Friday, July 27, 2007

Late Birthday Breakfast

Well, if you want to know what kind of a friend I am, just ask my friend, M. Her birthday was back in March, and just today we met together for breakfast to celebrate. It wasn't that I didn't know it was her birthday in March, it was just that it fell at a particularly busy time, and since then, the days, weeks, and months have just rolled on by. We did try to set something up earlier, and it had to be changed, so today she received her gift and we enjoyed a nice, long visit over multiple cups of coffee. M. is the type of friend that doesn't put any demands on me, and we often go months without truly conversing just because we are both so busy. But what I love about her is that we can pick up right where we left off, and I always leave her presence feeling uplifted and loved. What a treasure she is, and I love the fact that she'll always be older than me! :-)

A couple of us will be gone for a week in Colorado. Today we pack up a few things, make final arrangements for the ones staying home, check in with friends we will be seeing while we're there, mow the lawns, do the laundry, clean rooms, and so forth. It's no small feat to get everything organized to go, but it will be so worth it.

For our family at New Life, although we may not be with you this Sunday, you can be assured that we are praying for you and missing you. It says a lot about the kind of people you are that I would rather be with all of you than anywhere else on a Sunday. However, it makes us even more grateful to God for where he's placed us when we have to be somewhere else on a Sunday, so we'll look forward to being with you on the 5th. As I'm sure you know, God is up to some good stuff, and it is evident in every area of our community. As you abide in Him, keep looking for ways to include others in your daily life, to pour out His love to everyone you encounter, to look for divine appointments in your day, to glorify Him in all that you do. We must continually keep ourselves open to Him and aware of Him in order to live for Him. Amen? Amen!

Blessings to each and every one of you!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Peace of God

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

As we are getting ready for our trip to Colorado (my daughter and her band are attending the GMA Music in the Rockies at Estes Park next week), I find that my thoughts are gravitating towards the school year coming up. I had a meeting today with my department, and although it went well, it put me back in school mode, and I've noticed anxiety trying to creep in. I wrote another entry about the above verses, but I find myself in need to absorbing these truths again in this present moment. As I'm sure you are starting to figure out, I'm an over-planner and an under-doer. So, tomorrow I'm headed to my classroom to try and get my bulletin boards covered so that at least that much is done. It will be a start, and I'll finish them after we get home.

Yes, we're (Dave, Hannah, and myself) are headed out to Colorado, and Dave and I are blessed to be staying with some dear friends who live close to Estes Park. I am so looking forward to some time to visit and catch up with them. While Hannah is busy all week at the conference/concerts, Dave and I will also see Nate and Heidi Lindskoog, Ben and Kim Kemper, and Dave's cousin, Lauri, while we are there. How fun is that? Yes, we know a lot of people who have been a part of the great California mass exodus! :-)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I Need You to Love Me-Barlow Girl

My choice for Video Sunday expresses part of my spiritual journey in dealing with an oppressive, undefined sense of shame that I was smothered by. There were so many things in my past that set me up to be vulnerable to shame, and I unwittingly embraced a messy shame that sloshed and spilled over my whole life. When I came into the pure light of God's love for me, my stain of unworthiness had me bent down, focused on the shadow of past sins, abuses, secrets, and failures. I knew I didn't deserve Him, or His love, but the hurt part of me desperately needed Him to need me, desire me, and cherish me. I was at a place where I needed to truly know and understand His grace and love that could, as the song says, make me forget what I had been, and make me see who I really was.

God's love has so healed particular areas of my life that they no longer hold any power over me, and those things are not a part of my identity anymore. Praise God for His indescribable gift! I no longer live in the fear that someone will find out something about me that will disqualify me from being God's child. In our secrets, Satan wields much power, but once those things have been brought out into God's healing light, Satan's power is defeated.

One of the best books I have ever read is Shame and Grace by Lewis Smedes. I have many things underlined from when I went through this book the first time, and one quote directly relates to this song. It says, "It may be that all the shame we feel inwardly, alone, in the privacy of our souls, is rooted in the fear of being shamed by other people. For this reason, the simplest of all remedies for shame is the discovery that we are in spite of everything accepted by the grace of someone we most need to accept us." So true!

If you happen to struggle with feelings of shame (whether persistent or in unguarded moments), I pray that this song will minister to you. You are sought after by the one and only Holy God; you are longed for by the One who knows everything you've ever done, said, or thought. And you need Him to love you; the good news is......He already does!

Thanks for stopping by. God's blessings to you on this Sunday evening.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Pocahontas Likes Ice Cream!

