Thursday, July 31, 2014

Begin - Five Minute Friday

I'm joining in with the gals at Five Minute Friday today... where the word of the week is "Begin."

You can find all the details here on how we write... 5 minutes flat. No corrections. No worries. Just our thoughts on the word of the week...

This is so appropriate! To have this word, BEGIN as the word of the week THIS week! TODAY! 
Today is a new BEGINning for me! Launching soon at from here (thank you very much Dan at FistbumpMedia)! 

And to boot... I was thinking of "BEGIN" this morning, before the word was ever set out at the FMFParty tonight...
I got to BEGIN my morning out with dear friends; friends that live in another country now; friends that I love and miss and pray for nearly daily. They are stateside now, just a few more weeks, and I was blessed to take a little time with them, enjoying the lovely weather, and finding out their favorite spot for family photos.

It brought me back to thinking of time we had spent together... when our friendship first began, getting to know each other and knowing that we were more than just friends, but more of kindred spirits. How we ended up taking a trip together... her daughter, and she and I and 2 other women who are now dear friends... each of us finding our calling and BEGINning to follow Him into the deep of Him. Moving to other states, other countries, and supporting all of them there. 

How we have prayed together; and have seen God answer prayers. How we didn't even know that we'd be signed in to the same concert at an online website that allowed us to chat the early morning hours away. How God managed to move us all over the place at different times and still keep our friendship in tact. How we've laughed, and cried, and every emotion in between. How God works new beginnings from difficult spaces, times; how He makes all things new... taking our old, weary and tired and giving us a new place to BEGIN. 


The Bible verse in the photo is the theme verse for the trip we took together... it served us well on the journey, and in our friendship...

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10 NLT

I won't always get to participate in FMF, but I'm hoping to as much as possible... trying to give these writing prompts a fun place here at my new space! 

Have a blessed weekend! 

Friday, July 25, 2014

When God Moves (you)

i've written before about all the moving we've done. all the places we've lived. all the places i loved or didn't love, for whatever reasons. the truth is, moving is hard. it's a lot of work, a lot of prep time, and usually it takes place because of a job transfer for my husband - who is excited to get to the new place and get the show on the road - leaving me to do all the arrangements. he's got a job to do!

and i've got mine.

but not this time.

when GOD whispered in our ears about making a move THIS TIME, it had nothing to do with his job (at least not yet). HE provided a buyer for our home before we even knew we were going to want to move. really. oh, we had prayed about it - the big-ness of this house, the empty-ness of the rooms, the bigger house payment that doesn't let you do everything you want to do, but we didn't know we'd grow weary of these things so fast.

when we moved here we thought our kids and grandkids would be passing through this way as they went to other places, raising support for their future missions life. we didn't know that some of them would move 1/2 hour away, and all of the grands would be within a few hours of us. we thought we'd engage with college students and have lively discussions on lazy sunday afternoons (who knew they don't travel across the bridge from indiana?). we did host a small group, but it barely got off the ground, from the longest winter ever that ran into summer vacations. when we did meet, no one wanted to come early, eat, hang around often. and that's ok. but we could do what we're doing in half of this space.

and truth be told... those were the things we thought, the dreams we had, and i don't know if we really sought after GOD to affirm these things as HIS will for our lives. (sorry GOD) i honestly thought i'd just jump back into life here, taking the best from arkansas and the creme de la creme from our life in henderson before, and make it all work here. no ifs. ands. or buts.

it hasn't worked.

i worked hard on my office space, making it bright and cheery (as much as it can be in a basement room with one window) but i don't work well down there. i really wanted to be in the top level of the house, and see what's going on out on the street, not peeking from between the bushes. and rarely does anyone sleep in the room that i wanted my office to be in from the start... not as often as we thought they would...

the work he does is consuming still, and i spend most of the time here alone - which isn't horrible - but i certainly don't need so much space to be happy. or to be content. which is funny when i think about it, because i'm not content with this abundance of space and house around me.

i still long for a porch and a fireplace and a fire pit and a large flower garden that spills from the side of the house to around the yard... and we won't do it here. which is good. it doesn't fit here (and there never was a porch across the front of this house, and this steep hillside, though i'd love to see flowers out there, wasn't going to be good or easy to mow around for my dear husband, and the fire pit was out of the question).

