Saturday, November 8, 2014

Saying No to Say Yes

There are those seasons in life that seem extra busy. Those seasons where you just do not have enough time in each day to accomplish all the things that you had hoped to. I'm finding that those are coming more and more and that I am having to learn to say no to things much more frequently. Recently I felt the need to drop out of a Bible Study with some dear friends simply because I just wasn't able to keep up, and falling behind proved to be stressful and sent me to bed each night regretting that despite my best efforts I hadn't answered even one single question, much less done a whole lesson.

Then today a friend shared a mommy blog post. I like mommy blogs even though I'm not a mom, and so I took a minute to read it while on lunch break. And I had to smile. I think my life is hectic and I don't have children hanging off of me. I thought, "Well, am I saying no to quickly? If she can do that, maybe I can do more?"

But as I thought about that, I realized that each season of life has it's own moments of hecticness, and that her busy is different than my busy. What I say no to, will be different than what she says no to, but that doesn't mean either of us is wrong. We are just in different seasons of life. We all need to say no sometimes. The important thing is to evaluate what we are saying yes too, and making sure that that is in line with what God has for us in our current season of life, and evaluate our no's in the same manner. Right now one of my big yes is finishing my college education. Later when I have finished college, my yeses will be for something else. 

So, what are you saying no to so that you can say yes to the most important things in life? Namely your relationship with the Lord.

Yeah, I know, I said life was crazy enough so that I couldn't even do a Bible study lesson and here I am writing a rambling blog post. While my lunch is getting cold no less. But you see, for some people, writing is every bit as important as eating. ;)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lessons in the DR

A little over a week ago today I arrived back from a trip with friends to the Dominican Republic. If you would like to read about some of our adventures, check out the links below.
Jenn (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5,  

Jessie Bear (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6,   
Hopefully more to come)

I have promised to sit down and share a little from my own perspective, but truth be told, I do not even know where to start. Perhaps at the beginning? For me day one was about a year ago. At that time Jessie Bear had just arrived home from her first trip to the Dominican Republic. She told me bits and pieces about the trip but what I remember most was the change in her vocabulary. She talked a lot about grace and about the soul. Somewhere back at the end of the summer of 2013, that was my day one.

At that time I was not even considering that there might be a next trip and that I would be on it. I was focused on life, and that life included the structure and pressure of a job and college classes amidst all the other aspects of daily life. However, the talk about the soul and what grace meant in daily life was creating questions in my mind. Questions that continued to bagger me, particularly one, "Do I really know what grace is?"

Time went on and Jessie Bear continued to talk about what she had learned, but not in the same direct way. I could see that what she had learned had changed her, grown her, and sometimes I felt at a loss to understand where she was in life. She seemed to grasp things in a new way that had made her more focused and even more alive. Yet, even though I saw the results, I could not fully grasp the truth behind the change. I wanted it too, but it seemed beyond me, to hard.

I was convinced I could not ever go because I had responsibilities and it was costly, but faithful friends were praying (some I did not even know about then) and over time pieces began to fall in place, God provided, and I went.

As I boarded my first plane I was resolved to listen well and to learn, but I was not aware of another resolve that had been developing below the surface. A determination to protect myself. You see, I felt vulnerable because of my questions on grace. Here I had been a Christian for years and here I was swamped in doubts out my understanding of grace. Yes, there was a lot of pride behind that fear, but remember, I did not realize all of this was going on. At least not yet.

As the trip progressed I enjoyed the newness of being in another country, the fun in observing new people, and the depth of the lessons we had each day. I was excited that some of my questions were answered and felt my understanding of grace began to deepen some. However, there were still some unvoiced questions hovering in the back of my mind. I never allowed myself time to even put them into words, but they were there none the less.

We were nearing the end of out trip and were seated at breakfast when Mr. Raimundo put a question to me. I do not even recall the exact question, but I think it was along the lines of what a key takeaway from the sessions had been to me. I said that it had been on the talks on grace and our completeness in Christ. How I had never fully grasped that, and how I always had such high standards for myself and others that we never reached them and I was always left feeling like a failure, judgemental, and even hopeless at times.

