Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Greatest Gift Ever Given

Last night I talked to an old friend - really talked - about how things were going. Most of the time we just talk and don't talk about the real things of life, you know, the hard stuff. But last night was different.

She actually did most of the talking; it was a part of her I hadn't really seen before; vulnerable, broken, and sad. This old friend of mine did most of the talking and, once she started, it was like I wasn't even there.

Afterward, she gave me permission to share what she said here in my blog; and I'm not going to use her name since, if anyone still checks my blog (after months of me being gone) some of you locals will know her. Since I'm not a real writer, and I wasn't taking notes or recording it and I'm going to say that the following is mostly non-fiction because they are her words but may be slightly fiction (where I need to fill in the blanks):


It's been a long day;
a hard week;
a difficult month.

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person struggling - but I know that can't be true. Yet I feel like I'm surrounded by people who don't have a clue how hard things are for me. I feel so alone in this life sometimes.

I left the office today with the intention of picking up just a few groceries: some potatoes and eggs and maybe just a few other things because I needed to put gas in the car too so that I could get back and forth to work - if I can't get back and forth to work, I can't make money and get paid. But as I walked through the store, I realized that I needed more things at home so that the kids could eat meals and my husband could keep packing lunches for work.

So, I stood there with a decision to make. Do I buy groceries or do I save the money to put gas in my car to get to and from work? I don't know for sure that it's a choice I'm going to have to make, but it's a possibility. Then what?

Obviously, I bought the groceries; I trust God to provide - not sure what it's going to look like at this point but I'm going to feed my family.

While I was in Wal-Mart I needed windshield washer fluid and then made my way to the groceries; so from one end of the store to the other. People were rushing by me - pushing, yelling at their kids, impatient with husbands and wives - while they held their shopping list and had their carts filled with toys, electronics and other things. All in the name of "merry Christmas" I suppose.

As crappy as I'm feeling, you can imagine how this makes my husband feel; last week he asked me if I still loved him and respected him as the provider of our family. Broke my heart! How do I make him understand that this doesn't change the way I look at him when I know, for a man, not being able to provide financially for his family cuts right to the core of him. You may as well cut off his man parts.

Of course I still love him and respect him - we're in this together; we'll go through this together and we'll get out of this together - whatever "get out of" looks like! Unfortunately, the reality is that we have a conversation daily about where the money is going to come from to pay for this and to pay for that...and this strong man is made to feel like a failure again. It's really hard on a marriage; because I know how hard this is for him, I try to keep these things to myself but then I feel even more alone and it's hard on a marriage too.

Then, in the middle of all this, everyone around me is all about Christmas - counting down days, talking about the good deal they got, the things they've already bought - and everyone running around with a list: things they need to do and gifts they need to buy yet.

I don't have a list this year. (Pause)

We haven't bought any gifts this year...and we're not sure we will. In all the years that we've been married, there have been times when we had to "finagle" to get Christmas gifts bought, but this year is different. Really different.

We're okay not giving gifts to each other - but we're having a hard time with the thought of not being able to give gifts to the kids. Christmas is a little more than a week away and we know "impossible" is not a word in God's vocabulary, but right now, possible just doesn't seem like one either.

We're also not going to be able to give a lot of other gifts we normally give - that's hard to swallow too. I guess when it comes down to it, it's pride. It's much easier to accept a gift from someone when you know you have one to give back. I know I'll be receiving gifts from some of my co-workers because it's a tradition, it's what we do. But this year I won't have one to give in return. I know they'll say it's okay but for me it's not and that's a part I'm having a hard time with too. If I'm a Christian why I am so caught up in not being able to give gifts rather than being focused on the greatest gift that's ever been given?


The conversation went on for a little while longer; but it has really stuck with me for a few reasons:

One of them I'm not going to point out.

Two, as a Christian I do profess the reason for the season but is that really my main focus? The other night on the radio I heard Dr. David Jeremiah talking about how much money Americans spend on various occasions like Valentines day, Mothers/Fathers Day compared to Christmas. I don't remember the exact number but Americans spend somewhere around 200 million dollars at Christmas while the other ones were 9-11 million.

In a generation when people are so self-centered and "me" focused we spend that much money on giving gifts to other people.

I love giving good things to my children and giving gifts to my friends, but I can't help but feel like Christmas has become some sort of competition and, even in my Christ-filled heart, I'm more concerned about the appearance of my gifts than the greatest gift that has ever been given. Merry Christmas.

God, forgive me for being so wrapped up in the things of this world again; for taking the beautiful gift of Christmas and distorting it the way I have. I surrender to you all that the world offers me and I take only what you give - the gift of you, and the promise that the gift brings. Thank you for loving me and for showing me grace, grace, grace...Amen.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

His Very Best


Cole, my 11-year old son, loves to draw cars, make extreme haulers out of his Legos, learn new tricks with his Tech Decks and, like most boys his age, play video games. With most of these things, he'll spend as much time as he can, improving his skills as he is allowed; drawing the coolest "drifter" or getting to the next level on his video game. He's pretty good at this stuff too and it's fun to watch what he comes up with; except the video games, that doesn't get me excited.

Science, Math, DOL, and piano lessons - oh, and cleaning his room - are things that I am confident that Cole could live without. Aside from the piano, the school work comes a little bit harder for him. I guess he's more creative than philosophical! Science is his worst subject; he says so himself. But he also puts the least amount of effort into that subject. Social Studies is his best subject - he got a B on his test last week without even opening the book to study. I asked him how he thought he would have done if he had studied for even 15 minutes, "I guess I could have gotten at least an A-" was his response.

I explained to Cole that not being good at Science was an extra good reason to study more and try harder; not being good at something doesn't give him an excuse to just not try. And with Social Studies coming easier to him doesn't mean that he still shouldn't give it his very best.

That conversation with him last week has continued to rattle around in my brain this week...convicting me.

Do I give my best in everything I do? Do I focus more time on the things that I like to do and that come easier and are more natural to me?

The answer is painfully obvious. I''m don't give my very best effort either.

Last night Cole and I had a little chat about his attitude; what his teachers expect from him and what me and his dad expect from him. I talked about that scene from Facing the Giants, you know the one, when the coach makes Brock do the death crawl on the football field blind-folded? He doesn't care about how far Brock gets he just wants Brock's very best effort. That's what we want from Cole - and that's what God wants too.

And then I asked him another question I've been thinking about.

What if Jesus had only done "...just enough to get by...?"


What if he had only paid for just enough and left some of the work for me?

Jesus: "Janelle, now I've made it possible for you to get into heaven, but there are a few things you need to do yet because I didn't put in as much effort as I could have."

Me: "Well, why didn't you try harder? What did you leave for me to do?"

Jesus: "It's not so bad, you can handle it. I've paid for most of your sins already; I just didn't feel like spending three days in hell; it's so hot in there. Satan has really bad breath and really, why should I do all your work for you, most days you don't act like you really like me anyway."

Me: "JESUS! I thought you said you had me covered? Please tell me! What did you leave undone?"

Jesus: "My child, It's all taken care of except for a few things; because I didn't give my all, if you faithfully do the following things, you will be with me in paradise:

take a mission trip every year * take a homeless person to dinner once a month * pick up a stray cat and/or dog and bring to a shelter once a week (extra jewels in your crown for both) * go to your local retirement home and play bridge with the residents once a month * hug the "crabby lady" in your church every Sunday * wash your neighbor's windows every Spring * oh yes, and make sure that you lead at least 50 people to salvation in me during your life.

