanting to halt the event with a shout of “Hey! Wait a minute guys. This just isn’t safe.” Somehow I managed clench my teeth and flinch quietly instead. It was fascinating to see the smooth flow of body over fixed objects. These guys moved like liquid.

More gathered and watched. The competitors watched as well. They watched one another and they looked to see who was watching them.

This was a competition; a show of their best. They had come from all over the country so the judges could watch them. It was evident; they’d trained hard honing their skills.

Then something else caught my eye. “Brad look!” Coming up near our heels was a small child, a baby actually. He had just mastered crawling and was proudly conquering the soft green grass on little hands and knees.

Obviously he had been watching as well because he wasn’t just crawling. This baby crawled a bit then tucked and twisted. He’d crawl again and arch and roll. He used his body to imitate the fascinating acrobatic athletes all around. “That’s awesome!” His parents chuckled proudly as they watched on their picnic blanket nearby.

The little guy had watched, studied, internalized and was now duplicating.

That’s what we do isn’t it? We watch. We learn. We do. We teach. It seems we’re either learning, practicing or teaching.

Others are watching. I wonder… What do others see when they see me? What about you? What do people see when they watch you? Are they inspired, encouraged or motivated?

Matthew 5:16 reminds us,

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”(NIV)

When you head out today, consider –people are watching. Who will see you? What will they see? Think about it and have a great week my friends, and SHINE!

Cake in Heaven?

For as much time as we have on earth in comparison to the time we will have in Heaven, isn’t it curious how little time we spend considering Heaven this side of eternity?

I thought about Heaven today at lunch with friends. Elizabeth passed her phone around showing pictures of her grandson’s 1st birthday. The little guy had cake smothered all over his face, chest, and hands; happy as could be. I mean, who wouldn’t want to dive fists into a rich chocolate cake and devour sweet goodness, right?!

Imagine cake in Heaven!

After our meal, the conversation led to talk about Karen’s Dad who passed away a year ago. I wish I’d met the man I’d heard so many great things about. Karen, her mom and sister shared reflections of Gene. Their eyes lit up as they reflected on this godly man they obviously all adored. Suddenly Karen looked at her mom and sister. “Hey. Remember when Lynn called about her crazy dream?”

She shared about a time shortly before Gene passed. “So my friend called and told me she’d dreamt about Dad. In the dream he was at some sort of banquet. There was a lot of food and he was eating, even devouring a big slice of creamy chocolate cake with such delight that he ate with his hands, as if eating cake for the first time. “It was all over his hands and face.”

“Yeh, my Dad loved food, but he wouldn’t eat like that.” The friend called to find out if Gene was okay and was surprised to learn that Gene was in a fierce battle with cancer. As Karen shared the story, Miss Jerri turned to me and whispered, “He really loved food, but at that point he could barely eat a teaspoon of pudding.”

Karen went on, “It makes you wonder what it’s like in Heaven.” She and Deb went on to talk about C.S. Lewis’ book “The Great Divorce” in which those visiting Heaven could hardly stand on the grass because grass in Heaven was so much more… real than any grass on earth. The things of Heaven have substance over things of earth which are only offer a semblance of things in Heaven.

I recalled the week before when I saw Miss Jerri after church and exchanged hugs. “Hi Miss Jerri! How are you today?” Miss Jerri is a beautiful woman, full of grace and class. She smiled sweetly but with effort. “Well, today is Gene’s one year birthday in Heaven. I really miss him but I’m sure he must be celebrating.”

Oh… my heart ached for this dear woman missing her husband. I squeezed her hand and offered another hug. “I’m sure he is celebrating more than we can imagine.”

Sitting together, hearing the dream and considering Gene’s “1st birthday in Heaven” was a treat. Thinking about C.S. Lewis’ suggestion of Heaven being more REAL and substantial then the world as we know it caught all our attention. It was as if a glimpse of Heaven passed through our little group as a sweet reminder.

Heaven; it’s a place; a place more real than things earth side of eternity.

