"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Monday, May 30, 2011

Just one of those days

Some days I am aware. Some days I am seeing God and walking closely with Him. Some days I count His blessings and grace-gifts more than other days...

Some days it is harder to count. Some days I just don't feel like counting... or watching, or looking for God's gifts to me. ...and, I am learning that those are the days that I need to be counting.

Some days are just hard. ...no real "reason", really. Just hard.

Today was one of those hard days. Agitated and irritable. Easily frustrated and tired. Today was one of those days.

So tonight I choose to count, or to re-count, the kindness of my Good Father, my Gentle Shepherd. Tonight I choose to remember the graces. And, I choose to believe that all is grace. I remember that in Him, in His time, all things are made beautiful and right.

#654. Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven.

#655. Prayer with a close friend.

#656. Safety when she fell from her bike.

#657. Repentant hearts.

#658. Seeing and enjoying old pictures of my babies, so small...

#659. Laughter and tickling.

#660. My man is my best friend.

#661. Pictures of super-novas... wow.

#662. Wind that howls.

#667. The moving, wild sky.

#668. Him teasing me in my grumpiness, making me laugh.

#669. Playing catch together in the fields

#670. Silly bagel song, sung loudly for many to hear and giggle. ...the joy of a 9 year old's voice singing loud and clear (and silly).

#671. Stupid movies that God uses to instruct.

#672. A heart conversation with God... seeing and understanding a bit more clearly my heart.

#673. A heart conversation with my man... sharing and understanding each other a bit more clearly.

It is good for the soul to remember.

To join in the hunt, the looking, and the remembering... come and count with us at www.aholyexperience.com.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lessons from a Stupid Movie

I watched a silly, stupid movie last night.

After a full day, I decided to watch a free, streaming-online movie. I really wanted to find a clean movie that was mild in any moral offensiveness. So, I searched a bit, found one that was promising, and checked the content on one of my favorite sites for movie content (Spotlight on Entertainment). I did find a film to watch that was quite mild. ...and also very stupid.

So, no, ...this is not a movie I would recommend (for it's sheer silliness and bad writing). But, that said, I believe God has used it today in my life. He does show up in the most unlikely of places, doesn't He?!

Okay, the movie was called "Confessions of a Shopaholic". In short, this young woman has a shopping addiction. Her addiction is dealt with in light-hearted, humorous way, to be sure, and the silliness of the movie is an attempt (I think) at satire. But, essentially, the audience watches as this woman ruins her life and all she loves in submission and bondage to this "mild" addiction. She has a lust and devotion to shopping, to "new" things, beautiful things, and "name brands". And, it tears her and her life apart little-by-little.

Toward the end of the movie, the man she loves asks her to tell him, "Why" she shops likes she does. He wants to hear her heart. He wants to understand. She pauses and answers something like, "...I shop because it makes me happy. I am happy for one very real moment. And, then ...well, then, I am not happy anymore. And, .... (pause for effect) then I have to shop again."

And, then I have to shop again. Profound, really. Maybe even a bit redemptive when looking at this badly made film! In this statement she sums up the pull and tug of the world and it's "offerings" to the human race. And, thus the beauty of the message of this stupid movie.

And, today, her answer rings true in my heart.

Just fill in the blank, Stephanie.

I _____ because it makes me happy. Even for just a moment, I feel happy. And, then I have to _____ again to be happy again.

What is it... shop, sleep, eat, read, watch, play, listen, drink, talk with, ... ?

Everyone has their escape, their addictions... surely some more "mild" than others. These "places" we go can be immoral, amoral, or even "good places". But, all these addictions, or devotions of heart, just "help" for a moment. ...I suppose even long moments, for some. But certainly they don't bring complete or lasting happiness. And, we have to have more (do more, eat more, get more, watch more) to get "more" happiness. ...like a drug.

I am not advocating the law, nor the ending of all shopping, eating, reading, sleeping, watching or playing. That is ludicrous. No, I am just wondering after my own heart.

I am wondering about
what I run to first...
what I devote my time to...
from where I gain my peace...
where I search out happy feelings...
or, where I go to find rest...

