Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In then through...

Awhile back I had this thought and recently it came back to me, so I thought I'd share it with you - have you ever thought about how you can't walk through a room until you are in a room? Perhaps not, but take a minute and think about the truth in that statement.

The same thing can be said about traveling - as we journey down the road, we can't get from point A to point C without going through point B. Before we can go through point B we actually have to be in point B. And maybe point B is a big city that we'd rather avoid, one that maybe even scares us a bit. If we want to reach our destination we must enter the city, look at the map, navigate the traffic and eventually we will make it through.

I've been thinking lately how God works in similar ways - He's not going to work through me until He first works IN me. Sometimes that involves difficult situations and events that are hard to understand, but yet it's IN these things that He strengthens me and draws me closer to Him. And once we've walked through the situation I can look back and see His hand at work and He can work through me and use His daughter for His work.

So what room or city are you IN? Remember God has you there for a reason, one that will bring results - don't forget God is working IN you to prepare you for the moment he will work THROUGH you!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"I want that!"

Recently a friend was sharing her son’s reaction to a snowmobile that was being raffled - the instant he saw it, little Carter said, “Mom, I want that!!” In her mind she thought so does every other kid in the county, but went on to buy a ticket anyway. As I write this post I can relate to both Carter and his mom, you see Lysa TerKeurst is giving away 3 scholarships to She Speaks this summer and in order to enter there’s no ticket to buy instead she’s asking for your thoughts via a blog post.

This was a contest I almost didn’t enter for a few different reasons - the first one being my husband’s fishing trip also scheduled for July 30 - August 1, but he has assured me “if you win don’t you think we could work around that?” And second I can relate to my friend and hear myself saying, “every other blogger in the country wants to win!” But the biggest hurdle I’ve had to jump as I finally sit down to write is I’m not so sure this is something I want.

Let me explain…in order to begin here’s a little info on She Speaks - this is an annual conference put on by Proverbs 31 for writers, speakers and ministry leaders. And the event is amazing! I had the privilege of attending last year and I was truly blessed!! (Read part of that story here.)I left thinking it should be called He Speaks instead because God’s presence was powerful and His voice was loud!! I was encouraged and challenged. I was built up and given ways to improve. But mostly I was reminded of who I am in Christ and blessed by some wonderful friendships with sisters in Christ.

So with that said you may be wondering, why wouldn’t I want to win? And as I ponder you asking the question, I am asking it myself. The part of me that is prone to doubt and feel unworthy says this won’t happen anyway and if it does I don’t deserve it. Then there is the bit of me that prefers to stay where I’m at and can fear leaving my comfort zone and this part knows She Speaks is not simply a 3 day event. No, God strengthened me and matured me a year ago, which has led me to places I never expected and stretched me in ways that haven’t all been easy.

Finally, as I sit here now and ask this question I’m reminded of a conversation I had in my mind over a year ago when I contemplated my first She Speaks conference. At the time God had really put it on my heart and I sensed His leading to go, but as registration neared circumstances began to change. The friend I thought I’d travel with had another trip the same weekend and I found out I’d be 10 weeks from delivering our 4th child when I'd be taking my 1st plane ride by myself.

It all didn’t make sense and I remember asking myself, “Why? Why do you think you should go? Does this really make sense?” I mean here I was a farmer’s wife with 3 little ones who rarely traveled by car let alone a plane. Then thoughts shifted from the simple idea of leaving to really thinking about where it was I’d be going - a conference for speakers, writers and ministry leaders. Granted I was a MOPS coordinator, who was in the process of publishing a book and led our women’s Sunday School class, but still I wondered, "what does this mean? Where will this lead?" As possible answers rolled through my mind, I thought, “is that what I want?” And as a girl who preferred to live behind the scenes rather than on the stage, my answer was “NO!”

But God quickly reminded me, it’s not about what I want. He was calling me to She Speaks and though I was afraid, nervous and full of doubt He provided, He strengthened and He spoke. Last year as the conference came to a close I was amazed at how my thoughts had changed in 3 short days, I left wanting to register for She Speaks 2010.