Do you think about Heaven? What are your thoughts? Are you excited, curious, unsure?

Friend, join me in taking a little time to indulge, as we would, a decadent slice of cake and devour the promises of what lays ahead for us whose home is Heaven.

I love to talk about Heaven, and I’d love to hear your thoughts about it too!

Unusual Encounter

This post is in response to a post I read this morning from Joel, a blogger I recently started following. Joel’s post was about an exceptional encounter he had.

He referenced Hebrews 13:2

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. 

The post reminded me of my own unusual encounter.

Over 25 years ago I used to jog the beach path with my son in the baby jogger. Occasionally we’d pass a man who my husband and I privately called the ‘Bum of Huntington Beach’. We weren’t walking with the Lord then, and there were few vagrants roaming HB.

Sometimes Brad and I saw the man walking along Goldenwest Boulevard, but more often Jake and I passed him on our runs at the beach. Every time we saw him, he piqued my curiosity. He was tall -like really tall, and though his clothes were tattered and raggedy, he possessed a strong presence. I found it odd that when we passed him, he never smelled. He walked slow, but his posture was upright. He wasn’t just confident looking. I’d actually say he was… poised, almost elegant -in a manly way. His eyes were piercing in a kind way.
There was something different about this man, and I couldn’t figure it out. I wanted to know more about him.

One Christmas morning I went for a jog before we our traditional big breakfast. There on the lonely beach was our man sitting on the sand before the shore. This was the first time I saw him sitting. He always walked.
The thought came to me, I’ll bring him breakfast!

Excited at the thought of meeting the mysterious man, I quickened my pace and took the shorter route home so I could make up a plate and get it back before he was gone again.

At home, I piled the plate high with egg soufflé, toast, and fruit; and put juice in one of Jake’s sippy cups. My family looked at me like I was nuts. But I had too. “Hurry Shell. We’re hungry.”

It’s Christmas. He needs a gift.

I had some crystals that I kept in my jewelry box (again, not walking with Jesus). I held on to the stones thinking they could somehow guide, enrich, and protect my life.

At the time, I was blind, holding on to worthless objects instead of reaching out to the true source of hope.

Laden with a big plate of Christmas breakfast, and a cup of juice. I tucked the gift in my jacket pocket and hurried back to the spot near the pier. The air was cold and damp that morning. The ‘bum’ was still there, just gazing out to the foggy sea. He had a blanket wrapped around him. It was so strange to see him sitting, but he still looked so…tall.

I crossed the bike path to the sand, awkwardly caring my gifts. As I approached the man I began second guessing my brilliant and ‘extravagant’ gift.

What if he’s crazy -or dangerous?

Maybe I’ll insult him and make him mad… What’ll he do?!

I continued thru the clinging sand, contemplating random thoughts. The beach was vacant except for a family taking a walk and a few die-hard surfers.

Now I was beside “the bum”; past the point of turning back. He looked up slowly, his eyes meeting mine. I saw gentleness and wisdom and suddenly felt incomplete in whatever I thought I had to offer. In that moment I realized this man was more than what I judged him to be by his appearance.

I scrambled for words, “Um… Sir. Uhhh…” He seemed to see right through me.

“It’s Christmas.” I offered the plate, feeling like I’d just barged in someone’s private home. Maybe I had.

He looked down at the plate.

Maybe he’s already eaten.

Maybe he owns one of the beach homes and simply chooses to walk in tattered clothes.

It struck me again; he doesn’t smell. Suddenly I realized I did smell. I still had my sweaty running clothes on.

Oddly, I felt quite safe and welcome in his presence despite my embarrassment.

“Here’s some juice.” I handed him the sippy cup, painfully aware that my gift was not so extravagant after all. “That’s… you know; so it wouldn’t spill.”

Hoping to ease the awkwardness, but failing dismally; I handed him the crystals.

“A Christmas gift. Their supposed to help. Bring you luck.” I didn’t know what else to say, but he set the plate on the sand and accepted the clear stones in his hand. He simply looked at the stones unmoved.

