Monday, May 8, 2017

Forty - Full of Faith & Free from Fear!

This was the year I turned (gulp) 40...April 12, 2017.  But it's just a number, right?!  Well, to be completely honest, I have not enjoyed most of my birthdays in my late 30s and was nearly dreading this one the last couple years.  It has definitely felt like more than 'just a number'.  But I need to back up a bit...

Visiting Central Asia May 2015
2 years ago (around the time of my 38 and Single...minded... post) I took a 10 day trip overseas to a city in Central Asia that I dearly love and had lived in the past.  I was reminded of why I fell in love with that city and people 15 years prior.  During that trip I sensed the Lord tugging at my heart to return for another year to work with university students.  At first I thought this was absolutely crazy, and for the next couple months as I considered and prayed about returning, all the reasons NOT to go ran through my mind over and over like a hamster spinning it's wheel...

BUT LORD...I was planning on finally buying a house in Indianapolis this summer!

BUT LORD...I have a role in our ministry here that I enjoy and people with whom I know and enjoy working.  And besides that, there's so much on my plate and who will step into my role?  And what will I do when I return?

BUT LORD, my parents are getting older and I will miss out on a whole year with my nieces and nephews who change so quickly and I love so dearly.  Plus, my oldest nephew and his wife are having a baby this year and I wouldn't be able to meet her before I leave.

BUT LORD, I did not personally do well when I lived in that city 10 years ago.  I had health issues that snowballed into emotional and spiritual difficulties.  What if that happens again?!

BUT LORD, I would be the only single on my team and I would have to live by myself for the first time.  Can I do that?

BUT LORD, I'm 38 and single!  If I do this, I will surely not meet anyone or have the chance to date or get married before turning 40!  (As if I had already forgotten this '38 and Single...minded...' post I had just written!)

BUT LORD...

BUT...

BUT...YOU...ARE...LORD.  And if I truly believe that, and if I truly believe that you are calling me back to this place, you will provide all that I need in your ways and in your timing.  Again, help me to be 'single-minded' on You Jesus.

Eventually, the hamster wheel of questions and fears were calmed as the Lord continually fixed my eyes on Him in the midst of His call to return to this city I love, even at 38 and single.  So the following January (just a couple months prior to my 39th birthday) I moved back to Central Asia, half wondering what in the world I was doing but mostly wondering what He was doing (or going to do) in my life.  And looking back, while the last year had it's challenges, I have no regrets!

A morning walk my last week in Central Asia
As I neared the end of this year overseas and prepared to leave this place that I dearly love, it seemed that the Lord was guiding me through a bittersweet closure to this season and place.  And preparing to return to the States I again wondered what He would have in store for me in this coming year, especially knowing I was now quickly approaching my 40th birthday.  While the Lord was closing the door to one season of life, I believed He was also preparing to open the door into the next...though it is still somewhat unknown to me.

I've never chosen a 'word for the year'.  To be honest I've always thought it felt a bit like another form of a New Year's Resolution...another thing that for me personally just felt like a trendy and futile attempt to 'better myself' that would quickly fade.  But this year was different and I began asking the Lord what He would want to be the word, the theme or focus of this next year, this next season, of life.  If I was going to have a word for the year, I wanted it to come from Him and not me.

Enjoying a bike ride on my 40th birthday
2017 approached and the words 'faith', 'free' and 'no fear' seemed to be bubbling to the surface.  And slowly the words began fall into place...I'm turning Forty and I want Him to make me Full of Faith and Free from Fear!  I want to be full of faith in Jesus and not in me or in my systems or work that give the illusion of control.  And I want to be free from the fear of 'man' - of what others think, of doing things to please others.  I want to be free from the fear of failure, having the courage to take steps of faith, even if those are blind steps into the unknown.

Last year was already an opportunity for me to live this out...returning overseas to a place where I had previously lived (10 years prior) but not done well physically, emotionally and spiritually.  I had questions and fears, but I'm so glad I followered Him back there so that He could write a different story this time!

Celebrating as the birthday princess with my niece!
As I move into this next season of life, entering my 40s and returning to and setting down more roots in the States, my prayer is that He would continue to make me Full of Faith and Free from Fear in deeper ways in my relationship with Jesus Himself, and in my relationships, words and actions with others.  How I look forward to what He will do in and through me in this 40th year and in this next season of life!


Monday, November 7, 2016

I Voted Today! My Vote Counts! But is that why I Vote?


Why do I really vote?  I feel strongly about exercising my right and privilege to vote, but why?  Because I was raised by parents who always voted at every election and raised me with a high value to exercise such rights as citizens of a country that allows us this right?  Or is it because I know my vote counts and I want to have a voice?  Or so that I can say I voted?  So that I can get that sticker?!