Well, I'm home from my little overnighter, and I feel great about what I was able to get done while I was away. I have a general plan for all four quarters of my English classes for the next school year, and I was able to go through some of the great new supplemental materials that I was able to purchase with funds from our school's Family Service Fellowship Wish List Fund. I am thankful for the funds that they raise to help us as teachers to do our job better.

I was also able to spend some time with the Lord, and my perspective is a little better today. I know how much I need the Lord to save me from myself, and I am forever grateful for his mercies that are new every morning.

My youngest, Kari, had a ballet dance performance tonight, and as Pocahontas, she danced to "The Colors of the Wind." Yes, I had to make a Pocahontas outfit out of a pillowcase (as per her teacher), but in spite of my lack of sewing skills, it turned out rather well. She and the other girl in her class looked great and did a wonderful job with their dance. Because there were only two of them in her class this session, they were able to progress much more quickly, so they knew their dance better than usual. After the performance, we went to BaskinRobbins for ice cream with Dave's parents, and my Pocahontas ordered peanut butter chocolate ice cream. I will try to post a picture tomorrow.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Perfectly Imperfect

It’s been a couple of days since my last post, but to be honest, I’ve been living life and loving it. Our friends, Mike and Cindy Heiniger, left on Wednesday to head back to Illinois, and I’m already wondering when we will have the opportunity to get back there to visit them and their church family. We were so incredibly blessed by their visit and their friendship, and I thank God that through His Spirit we are able to stay close in heart even though we are serving in different parts of the country. I feel like the Lord has blessed us with a most precious gift in them and their friendship, so I give Him praise for yet another blessing that He has bestowed.

This evening finds me alone at my sister’s home, sitting in her beautiful living room with the most wonderful breeze (this is July, isn’t it?) flowing through the open window beside me. I had been feeling anxious about my next school year and schedule, so my sister offered her home to me so that I could bring all of my school materials and texts to sketch out the coming four quarters of year. I have some new materials that I’ve needed to go through and study, and I am just not able to do that at home with the kids and their schedules. My husband suggested that I go away overnight so that I could focus on my work and then be able to put it behind me. So, while my sister is gone with her family for a couple of days, I’m spending tonight at her home by myself, and I must say…’s wonderful! I am the type of person that craves alone time, but that hardly ever happens, so this night away is fulfilling two desires of mine: planning time and alone time. I spent this afternoon doing schoolwork; I’m taking a dinner break right now, and this evening I plan on spending some much-longed-for extended time with the Lord.

I am tempted to feel guilty about needing this time away, but I truly know that I will be much more at peace once I’ve finished some of this planning work. I had started having dreams about being unprepared for school, so I know it was heavy on my heart. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a planner and perfectionist, so order, neatness, and efficiency are important to me. I’m sure you are shocked, right? This is an area in which the Lord continues to teach me, and it is quite a struggle for me. I must continually remind myself that imperfection is okay, even in myself. The standards I set for myself are usually much higher than what I would set for anyone else, and this causes me to often feel as if I don’t measure up and am not enough.

In my head, I often find that I am telling myself, "If only………I could write more encouraging notes to others; I could keep the house clean; I could keep up with the church staff families better; I could do better at menu planning and meal preparation; I could stay on top of things better; I could keep up with people more and have people over to our home more; I could share God’s love more; I could be a better parent; I could be a better child of God. What I’m really saying is…”If only I could be PERFECT!” I know that realistically that’s not possible, but I unconsciously live so much of my life striving and laboring to be something I can never be.

My daughter's friend used to have her myspace name as, "Perfectly Imperfect ___name___." I love that because at such a young age, she is embracing the fact that she can't be perfect and that it's okay. I would love to have learned that lesson as a young person because I find that I often still am operating under this heavy, unconscious burden of trying to be perfect and to be all things to all people, because that of course, would make me valued, worthy, LOVED. I know that the answer to this longing is found in my Savior and in the truth of His word, so since I find myself feeling this way, I had better get to that “much-longed-for extended time with the Lord!" It is obvious that I need to adjust my perspective this evening, and an encounter with Jesus through His word is the best way for me to do that.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Walk by Faith on Video Sunday

I, along with my husband and children, have been so blessed to visit with our friends, Mike and Cindy Heiniger, while they've been out here from Illinois. Mike and Cindy pastor a church in Monticello, Illinois called Crossroads Church. They started the church in obedience to God's call on their lives about four years ago, and I am excited and thrilled to say that they will be moving into their permanent, new building in September! In four years, they were able to purchase land and build a building, so it is evident to see that God is blessing them and their church. I wish I could see their new building in person, but I'll have to wait for another time to be able to do that. However, I can still be a part of it by continuing to pray for them and the ministry God has given them there.