If you do these things Janelle, on top of what I've done for you, I'll see you in Heaven."

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

Jesus, thank you for being the perfect example of giving my very best effort in everything I do. Help me to remember the attitude you had when you took the walk from the upper room, to the Garden, to the Courtyard, through the angry mob, up the hill to the cross...you gave your every thing and for that I'll never be the same.

Friday, August 21, 2009

If The Shoe Fits...

Last weekend I had the opportunity to serve at a spiritual retreat; it's a 3 day short course in Christian living. A saturation, if you will, of God's love and grace.

I've been involved in this since 2004, but the past few times, something has been different for me. I haven't been coming home with that same sense of excitement that I usually feel, despite the great things that I witness and hear.

It's not to say that I don't feel blessed by the experience, or that I am not humbled by the opportunity to have been invited to partner with God; but that "mountain top high" is missing.

I spent a few hours driving in a vehicle on Monday so I used the drive-time to ponder why it felt so different for me; and honestly, a bit bothered by the fact that such a great weekend was being summed up by "feelings."

This past weekend, normal, average, everyday people, shared and gave testimony to the work and power of Christ in their lives; where they were and how he's changed their lives.

We shared communion together; we prayed together; we worshiped together; we laughed together; and we learned and grew together.

The other incredible thing that blows me away, is that we witnessed people stand up, deny the world, count the cost, ignore the scoffers, and accept Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and invite him into their heart. We got to witness people accept an invitation to become a follower of Christ and others recommit their lives to Christ.

So why would I be "feeling" this way? What exactly am I feeling?

Growth.

The very first time I attended this retreat I went as a guest; I was invited to go. After that, I chose to go to serve, but I don't know who I was serving: myself or others.

Psalm 1:3 says:
They are like trees
growing beside a stream,
trees that produce
fruit in season
and always have leaves.
Those people succeed
in everything they do.

I'm learning; I'm growing; I'm not an "infant" in my faith - not an "elder" ~ just somewhere in between.

If you want to get a peek at last weekend, visit this site: http://www.petersinanutshell.blogspot.com/ and read his post about SHOES!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One Moment

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a 55-year old man who died from cancer. He and his wife, along with three of their four children, attend the same church as I do. I didn't know him as well as I know some of his kids but I knew enough about him to know that his life was not without struggles and hard times.

The service - a celebration of his life - was a testimony to the love, patience and persistence of God intermingled with the persistence and humility of the prodigal son. God never gave up on him even though, as the pastor said yesterday, there were times when he gave up on God and walked away from him.

I love the story of the Prodigal Son. Probably because I relate to it on so many levels. And it might also be the reason why I was so touched by the service yesterday.

Nobody tried to pretend like John's whole life was a perfect walk with God. It was a real testimony to the grace of God; and when it mattered, John surrendered his life to God.

Romans 14:11 says "It is written: " 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.' "

Last night, at a town picnic in the park, I had someone ask me if John had attended church regularly. I stopped scooping the fresh fruit on my plate and looked up at this woman. Was she really asking this question? Did it really matter if he went to church regularly? Or is it more important what was in his heart, or to whom he had given his heart?

This morning I was thinking about the story of the prodigal again; but this time, instead of the son who returned home, I thought about the son, the "good" son, that never left home. How he didn't understand why his father never threw him a celebration feast.

For a long time, I was jealous of the "good son" wishing that I could say that was my life. But the fact is, we are all prodigals; no matter how good we are and whether or not we have received a perfect attendance award for church.

And the truth is, I would much rather be the prodigal and know the depths (as much as my human mind can fathom) of God's love for me and the extent (again, as much as I can comprehend) of his grace extended to me.

Two of my favorite scriptures are Luke 23:43: Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

And Luke 15:7: "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."

I am so happy for John and his testimony that brings God glory.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Enough Already

Maybe you live under a rock and haven't heard about the Gosselin's; Jon & Kate. The parents who had twin daughters and then sextuplets (three boys and three girls). They've had a "spot" on TLC for a few years and I have enjoyed watching the craziness of their life and watching the kids grow.

If you've been in a check-out line at the grocery store you've seen the magazines with Jon &/or Kate on the cover; if you've had the news on you've probably heard the story of betrayal; if you've talked with your friends the subject of Jon's alleged "messing around" has probably come up.

Personally, I have been involved in a few conversations and I did read the article (interview with Kate) in the People magazine that comes to the office.

Monday night was the first show of the new season; on the show, they celebrated the sextuplets 5th birthday. Jon & Kate were both there. But they were not necessarily together. From what I understand, Jon does not live at the house with his wife and family right now.

Yesterday, as I walked into the office, there was a "robust" conversation/debate involving the Gosselin's and who is at fault for the current status of their relationship and the reasons for it.

I was struck by the sadness (finally...) of the situation. A family, carefully crafted and put together by God, being torn apart by circumstances, choices, fears, questions and stress...life.

Who knows what the future holds; Kate doesn't, Jon doesn't, I don't. But God does.

I've just had enough already and I am ashamed at how easily and quickly a sacred union of two people joined together by God has become some sort of "water cooler topic" for me.

I am resolved to stop talking and start praying.
To stop judging and assuming and...gossiping.
My behavior (words and actions) needs to change.

Have you had enough already?

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Final Good Bye

THEN.

Late one night, toward the end of the summer of 2005, the phone rang.

"Hello?" It was my sister-in-law, Monica. "Mom and Dad's house is on fire. They are out and safe but the house is in flames."

The house, and most everything in it, was destroyed; either burned up, damaged by smoke, or damaged by water.

The next day, after the house cooled down, we walked through it. Mom and Dad were both sleeping and a fire started in the ceiling and within moments the house was filled with smoke. Walking through the house seeing all the damage, we were so grateful that they were safe.

Sitting in the driveway and on the front lawn were all of their things. Just things. But I had to grieve some of those things. Not the things themselves, but the memories attached to them. The chair that the kids remember Grandpa sitting in with them; the rocking chair, the gifts we had given them throughout the years. All of them "gone."

A few weeks after that, we all got together to go through the things that were salvageable - at least somewhat. We were sorting in anticipation of having a rummage sale.

My mother-in-law had a lot of books. I started going through them; throwing away the ones that were damaged beyond anyone wanting to even open them. I was also told, "if there are any books you want, you may take them." Nobody else wanted any of the books so as I sorted, I also "shopped."

I found some treasures in those boxes.

You see, my mother-in-law loved the Lord. And she loved to read books that brought her closer to the person that God was making her to be. So in these boxes of books, I found books that she had read. But those weren't the real treasures.

I also found Bibles. My mother-in-law's Bibles; with notes in them written in her hand-writing. A sheet with notes on about how to pray for your children, little notes with different scriptures or quotes on.

A little less than one year later, my mom-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer.

NOW.

This has been a tough week.

I was at my brother's house celebrating his son's 5th birthday on Sunday and I couldn't help but think about that same Sunday (not the same date, just the same Sunday) two years earlier when we were at this same house for the same little guy's birthday party.

THEN.

Clint received a phone call. His dad simply said "you need to get here."

We said our goodbyes to my family and headed back toward home. Let the dog out. On to my husband's parents' house.

It was a quiet drive, no one really spoke; we were all deep in thought and a couple of us for sure, were praying.