Ahhh -what am I doing?! I’m giving a man stones?

He looked up and I wanted to run, but he met my eyes; smiled and kindly replied, “Thank you.”

He didn’t say another word, though his eyes said much. They were filled with wisdom. I could see that he had answers where I had questions. Somehow, I perceived that he knew what I wanted to know, but wasn’t ready to hear. He had answers to the hard questions of life, and he knew I wouldn’t accept them yet.

How did I know? Some things you just know -you know?

I looked down where the sand met his weathered blanket and managed, “You’re welcome.”

I wanted to stay in that unusual place. I wanted what he had but I didn’t know what it was. Very aware of my iniquity I could stand the awkwardness no longer. I stood up and began walking away, weakly mumbling, “Merry Christmas”.

I went home and ate Christmas breakfast with our little family, but instead of feeling fulfilled, I felt empty. Why? I thought I’d had such a good idea.

I had not brought a man food and gems. Rather, I left a man to sit alone on cold wet sand with useless rocks to weigh his pockets.

I gave him breakfast, stones and a sippy cup, but withheld the warmth of opening our home. And though he gave me nothing, he offered peace and warmth.

Brad and I continued to take Jake for walks and runs on the beach. I looked for the unusual stranger, but never saw him again.

That minute spent with “the bum of Huntington Beach” stirred a hunger in me that eventually led to Jesus. I didn’t recognize it then, but that man gave me a desire for peace, wisdom and kindness that could only be found in Christ.

I still look back and wonder, Who was that man? Do angels walk in tattered clothes?

Whether he was simply a wise and peaceful man or a special messenger of hope, he accomplished much with little. Twenty five years later I still think of him.

In the same way, children of God are to impact others. Some of the surest ways are those most simple;

-living in such a way that others are compelled to Christ; the ‘bum’ drew me first to himself, and ultimately (without a word) to Christ.

-being content with what we have: the ‘bum’ never appeared wanting or forlorn -his peace despite his apparent lack was exceptional, making a profound impression on me.

-showing compassion by meeting others at their point of need: the wise ‘bum’ appeared to see my need and accepted the crystals without mocking my ridiculous gift. Sometimes a person need only be seen, heard and accepted. The Holy Spirit will fill in the blanks in due time.

And you? Are others moved towards God Almighty because of what’s in you?

Do they see evidence that compels them to search that which cannot be bought, sold or contained -only given?

Kindness opens the door for truth.

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?  Romans 2:4

Lord, stir in us a hunger for Your presence and satisfaction in you alone, that You would be glorified and others be drawn to You.

to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

 

Adoption & A Heart for Korea

In our work as Senior Relocation Specialists we meet a variety of some pretty amazing people. Each client impacts us in a different way, revealing something special that causes us to once again fall in love with what we do and the people we serve.

Miss Ellen

When you’re packing up a lifetime of memories for someone’s move, or going through their belongings for an estate sale, you learn a lot about that person. Recently, we did a move and estate sale for Miss Ellen.

We fell in love with Miss Ellen immediately; an accomplished artist, a nurse and a psychologist. She’s 87, but you wouldn’t know it for all her bustling about and tending to countless details with seemingly endless energy and constant smiles. Her home was an orderly explosion of art and color. It was an expression of her.  

Miss Ellen’s home also hosted a great mix of Korean art, furnishings and keepsakes. This intrigued me because my sister, Jenny, is from Korea. Though I’ve never been there, I have an appreciation for the land which brought forth my sister.

Jenny was less than a year when she came to our family. A new child to any family is a gift, but when the child comes from the other side of the world, there is an extraordinary anticipation and a special appreciation. An adopted child and sibling is an exceptional gift.

I was excited sharing a great affection for Korea. “Miss Ellen, my sister is from Korea.”

Miss Ellen talked about their life in Seoul. “You know it was a very difficult time and place for the people there.” She spoke of the challenging dynamics of the culture still tending the wounds of the post Korean War.

