Monday, November 11, 2013

Harvesting Happy Holidays....A Simple Thanksgiving Tradition!

I actually came up with something before and without Pinterest! There are so many times that I think, "How did I not think of that all ready?" when pinning. The other day, I was looking at our family's favorite Thanksgiving tradition and thought, "Wait! I thought of this-5 years ago! I had an idea without Pinterest...." Yes, the happy dance proceeded then I gained control of myself. Anyway, it's nothing earth shattering, but when I say that my family loves this tradition, I mean they love it! We began this tradition in 2009; it's simply a Thanksgiving Tablecloth. I am a tradition junkie, just ask my family. Traditions are what bring delight and memories to childhood. They bond our hearts as a family. For our Thanksgiving Tradition, we had been simply making a Thankful List, but as it is typical with me, I knew I could come up with something a little better. I suppose I could have made a binder to keep up with our annual list. That just didn't seem as fun, though. I honestly cannot remember the moment this idea popped into my brain, but I knew it would work perfectly for what I was wanting to accomplish: something that would be multi-functional as decoration, displaying my kids' handwriting and hearts as they grow, would constantly have the reminder of "Thanks" throughout the month, and finally would create a not so ordinary, yet simple tradition for us to enjoy together. The Thanksgiving Tablecloth has worked wonderfully and this weekend we will add 2013 to our Tablecloth. In the words of Veggie Tales, "A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart" and our hearts are truly, deeply happy as we sit and recall God's bountiful blessings. I hope this sparks an idea for a simple tradition that your family can enjoy during this holiday that is often passed by.

Here's a picture of our tablecloth (please overlook my pitiful writing-my sister took all of that skill and left me with none!)

I bought a cheap solid cream tablecloth for around $10 at Walmart (in 2009) and I already had paint pens in my craft supplies.

First, I (meagerly) added our family name and a verse to the center of the tablecloth. Each year we begin by reading the previous years' lists (I think this is our favorite part!). Then we go to work! Each year, we pick a spot, I write the year then we begin writing our lists under the year, using paint pens. It is very simple, but we share so much joy hearing each others list of Thanks.

I hope this inspires you to begin a simple Thanksgiving Tradition. And remember, keep is simple! Simple makes it special not stressful!

Thursday, October 31, 2013


A few weeks ago, I had the incredible joy of visiting the Arkansas State Maximum security prison for women. I must admit, I went with a, I’m coming to bless you, attitude. Which might sound good. But that’s just a pretty way to say, I think I’m better than you so I’m going to grace you with my presence. I did feel good about myself. It didn’t take long for my heart to be completely humbled. About 5 minutes after entering the prison. The first thing I heard was from one of the inmates who shared her testimony of the life changing grace of God. “I was in prison before I ever came to prison.” And she could stand before us, wearing a white jump suit, but clothed in the righteousness of Christ and say, “I did murder someone. And I’m thankful God brought my rebellious heart to this physical prison because it’s where the prison of my heart was set free. I am thankful to be in prison because it’s where I found Jesus.” Before you even let your thoughts go here, let me tell you that this was the most real testimony I have ever heard. Do not let yourself think for a second that this was some jailhouse religion. This was from the heart of the most joy-filled woman I have ever met. A woman who had already been in prison for 15 years and would be there until the day she dies. And she is content. At peace. Simply because she has Jesus. She wasn’t a victim. She didn’t try to justify or blame. She owned her sin. There were about 10 of these women who shared the same story and the same Grace. And I was completely humbled at the reality of my own heart. My heart that, in all honestly, becomes so discontent with the most petty things. And I was overwhelmed by this thought, I wonder if Jesus looks at my heart and says, “you white washed tomb?”
What I realized is that we are all prisoners of something. Pride. Appearance. Approval. Prominence. Prestige. Privilege. Perhaps us “free world-ers” are even more imprisoned than these prisoners. Because we have “goodness” to hide behind. It struck me that day how much more us good church going, pew sitting Christians are like the Pharisees than Christ-followers. And these real life prisoners? Well, they are so much more like the woman at the well. And the adulterous woman. And the Mary who washed His feet with her hair. Sure, their sin was more visible. And detestable. But they knew they weren’t good. They had nothing to hide behind. Their shame is what drove them to Jesus. But we would rather stay hidden behind our self-conceived goodness. So we miss Him. Because we are too busy looking at her with disgust just to feel better about ourselves. I didn’t murder anyone. I didn’t commit adultery. I cannot imagine how she got herself into that state of sin. Yet, I’m the one to miss Jesus and she’s the one to experience Him. Because she is desperate and I’m good with good. I am a prisoner to my pride. And this real life prisoner, she is a prisoner to nothing. She is free. She is free because she knows she has nothing to hide behind but Him. And she isn’t trying to, unlike me.

