31 December 2008

My Confession of Pride

As 2008 draws to an end, I cannot help but reflect on this year, the successes as well as the struggles. 2008 has been a very challenging and difficult year for me, with many changes and trials.

In 2007, I lost a great deal of weight... physically, mentally and emotionally. I began to really trust the Lord and let him move in my life. I not only survived, but flourished in the absence of my husband during his deployment. In many ways, I was a very changed woman when he returned last December.

This year began both a year of trials as well as a year of learning how to wait on the Lord. We waited for orders. We waited for a new vehicle. We waited to move, and to see where we would live when we got here. Waiting has never been easy for me, so I guess I needed to learn some patience in that area.

The trials began in January when I went off my medication and began feeling things really for the first time in my life. At the same time, I had some things in my life that were very important to me come to an end. It felt in some ways as if my world was falling apart all around me. But I journeyed on.

Over the next several months, I continued to face obstacles and learn more about myself and what lay beneath... and it was a difficult time of growing. But I was enjoying the freedom that came with conquering some of my hidden pain. But as far as my weight loss journey, it had pretty much come to a screeching halt after Paul came home.

Once we left Virginia for New Mexico, I began to feel very isolated and separated from the family I had built in Virginia. I didn't feel like I belonged there anymore... like I had lost everyone that mattered to me. Even though I knew they were only a phone call away, I could not bring myself to call anyone. It was painful to be without them.... and calling felt more like the pain would get worse, not better from the short interaction. This spurred on my self imposed isolation.

I wanted to hide. I began to run.... from my problems, from my journey, and even from God. I slipped back into many of those behaviors I had worked so hard to conquer. I wanted to numb myself to the pain I did not want to deal with. I was afraid to face my pain here in my desert.... because unlike Virginia, most of my support system was gone.

I have a wonderful husband who loves me to pieces.... and he will always give me his shoulder to cry on. He will always listen to me cry and wail and talk, but he usually doesn't know what to say after. He tries the best he can to give me the support I need, but often that is done by suggesting I call a particular person who has more knowledge and experience in what I am dealing with.

It has been scary to even think of delving in deep and facing things here like I had done in Virginia, because to be blatantly honest.... I have not had to rely on God alone. He had placed people in my life to help me through things because He knew at that time I needed them there. But now I am on to a new part of my journey.... a place where I need to completely trust and surrender to God without that extra security blanket, and I was not willing to go there.

So instead I tried numbing myself again. But unfortunately, it no longer works. I am no longer living in my former world of complete denial.... so those old patterns did not really bring me any relief whatsoever. But this time when I tried to break back out of them.... my plan of attack really wasn't such a good one at all.

In the process of running from God, I have pretty much forgotten the right heart attitude that helped me last year. Last year I surrendered to God. I wanted Him to change me, change my eating, heal my deep wounds inside. And He did miraculous things in me. But somehow I was beginning to forget that it was HIM, not me.... so I started off on my journey again, only this time trying to do things my way in my own strength.

I'm sure that I don't need to tell you that it has not worked out very well. I was blinded to the fact that it was my own pride that was really driving me... not a deep desire to move closer to Christ. I didn't want to regain the weight "I" worked so hard to lose. I didn't want to regress into behaviors "I" worked so hard to alleviate from my life. I began to condemn myself for how "I" was eating, what "I" was and was not doing right. I tried to take matters, and my health, into my own hands.

I heard God ask me to give up my pop (soda), so I did all the while acknowledging that my heart attitude was not quite where it needed to be. I started to exercise everyday. I was making commitments to improve my health, all with the basic goal of finishing the weight portion of my journey. I want to lose that last 30 pounds. I want to feel good about myself again. I want to stop creeping up to the point where my clothes are tight and uncomfortable... and the yoyoing that takes place after when I continually go up and down those same 5 pounds.

I determinedly worked hard to build healthy habits that would get me back on track. But it wasn't working. I wasn't losing weight. I wasn't feeling better about myself. I was feeling discouraged, and I wanted to quit. And I kept hearing the Lord tell me exactly why I was where I was. He said to surrender, and I could not. He reminded me that the reason I could eat only when I was hungry, why I could say no to food, why I dropped 40 pounds so easily, why I could face the hard painful things I needed to heal from.... was because my heart was surrendered to Him. But it hasn't been now. And I have known it. And still I hear "surrender" and I say no.

But I think I have come to a point where I do not want to keep saying no to God. I know his way is right. I know that He is not able to work in my life and use me like He wants to right now because I have been resisting him. I have been too wrapped up in my own pride to truly give myself to Him.

I have begun to read my Thin Within books again. This is the grace oriented approach to weight loss that really focuses on such simple principles. First, God loves me just how I am. Nothing I do will change that. Second, He wants to heal me while I grow closer and closer in relationship to him. And third, it is hurt in my heart, not the food that I eat that drives my addiction. If I do not face what is inside of me, I will not conquer my eating addiction, no matter how hard I try. And I cannot heal from my pain inside until I have surrendered it to God and allow Him to do all the work.

I know these are truths, because I lived it for almost a year. I surrendered my heart to God, and through my faith in Jesus, He did miracles in me.

And now he is showing me new truths... I have realized something important about the last five weeks of my life. All of my behavior, my choices to "improve my health...aka lose weight".... have been performance based. If I exercise everyday I will burn calories and fat. If I focus on eating smaller amounts, I will lose weight. If I chose to eat one food over another maybe it will help me to lose weight. Thin Within would call this legalistic.

As a friend of mine once said, if you are doing something because you think your salvation is at stake, that makes it legalistic. But if you are making healthy choices that involve adhering to a program (rules based on performance)because you want to be healthy and lose weight all the while knowing that it has nothing to do with your salvation, then that is NOT legalism. I have to say in that sense of the definition of legalism, she is absolutely right.

So I do not necessarily agree with Thin Within that it is legalism.... but the Lord showed me this morning that everything that I have been doing.... the choices that have been performance based... they are not about legalism. They are about CONTROL. I want to be in control of the situation. I think that is why diets are so popular.... it lets you be in control.... In control of what you eat, and when you eat, and how much you eat. It is a way to keep a sense of control while following a set of rules based on your performance, your ability to do what is good and right.

And control is the exact opposite of surrender. The Lord showed me that when I am trying to control my situation, I am acting out of my pride. And this is why all of my efforts have not worked. It is not the choices I have made (to eat right or exercise) that is wrong, it is my heart attitude in the way I accomplish them that has hindered my success.

So it brings me right back to what I have been hearing for weeks now..... SURRENDER. The Lord wants me to surrender everything to Him. Because when I do, He is free to work through me.

Lord God, I confess my sins of pride to you and anyone else who hears my plea. Forgive me for where I have gone wrong, and help me back onto the right path. Thank you for your patience and your faithfulness. Thank you for not giving up on me. I want to surrender everything to you, Lord God.... but I am afraid. Please comfort me in my fear and give me your strength to move forward. And thank you for reminding me that even though my support system is 2000 miles away, they are still there for me... just as you have been with me this whole time. I love you! Amen.

30 December 2008

Happy Anniversary, My Love!

Today is the fourteenth anniversary of the day I became Paul's bride.

Although we have had our ups and downs, our relationship has always been strong and close, and it never ceases to amaze me how God could have brought us together in such a powerful way! We have had so many cards stacked against us.... so many reasons why this relationship should have never worked.... and through it all, God has kept us together and strong, especially during all those years when really neither of us knew Him.

I love my wonderful husband, and all the ways he is perfect for me. I am grateful for him every day.

Happy Anniversary, My Love!

2009... The Year of the Bible

Our church has declared 2009 as "The Year of the Bible". They have been selling Life Journals to be used on this journey through the Bible. And this coming Saturday, Paul and I will be attending the Pastor's seminar on how to understand and interpret the Bible.

I have found on my journey that those times when I am consistently in the Word, I am really moving forward and seeing God work in my life. But when I am not, I kind of fall into a rut. I am in that rut now.

But I have hope for this new year to come. I am looking forward to moving forward again towards building a life long relationship with God and His Word.

There was a woman who stood up Sunday to share the vision the Lord had given her the night before..... she said she wasn't going to get a life journal this year since she did it last year, but then she heard it was "the year of the Bible" and she changed her mind. Then the Lord gave her a vision and showed her that everyone who takes on the commitment this year.... who delves into the process of seeking and connecting with God through His Word..... they will have mighty blessings bestowed upon them this year. God wants to move in our lives in powerful ways... and He will if we let him. This is an encouragement to me.

I look forward to sharing with you all how God continues to change me on this journey I am on. Stay tuned....

23 December 2008

My Confession of Vanity

I am going to turn 35 in just a little over 3 1/2 months. I always imagined that this would be a difficult birthday, and I have to admit that I wonder where the time has gone. It seems like just yesterday I was approaching 30. And actually, it was my 29th birthday that was so hard to take, because that meant I was going to be 30 soon. By the time I did turn 30, I was kinda over it.

I feel comfortable in my own skin here in my 30's. And the big 3-5 isn't really affecting me all that much..... if only there didn't seem to be the ever increasing number of white wirey hairs sprouting out of my brunette head!

Each day I look in the mirror, grumble, and I admit it.... pluck out half a dozen to a dozen pure white hairs (leaving many more behind). Of course I know it does me no good.... they keep coming back. And I keep thinking about coloring my hair. But I know once I start, it is a long term commitment I am just not prepared to make.... yet.