I figured Miss Ellen’s family was there on military assignment as most of our clients are retired military. When I asked, she explained “Oh no dear, we were missionaries.”

That made sense. Her love for the Korean people was evident through out her home. She went on reflecting on tender memories, “We’d reach out to the military men stationed there hoping to share with them the dynamics nature of Korean culture, different in many ways from American culture.”

“We spent a lot of time loving on the locals, the military and the orphans.” She touched my arm affectionately, “Shelly, in the aftermath of war and cultural dishevel -the orphanages were so full.”

“We’d just go there and love on all those the little ones…”

I began calculating dates. “Miss Ellen, my sister was born in Seoul. When were you there?”

She pulled out a collection of news clippings documenting the cultural issues of their time there. She paused a moment and looked at me before continuing, “We were there from 1968 – 1973. We worked a lot with Holt Adoption International.”

My heartbeat quickened and tears threatened to spill. Miss Ellen just kept talking.

“Holt would match American families to the orphan children. The children were then placed with in care of eommaleul yang-yughadas. We would visit and help them.”  “We held a lot of little ones.”

I knew about Holt and eommaleul yang-yughadas. Holt was the agency that helped our family find Jenny. They told us Jenny would be in the care of an eommaleul yang-yughada until the process was complete. I hadn’t heard that term since I was a child, waiting to meet my new sister.

Our first photo of Jenny

Miss Ellen was there, working closely with those who were orchestrating the adoption of these young Korean children, among who was my then baby sister.

I stood stunned, looking at this sweet, tiny, white haired woman before me. Had Miss Ellen actually held my sister before I did? What a wild and exceptional possibility!

I was floored with appreciation of Miss Ellen and to the eommaleul yang-yughada who first welcomed my sister to her home.

There is really no way to know if Miss Ellen actually held my sister any more than we know the circumstances that brought Jenny to the orphanage.

The important thing is the impact that resulted because of those who put action to caring for one another; especially those in need.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God and Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27 NASB

Shelly, our niece Miss E and Jenny

The fruit thereof lasts for a lifetime. I am forever grateful to my parents for realizing one of our family would be born in a far away   land. My sister is special to me because who she is not where she comes from. Yes, her heritage matters to me – a lot; because it’s a part of who she is. She’s strong and beautiful, funny and extremely intelligent. I now see that some of her strength, beauty and unique ways are inherent to the incredible land from which she came.

As we finished caring after Miss Ellen’s estate, I pondered the richness of God’s goodness and providence in sharing this intersection of time and people.

You never know what a day or a “chance encounter” may bring. And often we don’t get to see the full reach of our caring; but sometimes we do.

I hope that one day Jenny and I will visit Korea together. In the meantime, I count myself blessed to have siblings, family, friends and an ever thickened network of people to love and be loved by.

“love one another, even as I have loved you.” –Jesus John 13:34 (NASB)

** Holt Adoption International http://www.holtinternational.org/korea/

 

 

What Does Your Stuff Say About You?

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What does your stuff say about you?

Our possessions do not define who we are, but they can tell a lot about us.

I love working with people because each person has a different story. As a family transition specialist, I meet interesting people. I have to admit, I love going thru their stuff.

You learn a lot about a person by the things they keep.

Take Mr. H.  Mr H

At age 94, Mr. H still walks tall and proud (I’m wearing heels in the pic) . He has his wits about him and he knows what he likes. We’d unpacked photos of him in his early years. He had been a very handsome young man.

Mr. H was concerned about particular items:

His Bible, one of the last things to pack and first to be un-packed. It was well-worn and he wanted it out for easy access.

Mrs. H’s stockings nestled neatly in her shoes. Her cosmetic bag kept on the vanity. Mrs. H had passed the year before, but the shoes on her side of the bed and lipstick and blush near Mr. H’s toothbrush made him feel at home –like she wasn’t really that far away.

Mr. H was insistent that his guns come with him (empty of course – he’s 94) . Still, Mr. H wanted them near. He valued his right possess them.