This verse has been constantly coming to mind since this day, “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.” Yet I realize, I am comfortable in my captivity. I would rather hide behind my pride than admit my mess. Those of us who sit in our pews, in our pretty clothes, with our hearts dirty with pride, don’t realize that we are blind to our need for Him. Don’t you see? We are still trying to be depend on ourselves. Our good. When there is none. He alone is good. We either clothe ourselves in His good, rejoicing in His grace, or we are still enslaved. My eyes were opened the day I visited these free women in prison. They were opened to myself. To us. Christ exchanged my disgraceful state for His goodness. Yet, I am still trying to be good and good enough. These women? They walked in His goodness. They were free and I’m the one who is the prisoner.

I know this brings the question, “Aren’t I supposed to live a life that is good?” I’m so busy trying to look good and what they realized is that Christ makes me good. The goodness of my life is based on who I am in Christ. I do not have to earn “goodness” because it is based entirely upon Him. Our pretty little lives result in the same thing it did with the Pharisees. You look at the captives set free by Christ. You look at those who encountered the life changing power of Christ. Those who came to Him sinners and walked away saints. They came admitting their mess and realizing their need. The Pharisees were so blinded by their “good” that they didn’t see how desperately dead their hearts were. They were trying to make outward appearances be their good. Those who truly encountered Christ allowed Him to get to their heart and their lives were radically changed as a result. And that’s the point. Looking good doesn’t make me good. That’s what I learned that day in prison. This life in Christ is not about living a “good” life. It is living from the overflow of my changed heart. That alone will result in a life that gives glory to Him. Otherwise, I’m just a white-washed tomb.

Here’s the reality of things. There are no felonies and misdemeanors in God’s justice system. We are all a mess and it’s all death sentence. We just don’t have to pay our penalty because we’ve been pardoned by an Innocent Person. My reality is that I don’t really have any goodness to hide behind. But I am covered by His perfect goodness. That’s what these women understood. That is their freedom; I am not good, but He is. They choose Grace and I choose my self-constructed good. What a lie. What a pity. And I just wonder how many hearts I’ve murdered with my unkind words and condemning attitudes?

Hearing 200 prisoner’s praise with the following words was life-changing. And they gave me the greatest glimpse of the work of Christ:
Where sin runs deep Your grace is more. Where grace is found is where You are. And where You are, Lord, I am free. Holiness is Christ in me…. (Matt Maher, I Need You)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

God is Real

God is real. This thought captivates my heart as I sit in my quiet house this morning. God is real. Oh sure, I know this intellectually. I know this in my heart. But I really do not know that I know this fully. If I did, how differently I would live and think. Move and breathe. 

Last week, my husband said to me, “I’m learning to look at things from Heaven’s throne rather than my perspective.” I’ve been thinking about that. And this reality, God is Real, is invading me. You see, I struggle. I struggle with “being in the ministry” being enough. I’ve sacrificed enough. Given enough. Believe me, I have my laundry list of what I’ve given up, so I’m not willing to give up more. More comfort. More strongholds. More idols. More other than Him affections. More sacrifice. I’ve gone far enough with Him. And I’ve stopped Him from asking more of me. I like my comforts and my control. But I’m learning I have none. Because of this thought. God is real. Every hero I have in His Word knew this. It occurs to me, they were no hero’s at all. They simply knew this one thing. God is real. Abraham left and sacrificed. Joseph. Moses. Nehemiah. David. Hannah. Daniel. Ruth. Mary. Peter. Paul. Matthew. John. They didn’t need to know anything else because this one reality removes everything else from our hearts. Every fear. Every doubt. Every limitation and stipulation we put on Him. Everything. God asked of them what was most dear to them and they said yes to Him.

God is real. In my gut, I know it. For some reason this, real as the chair I’m sitting in, reality changes everything. Suddenly, I see the places of my heart I’m holding. And He’s not reigning. And it overwhelms me to realize that I really don’t believe He is real. If I did, I would hold on to nothing. Nothing but Him. The control I want to have of my life. From the throne of this Real God, that is stripped away. And the status and success and approval and validation I seek, they are merely dead idols created by my human hands. In my church going, ministry living, good girl life, how have I missed this? How am I just learning this? Of course, this pastors’ wife knows God is real. I’ve given up my life for Him. But for the first time, I see that in my own heart, I do not live as if He really were real. Because in my heart, there is still dead. There is still comfortable captivity. My soul has been saved but my heart has not been whole. In my heart, I’ve been the rich young ruler. Those things that I hold most dearly. I’ve let those other things reign where only He should. He has said to my heart, let it go. You know so much about Me, have lived for Me, given up for Me, but I am not fully Lord. So these other than Me things that you most treasure, give them up. And I’ve said no. Just like the rich young ruler whom I’ve chastised so many times. In the depths of my heart, I have not believed that He is real. Otherwise, I would let go. I would walk away. I would give it up because this is Christ, the real God, calling me. But I’d rather have my dead gods. 