So I started to think about this increased vanity that is creeping into my life... and my mirror. Why is it so important to me to NOT have gray hair? Is it our society's youth obsession rearing it's ugly head in my mirror each day? Or a continuing reminder that I am not in my 20's anymore? To be honest, I am happy about not being in my 20's anymore... but it does seem like the older I get, the more quickly time passes.

All my kids are now school age. My oldest will get her driver's permit in just a couple of months. This three year tour (already a third of the first year gone) will fly by... and then Nikki will almost be ready to graduate and start her adventure into the world of adulthood. I am sure that the four and seven years for the other two will quickly follow.

I feel like I'm right at the beginning of a new stage in life. I am not old yet.... but I am not that young either. Maybe becoming a mother so early has helped me grow up quicker, but in some ways I still feel way to young to be thinking about coloring my hair and taking children for driver's permits..... and plucking out gray hairs everyday.

And I find myself watching the older women at church.... the beautiful ladies in their 60's and 70's with their gray and silver hair. I guess in a way I admire them for being simply who they are, gray and all, not trying to hide their faded youth behind boxes of hair dye. I would like to be like them someday.... I am just having trouble translating that into my life right now. I keep telling myself that everyone grows older and their hair turns white.... that is how God designed me, so why should I have a problem with that? Then I reach for my tweezers.

20 December 2008

What Is It About Those Christmas Cards?

So, I want to apologize to all my friends out there that they just may NOT receive their Christmas card by Christmas.

Every year, I think about cards. Sometimes I even buy them. But most of the time they are never sent. This year i really wanted to send cards since it is our first year away from Virginia. I bought them, though probably not early enough. And it seemed to take forever to get them ready. It didn't help that I kept putting them down and not returning for days at end.

But I did finally get them done.... and in the mail...... yesterday at 4pm. Even though they were supposed to post mark yesterday because they were in before 4:30, who knows.

So Merry Christmas Everyone! If you do not get our greetings in time, you'll have something to look forward to after Christmas!

Love to all.... we miss you!

09 December 2008

Small Victories

I have been working hard now for about three and a half weeks to change some of my habits towards healthier goals. I gave up all sweet sugary drinks (except my one glass of mocha ice coffee a day). I have begun drinking water on a regular basis instead of replacing my pop with other high calorie options. I am walking on average 5 to 6 times each week on my goal of reaching 10,000 steps a day. (I have quickly learned that I will not be able to come even close to that goal without the daily walk.) And I am taking a harder look at how often I eat, how much, and when I am turning to food for comfort rather than hunger.

After three weeks, I would have expected some progress on my scale to encourage me onward... but alas, that has not happened. I continue to hover at right about the same number week in and week out. It may dip down, only to return to the previous level.

I am trying not to get discouraged. In fact, I am trying to focus on making healthy choices, not on weight loss. But this has been a bit challenging. For instance, I really love my pop (especially Mountain Dew), and when I work hard with no apparent results, it makes me want to say, "well if I'm not going to loose any weight, I might as well drink the pop!"

But I have ignored this voice. I know deep down that it is an unhealthy habit, and even if I never loose another single pound, I will be healthier for not picking the soda habit back up. And I know the exercise is good for me. I am only on my fourth week, but I am already seeing more energy in my day. And it is helping to prevent the "winter blues" and other depression related problems.

So instead of getting discouraged, I am choosing to look at all of my small victories of the past few weeks......

Each day I wake up, and I actually walk. I don't just think about walking. I don't promise myself that I'll walk tomorrow. I am walking.

I began with three laps around my block. This took me about 24 minutes to walk about 1.2 miles. Then I moved on to four laps around the block, increasing my numbers to 32 minutes and 1.6 miles (about 3600 steps). Today, I increased my walk to five laps, 40 minutes, 2 miles, and 4500 steps. (The walking goal for weight loss is 4000-6000 of your daily steps coming from a brisk exercise walking session..... and I have now entered this range!)

I finally was able to get my elliptical, though the power supply does not work.... so now I am waiting for another to arrive in the mail. I plan to continue my walking while I wait, as well as while I work myself up to the same ability on the machine as I have outside. Most likely I will alternate between the two, because I know my walks outside in the sunshine also help with any depression issues.

My goal is to get up to 6-7 laps around the block, but I am taking it slow. Today was my first day doing five, and I have been trying to add another lap every week or two. The weight loss session on my elliptical runs 56 minutes.... 4 minutes of warm-up, 48 minutes of low intensity exercise, and 4 minutes of cool down. I know it will take me awhile to be able to do all of that.

I feel proud of myself that I am setting realistic goals that I can succeed at. I don't want to get so anxious or gung-ho that I set myself up for failure. When I first got the pedometer, I thought I would really have to struggle to get up close to 10,000 steps a day, but with the daily walk I am averaging between 8,500 and 12,000. I think that is awesome for only three weeks in!

The harder part has been with food. I still am not eating any where near the quantities I used to, thus why I have been able to maintain my 65 pound weight loss. But I have been struggling here in New Mexico with comfort eating. And my portions have increased. So now I am trying to put less on my plate, and I have to relearn how to put my fork down when I am satisfied, even if I still have three or four bites left. Why is it so hard to say no to those last yummy bites?

I also have realized that as soon as I feel even the slightest stirring of hunger, I have given myself license to eat. But even though I am not eating large portions, I am still eating more than I need because I am not waiting until I am really hungry.

But this past week, there have been a couple of occasions where I have felt just a little bit hungry and all the voices in my head started screaming, "Yah! Let's eat!!!" but I didn't. Last night, instead of snacking before bed, I chose to not eat anything. Not a thing! Two hours later when I went to bed, I was not really any hungrier than when I decided not to eat, and I felt very good about myself for saying no to the food.

This morning I got up and ate breakfast with my wonderful husband around 8:30, after his PT but before he had to be at work for the day. Then I went on my 40 minute walk. When I returned, I was feeling a little hungry, and mentally I was really craving some sausage links. But it was only two hours after I had eaten, so I decided to wait a bit. Before I knew it, I got busy with some stuff and it was almost 1. Now I was really hungry, but if I had eaten before, I still would have eaten lunch about the same time, thus eating more food than I need.

The Bible says that we should worry about each day as it comes... don't worry about tomorrow for it will have it's own problems... just focus on today. I think that is working well for me right now with this journey as well. If I just focus on each small victory each day, then eventually they will all add up to one large victory down the road. But if I worry about tomorrow... if I fuss and fret about my weight and whether what I am doing today even matters down the road, then I am definitely not going to succeed.

And I know that the real secret to my success here will be when I am able to fully surrender this whole thing to God. I know I am not there yet, but each day I get a bit closer. I guess it is like surrendering in layers. Some levels are lifted and gone while others are still being worked on. But isn't that just the story of life?

Lord God, Thank you for all You are doing in me. Thank you for encouraging me and motivating me to make healthier choices in my life. Thank you for softening my heart towards surrender to You. Please continue to give me Your strength and motivation to continue on this journey. Give me the wisdom to see all my small victories rather than any sense of defeat that is not coming from You. Change my heart to be more like You each day. I love you! Amen.

30 November 2008

Cake Opposition

Today is Picnic in the Park.... and the beginning of my new cake ministry.

This month, though, I did not need to make a lot of cake because we will be serving a Thanksgiving meal with lots and lots of pie. So I made a few pumpkin pies, and about a quarter of the cake that is normally needed. I wanted to make sure there was at least a little, because there most likely will be some November birthdays to celebrate.

So my original intention was to bake on Friday, but that just did not happen. My husband and I got up a little after four to make the 40 minute trip into town for Black Friday shopping. Then I decided to cheat. And I decided if I was going to cheat, I was going to cheat big.

So after a week and a half of no caffeine, I got a VENTI mocha frappuccino. Probably not the best idea since it did indeed keep me up for the rest of the day. After getting the house clean for the impending arrival of the in-laws the next day, there was no energy left for baking.

When I got up yesterday morning, I decided to do the pies first. It took several hours to get all the homemade crust and pie filling done and baked into four pies (plus two miniture deep dish pies). I had problems with my oven not working right, so the first two pies took 2 hours.... just to get baked. And I had to bake in cycles cause everything wouldn't fit in my ovn at once.

I finally got around to the cake about 3pm. Originally I wanted to do a turkey cake, but now I just didn't have time because this one required shaping. So I decided instead to go for a three layer (6", 8", and 10") decorated in fall colors.

Nothing seemed to go right after I started to decorate. It took me forever to get the sides smooth. The accent color didn't seem to be quite right. The tip was not cooperating. When my first idea didn't work, I tried to blend the accent color in for a marble affect and that turned out so-so. The decorator bottle wasn't quite going right, and at one point the top popped off and squirted frosting out. (luckily I caught it in my hand before it went flying all over the cake.) And I threw my ice coffee all over the table.... and the cake. That cup just somehow just went soaring from my hands and crash landed on the table right next to the cake. An ice cube even landed on the cake, denting the frosting on one side. All night I just kept saying that this cake didn't like me.

This was not going as planned! I just turned in frustration to my husband and complained about all of my cake opposition. He just smiled and sweetly said I must be doing something right!

