Monday, April 28, 2014

Debriefing My (in)RL 2014 Experience - or My Trip Reflections

2014 (in)RL Henderson, KY Community
One of the things I love at our church, that when a mission team returns from a mission trip, (whether it's within or outside the U.S.), they give a report of that trip to anyone that wants to hear about it. It's called the "Trip Reflections." It's perfect to hear their hearts, what God did on the journey and how He is using those lessons to change our lives TODAY. They debrief, assess what they've gone through, and move forward.

Going through any event can warrant needing a time of debriefing, reflecting, assessing. Even conferences. Even (in)RL! It will impact you, so It's great to allow yourself the space to process and reflect on the event, and share how it's changed you... and others around you. For me it's necessary!!

This is the third year I've hosted (in)RL in the areas I've lived. The first year, I was living in Henderson, KY and I'd hoped for a big group of women from church, so I reserved a room there and set it up and was disappointed that we only had a total of 4 of us there - myself, my daughter, a young girl I've mentored (my daughter's age) and a woman I hadn't met face to face, even though we went to church together (it's a big church, so that's not unusual). What we lacked in crowd, we made up for in conversation... two nearly 30 moms and 2 empty nesters - a perfect connection! I think the biggest impact was seeing the difference that it made for the younger women to connect, and us older gals too! Meeting there opened the door for us to connect on line, and in person, and I gained a great friendship, and saw the other bloom!

The 2013 (in)RL Fayetteville Community
Last year, I had the luxury of living in NW Arkansas, and a few connected to DaySpring attended, or inspired a few others to attend. I think we had 9 women, from early 20's to maybe 55 years old.  We met at an off site church office that was conveniently located next to a great little coffee house. :) The fellowship was sweet, and God created many new friendships and connections. (You can read about that event here.)

My memory of that event was that diversity was good. I was concerned at how different we all were - single, married, older and younger, professional and stay at home... but I think that for every area of diversity, there was at least one other woman who could relate. It was sweet, since the topic was "Staying in Community" - and here we were, all in different ages/stages of life and able to connect despite differences. 

Then we moved back to Henderson and the huge church we love. I signed up to host, and rallied a friend to co-host with me (she hosted last year at her house here in Henderson). We had the option to meet at the church, but it seemed that it was going to be a small group again, so I opened our home instead. Brave of me, I know, to invite strangers in to our home... but it was perfect!

We had wondered who would come... hosting is always a mystery. I don't know why people hesitate to RSVP, and there seems that others will back out at the last minute, life happens, and that happened again this year. Still, we had a GREAT turn out, and a GREAT time! There was a perfect mix of old and new friends, younger and older, and the right size for good conversation (and not a TON of leftover food!). I wish that more had come, but it worked out perfectly for my swag bags that I'd prepared (everyone got one, and the extra went to a daughter that had planned to come, but couldn't make it).

I loved that we were able to use different rooms to do different things... It's not a requirement for sure, but it was nice to do the craft in the dining room (we actually watched the craft video, and started the session there), then step away from there to move into the kitchen to get our food, and then living room to eat and watch the videos, and talk. Having to move also gave an excuse for us to break - to get up and stretch our legs, use the bathrooms, etc. 

The conversation was sweet, and despite starting late, we took the time to take in the questions and discuss them. I'm SO grateful that the (in)courage team puts them together! It worked out well to keep the conversation focused and on track... something hard to do when you get a group of girls together!! :) 

I think that we did that "best" - talking. I'm actually still processing all that went on. When the group dwindled down, there was some really sweet sharing that took place... and I want to keep praying through that. By me holding back, it allowed others to step in and minister... and that was beautiful. Open, honest sharing is so lovely, even when it's painful. I've experienced being "that girl" - wearing my heart on my sleeve or stepping in to be the comforter, but this time I sensed God holding me back, and what I witnessed was amazing. By not being in the middle of it all, it allowed time for prayer and observing the body of Christ work as He designed. Perfectly.

I'm sure that we could have each taken our time and told our stories to each other... this wasn't the time to go into such depth. I'm praying that I have a chance to connect with the women and provide the time to hear each of their HIStory, what He is doing and has done, and what they have learned along the way.

I had hoped to do more intentional things, like having each woman write a note on their postcard about what impacted them from the main session, then mail that postcard back to them in a month or so... but with people having to leave at different times, it just didn't work out to do that. That's ok! I'll keep that in my memory (ok, reality: I should start a list!) of things to do next year.... yes! I'm already planning on next year's gathering, whether I host or attend someone else's - it's an annual event on my calendar!! 