It was then that I truly began to learn, when I spoke up and voiced what was tumbling around inside. Mr. Raimundo stopped me and asked if I was sure that my standards were to high, and then went on to explain that, no, my standards were not to high, in fact, they were very low. He explained that God's standard is the highest, and it is not perfection. Do you know what it is? Grace. And what is grace? It is that Jesus died on a cross and took God's wrath upon Him so that we might live.

I wished I had taken notes, so that I could now more clearly explain using his questions and illustrations. But the fact is, over that breakfast, for the first time I felt like I was really beginning to grasp grace and how I should live because of how God pours out His grace on us. I had heard about grace time and time again, I had read God's Word many times over, but somehow the fullness of grace eluded me. I would see little glimpses of it, but it really had never sunk in and fully effected how I lived on a day to day bases.

The rest of the trip ended in a blur of sad lasts for us all, but I highly doubt that I was the only one who was also experiencing many exciting new firsts.

Often we go into things with expectations of what we hope to learn and take away, but the best lessons are the ones that God teaches when we are least expecting them. He truly does know what we need and is faithful to provide.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Despising the Gift?

The sun beat hard my forehead as my eyes scanned the horizon.
A puffing breeze made the warmness just bearable.
"Lord God Almighty, Creator of the universe...You are powerful,
Your might extends across the heavens and the earth.
Your love to all generations..."
My eyes descend the earth just in front of my feet.
"You are amazing in every way, and you love me..."
I shake my head.
"Then why is it that I feel so empty? Why will this thirst not be quenched?"
My skin is sticky, but I stay there in the sun.
Hoping for an answer.
I sigh and turn to go in, out of the mugginess, the question still there.


The day moves on. I focus. I work hard. I accomplish many goals.
And yet, I want more. I even think that I need more.
I clock out. The work day completed. I sit back, I pray.
"Father, fill me up. Be my everything. My all.
Let this ache, this burning ache, go away. Be my comfort. Still my heart."
The day goes on and I do some chores, get ready for the next day.
Yet, in it all the whispered prayer for more, for deliverance
continues with each breath.

The sun is setting, the breeze has cooled, and the smell of rain lingers in the air.
I walk slowly along the familiar gravel pathway, listening to the rustling
of the wind running through the fields.
The prayer from earlier echos even stronger within my heart.
"Lord, my God, my Father -- I know that You do all things well and for good...
but why must this ache persist? Why must I always feel like
a pilgrim in the desert, dying of thirst?"

I listen as I walk, and pray for more of Him and then it comes.
A question.
"What if this ache isn't suppose to go away? What if this thirst isn't supposed to die? What if the very thing you beg for Him to take is the very gift
He gave?"

I stand still as the wind tugs at my hair.
I stare up into the cloud-filled heavens. I smell rain's sweet sent.
"What if this thirst, this ache for more, was a gift?
Hadn't I just prayed the day before, telling Him that I wanted to long for Him more than ANYTHING?
What if this was the answer?
What if this need, this brokenness, was the gift?"
My mind wondered.
2 Corinthians 12:9 came into focus.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
Was this weakness? Was this where His strength could be
perfected? Where glory could be given?"

"Maybe once again I was trying to get rid of the pain and discomfort that was meant to be kept?
Maybe I was trying to be whole when I can best serve Him
The thoughts continued to tumble.
"Yes, maybe this thirst so deep that nothing but Him alone can satisfy was a gift. Maybe it wasn't something to try to shake
or loose, but something to embrace. To treasure.
Maybe this ache that kept driving me to my knees and into His arms
was something I didn't want to loose?
Maybe it was a reminder
of how very wonderful and awesome He is?
Maybe it was what I'd been praying for all along? A chance to never, ever
loose sight of His face. To never stop seeking Him with
all that I am?"

I began to walk again.
"Thank You, Lord, for meeting me here.
For speaking to my weary and longing heart.
Thank you for reminding me that sometimes we shouldn't seek to
escape the hardship, the weaknesses, but instead we should embrace them. Cling to them...because in that brokenness and need, there are You found.
There are You glorified."