A model fighter airplane was displayed safely on a high shelf. It was a replica of one he flew as a pilot in the US Air Force decades earlier.

This precious collection didn’t hold significant monetary value, but these “things” were of utmost importance to Mr. H.

I went back a few days after unpacking to see how he’d settled in. I also wanted to ask him about one other of his prized possessions.

The letter (photo) was preserved on a little white board. It intrigued me so I hoped he would share the story behind it.

When we arrived, my husband and I heard big band music streaming thru his door.

We banged on the door hoping he’d hear us. Through the trumpet sounds and some other loud noise we heard his holler, “Come on in.”

He was expecting his son, and was surprised to see me and my husband. Mr. H remembered me from the move and welcomed us in.

He was obviously frustrated. He couldn’t get his TV to turn off with his remote. With an aggravated thrust, he pointed it towards the TV that competed with the sounds of the music.

Brad figured it out, while I explained that I’d enjoyed helping him a few days earlier and wanted to see how he was doing. The noise subsided.

He looked at Brad and gave him a quick nod, “Well now that my remote is fixed I’m doing better.”

I couldn’t resist, “Mr. H, I’m curious about your letter.

My letter?” He looked puzzled.

Yeh, the one you have mounted.” I picked it up from a shelf and handed it to him.

He held it, smiled and proudly told the story.

It was written by his father to his mother;

December 2, 1917.

His vision was not so good so we took turns reading it:

Miss Marie –My Dear Friend…

I just wanted to drop you a few lines to tell you that I certainly was glad to get to have the pleasure of being in your company Sunday night, and if you have no objection I would like to call at your house some time to see you

 -providing I don’t leave town pretty soon… Say be sure to be at church next Sunday night will you? Gee girl I think you’re a peach. Sure wish I could take a bite ‘a peach…!!

He was called to duty days after penning this first of many love letters.

Mr. H lit up sharing the story though his eyes looked off beyond the room we sat in.

Dad went and served. Mom waited for him. He fought and he made it back.”

He paused and smiled, looking back at us.

“Well you can figure the rest. They got married and had me!”

His eyes trailed off again, but this time he looked to the black and white photo of Mrs.H.

 “And here I am, and I got me my own peach.”  His eyes welled up.

Mrs. H had passed the year before. But his love for her was fresh. Keepsakes scattered around his apartment reminded him that one day he would be with her again.

In Mr. H, I found an admirable story. He didn’t boast a word, but his “stuff” told the story of his values and allegiance;

God, family, country.

We all have our stories, and often they’re connected to things.

What do your things reveal about you?

What stories have been passed down to you? And what stories are you passing along to others?

More then our stuff, our lives tell a story. We get to fill in the pages.

One way or another we all pass along a story. What is yours?

 

More Like David

I want to be more like King David of the old testament.  Known as the man after God’s own heart, David kept God at the center of his vision in everything he did.  He was a man more concerned with his relationship to God then any post he held.  Because David knew God, he confidently welcomed the future.  As I look to the second half of my life, that’s exactly how I aim to approach each day; I want to know God more than anything else I know.

How does that play out in the practical?  I believe it’s time and focus spent on God.  We see that demonstrated in the life of David.

David honored God above the threat of man as he faced off with Goliath.  He trusted God when he was chased in the desert by Saul.  David only went where the Lord led him, when He led him.  One can only be led by hearing the one they follow.  David knew he was in God’s care because he spent time waiting on God and listening for direction from Him.

For us that could mean maintaining our beliefs, not compromising to be “politically correct” appeasing others.  Are we courageous enough to stand firm in the face of defiance against God on foundational issues?  Do we spend time alone with Jesus, listening or do we rely on getting the word second hand from others who hear from God?

We see that David pursued God, writing songs of Him in his lonely hours of exile.  He respected the ways of God and the timing of God; resting with God in the desert.

We all have times of trials and hardships.  How do we respond in the midst of these challenges?  Are we turning to God seeking His will, His wisdom, His peace?  Are we thanking Him for LIFE and goodness in the midst of the trials?  Like David, are we looking past our discomfort for ways to honor Him in our desert experiences?