I DO wish that we had the option of 2 weekends to do it; do it wouldn't have to be the week after Easter (it isn't always), or to choose the date more, since this weekend had SO many BIG regional events going on... if it was next weekend, I think we'd have had more women attend. Still, saying that, my prayer all along was that God would bring who HE needed to be here... and I believe that's what He did!

I don't have a date for the "next event" on my calendar, but I'm hoping to be more intentional about that this year, since there were new faces over here. I had a shoe cutting party for Sole Hope a few months ago, and I think that this would be a great way to bring the ladies together again, and to bring the women together that came to that, but didn't come to (in)RL. Everyone loves to get together, and we don't have to have a set agenda to do it... we can just meet and have one thing in common... Serving God by serving others!!

So, if you're in the Tri-State area, and missed out on (in)RL this year, please contact me!! I'd love to invite you over to join in on whatever we do next - or just to meet for coffee!! And you can purchase the dvd's from any of the past (in)RL content to view and be encouraged... and it always makes for a great time to gather with friends!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Seeds ... Weeds ... and Dreams ...

When I was a girl growing up in Southern California, there was only one sure way to make a little money. My dad would pay me to pick the dandelions out of the lawn! I'd get a penny to pick each yellow flower that was growing, and a whole nickle for each seed head - only if it stayed in tact. If the seeds fell on the grass, well, that wasn't worth getting paid for at all.

Little did I know that my dreams, like those dandelions, would get plucked and tossed aside by the same man that paid me to save his lawn. I'm sure that he just had a different idea what his namesake should do when she grew up, and that he felt that being an artist, a photographer, or a writer, wouldn't bring the notoriety that he sought his whole life. He'd rather I became an attorney fighting for the working man, and of course work my way up to becoming a major player politician.... President even!

I came from "poor Dutch immigrant" stock on my dad's side, his first child, and born in the U.S. - not his native Holland. My mom, his first wife, died when I was nearly 14 at the start of my sophomore year in high school. I'd started school very young, not a problem when you're a reading 3 year old, but a major problem when you're a senior at 15. I don't remember if my mom had dreams and ideas for me to grow up into. I don't remember talking like that with her at all. But my father's expectations met bitter disappointment when I dropped out of college to work, first for a small law firm, and then it finally met his approval when I got a "good Union job" with a major telephone company. At least I was "still a part of the labor movement."

When I became a Christian - a FOLLOWER of Jesus Christ - any approval from my father began to unravel as I allowed Jesus to become the Lord of my life - and no longer tried to impress my earthly father. I wasn't following the god of self, the god of the labor movement, the god of my father's approval. A wedge was driven deep, as I stopped trying to capture his attention and started praying about what God wanted in my life; what His dreams were for me, and where He would move me. I clung to Luke 12:51-53, trusting that the life I was living was what Jesus meant when He told the crowds...

Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against.

‘Father will be divided against son

    and son against father;
mother against daughter
    and daughter against mother;
and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law
    and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’”

But as God changed my heart to accept and trust His love more, He also moved me in new ways; freedom from addictions, changing my bad habits, giving me a passion for deaf children in Mexico, teaching how to lean HARD on Him through an illness (that closed the door for me to go live with those kids), eventual healing, and then meeting my husband! By then, all I wanted to be was a wife and a mother... my artsy-craftsy side would be content to make crayon drawings and creative second-hand home decor. I was fulfilled to share life with my husband, and the dramatic poems of love lost were thrown away, since love was now found! I limited my journaling to notes written for our young children, and occasionally I would have the opportunity to use my passion for writing to craft a devotion, or help someone with their resume, or to write a letter to an editor... that tiny bit of political blood still ran in my veins, although in my dad's eyes, now I was on the enemy's team.

Over the years we raised our kids, worked on our marriage, tried hard to find community in church, and my relationship with my father continued to deteriorate. Despite that, in many ways, I was still seeking his approval, the little girl in me still wanted to know my daddy was proud of me; to hear him say "Good job!" even if it wasn't for his dream being fulfilled for my life, but my own dream, inspired by God.

It was funny when I started to write for the local magazine in our region. Like most things, God didn't put an ad in front of me and make me apply for the position,  it wasn't me seeking out the job at all - someone just emailed me and said "I'd like you to do this... would you pray about it?"  After prayer on both sides "Auntie Em" was born to write the "Inspiration" article for Connection Magazine of SW Missouri. (We lived in a VERY small town, and our religious views were a little bizarre for most of the residents, so I opted to write without disclosing my identity... which was eventually found out anyways - but after they became a fan!). I wrote for the first 2 years of the magazine's life, and it was a joy and blessing to get to do it.