In years past it has been any and all of these reasons, but over the years, especially this year, I have been challenged by the Lord and others in my life to see a slightly different perspective.  Do I really vote because my vote counts? Recently a dear friend said to me, "I don't vote because my vote counts.  But I vote because it's a stewardship and privilege that other believers around the world do not have the opportunity or freedom to do."

Sure it feels good to have a voice and know my voice counts, but that is not really why I vote.  I vote because I believe that I have been blessed with this incredible opportunity and privilege that so many around the world do not have but would love to!  So I want to steward that freedom and privilege well!

Now, I realize that many would argue there is a not a candidate they can get behind and vote 'for' with good conscience in this specific election.  I get that.  But I'm also not going there on this post for various obvious reasons. :)

My point is...I voted, not simply because my vote counts, but because it is an honor and a privilege and, for me, a 'stewardship', as my friend said.  And in the midst of voting...before, during and after....I pray.

God's Word tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1-5:
First of all, then I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  Thsi is good, and it is pleasing int he sight of God our Savior, who desires all poeple to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God,, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.


I am reminded that regardless of what happens tomorrow on this election day that our God is GOOD and SOVEREIGN and He is working to further His Kingdom during this time.  I do not know what that will look like, or through whom, but I know that regardless of the results, Jesis is still on the throne and NOTHING can change that fact!

So I will pray for our country, for all those who are in high positions.  I will pray taht believers, especially those in elected positions tomorrow, will lead their lives in ways that allow them opportunities to further His Kingdom here on earth and to lead others to the knowledge of the truth.  Because there is ONE GOD (above any and all countries) and there is ONE MEDIATOR JESUS (above any and all leaders) who gave Himself for all, that is...for every single one of us.

And THAT is the Good News friends!  And THAT is why I vote!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

38 and Single...minded...

I could have titled this post '38 and Single', and it would be true, as I just celebrated my 38th birthday in April.  But there’s something that is also true, and that I wish to describe me more than that phrase at this place in life…'38 and Single-minded'.  Not single-minded on marriage or what I do or don’t have.  But single-minded on Jesus.

Sure, some days I wish I were 38 and married, living in a house with kids running around.  And if you asked me at 18 where I would be at 38, that’s probably the life I would have described.  But, for whatever reason, it’s not my current reality.  38 and single is my current reality.  And I HAVE to believe…no, I CHOOSE to believe this is God’s best plan for me.  I choose to believe He's both Sovereign and Good, despite not always liking my earthly circumstances or understanding them.  I may not always understand it and I may not always like it, but I choose to cling to Jesus in the hard things and try to practice a heart of gratitude.

I fight to balance being honest with the Lord with my heart’s desires for marriage with each passing year, and yet cherishing and not wasting the 'gift' of singleness.   And regardless of my marital status or life circumstances, no matter what, I desire to be single-minded on Jesus.  I want to love Him more each day, and walk closer with Him with each year.  I want to love him and know him more at 38 than I did at 37.  And as I enter into this next year of life, I hope that I will love him and know him more at 39 than I do today at 38.

So am I '38 and Single'?  Yes.  Did I expect to be here or am I always thrilled about that?  No.  But do I want or allow it to define me?  Absolutely not.  But by God's grace, may I more importantly be '38 and Single-minded' and not waste a single day of the gift of life, as well as the gift of singleness, that He has granted me.

"...let us run with endurance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Discovering GOD (Part 2)...

"Discovering who God really is will change your life."  (Discover God Bible Study)

Last summer I needed something new to study and picked up a Bible study that had been sitting on my book shelf for at least a couple years.  This study was based on a classic by the late Dr. Bill Bright (Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ), Discover God, in which he explores 12 of God's attributes and how we can experience them in our own lives.  In my last post I shared my journey of discovering God and His attributes in a deeper way, covering the first 6 attributes in this 'Discovering GOD' study.  And now for the next 6 attributes...


BECAUSE GOD KNOWS EVERYTHING,
I will go to Him with all my questions and concerns.
"Unlike man's knowledge, God's knowledge is never supersceded or made obsolete by new discoveries" (Bill Bright, in Discover God).  Wow.  God knows all - He knows all of past, present and future in all places, of all people and all times.  And yet He also intimately knows every feeling, every fear, every desire, every joy, and more!  He knows every one of my sins and struggles, yet loves me completely.  And He knows my future, as I follow Him, trust Him and rest in Him.  I need not fret over the past failures, the present challenges or the unknown (to me) future.

My response to God's All-Knowing Nature:  Come to Him in prayer for the challenges I'm facing rather than runnin to others to vent or verbalize or gossip my frustrations.  Recognize that He knows all completely, and I don't!


BECAUSE GOD IS RIGHTEOUS,
I will live by His standards.
Do you know what a 'plumb line' is?  If you've ever worked in construction or built a building you do.  And whether we know it or not, we have all experienced the benefits of a plumb line!  A plumb line is used to test if something is straight, such as a wall on a building.  God's Word is the 'plumb line' used to test our lives, yet so often the world creates it's own 'plumb lines' which are not according to God's standards.  Let me
put it this way - if you are looking at a c
rooked line claiming it to be perfectly straight, then chances are, you are standing crooked as well!

