Thursday, June 30, 2011

I'm On a Mission from God

So I did some work in the garden the other day.

I know, I know. What kind of lazy person am I, right? Sorry. But they were driving me crazy.

The daisies, that is.

The shasta daisies were staging a hostile takeover of my flower bed. The one I so carefully planted six years ago with flowers I fostered from seed. The daisies had lost their respect for the other flowers in the bed. They choked out my forget-me-nots and one of my columbines. They'd made it impossible for my beloved Johnny Jump-Ups to find a foothold. My Johnny Jump-Ups, whose seeds came directly from Colonial Williamsburg, my favorite place on the planet. Those cute little flowers didn't even come up last season because of the stupid daisies!

And that's where I draw the line. Nobody hates on my adorable Johnny Jump-Ups.

Nobody.

So I went out there with a shovel and dug those suckers up. Probably 20 separate daisy plants, including a mothership-looking plant that had to have been propagating the rest. It must have been two feet across! And the entire flower bed is maybe seven feet across. It was ridiculous. At the end of an hour and a half, I had two giant piles of daisies to go into the compost bin. I did let a few of them stay in the bed.

For now.

I don't garden. My back is delicate, so I try not to do things that irritate it. Like physical labor of any kind. But these daisies were on my list. They were now evil in my mind. And I was on a mission to eradicate them.

But it was hot that day. And my son was trying to "help" me in the garden, which mostly involved him getting dirty and getting in my way. And there were a couple of times that I bent down, and when I got up, I thought I was going to stone cold pass out.

Heat + Head Rush = Bad News Bears

But you know what? I was on a mission. I was determined. I was focused. And I knew my husband would be glad I did some work in the garden, since that's work he wouldn't have to do.

Do you have a mission each day? Is it to just get through the day with all of your kids in one piece? Or maybe  you have a project at work that has your focus right now. Or maybe your mission is to just be nice to that horribly annoying coworker who sits in the cubicle next to you and watches You Tube videos all day when you know she owes you work and she's sitting on it (on purpose, you think!) so you're going to miss your deadline and look like a fool in front of your boss who's going to ask you where that file is tomorrow and you won't want to be a jerk and throw your coworker under the bus and be all, "Well, she didn't get it to me!" like you're tattling on the playground or something.

But I digress.

We all have missions each day. How about today, you make your mission to love each person you encounter? And I don't mean it in that superficial way. I mean to really look at them and love them. Flaws and all. Ask that person how his or her day is going, but say it in a way that tells them you actually care—you're not just making small talk. And then really listen. Ask questions. And talk about them without turning the conversation back to you.

And then ask them how you can pray for them. For reals.

Very few people turn this down. And what's the worst they're going to say? No? That they can't think of anything right now? That's fine. You just say, "The offer is always open." And if they do tell you something to pray for, actually pray for it. Pray with them. Tell them exactly when you'll pray for them, like, "When I do my devotional at lunch, I'll pray for that."

But show love. Show interest. Pray for someone. Let that be your mission today. Or if you're not reading this until late in the day, make it your mission tomorrow.

And then report back to me. Tell me how it went. How did it feel to purposefully show genuine love to all the people you encountered for a whole day?

Let me know.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: The World's Ugliest

I love the annual World's Ugliest Dog contest. It always reminds me that God loves me, even when the stuff I've done makes me look the equivalent of this:


Yoda, the 2011 World's Ugliest Dog winner.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Knowing Me, Knowing You

I love when I can name a post after an ABBA song. Don't you?

When I posted yesterday, I had an interesting feeling. While I was writing, I thought, "Even though this post is about me, this post isn't for me."

Sometimes when I write a post for everyone to read, I'm really writing it because I need to reinforce the idea in my own heart and mind. It's something I'm struggling with or trying to deal with. I write about it so I can process it. It's just something that works for me.

But occasionally an idea comes to me that isn't for me. Sure, I can use my life experiences and my words, but I have a gut feeling that God is intending that post for someone else. Someone who's dealing with that exact thing and who needs encouragement or truth or something God-sent to speak into his or her life.

Yesterday's post was one of those times.

I just knew, in writing that post, that God had a particular audience in mind. It could have been just one person. It could have been a person who'd never read my blog before and stumbled upon it randomly. Isn't that incredible? I love to have even a smidge of insight into what God's thinking sometimes.

Do you ever have those moments with God? What do you do with them?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Promises, Promises

Over the weekend, my family went camping with two other couples from our small group. It was the first time my husband and I had camped in maybe three years, and it was the first time we'd taken our toddler son camping. We all had a great time chilling in the great outdoors.

Until Saturday night.

The forecast called for rain, but we didn't think much of it. It was only, like, a 40% chance of rain when we left for the park, so it didn't seem like a big deal. Besides, our tent was pretty new. Not beat up. Should hold out. Right?

Ha.

It started raining somewhere around midnight. Then storming. Around 2 a.m., I awoke to water dripping on my face. My sleeping bag was already a little wet, so I tried to adjust and cover up. I couldn't get back to sleep, though, because I was worried about our toddler getting wet. I adjusted his sleeping bag to make sure he was covered, and then I tried to go back to sleep. But I couldn't.