we knew, when the realtor called, that HE heard us, and it was more that we finally understood HIM, but HE gave us - allowed us - a season here. a season of plenty. a season of too much. and i tried to be content, with all the wasted space, and tried to be hospitable with no guests, and tried to be neighborly with neighbors that hid from us.

it's a hard mission field. to reach the rich. sigh.

now we know, HE is moving us along to the next neighborhood, closer to the grandkids, but farther from church. i know HE has a purpose in this, and i can second guess them, but it's probably best that i just follow HIS lead and prayerfully follow behind HIM.

thank you to those of you who have prayed for us! those that prayed us back to henderson, back to this neighborhood. thank you to those that have been so friendly to come and sit in the living room, and dream about birds and gardens and prayed with me for my neighbors. thanks to those that have prayer walked this street with me. to those that came to small group and hung around later, or came by on another day/time. who cooked in my kitchen with me and tried new recipes. who sat on the stoop of the front walk and chit-chatted with me. those that prayed. 

we'll still be friends. because sisters in CHRIST do that. and i've learned that no matter where you live, the kindred spirit friends always go with you when you move along. 

this new chapter, new home, new neighborhood and city, it's feeling so odd to think of life there. smaller house that needs work. not that we want to do work on it - it needs it. and it's not move in ready, but we'll move in anyways. in a month and a few days. make that move.

if GOD wills it to be, and if HE tarries HIS return.

i'm always ready to move to heaven. (amen?)

the one thing that isn't going to be new, is my husband's job. same job. this isn't a company move. not a promotion, or a transfer, so he knows his job. and he can help me with this move. meet the home inspector. pack boxes. sign in person. move ourselves. it will be a lot of work, but i love that we get to do it together. yes, together.

it will be ok. and no matter where he goes, i'm with him all the way. and wherever HE leads, we will follow. so no one else but HIM knows what's next for us... in timing or geography... and that's ok.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

At the Wall

A few times a year I am privileged to get to volunteer with Team Expansion at a display they sponsor, The Wall of Unreached Peoples. The movement, Unleashed for the Unreached, was started in 2011 to bring awareness to the number of unreached (or unengaged) people groups in the world... groups of people, whether 20 or 2 million, that are still not aware of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Many have never heard His name, and are unaware of His great love for them.

You can find out all the specifics here, at the website for Unleashed for the Unreached.

We spend time talking to others about the display, asking them to prayerfully choose a people group to pray for - then share the information with their family, small group, or church, hoping that as they pray for their chosen people group their awareness will increase and a passion for them to KNOW Jesus will develop. In some instances, some churches have actually gone to that place, come to know people there, and built a ministry to reach them for Jesus.

There are others working at The Wall that are praying, asking God to intercede on behalf of the people groups, praying for the visitors at the convention to be curious about the display and adopt a people group to pray for, and of course, for some to become passionate enough to bring the gospel to these unreached areas of the world.

I am asking that you would pray for me, the other volunteers working at the display, and the guests at the convention. That the display will be successful, that God will be honored in our small gifts of time and prayer, and allow spiritual forces to be bound and His Word to be unleashed among the unreached people groups of the world.

Did you know that you can have the display brought to your church, college, club or organization? Just think of the impact it would have at your next Missions Sunday! Please check out the details at the website for Unleashed for the Unreached...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Atlas Girl Book Review, and a bit more...

I COULD have sat down and read Emily Wierenga's book Atlas Girl in one reading.

Years ago, that's what I would have done... just chugged it down without regard for the time and effort it took her to write it.

And maybe some books are meant to be devoured like that... but not this one. not to me. not now.

I knew within the first pages why it would mean so much. Why I cared. It wasn't because of who she is now... but for the way her heart was broken from the mission field; how her growing up as a "missionary kid" (MK) poured into her brokenness as she grew up, how it affected her life, made her weak AND strong, and shaped her story.

As my heart beats for Missionary Care.

So every word I read, each page that I turned, each prayer I prayed on her behalf, was read through the lens of "this is an MK's story." That made it all the richer a book.