My response to God's Righteousness:  Ask God daily to show me where my life is out of line from His 'plumb line' and ask Him to help me come back into alignment with His Word, His commands and His standards through His Spirit.


BECAUSE GOD IS FAITHFUL,
I will trust Him to always keep His promises.
Do I believe this?  I know I say that I do - I sing of His faithfulness, I speak of His faithfulness, I recall His faithfulness displayed throughout His Word.  But when it comes to my experience, my life, my future - do I truly believe this?  Do I ACT like I believe this?  I know that I sometimes struggle to believe in His faithfulness when it comes to my singleness and desires for marriage and a family.  How I desire to experience rest and contentment in Him, knowing that He is sovereign and knows what He's doing and how to take care of me and provide for me in all ways.  Furthermore, He's always right (because He's RIGHTEOUS) in how and when He keeps His promises.

My response to God's Faithfulness:  Meditate on His faithfulness (in general and personally to me).  And seek to be more faithful to Him in rising early in the morning to spend time with Him each day, in prayer and in His Word.


BECAUSE GOD IS SOVEREIGN,
I will joyfully submit to His will.
It's hard to accept God's sovereignty and to joyfully submit to His will when things are not going the way I want!  I am a planner, so I don't like when things don't go the way I've planned (or think I've planned).  Yet, when I demand (in attitude, thoughts, words and/or actions) to be sovereign over my own life, I'm essentially saying that God is not sovereign OR that He is not being good or just in His sovereignty...and I could do better!.  Oh my...this is a hard pill to swallow.  But I can rest assured that He is in control and He knows what He's doing, even when I don't like it.

My response to God's Sovereign Power:  Thank Him for the way He displays His sovereignty and will in my life.  Commit my plans and my agendas each day and each week to Him.  And commit my future to Him...


BECAUSE GOD IS JUST,
He will always treat me fairly.
You may or may not agree with this statement.  In fact, at first I struggled with this one.  But I began to realize the reason I struggled with it was due to whose viewpoint I defined 'fair'.  I naturally view fairness from my point of view - what I think is fair.'  There are things that I watch happen to those I love or to myself in which I would say "that's just not fair"!  But this is fairness from God's point of view.  Whether or not it feels fair to me at the time, God is Just.  And I must remember that I do not see the whole picture like He does - He is outside of this world and time and space to which I am confined.  And when I see injustice on this earth, I should desire fair treatment!  That's a Godly response!

My response to God's Justice:  I'm challenged to consider if and where and how if I'm lending my voice to a struggle for justice.  I continue to ask God to show me what I can do or how I can respond or help victims of injustice around me.


BECAUSE GOD NEVER CHANGES,
My future is secure and eternal.
This might be the most encouraging attribute to me personally of the 12 attributes I studied.  I am fickle - I've come to accept that about myself.  I desire to be that 'Steady Eddie' type of personality, not really phased by much, but I'm not!  My emotions run deep, and wide.  I'm a verbal processor, and not always committed to everything that comes out of my mouth, unfortunately.  And while I know that aspects of these things are a part of the way God wired me and that He too is deep with emotion, I take comfort in knowing that He never changes.  He is full of emotion, and yet constant in His character.  He is always present, I can trust and depend on Him at all times and in all ways.  And what's more, this means His attributes never change!

My response to God's Unchanging Character:  Thank Him that His character is unchanging, and for the security I experience through faith in Jesus.  Blog about these unchanging attributes I've been studying as a way of praise and sharing with others.


Thanks for joinging my journey through these 12 attributes of God.  To learn more about the Discover God book by Bill Bright, the Discover God Bible Study, or other related resources, go to DiscoverGod.com.  And please feel free to share your responses to a deeper understanding of God's attributes in your life too!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Discovering GOD (Part 1)

"Discovering who God really is will change your life."  (Discover God Bible Study)

Do you ever have those Bible studies or books that sit your shelves for years and you think, "One day I should read that book or do that study..."?  Last summer I needed something new to study and picked up a Bible study that had been sitting on my book shelf for at least a couple years.  This study was based on a classic by the late Dr. Bill Bright (Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ), Discover God, in which he explores 12 of God's attributes and how we can experience them in our own lives.  After spending 6 months in this study, I wanted to share my journey of discovering God and His attributes in a deeper way, covering the first 6 attributes in this 'Discovering GOD (Part 1)' post...


BECAUSE GOD IS ALL-POWERFUL,
He can help me with anything.
First-off, I was struck by this quote from Bill Bright in his book Discover God, "If we really believe that God is all-powerful, we will no longer walk in fear and unbelief.  We will place our faith in God - not necessarily great faith in God, but rather faith in a great God who is omnipotent."  Wow.  Do I really believe that God is all-powerful?  Or do I walk in fear and unbelief?  And in what areas of my life do I walk in fear and unbelief?  I was most convicted in the area of singleness - walking in fear and unbelief and failing to trust in His power to take care of me in this.