The corners of my mouth lifted into a little smile.A sigh made its way from my heart to my lips.
He always meets me here. In the quite. In the stillness.
He always meets me here and whispers words into my ear that I never dreamed I'd hear.
His grace is amazing. His love and mercy never ending. And His
steadfastness is as constant as the rising and setting of the sun.
And once again my soul rejoices, because He is GOOD.


"Who have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth:
but  God is the strength of my heart
and my portion for ever."
Psalm 75: 25 & 26

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Imposter Enchiladas

Impostor Enchiladas
Looks like it, smells like it, but doesn't taste quite like it.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Boil the chicken breasts in 4-6 cups of water until completely cooked. Save the water/broth. Take chicken out and chop into 1/4 inch pieces and set aside.
1 small onion finely chopped
3-6 T. pickles jalapenos finely chopped (or green chilies to taste)
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 t. celery salt
1/4 t. ground back pepper

Use the water/broth you held back (4-6 cups) to start your sauce. Added the onion, peppers, and spices and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Slowly add 1/2-1 cup thickener (wheat flour, cornstarch, rice flour) and stir slowly until thickened (5 minutes). Take off heat.

16 oz. sour cream
Shredded Cheddar cheese

Lightly grease a 9 x13" inch casserole pan (can use Pam). Ladle sauce into the pan until the bottom is covered (1/4 inch?). Take a tortilla, fold it in half, and then tear along the fold line. Spread sour cream over the tortilla (it doesn't have to cover the entire thing. Add a pinch of chicken (1 tablespoon) and a pinch of shredded cheese on top of the sour cream at one end of the tortilla. Roll the tortilla and place in pan on top of sauce. Repeat until the pan is full. Cover the top with sauce (1/4 - 1/2 inch). Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake at 350* for 30-40 minutes until cheese is melted completely. Serve.

I came up with this recipe one night when I didn't feel like eating any of our "normal" family dishes. My sister helped me come up with a name for it and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Even Here

The crunching sound of feet pounding on gravel.
The smell of dust as it swirls on the wind, blowing from a nearby cotton field
freshly plowed.
My breath comes quick, inhaling, exhaling at an accelerated pace.
In out, in out. My lungs begin to tire, yet I push on.
I glance down at my feet, willing them to keep stepping, and then up again at my distant goal.
Closer and closer. I can make out more detail, see the familiar growth that lines the side of the road.
I squint my eyes, and breath hard.
I can do this. I will my legs to keep on taking steps, my feet
to keep rising and falling.

This is the second time to day, running down this road.
The second time to urge my legs to keep on moving, my feet to crunch the gravel.
My mind starts to wonder a little as I keep pressing, pushing into
what was a breeze that is now a wind.
But no, I focus. One foot, and then another. This is not the time or place for deep thought. I look ahead, nearly there now.
I reach my goal, a corner post standing up among the weeds.
I gasp for air as I turn to walk the other way, to cool down.
I look into the golden glow of the sunset. I do not marvel at it's beauty this time.
I just glance down at my dusty shoes.
Thoughts come.
I cannot outrun them. I sigh.

 "Father, I don't know Your plan," I whisper. "And now, right now...right now I cannot even see Your hand."
I glance up, and see brown air in the distance. Dust on the wind.
"I want to see...but more to know, to trust..."
I bite my lip, I close my eyes for just a minute, my feet still walking me forward slowly.
"Lord, I know that You are there, I know that You care...
I know You see my heart.
You are GOOD..."
I sigh, softly pushing air through drying lips.
My heart is heavy as it thumbs hard against my ribs. I know He's listening so I stop. I turn to face the wind and close my eyes.

"You formed me, You rescued me, You know my heart...You are my God..."
I scrunch my eyes tight and slowly exhale.
"I don't know where You are taking me. I don't understand why...
But I'll trust You...for today."
I open my eyes and look up at dirty blue with a now golden hue. I look way up at the sky.
"Tomorrow...I cannot promise. I want to...
But I may falter...I may even run..." I whisper within my heart, knowing He hears.
I wish to be brave, to be strong, but I know the truth. I am weak.
I always fail. I always run.