The sad part came because my father, who lived in the same area, but refused to spend time with me, read the articles, but would never tell me. He told others how proud he was of me, even carrying stacks of the magazines around for years after I'd stopped writing for the magazine.. but if I saw him he was still antagonistic towards Christians in general, and my faith most of all.

When I saw him for the last time, he was able to tell me he loved me, was able to apologize for "the things he did to tear our family apart," (which was HUGE to hear), but he couldn't tell me he was proud of me, and that's ok. I wasn't writing for him... I was writing for HIM... God... to fulfill the desire He put in me. It was HIS dream that was planted in me... not my own dream, devised for myself or to bring me glory; it's always to bring glory to Him. Even in my little world of blog-dom, I still ONLY, ALWAYS, want to write to bring glory to Jesus, my Savior.

Oddly enough, my dad had a saying he frequently would say (especially when there were complaints from the neighbors about his lack of landscaping and yard clean-up), "One man's weed is another man's wildflower." The weeds that took over his property he claimed were beautiful to him, and he refused to mow them down. Yet what he saw as weeds in my life, were MY wildflowers.

In our area, the LONG winter, and now beautiful spring, have the dandelions going CRAZY! Everywhere I look I'm seeing seas of yellow, or swaying seed heads full of potential, ready to be blown in the breeze. To many people, the dandelions are an obnoxious weed. Certainly to anyone wanting a completely green lawn! However, to some people, it's much lovelier than that; they are beautiful, colorful, alive and full of possibility. Perhaps they provide nourishment on someone's salad. It's certainly more lovely than dead desert wasteland.

I've heard that a dandelion will hold it's seeds until the weather is PERFECT for planting; the humidity "just right" for it to land in moist soil, and sometimes an updraft will lift the seeds miles in the air only to be deposited in another (dandelion free) yard.

Isn't God amazing like that?

I think He does the same thing with us. He creates seeds of hope within us, planting His dreams, full of possibility - new ways to bring glory to His name. Seasons will come and go, and those dreams will lie dormant, and the plants may look completely dead, but at just the right time, He brings them alive with His breath, lifts those dreams up, and scatters them wherever He wants them to be, sown deep into the soil of our hearts. He waters, weeds, and makes us bear fruit. Those dreams fulfill His will for our lives, show us how much He pays attention to details, make us depend on Him in new ways. We're always being changed, always growing in new ways, always dreaming new dreams. He makes us beautiful, whether we're weeds or wildflowers; whether we're accomplished writers, artists, photographers or mothers and grandmothers... most likely we are both...

Lord, I praise You - You have created each of us to be a unique people, and You gifted us in different ways. I'm so blessed to be your daughter... and I pray that You will delight in the accomplishments that bring glory to Your Name. I pray that we will seek to ONLY please You, in every area of our life. You have made us "pre-approved" and I want to walk in that approval, not seeking after any "man's" approval. May You be glorified in my life, by whatever talents I am capable of using. Let me draw near to You; see Your goodness in creation; rest in Your arms. Continue to amaze me with Your gifting and teach me how to bring glory to Your Name.  For I pray in Jesus' Name... 

Has God ever spoken a dream to your heart?
How has He fulfilled it?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Review - What Follows After by Dan Walsh

I recently finished reading Dan Walsh's most current book, What Follows After. It took me a while to get into the story. Although the book seemed a little luke-warm at the start, it was enjoyable enough to keep reading through. 

The realistic story of a failing marriage, the struggles of life in the early '60's and the minds of two brothers wanting to set everything right again in their world. What Follows After takes place in a season that I barely remembered as a child, so it was easy to believe what life was like then, complete with jealousy, work-aholism, and infidelity. The boy's perspectives were easy to follow as they schemed and planned, and eventually faced the consequences of their surprise adventure away from home. 

The ending half of the book was more captivating than the first half, and consumed it quickly once the pieces of the mystery began to come together. The relationship between the elder Harrison family's "domestic help" and the younger Harrison family, and even between Mamie Lee and Etta Mae was charming. It was confusing to me at first, why it was included - almost a distraction - but soon enough it was the thread of the story I most wanted to know more about. It was a nice touch to have had that realistic relationship included. 

The many details of the nuclear threat I found boring, and perhaps it was those details, and the space they took up, that made me not as interested in the start of the book. I found myself skipping over many of the details, to get to the human relationship details of the story. I realize that is more of my personal preference, as it was written well, and set the scene for the story, however had little impact on the main characters. 