Well, it's Video Sunday, and I'm using the song that Mike ended the service with today for this week's video. I love what this song says, so listen well!

Please remember Mike's message to us from this morning; I am keeping my notes because I have some things I'd like to say about his first point: "To walk by faith, I need to make my choices based on who God wants me to be, not on who I've been." Wow, I am so grateful that I am not what I was, but it is only by God's power and grace. I have a freedom from shame that I never thought would be possible. Also, his last point of: "To walk by faith, I need to make my choices based on eternal, unseen truth, not on temporary, visible lies," is SO powerful. We need to keep that verse, 2 Corinthians 4:18, before us always because it is counter-cultural in our society today. Mike's message was good for me to hear, and I plan on keeping my scarlet cord in my car to remind me to walk by faith.

Okay, I'm off to the coast with the Heinigers! Fun, fun!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Harvest Crusade

I'm just sitting down for a few minutes before I need to get ready to go to the church for the HARVEST Prayer Time. Last night was the first of the three Impact Classes, and I thought it was great to see so many people, over half not from our church, worshiping and learning together. I sat next to a woman from Patterson who was wearing a Harvest Crusade 1996 t-shirt. She said she was saved at that event, and it must mean a lot to her to still have the t-shirt eleven years later! The class was like a great rally in anticipation of the August event here in Turlock. You'll want to be a part of this if you live in this area. God wants to do some great things, and He is wanting to use us to help facilitate people coming into His kingdom. Pretty awesome!

I want to thank those from our church family that served as greeters and such last night. You guys are such warm, smiley, and genuinely welcoming people, and Dave and I can't say enough how proud we are of the people God has called to be part of our family here at New Life. YOU are blessings from His hand, and we praise God for you all. Keep up the good work, God has only begun to reveal all that He has in store for us. Love to you all!

I'm tired this afternoon with a slight headache, so I took some medicine and think I'll rest for a few minutes before I have to get ready to go. We have some friends coming in tonight from Illinois, so we're looking forward to catching up with them a little. If you'll be at church this Sunday, you'll get to meet them because Mike will be speaking.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fast and Pray Wednesdays & "I AM" Online Bible Study

Please remember that Wednesdays are the day we have set aside to fast and pray for our church family. Continue to pray that we would humble ourselves before the Lord, be worthy vessels for his use, and be ready for ALL that He wants to do.

I've been doing the "I AM" Bible study in my own journal, but realized that perhaps my answers might encourage you to think some of these things through for yourself. I have been blessed to give thoughtful consideration to the discussion questions for each lesson, and you may click the link below to see the full lesson. I've only included the discussion questions here with my answers. Blessings on this Wednesday!

'I AM' Study Lesson Ten' Keeping it in the Family' CLICK HERE FOR THE STUDY
Background Passages: Exodus 32:9-14

Discussion Questions:
1. Have you ever experienced trials that were best dealt with "in the family" for either your reputation's sake or God's? You may still choose to leave them there, but you are welcome to share if you are comfortable.

Well, of course! My family needs to feel safe, so some things would dishonor them or violate them if I chose to deal with those situations or talk about those situations in public. Respect for our husbands and children is so important, and flippantly revealing all kinds of personal information would violate them.

2. Have you ever found yourself in a bizarre circumstance and later were able to walk someone through the same/similar situation? Did you recognize the hand of God in it?

I don't know if bizarre is the right word for it, but I have been through many circumstances that the Lord has redeemed for His purposes. The Holy Spirit will often reveal to me when a woman needs to hear about something I've experienced because that woman needs to know she is not alone. I believe one way we know we've been healed of a painful situation/circumstance is that we share because the Holy Spirit reveals that it would benefit the other person. Before we are healed, often times we share because it benefits us (our need for validation, sympathy, encouragement, etc...)

3. I was in my late twenties before I ever let myself believe God was for me instead of waiting to smack me upside the head every time I made a mistake. Do you truly believe God is on your side?

For the most part, yes. However, when I am not on my guard, Satan will whisper to me about things in the past to make me feel unsure of God's love or forgiveness. Being in the Word is the only antidote I've found for this that works, and I've often times asked my husband to pray God's Word over me when I am under attack.

