Dec 18, 2008

Fact or Feeling?

Hey, sista friends! I've missed y'all so much in this time off I've taken. Just so you know, I still love to blog, but haven't been able to find the time to devote to it. I pray about it often and ask that when God wants me to post, He'll give me the time and direction. This is the first time that has happened since the end of October. Cooper is at home sick today and is napping, which he never does, so here I sit with you. I pray that God would speak through me today straight into your heart. I love you all so much.

Earlier this week I was talking with one of my girls that is home from college, and during our conversation God really hammered a truth into my heart. I've been mulling over this particular truth in my mind for some time, but in listening to my sweet friend's heart, it seemed to come alive to me. And here it is:

I think, as women, our biggest battle is to believe truth over our emotions.

God has given us a gift to be filled with love, to be able to celebrate with the jubilant, or to hurt with those who are in pain. But, often those same emotions lead us to mistake lust for love, or to participate in something simply because it feels good, or to assume false guilt for something that we have no responsibility for. For instance, how many moms out there are watching their child walk in rebellion and wondering what they did to cause it because it feels like it must be their fault? Or how many are looking back on a mistake they made and beating themselves into the ground for it because they feel ashamed?

Better yet, how many of us are looking at our lives, our daily circumstances, our spouses, our finances, our school load, or even ourselves and thinking it's all too much for us to handle simply because it feels that way?

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9

The heart, the point of origin for all our feelings and emotions, is described by God as "deceitful above all things". What does this mean for us? For me, it means not believing everything I feel. Just because a thought or feeling comes into my head or tries to land on my heart, doesn't mean it's true! I must weigh everything I feel on the scale of God's word. I'm going to list some of the lies I'm most vulnerable to believe as an aid for you to identify yours.

-I'm a bad mother because I'm sometimes impatient or dismissive with Cooper.
-I am a horrible wife because... (the list is endless here).
-My past experiences render me useless and real use in the kingdom of God.
-I'll never get over my struggles. I'll forever be in bondage, not living the full life God intends for me.
-I can't do it.
-God won't do it.
-God doesn't care about me.
-God won't protect my family.
-I need to control everything for all to be okay.
-I must be perfect.

Lies, lies, lies!!!!!!!!!!!!

What would my life look like if I walked around everyday blindly believing such utter falsehood? I can tell you because I still have times that I do it. I would be down, discouraged, stressed out, untrusting, and faithless. My life would be characterized by recurring failure instead of consistent victory. So you may be saying, "Great, Misti. Now what? What am I supposed to do with these overwhelming feelings I have?"

I'm not saying that you shouldn't have feelings; I'm simply saying that they need to be put behind truth. Truth needs to be leading the way, not your feelings. And in order for truth to take it's proper place as the head, it needs to be chosen. Like so much in our walk with Jesus, it starts with a choice. You must choose to believe fact over feeling. For instance, even though sometimes I feel like a failure and like my past and weaknesses render me useless, I must choose to believe that I have been forgiven and made white as snow (Isa. 1:18) and that God is proven strong through my weaknesses (2Cor. 12:9). When I'm tempted to believe that I can't do it, that God won't get me to this continually victorious life, I have to choose to believe that He who started a good work in me will complete it (Php. 1:6). And when I feel like God doesn't love me, I choose to remember the Father sending His only Son as a sacrifice for me. I remember the torture and death that Jesus endured for me and my lie is eclipsed by the truth of His scandalous love. Then, the choice is mine. Will I dismiss the truth to wallow in my own misery, or turn and be renewed, strengthened, and changed by the truth? I either trust God or trust my emotions.

I know that this choice is difficult. We women are emotional people, but, we need to tell our emotions what to do, not the other way around. If you don't know what lies you're believing and walking in, ask God. Once you ask, He is faithful to tell you. Then, find some scripture to combat those lies. Keep saying those verses with your head until your heart and emotions follow.

Ladies, don't take this lightly. Stand up and fight for your victory and peace. Your God is doing His part; now, do yours. I love you.

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Oct 28, 2008

Look! A poem!

I think God gave me this poem; I pray that it speaks to you. Have a wonderful week!

King of Kings

The background for defeat had been carefully set.
The enemy proclaiming, "I'll get them yet!
Their bodies are weak!
They shake to their core!
They have no hope
In this eternal war!

I'm much stronger and smarter and craftier than they.
Oooh. . .they make the perfect prey!
With their selfish hearts
And their lustful eyes
It will be so easy
To bring their demise!

Mount up, you spirits and minions of mine!
Let's make quick work of the deaf, dumb, and blind."

"Wait! What is that rumbling and roar that I hear?
Is it just me, or does it sound painfully near?"
Forced into silence
Frozen in place
The enemy is then
Brought face-to face

With the One who is called Faithful and True
Mounted majestically on His steed, too.
Holy eyes aflame
And Sword in hand
His glory too much
For evil to stand.

Satan's forced to his knees with his face in the mud
Now level with the hem of the robe dipped in blood.
A reminder of the day
Of his victory sweet
That ended too quickly
With bitter defeat.

Then the Holy of Holies opened His mouth
And the sweetest and fiercest of words sprang out.
"You mess with them
You mess with Me.
When you come after them
It's Me you'll see.

I go where they go; I am where they are.
You can try to advance but you won't get far.
So stalk all you want
And pursue if you must.
But you'll end up back here
With your face in the dust.

For they are my beloved. My sheep. My bride.
And under my protective wings they hide.
You can't get to them
Except through Me, you see.
And we both know
That before Me you must flee."

And in that instant, Satan did just that!
He tucked tail and ran in no time flat!
A cocky foe
So assured of a win
Was put in his place
By Jesus again.

So, why do I fear and why do I doubt?
This is MY king I've been talking about!
Satan attacks
He threatens and scares
He comes after me
With whatever he dares.

But Jesus continues to call and to stress
That He is my rock, my mighty fortress!
I am hidden, protected
The safest of girls.
For greater is He in me
Than he in the world!

This is your King, ladies. Don't ever let the enemy convince you that anything is impossible for you who are in Christ. You are covered by the King of Kings and Lord Of Lords. Rest in Him and He will assure your victory. I love y'all!

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Oct 13, 2008

First Floor Living

"Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place." Psalm 51:6

You know, I have read this verse multiple times, but it is hitting me afresh in this new phase in my life. God is taking me through an unprecedented time of uprooting lies, darkness, and strongholds in the deepest parts of me. I was telling a friend today that I feel like His garden and He is tilling up every single, little bitty inch of soil in me. About two weeks ago He had me in such bewilderment that spiritually and emotionally I simply didn't know which way was up. As Brenda (my counselor) put it, I didn't feel like I had a place to land. I was confused and astonished at the depths of what I saw in myself.

You see, a few weeks back Brenda told me she thought God was leading us to start exploring how I felt about what happened to Gabi and how that made me feel about Him. Although I wasn't really excited about delving into the pain of losing my first child all over again, I really didn't expect to find what I did. I thought that I was pretty healed and had found my peace with God, but man, He showed me some deep-seated belief issues that have developed from my pain. Issues that I didn't even know were there! Crazy. And these issues are keeping me from where God wants me now--emotionally, spiritually, and where I've seen it the most, relationally.

Did you hear that? Something hidden and unacknowledged in my deepest places was recklessly playing itself out in my life. And if left unchecked, it will continue to undermine every relationship and taint everything I try to do with the LORD. I will continue to hit the same wall, have the same frustrations, and fight the same discouraging fights.

I like the way that Brenda explains it. She says when difficult events happen in our lives, a lot of times we stuff our emotions and questions and feelings down into the basement of ourselves. And then we proceed to live on the first floor. We're going about life just fine, thinking all is dandy all the time living in denial of our deepest hurts and pains. We are, in effect, separated from our true selves. Extraordinary.

Well, you know how I feel about authenticity, so when I found out I had a basement filled with junk I wasn't confronting and dealing with, I made a decision to sweep it out. I asked God to shine light on every dark place in me. I wanted Jesus, the Truth, to dwell in the deepest places of me. I wanted to not only let myself in to see what was down there, I wanted to let Jesus in to heal it so I could be more whole for myself and my family and more effective for Him. And like I said, what I found ain't perty.

So, yes, I am a tilled-up garden. Yes, He is showing me the lies and doubt that have grown up like weeds around me. But, PRAISE HIS NAME, he is systematically and lovingly yanking out those weeds and beginning to replace them with seeds of truth and faith. He is amazing!