Still, it was a refreshing book, and I loved the touches of God woven through the story. THAT made it a worth while book to read! 

The book is available on Amazon for print and Kindle users, and in bookstores everywhere. 

I received an advance copy of What Follows After from Revell. I was not compensated in any way, and the opinions are my own. If you choose to make a purchase from the affiliate links in the side (not connected to this book in any way) I will receive a small commission. ((Thank you!)) 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review - Hope Runs - SO good!!

A few weeks ago, I received a pre-release copy of "Hope Runs" by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Samuel Ikua Gachagua, from Revell Books. I was not given anything in exchange for this book copy, and the words written below are my own; I receive nothing for sharing my opinion of the book.

The book "Hope Runs" was CRAZY GOOD! It's not too often I read a book that is hard for me to put down, but this was one of them. From the moment it came in the mail, and I cracked open the cover, I was taken in. I found myself wanting to have a day free to just read it straight through, but it never came, so I had to steal moments wherever I could to find out what happened next. I was more interested in the lives of the 2 authors than I was about the organization, Hope Runs (of which I knew NOTHING about). All in all, it would be difficult to NOT learn about the organization, and the insight is good for anyone involved in non-profit organizations and giving. 

I LOVED the format of it, as the chapters flip back and forth between the 2 author's tales and takes on life. It was so necessary to hear from each of them what their background was. To learn where they came from said so much about where they were going. Although I would have loved to have heard more about where God was fitting in all of this, I was grateful for the glimpses they shared. It's not going to be "that book" to bring you closer to God, but more to encourage you to step out of the daily faith walk and put action to your beliefs. 

"This is when I realize something about we as orphans. When life throws us a lemon, we must take as much juice from it as we can, because we don't know when it might be taken away. I realize this is true not just for orphans but for all people. When life gives you that lemon, take as much juice as you can, because you don't know when the lemon will be taken away and you will be left without any fruit at all." - Sammy

The things accomplished through each of them are amazing. To hear of life in so many places, is delightful. Seeing them willing to be taken out of the norm and put in new circumstances challenged me in my own life. It really was inspiring.

I'm already looking forward to seeing where their lives are in 3 years, 5 years, 20 years down the road, and hope that they continue to share the journey with us! I'm certainly going to check out their Twitter accounts (though I may pass on the series of tweets while Claire Diaz-Ortiz was in labor and tweeting live!). I'm curious where this story will end... knowing it's really just begun. 

Lord, I pray that You will continue to intercede and advance Your Cause through the lives of those involved in this story. Nurture the lives of Claire Diaz-Ortiz and her family, and Samuel Ikua Gachagua and his family and EXTENDED family. I pray that they will continue to draw close to You, and see Your hand leading and guiding them, as they chase after You and learn more of You. Let this book increase the good work that Hope Runs does, and may Your Spirit move through it. 

The book, "Hope Runs" is released on April 15, 2014 - on Kindle and wherever books are sold. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

LIFE and A Follow-Up to the Love Idol Movement Challenge

LOVE these Daily Grace - Open Your Heart Place Cards from DaySpring! 

*This post contains affiliate links from vendors. I receive nothing from them to mention them in my posts, but if you click on the link on the side, and place an order, I'll receive a small commission, which helps me to keep this blog (and my obsession with DaySpring) alive.

This week I spoke briefly to a group of 130 women at their end of the session brunch about (in)courage, (in)RL and the book Love Idol - as I'm co-hosting an (in)RL conference in my home this month, and leading a discussion group for Love Idol this summer. 

Although this is the church I attend (Crossroads Christian Church), there were only a handful of really familiar faces there. They do a great job of welcoming here; women attend from many churches, denominations and I'm willing to bet there are several non-churched attending the Daughters Of the King (DOK) weekly studies. I haven't attended this year at all, so of course it makes sense that although I went for 2 1/2 years when we lived here before, hardly no one knows me any more. There's a whole new group of women attending! It was scary, but yet refreshing. I felt like I was at a table for a small women's conference!

They had a table set up for me at the entrance of the Chapel, and I was able to set up books from (in)courage authors, the adorable Daily Grace - Open Your Heart - Place Cards from DaySpring on it, and the sign up for the discussion group that I'll be facilitating in June on Love Idol. I had used a chalk pen to write the words "loved," "beautiful, and "preapproved" on them, helping to make a quick point to Jennifer Dukes Lee's book

Everyone was so kind, and it was fairly easy (I only shook a little, LOL) to talk to them from the stage. So. Out. Of. Practice. Sigh. Nonetheless, I enjoyed being back in the company of so many lovely women, and I'm going to be signing up to take a class with them in the fall, for sure (maybe sooner!). 