My response to God's Mighty Power:  Surrender my singleness to Him each day.  I feel powerless, but often try to run on my own 'power' in this area.  I want to experience HIS power in this area, whatever that looks like.


BECAUSE GOD IS HOLY,
I will devote myself to Him in purity, worship, and service.
Holiness is a hard concept to grasp.  The best words I can use are purity, white, clean, set apart, perfect.  But I'm not sure how well we can really comprehend His holiness until we reach heaven.  I desire to experience His holiness in my life, as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6:1-5.  I desire to be a living sacrifice, set apart for Him.

My response to God's Holiness:  Honor Him with my physical body and exercise, with my finances and giving, with my time.  Set apart each morning to spend time with Him.


BECAUSE GOD IS LOVE,
He is unconditionally committed to my well-being.
Oh my, do I believe this?!  In Discover God, Bill Bright stated, "God's love is the only reason we exist.  It is the why of creation, whereas His power is the how."  That is very humbling to think about, especially when I stop and think about all the times and ways that I fail to believe in His love for me.  Yet even in the midst of my singleness or my struggles or my loneliness or my sin (etc.) - His love NEVER fails, NEVER gives up and ALWAYS endures!  Furthermore, how am I doing at loving others well?  Do I share His love with those around me, unconditionally committed to the well-being of others?

My response to God's Love:  Serve at church and be available as needs of others' arise.  Accept the challenge to journal in the coming week of all the ways God shows His love toward me, going into each day with an openness to see God's love around me.


BECAUSE GOD IS EVER-PRESENT,
He is always with me.
I truly believe that God's presence is the greatest gift/blessing we get to receive and experience as followers of Jesus.  I was challenged to think about the ways I have experienced God's constant presence in my life in tanglible ways.  Especially in times of loss and grief, I am so incredibly grateful for His presence through the pain.  Oh, that I would remember His constant presence in the midst of temptation - both His power to help me overcome but also His present holiness.  And that I would also remember His presence and care for me in the midst of singleness - fighting the feelings of loneliness or despair.

My response to God's Constant Presence:  REMEMBER His presence throughout my week, spend time with Him and in His Word each day, speak about Him with others.


BECAUSE GOD IS ABSOLUTE TRUTH,
I will believe what He says and live accordingly.
'Absolute Truth' is that which is solid, unchanging and constant.  Yet, sadly, this is a concept that is slipping away in our culture, giving way to relativism in which there is no solid, unchanging truth.  And while it might seem contradictory on the surface to many, His TRUTH is actually what sets us free!  "God's truth frees us to live as God has intended.  On the other hand, the Deceiver wants us to base our lives on false assumptions.  Jesus said to His followers, 'You are truly My disciples if you keep obeying My teachings.  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.' " (Bill Bright, Discover God).

My response to God's Absolute Truth:  Choose to believe His truth that He has my best and His good in mind, even in the midst of the challenging or lonely times.  Choose to celebrate and live freely and fully in this place.


BECAUSE GOD IS MERCIFUL,
He forgives me of my sins when I sincerely confess them.
The more I read or study about God's grace and mercy, the more I realize how vast it truly is beyond my comprehension, almost like wading out into a body of water that just keeps opening up wider and deeper.  I was challenged to consider where I need to experience more of God's mercy in my own life, and how that would bring me greater hope, as well as where I might need to grant more mercy and forgiveness to others.

My response to God's Mercy:  First, be quick to confess and repent and accept God's mercy in my life.  Secondly, stop/pause and seek to be merciful to others and not react out of my emotions or frustrations of the moment.


Thanks for joinging my journey through these first 6 attributes of God.  Look for Part 2 next month, covering my journey through the next 6 attributes.  To learn more about the Discover God book by Bill Bright, the Discover God Bible Study, or other related resources, go to DiscoverGod.com.  And please share your responses to a deeper understanding of God's attributes in your life too!

Friday, November 1, 2013

30 Days of Thankfulness...On a Journey to Cultivating a Grateful Heart

Coming into the month of November, I wanted to take time out to meditate on something I can be grateful for each day.  In a spinning world of to-do lists, text messages, facebook posts, emails, and so much more, the busyness can so easily crowd out a grateful heart.  In the end, I think it may have proved to be more challenging than I anticipated.  Going into the month I thought, “I have so much to be thankful for!  It shouldn’t be hard to think of something different each day!  Some days that was true, & I found myself trying to choose what I would write about as I could name several things in that day.  But there were some challenges & difficulties over the course of this month that led to days that ended in feeling tired, drained, sad, angry or frustrated.  There were evenings that I was tempted to just write about something simple & tangible (which would have still be something I was honestly thankful for), but I wanted to go deeper.  I wanted be honest with myself, with the Lord and with others.  What are the intangible things that I can still be thankful for & still cling to, even when life is hard or things are not going ‘my way’?