4. If God has ever had you in the Holy Spirit Chokehold (and who hasn't He?), how have you reacted to God's chastisement? Were you bitter? Brokenhearted? Grateful?

I've been all of the above. I sometimes want to argue with the Holy Spirit when I sense conviction, but that ultimately leads to brokenness when truth is revealed and I acknowledge my sin or error. On the other side, I see His faithfulness and my growth, and I'm thankful.

5. Write a brief prayer of Thanksgiving for God's longsuffering.

Oh my dear Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for your love, mercy, gentleness, and kindness with me. You show your grace as I continue on this journey towards falling more in love with you and becoming more and more like you. My mere words seem woefully inadequate in expressing my love and gratefulness to you, but I praise You that you know my heart. You are wonderful to me! Amen

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Just Worshipping in the Backyard

"We go to a building on Sundays to worship corporately. All the other times we are just worshiping.

I read this quote on another blog (sorry, I can't remember where) and thought, "I agree! I really am worshiping my God when I live out my everyday life aware of Him and His work all around me and in me. Today I worshiped God in the backyard. :-)

This was the first day I've felt like it was really summer, even though I've been out of school since May 25th! Our life has been so busy that we have not had any "down" time so far, but today was a total kick back day, and I LOVED it. My kids and I were blessed to have some friends come over for lunch and swimming. We all ate our lunches outside, went swimming (with even the moms jumping off the diving board-such a simple thing, but the kids love it for some reason), and we had popsicles and watermelon for snacks. I was able to really visit with my friend, down to the really "good meaty stuff" of life. Does it get any better than that? It was such a relaxing time, even with nine kids here, and you know what? I was worshiping God in the midst of it all!

I invite you to chose to worship God in the midst of your everyday life. When we are open to hearing and sensing Him, we realize that everything, absolutely everything, can be worship unto Him.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Video Sunday -When I Get Where I'm Going

It's Video Sunday again, and I hope I don't lose too many of you by posting a country song! :-) The song is by Brad Paisley, and it is about those who have passed away, and it was played at my Uncle Ron's funeral a couple of years ago. However, the reason I'm putting it up is that this song has a line in it that Dave and I have adopted and written in our bedroom. The line says, "I will leave my heart wide open; I will love and have no fear." I know that those things will be true in heaven, but Dave and I feel that God spoke those words to our hearts for this time and place. He is asking us to have enough trust and faith to leave our hearts WIDE OPEN. As you all know, that is difficult to do when we've been hurt, used, or disappointed, and it's equally hard to love and have NO FEAR. I never thought of myself as a fearful person, but God has revealed to me that because of hurts and disappointments, I let the fear of that happening again cause me to fear truly opening up. I'm sure Dave and I are not alone in having those feelings, so I pray that this song will encourage you to begin to risk opening up your hearts and loving without holding anything back. Also, I know many of you have lost a child, parent, grandparent, or friend, so I hope this song will mean something to you.

It will take the strength of the Holy Spirit and an ultimate trust in God, but through Him we can leave our hearts wide open, and we can love and have no fear. Blessings to you all!

By the way, isn't Dolly Parton's harmony on this song is phenomenal?

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Power of Prayer

"For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their prayer." I Peter 3:12

This morning David and I were given the opportunity to pray with a woman from our church who is going in for surgery. Upon greeting her, she was in such good spirits, and she stated that she knew that the prayers prayed on her behalf were giving her strength and peace. Sometimes it is difficult to be on the receiving end of other people's prayers, but when you find yourself there in need, you realize how very important and powerful prayer is. Let's remember to pray for one another and for our church body, for the Lord hears our prayers.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy "In Dependence" Day!

The 4th of July has always been a special day for me and my family because it was my grandmother's birthday. We were always with my extended family on this day because we would celebrate my grandmother's birthday and spend the entire day visiting, relaxing, swimming, eating, going on hayrides, riding quads, and finally, watching fireworks. We still continue to do all of these things, and today my grandmother would have turned 90 years old if she were still alive. Unfortunately, she passed away six years ago this month.

On July 4th, we, as a nation, celebrate the fact that we are an independent country, and we also honor all of those who have given their lives for the cause of our freedom. I also want us to remember that there are men and women serving right now to protect us and our freedoms, and we should continue to pray for them.

However, as I read the phrase, "Happy Independence Day," in the news paper today, I clearly sensed the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart. I in no way wish to demean to true meaning of this national holiday, but this word came to my heart that said, "Yes, it is "Independence Day," but you need to live "in dependence" on Me. Celebrate the fact that each day can be your own "in dependence" day, and you don't have to live on your own work and wisdom. There were many who had to lay down their lives in the fight for independence from another nation so that you could live freely, and now many hold independence up as an idol in this country. But, my son had to lay down his life for your eternal freedom so that you are now free to live "in dependence" on me because you are my child."