What is it that God offers us? What is it that He offers in Himself that is uniquely different than these other "places"?

...a stream of ever-flowing, living water. ...
...faithful love that endures forever. ...
...guarding, reigning peace. ...
...complete and fullness of joy. ...

Very, very different than my escapes, my other loves, and my other devotions!

From this silly movie, I am reminded to seek Him first. I am reminded that it is only He that satisfies all the longings in my heart, my mind and my body.

Only Him. Him alone. His girl alone.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Faith Feelings

What should I be feeling?

What does faith feel like?

When full of faith, is it courage you might feel? Or, joy? Or, peace? Does faith and happiness go together? Or, can faith feel sad? I don't know exactly...

What should I be feeling as I walk this journey of faith?

I have asked the Lord for healing. He has spoken His love, His sovereignty and His care over my mind, my body and my soul. Daily He has been giving me gifts of faith; hard, but good, lessons of love and faith. I have been walking and growing in belief that He will indeed heal me: in His time and in His way. I have become convinced that He would "sort-it", make a way, and heal me.

And, now I have a surgery date on the calendar. In June, so it seems, I will be having a surgery that should help significantly to decrease my pain and suffering. This surgery is such a blessing from God. The trained, knowledgeable hand of a compassionate doctor will perform an operation that will bring considerable health to my body.

And,to-be-sure, this surgery date hasn't come easily. Small and large miracles surround even the very date scheduled... an insurance company that wasn't paying--- but will. A doctor that wasn't available--- but will be. Lost records and mishandling of a case--- but worked out and cleared up. And, a secretary (a total stranger) who is willing to work extra hours and fight for a Saturday operation.... which is an anomaly.

What should I be feeling about this? While I do feel excited on one level. ...I don't feel 'overly' happy, peaceful, or courageous. My dear friends who have joined me in praying for His healing seem "more" excited than I do. And, to be honest, I am not sure I even trust that it will actually happen. I question. How many times have I had my "hopes" raised and crushed.

Am I just protecting myself? ...possibly. Protection, I believe, isn't faith.

I don't know. What is it that faith feels like?

Because I don't feel much... but I still believe.

I still know deeply that my Father in heaven is working and will sort it out. He will make a way. He will and is healing me. I trust this.

...can I trust this and yet, still walk cautiously toward this surgery. Or, should I be running with abandon? Should I be shouting-out gratefulness and thanksgiving?!

I just don't know.

What I do know is that I must trust my kind Father-God. I will look to Him as my only hope... and not this surgery. And, I will ask that He would use whatever means necessary to sort it out, make a way and heal me. ...in His way. and in His time. I will trust Him. I do trust Him.

Maybe that doesn't sound much like faith... But, I guess it is what faith feels like to me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Silliness that counts!

Sweet family are in town visiting from the States. Today Auntie introduced a song she used to sing when she was a teacher called, "Fried Ham". (*this video is not my child... just an adorable video illustrating the song)

...truly one of the most silly and random songs I have ever heard!!

Dancing around the kitchen, cleaning up after dinner, we sang, "Fried Ham, Fried Ham, Cheese and Bologna and Pretzels and Pickles and after the macaroni that we all had Fried Ham"

And, to add to the silliness of the song... we sang it over and over in different "versions". We sang it slowly, then again loudly, then again in a British accent, then again we sang the song with a squeaky "mouse" voice and on and on the singing went.

We would finish one version and my daughter would yell out, "Now what, Mommy?"

Uh... okay... like a... dog. And we would bark our way through the song.

"Now what, Mommy?!" Um.. like a baby. We would cry and whine our way through the Fried Ham song.

Silliness. Complete silliness.

And, a definite highlight of my entire week! I can't remember laughing that hard in a long time.

Father's gifts of music...

His sweet gifts of sister-in-laws. ...And, aunties. ...And, silly songs!

These are the moments I am thankful for!

These are the sweet, the holy, and the good-gifts for which I am grateful. I am counting and saying "thank-you" to my Father in Heaven.