So, my question to you is. . .is there a wall you seem to keep hitting in your relationships either with God or with other people? Are you fighting the same battle you've been fighting for years? (I guess that's two questions.) Maybe a trip down to your basement is in order. Would you be willing to ask Him to shine light on your dark places knowing that He is faithful to heal them? I'll be the first to tell you that it's not easy or pleasant; in fact, it's extremely uncomfortable. But, I think it's worth it.

And, gals, when He reveals those ugly places to us, don't you dare let the enemy wrap you up in shame for there is NO CONDEMNATION for us who are lovers of Jesus (Rom. 8:1)! God reveals so that we can repent and heal, not so we can beat ourselves up. We must own what's down there and then lay it at the feet of Christ. It may sound something like, "God, I am having a tough time believing that you love me because of. . . Please help me with that. Guide me and show me what to do now." And then watch for His instruction. And you know what? If your basement looks anything like mine and you're having a tough time dealing with what you find, don't feel bad about having to find a good Christian counselor. Sometimes we need help from someone wiser; I think that's okay.

Girls, don't be afraid of what's down there. Be afraid of living a life separated from your true self and from your true God. It will cripple you.

Father God, give us the courage to ask you to shine light on our darkness. We need You to invade every part of us if we're ever going to consistently walk the full life You call us to. We love You and we trust You with every part of us. Thank You for being willing to get Your hands dirty in our lives. Amen.

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Oct 6, 2008

Oh. . .life.

Hey, everybody! These last couple of weeks have been a little crazy so I haven't been able to carve out time to write a devotional for you. But it is my desire to do so sometime this week. I'm sorry I'm inconsistent sometimes, but you know, life is life. Sometimes it doesn't fit into my schedule. . .right?! It might be more convenient for you to subscribe to this blog so that it comes directly to your inbox when I post. That way you're not always having to check to see if I've written something new. Talk to you soon! Love you all.

Sep 22, 2008

When Good Isn't Good Enough

A couple of weeks ago I interviewed for a wonderful job with a ministry that provides physical and spiritual aid to the hurting and needing in Africa and India. After I answered questions about my qualifications and time availability, I listened as the founders of this ministry detailed what occurs in their projects. Girls and boys homes. Schools. Medical help. Christ-centered love. It was all so exciting and I quickly found myself daydreaming about writing newsletters for these servants and someday traveling to Africa to see their work in progress. At the end of our time, I expressed my excitement about the position but told them that I would have to go home and pray over the weekend to make sure God was giving me the o.k. to take the position. I assured them that I would probably be starting on Tuesday. That's what I get for speaking before praying.

I went home and did some research on the ministry, which only fueled my desire to take the position. Then I prayed, asking God to be clear on His direction, beseeching Him, really, to not let me stray from His path for me. You see, as much as I wanted to accept that job, there was something that wasn't sitting well in me. Something just didn't feel right. I began to suspect that this dis-ease was God saying no.

"But this job is perfect, God! The hours are outstanding. The money is great. . .it would allow us to finally catch up on bills. Their work is right up my alley, Lord! Why not?"

I never really got a direct answer to that question. But what I feel God did say is, "It's good. But it's not my best for you."


I was not happy; I'm not gonna lie. I wanted this job and I wasn't excited about laying it on the altar of obedience. But I had to ask myself whether I was going to serve myself or serve God.

"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:21

How many times have we heard that actions speak louder than words? I have had numerous people tell me that they love me, but their actions have betrayed their claims. So, here I was. . .where the rubber meets the road. I proclaim loudly and often that I love Jesus, but was I willing to put my money where my mouth was? Was I willing to sacrifice what I wanted to do what He wanted?

As difficult as it was, I made the phone call to turn down the perfect job. I wish I could say that I was happy to do it and that I had such peace afterward, but truthfully, I was bitter about it for a few days. Then I got over myself.

God said that He had something better for me. His best, in fact. I have no idea what that is and I'm still waiting on it, but I must trust what He says is true: that He will show Himself to me. He will guide me in the way to go. And as hard as it is for me to imagine, where he leads me will be leaps and bounds above the opportunity I passed up.

Gals, let's trust God no matter what He asks us to do knowing that in our obedience we are expressing our love to Him. What a small price to pay for what He did for us. He sacrificed His life for us; let's return the favor. Remarkably, when we do so, we are repaid with His love and intimate revelation. I'm thinkin' we're getting the good end of the deal. I'll take that deal any day!

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Sep 7, 2008

Snuggle Up

Why is it a child can excuse himself from doing anything because he is "SOOO tired", but as soon as the bedtime routine begins, said child can transform into a human pinball? BING! BING! BING!

Every night as bedtime approaches, we follow pretty much the same schedule with Cooper in an attempt to get him geared down.

1. Shower
2. Brush Teeth
3. Read Books
4. Pray
5. "Jesus Loves Me"
6. Sleep

And, I swear, that child can be dragging himself into the bathroom claiming exhaustion, but as soon as the first drop of water hits the porcelain, he's a brand new man. Eyes aglow, appendages flailing and lips flapping. "I LOVE SHOWERS!!!!" Hmm. . .maybe the shower is counterproductive.

So I opted out of step 1 tonight trying to avoid the Tasmanian Devil Syndrome, but my strategy was to no avail. As Cooper shed his daily attire to change into his pjs, he discarded his fatigue with it. He was soon jumping on the bed half naked yelling something about lions and wrestling. Homeboy was on fire, though I did get him to listen somewhat quietly to his bedtime story about treasure hunting in some dead guy's tomb. Spiritual, I know.

After singing "Jesus Loves Me", which elicited a yawn, I left the room feeling confident that sleep would be arriving promptly. However, Cooper had different plans. . .doesn't he always?

8:30: Mom leaves room
8:32: Child comes out to go "peeps" (that's pee-pee for all you non-hip gals)
8:33: "Mommy, I just came out to pee and now I need to tell you I'm scared"
8:34: Mom prays for "scared" child and leaves room for the 2nd time
8:38: Mom commands child to stop talking to himself and go to sleep
8:45: Child yells a question from his room which becomes a 5-minute conversation
9:00: Child asks mommy to come lay with him because he "just wants to be with her"

You know, what are you going to do at this point, turn that down? So, I trekked into his room and reclined with my sweet angel. As I did he made sure to inform me that he would be having NO covers. He then tossed and turned for a couple of minutes, but then he rolled over and looked at me. He didn't say a word but he let me cover him up and he snuggled in and fell asleep in less than a minute. It seemed that all he needed for that restless half hour was my presence.

As I left his room (for the 3rd time), I thought how I am so much like him. I'm always having to get out of bed to go peeps. No, but really, I do find myself restless sometimes. I am tossing and turning and running and yelling trying to find some way to express my disquiet. I so easily forget that the peace and soul rest that I need is found in cuddling up to the Father and reclining in His arms.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. . .He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." Psalm 91:1,4

We live in a broken world overrun with sin and depravity. If we look around long enough we can worry ourselves to death. Just going through our day with all its pressures, conflicts, and struggles can get us worried about how we're ever going to make it. But, sister, God has gathered us up and covered us with his feathers. Like a mother hen, He has sheltered us from the outside elements. As much as we feel assaulted and overwhelmed, could you imagine what our lives would be like if we were not being protected by our all-powerful God? He is protecting you from anything that you cannot handle, that is not for your good, and that would not glorify Him.

Whatever you are presently being called to endure, find rest in the covering of the Father's mighty wings. Stop running. Stop trying to figure it out. Stop complaining. Stop doubting.

Just Stop.

He knows what He's doing. Trust Him; He's got you!

Now that you're still...(deep breath) you feel that? It's like the coziest down comforter, isn't it? Let the Father remind you that you are covered and that His presence is near. Now, rest, sister. Rest.

Father, thank you that you are safe and and that we are protected by you. Help us to remember in our daily struggles, no matter how big or small, that simple but peaceful truth. You have us covered. You care. You are for us. You will never leave us and you are ever for our good. We love you and are choosing to trust you today no matter what is going on around us. Amen.

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Sep 1, 2008

Who's Plan, Anyway?

Howdy, girls! Happy Labor Day! Well, since Lou is home today, I took advantage of the extra set of hands and sent him out of the house with Cooper to give myself some time alone. In the quiet. With no one talking. Just me and my computer and Bible. In the quiet (oh, did I say that already?). And let me tell you, I love the stillness. No Transformer laser gun blasts, or "Mommy, can you get me that" or yelling from across the house. What's up with this, anyway? Why can't we just get our butts off the couch and walk the 10 feet to the other person? I mean, from one end of our house to the other is seriously no more than 15 steps. I know; I just did it. Anyway, I love my boys desperately, but sometimes I just need a little peace and quiet.