I guess it was just a good reminder that when God gives us kingdom work to do, and we set out to do it, we will have opposition to face. This day, it was in the form of sugar. Oh, and lots of butter.

Lord God, I thank you that you have given me this creative opportunity to serve you and the people you love. Give me strength each month to face whatever opposition comes my way. I love you. Amen.

P.S. ..... and Lord, PLEASE protect my cake and get it to the Picnic in one piece! Thank You!

25 November 2008

10,000 Steps a Day

Last week I bought a pedometer. I came home and looked up what the suggested number of steps we should take each day. The magic number seems to be 10,000.

I of course had no idea how many steps I take in a normal day. I would consider myself mildly active... at least a step or two above sedentary, but I am realistic and know I am not as active as I should be. So I have set out on this challenge.

One article I read said that the average sedentary person takes 1000-3000 steps each day. So I strapped on my dollar store pedometer on Monday to see where I ranked. I had a somewhat normal day of activity... housework, school with the kids. By 7pm I had only reached 2500 steps. This was a bit discouraging as this is the time of day I am ready to become a couch potato. But bound and determined not to be labeled "sedentary", I invited my family members for a walk around the block.

So we set off around our large block, and on the second round the kids decided to stay home and watch the stars while Paul and I took another lap. It was nice to have a little alone time with him that was not locked up in our bedroom. We had a nice chat on our brisk second pass. I ended my day at about 4200 steps, and I was pleased with that as a first day.

My second day I decided to take three laps around the block in the afternoon, and without any real effort I managed to get my meter up to 5900 steps. I was quite impressed with myself. The article had talked about trying to increase your steps 500 a week.... and this was much better than that.

My third day was plagued with migraines, so I was content with the 3500 I put in, mostly after 3pm. There was no walk around the block on this day. However, Thursday was quite busy with a trip out to the store with Tricia. We parked in a central location and walked back and forth between our little exchange, the tiny commissary, and the thrift store. I took three laps around the block in the afternoon, and Paul and I took another trip to the commissary for his shopping needs. I logged a whopping 9200 steps on day four.

I was definitely enjoying this pedometer. I had had no idea that a little one dollar piece of equipment could be such a motivator. It is almost addictive to watch the little step number go up and up... checking my progress during the day. Day five I turned in a respectable 5500 steps.

Saturday morning I broke my pedometer. I snapped the little clasp right off when I pushed it open too far to hook it on my pants. I was very sad. This was my motivation. I wanted to see how far I could go. No fair!

I tried to repair it, but it was a feeble attempt that failed miserably. So Sunday, I bought a new one. Only this time, it tells me all kinds of neat information based on my own stride and weight. I now can see how many miles I have walked and how many calories I have burned. It tells me how many minutes I have been active during the day, and it keeps a record of your steps for 7 days.

My only complaint.... it seems to give me more steps than I really think I am walking. I would count my steps, then open up and check to see a number that was a couple steps more than what I had counted. I did do a lot of walking yesterday, but I do not think I did 11800 steps worth.... probably more like my 9000 step day. I guess that I will have to play with it's placement a bit to see if I can get it a little more accurate.

I am a competitive person, and I needed something to motivate me forward in working on my weight loss goal. I tried to get my husband involved with the idea of having a competition to see who could lose 20 pounds first. Unfortunately, he only cares about 6, so no motivation there. But this way (with the pedometer) it is like I am competing against myself. I can challenge myself and the numbers. And hey, I'm often all about numbers.

One of the articles I read said that 6000 steps a day was good for maintaining weight, but 10,000 or more a day is the goal for weight loss (and preferably 4000-6000 of those steps in a one time frame exercise walk). So whereas just a week ago I could barely force myself to go out and get some exercise, now I joyfully trot out each afternoon to circle my block and rack up some numbers. What fun!

Lord God, thank you for helping me find something to encourage me to increase my activity. Help me continue to work more towards complete surrender to you in all aspects of my life, including my food and exercise habits. Help me focus on becoming who I am in you, and not on my size and body image. Please help me keep my priorities straight. Thank you for your strength and encouragement each day. I love you. Amen.

18 November 2008


At the end of worship Sunday, I felt the Lord whisper to me to "give up pop". Well, those of you who know me well know how much I love my Mountain Dew. So I guess that's the point... I love it too much. So God has asked me to surrender it.

I am a compliant person. Often I will know I should do something, but until someone firmly tells me to do it, I often won't. I need that authority sometimes to get my act straight and deal with something.

I knew for years I needed therapy, not just antidepressants, but I didn't do anything about it until one of the women from church (that I respected) told me I needed to seek Christian counseling. I had an appointment by the next day.

On my journey this year, my friend/mentor would often tell me I needed to do something (kind of like giving me an assignment)... and even if I already knew I needed to do it, I wouldn't march off into action until she firmly reminded me it was something I needed to do.

There have been many times that I think I have known that God has wanted me to do something (like give up my soda habit), but I don't do it until it is more than a nudging.... until I am told. And once told, I often energetically (and occasionally enthusiastically) set off to do whatever it is, because I have fully accepted it is what I need to do.

Last year when I started Thin Within, I was ready for the change. I not only accepted what God was asking and moved forward, I SURRENDERED to the Lord. I think this is why I had a fairly easy time changing my eating habits. Because my heart was fully surrendered to God, He removed all the physical obstacles, like cravings. My weight just started coming off left and right, at least until Paul came home from his deployment.

But lately it's been so much harder. I felt God's nudging about the pop before I came out here. It was my goal to switch to water and try to live healthier, but I just couldn't seem to do it. Actually, I slipped backwards with my eating addiction, so it became even more of a crutch than it was before. So of course I didn't want to give it up.

So I ignored the nudging and continued in my own destructive ways... until now. Now God has told me to give it up. So in true Kimmy fashion, I have accepted this is what I must do and have moved forward in implementing the change. No Mountain Dew or Orange Fanta for me (my two favs... but I haven't had any other pop either). I figured while I was at it I would chuck the caffeine as well. I used the last of my caffeinated coffee to make pumpkin ice coffee to take to a mom's get together.

Tricia asked me yesterday if I would have my ice coffee in the morning instead of my Dew, and I said no... I like to drink my one glass in the afternoon/evening, and my goal is not to switch one addiction for another. It would not help me at all to stop drinking pop with my meals but have iced coffee instead three times a day. So it has been water for me.

But have I really surrendered? I don't think so. I am somewhere in the middle of acceptance and surrender. I have taken one step of obedience in doing what God has asked me, but I know what He really wants is my surrender, not just my compliance. He wants me to obey with my heart, and not just with my actions.

I'm sure I will get there.

Lord God, thank you for your patience with me. Help me to move past compliance and into complete surrender. I know with my head that everything will work out so much better when I am surrendered to you, Lord. Help me remember this in my heart as well. I love You. Amen.

17 November 2008

A Real Cake Ministry

I have heard people refer to my cake making skills as a ministry. In Virginia, I brought cakes to church a couple times a month and to most of the church functions. I was the resident "cake lady". My cakes were mentioned as one of the things that would be missed when we moved away.

I know that God has blessed me with these skills, and in the past I have tried to used these skills in ministry ways. When a family was raising money for the medical costs of their sons' bone marrow transplants, I raised about $200 in cake sales to donate to their cause. I had never done cakes for money before then, and I eagerly gave whatever I made until they had raised all the money they needed.

I still do not sell many cakes. I mostly take them places for fun. And I never suspected that God would actually use my skills in a real ministry, but I suppose I should have.

The homegroup we have begun attending is part of a ministry called Picnic in the Park. Once a month they cook a large amount of food and go out into the local community to serve a meal to anyone who needs one. It is a local outreach to meet the physical needs of the homeless and poor. The focus of the group is not to preach at the recipients, but instead to simply live out the gospel by loving them in such a tangible way as giving them a good meal and a place to just hang out and relax, without anyone telling them to move on because they aren't wanted there.

One of the things they do every month is sing Happy Birthday to anyone who has had a birthday that month, and they serve cake.

So as I was looking down the list of areas to volunteer to help with, I of course notice the cake. I ask where do they get the cake? And the answer was someone throws together a couple of sheet cakes. Well, I say.... I make cakes. Yummy neat cakes.... and I volunteered to be "the cake lady" for Picnic in the Park. They seemed very excited to have someone wanting to take over this responsibility.

On the way home, and it's a 40 minute drive, I started thinking about my cakes. I like to put a lot of love and attention in them. I make my frosting from scratch, and everyone just loves it. They are so lovely to look at, and the really creative ones really bring out the joy of anyone who sees them.

So I began to imagine feeling unloved and unwanted. You start attending a monthly lunch where people come and feed you because they want to spend time with you. And to see a beautiful cake that you can tell someone spent a lot of time and effort on, and realizing that they did it for you.... how would that feel? I would think it would feel pretty good.

It amazes me that God has put a talent in me that to me seems so simple and unimportant, but He uses that to bring joy to other people. I have seen it in my friends and church body. And now I look forward to the joy God will bring to the people of Picnic in the Park.

Lord God, thank you for the talents and gifts that You have placed in me. I pray that you will show Your love to the lost through the creativity You have blessed me with. Thank you for this opportunity to serve You. I love You. Amen.

Give Me Jesus

We sang a song at church yesterday that I had never heard before. The song was called "Give Me Jesus" and the chorus went like this...