I had been so touched by the entire event - the speakers, the other attendees, the prayer room, the whole experience. I knew I wanted that again, but lately my thoughts have been different - is this what God wants? I know that’s the clearest truth God spoke to my heart during my time in North Carolina - speaking, writing, ministry, my life, nothing has anything to do with what I want, it’s about what God does!

This leads me to the contest and back to my conversation from a year ago - though once again, I don’t want to leave my husband and 4 kids, I don’t want to step out of my comfort zone, I don’t want to deal with the pain that inevitably comes with growing my faith, but still I know if it’s what God wants, I will. Like Carter, my friend’s little boy, I’m beginning to hear myself say, “I want that!!” Only my words aren’t about a snowmobile and really not even winning a contest or attending a conference, no my desire is to truly want God’s will for my life. And maybe, just maybe that involves a trip to North Carolina again this summer…

How about you? Maybe you are the one God has already chosen as the winner for Lysa’s contest, but you haven’t entered yet! To do so click here and to find more information on She Speaks, click here!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Feed my Sheep

We are back in the sheep business, Grandpa brought 3 orphan lambs over for the kids this past Monday and they are excited. Me, on the other hand, well, not as much. Though I grew up enjoying the soft little animal, the last few days these innocent lambs will have become one more thing to do on my list.

So this morning as it’s early and raining, the idea of heading out through the mud to feed my sheep didn’t sound like fun. Before I made it that far, my husband started the day in typical fashion with an “I love you.” Then I changed things up a bit and simply asked, “You do?” He quickly responds, “Yes.” So then like Jesus challenged Peter I say, “Then feed my lambs.” (John 21:15-19) Job caught on to what I was up to and assured me I was the “sheep farmer.”

I mixed up the milk and headed outdoors wondering if maybe this would be the feeding when our little rebellious lamb would want to eat. For some reason, Fuzzy has not adapted to change and has rejected every one of our attempts to feed him. This time he came up to the gate and even sniffed the bottle, but that’s where his interest stopped. As the others eagerly and aggressively took their bottle, I appreciated their compliance and liked them better than the rebel who created more work and was a potential heartache for my little ones.

As I thought about this, God spoke to me in the sheep barn - it’s not always easy feeding the sheep. Just like Jesus asked Peter to demonstrate his love for his Savior, he does the same for me and you. You may never have the opportunity to literally feed some lambs (count your blessings!!), but in the spiritual sense we are all sheep and God has put some on your path to nurture and care for.

My experience this morning reminded me that though it is humbling to serve the Lord and glorify Him - the position doesn’t come without work. There will be days we don’t want to get out of bed and do the jobs that aren’t real fun or come at a bad time. In life there will also be rebels - those who want nothing to do with what we have to offer, others who run away after hearing what we have to say, some who tease us and act as they are interested only to turn away in the end. My little rebel this morning reminded me of the old saying, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” The same idea is true as we feed God’s lambs - we can do our part, but then must trust Him to do the rest.

Another thought I had as I wrestled (almost literally) with “Fuzzy” was the idea that though each individual is unique, we are all created in God’s image. Though some lambs I’m called to feed will be compliant and easy to work with that does not make them any better or more valuable than the “rebels” who cross my path. Each and every person is precious to God, and should be to me as well!

Now as I bring this post to an end, it has a new twist - my dad stopped by with a replacement lamb for the kids - he didn’t want us to have any trouble. So he’s taken “Fuzzy” and left us with a new lamb yet to be named. This unexpected event has put another picture in my mind - I know my dad didn’t want to see my kids suffer through losing a lamb, but I also know he is a “shepherd” who cares about his sheep. Friends, God is the same - He cares about you and His lambs you are called to feed. If there is a rebel, a problem child, someone you are struggling to reach, trust the Good Shepherd, He cares more about that individual than you!!

So let me ask you, “Do you love the Lord?” If so, “Feed His Sheep!!”