So, as I was relishing the sound of nothing, I thought this would be a perfect time for me to sit down and write you girls a little devo., but as I knelt to ask God what He wanted me to say, I felt Him telling me to get out to that pool and live it up with Lou and Coop. He also reminded me of something that I read this morning in He Speaks to Me by Priscilla Shirer:

"Ignoring what seems like an interruption ignores God's attempt to move me away from my plan for my day to His plan for my day...Sister, to continue with your plans without regarding life's interruptions is to ignore God's leading and voice."

I can look at this fun escape to the pool as an interruption to what I need to get done, or I can peer closer and see it for what it really is, God instructing me on His plan for my day. I simply must obey and leave the rest in His hands. And girls, I encourage you to do the same. When the next interruption comes like a wrecking ball to your plans, embrace it. Know that it is God guiding you along the path He has for you. Wouldn't you rather that path anyway, seeing that He's all-knowing and all?

So, I'm off. I'm thinking a cannonball sound like fun. Love you, girls!

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Aug 26, 2008

Stick Figures and Selfishness

No, this is not one of Cooper's drawings. This is a piece of my journal "art". I've just recently picked up this new quirk from a friend of mine (thanks, Aimee); i've started putting some of my thoughts into pictures. I have, in the past, used charts and graphs as a way to organize my chaotic thought patterns, but upon reading my friend's journal (with her approval-we sometimes share our journals) I saw cute little sketches scattered about and I thought, Hey! Why didn't I think of that? I want to do pictures (whiney voice here)! So, here is one of my latest.

I'm not sure if you can even tell what it is. But this is a picture of where I stand in my family right now (top picture) and what I'm working towards (bottom picture). To the left are the words

My Needs
My Emotions

Around those words are, no, not jump ropes. Those are arms. And to the right of both pictures are me (I'm the one with the beautiful head of ringlets) and my boys...Cooper and Lou. Now, if you can get by the elementary skill level of the piece, you'll notice a couple of things.

Top Picture: My needs are being embraced by me and both my boys are asking me to be with them.
Bottom Picture: My needs are being embraced by God and I'm embracing my family.

Here are the words that I wrote right before I sketched this masterpiece:

"If I could just get my focus off of myself and trust You to fulfill my needs. I've been so dependent on myself for so long--I just don't trust anyone else to care for me. But in taking care of me, I've got nothing left for anyone else! Such an inward focus--everyone else just gets my back."

God has been really speaking to me about living the sanctified life. About being different. About being a servant. It is so countercultural, and as you can tell from my sketches, so against everything in me, yet it is something that Jesus instructs us to do over and over.

"...Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:43-45

These verses are key to me. Yes, they tell us to serve others, even using the word "slave", but they also remind me of how I have been served. Jesus, the King of Kings, gave his life for me. His entire life was a service of love to His people. If that was His purpose and His ambition, who am I to think that I would be any different?

The problem is, I'm afraid that if I don't take care of myself then no one will. I don't trust. I don't let anyone in beyond a certain point. I am protective of myself. But I have found that in protecting myself, in serving me, I shut everyone else out. The people I love the most are left with an emotionally exhausted, frazzled, dismissive woman. I am so tired from taking care of my "stuff" that I have nothing left to give.

Anybody tracking with me? Anyone else out there just sick and tired of being all about themselves? I want so badly to be the woman in the second picture. I want to be confident that my God is taking care of everything that I need, and in that confidence to be freed up to lavish a service of love onto my family, friends, and community. It will be so; praise God. But I've got to learn to trust Him, don't I? Don't we? We have to trust Him with everything and depend on Him for everything.

I'll be honest; I don't think I know what that looks like quite yet. I'm still figuring it out. Right now it consists of revisiting some old, painful, hidden places and exposing them to Him. Letting Him behind the walls and learning how to let Him heal me. It also involves me stopping and turning to Him as a source of comfort when everything in me screams to turn inward and shut everyone out. It consists of me admitting to Him that I can't do it all, that nothing good lives in my flesh. And, presently, it means active surrender. Laying my plans, actions, thoughts and emotions on His altar of truth and love. Is He trustworthy? Will he take care of me, protect me, and lead me in the right direction? His word says he will. Listen to this....Oh, man. I tried to load the video of Coop saying Psalm 23, but I couldn't figure it out. Reading will have to do...just imagine an adorable, chubby-cheeked 4-yr-old reciting it.

Psalm 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

If I'm going to say I'm a Christian, I need to act like it. I need to believe God's word and His word says clearly that He is trustworthy to take care of me. We can trust Him, girls. Let's do whatever it takes to do so. And in releasing our needs to Him, we will find energy and love we never knew we had to serve those around us. No more selfishness.

Father God, this is by far one of the hardest things I've ever had to learn. But please, God, help us to get it. We don't want to be selfish anymore! Give us everything we need to learn to trust you to take care of us so that we can expend our energies on others. We love you, amen.

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Aug 24, 2008

Will Post

Busy Day. Stay tuned; I will post either tonight or tomorrow. Love you girls!

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Aug 17, 2008

What are You Waiting On?

Have you been as wrapped up in the Olympics as I have? Oh, there's nothing like watching the best athletes of the world compete for the #1 position in their personal sport. I love it!! My favorite event to watch thus far has been, of course, the Michael Phelps show. Can you believe that EVERY time he raced he won a gold medal? Unbelievable. But what I loved watching even more was Dara Torres. You might not know who she is, but her story is phenomenal. She is a 41-yr-old American swimmer who is competing in her 5th Olympics. She won 3 medals for our country this year, bringing her career medal count to 12! She's amazing. She's also a mother of a two-year old daughter who is anxiously awaiting her mommy's arrival home. When asked in an interview what she would tell her daughter someday about this Olympics Dara replied, "To never put an age limit on your dreams." Don't you love that?

A more obscure athlete that I saw only tonight was a 33-yr-old female gymnast from Germany. She competed in the individual vault competition and walked away with a silver medal hanging around her neck! Now, I'm only a couple of years older than she, but I can't picture in my wildest imaginings barreling down a runway, catapulting myself into the air and twisting myself into a pretzel before landing ever so delicately on the mat. What she has accomplished at such an advanced age is inspiring. I guess no one ever told her to put an age limit on her dreams either.

How about you? Have you been dreaming of something but have yet to see it come to fruition?

I know that as I battled with panic attacks and paralyzing fear for close to 10 years, I began to lose hope that I would ever gain the victory over them that I had been praying for. I began to think that there was no way that I would ever be free from this predator that seemed to chase me down wherever I went. I had simply been battling for too long. However, God, in His own timing crushed the head of the one who pursued me. And while He did so, He also taught me how to fight. If He would have just delivered me the first time I cried out, I would have no clue how to handle the next attack that came. I had to wait, yes. But what I got out of the wait was more valuable than a simple delivery from harm. I received my battle gear, the Art of War instruction manual, and the confidence in the power of my God.

Have you lost hope in the wait? Be encouraged, friend! Your God has not forgotten you or hung you out to dry, for He has promised that He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Be assured that He is right there next to you accomplishing a great thing in you. It may be possible that He is teaching you to fight with Him instead of against Him. He may be teaching you patience, I don't know. But what I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is God is faithful to his people. He will not let you down. . .He will save you.

"Why are you downcast, Oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." Psalm 42:5

He IS your Savior.
He IS your God.

And He will come through. And sister, I promise you, what He has for you will be worth the wait.

Father, it is difficult to be patient when we are so uncomfortable. But, Lord, please help us to trust you while you accomplish great works in and around us, and help us to learn the lessons you are trying to teach us through it all. We love you, amen.

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Aug 10, 2008

Zany for Z-Straps

Are you a part of the Z Strap craze? I myself knew nothing of it until Cooper informed me that he just had to have a pair, which he decided after spotting them on his cousin Tyler's feet. I ask you, how does a 4-year-old have shoe envy already? We are doomed! Anyway, when his grandparents heard of his "need" they promptly escorted us to the local mall so they could purchase Coop his very own pair. You should have seen him when he found out what we were doing. You would have thought I fed him sugar cubes for breakfast. He was either running, jumping, or screaming the entire morning.

As we arrived at the shoe department of JC Penney's, he made a bee line to the Sketchers and found himself the perfect pair of z-straps. They were black. And had lights. Ugh! Thank God they didn't have a pair that fit him. After trying on a few more models, we found a pair on which we could all agree and that had nary a light. Thank You, Jesus. He, of course, insisted on donning his new kicks out of the store, and I had to admit, they were good lookin'. Coop can make just about anything look cute but that's beside the point. Here's the pair we decided on.