I continue to count the blessings of God with others at www.aholyexperience.com. I am counting my way toward 1,000!! What fun! Come join us or pop over and read a few other lists... it is a good reminder of "all good and perfect gifts are from our Father above!"

#613. kissing shampoo bottles

#614. sleepy boy so sweet

#615. watching them run for the swing, me first!

#616. quick, make it on the fly, meal.

#620. it all got done!... well, most of it!

#621. running errands as a family.

#624. wildly decorated cakes.

#628. her fast-paced, take-a-breath-sweetheart, excited story telling.

#631. funny author that is making me chuckle out-loud.

#633. the printing press-- Mr. Gutenberg.

#636. my pain patch that helps me endure.

#639. laying on a bench in the sun, so sublimely happy.

#644. watching them help in the kitchen with such sweetness and grace.

#648. Surgery scheduled!!! Is this Your healing, or a part of Your healing, Father?!

#649. peace in the midst of a stolen moment.

#651. Fried Ham silliness.

#652. rain on our picnic, makes us all laugh!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Stolen Moment

Sometimes I just get really tired. Today I felt this way.

There are days when my body, my mind and my soul feel fatigued. This morning I felt this way.

Things to do. People to see. Places to go. Things to do....
When I feel exhausted I tend to begin to disengage and I can be easily frustrated or agitated. This morning I felt this way.

As the morning moved on, I felt the angst increasing and my head just felt heavy. And, then, for a moment... a short moment, maybe 10 minutes... I found myself alone in the kitchen. And, in that moment, I felt I had a choice. I truly felt the call, or invitation of the Lord, to sit with Him. I knew He was giving me a "stolen moment" with Him.

And, I took it.

There were many things I could have chosen to do instead. I could have made my hands, my mind and my heart busy with many things. But, today I chose wisely. I chose the one needful thing! (and, I write this as a statement of victory, because frankly I don't often make that wise choice!)

I plopped my rear-end into the kitchen chair and just sat. ...purposefully. I sat in Him purposefully. I sat and worshiped Him. I reflected and prayerfully soaked in His love. I listened for His voice. I asked for His forgiveness. I asked for His help and His filling, His Spirit. I spoke out (quietly!) words of Truth and who I am in Christ. With Christ's name, I fought a few spiritual battles and told that "angst and frustration" to take a hike if it was from my enemy.

10 minutes given to me as a gift. 10 minutes of stillness. 10 minutes of a love-feast, a stolen moment, a rendezvous with my God. 10 minutes of "the one needful thing" and I was at peace.

What a God we have! What a Father! What a Savior and Friend! What a Counselor and Healer!

I was at peace. ...still a little tired, yes; but, filled and at peace. And, this wasn't taken from me all day today.

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many thing but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41,42

"The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it.

It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. A

ll your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.

And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back, in listening to that Other voice, taking that other point of view…

Letting that Other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.

And so on, all day.

Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings and c

oming in out of the wind.” ~C.S. Lewis

Friday, May 20, 2011

Courage Worth Reading About

In home-school history we have just finished the Middle Ages and are moving forward into the Renaissance, including the Reformation. Yesterday we studied John Huss. Today we read about Martin Luther.

I really can't imagine living without the word of God. I can't imagine a time when the Scriptures were for monks and priests only. I can't even begin to understand what it was like to have God's word locked in a cupboard touched by only the elite, the trained, the ordained... the few.

I was struck while attempting to comprehend or imagine living in an environment where there were no books. ...no Bible. What might it have been like to rely entirely on the priest to tell you the truth. It is no wonder hundreds of people showed up to put their money in the coffers to avoid purgatory. And, it is no wonder that Martin Luther was so angered by this when it was reported to him by his students. It makes me angry to read about it!

If I know I am sinful ...which I do. And, I feel the guilt and shame of that sin ...which I can. And, someone I trust tells me that I have to pay money to have my sins forgiven. ...and I know NO better... I, too, would have stood in line. I would have taken that pilgrimage, paid that price, or done whatever penance to relieve the guilt.

I would have been right there.