Wow, to celebrate being "in dependence" on someone or something else seems so undesirable to many in our society today. In many ways, it seems undesirable to me, too, because it goes against my sense of pride. But God's word tells us to, "Humble ourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift us up in due time." 1Peter 5:6 If I want to be lifted up, I must humble myself. Doesn't that seem so backwards to our world's thinking today?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Why do I blog?

Okay, this question has been ruminating in my mind ever since I wrote my first blog entry. If you know me, then you know I'm not the tech-girl, so although I knew my husband read the blogs of several friends and people in ministry, I had no clue what a blog was. I didn't quite see the sense in putting something out there that just any ol' person could read. I also felt, and still feel, that having a blog might come across as egotistical - Who do I think I am that people would actually care to read about my life and what I am thinking and learning? Well, I recognize the fact that I am nothing outside of the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ and the work He has done (and is still doing) in my life. So, I in no way wish to project the idea that I, in myself, have much to offer. In fact, these postings may be nothing more than my obedience to something I felt the Lord was calling me to do.

So, why do I blog? Well....
1) First and foremost, I felt the Lord was asking me to step out of my comfort zone and risk being vulnerable. I felt that HE wanted me to do this, and perhaps it is not for anyone else, and only for Him. I don't really know, but I do long to honor Him with my life, and do what He's asked of me. I felt that God wanted me to place my trust in him in posting entries about my life because although I don't feel I have much knowledge or many great insights to share, but I do have life experiences that God has redeemed, and I have an all-consuming love for God.

2) I felt that it would be a place where people could get to know me, not that I am anything special. It is a weird thing being a ministry wife, because people do want to know about me, my husband, and my family just because Dave is a pastor. I think there is this secret desire to know if we are just like everyone else. (Just in case you're wondering....we are!) And it's not that I desire to be aloof or distant from anyone, it's just that there are too many people for me to invite everyone over to our house individually so that we can really get to know one another. My heart often grieves over this because I am a person that much prefers knowing a few people well, rather than many people at a surface level. And with the number of people who call New Life their church home, I know many people at that surface level only. God also created me as a person that can only handle so much stimulation before my body and mind go into shut-down mode. I can't, for the life of me, figure out why God would create me that way when He knew I would be a pastor's wife. My personality and a very public role don't seem to go together too well.

3) I felt that a blog, should anyone choose to read it, would help me to connect with people who might not come up to me on Sunday mornings and with other pastor's wives. It has proven to do that already with me connecting with pastor's wives from other parts of the country, with women at New Life that I don't really know, and with women who have struggled with infertility or losing a baby. This has been a most pleasant surprise for me.

So, these are a few of the reasons that I stepped out into the blogging world. I am a private person by nature, so putting myself out there (not knowing who might be reading) is quite a stretch. I don't ever want to violate myself, my husband, or my family by what I share, but I do believe that God wants us to become more transparent in our relationships with one another and to put away the masks. I think this blog could be a part of that.

If you are looking for a pastor's wife, woman, mom, or Christian who is perfect or has all of the answers, please stop looking at this site. I am simply a child of God who desires to live true to God and myself in spite of my blunders, sin, and doubts. Just like I titled this blog, I desire this to be a place where we can come alongside one another as we travel towards Him. So, this is why I blog.

1 Thess. 2:8 "Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well."

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Block Party!

I said that I'd fill you in on our block party that we hosted this evening, so here you go! I feel so blessed to live in such a great neighborhood.

Friendly faces share a laugh over dessert.

Just a few of the neighborhood kids getting excited over the accumulation of fireworks for the "Big Chris Fireworks Show."

Here's the street party pyrotechnic genius, Chris, arranging the fireworks for the evening show. He has two saw-horses that he uses only for the block party show, and he writes the year on one leg of the saw-horse for each year he's done the show. The first year was 1996! The fireworks show is a favorite neighborhood tradition.

Here's a few of our neighbors that we love seeing at each block party.

Kari and her friend don't know life without the block party, and it's easy to see that they enjoy being here.

Beauty From Pain - For my friend

To my dear, dear friend,
Cling to His promise that THERE WILL BE A DAWN!
"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul." Psalms 143:8
Standing by you with my love and my prayers,

This is just a youtube amateur video, but I put it on here for others that might need this reminder.