It was an emotional night. Our youngest kids who were with us, then 11 & 9, said good-bye to their grandma before we left. This wasn't your normal good-bye. It was a heart breaking, gut wrenching to watch, good-bye. We knew, and our kids knew, that this was their last hug, kiss and "I love you" from their grandma.

We went home late that night with plans to come back first thing in the morning after the kids were off to school. We spent that day with Clint's family at his mom and dad's house, sharing time with mom, talking to her, reading her Bible to her, singing to her, just being with her. That night, more sad good-byes - we just didn't know how many more we were going to get. She had deteriorated so much that day that we expected to get a phone call during the night.

We planned to go up again first thing in the morning.

As we were getting ready to leave the house on Tuesday morning, the phone rang. Hearts dropped and fear came across Clint's face. Again, it was his dad. "Son, you need to get here soon." We left within minutes.

When we arrived, immediately, Clint, his dad and his siblings went into Mom's room; each one of them had their chance to say their "peace" and they prayed together as a family for the last time.

From the sounds coming out of her and her physical appearance we knew she was within moments of going home. At about 2:40 pm on May 8, 2007, with her family gathered around her bed, a wife of almost 48 years, a mother, and a grandmother, left her temporary home and crossed over into eternal rest, peace and glory to be with her Creator.

Tears were shed in heaven and on earth in that moment. In heaven, tears of joy; a good and faithful servant come home, a journey complete. And on earth, tears of sadness; longing, and emptiness. Even though we were confident of mom's final destination, our hearts ached for what was gone and what would always be missing.

NOW.

And this week, hearts still ache.

The treasures from THEN are even more precious NOW. The words written in her hand-writing THEN are priceless NOW.

I'm not big "keeper" of treasures myself; I don't scrapbook; I don't have memory boxes. Maybe it's cynical, but I don't keep things that remind me of other times, places, events or people simply because I don't want my memory attached to a "thing." It's hard to not be a keeper of treasures; reminders of someone or a special time. In Matthew 6:19 Jesus tells us not to waste our time on earthly treasures; here on earth, those treasures can be easily destroyed and then what? Rather, we're to "store up" heavenly treasures, treasures that cannot be held or defined by matter.

Maybe that's part of the reason that Clint's mom and family decided to have her cremated. It's maybe why Clint and I have never visited the cemetery where his mom's ashes are kept. We know that she's not there. We don't need to visit that wall to remember her.

I intentionally went to the cemetery this week to get a picture. It was a bit odd, I guess, to look at the space where her ashes are held. I still felt no attachment to the place or the remains.

We know mom is not there. We know she's experiencing all of God's glory.

We miss her so often, the obvious things like holidays and birthdays. But we also miss her in the every day things wondering if she would be proud of us, proud of our kids, proud of how we are raising our kids.

We hope in Jesus, we know that we have been established, anointed and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22) and we know that mom is now a citizen of heaven (Phil 3:20) and because of that, there is not a final good bye...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Some Trees & an Easter Lily

Eight years ago we planted a tree in our yard in the spring; an Autumn Purple White Ash.

It was six feet tall when we planted it.

Oh, how we took care of that tree. We put a protective "barrier" around the bottom, we tied ropes to it in different directions to keep it pointing straight to the sky.

We faithfully watered the tree every day at first and then every other day for the first two years. We knew that we needed to keep the tree watered so that the roots would grow down deep instead of out and shallow.

This spring, I expect the tree to be over 20 feet tall with a full set of leaves.

"It was strong and beautiful, with wide-spreading branches, for its roots went deep into abundant water." Ezekiel 31:7 NLT


Across the road the in park, is a tree that has caught my attention.

This little tree was planted almost two years ago.

He's just a little guy. His trunk isn't very big, he doesn't have very many branches and to me, and he looks rather fragile when I consider the winds that can whip through our area.

No one has cared for this tree like we cared for ours. As it grows, I wonder if the effects of the weather will hinder its ability to grow up straight.

"But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards." Matthew 7:26

Enter another tree.

Our Christmas tree. We planned a day to go with the kids to pick out our tree to a local tree farm. We had so much fun; riding on the wagon out through the rows of trees. Stopping in the area where the kind of tree we wanted was planted. Walking through more rows of trees until we found the right one. Cutting it down, taking it home and, well, you know the rest.

After the decorations were off and all safely packaged and put away for another year, the tree exited the house courtesy of Clint.

Later that same day, I walked out the front door of our house and down the two steps off our deck onto the driveway and there, right there, was our Christmas tree. Stump stuck into a deep snow bank.

We had a cold winter and enough snow, that this tree "stood" for a good long time; stood until the temperatures started warming up and the snow melted.

"...on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." Matthew 23:28

The Easter lily.

As I admire my lily I wonder why it is the "Easter lily." Maybe it's because the white symbolizes purity; maybe because each year there are new blooms symbolizing hope and rebirth.

This year, Easter was more than a day; it is a season for me. Like April in the midwest; the fields, for the most part, are still brown from the fall harvest; the trees have no leaves; even the roads bear the dirt and sand from a long winter. Things are still dead.

Jesus was dead.
In Hell...

Spring will come; leaves will appear, crops will grow, flowers will bloom.

Jesus conquered death.

"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth." Job 19:25

Which tree do you associate with? No matter which one you feel like, the Easter lily is for all of us.

I did find this on the internet:
These snow white flowers symbolize new life and hope.
The bulb of these flowers buried in the ground represents the tomb of Jesus and the glorious white trumpet-like fragrant flowers which grow from the bulbs symbolize His life after death. The snowy white color stands for the purity of the Divine Savior and the joy of the resurrection while the trumpet shape signifies Gabriel's trumpet call to rebirth and new life.

Friday, April 10, 2009

All Because of Today

Imagine what it would have been like to be Simon, and to have
Carried the Cross of Christ while following Him up Calvary.

What would it have been like to have endured the jeers and the cheers that swirled around
Him like a golfer’s gallery in hell?

What would it have been like to have shared in the humiliation of rejection as He was cast

out of the city as though He wasn’t good enough to remain inside?

What would it have been like to have felt the sticky warmth of His blood from the Cross on your skin?

What would it have been like to have felt the encroaching
horror as the place of execution neared?

What would it have been like to have looked up through the sweat that trickled down your face, and see the executioners who stood waiting impassively with hammers in hand?

What would it have been like to have the burden of the Cross lifted from your back as someone said, “This is His Cross; ;you’re free to go now,” and He was nailed to it, not you?

Carry the Cross. He promises that if you do, you will share in the power of His resurrection and the glory of His crown.
Taken from “Just Give Me Jesus” by Anne Graham Lotz

Imagine.
I can't possibly imagine, but today I'm trying to.
I want a front row seat today.
I need to get as close as I can.
I need to see the bruises and torn up flesh; smell the sweat and blood; see the pain.
And to see the look of love in HIS eyes when our eyes meet.

Simon's life was a life that was changed, I'm certain of that.
And because of the sacrifice that Jesus made, I claim that I am a life that is changed.

Tonight, at our church, our pastor is taking us through the Last Supper; communion will be celebrated as well. We won't be there.

We have a small Bible study group that meets together on the weekends, usually on Saturday's but this week we decided to meet on Friday. We will be sitting around a table sharing and talking about Jesus and how he is at work in our lives. Around that same table, we plan to share Communion together.

I am praying that once again, my heart will be changed.