I hope you will enjoy taking the journey with me into these 30 Days of Thankfulness, & consider accepting the challenge each day to stop & be still & take steps towards cultivating a grateful heart.

November 30
What a journey these 30 days have been!  I'm grateful for this life, the ups & downs, the blessings, the challenges.  I'm grateful that God is sovereign over my life & all things in this life.  And yet, as I consider the many challenges & hardships we face each day, I'm also grateful that this life is not our home, & I look forward to that final home filled with lasting joy & rest & peace for all eternity.

November 29
While many people are out shopping today, I'm grateful for work on the farm.  I love manual labor - there is something very refreshing to me about it.  I find joy in going outside, spending time with my dad & brother in the barn & accomplishing something.  I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to be raised on a farm, learning hard work, dedication, responsibility and a love for God's vast creation, both nature & animals.

November 28 (Thanksgiving)
I'm grateful for my extended family.  With my mom being an only child, every Thanksgiving we have always spent the day with my aunts & uncles & cousins on my dad's side of the family - what started as my Grandma & Grandpa Smith, my dad & his old brother & sister, is now an annual Thanksgiving gathering of around 50!  It's such a blessing to gather each year, catch up on life, watch the little ones grow up, & even meet new friends or family members! :)

November 27
I’m grateful for my family, especially for the blessing of being an aunt to 11 nieces & nephews!  2 of my nephews are spending the night with me at my parents' - they love being on the farm.  And I love having them.  I love going out to the barn with them, & the 5-year-old is a great little helper in the barn!  He will walk around & work non-stop out there!  I'm a very blessed aunt. :)

November 26
I'm spending this week at my parents' in northeast Ohio.  This is always a bit of a retreat for me - out in the country, on the farm, not great internet access.  And as an extra bonus, there's snow up here & it's snowing more!  I'm so grateful for the refreshing atmosphere of being on the farm, spending time with my family &, of course, watching the snow fall!

November 25
I’m grateful for sleep.  No really, that's what I'm grateful for on this day.  After 5 days covering Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Atlanta & back to Cincinnati, I made the 3-4 hour drive to northeast Ohio to my parents' for Thanksgiving week.  I arrived at my parents, exhausted from the previous week, & proceeded to take 2 naps today!  I'm really grateful for how God created us to recharge our bodies & minds with sleep!

November 24
To be honest, this was just a hard day, & difficult for me to choose gratefulness.  I returned from my friend in Atlanta & came back to our staff conference in Cincinnati for this final day of the conference.  It was difficult to attempt to 'jump back in' after an emotionally draining trip.  But with the help of a couple friends, we threw a virtual baby shower for our friend in Atlanta who had just lost her twin son & were able to 'facetime' her into the shower so she could see & talk to co-workers & friends. We were able to celebrate the life of her other twin son, & we spent time together praying with & for her, as well as for her husband & their son.  I'm grateful for community - the body of Christ - in the midst of the sorrows & challenges of this life.

November 23
Today I attended my friend's funeral service for her 4-week-old preemie twin son that she lost a week ago (November 16th).  It was heart-breaking, yet I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be here & share this day with my friend.  I’m grateful that because of Jesus there is hope in the midst of darkness, healing & comfort in the midst of pain, & the promise of new life in heaven in the midst of death here on this earth.

November 22
In the NICU in Atlanta with my friend
Bridget as she holds her son Jackson
for the first time!
I’m grateful for sustenance for a long day, & for unexpected gifts & blessings in the midst of hardship.  As soon as our Intern Time was finished & we cleaned up, I headed to the airport to fly to Atlanta to be with my friend who just lost her one of her 4 week old premature twin sons.  It was a very a long day, but the Lord sustained me physically & emotionally.  And when my friend took me to the NICU on this evening to see & meet her surviving twin son, we were greeted with an unexpected blessing & gift as the NICU nurse looked at my friend & said, “Would you like to hold him tonight?”  Because her sons were delivered at only 25 weeks, she had not been able to hold this twin yet.  So you can imagine what a gift this was to hear for my friend!  I’m so grateful to have shared this moment with my dear friend, & to take pictures of her holding her son for the first time (at 5 weeks old).  What a sweet gift from the Lord.

November 21
I’m really grateful for my job, which is a ministry, & a calling!  I have the honor of working with our region’s Campus Ministry US Interns – this year there are nearly 70 on the field.  As we spent time together with our Interns today I was reminded of what an awesome job I have getting to work with such incredible individuals who seek to walk with Jesus daily.