What a blessing that courageous men stood up and said loudly "No!" and "wrong!"! What a blessing that men and women have had the faith and the filling of God to witness to the True Gospel: the saving blood of Jesus Christ alone!

I don't know these men... and women. I wish I did. And, maybe we will have a chat one day.

I don't know them; but tonight I am thankful for their gift to me today.

Polycarp, Blandina, Patrick, Boniface, Francis of Assisi, John Wyclif, John Huss, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Calvin, Anne Askew... and the list goes on and on and on.

In the very first paragraph of Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula, it says, "For Christians, this book is a family history. Our sister, Blandina, faced the snapping jaws of wild beasts rather than renouncing Christ. Our brother, Ambrose, gave away his vast wealth to the poor. William Tyndale lived on the run and died at the stake to give us the Bible in English that we might read it for ourselves"

...so that I might read it for myself.

Someone fought for that and died for me. Many, my brothers and sisters, fought for that and died. Many still fight for that! The Scripture not only for monks and priests; but for moms and babes, princess and fools, senators and servants... The Scriptures for me.

Today's school lesson was one amazing story worth reading!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Suffering Makes Perfect

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121)

Walking in pain today... not excessive pain, just "reminding" pain... I often lifted my heart and voice to the Lord, What will You do Lord? Lord, please, how will You solve this? My help comes from you, Maker of heaven and earth! How will You heal this in me?

I believe God is shaping in me a deeper "theology" of suffering.

I see Him thrusting me forward in faith, asking me to believe that He will "sort it". He is pushing, pulling and inviting me to believe that He is my Good Shepherd, my Keeper, and my kind Father.

And, I am believing that in His time and in His way, He will heal. How? I don't know. When? I don't know. But, I don't have to worry. I just must learn to talk with Him about it and walk with Him in it.

I am learning. ...not learned, but learning.

So we talked many times today. Father and I, we talked.

Walking through the grocery store, while feeling that reminder of pain, I talked with Him. Making muffins in my kitchen, we talked. What will You do, Father? How will You deliver me?

C.S. Lewis says, "Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself."

I think I understand Lewis' statement now more than I ever have. My pain and suffering are a significant part of my life itself. It has shaped me and is shaping me. I can see His work through the suffering. The work He is doing in my heart, I see; and I can't imagine that divine work without the pain.

Last week, my husband sent me this poem. It was inserted in an email with the subject line, "for you, my love". What a gift of love it was!

Made Perfect Through Suffering

by Samuel Johnson

I bless thee, Lord, for sorrows sent,
To break my dream of human power;
For now my shallow cistern's spent,
I find thy founts, and thirst no more.

I take thy hand and fears grow still,
Behold thy face and doubts remove;
Who would not yield his wavering will,
To perfect Truth and boundless Love?

That Love this restless soul doth teach,
The strength of thine eternal calm;
And tune its sad and broken speech,
To join, on Earth, the angels' psalm.

Oh, be it patient in my hands,
And drawn, through each mysterious hour,
To service of thy pure commands,
The narrow way to Love and Power.


"Those who have gone before us have left a clear witness: We may seek God or we may seek ease, but we cannot seek both. The road we travel is anything but easy. It is true that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives, but it equally true that the plan is often fraught with tension and uncertainty, and with emotional, spiritual, and physical pain." ~Gary Thomas

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tired Counting

It is Monday, again. Wow... that came fast!

I desperately need to go to bed. I am tired. Really tired. But, before I make my way to bed, I want to share some "counting" that has gone on during this very wonderfully busy week...

I am counting my way to 1,000 gifts... grace-gifts... blessings from God. Others are keeping track and counting, too. To join us or enjoy their lists, go to www.aholyexperience.com

#588. A full table... full of friends, full of food!

#589. Holding hands to pray before our meal.

#591. The silly "ringing" sound my son makes when I pick up Jesus Calling each morning. He is such a goof ball.

#594. Jumpy, jumpy excitement from my daughter. ...can hardly contain herself.

#595. Egg replacement powder found for this egg allergy found.

#598. Tears come with hard good-byes.

#600. A clean house.

#601. A heart-to-heart talk that needed to be had.