They don't look like they have super powers, do they? I know. . .I thought they appeared common myself, but according to Cooper, they harness all of the power in the universe and make him stronger, quicker, and a much better jumper. Magic shoes (That was my Forest Gump voice again. Italics equals Forest.) In between time trials from one store to the next to clock his increased speed, he would look up at me and say, "Mommy! Look how high I can jump!" He firmly believes that when he slips his cute little feet into those shoes he is more powerful than when he is sporting commonplace sandals. For him, it's simple. The advertisements say these shoes make him more powerful, so it must be so (brilliant super hero marketing, by the way).

Wouldn't it be something if we believed God's truths so simply and thoroughly? What if we actually took Him at his word and acted on it? It's easy to say we believe Him, but our actions prove what we really embrace as truth.

What has God been telling you? I'll share mine with you just to get your brain juices flowing. I have been battling with God over whether or not to have another child. We had settled on stopping after Cooper and had peace about it, but recently I have been plagued by questions like, "What if I heard God wrong?", "Will he be lonely?", "Are we depriving him?", and "Will he be okay?" I just couldn't get it through my thick skull that having only one child, though uncommon, is just fine if it's what God has ordained. After driving myself mad with questions of the unknown, I had to decide. Either I was going to believe God on this or not. I could either take Him at His word and trust Him enough to walk it out, or question Him and take it into my own hands. And we all know how that usually turns out.

So, I'll ask it again. What has God been telling you?

That you are scandalously loved despite your failings?

That you CAN get through this tough time if you stick with Him?

That your marriage IS salvageable and can be turned into a loving relationship?

That your prayers are heard and important?

That you can be victorious?

What if you acted on those truths? How would your life look different? I've decided to trust God on this only child thing and see all the wonderful things He has planned through it. Why don't you give it a shot, too? Trust Him, smash through those fears, and walk it out. You just might discover you have magic shoes, too!

Father God, help us to believe you. Help us to hear clearly what you are saying to us and enable us to believe you enough to act on it. We love you, amen.

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Aug 3, 2008

A Friend's a Friend Forever. . .

This is my friend from Malaysia, Paige, and one of her little ones. No, obviously, she doesn't hail from the small country on the opposite side of the world, but she does currently reside there with her family. How exciting, huh? To live in a magical land where the trees are home to meddlesome monkeys instead of scurrying squirrels. Where a nearby town houses a chocolate fountain that you could shower in (my husband's dream by the way) and having a driver to escort you about town is commonplace. Paige and her family have opted out of the daily chauffeur, but they do partake in most things Malaysian. She has taken in sights and holiday celebrations galore and is even indulging in the local cuisine. She's a wonderful cook and I'm fairly sure she will return with decadent Asian recipes when her time in the tropics is complete. I can't wait! I'm so excited for her and all of the adventures she is embarking upon, but still. . .I miss her terribly.

You see, Paige and I used to lead Young Life together. We had the honor of telling high school girls about the Lover of their souls. And we got to do it together. We had our kids 6 months apart and they became the best of friends. Don't tell anyone, but I actually envisioned what our lives would look like when her daughter and my son got married and Paige actually became part of my family. We would be loud and somewhat embarrassing, by the way. We ate together often and swapped stories of crazy children and even crazier husbands. We shared food, family, and faith. In short, we shared life. And it's something I've missed since she left a year ago.

So, I was ecstatic when I learned Paige and her fam would be "in the States" for 6 weeks (how cool to be able to use that term). I determined to spend as much time with them as possible, so I made the trek down to Houston this weekend. And let me tell you how good God is. . .it's as if a year had not even passed! I decided not to ask her a lot about Malaysia because I figured she had spent 5 weeks telling the same stories over and over again. So, we just started chatting about what was on our minds and where our hearts were. It was such a sweet time. Not only did we have "girl talk" and have playtime with our kids, but we also shared a meal with some old Young Life girls. It was a return to the last place we had been together. Yes, time had passed. Our YL girls had graduated from college, our little ones were a couple of inches taller, and there were details about her new daily life that I knew nothing about. But here we were, sharing life again. We didn't miss a beat. It was rich.

I think this is what a true friend is. A person who is excited to see you and share life with you even when it's been a while since you've done so. One that knows you so well that you don't have to bother with "catching up" but can move right on to heart matters. A friend who loves you despite the distance.

You know, God is that kind of God.

In the story of the prodigal son, a wayward boy returns shamefully home expecting the rebuke of his father.

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." Luke 15:20

Friend, have you strayed away from God? Have you created a distance between the two of you that seems so far that there is no way back? Return to Him! He is searching the horizon waiting for just a glance of your distant silouette.

Are you afraid of a harsh rebuke or an unkind word upon your arrival? Check this out:

"Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity." Joel 2:13

Sister, we have a God who in His overflowing love and compassion is waiting to close the distance. He's not ready to pounce but to embrace. And in returning to Him, in approaching Him in prayer, we'll have no need to catch up, for He knows us better than we know ourselves. We need only to share our lives with Him. Yes, there may be some repenting and apologizing to do, but forgiveness awaits. Go. Return. A friendship like no other is ready to be rekindled. Never really had a friendship with God? Light the fire, baby! This friendship is a true friendship no matter the present physical distance.

Father God, thank you for your patience with us and our rebellion. We are so thankful that you are slow to anger and that you abound in love. Give us the courage to come back to a place of intimacy with you and to find Your peace. Thank you for your unfathomable love. Amen.

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Jul 14, 2008

Returning This Week

Okay, all. I think we've all discovered that if I don't give myself a designated day to post, then I simply won't post at all. So, I'm going to establish one. I will be posting every Monday that I'm in town. There, I said it; now I must do it. This will allow you to simply check on Mondays alone and if there isn't a new post then that means I'm out of town and won't be posting until the following Monday. That being said, today is Monday and I don't have the time to commit to a full devotional. However, I will post within the next couple of days. Then, I will be out of town for Young Life camp in Colorado (YEA, BABY!) for about a week. Then, watch out! I should be back on the horse supplying you with a fresh word every week. Thank you so much for being patient with my schedule and lack of discipline. Life should be back to "normal" in August, which will free me up to have a more consistent writing time. Thanks, all! I love you dearly!

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Jun 18, 2008

The Anger Bank

Up until very recently, I HATED going to the bank. Probably because it usually included us having to deal with some insufficient fund issue or problem with our account. It also reminded me just how desperately inept we were at handling our finances. However, two months ago we started attending Dave Ramsey classes. If you are looking for a way to get rid of debt, save for your future and kids' college, and get to a place where you're giving money away, this is the way to go! I actually have peace in this area like I've never had before and much of it has to do with the "envelope system" he suggests. At the beginning of the month, we pull out cash to pay for gas, groceries, toiletries, and the like and put them in designated envelopes. You only buy these things with this money. When the cash runs out, you don't eat or drive your car. Actually seeing your money being spent helps you spend less. It hurts much more when it's cash! We actually have enough money to last the entire month instead of running out halfway through. Anyway, now I LOVE going to the bank. Not only are we more financially stable, but I get to go and pull out a wad of cash! So much fun!

Well, y'all (yes, I'm from Texas and I will use that word even if it is not grammatically refined) have heard me mention time and again my tendency to be quick to anger. It's something that I've dealt with for a long time and have wondered where it all comes from. Well, Brenda (my counselor) has informed me that I possess an "anger bank". Funny that someone who used to hate visiting such a place would be lugging one around every day. It seems that many hurtful things were deposited into the vault as rejection or hurt but were withdrawn as anger. Did you know that anger is a secondary emotion? It develops from a hurt of some sort. Interesting. I just thought I was angry; I didn't know I was hurt.

So, now the task is to "drain the bank". Ugh! And if anger is not the real culprit, you know what is--the hurt. She has told me that we have to go in and "lance the wound". Drain the wound, drain the anger bank. We are presently embarking on that journey. It includes a lot of delving into my past, drudging up old pains, and digging into my true feelings about them. Amazingly, as hard as it has been at some points, I am experiencing God like I never have before. I'm actually hearing Him in my times with Him and He has opened my eyes to His movement in my life. I was so blinded for such a long time and now I am seeing for the first time that He is truly a God of love. For reasons I might divulge at a later time, I just couldn't believe that. I thought he was big, scary, selfish, and out to hurt me. And when hurtful events came to pass in my life, they fed that view and made it more believable. But, HALLELUJAH, He is shattering that warped picture of Himself.