You see, before bed, I had warned my son that it would probably rain. But I promised him that Mama and Daddy would keep him warm and dry and safe.

And I was freaking out about keeping that promise.

Around 3:30, I dozed off, but my toddler woke up crying at about 4. He was drenched. Head to toe. I had to calm him down, change his clothes, put him in the sleeping bag with me, all the while reassuring him that he was OK, that I would get him dry and warm again, that we'd be safe.

Five minutes later, I realized a puddle had formed under our air mattresses. I was done. We threw some clothes on, got in our car, and headed for the McDonald's next to the park. It was 5 a.m., and the place didn't open until 6, so we sat/slept in the parking lot until it opened, grabbed breakfast, sat some more, then headed back to the campground at first light to pack up and get the heck out of there.

I'm crushed that I couldn't keep my promise to my son. He was still pretty safe, but I failed on the "dry and warm" front. I couldn't control it. I prayed all night for the rain to stop, but I realize that sometimes God has other plans he's working on at the same time. In my heart, I felt the message, "I'd really like to stop the rain for you, Rachel, but there are other plans in motion that I have to continue. Just do your best." So I did. My son got drenched, but I managed to return him to a dry and warm state posthaste.

Sometimes we feel like God fails us when we think he doesn't take care of us, especially if it's not in a timely manner. I want God to keep me dry and safe and warm all the time, but sometimes I get drenched. I get mad at God and say, "Why did you let that happen?"

My son didn't ask me that. He gave me time to dry him off. He snuggled up to me so I could get him warm again. Not once did he question me, tell me he was mad at me, or assume that his getting drenched was my fault. He didn't tell me I broke my promise; he gave me time to make it right again.

Are you giving God time to make things right again, or have you assumed he simply doesn't care enough to fix your situation?

Give him time. Let him dry you off. Be willing to snuggle up next to him to get warm again.

God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” - Hebrews 13:5-6

And if a silly human like me can keep a promise, just wait and see what God can do.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friendly Friday: Rob Tucker

It's a man!

That's right, my very first post from a dude. I'm so glad that dude is Rob Tucker, a Twitter pal and blogger who cracks me up on a daily basis. His blog, Skipping Stones, even hosted a guest post from me last week! So we've done a good ol' swap-a-roo, and now it's Rob's turn to be my guest.

And he uses the word "salacious." Double-triple brownie points!

Be sure to follow him on Twitter and hop over to his blog once you're done here. You won't be disappointed!

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A friend of mine went away recently for a vacation.  Let’s call her “Jane”.  While Jane was away, someone decided that she was pregnant.  That person also thought it would be a good idea to share their idea with someone else.  Somewhere along the way, the idea became fact.  By the time Jane got home, it had been confirmed: Jane was pregnant. 

Except she wasn’t.

Part of me wanted to laugh about this.  Gossip is really not that big of a deal, is it?  But God says it is. In Romans 1, Paul says that there is a place where we can walk so far away from God, that God gives us over to all sorts of evil stuff.  Included in his list are murder, malice, and hating God.  Oh, and gossip.  Gossip?  Really?  Right up there on a list with murderers and God-haters?

Gossip is powerful. 

I read that in 1887, people started spreading a rumor that Abraham Lincoln wasn’t really buried in his own grave.  So many people believed this, that they dug up his corpse.  Sheesh.  Strange thing was, 14 years later the rumor circulated again, so they dug him up…again.  There’s just something about gossip that is so enticing, so juicy, that we want to believe it.  And then pretty soon it becomes fact.  And it hurts people.  Think about it:

Gossip is how relationships are broken.

Gossip is how reputations are  destroyed.

Gossip is how wars are started.

So the next time you are tempted to spread some salacious information, stop, and say something kind instead!


© Rob Tucker, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Lazy Christian's Guide to Lazy Christians

I get many different reactions when people see the name "The Lazy Christian." Some laugh and think it's funny. Which I think it is. Some don't think much of it either way. And then some get offended.

Seriously. Offended.

They think I'm making fun of Christianity, which—if you've ever read this blog—is totally not the case. I guess I can see their point, though. No one wants the words "lazy" and "Christian" in the same breath.

Laziness, in its simplest form, is selfishness. "The Selfish Christian" sounds much worse, doesn't it? But what human isn't selfish at the core? No matter how hard we try to live for others and give and give, we all have moments when we are at the center of our thinking. Probably more than moments, if we're being totally honest. We'd rather go with the cultural flow than do the work required to be countercultural. One is easy; one is hard. One allows us to be lazy; one requires actual effort.

Guess which one we're inclined to pursue?

You see, the thing about being a lazy Christian is that we are all lazy Christians. Are any of us really working at our full potential in Christ? We are all works in progress—we do more some days than others, we wax and wane. We go whole hog one week and we're bare bones the next week.

And we can do that. Do you know why?