It's Friday...but Sunday's comin!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Smarter than a Fifth Grader

When: Monday evening around 6:30 p.m.
Where: The kitchen counter/bar
Who: Me and my fifth grader, Cole
What: Tough love
Why: Cole's homework

Cole has never been that interested in homework and school can be difficult for him; but it shouldn't be. He's capable of doing well (at least "above average") but he just doesn't care. He has a habit of doing just enough to get by.

He's also gotten into the habit of lying about his homework and various other things in an effort to get what he wants (i.e. to go play with friends, play Play Station, watch TV, etc.) because he knows if his work isn't finished, tests/quizzes studied for, piano practiced, he doesn't get to do the other stuff.

On Monday evening, the scenario was like a re-run for me, and I was tired of trying so hard and putting more effort into his school work than what he does.

I don't regret my decision, but I do have some regret over the way I handled it.

I told Cole that I was not going to push him to get his work finished or to study for tests unless he wanted me to help; then he had to ask for it. I told him I would continue to remind him to get his work finished but I was going to let him put the effort into it. At that point I was handling it well. Then I opened my mouth and said "I don't care if you want to do fifth grade again; it may be easier the second time around anyway."

Up to that point, his guilty conscience was getting the best of him and he was feeling very badly about things; when the thought of having to do fifth grade over again came out of my mouth, it was all he could take. He had to retreat to the safety and solace of his room.

I've had some time to process this and I've apologized for the ways I mishandled the situation. But I remain strong in my position; I'm can't force him to try his best. It needs to be his decision; and when (I'm thinking positively because he's my son and I want the very best for him) he decides to put some effort and heart and guts into things, I will be right there ready to help in any way I can; supporting him while he is trying to be the best "young man of honor" (that's what I frequently challenge him to be) that he can be.

This morning I realized that this scenario isn't really that different than my relationship with my Abba Father.

God can't make me want to be closer to him or make me do my "homework" either; so, he quietly (no nasty comments) and lovingly steps aside and lets me do things my own way.

When I'm ready, he is ready and waiting to help me to and be the best that I can; he forgets about the days, weeks, and sometimes months, that I've only done just enough to get by. He's just pleased that I'm putting in the effort and doing my very best once again.

I decided that I would have to share this with Cole tonight when I got back home hoping that it would encourage him and always wanting to bring Jesus into every life situation of his that I can.

I was dressed and needing to get out the door and on my way to work; a few more things to do and running out of time. And then...

"Tell him now," I hear from my Abba Father. And I did.

I was late leaving for work but arrived exactly on time.

It's another thing I've learned from my "studies": if I want to be a "here I am, use me" person, I need to surrender my schedule. Including the minutes that I gave this morning to leaving my calendar more "open" for other opportunities to present themselves. I have been intentional about not scheduling so many earthly opportunites (many of them "good" things) so that I am more available for the eternal opportunities. Like the one I had this morning.

"...when you seek me you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart..." Jeremiah 29:13

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tijuana Time - The Trilogy

We stayed at a humble home for the duration of our stay in Tijuana; right next door to the orphanage that about 45 beautiful children call home.

When I "signed up" to go to Tijuana, I knew that we would be spending time at the orphanage and, in my mind, I had lots of ideas of what is was going to be like.

I imagined that I would see sad children; not very socialized. I imagined that they would have "raggedy" clothing and that they would probably be dirty. I imagined that these children would need my love and attention and all the hugs that I planned to give them.

My perceptions could not have been more wrong.

What we saw were children: happy, smiling, playing, and very friendly. They were dressed in nice clothing and they were very clean; they showered every day. And while the kids eagerly accepted the love and hugs that they were given, they were not short on love.

Through my "Tijuana Trilogy" I wanted to share with you where I saw the Light of Jesus; and even though I didn't think I would find much of anything uplifting at the orphanage, it's where the love of God is dwelling and where his Light is shining brightly.

Enrique and Lupe, a young couple with two young children themselves, run the orphanage. Just in the past year, Eduardo (he has three orphanages in Tijuana) was able to get them a mobile home that sets right by the orphanage; this allows them a little bit of their own family time and a place to "get away" when they do get a day off.

Enrique and Lupe have given their lives for the children of Mexico; most of the children, we learned, are not adoptable. The children end up in this orphanage because their parents can't afford to feed them and take care of them for various reasons, but they don't give up their rights to the children. For many, as soon as they are old enough, their parents take them back home so that they can start working to help support the family.

Enrique and Lupe, with the help of their 3 or 4 other employees, teach them about Jesus in tangible and intangible ways. They teach the children about God's great love for them in their actions and their words. They give so much and they don't expect anything in return.

I was humbled by the way Enrique and Lupe love these children even though, on so many levels, they are being taken advantage of. But God's love and his light are in this couple and they don't ask why, they just love - unconditionally. And the children love them - they LOVE them!

I left Tijuana ready to get home to hug and love on my own kids; but it was so hard to walk away. The kids are so easy to fall in love with - and a part of my heart will always be there with them. I pray that God calls me to Tijuana again; but if he doesn't, I look forward to the day I'm reunited with my "Tijuana Kids" in heaven.

On the way home my friend, Dori, asked me how I was going to describe my time in Tijuana in one sentence. After some thought, I said, "I expected to see despair but I saw hope."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tijuana Time - Part Dos

I was "warned" that the church service on Sunday was going to easily be two hours long; it was...and then some. But I wouldn't have known unless someone pointed it out to me.

We were in a warehouse in the middle of Tijuana in a neighborhood, we were told, that you did not want to be in at night. Cement floors swept clean, red carpet that was donated covered the area where approximately 100 chairs - mismatched, old, and dirty - were set. About 40 people, including kids, filled the chairs.

The service began with some praise and worship, unfortunately for those of us who are are Spanish-impaired, we couldn't sing along until we figured out what the song was and then, we could only sing along if we knew the words. It didn't' matter though that I didn't know the words - God is really cool that way - I was still drawn in despite the language barrier. I felt almost like I had an advantage because I wasn't distracted by trying to follow along to the power point, or distracted by some lyrics that have become so familiar that I don't even "hear" them anymore. It was just worship and intentional worship at that.

After praise and worship, the kids were dismissed to children's church; after they left, there were a lot of seats left open-in fact, church looked "empty." Joel, a Christian guy with an awesome testimony, was going to translate the message for us. Joel used to live in the United States so he speaks very fluent English and Spanish and he teaches an English class every Sunday morning before church.

At first, it was hard to follow Joel, it was a little noisy and I had to almost look right at him to hear and understand. I was a bit discouraged and so I asked God to have me hear that day, what he wanted me to hear.

Over the next hour or so while Kuko, the pastor, delivered the message, a transformation took place. Toward the end of the message Kuko explained that the church, only 3 years old, started as a small group study; he asked the original members of the small group to stand up. Approximately 10 people stood up. He asked them to stay standing.

Then he asked the people who started attending that 2nd year when they became an official church to join the others that were standing. Another 20-25 people stood up.

The people who had started attending within the last year were asked to stand up and join the others. Maybe 25-30 people stood up.



Kuko then asked anyone, including the Americans who were visiting, who was attending for the first time to stand up. Approximately 30 people stood up.

Kuko explained that three years ago he had to choose to believe that God would build this church; that he asked the people to stand to strengthen their faith about what God was doing and to strengthen his faith. Because he believed, he said, they were going to set up another 30 chairs for the following week and he was going to believe that God would fill them.