November 20
Today I headed to Cincinnati to begin preparing for our annual Regional Fall Staff Conference.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve others, whether it’s unloading a U-Haul full of conference supplies, stuffing 470 gift bags for incoming staff for a conference or staying up late setting up tables in a conference room for the following day.  Giving of ourselves to serve & bless others truly is a blessing to those who serve & give as well – usually in unexpected ways! :)

November 19
As I sit here tonight thinking over my day, I'm grateful for God's Word & how it is alive & active in our lives today.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn from His Word, from the lives & actions of those in the past - both from those who walked in obedience & honored the Lord, as well as from those who didn't.

Father, thank you for continuing to use your Word in my life to convict me, correct me, challenge me and encourage me.  May I always be open to hearing from You through Your Word.

November 18
I'm so grateful for how the Lord designed us, His children, to be connected to one another in the body of Christ!  It's so beautiful to see brothers & sisters in Christ rally around a member of the church who is walking through loss, grief, hardship, etc.  He could have left us to fend for ourselves, but He didn't. He chose to give us relationships with one other, both for our good & for His glory.

November 17
Lately I've been reminded & grateful that this world & this life is not our final home.  As I continue to grieve with my friend over the very sudden loss of one of her 4-week-old premie twin sons, & process a loss in my own life, this truth has been in the forefront of my mind & heavy on my heart.  Yesterday I heard an anology making this very point - the example of a man on an airplane pulling things out of his bag, posting up pictures on the back of the seat in front of him & basically settling in as if he was home.  How crazy that would look to someone else on the plane because we know that he is simply in 'transit' & not actually home yet.  Similarly, we are just in 'transit' here in this world - we're not home yet.

I'm grateful that in the midst of grief & loss & uncertain circumstances, I can look to Jesus, & I can remember & look forward to my eternal home with Him.  Come Lord Jesus, Come...

November 16
Tobias Kell (October 18 - November 16)
Today was a very sobering day, and I was reminded of the brevity & fragility of life.  A very dear friend lost one of her 4-week-old preemie twin sons this morning.  I am so grateful today that in the midst of loss & sorrow & grief in this world, our HOPE is ultimately found in Jesus.  I am grateful that He is our Comforter & Healer in whatever we face.

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
Psalm 56:8

November 15
As I continue to think about 'National Adoption Month' I'm grateful that I have been chosen & adopted as God's own child.  What an honor, what a privilege, that the King of kings gave His One & Only Son for me.  He then picked me up, cleaned me off, & brought me into His home, His eternal Kingdom, making me His precious daughter.  And that's a relationship that can never be broken.

"But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12)


November 14
In honor of November being 'National Adoption Month' I'm grateful for my beautiful adopted niece Kariyas.  Definitely a handful, but what a bundle of joy & energy!  I can't imagine our family without her!  She is my niece through & through.  I love her creativity, her fiestiness, her deterimination, and her fun-loving & outgoing personality.

Jesus, thank you for sparing Kariyas' life, for caring for her & watching over her, & for bringing her into our lives & into our family.  We are blessed because of her.


November 13
I'm grateful that God invites us into His work of building His Kingdom for eternity.  What an honor & privilege to be allowed into that process!  Sadly I too often forget this & I miss out.  But when I stop & think about how the God of the Universe is also my Heavenly Father who has invited me (a sinner saved by His grace, yet also His daughter whom He created & knows & loves) into His work with Him...wow.  It's just so humbling & leaves me a little speechless.

Father, thank you for allowing me to join you in your work of building your Kingdom for eternity.  Thank you for using me in the lives of others to tell them about you & point them to you.  Thank you for allowing me the honor of being about part of your life changing work in your children.

November 12
I'm so grateful for my church & small group.  I enjoying serving & investing time or energy without it feeling draining or burdensome.  And no matter what is going on in my week, I look forward to Tuesday nights when I get to gather with this group around a meal, sharing stories, sharing our hearts, our struggles, our opinions, laughing, crying, praying...just walking through life together & serving together as Christ followers.

November 11
On this Veteran's Day I'm grateful for all those who have gone before me, sacrificing so much, even to the point of their own lives, for my freedoms today.  I'm grateful for my grandfather who served in WWI, for my uncles & my dad for their service to our country as well.  I'm grateful for friends & so many others who are currently serving in various capacities.  And I'm grateful to have been born in a nation with such a history of fighting for freedoms.  http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp

November 10
Today I was reminded of how I grateful I am for God's hand of healing & growth in my life.  As I gathered with some dear sisters in Christ tonight & we updated one another on life, I was encouraged by all God has done in my life to draw me closer to Him & transform me more & more into the image of Christ.  Even when I just look at the past year, I can see such a difference in how I respond to my singleness.  At one point I told them, "My circumstances aren't necessarily different from a year ago, but I am & how I choose to respond to those circumstances."  What evidence of God's healing & freedom in  my life!  Thank you Jesus, for being so faithful & never giving up on us, even when we are disobedient or stubborn or unfaithful!!