As years passed and battles continued, David didn’t loose sight; he didn’t give up.  David kept his eyes fixed on God, turning to him again and again.  Though our battles drag on, sometimes for years -even decades, do we press on faithfully following God with unconditional adoration? psalm 9.10 2

When the time came to celebrate, it was the Lord who David danced wildly unto, not the jeers of man. His own wife mocked him.  What about us?  Are we so taken with God that we’re more mindful of Him than we are of what others think of us?

Even in his time of shame and failure with Bathsheba, it was God whom David sought.  We all mess up.  When we do, does it drive us to our knees seeking God more; accepting just consequences?

At the end of his reign, David was still more concerned with his relationship to God than any other person or even the kingdom he’d ruled.  His vision remained fixed on God with a perspective that the greater Kingdom was yet to be revealed.

What drives us?  If you summarized your life in a couple sentences what would your life be about?  Would it have an eternal value with Kingdom purpose?

God is the main point.  God seeks us.  He is purposed to have relationships with us.  It began in the garden and was completed at the cross.  Our lives are HIS STORY continuing.

To know God is to keep Him at the center of our vision -our lives.  Like David we can know God and proceed with confidence.  God is the very purpose for your presence!!

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.  Psalm 9:10

God Takes You Back

Today was my long run day.  I run with my iPod off the first half of the run so I can listen to what the Lord may be speaking to me.  About half way, I turn music on to break up the run.  I didn’t hear anything so I ran in silence.  I rounded a corner passing this beautiful statue; the face of which looked like look one remembering days gone by.sbstatuemar2014 - Copy

As I turned on my iPod, the words “Do you remember?” flooded my mind with a download of memories.  I knew it was the Lord.  One scene after another passed before my mind’s eye of a time in which I really hated my life about 20 years ago.

My marriage was all but shattered.  The only reason Brad and I didn’t divorce is we couldn’t agree to part with our little boy Jake even for shared custody.

We were in heavy debt financially, emotionally and relationally.  We had nothing to give one another.  Jake was our only joy.  We both knew that wasn’t healthy for each other or our son.

I had allowed my past to dominate my life.  It was my identity.  I wallowed in a dark and depressing pit seeing myself as neglected, forgotten, abused, rejected, worthless, useless, unintelligent, incapable, ashamed, guilty, and hopeless.  I was on antidepressants (but still depressed!) and told I would be for the rest of my life.  I was a pathetic mess.  Anything we tried didn’t help; it all just heaped up in a pile of tried this, tried that; NOTHING WORKS!  It was such a dark and painful time.

The scenes flashed in my mind as I ran.  Another song started; Jeremy Camp’s “Take You Back”.

You’ll take me back always
And even when my fight is over…
You’ll take me back always
And even when my pain is coming through

You’ll take me back always.

I had known who the Lord was.  I had “asked” Him into my heart years before.  But (a VERY BIG BUT) I had not walked with Him.

I was so angry at Him.  How could He let so many bad things happen?  Why hadn’t He intervened?  Where was He when I was rejected and left alone?  What kind of a God let’s His children suffer?

I hated Him.

One day I was so tired of fighting just to breathe the breath of life.  I resented seeing Jesus answer prayers for others around me.  He even answered some of our “courtesy” prayers as we dabbled in prayer with new “church” friends.  (We didn’t dare share what was really going on in our lives with the church people.  We were only going for our son’s sake after he started asking “God questions” following a recent death in the family.  A new neighbor invited us to church so we tried it for Jake.)

It was another miserable day.  I looked around me and saw no life except in Jake -and he was asking all these “God” questions.  How dare God answer our little prayers when we were suffocating, even hemorrhaging inside!