#603. His hand in mine.

#608. Money dropped at our door to help.

#609. Blue morning skies ... a gift for our guests, I just know it!

#611. Her southern accent on the other end of the skype line. ...my dear friend, her dear voice.

More than half way there... and I will keep on counting, looking, watching! His love surrounds and chases after me. He gives gifts all day, every day.

Open my eyes.. these tired eyes... to see you, Father and Your gifts.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Screamin' Dishes

They seem to scream at me from the kitchen. The pile of breakfast dishes in my kitchen yell, "Clean me!", as I pass by and peek into that dreaded room!

Will I respond to them? Will I be enticed by my own desire for order? Will I buckle to the pressure of the "Northern-European goddess of cleanliness and organization"? (as one author puts it)

Long ago we made a house rule that no work would be done on Sunday. ...a real, live Sabbath is what we were going for. A day of rest from work. A day for fun. A day for quiet and reflection. A day that would look different from the rest.

And, for me, that would be a day to...leave the sink, the laundry, and the dog hair on the floor. For me this day means I must leave the dishes and the ordering, cleaning, and picking-up. And, I rest. I read. I sleep. I write. I visit with good friends. I play with my kids. I take a walk and watch a video.

Sounds great in theory, right?

But, in actuality, it is tough for me. Really tough.

I imagine it wasn't terribly easy for Ruth, Mary, or Sarah, to leave the dishes. Even if Sarah had her housemaids, she wasn't allowed, according to God's law, to let her servants wash the dishes either. So, I can't just pass it off on my husband or my children. The dishes just get left.

They sit there and scream at me!

I like to get things done and check off the list. I am a task-oriented person. Order, clean and organization are a high value for me. So, dishes in a sink, laundry on the floor and an un-vacuumed carpet can be quite stressful.

It certainly makes this day "holy" or set-apart from the others! ...and that is what we are going for. ...and this is why it pushes and challenges me.

It pushes on my trust issues. Will I have the time, energy, brain-capacity to handle the double-work on Monday? Can I trust God's wisdom in giving us a Sabbath? ...wouldn't it be just easier to do today's work today? ...not leaving it for tomorrow? Can I trust that He had my best in mind when He says, "no work!". I know that these laws are based in His character of righteousness, holiness and LOVE. Can I trust His love in this?

I think I would rather just spend the extra 20 minutes and clean my kitchen.

Thus, we made the house rule...

Because, simply put, God does know best. And, this is His command. Not a law I MUST obey, I live under grace; but, certainly a law that He holds dear. Father God offers us rest in the Sabbath. He offers us trust that He will provide. He asks us for a day that is different from the others... set-apart, holy to Him.

So, today, I will let them scream. I will let them yell at me, greasy and piled high. And, I will leave them for tomorrow.

Do you know that every Monday, since beginning this particular Sabbath-journey, I have always had the time, the energy and the brain-capacity to get it all done. Those dishes are tomorrow's worries. ... I leave them there and focus on today.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What shall I do?

What shall I do?

Today, I sat and asked. I was upset and weary to heart about (yet again) one more turn in the road. More than once today, I cried out ...verbally and from the heart ... what shall I do, Lord?

Finding myself a bit stuck again in the quest for solutions to my on-going physical pain, I only know One way to turn. I turn to my Father-in-Heaven and ask Him, "What, now? What is it I should do?"

In an unrelated conversation at lunch, my 8 year old son stated, "Wouldn't it just be nice if we could get a direct "yes" or "no" answer from God?" This sweet son mused, "We could say, 'God should I do this?' and He would say, 'Yes' or 'No'".

"Wouldn't that be nice, mom?"

Yes, that would be nice, my sweet son. It would be really nice. In fact, today, it would be fabulous...

And, sometimes God does answer that directly. ...but, more often, I am finding, His answers are not so direct. ...not so clear. We have to discern what He is saying. We have to listen long, listen hard and treasure things in our hearts. We have to wait to hear from Him.

"Why?", freckled-faced boy asked me.