I even met a neighbor! :) She and her husband are retired, and they live around the corner on another street in our neighborhood. I'm praying we get to know them better too, as well as the 2 other neighbors we've recently met. 

All in all, I loved being there. Loved the teaching, the worship, the food, and the fellowship! 

AH, and now - My #LoveIdolMovement Journey...

God's still working on me. I've done ok with not posting to my Facebook page (only updating my timeline photo to reflect the upcoming (in)RL Conference), and I don't talk to myself in posts all day long anymore. I still want to share things on it - but I'm so glad I'm staying true to not doing that. I'm not posting on my wall, or commenting to other's posts (so I barely read them at all). I am posting and commenting on the few group walls that I'm in (book launch groups, and a few for (in)courage). 

I've found that I tend to still *waste time* online, now shifting to Pinterest and Instagram, so I'm trying to phase those out for the next few weeks, only posting for work. It's going to be hard, but I still have a few books that I'm reading and reviewing for book launches - so I'm grateful to have that distraction - and the weather has warmed up (thank You God!) so I've been working outside too. 

As far as my *preapproval* status goes with the actual challenge, it's growing me! I had a disappointment, and it happened to hit at the same time I had written a blog post about wondering what direction I should take my writing and blogging... so I pulled my post when I realized that it might be misconstrued (I had written it before the disappointment, and in reality I was not upset about it, I was totally ok with it actually - it just hit me funny and I could see that folks might read more into it than what was really going on). 

I am beginning to listen more closely for God's voice in my day to day life. I have had a few sleepless nights, and last night got up out of bed and did some reading, praying, then searched the internet on a God-prompt for Rich Mullins. After listening to some music of his, I happened to read an article about him, and stumbled on this quote of his on lonliness:

"I would always be frustrated with all those relationships even when I was engaged. I had a ten year thing with this girl and I would often wonder why, even in those most intimate moments of our relationship, I would still feel really lonely. And it was just a few years ago that I finally realized that friendship is not a remedy for loneliness. Loneliness is a part of our experience and if we are looking for relief from loneliness in friendship, we are only going to frustrate the friendship. Friendship, camaraderie, intimacy, all those things, and loneliness live together in the same experience..." 

- Rich Mullins

Bingo! It hit me squarely in the heart: God is teaching me this very thing. Maybe that's been my whole life's lesson... learning how to be holy lonely (and also wholly lonely). I have amazing friendships around the world, a 30 year marriage to my best friend, and am ALWAYS lonely. I don't think it's bad, and I crave to be alone when I'm in too much people... but I've never viewed it as this. This. It makes sense. 

SO this is a part of my Love Idol Movement testimony too, to be able to be content in loneliness, and not view it as an aspect of being judged, or viewed as less-popular, less-desirable, less-friend worthy (because when the friends are all scattered, it's hard knowing that no one will be stopping by for any holiday, and we're all too laid back to plan a birthday party... or even to send a card... and these are the things that society somehow sets the standard of how rich our friendships... and our lives themselves... are). 

I've determined that this is important. To be content in loneliness. I want to do lonely well. I want to enjoy it, and when I'm with Him in my lonely time, I want to invite Him in. I want to DELIGHT in Him. There. In the midst of lonely. 

Another area of discipline that's being assisted by the Love Idol Movement is the impact that it's having on my wife skills. I'm talking to Mark more (or he's talking to me more?) since he can't read my life and feelings on Facebook. This is a good thing. :) 

It's freeing up time for me to do more house-blessing (read: chores). I've been able to keep up my laundry more, clean the house more often, and although we've been eating out of the pantry and deep freezer, cook more too! Can this all really be attributed to stopping posting on Facebook?  Oddly enough, I think it can, although I don't have the faintest idea how to describe how it works!

Have you picked up your copy of "Love Idol" yet?  Amazon has the Kindle version available. I suggest you check out for purchasing the soft cover book. If you are so led, you can choose ViBella Jewelry as the non-profit to donate your purchase to; that would doubly-bless the Lee family! They LOVE the work of ViBella and the hope it brings to women of Haiti, Mexico and here in the U.S. 

Romans 12: Recipes for Good Relationship Part 1

  Romans 12 | Part 1 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather t...