Credit: halloweencesky.blogspot.com

Embracing the Season You’re In

First off y’all, I think we’ve already established that autumn is our favorite season around here, but here are a few reminders why:

Credit: My friend Matt Altwegg

Credit: My friend Matt

OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, I had a little message on my heart to share today. It is this:

Embrace the season you’re in.

When I was first married, I remember praying this prayer to God ~ certainly Holy Spirit inspired:

Lord, help me to enjoy every season we’re in, fully, without wishing for the next one.

Each season has things worth celebrating! The season when we lived on a 300-acre ranch, with nary 600 sq. feet for this newlywed to “nest” in ~ with no neighbors, a mile-long bumpy dirty road, and wide-open spaces…

I could’ve complained. But I would’ve missed the incredible fun & blessings of that season!

I wanted contentment. I didn’t want to look back on that season & think, “You know, those were the days, with some of my favorite memories!!” Dodging cow patties on the way to the car, learning to shoot skeet for the first time, repairing fence line to protect the precious figs from drought-hungry cattle, watering our little garden for hours while talking on the phone to people back home or singing worship songs, dancing with my husband in the kitchen & watching the sunset from our roof…

Those memories are precious to me. Memories of homesteading on the range. And they would’ve never happened had we not lived on a 300-acre ranch in the middle of nowhere :) If we’d skipped straight to suburbia (where we are now), we’d have missed it. And I’m SO thankful we didn’t. I’m so grateful He gave us that time to just be together, with us & his parents & the wild outdoors. He was laying a cool foundation that I couldn’t have known at the time.

He was writing our story. And He still is.

I remember thinking one spring day, as I was riding the loooong, wild stretch of land we called “road” & thanking God for my new husband of 3-4 months:

Lord, this is such an adventure!! Thank You for such a surprising blessing far beyond what I ever imagined!

SO many times that first year of marriage, I pinched myself with excitement that I WAS MARRIED. It actually happened, TO ME. The words to that ridiculous 90’s song kept tumbling out of my mouth during that time (& still do):

“Finally it’s happened to me
right in front of my face
and I just cannot hide it….”

Over & over again, as I swept dusty ranch house floors & cleared away dozens of daddy-long legs that infiltrated our teensy home during the blazing-hot summer, I rejoiced (& not just because of my husband). God was changing my perspective & giving me a brand-new life, with brand-new people, in a brand-new place that I never would’ve dreamed of.

I want it to always be that way in my life. Don’t you? Yet lately I’ve found myself LESS content with MUCH more. God’s reminding me of my newlywed prayer today:

Father, may I ENJOY each season You’ve given me – each one You’ve given Brian & I together, for however long that is! May we never forget Your blessings & Your presence, even in the challenges of daily life.

I’ve lived enough of my life in anticipation of the next season. I don’t want to miss the here & now anymore because I’m 10 steps ahead in my mind (& my planner, because Lord knows I love mine!!).

Plan for the future, live for today. Celebrate the season you & I are in right now. God has blessings in store for each one of them, but we have to keep our eyes open or we could miss them.

With that said, I’ll leave you with this, terrible 90’s dancing & all :)

Credit: CC EllenM1

You’ll Be Called Restorers

Credit: CC EllenM1

Credit: CC EllenM1

“You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.”
~Isaiah 58:12 (MSG)
Eternal Life!!

And This is Eternal Life …

Many people ask,

How can I gain true life? What is the meaning of life? Why are we here?

Jesus Himself gave us the answer. As a believer (& follower) of Him, I LOVE this scripture & wanted to share with y’all today because it is the most fundamental & important truth of our faith.

Eternal Life!!

Credit: wallpapersandimages.com

Hooray for Autumn!

OK, so a tiny confession…

Although I’m named Summer, I have to admit it’s not quite my favorite season! I know, I know, it’s not right, but I can’t help myself… autumn wins :)

Every October, I get giddy at the thought of pumpkin muffins, boots, crisp fall days, football games (yes, the excitement of competition!), leaves changing colors, & the holidays approaching. Autumn is such a romantic time of year ~ one replete with many fun memories & one where you can easily make more.

About this time last year, my husband whisked me away to one of our favorite married adventures thus far: Seeing the leaves turn in the Arkansas mountains. It was magical, to say the least.

This year as I reflect on all God’s done since then, I’m so thankful for His presence in our lives & how He’s blessed us (in the good & in the challenges), and I’m eagerly anticipating what this autumn may bring…

October.

A month of promise. Of harvest. Of reaping what we’ve sown.

A month of God’s glory, written across creation in vivid color.