...because He wants relationship with us. He wants us to linger in His Presence and to be quiet long enough to listen. He doesn't want us to be robots. And, He doesn't to be a "gum-ball machine" (as my dear friend is fond of saying). I put my quarter in, twist a metal thing and get a "red one" or a "green one". He isn't a gum-ball machine.

He isn't a machine, my son. And, neither am I.

God is a Father. He is a lover. He is a friend.

Fathers, Lovers, and friends want dialogs and relationship. They want heart-to-heart learning of each other. They want eye-to-eye communication. I believe that is what God wants with His children, His Bride, and His friends.

He wants relationship.

"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I call you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father, I have made known to you."

Slowly, I think, I am learning this Friend. I am learning His language. Slowly but surely, I am learning to hear from Him and discern His "Yes" and "No". I am learning to sit, to watch, to read, to listen and to ponder.

But today, I just wanted an answer!! Right or left, Lord? Up or down, please, Lord? Which one? What shall I do?

And, today, He didn't answer my question in the manner I wanted.

I asked!

And He did answer. Or, at least He continued the conversation with me.

He did respond.

All morning long, I asked, What shall I do?

This afternoon, He answered, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now, remain in my love." (John 15:9)

Remain in my love.

What shall I do? I asked. His answer: Remain in my love.

Not exactly the answer I was goin' for! Not exactly the gum-ball I was hoping would drop!

But, He did answer. He always will respond. And, I will continue to ask. And, I will continue to listen.

Today, not knowing which way to turn, Lord... not knowing what I should do...

I know I will remain in Your love.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Feast of Thankfulness

Week by week, I join in a thankfulness-feast of sorts. Attempting to see God in the every day and the every moment, we are counting our grace-gifts throughout the day.

...the small and seemingly insignificant, the large gifts, the mundane ones and the wonderful... counting and thanking God each and every day. I am making my way toward counting and recording 1,000 gifts.

If you want to read the lists made by others, make your way to www.aholyexperience.com and enjoy a taste of the varied flavors, and beautiful dishes of grace-gifts that our Father is serving His kids each day!

Here are a few on my list this week:

#564. A dear friend calls and initiates an afternoon chat and coffee.

#565. Choco-stars and happy breakfast eaters.

#567. Selah

#568. Smiles and silliness from shy, quiet kids visiting my home.

#569. Protective cows.

#570. Protective husband stands up to the protective cows.

#576. Pain that is mild today.

#579. Singing girl.

#583. Cookies and punch.

#585. Rock band and little hands playing the drums... too, too cute.

#586. Protection of my son and friends from a serious fall in the yard.

#587. "Thank you for dinner, Aunt Stephanie", from sweet little one getting up from the table.

Grace upon grace. Gift after gift, God gives. And, I eat. I feast. And, say, "Thank you!"

My sin... His faithfulness

I woke in the night convicted of sin. It was 4 am and I knew that I had things to talk to the Lord about. So, half asleep, I prayed and found peace and fell asleep. I am so glad He instructs us even in our sleep.

When I came to my quiet spot, this morning, I sat with my Bible and journal and felt horrible. ...conviction? ...shame? ...guilt, poured on by the enemy of my soul? I don't know. But I had a sickness of soul and heart. I had the distinct thought raging in my head, "When will you give up on me, Lord?!"

As I prayed, my thoughts and questions poured out, "When will you throw your hands up and just be done with me?! When will Your love run out? When will you be fed-up? Will You be 'done' with me this morning, Father?"

As the thoughts pummeled my mind, I was interrupted with another Voice. In a moment, I had sweet thoughts flood into this torrent of questions.

My love endures forever.

My love reaches to the heavens. My faithfulness reaches the skies.

I wrote it down. Truth. I know this Truth and it was setting me free. With this blowing of Truth, came instant relief and peace to my heart. The sickness of soul began to dissipate as I sat and rested a moment in the amazing Truth of His love!!

And, then, I had another thought flood, like a bright Light or a fresh breeze...

The problem is not with My love... but with yours, Stephanie.

Do you love me more than these? Do you truly love me?

He was asking. And, like Peter (John 21) I was hurt and pained by His piercing question. Tears flowed. Do I love you, Lord?!