I ran from counseling for a long time. My excuses were valid: we didn't have the money, or I was too busy with work and Cooper to invest the time. But, in taking this step that God led me to, He is proving faithful. It was a big step, and has taken some sacrifice, but I was just desperate enough. I finally arrived at a place where I was sick of living in defeat and letting Satan gain the victory over me. ENOUGH!I yelled within myself.

Ladies, are you there yet? Are you desperate for victory in a place you've struggled for years? Have you given up anywhere in your life? Has it just been too lengthy of a battle for you to really believe that you could conquer it? If you hear nothing else, here this:

It is your God's will for you to live in victorious freedom!

"No, in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Romans 8:37

Nope, don't just quickly read over that and move on. Go back and read it again. More Than Conquerors! You are meant to triumph over your stuff (that's what I call it because the word "crap" doesn't seem appropriate for a devotional). Do you remember the woman who bled for 12 straight years? Do you think she was desperate--at a place where she had just about given up? Maybe she went to Jesus as her last resort, but she did go. She turned to the only one who could heal her fully, and that very thing He did. I love the way The Message says it.

"Then [Jesus] reassured her: "Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you're well." The woman was well from then on."

A risk of faith. It is a risk isn't it? You're turning to Jesus to heal you; what happens if He doesn't come through? I have often feared that very thing. But I'm coming to see that He will heal, sister. He will. It may look a little different than we would have thought, but He will come through. And really, do you have another choice? It's turn to your Healer or stay where you're at. You can do this! Listen to a portion of my favorite hymn (I think it's a hymn. It is in my mind, anyway). My favorite version is by FFH. As the song progresses it almost explodes at the point in the lyrics below. The emphasis is mine.

In Christ Alone
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;

For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand

That same Christ who conquered death is living in you ready to conquer your past failings and present struggles. Turn to Him; trust Him. He will not fail you. I'll sum up with this final verse:

"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32

God sent His Son to die for us; it was an investment in our lives of the deepest kind. Will He now just leave us to our own devices? Only if we don't let Him in. He wants in; open the door. Yes, it is difficult to expose the dark places to Him. But I've found that there is such comfort in it. He doesn't condemn; He heals. And isn't that what we're after? Deep to the core healing? Invite Him into the broken places so He can make you whole.

Thanks for listening. I love sharing the adventure of Christ with you. I love you.

Jesus, give us the courage to forge into the dark places with You. Thanks that You are faithful to forgive and heal. Draw us under Your protective wings as we become vulnerable. We love you. Amen.

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New article up on If you're interested in reading it, click here.

May 20, 2008

Vacation, Baby!

Well, girls, my husband is on sabbatical. . .6 weeks paid vacation! I think it will be a wonderful time for us both to find refreshment and renewal before we begin a new school year with our Young Life kids. Today we are leaving to go on a little "week-ette", as Lou calls it, by ourselves and then we will be in and out of town until June 8th. So, I probably will not be posting again until then. But, I'll catch you up when I return.

If you're new to Walls Down. . .WELCOME! We've just begun a journey down a new road here. You can read about it below at "Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes". Until I return, feel free to explore past entries. If you're looking for a particular topic, they're listed at the right.

Thank you, gals, for letting me serve you in this small way. Have a great couple of weeks and I'll talk at ya' soon! I love you.

New article up if you're interested..."The Patient Partner"

May 6, 2008


"Mommy, what's the name of that girl who is learning you to be happy?" Me-"Ms. Brenda." "Oh, okay. God, thank you for Ms. Brenda to help mommy to not be mean to Daddy because he is nice. Thank you. Amen."

This was my 4-year-old son's prayer tonight, his hand resting on my face. He was sincerely praying for me. As proud as that makes me, the sentiments of his pleadings were a stinging slap to the face. Nevertheless, he expressed the exact reason I'm now visiting my new "teacher" Brenda. She is a counselor.

As I've journeyed down the road with Jesus--listening to sermons, attending Bible study upon Bible study, leading Bible lessons for high school girls, mentoring a couple of them along the way--I've heard over and over again about the fullness of life in Christ. The fullness of joy and peace as a believer that is our right and inheritance. It has excited me and driven me to plod ahead in my faith. However, to be completely honest with you, I have not been able to live consistently in that abundant life. It has been an elusive promise that I lay hold of but see slip out of my fingers often. I'm not able to abide there permanently. The joy that I've found in Jesus has been real, but also fleeting. So frustrating and discouraging.

One of the biggest manifestations of that discouragement is anger. For years now I've been an angry, irritable gal. In college and my early 20's it was okay because those types of girls were looked upon as strong and independent in my circles. But, as I turned my life over to Jesus in my late 20's, I started to become aware of just how ugly the anger was. It didn't really become a big deal until I met Lou and we got married. Poor thing has been dealing with grumpy girl ever since. I have spent the last 7 years struggling with my tendency to be critical, sarcastic, and rude. Yes, I have good days when I'm as happy as a goat in a pile of tin cans. But, those days have become more the exception than the rule.

I know that God has called me to stand up for my family and begin to break the generational sins that have plagued us for years, but this one has proved to be too big for me. There is an underlying something or other fueling the anger and sadness and I've decided to stop running and face it. I have to or I will pass this discontent and anger along to my sweet Cooper to pass along to his kids. The cycle will continue until one of us has the courage to stand up, take God at His word, and fight this thing through until we find freedom. For Cooper's sake, I'm doing it. I'm scared, but I'm doing it.

I know this isn't a feel good post with beautiful analogies and flowery language. But my heart is to cut the fancies and get gut-level honest with you. I want to share this journey with you. I want you to know that, if you're like me, YOU'RE NOT ALONE! Of course, I'm not going to go into every detail (a girl and her fam need a little privacy), but I do want to share any lessons I learn along the way. So know that I will probably be posting a lot about courage, victory, fighting, trusting, etc. And don't worry; it's not my goal to be a weekly downer. I will fight to keep my humor.

I will be visiting with Brenda every Thursday for what sounds like a long time. Evidently, I've got some intense work to do. Fun! Fun! So, I will not be posting on Tuesdays anymore; I'll be moving to the weekends, probably Fridays or Saturdays. I'm trying to be easier on myself, so it may even be on a Sunday or Monday, but I will get it done. This is not only a vessel for me to process what I'm learning, but it is a way for me to serve you through it. To draw alongside you in your pain or trial and to be transparent enough that you might draw comfort from being able to say, "I'm not the only one who thinks like that?" or "I've done that too!"

Ladies, please know that you are not alone in any struggle that you have.

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecc. 1:9

What we are presently going through has been experienced, fought through, and conquered in the name of Jesus before. Let's have the courage to stand up and fight for the abundant life that Jesus promises us. He's not a liar...if He says it's what we're meant to have, let's break through whatever is in our way until we lay hold of it! If you're running from it--stop. Look it in the face and start to process through it. And if you need to seek help. . .don't be ashamed!

"Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them." Prov. 4:5

Seek out the wisdom of a Christian counselor if you need to. There is NO shame in that; just make sure she or he is someone who will lead you to Christ because He is the source of true wisdom.

Let's really do this thing, girls! Let's seek after the victory that we're promised. God will prove faithful.

"I will walk about in victory, for I have sought his precepts." Psalm 119:45

BELIEVE IT! I'll see you next week for our first "session". Love you!

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Apr 29, 2008

A Child's Eyes

Crazy day. Today I substituted in a class of 17 first-graders. Now, if any of you know me at all, you know that I am completely built to interact with high schoolers, so to sub 7-year-olds is a stretch in itself. But, try taking said 7-year-olds on a field trip.

With 75 other first-graders.

To a farm filled with about 300 other school children.

Now think back to when you were in school and you had a substitute. Uh-huh. Exactly. I see that smile you're getting on you face as you're remembering that your reaction was something along the lines of, "Yes! A sub! We can do whatever we want!" I can't believe they're already this way in 1st grade, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, after much threatening in the classroom about following classroom rules even though I wasn't their "real" teacher, we all bounded onto the bus. And remarkably, with a few exceptions, I didn't have much problem with them all day. Although, wow, are they loud! As much as my ears were ringing from the shrill shrieking of the girls and boys around me, I forced myself to look at their faces and listen in on their conversations. And what I witnessed not only made me laugh, but also brought me a little joy. As we were passing under an overpass on the way to the farm, the little boy in front of me said in a wondrous tone, "Wow! Look at those birds!" You know what kind of birds they were? Pigeons! Flying rats! But he didn't know that. . .he just saw their tinted feathers and supernatural ability to fly.

Here were a few other cute things I heard throughout the day:

"Look! Look! Look! There's my brother's school!"
"Oooh! Ice cream!"
"That's the biggest horse I've ever seen!" (He was huge!)
And my favorite..."Hey! Cool! A Super Target!"