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus

There was something about this song that really got to me. How often do we remember that it is not the world that will give us what we need? How often do we really say "you can have the world, just give me Jesus"?

I have been wrestling a lot lately with the idea of "if I lost everything else, would Jesus be enough"? I received a devotion on this topic recently, and it has been rolling around in my head ever since.

Sometimes the Lord asks us to give things up. Sometimes He asks us to give people up. And sometimes it seems like what He is asking is too much... that we cannot live without whatever it is that He wants us to surrender. The Lord is asking me to surrender some pretty important things in my life, and it feels as if there will be a void... a hole if I do.

But if we believe, really believe the words of this song.... then we should be able to surrender anything because we know Jesus will automatically fill that void... He will fill up that hole overflowing if we let Him. We will already know that what we get from Jesus is so much better than anything of the world. So why is this so hard to remember?

Lord Jesus, I want to fully know in my heart, and not just in my head, that all I need is you. You are the answer to all my needs, and I can just leave the world and its broken promises behind me when I have You. Lord, help me remember to keep my focus on you. Please give me strength to surrender what you are asking me to surrender. I love you. Amen.

14 November 2008

Church Shopping Update...

So it occurs to me that I have not updated most of you on our church shopping progress. As you may have figured out due to a lack of my complaining about more churches, we have settled down and finally picked one.

The week after our gospel experience, we tried out the former Vineyard church that Paul had wanted to go to a few weeks before. We walked in and found a seat. We were pleasantly surprised to know all of the worship songs, and it was nice to see people really worshiping the Lord. There was a call for prayer at the end of worship with prayer teams up front waiting to pray with anyone who wanted healing. One woman went up with crutches and a bad knee, and then she left jumping around and dancing, healed on the spot. There was another call for prayer at the end of the message, and we decided to wait around to speak to the pastor... afterall, by this point we mean business and want to get to the heart of the church to see if it is a real contender for our attendance. We waited for 45 minutes, but while waiting we watched one man slain in the spirit while hearing the pastor and another gentleman praying for a woman (I think his wife), commanding spirits to leave in the name of Jesus, asking God to heal her. It was definately the spirit filled service we were looking for.

Once we were able to talk to the pastor (and we were the last ones there), he talked with us for quite awhile and then brought us outside to meet some other people. They were having a fundraiser bbq, and he offered us free food since we were guests. He introduced us to his wife who talked with us for a long time. Then she introduced us to her daughter and son-in-law, who eventually introduced us to another couple who runs a lifegroup (a homegroup) on Sunday evenings. We talked to then for awhile as well. Paul also talked with the worship leader for quite awhile.

Each person we talked to was really interested in getting to know a bit about who we were and how we found their church. They asked real questions and not just meaningless chitchat. And they all said they hoped to see us come back again.

Our initial inventory of this visit was going quite well...

Genuine, meaningful worship- check.
Spirit filled- check.
Friendly and encouraging- check.
Great children's program- check.
Active Youth group- check.

They even had an open invitation for people to come join the worship team for a once a month mini choir... CHECK.

We decided to attend the next week, and most of the people we had met the week before remembered us. And some introduced us to more people. I even ended up meeting parents of a woman who turned out to be part of the homeschool group here on base (I hadn't met her yet because she had not attended the first two mom's meetings).

We have now gone four times, been to two lifegroup meetings, Paul participated in the mini choir the second week we were there and hopes to eventually become part of the main worship team, and Paul and I were both baptised this past Sunday.

I would say that things are going well.

It has been a little different getting used to a large congregation, but there are benefits to that as well. They have a lot more programs and resources than a smaller church, and it helps us to be able to support our home church (where our heart is). Paul even brought it up in our pre-baptism counceling with the pastor... that our heart was to keep supporting our church in Virginia. And the pastor was very supportive. He said that he completely believes in being spirit led, and if we feel that God is leading us to put our tithes there, then he doesn't have a problem with it at all. So I guess that's the final- check!

From the beginning of our experience with this new church, I have been able to see glimpses of how God can grow us here, and that is very exciting.... especially after 7 weeks of complete uncertainty.

Lord God, I thank you for leading us to the place you want for us in this phase of our journey with you. Thank you for all the opportunities here for us. Continue to grow us in your kingdom. I love you. Amen.

12 November 2008

Motherhood Martyrdom

I have a confession to make.

Sometimes I don't like being the mother. I walk around my house, picking up after the people who live here, angrily mumbling to myself about "Why can't anyone clean up after themselves? Why do I have to do so much for these people who are perfectly capable of doing for themselves? Why am I never appreciated for what I do?"

As I walked around my house yesterday, once again annoyed at one of my children because they will not put their things away no matter how many times I ask, yell or order them to...they don't appreciate how hard I am trying to keep things nice, and they don't realize how much harder they are making it for me.... God whispered something in my ear.

"You are not a martyr."

Wow! That hurt a little. But it is true. I am not a victim of motherhood martyrdom.


1. the condition, sufferings, or death of a martyr.
2. extreme suffering; torment.

I am not trapped in an oppressing condition. I am not truly suffering, and I am definitely not dead. I am not being tormented (although at brief moments that statement seems questionable... only kidding!).

Truth be told, I am living the life I always wanted for myself. I wanted to be a mother... to have beautiful children. God tells us that children are a BLESSING! So why then, can it be so hard to see it this way? Why is it so easy to look past the blessing and focus only on the negative aspects... the selfishness of my nature?

As I walked around my living room feeling all self important, discouraged, unappreciated.... feeling like I should receive martyr credit... I realized this is the attitude of so many women in this world. This is the attitude I grew up seeing in my own mother. She walked around in anger all the time.... nothing she did was good enough for us...(really making us feel like what we did wasn't good enough for her)... we didn't appreciate her... we didn't idolize her... we didn't love her.... we should feel lucky just to have her there to do things for us. This was the message we received in her moments of Motherhood Martyrdom. And regretfully, I realized with the Lord's help, that I was putting out that same message with my selfish attitude.

We live in a world full of selfish women. Women who have children for the wrong reasons. Women who didn't really want to be a mother but was stuck with it... women who only wanted someone (ANYONE) to love them, so they had a child.... women who had children because someone else wanted them to.... women who would rather have other people raise their children than to do it themselves. These are all situations where it seems only natural for a mother to become somewhat resentful of what they do for others without anything in return. They didn't really want the job or the work in the first place... or maybe they didn't realized how much work was really involved. Maybe they see motherhood as more of a curse than a blessing.

But me? I'm living the dream, right? I believe with my whole heart that motherhood is the ultimate calling that God can place on a woman's life. It is a life that should be valued, a life that is worthy. It is to be respected and cherished. But it is exhausting!

And sometimes in my exhaustion and frustration I go somewhere I am not entitled to go.... motherhood martyrdom. And it is in this place that I do the exact opposite of what I should. I focus on the negative. I get all wrapped up in me... putting my desires first. I let my pride run a muck. I basically announce through my actions that my family is not good enough. They are not meeting my needs. They are not appreciating me, or loving me, or idolizing me. I feel like what I do for them is so great that they should be bending over backwards to help me because they are lucky to have me. But what I am really doing is putting conditions on my love for them..... conditions that should not be there.

And who am I that I should deserve such worship? This is the great lie that Satan tells us mothers..... that we deserve to be worshiped for what we do for others, for all the sacrifices we make in the name of motherhood. I think this is one of Satan's favorite lies. After all, wasn't it his desire to be worshiped above God that got him into trouble in the first place? It is an evil trap that will work its way through each generation, especially passing from mothers to daughters.

Even though I possess a nurturing nature and a motherly desire my own mother did not have, her martyr mentality shaped my young life and carried over into my adult life. I see a calling and a value to motherhood my mother was unable to see, but that alone has not prevented this particular downfall. I have over the years on many occasions displayed my martyr badge to my daughters through my little tantrums.

But God has spoken the truth..... He has dispelled the lie.

I am not a martyr!

Lord God, even though the truth often hurts, thank you for calling me out of my selfish behavior. Thank you for readjusting my perspective to remember that my children are a blessing, not a curse. Thank you that you want to break this cycle for my daughters. Please help me to everyday work and serve my family for your glory and not for selfish recognition. Help me teach my daughters with my actions (not just my words) that motherhood is a great and awesome calling. I love you. Amen.

A Call to Spiritual Growth

Hebrews 5:11-14 (New Living Translation)

A Call to Spiritual Growth
11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

Do you remember being a spiritual baby? For some of us, that wasn't all that long ago or at least doesn't seem that long ago.... still others might still be there because of the newness of their commitment to Christ. And others may not even remember since they have been walking with the Lord for so long now.

I know I felt like a spiritual baby for a really long time. I was just soaking in as much teaching as I could. I was learning and developing and figuring out what was right and wrong in God's world. I had grown for almost 30 years in the world's view of right and wrong, and it took awhile for God to grow me up in His vastly different world.

And I remember when I felt like I was graduating into the world of Christian toddlerhood. I was stumbling around trying to find my own footing, needing more than just milk to sustain me. I was sampling some meat along the way, always eager to try more and more. I can think back to my kids becoming toddlers... when formula alone was no longer enough... when soft baby food was cast aside in pursuit of more "grown-up" food. It was an exciting time.

But what happens when our growth and maturity become stunted? When we do not continue to grow in our faith? When we do not step out in faith to do whatever the Lord is calling? When we do not reach out to the lost or teach those who need to hear? Do we revert back to being babies like this scripture says?