A month of newness, like the Jewish New Year! Of school schedules ramping up & sports well underway. Of making new friends & creating new things :)

A month of excitement & anticipation. A time of transition, the changing of the guard from one season to another… sometimes bittersweet, but always with beauty on the other side.

It’s a time to take risks, venture into new territory, & start something new… a time to explore, open up to new possibilities, and walk through new doors.

It’s also a time for romance ~ sparked not only by cooler days & nights but also in the Lord’s unique way of wooing us in this changing season.

I love October & all it brings. Maybe it’s the rush in the air – the anticipation of opportunity just beyond the horizon – that so captures our hearts this time of year!

So autumn, from one season to another I say: Welcome! I can’t wait to see what you’ll bring this year :) 

And to you Reader, I say, Let’s begin anew this October. Let’s dive into the new season full-force & allow God to turn over a new leaf in our lives. 

You first. Shall we?


p.s. *This is about how I’m feeling today…* {photo below}

How Our Brokenness Leads to Destiny

This morning I listened to the age-old stories of Job & Joseph, two men who faced incredible odds in Scripture & came out like gold on the other side.

Both Joseph & Job experienced great loss in their lives: The loss of dear family, broken relationships with the people closest to them, physical suffering, rejection, silence from God, and (what appears to be) many years of testing.

But you know what happened after their tests?

God LAVISHED love on them from all sides – financial & career success, positions of high honor, respect from the very people who’d rejected them, restored health & relationships – in short, the very things that had been stripped away from them in the hard places of their lives.

I wonder if God allows such people and even us – those He intends to use for His purposes – to experience such hardship, rejection & loss because it’s paving the way for our future assignment?

Scripture tells story after story of God using such “stepping stones” in people’s lives to lead them to their destinies. No, this process doesn’t always end in earthly fame & fortune, but when He prepares us for His purposes, it is in our best interest that He strip us of our dependence on things we’d otherwise cling to in the future. This is how He strengthens us – by removing that in our lives which makes us weak.

Our trials help us loosen our grip on worldly matters so we can shift our eyes to His priorities… to the point where once He restores what we’ve lost, we no longer lean on it like we once did.

This is when we know He’s done a true work in our lives.

In Joseph’s case, he was known among his brothers as a braggart, a dreamer, & a young man full of pride! This is NOT the type of character that would’ve served him (or others) well in his God-ordained future role: Egypt’s second-in-command when a terrible famine hit the earth.

And in Job’s case, God allowed testing to prove a huge lesson to Satan himself – that there existed a man on earth who would remain faithful to Him despite being stripped of all his worldly gains (including his health). I can’t imagine the joy in heaven when Job passed this test & proved such a powerful lesson to the enemy.

After Job’s very long & arduous journey, God restored what he’d lost TWO-FOLD. Our God is so good! He doubly-blessed Job for honoring Him in his suffering.

In a beautiful gesture of kindness, God also gave Joseph the glory & honor he’d sought for years among his brothers, but nearly half a lifetime later after he’d given up hope of ever receiving such respect from them. And even beyond that, God used Joseph to save the very LIVES of his family & of all God’s people. Talk about restoration!

These stories are amazing. They teach us invaluable lessons about how trials & challenges shape our lives. God uses them to chisel His character in us & to open the path before us to greater things.

We may never know the exact reasoning behind the “stuff” we’re facing right now, but I’m reminded of a certain Scripture that reassures me today:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

~Romans 8:28

Yes, all things – even the loss of children, our health, love, our reputation, wealth. Every hard experience in our lives is being worked out for our good. He has a benefit in every wilderness passageway we travel and in every heartbreak, even the ones that seem beyond redemption. Actually, especially those.

I am so comforted by this. It makes me wanna look beyond every hurdle I face to the glory, the goodness, the lesson, the blessing it will bring into my life. I know it’s there cuz He said so.

And so it is with you!

A New Adventure!

This post is written in honor of my birthday today! What an exciting time, beginning a brand-new year of life. I hope to live it to the fullest :)


bilbo-baggins

I’m going on an adventure!

~Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit

So, remember that one time (January 1st :D) when I got my word for 2014? It was simple: Live.

In the time that’s elapsed this year, I’ve been working & reflecting more… writing less… spending more time with people… and less time trying to fit life into a mold. I’ve been observing the world around me, to see it for what it really is (apart from my voice). It’s an interesting journey to take as you embark on your 30’s and a necessary one for me.

We learn a lot in silence. We discover that the world keeps rotating without our every opinion, experience, & feeling time-stamped & recorded. We observe people & human nature in their more honest forms. We hear what those around us are actually saying (& make room for the Lord’s voice, too). We also find fewer reasons to apologize (thank God) and relish the present more.