I knew my response. My heart welled up with longing, desire and confidence, You know I love you, Lord!

But, He asked again. And, then He asked again. In gentleness, He pierced my thoughts with the question: Do you love me, Stephanie, more than these...?

And, each time I said to Him, "Yes, Lord, you know I love you!".

He whispered. He nudged, "Feed my sheep".

Feed my sheep. ...Do what I ask of you. Do My work. Follow me.

If you love Me, He says, you will obey my commands.

It is not law, or rules, that drive this obedience and this work. It isn't duty or a "should". Obedience and following Him is driven by, motivated by, love.


I paused and opened my devotional book. Would you believe that today's assigned reading was in John 21:15? "He said to Simon, Do you love me more than these?"

Coincidence? I think not. ....It made me smile. He knows me that well.

And, the quote from the devotional reading, "Only love is strong enough to keep us faithful." ~Ruben Job

The problem, Stephanie, is not with My love... it is with your love. My love for you endures forever.

Love me more, Stephanie. And, feed my sheep.

Oh, Lord Jesus! I do love you, Jesus! Teach me to love you more. Strengthen my love. Create in me a new heart, a clean heart. Make my heart faithful, true and steadfast. Increase my faith and my love, I ask. Your love endures forever. ...I am so grateful.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

This is the Cost

"This is the cost", she says to me with tears brimming. Sitting on my couch, with legs curled under her... coffee in hand, she says confidently, "...and this is part of the cost, isn't it?"

The cost-benefit ration of following God's lead and moving overseas is complex and varied. Are there benefits? Absolutely! We can count abundant benefits to our family, our marriage, our kids, and our spiritual lives. There are many, many benefits to living a life of service overseas.

But, are there costs? Of course. Yes, absolutely. There are painful, daily, humiliating, and difficult costs on our lives.

I think, that said, there is a cost to any God-following obedience. ...taking up our cross, He calls it in Scripture. There is always a cost to following Christ.

The cross... although it bring innumerable benefits... is painful and heavy.

The costs of moving out of your home culture to serve alongside the Good Shepherd, though, are unique. And, these costs are heavy.

This is the cost, she says half smiling-half ready to cry.

My heart knows exactly what she is saying... I get it. And, I say, Yes! ...Yes, I say as my eyes now brimming with tears, too.

...missing your sister's wedding.

...missing your nieces birth.

...receiving an email (not a call) about your mother's health.

...having your young child ask you again, "Now, who is that person?... What is his name?" And, he is referring to your brother, his uncle.

...missing those in-between years when nephews grow from babies to boys... boys to men.

...missing that graduation, that 40th birthday party and the Thanksgiving dinner.

...being forgotten. or, instead, being so deeply missed that you are the source of someone's pain. Which is better?

...raising kids that are not "normal". And, they know it.

...not having that youth group, that Grandma's mentoring, or that Christian soul friend for a young budding daughter.

...not having that booming, beautiful, vibrant worship service each week.

...having to choose which state-side family crisis is worth the price of an international flight, ...and having to go on your own, because tickets for the others are too expensive.

...not having a primary care doctor that knows you, has known your medical history or even your name.

...not helping with your dear friends wedding shower, or attending her dad's funeral.

... missing it. ...not being there. ...not having.

This is the cost, she says to me. And, I hear her heart. And, I can only agree. I nod. And, I smile with small tears brimming. Yes, this is the cost.

Is it worth it? ...What a crazy, silly question, we both know. Even with brimming tears we know --of course it is worth it!? We hardly have to ask each other the question. We know what He has asked of us. And, we know His will is for His glory and our best. We know the benefits. We know our Good Father and His blessings. So, of course it is worth it!!

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." John 6:68

The benefit most definitely outweigh the cost. Always. Where else are we to go?!

But, there is a cost. And, there is a cross.

And, we must carry it. And, yes, this is the cost.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It is better...

So, I went to a funeral today.

I didn't know the man myself, but went to support and show love to a friend. And, I am so glad I did.

There is something so true about Solomon's advice in Ecclesiastes 7:2: "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart."