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Living with Less so your Family has More"

Today I'd like to welcome Jill and Mark Savage. Jill and Mark's newest book Living with Less so your Family has More just released and I've invited them to share a little bit about this great resource!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

We have been married for 27 years…17 of them happily. After finding ourselves in a marriage counselor’s office around year 8 or so, we realized that we really didn’t know how to be married. We worked hard to turn things around and now we like to share that hope with other couples.

We have five children ranging from 13 to 25. Our oldest three are married. Anne (25) and her husband, Matt, live in Zion, IL, and are expecting our first grandchild in April. (We are very excited!) Evan (22) and his wife, Julie, have been married a year and a half and they live just a few miles from us. Erica (19) married her husband Kendall last September. They live in Augusta, GA, and wherever else the Army takes them.

We have two teenagers still at home. Kolya just turned 16. He’s learning to drive and we’ve nearly worn a hole in the carpet on the floor in the passenger seat trying to find that non-existent brake pedal. Kolya is the newest member of the Savage family. We adopted him at the age of nine from Russia.

Austin is 13 and in the 8th grade. He wants us to make sure and tell the world that this “living with less” life is a real bummer because he’s the ONLY kid in 8th grade who doesn’t have a cell phone.

Tell us about your newest book Living With Less So Your Family Has More?

The world screams the message that bigger is always better, but we have found that is not often true. When it comes to raising a family, less materially can actually result in more relationally. Children don’t need the best houses, the best lessons, the best cars, or the best clothes. What they really need is the best home life and the best family relationships we can give them.

Why did you want to write this book?

We didn’t start out with the “less is more” mindset. We started as a double income family wanting to have the “best” of everything. Then Mark decided to pursue ministry. We went from the “high life” to the “frugal life” very quickly as we moved to another state for him to go to Bible College full-time.

That experience introduced us to the concept that less is more. We definitely had less money, but we had more time. We had less stress and more peace. We had less activities and more fun.

Since that experience, we’ve continued to live primarily on one income for the past twenty years. We’ve had to battle cultural peer pressure and make different decisions for our family than many other families in our neighborhood have made. But we’ve never felt that we were materially depriving ourselves or our kids…instead we’ve focused on what we’ve actually been able to provide for them emotionally and relationally.

What do you hope your readers will gain from this book?

We hope the reader is encouraged to evaluate how they are living their life, spending their money, and thinking about family matters. Our goal is to introduce families to the “less is more” concept and then equip them with the attitudes and actions to actually make that happen.

For families that are already committed to less is more, we hope to bolster their resolve and help them stay focused on the long-term goal of providing relationally for their kids.

In today’s economy, there are many families being forced to live with less. We want to help them see the opportunity they have with this unexpected downsizing they’ve been forced to do.

And for those who have just been a little discontent with their life and saying things like, “I’m tired of the rat race of life,” or “Is there more to life than drive-thru meals for dinner?” we hope to help them see other choices they have and how they can lead their family in a different direction.

What unique elements will the reader find in Living With Less So Your Family Has More?

For couples who want to read the book together, we’ve included discussion questions at the end of every chapter. This helps move the readers to discussion and eventually actions. Even a single parent can use the discussion questions for personal evaluation.

Readers will find this book a practical guide to changing your attitude and your actions to live a successful “less is more” life. They’ll find our writing style to be a warm, casual, honest discussion where we not only share our victories but our mistakes along the way. We are an average couple living successfully on an average income who want to help others to see the possibilities before them.

This is a Hearts at Home book. What is Hearts at Home?

Hearts at Home is an organization that encourages, educates, and equips women in the profession of motherhood. Hearts at Home encourages moms through annual conferences, our extensive website (www.hearts-at-home.org), a free electronic newsletter, a radio program, and an entire line of books designed to meet the needs of moms all over the world!

Any closing thoughts?

It’s healthy for parents to occasionally pause and evaluate their vision for their family and the choices they are making. We hope this resource will help them do that together and that it will lead them to live a life of little regret.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Becoming More..."

Recently on her blog, Lysa TerKeurst wrote the following, "If you've read my book, "Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl" tell me how it has impacted you... stepped on your toes... interrupted you... made you laugh... made you cry... made you want to throw the book across the room-whatever. I'm all ears."