I love Emily's style. She writes raw, and vulnerable, and honest. She makes no apologies for writing that way, and I'm glad. I admit, she made me blush a few times... not for things she said wrong, but because I was completely, keenly aware of what she meant... and I think it was a bit embarrassing to admit that I did, being a 53 year old Christian woman.

I don't talk much anymore about my wild days - the life God rescued me from (which would make this book seem like a cupcake walk) - but because of all God saved me from, and my own lusts, selfishness, and addictions, I can remember the R rated things that Emily references (in her PG13 kind of way).

But she owned up to it, her desires, her longings, and even the moments she realized how she was being selfish during her own mom's illness. And that resonated with me in a good/bad way - reminding me how often I choose to remember how mean my mom was while she battled her lung-cancer-turned-in-to brain -tumor, but not acknowledging my young teen selfishness that likely had something to do with her anger.

So I'm owning up to my part of that situation now. (Thank you Emily, for being used by God in that.)

I couldn't pick a favorite chapter if I had to...all of her story is mesmerizing... but the stuff she shares through Chapter 29 on "Sisters" captivated me, as I'd recently traveled from the western side of Kentucky to visit my own "little sister" in California, and gone without my husband to spend some time working (photography of nature there), catching up with old friends and family, and celebrate my favorite Aunt June's 80th birthday.

I need to make it clear, my 3 sisters and I (there are 2 sets of real sisters, having shared the same womb but 2 different fathers) all love each other a lot. We're different, for sure, but at a moment's notice we'll be where we need to be to help someone out... but we also have a saying:

"Family, like fish, goes bad after 3 days." 

So, as I packed to go, my husband lovingly reminded me SEVERAL times that we had plenty of "reward points" at a few chains, should I need to stay in a hotel over the course of the trip.

I was grateful for the offer, but never had to use it.

I think it was a first for my little sister and I. :)

Maybe we've mellowed with old age, but I really enjoyed the time with her and her family. Since we've been separated by so many miles for so long, and the fact that there's more than 10 years difference between my kids and hers, we have been really busy raising kids in completely different stages of life. I have been keenly aware that I didn't know her kids at all. I always knew what they were doing, what their interests were, but I didn't ever sit down and talk with them. Now that they are teens in high school and college, I could talk to them on my own. It was a delight to see what a GREAT job my sister has done in overseeing their education, how she and her husband had raised them to be upstanding citizens, and mostly, to hear from the kids themselves how they are passionate for Jesus and making their faith their own and how they overcome the obstacles they find in life.

One favorite memory from the trip was a Sunday afternoon spur-of-the-moment road trip for little sis and I to drive Highway 1 down the coast - just she and I - to find a "different place" for me to take some sunset photos on the beach. Somewhere. We didn't have an agenda - besides me taking photos - and I admit, I was a little concerned about how she'd do with my compulsive photo habits which include turning around a lot, pulling over at random spots to grab a quick photo, and either dangling my camera by it's strap or laying on the ground in public to get the shot I want. She swore she wouldn't judge my methods, and we jumped in her SUV to head down the highway we grew up cruising in VW's.

As we left the busy-ness of the north Orange County beaches (Seal Beach, where we grew up, and Huntington Beach where we both graduated from high school), we enjoyed the diminishing crowds along the highway. She spotted a sign  for See's Candies and indulged my sweet tooth for a snack there, then spotted a garden area and detoured to make a stop and walk through the beautiful gardens.

As we approached Laguna Beach, we reminisced of when our dad dated, and then married a woman who lived there, and how we would spend time in that quirky-but-beautiful beach town. I think that we discovered how vast our 3 year age difference was really more like a 10 year span; our memories were completely different, not in opposition to what happened, but in our perspective of the events that took place. She spent much more time there, and I wasn't there (or wasn't in a frame of mind to remember, pot-head that I was back then) the charming memories that she shared.

It wasn't wrong of either of us, just different views of the same scenes.

As we snapped photos of the old house and left Laguna we headed towards San Clemente. She mentioned how the kids loved Crystal Cove (I'd never even heard of the place!) and we vowed to return with them later in the week (we did, and it WAS great!!).