As I listened to the excitement in their voices and saw the awe in their eyes at the sight of such everyday happenings, I started thinking about myself. Doesn't it always come back to me? I wonder if that's a bad thing. Anyway, I asked myself if what Jesus has done and continues to do in my life elicits from me the same type of responses these children were giving. Am I genuinely awed when God moves in my life? Or have I become so used to Him acting on my behalf that I have become jaded?

Over and over again in Scripture, people who encountered the Lord were shocked and amazed by Him and His doings. When Jesus healed a paralytic, the crowd was "filled with awe; and they praised God" (Matt. 9:8). When He raised a widow's son from the dead they were again filled with awe, resulting in praise (Luke 7:16). And because of this more people came to know Jesus.

Are we awed anymore? Are we praising? Are people wanting to know more about Jesus because of our excitement over Him?

Now, I know that most of us will not dance half-naked in the streets rejoicing in God like David did (2 Samuel 6), but it wouldn't hurt to belt out a couple of his psalms, would it?

Girls, let's ask God to open up our eyes and amaze us again. Are you longing for a little bit more passion and excitement in your life? I know I am. And if my zeal brings others to the foot of Jesus, well, hallelujah!

Father, we confess that as we walk farther down the narrow path with you, we start getting used to your everyday miracles. We now ask that you would renew a right spirit in us. One that sees how awesome you are and yet how tender. Amaze us and help us to respond with songs of joy and thankfulness. We love you, amen.

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Apr 22, 2008

My Plate Overfloweth

Hey, faithful friends. Well, this week I've got a pretty full plate, and as par for me, I'm running behind. So, I will not be posting this week. But if you're in the mood to read some sort of something, check out one of my old posts. If you think about me at all this week, could you throw up a prayer? I've got a couple of deadlines to meet and I'm feelin' the pressure! Thanks, gals. Talk to you next week! I love you tons.

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Apr 15, 2008

Eat Your Veggies!

My son almost threw up in his plate tonight. Let me tell you, it does wonders for a novice cook's self-esteem. I think we can all admit in this family that cooking is not my strong suit; in fact, I don't even think I own this suit. What I own is a cheap knockoff you may find on Harwin in Houston. Anyway, I'm on a new kick lately. I've decided (notice it's "I" and not "we") that we need to be living a healthier lifestyle as a family. I'm trying to teach Cooper habits that are "good for our bodies". So far, we've only addressed our food and media consumption; we'll get to the exercise later. Why exercise now when you can do it later? I always say! We're limiting our t.v./computer/electronic times because it's "not good for" our family to be engrossed in activities that stifle communication. Amazingly, Cooper is on board with this most of the time. When I explained that Mommy won't be spending so much time on the computer either, he was much more willing to give up some of his Leapster time. However, this tactic did not work so well tonight as I was trying to re-introduce broccoli to my sweet angel.

"Okay. . .let's all eat a bite of broccoli together! Yey! This is going to be so fun! Ready? Go!" You would think I asked the boy to eat a handful of dirt. He was not fooled; he knew exactly what he was getting himself into. He quickly refused the bite and stated emphatically, "I will NEVER eat vegetables!" Lou then decided that he would "help" him out by feeding him the minute bite of greens himself. Wow. . .not a good idea. This is when we almost saw Cooper's chicken and potatoes for a second time. At first, I thought, "He must really not like broccoli. I cannot believe it made him gag!" But as Lou sent Coop to the Time Out Chair, he informed me that the morsel had not even made it into Coop's mouth. He had immediately stuck out his tongue and pretty much gagged himself at the mere thought of consuming something green. He had not even had a chance to taste it! Adamantly against broccoli. Note taken.

You know, maybe if Cooper would have just given it a chance, he might have seen that this particular vegetable was not bad. Maybe he would have even liked it.

Aren't we like a 3-yr-old refusing our veggies sometimes? God is calling on us to experience his goodness; I mean, really experience it by making our relationship with Him personal and real. Yet, we fail to do so.

"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." Psalm 34:8

Just as veggies are essential for the nourishment of our bodies, the LORD is vital to our emotional and spiritual health. Simply put, He is good for us. However, we continue to starve ourselves of the health He provides. Sometimes we're not even giving Him a chance to satiate us at all. We're figuratively sticking out our tongue before the veggie is making it in the mouth. Maybe you're just too busy to spend time with Him every day. Maybe, like me, you choose to do other things (like sleep) instead of getting up to do your quiet time. Possibly, you know that you need to go deeper with Him, explore Him a bit more, but you're simply refusing to do it. But all we're doing when we do this is weakening ourselves. God promises to give us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3); are we taking Him up on the offer?

Ladies, let's get on a steady diet of Diety. Just like our bodies get rundown quickly with no vitamins and minerals, our souls do the same without God. He is our source for everything we could ever need. Let's take Him at His word and taste and see that He is good.

Father, thank you that you are everything we need for full living. We are sorry for our spiritual laziness; help us to exert the extra effort to get daily nourishment from the Bread of Life. We love you, Amen.

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Apr 8, 2008

Storm Safety

Texas Weather. It's a fickle and unpredictable thing. This morning as I woke up and started getting Cooper dressed for school, I checked the weather online to ensure he would be clothed appropriately. Eighties and sunny. Yes! We threw on the khaki shorts and t-shirt, quickly brushed his teeth, and headed out the door, excited about a day filled with sunshine. However, as we stepped out we were confronted with gray, ominous clouds and slight rumblings in the not-so-distance. Bummer. A short time later, a sudden, fierce rainstorm descended, bringing with it deafening ground strikes of lightning and big ol' fat rain (Forest Gump voice). Upon arriving home, I sat in front of my sliding glass doors watching the downfall. Then, faintly, I heard a strange clink-clinking sound. Hail! Little balls of ice were rolling all over my balcony! (Don't you know I thought about starting one of my fires?) Anyway, not 2 minutes later, it had all totally ceased. Then. . .blue skies. It all lasted no longer than 10 minutes. From chaotic darkness to tranquil light in less time than it takes to cook a pizza. Bizarre.

Isn't our life like my morning sometimes? We're going along expecting a sunny day just like the one before it and WHAM! Life hits us upside the head and sends us reeling. It can be scary. As I was driving home from Coop's school watching the clouds quickly roll in, I became increasingly more anxious because the thunder was becoming louder and the lightning brighter and closer. So, I ran home, where I jogged up the stairs into the safety of our condo and closed the door securely behind me. Shelter.

I'm comforted to know that when life sneaks up on me and knocks me off kilter, God is not caught off-guard.

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight." Hebrews 4:13

"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:16

God is not sitting staring over the portals of Heaven in anxiety fretting about what is going to happen next. All of our days have already been recorded. He knows. And, amazingly, He cares and promises to lend protection and help.

"For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling" Psalm 27:5

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10

We will have days that sneak up on us and shake our very foundation, but God's mighty hand will uphold it and steady us. We need to run up the stairs of Heaven and find safety in His dwelling. It's from this place of security that we can watch the downpour without getting drenched by it. As we seek the Comforter for strength and peace, the cacophony fades. Yes, it's still raining; it may even be beginning to hail, but behind the closed doors of our Fortress, it's quiet. However, finding this stillness depends on us. Will we stand out in the storm wondering why it's raining and how in the world it is ever going to stop or are we going to make a quick dash into shelter? He is our calm in the storm. And before you know it. . .blue skies.

Father, thank you that nothing takes you by surprise. We just praise you for having it all under control and working everything out for our good. Help us to trust that. We love you, Amen.

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Apr 1, 2008

Stop, Prop, and Behold

First off, thank you to any of you who took time to pray for me last week. I'm having a much better week and I know it is because of the prayers of my friends and family. Thank you so, so much.

Well, I took a two hour nap yesterday. I even had the fire going and my feet propped up to feel the warmth crawling from the flames. You might be thinking, "A fire? In April?" Yea, that's right. I don't care if it's 65 degrees and sunny outside; there's just something soothing about dim lighting and fire crackling. So what if I had to close the blinds and turn the fan on high?

I don't normally take time out of my busy days to simply sleep. It makes me feel lazy. I always think of all of my friends who are working, especially my mom and sister who have very demanding jobs. Consequently, instead of feeling blessed to be able to rest, I feel guilty for doing so. I can think of a million things I need to do, like clean this house. You should see it. . .I'm actually watching a ball of cat fur blow across the hard woods right now. Gross.

