Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Mission Trip

We have a couple of nieces preparing to go on a mission trip. They will be spending a week on an Indian reservation and have plans to work with the youth of the community. We are praying for Jennah and Grace, and at the same time my mind has been thinking about mission trips.

In my 33 years I have never been on one, I know many people who have travelled to places far and wide as an act of obedience. They have the desire to share God's word with others. For awhile I wondered when God would call me on a trip to do the same and it didn't take long and He responded.

I wasn't being called to Mexico, the homeless in San Francisco or the Indians in South Dakota - He assured me I wouldn't have to leave the state for my mission trip. There are people right here in my own backyard, neighborhood and even my family that need to hear the Good News.

His Word tells us, "And then he told them, 'Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.'" Mark 16:15 (NLT) It often seems we focus on the 'go into all the world' bit and with that think we have to go across state borders or ocean waters to accomplish this task. But that is not the case, lonely, lost people are everywhere and we are called to go to them.

For some that means across the world and others it's simply "going" across the street. I use the word simply there quite lightly because in a way it's perhaps more difficult than crossing into new territory.

I know mission trips away from home bring their challenging moments, but so do the ones in our front yard. And really those are the ones we are called to the most - even my two nieces have just a week to make an impact on the people of South Dakota, but the rest of the year they will be back with their classmates, teammates and neighbors.

So my thought today, though it is good to plan and go on BIG mission trips, we need to capture some of that same enthusiasm for the ones God calls us to daily. Perhaps we don't have an agenda and schedule for this trip, but it is important just the same. And really aren't the people closest to us typically the ones we love the most? So what better place to share the most important news God has for us to offer!

Regardless of where you are today - remember it's the mission trip He's called you on!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Please pray

Yesterday tragedy struck Iowa - nearly an hour from where we live in another small town. Ed Thomas, a famed football coach, from Parkersburg was shot by a former student while supervising the weight room.

Aside from having him as a Theory of Coaching class instructor during college years ago and following his success through the news I don't know the man. But he has served as a respected coach, teacher, husband, father and man of faith in his community for years.

Yesterday in a press conference, his young son, also a coach himself said, "God always has a reason, but at times like this it is hard to understand." How true. He also stepped up and encouraged the community to embrace and pray for the shooter and his family as well.

The details and stories are all over the news, so google Ed Thomas for more information, but for now I ask you to pray - for his wife Jan, sons Aaron and Todd, grandsons and the countless lives he impacted - their hearts are hurting.

And like a good friend said because of his faith Ed Thomas may impact more people with his death than he did with the short 58 years of his life. Pray that is the case and God will be glorified in the days ahead.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"I Will Not Forget"

Lately it seems the miscarriage I experienced last fall and the baby we lost have been on my mind quite a bit. Late this past February we found out we were expecting once again and initially my thoughts revisited the miscarriage. Then there was mainly fears of it happening a second time.

Now 22 weeks into things, emotions continue to be mixed. At times there is guilt as I rejoice about the baby yet to come - I know if we hadn't lost our little "J," we'd never be expecting a baby this Oct. It puts the bit about God giving and taking away in a whole new light.

I know this is all part of His plan and He's been with me every step of the journey, but walking through the hard times still is never easy. God is guiding me, comforting me and revealing things He never has, but last night I rested on the idea that I didn't want to forget.

Though I never held this little one, my baby still has a place in my heart. So little "J" these words are for you -

"I Will Not Forget"
Even though it seems
the world has forgotten
and even I have went a day
or two without remembering,
"I will not forget."

The role you played was pivotal
and your presence powerful.
You touched my heart
and changed my life,
"I will not forget."

I think of you often and
still miss you just the same.
You will forever be
a part of me,
"I will not forget."

No one will ever take your place
or do what you have done.
You alone are special -
a gift only God could give,
one, "I will not forget."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Is it just me?