Not to be morbid, but it does a heart good to contemplate death. Truly, it does a soul good to remember the fragility of life here on earth.

I took it to heart today.

The preacher reminded us all that we each and every one have at least two things in common: 1). We never really expect to die, or expect the death of those we love. and, 2). We all die.

We all die.

All death... even those you know are on the edge... all death is a bit of a shock. All death surprises us. All death doesn't feel right. It is never the right time. You never have "enough" time with someone that you love. Not really.

I was reminded today that life here on earth, this body... this earth... is just a whisper.
David in Psalm 39 says, "You have made my days a mere hand-breadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Selah" A breath. That's all.

As I type this, I stop to take a breath. In and out I breathe... each breath so short.

David end's this statement of truth with "Selah". Selah can mean "to pause, to think about. To measure... to wait. To praise".

You have made my days a mere hand-breadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Selah

Selah... I can say to my Father, my Maker.

My life is short. My days are numbered. My years are few. Life here on earth is only a breath. ...only a whisper. Selah, Father. I pause. I sit and wait in this thought.

I pause. I am silent with the thought.
I worship.

...so thankful that I had the privilege to attend a funeral today.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lots of sin today!

In a conversation about God's faithful forgiveness, my daughter said to me, "I sinned so much yesterday!"

Oh! Sweet girl.

My response... "You sin so much everyday, sweet girl. And, so do I!"

And, thus the amazing beauty of God's grace and forgiveness. New, fresh mercy each morning is what He offers us!!

Doesn't it feel sometimes like some days are "more full of sin" than others? Or, when we sin "big-time", we feel out of sync or out of peace with God. ...as it should be.

Certainly, there are days when our hearts are more prone to wander and our rebellion is stronger. These days we are not only "missing the mark", but rebelling against God's known will. And, this is deep and ugly. These are ugly days, Yes.

But, the reality is that each day---every day---my heart and will are full of sin, and old-man tendencies. Every day I sin a lot!

And, thus, I need God's daily grace. When I see this as true about myself, then I can walk on the only sure foundation... His love, His faithfulness, His righteousness and His mercy. When I know this AND receive this fresh mercy daily, then I know Who He is and Who I am because of Him. Forgiven. Graced. Loved. Blessed.

"All is grace", Ann Voskamp says. And, I agree with her. ALL. Every day. Every good and perfect thing... grace. And, so I give thanks today for that All, Everyday Grace:

...and join the many others making "thankfulness" and grace-filled lists at www.aholyexperience.com. I am counting my way to 1,000 grace gifts!

#516. Tender moments

#517. Confessed sin.

#518. Fried egg made for me by my 9 year old son.

#519. Reading the Word together as a family.

#520. Remembering Who He is and Who I am in Him.

#521. He confesses to me, I forgive.

#522. I confess sin to him, and he forgives.

#522. Open mouths, head back, loud laughter.

#527. Newly planted plum and apple tree

#534. A brightly painted family mural.

#536. A quiet walk.

#539. Second chances.

#545. Tasks done, lists checked off!

#549. Kissing dots!!... (the freckles on my son's face)

#552. A week of BBQ meat, chicken and fish. THAT is a holiday!

#525. Prayer with my man.

#527. Scratching their sweet backs. ...more, mommy, they whisper.

#539. A 4 day old foal.

#544. The Sound of Music. ...and singin' along.

#558-563. The ability to work. And, write. And, sing. And, dance. And, see. And, hear.

All is grace. He is grace and love. In Him I have my everything!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Renew Thee in My Love

"....we know that we depend on something that is not of ourselves to keep us fresh and green.

And we know that we are sometimes too spent even to pray for it. We need not pray.

There are times when all that is asked of us is just what is asked of the leaves and flowers. They continue in the plant, the sap flows up to them.

Continue in my love. Remain in my love. ...Do not go away, He says. Be silent, then, in my love.

And as we are silent, letting our hearts rest in quietness in Him from whom is our expectation, He will cause the sap to rise.

He will renew us in His love."
~Amy Carmichael, Rose from Brier
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