It was then that I realized that almost every chair had a person in it. Church was "full." I felt as if God was saying to me, "Janelle, look what I can do."

I don't know what happened that following Sunday; I wish I could have confirmation of what I believe God did.

God is on the move in Tijuana, even on the streets where drugs, violence, prostitution and stealing are taking place.

It only makes sense, God wants to be where the hurting people are.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tijuana Time - Part 1

There is something about the mindset of the people in Mexico; they don't get too worked up about anything and they really don't seem to set deadlines. They just work for the day and what doesn't get accomplished today, they'll do tomorrow.

I could stand to have that sort of mentality; not worrying about my lists and schedules and getting this and going there...if I don't get it done today, do it tomorrow! I've done that, in a way, with my blog.

Two weeks ago at this time I was sitting in the San Diego airport waiting to head back home. As I sat in the airport, I was thinking about how I would describe my experience in Tijuana, with the children, at the church, and by the landfill.

You've seen the headlines and watched the news about the violence in Mexico; and it's real. We didn't see anything or feel threatened but my husband did hear a gun shot one night.

The Tijuana landscape is like nothing I've seen before; it's littered with liter. When someone says take the garbage out - they do, and then they just give it a toss. And the architecture isn't like ours; no fancy Spanish-style villas like I've seen on TV.

It's been difficult for me to put my experiences on paper so a friend of mine suggested that I share about the mission trip in "parts."

On Sunday our group, which consisted of 10 people and our two guides/drivers/translators along with a man by the name of Eduardo and his adopted son and two other boys went to a part of Tijuana known as "the dump."

The dump is actually the landfill; the poorest of the poor live here. They get food from the landfill and they build their "houses" out of things that they get from the landfill.

The thing is, in Mexico, they don't throw anything away; and the things they have aren't really very nice. I've thrown out furniture that is nicer than most everything I sat on while I was there.
Throughout the weekend, I had been focused on taking notice of where God was at work in Tijuana; our pastor intended to have the four of us from our church that went share specifically where we saw God's light shining.

I never expected to see God's light shining at "the dump." But I did and it was!

As we drove up and into the "neighborhood," the vehicles we were in began honking the horns and continued honking until we came to a stop; as we drove, people began running out of their homes. And within minutes, there were people lined up waiting for whatever it was they knew we were going to give.

We handed out food - the basics: flour, rice, oatmeal, tomatoes, onions, lemons, and a few other items. Not much of a grocery "run" is it?

My job this day was to hand out the plastic bags that the people would put their food in; as I did, I intentionally looked each person in the eyes. Since I don't speak Spanish it was the only way I could communicate to them that I loved and cared for them.

So, where is the light in that? you ask. Let me ask you a question: how hard is it for you to accept a gift when you are in need? Does your pride get in the way of receiving?

I tried to imagine what the "locals" must think. "...here come another bunch of Gringos...rich Americanos..." I don't know if they do, but maybe. The simple fact that some of the people took their bag and looked me in the eye and said "gracias" was a visible sign of God's light shining in Tijuana.

We also had a handful of people support us financially with monetary donations and others who purchased cinnamon rolls which helped us raise money for this trip. Each and every person who gave financially was a part of giving food at the dump that day. The food that was purchased for that day, was paid for with the money that was so generously given to support our trip.

Our group of ten people gave food out to probably 150 people that day; we also gave out 100 bags of candy to the children. But it wasn't just the ten of us, it was everyone of of you who bought a dozen cinnamon rolls all the way up to those of you that donated $350 - you were God's light shining in Mexico. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Schedules, Passports & Shingles

Ephesians 2:8-10 says: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." This has been our prayer for the past few weeks and especially this week.

I'm half way through Monday and I can't help but think of all the things that I need to accomplish in the next few days. Schedules need to be written down, notes left, meals prepared; just making sure the kids are taken care of for a few days.

Laundry, packing, stops at the local Wal-Mart to make sure we have everything we need; more lists of things to remember to pack, take along, get...

So many things going on. So many things to do.

Early Thursday morning Clint and I are leaving for the airport with a group of 10 people. We are going to Tijuana; we'll be spending time at an orphanage and doing various other "mission" work. We are very excited and anxious to go. You all know, any time you plan on being gone, especially when you leave your kids home, there is a lot to think about without thinking about shingles.

Nope. We're not re-shingling the house before we leave.

On Friday, I went to the doctor because of a suspicious looking "patch" on my back. Turns out I have shingles (I've spared you the pictures I found on the Internet); it's the chicken pox virus that flares up in the nerve endings. I'm on a medication that's supposed to make the whole process go faster or not get worse or something; regardless, I'm not feeling very well at all. Pain from the "patch" and the surrounding area, headaches, fevers on and off, and just plain tired and exhausted.

I've got a few questions for God regarding this, but I'll rest in the fact that he's in control. That he knew all of this was going to be transpiring at the same time; that even with this discomfort, he'll equip me to do the work he's prepared in advance for me to do.

I'd be honored if you would pray for our family this week and next; and that the little people we encounter in Mexico will see Jesus.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I Want You To Know

There is an entertaining little "note" floating around Facebook these days: "25 Things About Me..."

Whomever gets "tagged" in this note is supposed to provide 25 random and interesting (maybe quirky) tidbits of information about them self and then "tag" some more people.

I have yet to play along but I have read every one that I was tagged in.

A week or so ago I read one that made me cry; it was from a woman who has two daughters with probably about 10 years between them. Number 21 on her list said that she is a better mom to daughter #2 at her age than she was to/with daughter #1; she went on to say that she wished she could go back and do it over - do a better job.

I felt an immediate sadness and connection to what she had written. My heart resonates that statement.

If you've read any of my blogs, you know that my life hasn't been long beautiful walk with God. I grew up "warming a bench" but didn't have Jesus in my heart. I didn't have a personal relationship with Christ instead, I practiced religion.

After my rebirth in Christ, many things in my life changed; one of the more significant changes was my role as a mom.

My oldest daughter, Taryn, turned 21 yesterday. There have been many times when I have wanted to go back and do things over with her because, like my friend, I am a better mom to my 13 and 11 year old than I was to her when she was younger. I was selfish, impatient and demanding, among other things.
Unfortunately, I am still those things with my kids but there is that One thing that is different.

It's the blood of Jesus. It's the love of Jesus. It's also the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

With God and the unwavering love between this parent and her child we have forged through some tough times; we have been healed hurts from the past; and we are building a relationship that is God-glorifying.

Today Taryn, I want you to know, that I'm so thankful for you; I'm so proud of the young woman you are becoming; and thankful that the past is the past. I look forward to the plans that God has for you - for your hope and your future. And I know, with everything that I know, that God's plans for you are to help you and not hurt you or cause you pain. And I promise to keep loving you and praying for you as you seek God, because when you seek him with all of your heart, I know you will find him waiting for you, like he was waiting for me - sort of like you waited for me to be the mom you deserve and need - but way better!

Galatians 5:17&18 says: "The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Playing Tag




Billy over at What I Learned Today... has been kind enough to award me with not one, but two awards.