In short, we begin living more fully :)

There’s a joke that goes, If I didn’t put it on Instagram, did it even happen?? 

This was the small, fishbowl kinda world I wanted to retreat from, just for awhile. To gain some perspective, maybe. To realize not that many people needed to know about my every move (or me about theirs). To gather my thoughts (without the interjection of everyone else’s) and to observe for awhile. To learn & grow in my pursuits without as many interruptions. It’s been such a lovely & surprising relief.

Since then, a new spark has kindled in my heart, one that the Lord relit this January. It was as if He breathed on me & said Live, child. I’ll take care of the rest.

So I’m beginning to.

This word has been resonating within me this year, growing louder each passing month. And a cool experience has been happening: my heart is reopening to possibilities, to new opportunities, to dreams laid to rest too soon.

It’s as if He’s saying, It’s time to live again!

When I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment… [then] I made My vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord Godand you became Mine. 

~Ezekiel 16

In 2014, I’ve been going on new adventures and it has been glorious! :) And in times to come, I’m gonna go on more exciting adventures. It has me on the edge of my seat. I can hardly wait for what the Lord is inviting me into!

As with any destination, we never know the twists & turns, dips & peaks we’ll encounter or who we’ll meet along the way. We aren’t even sure who we’ll see in the mirror at the end of them, but all in all, I’d say it’s time for some adventure in my life! I believe God is holding the pen, and I hear Him saying… We’re going on a new adventure!

You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!

~Dr. Seuss

Source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com

Cheap Christianity

Source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com

A thought’s been marinating in my mind lately, the idea of a Christianity apart from sacrifice.

We say we love people, but we aren’t always willing to set aside our desires for them. How great, then, is our love if we love our comfort & security more?

To “outsiders” – those who don’t believe as we do – what shows them our love? Our great theology? How powerful our worship services are? How righteously we live?

Or is it how we treat them & each other, and even moreso, what we’re willing to give up for their good?

Our Christian culture has become largely devoid of sacrifice. We’ve watered our faith down to theological debates on online forums and funny t-shirts (while calling ourselves “brave” & “heroic”). Yet this smacks more of Cheap Christianity – Jesus followers unwilling to lay down our lives for another (or only on our terms). I am just as guilty of this as anyone.

Yet the real Jesus touched & healed people frequently, encouraged people to draw near to His Father, and eventually died in order to make this possible. 

Do I do even part of that? Do I care enough to sacrifice, to surrender my rights for the sake of another? Have I been willing to “turn the other cheek” to show them Christ’s character & heart for them, or am I always seeking vindication?

Am I willing to give money or the shirt off my back (so-to-speak) to help someone in need? Do I let others go first in line? Do I give up my freedoms when they cause another to stumble?

Do you?

Everyday Heroes

Every powerful movie has a hero: Captain America, Braveheart, Thor, Superman. I LOVE these movies (don’t we all?) because they’re so inspiring. And touching. And gripping.

But what makes these characters heroes? Is it their great speeches… or the way they relentlessly give of themselves, over & over again, for the sake of others?

Hmm, yea. These movies are the Gospel story repackaged for the big screen. No wonder we’re so captivated by their tales.

Unwittingly, we are drawn to these “saviors”: Heroes fighting for the betterment of others, to their own detriment. We admire & respect them because they are laying it all on the line for other people. 

These heroes (& people like them) sacrifice every day, which is more of a testament to their beliefs than anything they could ever say they believe.

Our world’s true heroes are out there giving of themselves right now, not duking it out on the web with non-believers – at best a big short-term win, but epic long-term loss. As an old professor of mine once said, You’ll never argue an atheist into heaven – so I suggest we stop trying.

I fear my faith is cheaper than I realize because I find myself MUCH more on the side of the web warriors than the everyday servants… and that has got to change.

I don’t want a cheap religion devoid of the Man I’m supposed to be following. I want an authentic relationship with Him that spills over into other people’s lives, through my everyday living (& yes, even sacrifice).

These gestures need not be grandiose to be great – in fact, most aren’t. But practicing “you before me” regularly will chisel more of God’s heart in my life than any One Year Bible plan or seminary ever could.

More importantly, my love through everyday sacrifice will show outsiders how real His love is for them.

“I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.” ~Jesus (John 13)

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” ~John 15

Source: http://spirituallythinking.blogspot.com

 

Source: Creative Commons, Richard Freeman

What is Your Ripple Effect?

Source: Creative Commons, Richard Freeman

Source: Creative Commons, Richard Freeman

“What we do now echoes in eternity.” —Marcus Aurelius

One recent morning I was listening to the book of Joshua & cleaning house, when a familiar story came on my audio Bible: The story of Achan in Joshua 6-7.