However, obtaining much needed rest is not lazy, nor is it a sin. In fact, God instructs us to take off not only hours, but days.

"For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD." Ex. 31:15a

Did you notice what you have to stop doing on the Sabbath? Yea. Working. In order to experience the rest God is instructing us to receive, we must cease laboring. Is this difficult for anyone else but me? Wait, let me rephrase that since it really isn't difficult for me to not work. Does anyone else feel guilty when you're not doing something? In our success-driven society, being idle is not looked upon favorably. How many of you work in an environment where long hours are not only encouraged but rewarded? The people who seem to get ahead are the employees who's lives are consumed by their careers. However, these workers are the same people who are worn-out, stressed-out and very often, down-and-out. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. Remember Mary and Martha? Martha's doing earned her irritability, dis-ease and a general grouchiness. She also nearly missed spending time with Jesus because she thought she had so much to do. Sound familiar? I know. . .ouch. Me too.

If we will simply take some time away from the rat race that surrounds us, we will find restoration for our minds, bodies and spirits. Like it or not, this fast and furious life we're living takes its toll on us, and we must take deliberate steps to refuel. But, a nap by a fire won't cure us completely.

"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him." Psalm 62:1

Physical rest restores the body, but that mental fatigue we experience can only be remedied by the very presence of God. So many times when I'm feeling spread thin and overwhelmed, my first instinct is to either hop in a hot, bubbly tub or pop in the latest romantic comedy. As great as those escapes can be, they are just that: temporary escapes. I emerge from them feeling only slightly better; my fatigue or stress inevitably returns. God tells us to come to Him when we are weary and burdened and He will give us rest (Matt. 11.28). And that rest, deep-to-the-core rest, can only come from Him. It really is that simple: Come. Find rest.

Girls, let's identify our mental fatigue as what it truly is: a need to be restored by our God. Let's close out the world and prop up our feet by the All Consuming Fire. Let Him warm your soul and light a fresh flame in you.

Father, thank you that in simply being with you, we find rest and restoration. Prompt us to stop and take you in and help us to be obedient to that prompting. Again, thank you for your personal attention to us. We are grateful. Amen.

Discussion/Processing Questions:

1. When feeling overwhelmed, what activity or person do you turn to instead of God?
2. If you looked at your schedule, are you happy with how you are spending your time?

Thanks for listening!

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Mar 25, 2008

Sink or Stand

Well, girls, I don’t know what else to tell you but that I’ve been struggling this past week. I think it has everything to do with getting out of my routine and putting my time with the LORD on the back burner. Mary Beth…funny that you highlighted this tendency in your comment last week and then I ended up stumbling into that exact trap! Ugh…I’m so dense sometimes it’s a miracle that God doesn’t just throw up His holy hands in exasperation. Anyway, I’ve come to learn that I have to spend regular time with God in order to feel “right”. Yea, I can go a day or two and be okay, but beyond that, if I pay close enough attention, I can see my attitude start taking a downward turn. Unfortunately, I don’t normally heed the warnings and soon I find myself exactly where I found myself this morning, downcast and discouraged. Cranky. Thank God I had enough sense to sit down and talk out some stuff with Him, but, hello! Why did it have to go that far? Geez. . .rebel girl.

I was talking about all of this with my friend, Aimee, last night and her response was poignant, of course. It always is. Thanks, Aims.

“Relationships take work, and you’re in one with Jesus,” she said.

Of course! Just like my attitude with my husband Lou goes south, I mean WAY south, when we’re not connecting, my outlook on Jesus does the same. Poor Lou; he puts up with so much. When we haven’t cut out quality time, for some reason, I begin noticing more of his negative qualities than his positive. In fact, I think I even turn his pro’s into con’s! And I noticed myself doing that exact thing with God. Truths I previously had no trouble accepting started looking questionable. I began to only see the problems instead of the wonderful successes God turned them into. I had taken my eyes off of God and focused them on the world. What happens when we do that? Take a look:

“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake…Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ and when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” Matthew 14:25-32

Peter was doing just fine while his eyes were on the Prize, namely Jesus, but as soon as he started looking at what was around him, he began to sink. When we choose to gaze upon the world alone, without balancing it with the presence of God, we begin to sink. It looks different for everybody. For me, it’s crabby girl. Sometimes it even manifests as fear. Maybe for you it’s feeling sad, exhausted, chaotic or easily overwhelmed. Possibly, you start pulling away from people and into yourself. Maybe it’s a longing in you that just doesn’t seem to be getting completely filled. Whatever it is, the answer is in the person of Jesus. Did you notice that as soon as Peter grabbed Jesus’ hand and climbed into the boat, the wind died down? Within the grasp of Jesus, suddenly the world was safer.

It’s easy to get off course; this world is harsh sometimes. It brings with it many obstacles. But if we’re attempting to navigate it on our own, we’re set to sink. Take His hand, daily, and keep yourself afloat.

Lord, thank you that simply being in your presence brings peace. Help us to be intentional about pursuing you and continue to teach us how to have a real relationship with you. We love you, Amen.

Just a couple of discussion questions:

1. What is your warning sign that you are beginning to sink?
2. What’s keeping you from spending quality time with God?

I love you, girls. Thanks for listening.

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Mar 17, 2008

Pass the Passion, Please

Yesterday I read a heartbreaking story of a woman named Amy, who, as a child, experienced significant emotional trauma. Not knowing how to effectively overcome her pain, she carried it into her adult life. After years of seeking out every source of help she could think of, she could find no peace. She shrank into a lonely, reclusive life and fell victim to her pain. One afternoon, she was found in her house, alone, having purposefully drunk herself to death.

A devastating story. But what was even more upsetting to me was that Amy had sought out the church. She had reached out to Christians for help, and there was no one who could effectively communicate the very real freedom and peace we have in Jesus. Maybe she was simply not in a place mentally to be able to receive it, but what if that wasn't the case? What if the people she reached out to just didn't have the answers? What if she could tell that the words of freedom spoken to her were just that: words? Have you ever been in her shoes? Perhaps you've had a very real problem and the advice you received was biblical, but the presenter had no passion behind it. Platitudes. Warm Fuzzies. This has happened to me many times, and I found myself thinking, "Does she really even believe that or is it just something she's been taught?" Unfortunately, it made it hard for me to believe the words. I'm also sad to say that I have been the passionless platitude speaker myself. I don't think we do it maliciously. I think we want to believe the promises of freedom, peace, and joy that we've been given, but we sometimes fall short.

I remember when I first started attending Beth Moore's classes in Houston. This woman taught with a fiery passion and sense of urgency that I had never seen. I could tell she believed what she was saying with everything in her. I've since realized this was one of the reasons I was so attracted to her teaching. It was real. She had been in the pit and watched her Father pull her out of the mire and place her high upon a rock. She gave me hope that if God did it for her, He would do it for me. Was there someone like Beth in Amy's life? I don't know. But here's what I do know: I want to be that person for the hurting souls in my life. I want to be so passionate about the freedom God has given me that the women around me would dare to believe that God would accomplish great wonders in them, too! I'm not claiming to have attained all that God wants to do in me, but He has done miracles. And it is my responsibility to share them. I want to be "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'prepare the way for the Lord"! (Luke 3:4) I want to be the one telling the Amy's of this world that there is a hope and His name is Jesus Christ. There is liberty in no other!

While Jesus was on this earth, He met a woman at a well and showed Himself to be God to her. She responded to this encounter by telling the people in her town about this Jesus. In fact, she was so excited that she left her water jar behind when she left! Here's the cool part:

"Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in [Jesus] because of the woman's testimony." (John 4:39)

Amazing! This one woman changed an entire city with her passion. Because of her zeal for the Lord, the people around her were attracted to Him and He saved them. Don't you long for your testimony to do the same?

Ladies, we must stop settling for mediocrity. Our God is a powerful God who performs mighty wonders in us. Let's start acting like it! The Amy's in your midst will thank you, and you just might save a life.

Father, you have done tremendous works in us, but sometimes, we don't see them. Open our eyes to the wonders you've performed and may we be awestruck! Turn our complacency into passion. A passion that can't be contained, that bursts forth from grateful lips. We love you. Amen.

I'm including a few discussion questions for those of you who would like to participate. I'll be checking and responding soon. And you all feel free to respond to one another. Love you all.

1. How am I pursuing freedom?
2. Do I believe what I say I believe, and if not, what am I doing to remedy that?
3. Looking at where I am now and where I have been, what has God done in me?
4. Am I excited about what He's done, or am I complacent?
5. Do I need to ask God to light a fire of passion in me?
6. Who is it in my circle of people that needs to see the passion of a life lived in freedom?