The Love Friendships Award states: "These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

As for the Honest Scrap award: A) First list 10 honest things about yourself - and make it honest (hence, the award 'Honest Scrap'), even if you have to dig deep! B) Pass the award on to 8 bloggers that you feel embody the role of the Honest Scrap. (This is an award only to display on your blog that everything you write on it is in truth, sincerity, and integrity.)*
A nice one, that Honest Scrap award. So I can honestly say that:

1.) When I was young, I was "daddy's little boy." Yeah, I'm a girl, always have been and always will be. I am the youngest of 4 kids; a sister, a brother, another sister...I don't think my parents were hoping for another boy, it's just how it worked out. I did everything I possibly could with my dad and spent as much time with him as possible. I miss that age when my dad was everything to me and the first person I chose to spend time with. Nothing will take my dad's place, but I do have a Father I still travel with and love spending time with.

2.) I am insecure. I was in a relationship with someone for about 7 years altogether; he was emotionally and verbally abusive to me. It has caused deep, deep trust and self-esteem issues in every single relationship that I have. When I was born again, the hardest thing for me to comprehend was that God loved me for me yet it was the thing that turned my heart toward him.

3.) I love blogging and my blogger friends. It is a safe environment for me and when I write, it feels like it's just me and God for those moments and it has helped me to be honest about what I am and who I am.

4.) I have a mantra. "Be real." I try to be real in my blogs; and I try to be real in my "real life." It requires fessing up about the mistakes I've made and sharing with others my prodigal son story. I believe that I must talk about what God has done in my life to bring him glory. If I am silent someone who needs to hear about God's grace may not experience it; can you imagine someone winning 4,000,000,000,000,000,000 and not telling anyone? This is the short version of "be real." I could go on and on...

5.) I am rebellious. Always have been and likely always will be. Not unlike any trait or characteristic, being rebellious can be a good thing or a bad thing. For many years, it wasn't a good thing and landed me in trouble many times. In a time where the morals and values seem to be declining fast, being rebellious and not wanting to conform is a good thing. I choose to use my rebelliousness for God's glory!

6.) I am not vain - but I think I have a pretty face.

7.) I believe I am capable of more. If I don't think I can succeed at something, I won't try. God and I are working on this; I listened to the story of Peter walking on water last week. When he started to sink Jesus told him he had "little faith." If stepping out on water in the first place is "little faith" I'm in trouble because I'm not sure I would have even stepped out of the boat.

8.) Until a few years ago, I never had anyone that I was completely honest with. There were always parts of my life (feelings, emotions, actions, etc.) that I keep from people - but not the same things. I would be open and honest but I would never let one person know everything, including my husband. Learning to believe that someone will accept you, all of you, is hard to after you were told you were not good enough by someone you loved is hard to overcome. Again, God is speaking to me and helping me to heal and trust; it's a process...

9.) I am a recluse. I could stay in my house and not talk to anyone for days on end.

10.) I am humbled. As I read the Bible and learn about the people that God chose and chooses to use to further his kingdom, I know that he has a plan for me. I am the sheep that went astray that he left the other 99 to find.

So, there are ten honest things. And in the spirit of keeping the ball rolling, here are my eight new award winners:

Nikki
Chris
Hope42day's Blog
Patty
Steph
Kristi
Jennifer
Carol

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Beloved's Hands

"Not so good." That was my husband's response last night when I asked him how his day was as he walked in the door.

My husband is a contractor by trade; he is a hard worker; he loves what he does; and he cares about the people for whom he works.

My husband is not the "sit inside at a desk" kind of guy. He likes to be out and about nailing some 2x4's together, or cutting something up with his saw.

He isn't concerned with "status" or whether people see him as someone "prominent" either; he is by far, the most humble person that I have ever been blessed to know.

Last night I was humbled by my husband. The lengths that he goes to in order to provide for his family overwhelmed me. My love, respect, admiration and appreciation for him were overwhelming.

I wish I could say I always feel this way about him, but I'd be lying.

I'm in the middle of reading "Staying Close" by Dennis & Barbara Rainey right now. After each chapter there are a few conversation questions for you and your spouse to work/talk through. In one of the earlier chapters of the book, I was supposed to list six things that I loved/respected/appreciated about my husband. Unfortunately, it had been one of "those" days and I could only come up with two things (and one of them was really lame).

Yesterday my husband worked his fingers to the bone - almost literally. Each one of his fingers, mostly the finger tips, had concrete burns; he had pretty much sanded his finger tips off. He wanted so badly to finish the tile job that he was working on for several reasons; but mainly, because he knew that we needed the money to pay some bills.

As I sat applying anti-biotic ointment, then gauze, then first aide tape to each of his finger tips, God reminded me of a couple of weeks before when I struggled to come up with six positive things about my husband - this man who worked his fingers to the bone.

I wondered if my beloved will have scars on his hands.

Oh yes, my Beloved does have scars on his hands!

A humble man, with dirty feet and rough but gentle hands; not too proud for anything asked of him. He was bruised and crushed for my sin. Spikes through his hands. Hands that worked hard. Hands that loved. Hands that respected. Hands that played. Hands that loved what they did. Hands that weren't concerned about status. Hands of a man that prayed for me as he died on my cross.

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34

Abba Father, thank you for my beloved's hands. Thank you too, for showing me the truth while using my beloved' hands. I know that some days, more than others, I have a better grasp of your love for me; a love I will never understand. I'm so grateful for the man who works so diligently to provide for my earthly needs; and beyond grateful for Jesus, who provided for my eternal needs. Amen.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Surrounded by a Great Cloud of Witnesses

These past few days I have been extremely humbled; so humbled that I've been brought to tears. Tears come now as I think about the great host of witnesses I'm surrounded by.

When I created my blog I didn't expect anyone to really read it. But I had friends that somehow "found" it and started reading it.

I became very prideful; needing/wanting to write something that would result in my friends making comments about how much they loved the post, loved me, or about how wonderful my relationship with God is; or a combination of all them. My posts became more about me than they did about glorifying my Creator - the One who deserves, and is so worthy of, praise.

I began to feel things, feelings and emotions, that I didn't like. You know, those feelings you have when you've done, said or in this case, thought something you shouldn't have.

Then one of my real life friends, who is also a blogger, encouraged me to join High Calling Blogs; I did. And I longed for the same sort of praise. Praise for me; not praise to God for the work he has done, and continues to do, in my life.

Then, something changed.

I began visiting other blogs in the HCB network; I was being blessed by what I was reading. I'm not going to name-names, but the blessings I have received from blogging and the greater blogging community have humbled me. Some of the blogs I visit are written by friends that I see and talk to personally; others I visit are of people I may never meet...this side of heaven. But as I think about some of you now, (tears coming) I consider you friends and look forward to the day that I do get to meet you.

This blogging community has me in complete and total awe of how God weaves my life in with yours and how that touches someone else. I need to share a story, and I'll try so hard to keep it short.

This summer a little boy, the nephew of some friends, in our area got sick and was in the hospital in Minneapolis. While he was there, his family met another family there with their daughter, Jessica, who was found in the water; she eventually died as a result. A terrible tragedy. But the beautiful thing was that an entire praying community came together to pray for this family we didn't even know.

The weaving had begun before little Isaiah even got sick.

Moving forward. Still keeping "track" of little Jessica's family through her caring bridge site; praying, reading entries that her heart-broke mom is writing.

Weaving.

A few weeks ago I read a review on a book called "Parting the Waters" by Jeanne Damoff on a blog in our HCB network.

Weaving.

A few days later I read another review on the same book from someone within our HCB network.