I didn’t get on my knees. I locked myself in the bedroom, flung my fists in the air and started yelling at God.  “Why don’t YOU just do something with my life, my marriage?  I don’t want it!!  I can’t leave it.   I’ve screwed it up so bad – just TAKE IT!!  But You know what?!  I don’t think You can, cause You haven’t done a &%^^% thing for it!!”  I fumed on.   I remember feeling like my blood was boiling.  I was so mad, so hating God and so ALONE.  But for the first time maybe ever, I was truly addressing Him stripped down to who I really was.  I wanted to punch Him and kick Him.  Why was He so invisible?!  “I can’t even see You!!”, I ranted and wept until I was absolutely empty.

In that moment, that silence, I felt His presence.  “I’m here.  Follow me.”  It wasn’t audible, not really even words, but it was REAL; as real as my raw emptiness.  He was present.  He spoke to me.  He didn’t offer anything but HIM and an invitation to follow.

You satisfy this cry
Of what I’m looking for
And I take all I can
And lay it down
Before the throne of endless grace, now
That radiates what’s true

I knew then my life would never be the same.  Nothing in my life changed.  But each day I sought to go about seeing life WITH Him; following His lead in every matter that previously perplexed me.

It was difficult.  He had me take steps I didn’t want to take.  He was there, always there.

I remember too, that at first, when I took steps I would turn to Him expecting to be done; finished and ready for a reward.  He only led me to take yet another step each day.

Over the course of about 2 years I learned to live following Jesus on a daily basis in the smallest tasks (that seemed really big).  It was difficult, but it was different than the past.  He WAS THERE WITH ME.  My marriage was restored.  My identity was no longer what I came from, but who I live for.  I am a follower of Christ.

The song continued:

I can only speak
With a grateful heart
As I’m pierced by this gift
Of your love
I will always bring an offering
I can never thank you enough.

Jesus rescued me from the pit of hopelessness. He walked me THROUGH.  He showed me compassion and taught me grace.  He showed me that it’s not enough to be free from the past or circumstances; rather, it is to be free to BE WITH Him.

When we are living with Him our focus becomes like His and our perspective changes from self to caring more for others.

When that happened, my life truly began to change.  What an immeasurable gift.

I still have so much to learn about caring for others above myself, but the every time I fall, Christ is there picking me up, showing me grace and teaching me to extend it to others.

There’s more to this story, and I can’t wait to share more as it all comes together in my book.  Most importantly, remember, God will always take you back!

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, for He will make your path straight.” Proverbs 3:5-7

On path with the Lord

Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your path straight  Proverb 3:5-6

on path

Are you on the right path?   Are there any areas of your life that aren’t on track?   Are you trusting God with ALL your heart; not leaning on your own understanding?

If you took a road trip from Texas to California, but took the wrong highway and ended in Montana, it wouldn’t get you to California simply to say you really want to go to California.  It wouldn’t even be enough to confess to someone that you made a wrong turn.  You’d have to do more than get off the wrong road.  You would have to get on the right road.  You would need some sort of navigation system.

In the same way, repentance is more than turning from something. It goes beyond confession to turning TO Christ and staying on course with Him.

Being on path with Christ involves trusting in Him to navigate you thru the details of every day living.  Be careful not to follow another’s course.  God created you with a unique plan.  Trust God on the path He’s set for you.

Invest time getting to know God.  Be a student of the Word.  Know His character and His ways.  Take time with Him.  Talk with Him throughout the day.  Recognize His voice. Take steps of faith as He leads you on the good path.

Creation

Bentley_Snowflake9In creation and all it’s complexities, each person is uniquely different as a snowflake.  If man in all our vast knowledge has yet to master the creation of living beings outside of original design, how preposterous to consider that such perfect systems “simply evolved” or “just happened”.

Thank you God for purposely designing creation!  Thank you for creating the sun and moon and stars -our galaxy!  Thank you for placing order in perfectly balanced systems for us to inhabit with such an incredible array of other living creatures.  You are the Master Artisan.  Your design lives and perpetuates day by day.  Your beauty echoes everywhere and cannot be contained; surpassing is the fruit of your creation.  Your magnificence only multiplies with time.  Living things grow and growing things change. And with you God, always, there is MORE.