November 9
Wow!  So much to be thankful for tonight!  I'm usually really grateful for weekends, but today was such an incredible day.  I'm grateful for a relaxing, quiet morning enjoying my coffee along with the sunshine on this colorful fall morning while reading God's Word and spending time with Him.  And then a 34 mile bike ride around my city - down the Monon trail, across the Canal Trail through Broad Ripple, past Butler's campus, past the IMA, down the White River Trail, over the Cross Cultural Trail, past IUPUI's campus, across downtown Indy, through Fountain Square, and eventually back up the Monon.  I'm so grateful for my city, just taking in the sights, sounds, children playing on playgrounds, people out for walks or bike rides or walking their dogs, the colors & sounds & smells of fall, and so much more!  I'm so grateful for the physical ability to spend the afternoon biking.  And so grateful for the sun!

And tonight I am grateful for the fellowship of sweet friends, good food, and sharing our gifts with one another through music, art, writing, etc.  As I walked out to my car to head home this evening I looked up & just stopped to take in the vast view of the sky - the black night sky against the stars, immediately noticing the constellation of Orion, & then taking in the light of the moon, even noticing its shadow.

Driving home I pondered, "What will I choose to write about to be grateful for tonight?  There's so much to choose from!"  And as I thought over my day, I simply thought, "Life!"  I'm grateful for LIFE, an abundant life.  I don't deserve all these things - I don't deserve this life.  I did nothing to earn it, and yet I've been given this awesome abundant life!  This was surely an abundant day of life, & my heart is full of gratitude tonight.

November 8
I'm reminded of how blessed I am to have a place to call home - an apartment with heat & water, food in my fridge, clothes in my closet, & pillow to rest my head on.  I'm grateful that I never have to question these things - I have them each & every day.  And no matter where I've followed the Lord around this globe, He has always provided a 'home' for me.

November 7
Tonight I'm overwhelmed by thankfulness & gratitude for the cross - the cross of Christ.  Like Lecrae says, "He lived a life I could not live, & died a death I should have died. "  Thank you for the cross Jesus.  Thank you for buying me with a price - the price of your very own life.  Thank you for pursuing me until I finally turned & chose life with you.  Thank you for this journey of walking with you.  Thank you for the way of the cross.

http://myhopewithbillygraham.org/programs/the-cross/

http://myhopewithbillygraham.org/mercy-tree-music-video/

November 6
I'm so grateful for the friends & community the Lord has blessed me with here in Indy.  I'm so blessed by my Cru staff family, my church family, and so many more!

November 5
I'm grateful for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  I'm grateful to know that He has sealed me for eternity, and grateful for how He sustains me, helps me, comforts me, and guides me throughout each day, as I allow Him to be released in and through my life.  I'm grateful for how He sometimes seems to supernatually carry me through the day when I personally feel so weak and tired.  What an incredible gift.

November 4
Tonight I am reminded of & grateful for God's FAITHFULNESS in so many ways.  I'm grateful that I can claim & stand on His promises & His character regardless of my circumstances or how I feel in the moment.

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the FAITHFUL God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations  (Deuteronomy 7:9)

November 3
So grateful today for the breath-taking creation our Father & Creator has designed!  Like the awe-inspiring masterpiece of an artist, His creation displays His glory & splendor.  I'm so thankful for the opportunity to take in the rich colors & smells & sounds of fall today - the vibrant yellows, golds, oranges & reds of the trees as well as the smells & crunch of the leaves beneath my feet, the sun seemingly spotlighting the rich colors on the trees, as well as the sound & sight of water running over the rocks & through the layer of fallen leaves.  Father THANK YOU for your creation, for the ever-changing colors of fall, & for the opportunity to take it all in!

November 2
Tonight I'm incredibly grateful for great friends, fellowship, laughter, as well as a love for color and art.  Today as been filled with color and life...not only the incredible color and life of fall all around me, the color and life experienced through creating a piece of art, but also the color and life enjoyed in the sweet fellowship of sisters in Christ.  I don't deserve any of this!  And yet God grants us all these these blessings...& more!

November 1
Today I'm thankful for God's unending, unmerited GRACE in my life.  It's not only the grace that allows me to have a relationship with Him through Jesus, but also the grace I experience each & every day, although I'm sure it's much more than I even realize.  His grace is sufficient for every circumstance.  I'm grateful for His GRACE.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thinking about Singleness...Choosing to Celebrate

My intent was to write this 3rd post on singleness 3 months ago following the first 2, but it seemed I kept putting it off.  I began to realize how easily the first 2 came - it was easy to write about choosing to embrace & choosing to grieve singleness.  But choosing to celebrate, rejoice &/or be thankful for singleness?  This one is much easier said than done, depending on the day or moment.

Naturally there are days or times when I very readily celebrate or rejoice in my singleness - usually over the freedoms or independence I know I have compared to others.  But of course there are many days when rejoicing over my singleness is the last thing I would desire to do.  And yet regardless of my momentary feelings, I know that choosing to celebrate my singleness (if only by faith) is both what I am called and what I need to do.  And this is for my good and for God's glory.