More weaving.

A couple of days later, Jessica's mom made another entry to the caring bridge page. The tears ran down my cheeks as I read this heart broken mom talk about how she misses her little girl and the pain she feels.

...continues to weave.

I went to Jeanne Damoff's website clicked on "contact Jeanne" and sent her an email with the caring bridge link. I shared a little bit about the situation, said I had read a review about her book and wondered if she could visit the caring bridge page. I received an email back from Jeanne the next day. She visited the site, shared her heart from a similar experience and offered to send her the book "Parting the Waters" and encouraged Jessica's mom to contact her.

You, my fellow bloggers, are a blessing to me; I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Thank you. Be blessed as you continue to be woven.


Jessica's website http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jessicalindsey

Parting the Waters on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1579219500 Jeanne Damoff’s Website: http://jeannedamoff.com/
Jeanne Damoff’s Blog: http://ellezymn.livejournal.com/

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Getting Directions - Supplemental Maps

I was messing around on itunes the other night (it's a hobby and huge time killer); I was searching for podcasts to download.

I didn't know that there was a "Bible in one year" podcast. I downloaded it and started listening on my way to and from work and at home yesterday and again this morning. My kids also asked to have it put on their ipods; they listened last night before they went to bed. What a great map!

If you are interested you can also listen on line. The website is http://www.dailyaudiobible.com/. If you search itunes, search Daily Audio Bible.

I also subscribed to a Christian comedian podcast as well as a few others. I am not doing this to make up or take the place of my quiet time with God; however, I trust that these "tools" will keep me headed in the right direction.

Anyone have any other tools they use?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dude, Get Directions

My husband and I are involved in a Bible study group that has been meeting for a little over a year; recently, another couple joined the study. So, we take turns "hosting" and Saturday night we went to the new couple's house for the first time. Before we could get there, we needed directions to their house.

I sat down in the office of my boss last week Thursday and she gave me a list of, or directions for, specific work that she needed me to do on some cases.

I made red velvet cake last night and read the instructions on how to mix and bake the cake.

Just today, I helped friend with her new ipod and showed her how to import cds, create playlists, sync her ipod and buy songs off the Internet.

I gave the kids instructions on what do after school: fold the towels, put the clean dishes away and practice piano lessons.

It got me thinking about how much of my life is about getting or giving directions. Learning how to get somewhere or do something and then hopefully, getting others to learn the same things. For my kids that involves cooking, cleaning, taking care of responsibilities, knowing when to work and when to play, boundaries, etc. to name a few.

I also try and teach them something about Jesus and a personal relationship with him and how Jesus is a part of every day life and how he can help in every situation.

I give them directions and sometimes, direction. I hope my information is correct and that I know that I know, that I know where I'm going!

You know where this is going, don't you.

There was a period of about three years where it wasn't a struggle for me to dedicate an hour of my day, the early morning hour, to spending time with God. I suppose because my relationship with him was new and I looked forward to spending that time with him.

But the last year or so it has become a struggle; I push snooze too many times; I go to bed too late so that I'm tired and I sleep right through my alarm; I get up on time but throw in a load of laundry, then do some quick clean up in the kitchen, then fold the blanket on the couch and feed the dog and...before I know it, I'm out of time and I need to get to work.

Unlike going to a destination that I've already been, every day is different and new and I don't know the directions for each new day. But, I've become complacent; I know my "way around" well enough to maneuver each new day without the constant direction I used to need and long for. Just as I've gotten comfortable driving around in the city where I work, I've also gotten comfortable navigating my own spiritual life.

I wouldn't go to unfamiliar territory without specific directions, would you?

Abba Father, help break me of my stubbornness and doing things on my own. I know that I need you and direction from you through talking with you and through your word. Savior, help me to realize my need for you every day; I surrender my self-sufficient ways at the foot of the cross. I know I need you Lord Jesus, I don't know why I try to get to where I'm going without asking you for directions. I'm sorry for going it alone, please show me the way. Your little girl, Janelle.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Cry Of My Heart

At times, my heart is so stone-cold. I can't, won't or don't, utter a sound to my Heavenly Father.

Other times, my heart is so full and its seems like I'm unable to utter a sound because there's so much emotion inside of me. In those moments, all I can do is let the Holy Spirit pray on my behalf. Romans 8:26 says "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness...but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."

And how quickly my heart can change from cold and empty to warm and overflowing; just last night I asked a friend for prayers for my "stone-cold" heart.

Today, I have so much to talk to God about; to praise him for the beautiful weather; for the ways I see him moving in my children; for the ways he constantly provides for our family; for the amazing family and friends that he has given us; for the beautiful sunrise...for the change in my heart.

Then, there are the things that I don't have words for but want to talk to my Abba Father about:

A friend whose mom is having tests done next week.

Friends whose marriage has been tested and withstood the attacks of the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy. For her because she is trusting God to use her testimony of forgiveness and reconciliation for God's glory; for him, for being an honorable man of God and wanting his wife to share the junk and the joy that is the result of it.

A friend who is struggling with her career and where God wants her; really wanting to see God's will for her.

A friend who is planning on a weekend get-a-way to a quiet place; to listen and discern what God would have her share.

A friend whose son-in-law lost his job with a wife and four children to care for.

A friend who has been hurt by someone close to her; asking me to pray that she finds her identity in Christ, not in what people think of her.

Friends who just lost their father/father-in-law; feelings of sadness and loss for them and their family but overwhelming joy at the thought of him entering the presence of God - his race run and WON!

All of this has got me thinking about the cry of my heart, not just today, but every day. I mean, if I could tattoo one thing on my heart or if my heart had a flashing sign or a bumper sticker, what would I want it to say?

Coincidentally (I absolutely don't believe in coincidence by the way), I was listening to Any Given Day; the song Refiner's Fire was playing. At the end of the song, I realized what I want the cry of my heart to be as the singer kept repeating the words "make us holy...make us holy...make us holy..."

Father God, I'm filled with emotion today for those that I love and care about. For their needs and hurts and wants and desires - and for the days to come. I pray God, that in your glorious ways, that you hear the cry of my heart when I have no words to say.

And Faithful One, make me holy. I'm on my knees asking you to make me holy. Amen.

What's the cry of your heart?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Two Birds, One Stone

FIRST BIRD.

A blogger friend over at Hope42day (http://hope42day.wordpress.com) chose a new word for 2009. It was contagious. I loved the idea and her reasons for her choice. You can check it out on her blog.

Rather than a resolution I decided to choose a word as well. I've been thinking about this for a few days and have come up with my word for 2009: "break."


A few of the things I want to break:
Bad habits (including not spending time with God each day reading the Bible and praying)

Negative thinking (a pastor friend of mine calls it stinkin-thinkin: about myself, my situation, others, etc.)

There is one thing that is more important to me about the word break. I am going to be intentional about breaking out or breaking away from what is normal for me. To be part of "THE MORE" that I know God has planned for me.

I am also going to be intentional about breaking my pride and fear; two little words but so big in my life.


My ipod is engraved; it says "Broken and Beautiful. Jesus Paid it All." I hope that by the beginning of 2010 my word is broken.

SECOND BIRD.

I am the victim of "blogger tag." My friend, Chris, over at
http://experiencingraceandpeace.blogspot.com caught me and the rules are as simple: list six random or weird facts about yourself and then tag six others. So, I'll give it a try. In no particular order I give you:

Number 1: I can remember when I was two years old and I dropped my dolly's (glass) bottle on the cement patio and it shattered; I also remember the rabbits in kennels in the back yard. Did you catch that? I WAS 2!!