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Mar 11, 2008

Oh, the Humility!

Hey, gals. I was just doing a little thinking...I like to do that, ya' know. And I thought I would just throw something out there. Idea: tell me what you think. I'm thinking about shakin' things up a bit. Mondays: I post a Bible passage for all of us to read. Tuesdays: I share my thoughts on it (much like the posts you've been reading). But, I would also include a couple of discussion questions for you to comment on. That way, we could create a community of "cyber-friends" and support/ encourage one another. Besides, sometimes I get tired of hearing myself talk. I'd like to hear what y'all have to say. We could have a trial run for a few weeks and re-assess after that. honest (you know how I feel about being honest) and tell me what you think. Go ahead...go make a comment...I'm not going on until you do. Go!

Okay, now that you've put in your two cents, let's move on to Mary, Jesus' mom. I've just started doing some one-on-one discipleship with a couple of our high school girls, and we are going over women in the Bible. And who better to start with than Mary? I figure she's pretty important, being the mother of the Messiah and all. And let me tell you, watching her life lived out on the pages of scripture not only intrigued me; it convicted and challenged me. She was an incredibly humble woman who trusted her God completely, no matter in what circumstances she found herself.

Trust and Humility.

Two characteristics I continually have to battle for. They aren't natural are they? And I don't think they were necessarily easy for Mary either. You may remember that she was visited by an angel who informed her that she would soon be pregnant with "the Son of the Lord Most High". Her response wasn't, "Oh, I should have expected as much; I am such a holy and blameless woman." My guess is we wouldn't be studying her right now if it would have been! Anyway, after a moment of fear (comforting to know she was human and felt anxieties, too), Mary asked for some clarification since she was a virgin. Mr. Angel then proceeded to inform her that, of course, the Holy Spirit would be taking care of all of that. This seemed to be a satisfactory explanation for her and she simply said, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38). Excuse me?! Mary, aren't you going to ask him the exact method and time line of said events? And what about your fiance? What are you going to say to him? Details, Mary, details! But, no. Complete trust. I'm not suggesting that she didn't have questions or concerns; I'm suggesting that she trusted her God and His love and "bigness" enough to take care of them. She didn't fret, insisting on answers to every "what if?" in order to assuage her fear. She chose to trust in the midst of the unknown. Ugh, now I'm forced to ask myself:

1. Am I willing to do the hard things for Christ? Am I truly serving Him or am I really serving myself?
2. Am I really trusting His plan, or am I questioning every aspect until I get enough answers to feel comfortable?

Difficult questions. Questions who's answers are great indicators of where we are with God in the faith department. I'm sorry to say that I wish my answers were a little different than they are.

Later in that same chapter in Luke, we get to witness Mary's humility as Luke records "Mary's Song", a hymn of praise to her God. It is here that we learn one of the secrets to true humility. Praise. Extolling God reminds us of who He is and that we are not Him. I don't know about you, but I would be in danger of thinking I was pretty amazing if I were chosen to bear the Savior of the world, but there's no indication that Mary went there. She, instead, chose to praise God, to put herself in right relationship with Him. Listen to her heart:

"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state [humble origin or state] of his servant. . .the Mighty One has done great things for me--holy is his name." vss. 46-49

She was thanking God for blessing her in the midst of her lowly circumstances. She knew that this was all from above and she was giving Him full credit, taking none for herself. Oh, I wish I were more like her, don't you? Luke also noted that throughout Jesus' life, his mom "treasured up" the things that surrounded her Son and pondered them in her heart. Interestingly, this "treasuring up" denotes an intense and careful protection. It was active. She worked at her humility. Are we doing the same? Our nature is to exalt ourselves, so are we actively working against it? Are we purposefully praising God so as to remind ourselves of His greatness? I have found a great way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal. This is a discipline I have practiced in the past. It simply involves a nightly session of jotting down things in your day that you are grateful for. I would also pray and thank God for those things. Doing this reminds us that any good thing in us or our lives is from Him and has nothing to do with us (James 1:17). It also focuses our minds on Him and His love for us right before we enter into dreamland. It makes for a more peaceful night.

God is pretty clear on His views of pride and humility:

"Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar." Psalm 138:6

"This is who I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word" Isaiah 66:2

To be intimate with and esteemed by God? Sign me up! Ladies, let's pursue humility. For, out of an accurate assessment of our smallness and God's bigness, trust is born. It's work, but anything worth having always is.

Father, help us to see your greatness and sovereignty and to be awed by your power. But also open our eyes to your deep love for us, your creation. Turn it all into belief and, thus, trust. We love you, amen.

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Mar 3, 2008

A Good Place

Hey, gals. Well, what do you think of the new design? Do you not totally love this picture? And the name it was given by its capturer is perfect: Good Place. Can't you just imagine yourself coppin' a squat right there on that bench to simply take it all in? And don't you just feel the stillness and peace in your soul as you do so? Ah, yes, it is a good place to be. As I spent some time sifting through endless pictures, I chose this one because I think it captures in picture form the place we want to be. The place of tranquility, rest, and beauty.

If you'll take a closer look, you'll notice the view appears through a break in an ancient wall. This wall is a ruin from long ago in Israel. It used to be strong and high, and now it lies broken and conquered. And from behind the rubble: wide open spaces. But, ages ago, you could only catch glimpses of this view for the wall. Don't we feel like that much of the time? We long for intimacy with a family member but feel an unexplainable "wall" between us. We meet someone, strike up a conversation only to find they have their "walls up". We so desire a closer relationship with Christ, but there seems to be some sort of barrier there. We see glimpses of the fulfilling relationships that could be, but we can't seem to attain the fullness of them. What is going on?

This is the heart of this blog site, my heart for you and me. Addressing the walls, the barricades, that keep us from the full life with Christ and His people and then breaking through them. The one I'm most passionate about we've discussed before: being real. So much of our freedom comes in learning how to do this. Our society is feeding us the lie that we must be something that we are not. That we must fit into some pre-set, assembly line-type mold created by the pretty people. Who are these people anyway? The individuals who get to decide what is acceptable, beautiful, and good? I'd like to give them a swift kick to the...whoa. Calm down, Misti. Anyway, this incessant drive we have to try to fit into this cookie cutter image of a good wife, mom, employee, child, etc. is slowly (or quickly if you're me) driving us mad! It also leads to anxiety, depression, and self-condemnation. God created us to be exactly who we are. Listen as David speaks of God's heart:

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139: 13-14

Have you ever knitted? It's not easy, nor is it quick. It's a lengthy process that takes commitment, concentration, and tenderness. One Christmas we were too poor to buy presents for our extended family, so I decided that I would learn to knit and create scarves for them all. Yes, even my brother-in-law received one (but he lived in the Windy City so I reasoned that a scarf would be a perfect gift). I expended extensive energies picking out just the right color and kind of yarn for each neckwarmer. By the way, have you been down the yarn aisle at your local Hobby Lobby lately? It's insane how many different textures, widths, and colors they have come up with. The feathery ones are my fave. Anyway, they all turned out beautifully if I do say so myself, but none of them were the same. My mom's was purple and sophisticated because purple is her favorite color and she would be wearing it to work. However, my grandmother's was pink and fluffy. She LOVES pink and comfort is paramount for her 90-year-old neck. Then there was my brother-in-law's. . .green, yet masculine (no feathers for him). The list could go on because I made quite a few, but the point is that each was hand-tailored to suit its owner. It was well thought out and special. This is the effort exerted by your Daddy when He created you! He thought about every detail of your being, whether physical, mental, or emotional. He then set out to knit you together and upon completion decided that you were very good. (Gen. 1:31) There is a reason you are the way you are. If you're anything like me, you have difficulty accepting certain qualities you posess. It's hard to realize that you are different and that sometimes people don't take too kindly to it. However, we are not here to be approved by the people. We are here to please God.

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Gal. 1:10

You see, as long as we are trying to conform to and appease the individuals around us, we are stuck in a pursuit going nowhere, much like a hamster in an exercise wheel. People are fickle. One day you're in; the next you're out. Your only constant is the Lord your God. We'll find that in accepting and walking in who we are and pursuing only His pleasure, we will become the most effective servant for Him. And we will find ourselves sitting on that bench, looking out past the rubble of our former wall of self-condemnation into our wide open spaces of tranquility. A good place.

Daddy, thank you for your intention, your care, and your tenderness in creating us. Thank you that we are all unique and special to you. Help us to embrace who you've made us to be and to learn to love ourselves completely. Knock down our walls so that we may be free to look upon the fullness of your beauty. We love you desperately, amen.

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