I turn and beginning walking slowly homeward. Yes, I always run...
But He doesn't stand back and watch me leave.
I blink hard at the wetness in my eyes. No, He never lets me go alone.
He runs with me.
Right there beside me.
A verse I memorized long ago comes to mind as I continue homeward.
"Whither shall I go from Thy spirit?
or whither shall I flee from Thy from they presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold,
thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the
uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there
shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me."

Yes, even there when I am running.
Even there when I am afraid. He's always there. He's holding, He's leading.
Yes, He is GOOD.
My lips turn slightly upward, the burden starts to slip away.
My hands relax at my side.
Yes, He is Good...even here. Even when I can't see.
Even when tomorrow is unknown.
Yes...especially here.

"On the day I called, You answered me; my strength of soul you increased."
Psalm 138:3

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Procrastination, A Lack of Trust

February 5, 2014

Have you ever been so busy that you never seem to have a down moment? You go from one task to another all day long and reach each evening feeling further behind instead of more caught up. You tell your friends you would love to join them in this or that, but you are just too busy and cannot spare time just now. And yet, beneath all of the busy you are procrastinating.

Have you been there? I have.

Some of my own struggles in procrastinating has been rooted in my fear of being still, quiet, and trusting in the unseen hand of God Almighty. To cover up any sense of guilt or shame for not trusting, I often allow myself to become super busy and tell myself that each task is important and the world would all but stop if I stopped. Can you say pride and foolishness?

This ultimate struggle to surrender and let go of control, placing my trust in the One who is most worthy of trust, pushes me into a tizzy. I go and go and go until one day I realize that it is all empty. I am busy, but it amounts to nothing more than burned energy and a dissatisfied heart.

Have you allowed procrastination and busyness to rob you of the joy of being still and letting God be God? Have you taken matters into your own frail hands and "made" a life for yourself that is deceivingly full, but frightfully empty? If you have, I challenge you to be still and let that truth sink in. Then take some time and talk with the Lord about this area of sin in your life and start tomorrow afresh. Start by being prayerful and careful about what you say "yes" to and what you need to say "no" to.

He is worthy of our trust, and He has so much more for us then empty busyness.

"O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him" (Psalm 34:8).

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Crazy Day Taco Soup

If your family is like my family you probably have those crazy days every now and then where things do not go as planned and as dinner time nears you have nothing prepared. On those days you need something quick and easy, right? And surely you wouldn't object if it was quick, easy, and good would you?

One of my families relatively new "crazy day" favorites is our own special version of taco soup. Now, let me warn you, we always make a LOT so you may want to size this recipe down to fit your family.

Crazy Day Taco Soup

2 lbs. taco meat
4-5 (14.5 oz.) cans of beans (we like a mix of ranch beans, black beans, and red kidney beans)
2-3 (14.5 oz.) cans of white hominy (corn could also be used, but my family prefers the hominy)
1 (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
1 (8 oz.) can of tomato sauce
1 (4 oz.) can of chopped green chilies
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cups milk (we often add extra water and use powdered milk)
Combine ingredients in big pot, add 5-6 cups of water and heat until hot. Serve with corn chips on the side. Top each bowl with grated cheese, a dollup of sour cream, and if desired, your favorite salsa.