Number 2: I've been on stage. It happened at a local pizza parlor called the "Upper Crust." I was a big Joan Jett fan in grade school and one night, while at the pizza place with a bunch of friends, I (a.k.a. Joan Jett) and some friends (a.k.a. the "Black Hearts") got to get on the stage and LIP SYNC to the "Nag." I don't recall having to autograph anything but I'm certain that I did.

Number 3: Last year I went to a Women of Faith conference in Minneapolis with my friends Kathy and Shelly; we laughed a lot! On Friday night we decided to order pizza and have it delivered to our hotel. When the pizza delivery guy arrived, we asked him to model the new scarf and gloves that Shelly bought that day and then we asked him if we could take a picture with him. The poor guy didn't know what to say. That little trip to Minneapolis, by the way, ended with Shelly and I stealing (I KNOW I KNOW) an orange cone which, if the cone had a blog and could write, would be able to tell you six weird and random things about it's "experiences" since it was stolen. I think we'll call the cone "Waldo."

Number 4: I work in a law office with my boss and the office manager, Camie. Camie is one of my very best friends and has been since she started working with us about 5 1/2 years ago. This is neither weird nor random. I just feel blessed.


Number 5: I remember things, lots of things. Don't ever try and win an argument with me. I can remember the telephone number of my best grade school friend, Michon. The last four digits are 2629; Sue's: 1946; Denise: 0146; Chellie: 1172; Mikkel: 0195. When I go to the grocery store seeking 3-4 items, I can never remember all of them without making a list.

Number 6: I have always loved to sit on my (earthly) dad's lap; I still would if he would let me! I'm just getting practice in for when I get to sit on my first (heavenly) Daddy's lap.


Now, I tag the following:
Lynn Rush @ Light of Truth
Miriam @ In His Grip
Steph @ Learnin' by Grace

Carol @ Choose Joy

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Butterflies and Fishing Poles

Jennifer,

I watched a movie last night called "The Ultimate Gift" based on the book by the same name. Have you seen it or read it? I thought it was going to be a love story; it was that and so much more!

The main character, Jason, probably late 20's, is the grandson of a very (VERY) wealthy man (played by James Garner) who dies; Jason never worked a day in his life yet he had everything and then some - a very comfortable trust fund.

In the course of Jason "earning" his inheritance, he meets a little girl, Emily, probably about 6 or 7 years old, who he later finds out has leukemia.

One day, Jason goes to the hospital to visit Emily and she's not in her room. The nurse says "She's with God" in a very matter of fact way. The next scene shows him walking into the chapel at the hospital and he sees her sitting toward the front.

In the front of this chapel there is a statue of Jesus and he has his arms out and open.

He sits down behind her and they begin talking - you know, real talk; how we do when things are serious.

Emily asks Jason "do you think [God] takes advance orders - you know, for my place..."

Jason asks "what do you think heaven looks like?"

Emily says "Butterflies. Lots of butterflies...I think about dying" she says. "Its...unfair even if He had the idea..."

Jason: "I don't know much about God or Jesus, but I promise you that those arms are meant for you."

That scene made me think about heaven a little differently than I had before. I know what the Bible says heaven is going to be like (as if my mind can fathom it) but the idea of butterflies made me think about it with a more child-like approach.

Since heaven is...well, heaven, then doesn't it make sense that God will have waiting for us the things that we love the most?

So, aside from I know from the Bible, I think that heaven is going to have a permanent beautiful sunset; my "place" will be a cute little cabin with lots of shade trees on a lake that has little waves rippling onto the shore. Oh, and of course a really nice beach with "ocean beach" sand and no rocks.

There will be a nice dock going out into the water with some really comfortable "lounging" furniture; maybe even one of those anti-gravity chairs that we have, but softer.

There would always be plenty of sweet raspberry lemonade too.

Oh, and loud music everywhere; including a band for me to finally sing in!

I couldn't get to sleep last night so I spent some time praying for you and Scott and Paul and the rest of the family; then I started wondering what Paul's heaven might be like.

I don't know the man very well, just through you, Scott and Joyce, but I suppose there will probably be a tractor and a field to do some work in.

I wondered too, if there will be a place for Paul to fish. I know your little girls love to fish and I suppose that he'll want to share his fishing spot with them.

I imagine that he'll have a great big lounge chair so that somehow he can hold all his precious grandbabies at one time. The chair will be unique, like no other chair, because each grandchild will feel like they are the only one sitting on "Bop's" lap.

After sleeplessly dreaming about this, I did fall asleep; and when I woke up this morning the song (because you know everything for me comes in the form of a song...) that continued to play in my head was "...all things are possible...all things are possible...all things are possible..."

I know the future for Paul is uncertain right now. In Christ, there are no good-byes.

I love you my precious friend, Janelle

(You can check out Paul's story and my friend Jennifer at
http://gettingdownwithjesus.blogspot.com)

What will heaven look like for you?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Holy Ground

Exodus 3 tells the story of God appearing to Moses in the burning bush; Moses couldn’t put his finger on why the bush was on fire but not burning up. As he approached to get a closer look, God stopped him.

“Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied.

“Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground…”

I looked up the definition of holy on Wikipedia; it says that holy (or sacred) means set apart for the worship or service...It could also mean being set apart to pursue (or to already have achieved) a sacred state…

There is nothing earth-shattering about ground; Wikipedia says it means the earth’s surface (among other things).

Ordinary ground, on it’s own may not be that exciting or interesting; however, put the word “holy” in front of it and it becomes something extraordinary.

Based on the definitions above, have you ever stood on holy ground? If you are a born-again child of God, my belief is that you have.

These pictures are of a portion of the road I travel every day to and from work. My commute is approximately 40-45 minutes over approximately 35 miles.

Do you see anything spectacular about this stretch of road? You may not see anything special about it, but for me, this is holy ground.

On this specific stretch of road (approximately 1/3 of a mile) I cried out to God for the first time in my life as I felt that my marriage was over. Two days later God showed up on this same stretch of road and told me he would walk with me through the hard times.

This was the beginning of a true and authentic walk with God which began a little less than 6 years ago.

About three years later, on this same stretch of road, God showed up again. This time I didn’t like what he had to say; but my relationship with him had grown and I had learned to trust him.

But in my heart, I knew it was God and the message he spoke was clear: I needed to personally confess a sin to someone from years before. God again promised that he would walk with me.

Should there be a sign along the side of the road that says: "Holy Ground - next 1/3 of a mile?" Was the ground by the burning bush still holy ground after God was no longer there?

While I believe that there is significance in the fact that God has appeared to me in the same place on more than one occasion; I don't believe that a sign should be erected. This is a special "place" for me, but probably not for anyone else; a place where I finally reached out to God after years and years of being pursued by him.

Not only is God Holy, but he loves us so much that he pursues us in order that we might be holy; set apart for worship and service.

What about you? Where/when have you been on holy ground?

Abba Father, thank you for pursuing us; thank you for desiring to make us holy. Open our eyes to the times, places and faces where you show up. Don’t let us miss another moment Emmanuel.

(On a side note, in obedience to God, I did personally confess the sin to the person I sinned against. God, and his grace, showed up there too. And, my husband and I are still married.)