In my last post I posed a question and throughout the week God has me thinking about it even more. My question was, "Who am I?" It can be easy to come up with many answers tied to the various roles I play, but I've been reminded that what I do is not the same as who I am.

And in that post I took the question a bit farther and thought not just about my answers, but more importantly God's. I know I can go to His word and find verses that prove He says I'm loved, called, beautiful, blessed, strengthened, created for a purpose and on and on...

What continues to strike me is how I know what the Bible says and I do believe God's word is true, but why do I still struggle to apply this truth to my own life? Doubt seems to creep in much too easily and feelings of being overwhelmed can change my perspective much too quickly.

I seem to be in the midst of stepping out into some new territory for God while at the same time preparing for a new baby and continueing with the life I've been living . (You know all those roles we play?) At times I wonder how this will all work...that's not a new thought for me, but the question I'm asking is.

Have you ever been to that place where you struggle with applying God's truth and promises to your own life? You believe what He says is true, but living in that truth is a challenge? I guess I'm curious if it's just me, but at the same time experience has proved I'm rarely alone. So if this is a wrestling match you've found yourself in, I'd love to hear how your hand was raised in victory.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Who am I?"

On my morning walk I was enjoying the solitude and beauty of God's creation when my mind focused on the question above. "Who Am I?"

I'm sure thoughts went there because it's been a question that's been rolling around in my head for awhile. Nearly a month ago I was in the depths of depression, something I hadn't experienced for 10 years. In the time since I've been grateful that God has lifted me out of the pit. I have also spent sometime reflecting on the thoughts my mind can create.

In the midst of depression it seemed my head was filled with lies. I thought somebody else could do my job better, someone else deserved the "good" more than me, and yet another was more valuable. Now with a sound mine, a true gift from God, I can see more clearly. It's obvious my vision was cloudy, but this morning I was struck with the fact that it doesn't take depression to make that happen.

In my last post I wrote about the sin of comparison - it's true God doesn't want me to compare myself to others, He doesn't so why should I? He doesn't want me to, but yet at times I do...

So to fight that battle I have to focus on who I am. This is something I've thought about for years and have many different answers - Dan and Judy's daughter, Jamie and Jenny's sister, a basketball player, Job's wife, a math teacher, a coach, J.D., Joy and Jaylyn's mom, so and so's friend, and on and on...

This morning though it was as if God told me not to think about my answer to the question, but instead to focus on His. And as I did that, it seemed my walk ended all too soon!

My time to write this post will do the same, but for now I'm curious how you'd answer the question, "Who are you?" and remember think about how God would answer it.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, so leave them as a comment or post them on your blog. I'll be back to share more of my thoughts as well.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Sin of Comparison

Growing up I was always told to remember that I wasn't better than anyone. This instruction was primarily along the lines of athletics or other competitive events. And it was headed, I was never one to be boastful on the court or for that matter really show much emotion at all.

As a coach and teacher I appreciated this attitude. It is never fun to watch anyone flaunt their talents and show disrespect to an opponent or fellow classmate. I'm thankful my parents taught me to compete with class - win or lose.

But the other day I was relating this concept to another area of my life - it seemed I was struggling with the idea of not measuring up to those around me. She was smarter, she dressed nicer, she had a cleaner house, she was a better Mom, she was prettier, that girl was more successful, she had a stronger faith...everywhere I looked the statement was true - I wasn't better than anyone!

Now I've walked this road many times as I've never been real secure in who I am, always doubting my ability and thinking someone else can do better. God is working on this with me though.

I know I've heard about the sin of comparison before, but the other day as I felt myself falling a bit again, I really thought about it. What was I accomplishing as I compared myself to these other women - nothing but bringing myself down and putting them in a role they didn't deserve.

Not a single one of them was doing what my parents wanted me to avoid growing up, they were not boasting in themselves or knocking me down - they were each being the Christian woman God designed them to be. And if I allow our differences to make me feel bad eventually that will lead to problems for me and my relationship with them.