I read these words more than a few days ago and since have had the thought lingering in my mind. It was nearly 5 months ago when I picked up the book and started reading and honestly in one way or another each of the chapters spoke to me. To answer her question, I was impacted, stepped on, interrupted, I laughed, I even cried, but the book never did fly across the room!

I've been thinking about how I could summarize what this book has meant to me and for someone who usually enjoys writing and putting my thoughts to words this has been a challenge! I just can't seem to put it all into something neat and tidy, but as I think about it that makes sense.

The subtitle to the accompanying study of Lysa's book says, "Living the Faith after Bible Class is Over" and I don't know about you, but that's not always a neat and tidy process for me! When I think about it being a good Bible study girl is usually much easier than truly "becoming more."

Think about it, we've been reading and answering questions since our days in school, most of us can show up to a Bible study or Sunday School class with our work done, smiles on and right answers, but faith is about more than that! God never intended His word to be something we study in order to show up to class and have more right answers than the gal to our left. No, this is a, THE Book, we must study repeatedly and the test doesn't come when the unit is complete. This is a test that takes place daily, I suppose you could call it life and really it starts when class is over. Becoming more isn't about having the right answers it is about applying them and living them out daily. And finding the courage and strength to get up and try again when we don't.

Lysa's book was not just another collection of words for me to read, "Becoming More" has challenged me to truly live this message. No matter how much I study, I will never know all the answers the Bible holds, but that doesn't mean I should be overwhelmed and quit trying. God will lead me to what I need to know and hear as I dig into His word, seek His wisdom and ask for His guidance.

In one of her other books, Lysa talks about walking in faith and I see a connection - with every step I take on this journey with God I should be becoming more!! Sometimes that means stepping out of my comfort zone and following Him, but it all starts in my heart - one that needs to be connected to Him. Which means I need to hear from Him and He needs to hear from me, basically I must read His Word and He needs to hear my prayers.

I love how Lysa talks about the Bible being God's love letter to us! As someone who's love language is words of affirmation, I had never really thought about this. But this simple truth has changed my thinking, though I understand the importance of studying the Bible, I'm beginning to see the significance of really reading it as a personal note from a Father to His daughter. What a privilege and responsibility it is to hold these Words in my hand!

I pray this journey of becoming more will continue for me and you in the days ahead! If you haven't had the opportunity to read "Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl" I hope you will pick it up soon! You will appreciate Lysa's honesty, relate to some of her stories and be touched by her passion, but most importantly I pray, like me, you will be challenged to live out the message of this book!

Monday, March 8, 2010

A year older...

Last week was my birthday and for the first time in 34 years I honestly felt like I was getting older! I suppose 4 children will eventually do that to a person! As I thought about this, my mind took the next step - if I'm a year older, shouldn't I be a year wiser?

I'm sorry to say I wasn't as quick or confidant with an affirmative answer to that question. Lately it seems I've unintentionally fallen into some old habits - primarily doubting when I should trust and worrying about other's approval rather than focusing on God's!! When I realized this I felt more like someone turning 3 or 4, not one with the 3 in the ten's place!

I look back at my life, even in just the year that has passed, and I know God is faithful and worthy of my trust. I also know seeking the approval of anyone aside from God is simply setting myself up for failure, so why do I do it? Like I said, my body and mind get the older part that comes with another birthday, it's the wiser part I'm not so sure about.

Needless to say I wasn't surprised when our Sunday school lesson for the week was from Proverbs - one that specifically contrasted the fool's walk with that of the wise. I know the fool's walk is one I want to avoid, which means the only other option is walking in wisdom.

To do this I must remember this is a walk that will never end - though birthdays will come and go there will never be a magic age when I receive a gift full of wisdom guaranteed to get me through. No, this is something I must constantly seek and sometimes it will be found as I walk along this path of life.

Now a few days into this new year of my life, I believe God is making me wiser as He reminds me it's not just about seeking wisdom and even asking Him for it, it's more than that - I must receive it and then comes the hard part - apply it!