Achan’s Destruction

In this passage, after Joshua & the Israelites experienced an incredible victory at Jericho, a man named Achan decided to defy God’s command & keep some of the spoils of war for himself.

Bad idea.

Because of Achan’s decision, when Israel faced their next (much smaller) foe at Ai, they experienced a shocking defeat which left them questioning God’s promise to them. Hadn’t He said He’d give them victory wherever they went?

“What happened, Lord?” they asked after the battle at Ai. God informed them that He’d departed from the Israelite camp because of ONE man’s sin!

“Israel has sinned; they have violated My covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies…

I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction…You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them.” —Joshua 7

Achan’s actions brought God’s judgment upon the entire nation of Israel – cursing them all – due to his act of disobedience. What! That seems crazy pants, doesn’t it? Yet his actions led to 36 lost lives on the battlefield & eventually the loss of his ENTIRE family (including himself). What a WASTE!

Every time I hear this story, I feel a little depressed, like:

God, really? Where is the justice in an entire nation suffering for one man’s sin?

As I asked this familiar question today, it was as if He countered me with this:

What if your sin affects people in a similar way?

It made me stop & think. What if…? What if this was reality because, friends, I believe it IS true!

Achan’s actions were foolish, yes, but more importantly – they had an enormous impact on the people around him. If one person’s sin could infiltrate Israel’s camp and cause them to be overcome by their enemies, couldn’t we reason that our sins could have similar results?

While not every decision of ours holds such weight, we tend to underestimate the impact our choices have on the community we live in, especially our family. They experience the greatest consequences from our misbehavior, don’t they? Just as Achan’s family did.

Rahab’s Redemption

Interwoven in this sad story is another, much more beautiful one: The story of Rahab the prostitute. This brave woman hid several Israelite spies in her home in Jericho, shortly before the Israelites conquered her town.

Because of her courage, the Israelites spared Rahab’s ENTIRE FAMILY from certain death in the aftermath of Jericho’s defeat. Just as one man’s sin opened his family up to death, one woman’s righteous act saved her family’s lives!

I don’t think God wove these two stories together coincidentally. He’s sending us this message here:

Your sin has a powerful ripple effect.

Do you believe that? Because our modern culture’s mantra is, “Don’t tell me how to live my life!” and “Only God can judge me.”

Really? Because what you do impacts my life, and what I do impacts yours, so we have a vested interest in each other’s behavior.

What if we embraced reality: That we don’t live in a vacuum? When we have a bad attitude, the people around us are affected. My selfishness hurts the people in my life – my coworkers, family, marriage, parents, even my neighbors. Likewise, your “issues” prevent you from being the loving person your community needs & may even drag others down.

Our actions matter MUCH more than we think. They can even change the course of people’s lives!

Living in Light of Our Ripple Effect

So what if we lived in light of this? What if we allowed our community to have a say in how we lived because, honestly, how we live our lives shapes our community (for better or for worse)?

I’m not talking about people dictating our lives to us. Our decisions are ultimately ours to make. What I’m presenting here is the idea of COMMUNAL LIVING, as opposed to living on our own terms, apart from the wisdom & input of others.

What if we didn’t buy into the lie that “my life is my own”? What if we shed the false belief that I’m king or queen of my island - because the truth is, we share this island with millions of other people! We can’t possibly live life without affecting the people around us, either by our actions or lack of.

Maybe we should start living this way, get our heads out of the sand, and realize our lives have a much larger impact than we ever imagined.

Because when we hold people at arm’s length and refuse to consider them in our daily decisions, we lose sight of our life’s ripple effect. We forget that we impact every person we encounter – in big & small ways.

When we live life “on our terms”, we forget how IMPORTANT our choices are & how much we can impact the world for good (or harm)! We also tend to forget how UNIMPORTANT we are. Life on an island centers around ME. When we recognize that our islands are interconnected, we start to see our lives in light of the larger whole and have a healthy grasp of the ripple effect our actions have on the waterways of other lives.

God gave us the powerful gift of choice, but what we do with this freedom could have significant – even eternal – consequences for other people… and most of all, us!

Is it possible that we’ve deeply hurt others or even caused spiritual (or literal) death due to living life “on our terms”? Have we forgotten the casualties we leave in the wake of our choices? And on the contrary, is it possible that our choices have the power to lead people to a better life?

I believe Scripture says “Yes!”

We can either be Achans or Rahabs. Who will we be? It’s up to us. We can live life to bless or curse the people around us. Let’s live in light of our impact, with others around us, & choose to be a blessing, not a curse!

Have you witnessed the ripple effect of your actions on someone else (for good or bad)? What was the result?