At the beginning of the next chapter, Paul continues...

Hebrews 6

1 So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. 2 You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.

I think the key here is understanding. It isn't just about listening to God's Word... we need to understand it. We need to grow and mature in our understanding. I don't know about you, but this can be quite challenging. I think it has become so easy in our culture to just shout out for the quick fix... "Just the facts". Give me the basics of the info, as fast as you can, with as little details as possible so we can move on to the next thing. We often do not want to stop and really take time to understand everything involved.

And have you ever noticed that if the partucular subject is not of great interest or importance (in our opinion), that our ability to stop and truly understand is even more inhibited? Take science, for instance. I hated science class growing up. I was a mainly A/B+ student my whole life, but I failed biology in college. On my second attempt I dropped the class to prevent a second F on my transcript. This subject was too complicated for me. I didn't enjoy it. I was not interested or passionate about it. It did not come easily to me. My natural understanding has been (and still is) hindered in this subject. My husband has to break things down to as uncomplicated explanation as he can come up with for me to understand. The bottom line, I have considered the effort needed to achieve understanding to be far more involved than the effort I am willing to put out. Therefore, scientifically I have been and most likely will remain a "science baby".

But do we sometimes take this same attitude toward God's Word? The Bible isn't always easy to read or understand. In fact, it can be very time consuming to pour over its pages and figure out what God is saying. Some parts can be outright boring. Getting through the building of the tabernacle and the Laws of Moses with my children was almost painful. It takes a commitment to put forth the required level of effort to achieve a mature understanding. And if we do not make that commitment, then we will remain infantile in our understanding of God, just as I have with science.

But what if I had met someone who was powerfully passionate about science? Someone who wanted to help me understand? Walk through each step and each level until I got it? Would that have made a difference in my scientific outcome in life? Would it have influenced my outlook and like/dislike of that particular subject? These are questions I obviously cannot answer because these are experiences I did not have.

But God has given each believer this exact opportunity to maturely understand his word. He has given us the Holy Spirit to help and guide us. The Holy Spirit will walk us through each step, giving us not only understanding, but I think encouragement and a passion for more. But the key is, we have to be willing to make that commitment.

Lord God, I thank you for Your Word. I boldly ask that you will give me a passion for its pages. I admit that reading my Bible has often felt like a chore, or a school subject I didn't like...something to "get through". I ask you to change this attitude in my heart. Grow me up into mature understanding so that I will not revert back into a baby who cannot tell right from wrong. Help me continue to grow and heal. I love you. Amen.

04 November 2008

Today I Choose Optimism, Hope and Joy

I have suffered from depression for a great deal of my life, although I wasn't diagnosed until 2003. In the years since, I have come to believe that there are three distinct aspects to depression: physical, spiritual , and emotional.

Physical- I know that there are people who have actual chemical imbalances that create depression problems. In this society, I think this is the most highly treated aspect. Many, if not most of patients diagnosed with depression are put on medication to help this imbalance. But most often, medication alone will never help because there are two other extremely important causes to look at.

Spiritual- Now I believe that there is a spiritual element to depression that is often overlooked. There are spirits of depression that can come on us and oppress us. I have battled against them, and I have (on more than one occasion) commanded them to leave. I have felt great relief at times when I was being oppressed by these demons and they have been forced to go in the name of Jesus.

Emotional- Depression has been said to be the result of anger turned inward. I am currently reading a book on depression that deals specifically with emotional healing and finding the connections between our emotions (anger, fear, anxiety, negativity, etc.) and how we react to them. In Moving Beyond Depression, Dr. Gregory Jantz says this;

"Depression is often an emotional reaction to overwhelming circumstances. We may find ourselves in a situation where we feel helpless, so we disengage emotionally. We feel angry but unable to show it. We may feel frustrated but afraid to vent it. We may feel burdened but inadequate to bear it. Since we can't seem to express what we're really feeling, we choose to feel nothing at all. The end result we seek is a cessation of the pain. But ignoring the pain does not make it go away, and minimizing the damage often leads to greater hurt."

I believe that a far greater number of people find their roots in the second two of these factors. Research has shown that medication does not really help except for those with extreme cases of depression. So for those who are only taking meds to help fix their problems, but they are ignoring the emotional and spiritual causes.... these are probably the statistics I have heard quoted (on an antidepressant commercial no less) saying that 2/3 of patients on antidepressants are still suffering from depression symptoms despite the medication.

I do not believe that my depression stems from an imbalance. I spent time on the meds, and they really did not help... they were more of a numbing agent for me. Now I am not trying to say that antidepressants don't work at all, I am just saying that in my case, the causes of my depression most likely are not medical.

As I previously mentioned, I have battled against the spiritual causes of depression. There were a few times last year that I commanded oppressing spirits to leave, and they did. Whenever you command in the name of Jesus, demonic spirits have no choice but to leave. But I am wise enough to know that every time I have an attack of depression, it is not always going to be a spiritual attack.

Just yesterday, I was having a particularly hard day... a "blah" day as they are referred to in our house. And of course Paul asked me if I had prayed about it. (I never do at first.... I always get too caught up in the blah!) So as I silently began to ask God to remove any oppressing spirits.... commanding them to leave, He immediately told me they weren't there. This episode was not brought on by spiritual oppression at all. This was an episode being spurred on by my emotional state.... or by my lack of wanting to deal with my emotional state.

God is currently asking me (again) to make some hard choices. He wants to heal me from the pain I am still carrying around inside of me, but to be honest, I have been unwilling to go there. Since I left Virginia, I have not wanted to face my pain. I have not wanted to work through it to find healing. I have been afraid of it. And now I am reaping the consequences of this decision.

I have been moody and angry. I have been easily annoyed and irritated. I have not been as kind as I should be to my loved ones who must put up with me day in and day out. I have woken up on many days feeling numb or apathetic and quite content to stay there.

But here's the problem. Just as the author stated above, ignoring the pain does not make it go away. In fact, over time it just makes everything worse. So now that I have been ignoring it, the depression that I have lived without for most of the last year has come back in mild episodes. Knowing that the meds aren't the answer... and now knowing that spiritual attacks are not the cause... that really only leaves one culprit to deal with. My Emotions.

So as I picked this book back up to read chapter two (I read chapter one in June), the chapter I came to is entitled "Emotional Equilibrium". Now that is fitting, isn't it? The part of the chapter that spoke the loudest to my ears is the one about navigating the flow of moods.

He talks about how we have a reaction to an event that we cannot control, but after that initial reaction, we can choose our attitudes. He says, "Mood is how we are feeling; attitude is how we respond to the mood." Often we choose (without even thinking about it) to react negatively, thus continuing in a bad mood. But he suggests that actively choosing a positive mood is the key to successfully changing the behavior that leads to emotional depression. He states;

"Choosing a good mood promotes optimism, hope, and joy. A good mood allows you to experience these life-affirming emotions. When you are experiencing depression, you must work at promoting the choice of a good mood. It can be hard work. A good mood won't come naturally- while other unconstructive moods will. Pessimism, negativity, sarcasm, hostility, even apathy, flow freely when you are depressed. To overcome depression, you must turn the flow of this negative tide and strive, even if it seems as though you are paddling against the current, to promote optimism, hope, and joy."

Wow! This is a hard lesson to learn. I can SOOOO relate to what he is saying about how hard it is to CHOOSE to be positive because the negative emotions are flowing. Boy, do my negative emotions flow. Ask anyone in my household and they will tell you I'm not fun when I give into this river ride.

Whenever Paul askes me if I've prayed about it, I just want to look at him and tell him I don't care. I know he doesn't understand how hard it is to look for the positive... how hard it is to turn away from the negative.... the apathy, the consuming irritation and heaviness that builds inside of me. I almost always give into the negative. And now I am learning that is my problem right now.

I have allowed the natural flow of negative emotions to be my excuse for not dealing with it. It is my cop out. It has been another lie of the enemy that whispers in my ear that I am just not strong enough so I should just give into it, and I have swallowed it without challenge. I want to think that I can't beat it so that I don't have to do the hard work. Because it is extremely hard work to push yourself past that negitivity that drags you down. It seems impossible in that moment. It seems insurmountable.... so why try?

So at the end of each chapter, the authors gives his readers a "Moving-Forward Phrase". This chapters phrase is... "Today I choose to focus on optimism, hope, and joy. "

I know this will not be an easy task. And in fact, I know I am completely incapable of doing it. So I must remember each and every time I am faced with this negativity, that I need to turn to God immediately and ask for His strength. I need to remember Philippians 4:13 that says,
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (NKJV)

Lord God, I thank you so much that Your desire is to heal me. You want to break me free from this pain and depression that is dragging me down. You want to use this in my life to bring me closer to You, that I may know that I cannot do it without You, Lord God. Give me Your strength. Please continue to open my eyes to my own distructive behavior. Give me courage to face and change the things in myself that I do not like. Make me more and more in Your image. I love You. Amen.

31 October 2008

Have We Lost the Art of Neighborly Love?

When I grew up, I knew several people on my street, especially the neighbors on each side of my house. My one neighbor, Mrs. Pence, was a sweet old woman who was more of a grandmother to me than my own grandmothers were able to be. She would listen to me chat away forever, and she always had treats for us. As I got a little older, I began to bring her sweet treats of my own... sharing the cookies and brownies I so loved to make.