I'm looking forward to the year ahead - chances are a year from now I'll feel even older (my baby will be walking!! - which means I'll be running!!), but I also believe God will bless me with wisdom too!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A book I can't wait to read...

Today I'd like to welcome author and speaker Susie Larson. Susie's new book Growing Grateful Kids has just released and I've invited her to share a little bit about this great resource.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

My husband and I have been married 25 years and have three grown sons (all in their early twenties). Our oldest son Jake works on the business side of the Christian music industry. Our middle son Luke is married to his beautiful wife Kristen; he works full time at a bank and part time as a worship pastor. Our youngest son Jordan is studying to become a surgical nurse. My husband Kevin is a commercial construction manager by day and manages my ministry by night (and weekends). Bless his heart.  I am an author, speaker, and an on-call radio host for Christian talk radio. Together, Kevin and I serve as advocates for justice on behalf of modern day slaves and human trafficking victims.

Tell us about your new book, Growing Grateful Kids: Teaching Them to Appreciate an Extraordinary God in Ordinary Places.

Even when economic times are tight, our children enjoy an abundance of material possessions. Yet, amidst all this wealth, discontentment and competition seem to be on the rise. Instead of teaching children virtues such as gratefulness and patience, many parents are bending over backwards to get their children the latest and greatest item - or feeling guilty when they can't. In spite of the currents of materialism and entitlement that flow so strong, it is possible to raise children who are simply grateful. Though teaching perspective and gratitude to our children is critical, it is not difficult.

Why did you want to write this book?

To be completely honest, I never wanted to write a book on parenting. I wanted to protect my kids’ privacy and give them time and space to become the men God wants them to be. But in the last few years, I have been especially burdened with the level of selfishness, entitlement and disrespect I see among children today. Furthermore, moms seem more stressed than ever. When I asked my sons their thoughts on writing this book, without pausing they all said, “Do it, mom; that book needs to be written!” I think I wrote a book that not only equips young moms to raise humble, grateful world-changers, but also one that nourishes the soul of the reader and encourages her personally.

Throughout the book you remind the reader that we cannot impart what we do not possess. Can you explain?

If we never deal with our own fears, insecurities, and hang ups, but we try to teach our children to believe in their divine value, over time, our words will not ring true to them. First God wants to do His work in us before He does it through us. They say that lessons are more often caught than taught. If we parent from a place of conviction and real freedom, our children will be affected by what we teach them.

One of your chapters is titled, “Take Time to Play.” How does taking time to play teach our kids to be grateful?

To me, taking time to play says a lot about the level of faith we possess.

If our children hear us confess that we love and serve a BIG God and yet they see us striving and straining through life, they will come to believe that more is on our shoulders than on God’s. If we can trust God enough to step away from our busy-important lives, to make a fort in the basement, or play a game with our children – even in the most desperate of economic situations – we will give our children a sense of much needed security and that all is well in their world.

What do you want readers to take away from this book?

To answer this question (I hope you don’t mind), I would like to share an endorsement from one of my sample readers. She expressed my deepest desire for my reader:

“Growing Grateful Kids is such a great source of conviction, encouragement, and inspiration to spur me on to finishing this parenting race well and not sputter out along the way. This book compels me to submit my own character to the refining of the Holy Spirit that I may be equipped to impart those lessons onto my children. Thank you, Susie, for taking the time, for submitting in obedience, and writing this down for a generation in desperate need of this kind of parenting book!” –Gail Miller

This is a Hearts at Home book. What is Hearts at Home?

Hearts at Home is an organization that encourages, educates, and equips women in the profession of motherhood. Hearts at Home encourages moms through annual conferences, our extensive website (www.hearts-at-home.org), a free bi-weekly electronic newsletter, a radio program, and an entire line of books designed to meet the needs of moms all over the world!

Any closing thoughts?

I am very excited about the message in this book. It is my prayer that every one who reads it will be nourished, encouraged, and equipped to parent from a place of fullness, conviction, and confidence. Raising grateful, confident kids will be one of the most heroic, important things you do in your lifetime. God’s blessings to you!