So what exactly do I have to celebrate?  And how do I celebrate in my singleness even when I don’t feel like it?

I have much to celebrate, much for which to be grateful.  I have freedoms and an independence that those who are married &/or parents simply do not have due to the reality of their circumstances.  I can essentially do what I want, when I want to do it (within some limits obviously).  Outside of the commitments and requirements of my job, I can choose how I spend my 'off' hours – my evenings, weekends, holidays.  I can choose what other things to commit to (church, friends, social events).  I can choose whether or not to sleep in on a Saturday morning without worrying about getting up & getting some time to myself before the kids are up!  I can take a nap without first making sure the 2 year old is napping too (or worried about what the 2 year old might do while I’m napping)! ;)

I have energy & time to do things that I know my friends who are moms or dads simply do not have due to the time & energy required to be a parent.  I can stay late at work if needed.  I can schedule time with friends in the evenings without first clearing it with my spouse or making sure someone else can take care of the kids while I’m away.

I can also focus my energies fully on the work to which God has called me.  I can spend time and energy on serving others, sacrificing my time for the sake of others, investing in my friendships, and in other single women and helping them grow closer to Jesus.

I also have cause to celebrate knowing that I have not settled for someone who was not God’s best for me.  I am not in an unhappy marriage or walking through the devastating experience of a broken marriage or divorce.  While I clearly grieve with my friends who have or are walking through such difficult circumstances, in some ways I can also thank God that I have not walked that road and ask Him to give me the strength to wait patiently for His perfect timing and for the one He has chosen for me.

But how do I choose to rejoice or celebrate even when I don’t feel like it?  What about those days when I have a response to every one of these reasons I have just listed that are ‘cause to celebrate’?  What about the days when I would rather want a reason to leave work right by 5:00 because someone at home is expecting to have dinner with me, rather than having the freedom to stay later?  What about the afternoons when I would rather play & care for a child of my own than take a nap or watch TV?  What about the days that I want 'the work God has called me to' to include loving & serving a husband & caring for & raising children?  How do I celebrate singleness in those times when I feel like I’m barely embracing it, & definitely grieving the things I so long for?

I choose to celebrate, I choose to rejoice in my singleness BY FAITH.  Ok, I know, that’s the ‘Sunday School’ answer.  But hear me out…

For those who have made a decision to receive Christ, who have believed the truths of His death & resurrection and accepted the penalty He paid for our sins, do we not choose to embrace the fact that He is the only One who can who can save us and set us free?   And don't we grieve what He had to endure for our sakes?  Yet we also rejoice and celebrate what He did & what it means in our lives?!

When it comes to the Gospel, we must embrace the reality of our fallen condition and the fact that we could not save ourselves even if we wanted to, no matter how hard we tried.  We choose to accept the fact that Jesus was and is the only way to God, that He died for our sins, and through Him we can have a relationship with God and spend eternity with Him.  To deny either of those realities would keep us from salvation and a relationship with the Living God.

But we also grieve our sin and what He endured for us.  We recognize that He experienced such physical and emotional pain, temptations, trials, rejection, even to the point of a brutal death on a cross, for our sins.  At times the reality and gravity of those truths can bring us to tears.  Jesus grieved the cross, even asking the Father the night before his crucifixion that this ‘cup might pass from Him’.  And God the Father grieved to turn His face from His Son when Jesus took our sins upon Himself.  Clearly, there is great grief in the cross.

But there is much cause to rejoice and celebrate in the resurrection.  The hope of the Gospel is that Jesus did not stay dead – death did not have victory, but Jesus did.  Jesus beat death itself, coming back to life, & bringing eternal life to all who believe in Him!  How can we not choose to celebrate this?!

And so we see in the Gospel of Christ how we choose to embrace the realities and truths before us; we choose to grieve the way of the cross, the suffering and death of Jesus; and yet we also choose to celebrate His resurrection & life.  There are times that we may fail to believe or embrace the truths of the Gospel, & we must claim them purely by FAITH.  There are times that we don’t want to face our sin, but we ask God for the courage to face into it, and grieve how it not only hurts the Lord, but also ourselves and those around us.  And there are times that we do not feel like rejoicing or celebrating our relationship with God, but by FAITH we claim the truths of God & press forward.



Similarly, I seek to follow the way of the Gospel & the cross of Christ in my journey of singleness.  I choose to EMBRACE the realities & truths before me of my singleness.  I choose to GRIEVE the unmet longings as a result of my singleness.  And I choose to CELEBRATE & rejoice in my singleness as a gift from God, in His wisdom & sovereignty & goodness.  I must remember that His timing is perfect – He hasn’t forgotten about me, I didn’t ‘miss the boat’ of marriage.  By faith I must claim the truths of God, pressing forward, making the most of every moment of this gift of singleness!