Servings: 12+

Friday, January 31, 2014

Pixels of the BIG Picture

May 22, 2013
I was thinking of how I often have prayed, "Lord, open my eyes so that I may see things more like You do." And then when He does, I squirm and I want the "extra sight" to go away. I don't want to be burdened by the hurts and sins I see. I don't want to ache day and night over my own sins and failings. I just want life to be easy, and I want to be happy. I want life to be about me, because I am selfish. The truth is, life isn't about me. It wasn't ever meant to be. It was meant to be about Him. So today I've been asking myself, do I really want to see as He sees? Do I really want my heart to ache as His must? It will I willing to die to self? I'm not saying that God doesn't find joy in watching His children. He does! But it only takes one look into the world through eyes that He has opened just the tiniest bit to see how much pain there is as well.
Praying that we may see as He does in some aspects is good, but have you ever thought about how overwhelmed we would become if we even so 1/100,000,000th of what He sees? We could not carry such burdens, no rejoice with half as much exuberance as would be needed....He sees the BIG picture, and we just see a few pixels.
When we ask God for things, we should always remember to ask it in the spirit of, "if it is Your will" and "if it is good for me." What we think we want and what we really need are two different things. I don't know about you, but I find it comforting to know that He knows my needs and He gives accordingly. Even when it means not answering my prayers for more of something because He knows that I am not ready for more.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

He Finds Me Here - Part 2

Read Part 1

The days were busy, the goals many. I pushed forward, rushed here then there. Each day was filled so full. I was doing good things, wasn't I?
Yes, My Lord must be pleased. I was serving His people. Making them feel treasured and special. And that counted for something,
didn't it?

Only, you see, I was missing it. He, the Mighty Savior of all creation, longed for something more from me. He who healed the lame, made the blinded eyes to see.
He who died and rose again on day three. No, He holds the power of
heaven and earth within His all capable hands. It wasn't my efforts that would make the greatest difference. It was His love. The love which
He gives freely to all who will receive.

I am called to love others as self, but above this I am called to love Him
with all that is in me. All that I am.

In the rush, the busyness, the "good," I lost sight of the Hope, the Way,
the Truth. I made myself a god. I was responsible for
the happiness and joy of others. I was hope to the world.
Do you see the problem? The mistake?

In the midst of my self-sufficiency, I lost sight of Him. Memory of my sins and failings grew so large within, that breath died within me.
No matter of hard work or giving of self could wipe away the stains.
Hope languished, died.
How could He love me? Me, who's sins
nailed Him to a tree? Me, who's heart was full of darkness?
So, in those days the truth was hidden, I was blind and could not see.

Through His mercy, through His grace, over time He worked, spoke truth and became new within.
Open my blinded eyes that I once more might see, His truth, His grace, His love for me. He died, not so that I could become perfect in and of me, but that
in Him I might be set truly free. In Him be perfected.
In my weaknesses, He made strong.
In my weaknesses Him glorified. Lifted high. In me, His righteousness be shown.
In me, His great love be known.

It was never,
never about me. Always about Him. And when I lost sight of that truth,
I lost sight of Him too. I lost sight of His love, mercy, grace.
All I could see was my failings. Blinded by them,
life lost its appeal. But, thank the Lord, in that darkness He came, came
and rescued me once more. Showed me truth, love, such great
love. Showered me with His care.

And in those mostly-alone-days He extracted from my heart
such joy, such praise. I was saved once,
but each day He continues to ransom, continues His love, continues His redemption. I shall falter. I shall fail.
Yet, in the end His love always will prevail.

What a wondrous God do we serve!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

He Finds Me Here - Part 1

The sky is dark, all but the lights in the distance that speckle the horizon.
The house is quiet, but not too quiet.
"Bump-ity-bump," the dryer balls spin round and round
amongst the still damp towels.
The hum of the dishwasher and my computer add to the comforting, homey sounds as I await my families return.

I breathe deep and revel in the relative stillness of the house.
This time has been good. God has been good. In this mostly-alone-time He has showed me more of Himself. Whispered truths into my worn and weary heart.
He loves me.

I struggled to know this not so long ago, doubt and lies trying to rob me of my hope and trust.
But here, here as time balances between the new and old years, even if only for a few hours, here He met me. Here He linked truths together so that I would know.

Here He removed doubts, uncovered lies.
Here He made my heart to rejoice again in His truth and love. Here He made the passion and deep joy spring forth once more.

A familiar sing song rhythm beats within, slow and sweet.
Each breath becomes a prayer. A praise.

I've missed this. When did it slip away? All day the question comes and goes. When had the sweetness faded, the joy gotten lost?