Thank you that you designed us for relationship with you.  More than the beauty we perceive with our senses, we thank you for the privilege to BE in YOUR PRESENCE.  Being in your presence surpasses all other life experiences.  Oh God, our Maker, we look to you and welcome your presence among us.  We ask fresh and anew; grace us with your abiding Spirit that we may better recognize you above our earthly hindrances -to your glory.

From the finite intricacies of a snowflake to the boundless measures of the galaxies; your wonders never cease.  Thank you God for this new year.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth! Psalm 57:5

Snowflake photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson_Bentley

What if…

Image

This whole writing and blogging thing drives me crazy.  Every day I have something to write, but I’m always blowing it off, rationalizing that nobody cares what I have to say and I’m not much of a writer and I have no TIME.whatif2

I am continually compelled to write, and yet I’ve hardly written “Jack Squat”.

I was talking with God about this and two words kept popping in my mind.  WHAT IF.  Here’s how the conversation followed.

God: “WHAT IF, Shelly.  What if you’re right, and you’re not a good writer, but I want you to write anyway?”

Me:  “But God, I don’t want to make a fool of myself.”

God:  “Hmmm. OK.”  Silence.

Then it hits me.

Me: “Is there anything more foolish than ignoring what God calls you too?”

… and how many times have I declared I would do anything for God?  But write?   Ugh.

I’m an unsophisticated writer.

Me: “Really God?”  Deep within, His Spirit stirs a rumbling in me.

“Okay… so what do I write, there are so many writers and bloggers and greats and who am I?”

God:  “You’re MINE.”

Again!  He’s says that ALL THE TIME.  (And I need to hear it.)

me: “What about time?  I’m so busy.”

God: “Oh, you mean like spending time on Pinterest, doing puzzles and projects or watching tv?”

I know He’s not telling me these are bad.  He’s just pointing out that I could manage my time better.

 me: “Okay.  So here I am.”

God: “Okay.   So there you are.  So write.”

Me:  “but God, You didn’t answer my question.  What do I write?”

God: “Anything child.  Write our conversation.  Write anything.  It’s not about your talent or ability.  It’s about Me.  You and Me and LIFE.”

Me:  “I know this God, but I don’t understand.  It doesn’t make sense.”

God: “Does it have too?  What if it does make sense to Me, and you simply are unable to understand?  What if it’s just about you being MINE and doing what I’ve called you too, just because you are Mine?”

Silence.

God: “Shelly, what if I call you to write every day for the rest of your life and no one but Me sees it or likes it or cares?  Would it all be a waste?”

Me:  “Oh God.  I know the right answer.  But…”

God:  “but what?”  (as if He doesn’t already know my thoughts!)

God:  “My child, you are called by Me for MY PURPOSES.  It’s not for you to understand, but simply to listen to Me and follow Me.  No one except ME is asking you to fulfill a purpose.”

You are called to be a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a servant.  Those are an important part of My plan, but more than that, your purpose is OUR RELATIONSHIP.

I want your heart.

And I want you to write that and share it, and not to be concerned with what anyone else thinks about how you do that.

Are you seeking the approval of man or Me?”

Me: “It’s been man.”

God:  “I know.  But it’s time love.  My giftings and calling are irrevocable.  It’s okay if you’re not good at using it.  But child, it’s up to you to use it.”

What if.  What’s your “what if”?

Do you know that which you are called too, and are you walking in it?

We all have something God places deep within us; a key ingredient He placed in you when He designed you.

Do you recognize it?  Do you use it? Have you forgotten it or has the business of life snuffed it out?

What if? God says that His giftings and callings are irrevocable.  They’re not conditional on our ability, just our availability.

What if there’s something hidden deep in you, which you’ve forgotten for a long time.  What if it’s not too late?  What if now is your time to draw near to God and embrace that special something he wove into your very being?

Just remember, it’s not about the gifting or calling. It’s about Him and you.  The gifts are a means and a unique expression of Him in you.

“for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:20 (NAS)