After her hockey fix during a dinner of Mexican food on Main Street, we rambled back up the road to visit the cove, to capture the setting sun that was starting to slip low in the sky. We parked for free (already after hours!), walked out into the sand (which was really rocky here) and jockeyed for the best angles to take photos. We talked about cameras, and phones, and photography, and kids, and life. We snapped selfies and posed silly and giggled hard when we got our feet (and her pant-legs) soaked, too close to the waves imposing on us in the rising tide.

Life's so short. I think we knew that when we lost our mom at the young ages of 12 and 9, but didn't realize it until we took some time to be together that day. It was sacrificial of each of us... she gave up time with her family; I went outside my comfort zone to let her accompany me; but we delighted in sharing memories that were sometimes painful, and in making new memories, really delightful.

It really impressed upon me later in the week as we gathered around our 80 year old aunt, and all of us sister girls fussed over each other and teased and picked on one another... and hugged and loved on each other...our fractured family drawn together for a beautiful, memory making celebration of our aunt's life.

It was that memory that I went back to, as I read Atlas Girl... the history of our family, each one of these strong women I'm related to, how we had come through our own difficult journey to get where we are today. The struggles are all different, we have had to die to self in our own ways, our daily lives lived sacrificially in a variety of circumstances. We're each in a different place with God, but I pray that we each acknowledge Him, and will grow closer to Him, giving Him a seat of honor in our hearts and lives. That realization is a growing process, for sure... one that Emily tells about so beautifully in her book...

     "And then it comes to me. It takes going through hell to appreciate heaven. And on earth we have a choice. We can experience heaven on a daily basis; we can surrender our worries and  let our minds and souls be flooded with peace, knowing someone divine is taking care of us. 
     Or we can hold on to control, for fear of letting go and letting God. 
     It's not about dying and someday going to heaven, it's about inviting heaven into our everyday existence. 
     Forgiving. Redeeming what is lost. Trusting. Letting go. Living now." 

- Emily Wierenga, Atlas Girl

Friday, July 4, 2014

Five Minute Friday... Exhale

I haven't done this (Five Minute Friday) in a LONG while... when I get to working on other's blogs too much (or just working too much!) it stagnates my writing... so, on the cusp of this day, I read Lisa-Jo Baker's blog and caught wind of this week's Five Minute Friday word... "Exhale," and I could relate. 

I wanted to EXHALE too.

I had to jump in.

So here's the rules (from her site): 
So come and write with us. Together. On one word for five minutes. Here are all the details. And then link up your post or leave it in the comments by clicking here. But remember, the one must rule here is that you visit the person who linked up before you and encourage them in their writing. - See more at: 

Reading back through Emily Wierenga's "Atlas Girl" so I can finish my post on it...
And here are my 5 minutes on "Exhale": 

I've come out in the sun on the patio to read. Just to step away from the screen and soak in sunshine and words. To distract me from the task of today. The "stuff" of life. I just want to breathe.

I'm reminded of a breathing exercise that our long-ago youth group minister would do to get the kids to focus. INHALE, say "More of You, Jesus" = EXHALE, say "Less of me."

This slowly transforms my "me" agenda to a moment of inviting Him to be in this place. I want - no NEED - to feel Him here. Just these few moments, before I crack open the spine of the book again. before I slip my straps down to soak up more sun. Just NOW. I need to EXHALE all of the ME and breathe in ALL OF HIM. I need more of Him. Now. Every breath.

I'm reminded of a quote that I'd read in Jennifer Dukes Lee's book "Love Idol" - something about getting up every morning and "getting over myself" to let Him give me more of His agenda, His perspective, His focus. Live for Him in that day.

I need to do that more. Again. 

Because while I can breathe in more and more of Him, if there's too much ME in there, I don't have room for HIM... (end)

My prayer: 

Lord, I'm so sorry. I confess that I let the busy-ness of each day, the worries of this life on earth, squeeze out the room in my head, my lungs, my heart - that belong to You. Take them all back. I surrender my body, my breath, back to You. Take it. Use it for Your glory, Your will, here on earth; that I may have more of You and Your life more abundantly, both here and in heaven. - Amen 

Not Yet Spring...

It's not quite Meteorological Spring (I've been told it will take place on March 1st) and the rain stopped long enough for us to be ...