God doesn't compare me to anyone else. In His eyes my worth is not determined by how I measure up to anyone else. He created me to be who I am - my strengths and my weaknesses together are who I am. It's still true He doesn't want me to think I'm better than anyone else, but He's also reminded me not to forget that I'm just as valuable as everyone else.

He accepts me for who I am - even when it seems my hair is always a mess and most of the time my house too, even when I'm not as confident as the person across from me, the list goes on. I'm working on accepting this acceptance and praying He will make me more secure in who I am.

If you have ever felt the same I encourage you to keep looking to God to find your identity, His word reminds us that "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139:13,14) We know it, but do we believe it?

I wanted to share one final thing - there is a new song that has really spoke to me along these lines. Jonny Diaz's "A More Beautiful You" so here are the words, enjoy -

Little girl fourteen flipping through a magazine
Says she wants to look that way
But her hair isn’t straight her body isn’t fake
And she’s always felt overweight

Well little girl fourteen I wish that you could see
That beauty is within your heart
And you were made with such care
your skin your body and your hair
Are perfect just the way they are

There could never be a more beautiful you
Don’t buy the lies disguises and hoops
they make you jump through
You were made to fill a purpose
that only you could do
So there could never be a more beautiful you

Little girl twenty-one
the things that you’ve already done
Anything to get ahead
And you say you’ve got a man
but he’s got another plan
Only wants what you will do instead

Well little girl twenty-one
you never thought that this would come
You starve yourself to play the part
But I can promise you
there’s a man whose love is true
And he’ll treat you like the jewel you are

So turn around you’re not too far
To back away be who you are
To change your path go another way
It’s not too late you can be saved
If you feel depressed with past regrets
The shameful nights hope to forget
Can disappear they can all be washed away
By the one who’s strong can right your wrongs
Can rid your fears dry all your tears
And change the way you look at this big world
He will take your dark distorted view
And with His light He will show you truth
And again you’ll see through the eyes of a little girl

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Looking Ahead...

Yesterday my husband and I attended a wedding. Taylor, my friend's son, was getting married. In the weeks leading up to this day Leanne, his mom, and I have had many conversations. She has shared the joy of wedding prep and the stress of it too.

But the topic that's been on my heart lately revolves around the idea of letting go. Awhile back Leanne was talking about the struggle she has with that and the thought of no longer being the "number 1 girl" in her son's life. Now my little guy is only 6, but the thought creates some emotions.

In our talks last week, I could sense Leanne was at peace with the letting go that lied ahead. She knew Amy was the girl God had for Taylor and their meeting and new life together was all part of God's plan. Though there was peace, as the day that will forever be their anniversary unfolded there was emotion as well.

And really it was primarily joy! What a privilege it is to see two young people come together and commit to living thier lives as one to glorify God. Leanne was letting go of her son, but at the same time gaining a daughter. As the pastor preached, the music was sung and the wedding party spoke the Lord's name was lifted up. Real joy!

After the wedding Leanne told me she had shared a poem I'd written with Taylor and everyone at the rehearsal supper. I was surprised when she said there wasn't a dry eye in the room, but again weddings are a time for emotion. And I suppose when the Mother of the groom says this,

Years ago, I held you
in my arms and thought,
"You are mine."

But with each first step
and new lesson learned,
I've had to let go.

Through the years
you've grown and you've changed,
but I've learned too.

God has shown me
though I am your mother,
you are still His son.

Letting go is not always easy -
I've wondered if you were ready
and been hurt when you were setback.

But as I reflect,
I know there was
a reason for it all.

The ups and the downs,
the good and the bad
have made you who you are.

Now as you prepare to say, "I do"
I will do what I've done -
let go and let God.

...tears are a possibility.

Last night as the evening was coming to an end, Leanne and I shared another conversation. The day they'd worked a year to create was coming to an end and all the hours of preparation was worth it. It had been beautiful.