But as I grew into adulthood and moved off on my own, most of the time I didn't really ever get to know my neighbors. I had social anxieties that stopped me from being friendly with people until my hardened outer shell had been sufficiently cracked.

During our time in Illinois, I actually did make friendships with several of my neighbors, and we had a nice little community going. We lived in a mobile home park on the Naval base, so we had the commonality of being Navy to bring us into friendships. But it was towards the end of this tour that I was deeply betrayed by a close friend, and the damage done closed me off to neighbors for years. I could not trust people, and I hated to have others in my house. I was perfectly content not to know any of my neighbors.

In Virginia, I began to heal, and although I eventually devolped deep and meaningful relationships with the people at my church, even letting some into my house... I still didn't dare to let my neighbors into my life. It didn't help that we didn't live in a very good or safe area. But even after we moved onto Fort Monroe, where once again we had the commonality of all being military, I did not befriend many neighbors.

So when we moved here, and the woman at the housing office informed us that we might be snubbed by our neighbors because they were officer and we are enlisted, I actually said, "That's ok, I never make it a point to know my neighbors anyway."

I actually laugh at myself that these were the words I spoke only eight weeks ago. The office lady was in fact quite wrong. (Almost) Everyone we have met so far has been nice. Not that we have been advertising our rank status, we haven't hidden it either... and it really hasn't mattered much to the people we have met. Of course Paul is Navy among mostly Army, so we are different anyway. (And they are continuing to move enlisted on our street, so we are currently at 7 officer families and 4 enlisted families.)

I have noticed that it has become remarkable easier for me to carry on new conversations with people I am just meeting. And I have had people over for dinner three times already. I thank and praise God for the work he has done, is doing, and will continue to do in me. I talk to people all the time here. I haven't really gotten to the point where I would consider anyone more than acquaintance friends, but that will come with time.

So last week as we were walking over to the park for some free food offered at a WSMR party, we stopped to talk to a family moving into one of the many empty houses on our street. We talked for quite a bit, and another neighbor joined us as he and his daughter were heading the same direction we were. He wanted to welcome the new family just as we had.

A few days later, we stopped and talked through our car window for just a bit on our way home from the commissary. Paul wanted to see how they were doing and when their household goods were due to arrive. After arriving home, he found Justin to take down to meet their son who is about the same age, and he stayed for quite a long time chatting. When I went down to get him for dinner, we decided to invite them over for the next evening since they wouldn't have their stuff yet and were living on cold sandwiches.

It turned out they were not able to come over because they needed to make a trip into town that evening that could not be postponed, so we invited them for the next night instead. I know how tired out you are at the end of receiving your HHGs, and they probably wouldn't be unpacked enough yet to cook anything real anyway. Although she didn't want me to go all out or go to any trouble, they agreed to come down for dinner anyway.

I made my famous potato soup and tried out a new pumpkin cheesecake recipe. I even had to borrow some sugar from my other neighbor for my bread since I used the last of mine in the cheesecake. She commented on how sweet it was for us to have invited the family for dinner.

That night, we had a great evening. The kids played. The husbands sat outside around the fire pit chatting. And we two moms sat at my kitchen table talking. It was so nice to have a real conversation that wasn't surface chitchat. I felt a real connection with this woman... the possibility of something more than just acquaintance status. I know she will only be here for 8-11 months... but it will be nice to be neighbors while it lasts.

One of the things she said to me really stuck out. She said, "you sure know a lot of people around here already for being here such a short time." I commented that I got hooked up with the homeschool group quickly through one of our neighbors who seems to know everybody! (She has been here five years and counting...)

Then she said that she has lived on plenty of bases where people weren't so friendly, and people didn't always get to know their neighbors.... but after being here less than a week, she had already had three or four different people/families stop by to say hello and introduce themselves. I think I commented on how maybe being so isolated out here, it puts a higher focus on community and being neighborly.

At the end of the evening as we said our goodbyes, this family just thanked us over and over for inviting them over and preparing such a wonderful meal. It was almost like they still couldn't believe we wanted to go to the effort.... but it wasn't really an effort at all. It was pure joy to do something so simple for someone else to make their transition here easier.

And since I still had half a cheesecake left, I cut a huge hunk to take over to my neighbor who had loaned me the sugar earlier in the day. (I think she got a good investment for her 1/3 cup of sugar!) She was also so appreciative of my simple gesture. It was such a wonderful feeling to be able to bless other people with my skills. I think I have missed that since we left our church family in Virginia.

But this evening got me thinking. Has our culture lost this art of neighborly love? I grew up watching old shows of the 50's in syndication..... Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, The Patty Duke Show. This was a time and a culture where neighbors mattered. People not only knew who lived on their street, but actually took the time to know and help each other. They took on each other's responsibilities and were not so focused on themselves.

Of course I am not saying that this no longer exists.... but has it become more of the exception than the norm? It is easy to be helpful and kind to the people you already know. But you really have to put yourself out there sometimes to do these things for people you don't know. It can be scary at times to sacrifice yourself in any way not knowing what will come out of it, especially in our society that is so Me oriented.

Even though my heart wanted to bless this family, and I felt like it was no big deal.... wouldn't have I reacted similarly if another family had welcomed us this way? With actions and not just words? If someone had brought "the new family" food or invited us to dinner.... or even came to our door to introduce themselves and welcome us to the neighborhood instead of us going out to meet them?

Although these specific examples did not happen with us, we have been quite blessed by our neighbor who opened herself up to help us... she is a wealth of information and resources about this base, the area, and the homeschool group. She has made our life so much easier here since we met her two or three weeks after arriving. She is one who often goes over and welcomes a new family to the neighborhood, and she feels badly if she hasn't had the time to do so.

Maybe it is that this base has somewhat of a 1950's feel to it. I have heard jokes about how nothing has been planned for since the 50's. I have enjoyed the easy pace of life. In a lot of ways it is like living back in a former decade. But maybe that isn't all bad. I kind of like it.

So what do we do in this society that has gotten so scary? When you are somewhat afraid of the people around you? When you think it will cost you more than you are willing to pay to reach out and help another person? And how did we get this way? How did we get so self absorbed and isolated from each other? Ever notice how the bigger and busier the place is you live, the more isolated you can be? You may have people everywhere around you, but that doesn't mean you're not isolated.

Romans 13:8-10 (New Living Translation)

Love Fulfills God’s Requirements
8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.”[a] These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. Well I think our culture only knows how to do the latter.... love yourself. It seems so few are willing to put someone's needs... anyone's needs before their own. Maybe that is part of the reason our divorce rate is so high in this country. Some have been hurt so badly, all they know is to take care of themselves. They are so afraid of being hurt further, that they do not have the ability to put anyone before themselves... it is just too risky. I think others are just too filled with pride or lust to care about anyone other than themselves. I know there have been points in my life where both could have been said about me. We live in a fallen world filled with pain and greed and sin.

But when we try to break free from this world, when we step out and away from ourselves, when we sacrifice ourselves (in love) for the sake of someone else.... don't we feel wonderful? That high is so much better than anything we can do for ourselves. And wouldn't you say that this is true because this is how God designed us? He has a purpose for our lives that does not revolve around us. Sure, he wants us to be blessed, to be happy and joyful.

But he wants that to be accomplished when we are serving someone else instead of ourselves. He doesn't want us to be consumed with "what is is going to cost me if I do this for someone else?" But rather, "How can I better myself by giving of myself in love to help someone else in need?" I think it is amazing the lessons we learn when we love our neighbors, with our actions as well as our words.

Lord God, you are an amazing Father. I thank you so much for all the work you have done in my life this past year. I can see how your healing has been manifesting in my life as I relate to those around me. I can see in this place how you are beginning to give me a heart and a love for people in a way I have not ever experienced before. Thank you for providing these opportunities and experiences to practice being more selfless and less selfish. I love you. Amen.

24 October 2008

My Son, The New Neighborhood Bully...

We had homeschool PE today in the neighborhood. All the kids walked, rode, skate boarded, roller bladed... whatever activity they wanted... around our large block. They got a sticker for each pass they made. It was fun to watch them, and once the other families started heading home, we made our way home as well. Justin, however, stayed out to play with his friends.

About an hour later we get a knock on the door. One of the homeschool dad's came over to inform us of a scuffle our son had been in. Apparently, he hit another neighborhood kid. So as Paul went off to claim our son, I saw a very uptight looking woman marching my way with her son.

Great, a confrontation. Those of you who know me, know I do not like any kind of confrontation. But I faced this one head on. As the woman approached, I looked her straight in her face, not wanting to hide at all. She was too angry to look at me, though. She informed me that my son hit her son (who by the way was larger and older than Justin).

I told her that I was sorry that my son hit hers, that it was not acceptable, and we would definitely handle it with Justin. She went on and on about how hitting is not ok in any circumstances, and that she teaches her children it is not ok to fight.

I calmly agreed that hitting was not ok, that we did not teach our children that fighting is ok, and I politely thanked her for bringing it to our attention what our son had done.

This did not have any affect on her at all, as she stood there shaking in anger. She did not really want to hear anything from me, she just wanted to yell at me about what my kid did to her kid. Then she went on about how we were lucky she decided not to call the police, because she could, after all, because it was one person assaulting another person.