Just. Stop. God is real. Can you even begin to wrap your mind around that?  The God who spoke and it was. The God who died so you could live. He is real. The most real thing that exists. Of course He is, but do you really live that way in your heart? Where you worry and fear? Where you have stones of anger and rocks of bitterness? Where you try to control or impress? Where you still seek the approval and the favor of others? Where it matters to you how you measure up to the success and status of those around you? Where opinions dictate your decisions? Because if He really is real, in your gut, that all becomes dead. This one reality makes your heart whole and wholly set on Him. He is real. And this throne view of life changes how I live. If He says go, I go. Because He is God and He is real and I see life from His view not my own. Staying would be death and going is life. I cannot stay. If He says give. Serve. Sell. Sacrifice. Get into the mess of others. Love to the death of self. Comfort becomes uncomfortable. Safe becomes dangerous because He is not Lord of safe.   

In my mind, surrender has been to a circumstance. I’ve lived in fear of what that circumstance might be. So I’ve said No. Enough. But surrender is to Him. This real God. That’s what I’ve missed. The rich young ruler walked away because He did not know that He is real. Surrender was about a thing not the real God. When surrender is to Him, our response is never, No. It’s never, I won’t go that far. I won’t give up that attitude. That sin. That desire. That approval. That comfort. Even the good things, the things I think I’m supposed to do as a good girl, if they have dethroned Him and become my comfort, my security, my focus, my pride, are dead gods reigning the throne of my heart. When those other than Him things matter more, He is not really real to me. But when He truly comes alive in my heart, all else dies. And my answer is Yes. Because He is real.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My Blogless Blog

I am fully aware that I am breaking every blogging rule, ever. I had great plans for this blog when it started. I want to thank you for being graciously patient with me. Over the past 3 years, God has been leading to do a writing project. Out of fear and intimidation, I put if off for two years. I finally submitted since He was relentless. The writing began in January and was planned to be completed by now. However, isn't it just like Him not to allow me to just write, but to learn as I write. After all, I cannot teach what I am not learning. Ironically, I thought I had already learned the message of this writing project, but He has shown me otherwise. All of that to say, it has taken me much longer than anticipated because of the painful purging and praying that's had to take place in my own heart through the process of this project. I tell you all of this because as much as I've wanted to focus on this blog, God has not allowed me to focus on anything but said project until it is completed. My mind is honestly consumed. So please don't abandon me! I hope that it only takes a few more months and by the end of the summer I can really get going. I am slowly beginning to see what direction I am to take this blog of which I see as a ministry. Somehow, this writing project is preparing me for whatever God is leading me to do with this blog. I know that I am being entirely vague and I honestly do not wish to share what this crazy project is just yet, but I covet your prayers. Until I can begin really  blogging, I will post my random, sporadic posts.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

4 Days Dead

Last night, Tim and I experienced the greatest joy parents can ever know. Our third child understood his sin in the presence of the Holy God and accepted the salvation of Christ. There is no greater blessing God gives than to know that my family of five will be eternally together. We have prayed for this day since before we became parents. The death of sin truly has been defeated. And my son woke up today in his new life in Christ. He will walk the remainder of his days in the new mercies of God each day. Just as his name, Evan, declares, my prayer is that my son knows fully that “The Lord is good.” As I rejoice, my heart and mind think on these weeks that have followed Easter, the day we celebrate our glorious hope. I am reminded that there is no resurrection without the crucifixion. Death brings life. Lazarus was given a glimpse of such life after death understanding. He was four days dead but the power of Christ prevailed and new life was given to him. We are all Lazarus, dead and in need of resurrection. Most certainly, our souls are dead and our victorious Savior gives us life through His own death. But we are whole people. Not only are our souls dead, but our entire being died that sad day of the fall. Until then, no depressed emotions, fear filled minds or anxious hearts existed. Death invaded. But God resurrects. My soul is revived when Jesus gives His new life. Furthermore, the power of His resurrection is for this weak and wandering heart, this fearful and faithless mind. I am truly, wholly dead. Dead in my disappointments and depressions and doubts. He cries out my name, commands me to rise and walk in His new life. As Christians, we miss that His resurrection is for all of me. I, too, am four days dead. The sin of my doubts, the pains of my heart, the thoughts of my mind need His resurrection power. Daughter of God Most High, He has the power to bring life to that which is dead. So many days, I drudge forward, defeated. Will I allow Him to breathe His new life in me? Do not misunderstand me to say that we are never in need of help through medication or counseling. My point is simply that we live as though how we are in our minds and hearts is okay. We dismiss or accept our struggles. No. We are to live as redeemed daughters. We do not have to walk in the deadness of who we are. Pride, bitterness, anger, self-righteousness, anxiety, anger, guilt, shame, self-sufficiency, hopelessness. Those are death and destruction to our hearts and minds. He wants us to walk in the life of His grace, forgiveness, peace, patience, joy. If His life is not evident in my own, I am still a dead man walking. My soul may be saved, but death still reigns. He gives life and if He is not Lord of me wholly, death is ruling. He died for me to live, not just someday up there, but today right here. Where has sin and satan brought death and destruction in your life? What emotions, desires and thoughts need to be put to death so that in them, you can experience the victory of His resurrection? Let Him bring life to you, wholly.