But as I looked ahead and she reflected back, the work didn't just begin when Taylor gave Amy the ring and asked the question. It was years ago when the two of them were little and Leanne had preschoolers and infants just like me.

Parenting isn't easy, there are times it's very hard. The challenges are on-going and the difficult jobs don't end when the days in diapers do, but when the day comes to let them go the effort will be worth the reward.

As we said our good-byes I handed Leanne a note for the mother of the groom. I reminded her this was not only a wonderful day of celebration for Taylor and Amy, but also for her as well. This is what she raised her son for - her little boy was now a man, the child who'd at times ran wild in her house was now head of his home, and the son she'd shared her faith with now had one of his one.

I don't want to put words in God's mouth, but I think he whispered to Leanne, "Well done good and faithful servant." And as I look ahead, someday I pray I will hear the same.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Walking thru the valley...

Over a week ago I posted about my current struggle with depression and first of all I'd like to thank you for your kind words and powerful prayers. I did speak with my Dr. and in the last week God is moving me in the right direction. I pray that will continue, so onto my thoughts for today...

The other day I was thinking about Psalm 23 and the words I have said so often, "Yea, though I walk through the valley..." I know David goes on to say "of the shadow of death" but here lately I've felt as though I was in a valley. Not necessarily one created by death, but instead life's events.

As some of you are aware, I am in the process of publishing a book - the idea sounds wonderful, but it's not seen that way by some. Those who don't understand my faith and desire to please God can't comprehend why I'm sharing these stories with the world. At times what some view as a mountain top experience leaves me feeling like I'm in the valley.

Just last week, my husband and I were part of some meetings for homeschool parents. Our oldest just finished kindergarten so we are new to this, but we've witnessed and appreciated the opportunity to teach our son and train him in God's ways. The blessing doesn't come without a cost though - again not everyone understands this decision and as our local public school struggles with rapidly declining enrollment many don't appreciate it. Life can be hard when we are misunderstood and walking through the valley can be a challenge when it seems we're letting others down.

Then there's just the daily things that come with trying to live a Christian life. I tend to be a people pleaser and it can be hard to deal with the thoughts of what others are thinking. God has brought me a long ways on that, but still I'm human and don't like to feel misunderstood by others. In the world we live in today though that is going to happen when we try to live Christ-like. Just the other day my husband and I were talking about not working on Sunday. For those with a Monday through Friday job, it perhaps is different, but as a farmer, this strategy has been question more than once.

As we walk through this valley, it can be difficult and at times we wonder if the pain that comes with it is really worth it. We can wonder what the purpose is, but God always has a reason. Though it can be easy to overlook, our actions do have an impact on others. Though their response and even their words at times can be hard to endure, God is working through our example. He might change them by the way we live, the things we do and the words we say.

Though we don't know how He will use this in others' lives I'm beginning to see how He changes me as I walk thru the valley. These difficult times remind me I can't do this thing called life on my own, I need Him, His strength, His peace, His presence. Without Him I am nothing.

Another lesson is one our pastor brought up last week - as Christians we must expect persecution. Jesus faced it and as His followers we will do the same. As he preached he encouraged us to stop and look at our lives to see if we really were being persecuted. Now being misunderstood, labeled and rejected don't compare with what some in this world are facing, but in our society that is what we deal with. Though I don't like those things, he reminded me that blessed are the persecuted!

Finally one last thing - I once heard someone say, "The valley - that's where the fruit grows!" I feel like I'm on way out of the pit of depression and pray God continues to move me in that direction. And as I look back over the past month as I've walked thru the valley I can now see the truth to the above statement. Though days were hard and many, many tears cried, He has done something. As I opened up with a few friends, those relationships were made stronger. He strengthened my faith and desire to know Him. Someday I pray the fruit that is growing now will be of benefit to someone else when they are in the valley.

So as you walk through the valley, keep looking up and laying the burdens (whatever they may be) down. Like David remember, "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." He is there my friends, rest in Him wherever you may be.