Now I am in no way condoning what my son did. The older boy was telling Justin something he knew to be untrue and then wouldn't let him do something, and Justin got so emotionally upset that he lashed out and slugged the boy. He should not have done that... he should have walked away from the situation. But he didn't.

But I have to say, this boy was not injured. He didn't have bruises or anything broken. He wasn't bleeding. It was a typical boyhood scuffle. I could not figure out why this woman was going off the handle over it. Call the police? I would like to think if she had called the police because a seven year old hit her son (and I did find out later that her son hit mine right back), that the officer would have laughed at her.

If my son came home telling me another child hit him, I am sure I would not be happy about it, but I would probably ask him what he did first. I understand that boys will be boys, and sometimes that includes hitting. I would hope that I would not be so overcome with anger and fury that I would come close to verbally attacking the other child's mother.

As the woman marched off with her son, I could hear her telling him to stay far away from my child (like he is a violent bully or something). But then she changed her mind and came back so she could yell at my son. She wanted to know why he hit her child and started yelling at him that it is never ok to hit someone else. Of course by this time Justin was in tears.

After the whole thing was over, I still couldn't figure out what had caused such a violent reaction from this woman. The tension coming from her was palpable. As I discussed it with Paul, he said, maybe she has some wounding from her past that this triggered. Huh.... that's a good point. My husband is so smart!

After all, I lost it becoming all irrational at my best friend's birthday party last year because the guys wrote all the girl's Pictionary words, and we girls didn't know what they were. How are you supposed to draw a word that you have no idea what it is? I got so upset after awhile that I left the room and refused to play. I was in tears. I was angry and afraid I was going to lash out and lose it.... and this was just a game of Pictionary. But I didn't know why I was reacting that way until a little later when some of the ladies prayed with me and I discovered that the situation had stepped on some of my woundings from the past of being unjustly made to feel stupid.

So maybe Paul is right. Maybe there was some kind of abuse in this woman's past. Maybe she was bullied, or a victim of a household with domestic abuse. I don't know. Probably never will. But I also realized that I need to do two things.....

After disciplining my son for his inappropriate behavior, I needed to tell myself that there is nothing wrong with my son. He is not a bad kid, and I am not a bad parent. This is part of my woundings.... since my son was born I have not had much outside help with him, and I was made to feel that he was a burden, or too hyper, to too active.... you name it. It took me a long time to be able to ask anyone for help because I felt like if family wouldn't even help, why would someone else. I had felt like there was something about my son (really for the simple reason that he is a boy) that was unlovable and it was somehow my fault. So whenever he does something wrong, I feel guilty about it and feel like a bad parent. So the first thing I had to remind myself was that I do have a sweet and loving son who sometimes screws up (don't we all?), and I am not a bad parent because sometimes my kids screw up.

The second thing I had to realize was that although there was nothing I could do or say to this woman to make the situation better, I could pray for her. I know nothing about her... her history, her pain, her beliefs (other than it is never, ever, ever acceptable in any situation to hit another person).... but God knows. And He knows exactly what she needs.

So Father God, I lift up this angry mother to you. I ask that you touch her today. If she does not know you, Father, I ask that you show yourself to her and open her eyes to see you. If she does know you, Lord God, I ask that you would show her how much you want to heal the wounds she may still have in her life. Please bring peace and healing into her life. Forgive me for wanting to judge her, and thank you for showing me that there might be pain behind her actions, and reminding me that everyone needs someone to pray for them. I love you. Amen.

22 October 2008

For I Know the Plans I Have for You...

Don't you just love it when you have a verse that shows up in several places in a short time frame? Isn't that just a wonderful reminder that God is speaking to us?

Last year, during Paul's fourth deployment, I was cruising along in my healing, battling demons of my past, releasing weight, and really seeking the Lord in everything I did. At one point, I had a verse come up three times in three different places within three days.

Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Now I like this verse for several reasons. First of all, isn't it always nice to know that the person in charge of your situation has no intentions of hurting you? And not only does He not intend to hurt us, but he actually wants to make everything better for us.... he has a PLAN!

Now I love to plan. I get all organized, sometimes I make lists. I play with numbers. Planning is great. Now follow through..... that I am not so good at. My organization tends to fall apart. My friend tells me I'm the most organized disorganized person she knows. It's true. Though I think I am discovering part of God's plan for me is to learn to be more organized and consistent in areas of my life that aren't... organized and consistent.

But thankfully when God has a plan... He follows through!

The second thing I like about this verse is the word declares. It is present tense. It does not say "declared the Lord", as in to the Isrealites. He is declaring it, still. He is declaring it.... to me. And you, too... but since this blog is about me, I'll stay focused on that. (hehe)

When out Christmas shopping (not too long after the before mentioned time frame where this verse kept popping up), I saw this verse written on the sail of a small sail boat. Now my husband is a sailor... in the Navy, but he also likes to sail... in sail boats. He took lessons when we lived in Illinois and fell in love with it. So I had already purchased a small sailboat for our livingroom decor.

So when I saw this one, I had to buy it. I knew this was a good verse for Paul as well. I think sometimes he worries about which direction to take, or how to best lead our family. I thought it would be a comfort to him, as well, to be reminded that God has not only a plan for him... but a wonderful plan for him and our family.

In April, a friend gave me a birthday present that was placed inside a decorative bag... with this verse written on it. And Tricia said, "Look Mommy, it has your verse on it!" I do not know if my friend got the bag on purpose because she remembered me talking about the verse several months before, or if it was a coincidence. Either way, we thought it was cool to have that verse on a Happy Birthday bag.

Then just this week, another wonderful friend of mine sent me an unexpected surprise in the mail... a Virginia care package for the family feeling a bit homesick for Virginia...(thank you so much wonderful friend, you know who you are!!! It was such a wonderful pick-me-up that I really needed!) Inside this care package was a card with a verse on it. You guessed it! Jeremiah 29:11 (and 13 too). I laughed. I don't know if this friend remembered our history with this verse, or if again it was a coincidence, but it was great to see it in there.

The next day as we went to our 6th new church (in seven weeks), I glanced at the bulletin they had handed us, and what do you suppose was written on the back? Right again! Jeremiah 29:11.

On the way home, I told Paul... "See Hon, God is reminding us that there is a reason we are here (in N.M.) and He has a plan for us."

This is always a good reminder to have. Last week, The Lord brought back some hope into my life for this whole church shopping process. And this week He brought more encouragement. Isn't our God such an Awesome God!

Father God, I thank you for the encouragement and hope you bring through your word and through your people. Thank you for using my friends to remind me once again of your love and your plans for us. As Jeremiah 29:13 says... You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.... remind me daily that I need to seek you with ALL of my heart, not just the parts that are already open. I love you, Lord. Amen.

17 October 2008

A Trustworthy Saying...

If we die with him,
we will also live with him.
If we endure hardship,
we will reign with him.
If we deny him,
he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is.

These are the words that Paul wrote while in prison to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:11-13 (NLT).

I think this is a great reminder of where to put our priorities. When things get tough, it is ok. Each time we choose to die to self, to turn away from our fleshly desires... we will find life in Jesus. Kingdom life is so much more rewarding than the fleeting things of the world.

And when struggles come (which they always will), and we choose to endure and persevere, instead of giving in to the world... we will one day reign with Jesus, sharing in His inheritance.

But if we deny Jesus and turn to the world for everything we need... then on judgment day, we too will be denied. Personally, I'm not sure I can imagine any struggle here on earth that would be worse than to be denied by Jesus.

(And here's my favorite part) And if we lose our faith, if we become unfaithful and give up on Him..... He still will never give up on us! BECAUSE THIS IS WHO HE IS! Isn't that incredible?

It is so encouraging to me because I can look at these past weeks and see where I have struggled, see where I have lost faith and have chosen the world rather than to face hardships and struggles. I can see where I have lost my way (thankfully for just a short period of time), but I know that Jesus has not given up on me. He still has faith in me. He wants to live with me, struggle with me, reign with me.

All I have to do is repent and refocus.... turn back away from the world and its "cop out" solutions, and refocus on Jesus who is the giver of real life.

Lord Jesus, I thank you that You love us so much that you will never be unfaithful to us. You will never give up on us, even in our darkest times. Thank you that when we mess up, You are there waiting for us to turn back to You. Lord, forgive me for where I have put other things before You. And help me remember this trustworthy saying, this reminder you have given us through Your word. I love you. Amen.

15 October 2008

A New Commitment

In 2007, I made a huge commitment to take control of my life and especially my eating. I began to focus on growing in the Lord and facing the things in me that needed healing. Along the way, my eating habits changed. Eating appropriate portions was now second nature. I didn't graze all day, and I knew when to stop and more importantly when to not start at all.... and I lost almost 45 pounds.

The first 8 months of this year, I began to yoyo a bit. I was still facing very hard things, and my eating would swing a little. I'd gain a couple of pounds when I wasn't dealing with things, then I'd come to my senses and readjust... my eating and my progress towards healing, then I'd loose those couple of pounds. But I never began moving forward towards that ultimate goal of reaching my healthy weight range. It was frustrating to come so close to it and just stop making progress.

After leaving Virginia, things have been really tough, and I've been running from reality. I haven't wanted to face the fact that I've known this whole year.... sooner or later I have to face my anger. I have to work through it and release this pain that is causing it. I have not wanted to do this. So instead I've been hiding out a bit.... in food, in television, and even in housework. It is funny to me now that I have used something positive (keeping my house clean, something I have always struggled with before when I was escaping) to escape.

And although I thank the Lord each day that I have not gained more than two or three pounds, I am recognizing that I am eating when I'm not hungry. I'm eating more than I need because it tastes good and makes me feel better. I am reaching for that chocolate, or Mountain Dew, or homemade tortilla chips for reasons other than hunger. I am not exercising at all, which is a goal I wanted to work on once arriving here. The body that once seemed so much slimmer to me (178 is tiny compared to 243 three years ago), is now becoming more uncomfortable because I know it isn't where I need to be. After 10 months at this size, I have lost much of that sense of accomplishment.

I am again struggling with getting my mindset right. I need to be eating right for my health. I need to be exercising for my health. I need to be turning to God and not food for my health..... not just because I have 20 more pounds to lose to feel better about myself.

I have been trying to numb myself again, but it isn't really working like it used to. That is good news really, because it shows how far into reality I have really come. Once you begin to leave that world of denial, once your eyes have been opened to its deceptions and destruction... it is hard to go back.

So I am at a crossroads. I am at that point where I can clearly see the two roads before me. If I continue down the path I have been walking these past 6 or so weeks, I know that the path to denial will become longer and wider. It will become so much easier to travel. And with enough time, I will reach that destination. I will become engulfed back into that world of denial to the point where I may forget reality and once again be trapped in my own self-made hell. Although I said it is hard to go back, it is not impossible with enough time running away from reality. And I know deep in my heart that I do not want to return to this world.

So instead I must choose the second path. Although very narrow and sometimes filled with tribulation, this walk down the road of reality is where I will find joy, peace, and healing through my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the road that leads to fulfillment and satisfaction. This is the road that leads to contentment and self purpose. This is the road that leads to salvation and everlasting life.

I have heard it preached that as a true believer, you are never really standing still. You are either moving forward toward growth and toward God, or you are slipping backwards away from Him. So as I take this very brief moment to stand and choose my path, I realize it is not two paths in front of me, but instead one before me and one behind. I know I must turn that 180 degrees away from the road behind me...this ever growing path that leads to everything the world cannot give me. That is the slippery road down and away from God.

Instead, I am choosing to make a new commitment... a re-commitment to walking forward. I am choosing to take that small scary path that will lead me in the exact opposite direction of where I have been. I want to move closer to God, not farther away from Him. I want to go where He wants to take me.

Something else I have realized about that slippery path down... every step you take brings you a step closer to forgetting what is really important. Spend enough time slipping away from God, and you will forget what He has done in your life. You will forget how He has changed your life. You will start to wonder where God is.... why can't you find Him? Where did He go? Why isn't He helping me? You will forget that He's not there because YOU walked away from Him.

Father God, please forgive me for slipping and sliding down this road of the world. I have been hiding and running by turning to things of this world instead of turning to You. I have allowed food and television to re-enter my heart in places that they don't belong.... places that belong to You. Please give me strength and courage to turn once again away from them and towards You. You are the source of everything I need. Thank you for Your everlasting love and patience. I love you. Amen.

13 October 2008

Like Little Children

Yesterday, Paul and I decided to attend the service at the post chapel.... just the two of us. The kids stayed home and enjoyed their Sunday off (the search is wearing on them, too). The service we attended was the Contemporary Gospel Service.

Going in, I do not think that either of us had any real hopes that this would be our church, but I also think that we both felt pretty strongly that we should go at least once just to check it out. In fact, I think that the Lord was prompting us to go... at least once.

Yep, it was Gospel. Not really our style of worship at all. It was amusing and entertaining (in a good way), but we both knew this was not what we were looking for. But God always has His reasons for asking us to do things, and after leaving this service I could recognize some lessons and reminders that were evident in this experience.

This church was almost the exact opposite from last week's service we attended at the "plastic" church, though amazingly there were a few similarities as well. It was like seeing an example of how the same situation can happen, but the behavior behind it can be exact opposites.

Again, the people were nice and friendly. The Pastor/Reverend came over to welcome us immediately. But this time, you could literally feel God's joy exuding from this man, and his whole family as a matter of fact, in the enthusiasm they displayed in their excitement to praise and worship the Lord. "Each day is a gift, and a day to come together to worship the Lord is a special gift." This is the message you get just by being near this family of God, actions speak so much louder than words.

And like last week, the family was in charge of the whole service. His wife did all the announcements. His daughter was the sole vocalist while his son-in-law played with a couple others in the worship band. Pretty much it was a whole family affair. But This service has an extremely small congregation, so I got the impression this was due to necessity and not control issues (last week we got the impression that they didn't want anyone else involved because they wanted to be in control of everything). The pastor invited my husband to read the Bible passage, as well as calling out to others in the middle of the service to help. They seemed to find great joy in including everyone around them.

And the worship, although not our cup of tea, was authentic. They were not putting on a show for the people, striving for beauty and perfection... they were putting on a show for God! It is amazing the difference in those two concepts when you see them both back to back.

But the highlight of this service was the pastor's wife. She sat in that second to front pew, only feet from her husband as he gave his message. He didn't really use his notes, he was going on and on getting more and more in the spirit, letting God's words flow through him as he preached. And with each statement he made, his wife excitedly yelled "yes" or "Amen" or "Hallelujah". She would clap her hands in excitement and jump up in the air. I couldn't really see her face very well because I was two rows behind her, but her entire countenance seemed to be one of an excited child hearing wonderful news. She was bursting with excitement and could not contain herself. It was like watching a child on Christmas morning just before they are to open their presents. You know, that excitement that is so contagious.

Of course this brought to mind the gospels and the story of the little children who were brought to Jesus, so I looked them up this morning. I'll cite all three, but I'm only going to post one since they are so similar....

Mark 10:13-16 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Blesses the Children
13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.

(Also.... Matthew 19:13-15 and Luke 18:15-17)

I have heard this passage before, and I have heard sermons preached on this. I have looked upon my own child as an example of what it looks like to come to the Lord like a child. Her faith is so strong, and she has an amazing relationship with the Lord. But I have to admit this is the first time I have seen this message lived out so well in the life of an adult. It was a pure joy to watch this 60 something year old woman loving her Lord with the heart of a child.

As the Pastor finished his sermon (and hundreds of "amens"), everyone gathered up front, holding hands and singing together before parting for the day.... and I could feel the Lord in that place. I could feel His spirit in that room, and it gave me hope. Hope that we will find what we are looking for. We will find Him in the places He leads us.

I also realized something else... it can be so easy to get caught up in thinking that your church is right and all the others must be missing something if they don't do it your way. And I do still think that some churches are just missing it.... I have been to a few now where I have not felt God's presence and there is definitely something missing spiritually.... but that is not really what I am talking about.

I loved my church in Virginia.... the worship was awesome, the sermons were great, the people wonderful. The fellowship and love between the people was genuine. And it was easy sometimes to wonder why everyone doesn't do things our way... aren't they missing how great it is?

But in this service this week, God was there! He was flowing in His spirit, and He was blessing the people there. It wasn't the style we like, and it is not where we want to settle.... but it was amazing for the people who come there each and every Sunday. I can only imagine that they might be thinking the same thing I have.... "It is so wonderful here with God in this place... why doesn't everyone want to worship like this? Aren't they missing out on something wonderful?"

Although I do not believe that God brought us to that place to find our new home, I do believe that He brought us there to teach us something important. The lesson? God truly does speak to each person and each culture and each congregation in the ways they need Him to. (While staying biblically consistent... I'm not talking about some of the crazy religions out there where they think God is speaking to them in the way that applies only to them.) And just because something is different from what you like or what you have experienced, that doesn't mean it isn't exactly right for someone else. That is a good reminder.

I also believe that God wanted me to see what it really looks like, in the life of an adult.... to come to the father as a little child does. He wanted to remind me what joy and excitement He wants to bring into my life again. He wants to see me get this excited about each and every day to serve and worship Him. He wants me to exude such enthusiasm and excitement into the lives of others who are desparate to feel His presence.

But here's the real question..... Can I let go? Can I let go of the anger and the pain? Can I let go to heal the anger and the pain? Can I let go and let God come into my life in the fullness that HE desires?

I think it is so easy in our "grown-up" world to only let God in on levels that are comfortable for us... but we are still keeping some walls up. But when you look at a child, what do you see? I often see that a child either has all the walls up, or all the walls down. They either trust or they don't. It isn't until they get older that they begin to see all the shades of gray that confuses everything.

And I don't think God wants us living in gray..... He wants us living in his light! He wants us living in His glory, not in darkness, and not in the middle either. But how to we find our way out of this grayness that consumes our lives? How do we get past these gray concrete walls that we've built to protect ourselves, but all we are really doing is imprisoning ourselves away from God's light?

Lord God, thank you for every moment and every experience you use in our lives to teach us something important about You. Thank you for renewing my hope and showing me again that I will find You when You are leading my path. Lord, I ask that You shine Your light on the gray areas in my life, and that You will give me the strength to let go of them so You can knock down the walls that need to come down. Help me let go so I can be completely filled with Your joy, exuding excitement and enthusiasm for You..... excitement that will be contagious to those around me. I love You. Amen.

April 2005

April 2005
Justin, Kim, Nikki, & Tricia

October 2011

October 2011