Because God has done 99% of the work. We only have to do the last 1%, which involves saying yes to Christ and living our lives by him, for him, and with him. All of the hard stuff has been done for us. Compared to what God has done, we'll always look lazy. We're just silly humans who caught an incredible break.

So what does the label "Lazy Christian" really mean?

It means I have shortcomings and flaws and I'm willing to admit them. It means I don't have it all together all the time. It means, yes, I'm selfish sometimes, even though I wish I weren't. It means I see the state my heart is in and I don't want it to stay in that condition. Otherwise I'd call myself a "Content Christian" or a "That's Good Enough Christian."

But, most of all, it means I recognize all the work God has done for me and in me, and I know he'll carry it through to completion.

Even if I am a Lazy Christian.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rachel the Hypocrite

There was a time in my life where I said I was a Christian, but I wasn't living in a very Christ-like way. I was cynical and a cussbucket (even though I've never been very good at it). And my friends who were living good, Christian lives were called names. By me. Like the "Christian Coalition."

I wasn't very nice.

So years passed and then I actually went back to God. Back to church. Back to the life I should have been living. It was only then that I felt like a hypocrite. For the good life I was living, not the bad life I'd lived. My friends knew me as one person, but here I was, acting like some goody-goody who'd gotten her life together (but it wasn't an act). The word "hypocrite" may have even passed my friends' lips, so I got it into my head that this Christian life seemed hypocritical of me, given all I'd done in my past.

Yesterday, I read about Paul in the book of Acts (21-22, if you're interested). Paul gets up in front of an angry mob (who wants him arrested and killed) to explain who he is. He tells of the horrible things he used to do to Christians—all the persecution and imprisonment. He hunted down followers of Jesus.

He wasn't very nice.

Then, all of a sudden, Jesus appeared to him. He was a changed man. No longer a monster, Paul now encouraged others to follow Jesus. He did a complete turnaround.

But I've never pictured Paul as a hypocrite. Paul is an amazing story of redemption! How it's possible for even the most Christian-hating person in the world to see the light (literally, in Paul's case) and become a Christian. Paul's not a hypocrite; he's a man who's life was changed for the better, and then he had an incredible impact on the world.

Why can't I see myself that way? Why do I assume that Old Rachel is the "real" Rachel and that this new Rachel is surely a masquerade? That's not the case. When you change your life—really change it—the new you is the only you.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! - 2 Corinthians 5:17

It doesn't say, "The old is still around and the new part is just layered on top of it, you hypocrite." The old is gone. Completely. Adios. Elvis has left the building.

I'm new. The Old Rachel has gone, the New Rachel is here. And I welcome her with open arms.

Do you have a hard time letting go of your past?





P.S. - I typed the word "hypocrite" so much for this post that it no longer looks like a word to me. Random.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Short Play by Rachel: Just Go, Woman!



A Short Play by Rachel 

Just Go, Woman!
(Based on a True Story)


PASTOR, a wise gentleman, greets worshipers in the lobby after service. SUNNY, a woman with a question, approaches him.

SUNNY:    Good morning, Pastor! What a wonderful sermon!

PASTOR:   Thank you so much, Sunny! It's good to see you this week. How have you been?

SUNNY:     I've been troubled, Pastor.

PASTOR:    Troubled? Why?

SUNNY:     Well, I've been thinking of moving.

PASTOR:    Where to?

SUNNY:     Florida.

PASTOR:    Oh, that's a lovely state! Do you have family there?

SUNNY:    Well, no, but I really think that Florida would be better for my health. The kids are all grown up, and they're scattered around the country, and—well, I've just always wanted to live in Florida. Now that I have the chance, I'd like to go.

PASTOR:   That sounds great! So what troubles you?

SUNNY:     Do you think God wants me to move to Florida?

PASTOR:    (genuinely confused) What do you mean?

SUNNY:     Well, I've been praying about it, but I can't get a clear answer. I'm not sure if he wants me to move to Florida or not. Do you think he wants me to move to Florida?

PASTOR:    (reflects for a moment) Sunny, God doesn't care where you live.

SUNNY:     (aghast) Of course he does! What if he wants me to stay here and I move to Florida?

PASTOR:    So what if you do? God doesn't care where you live as long as you're living for him. You could live in Florida or Ohio or Timbuktu. He just wants you to live for him. You can do his work wherever you go. Do you want to live in Florida?

SUNNY:    Yes, but—

PASTOR:    Then go!

SUNNY:      But—

PASTOR:     Yes?

SUNNY:     But I thought you'd be able to tell me what God wants me to do!

PASTOR:    I can't do that! But even if I could, God would probably say, "Sunny, go where you like, but do my work when you get there!"

SUNNY, clearly unhappy with this answer, gives a quick, "Hmph!" and turns on her heel to leave. PASTOR watches after her and shrugs.

***************

Many of us get into situations where we assume God's got an answer for us, if we could only know it. We ask for signs, we give ultimatums. But sometimes, God is truly ambivalent on the matter. Location is one of them. Some people do feel led to go overseas and share the Gospel—there's a specific calling for that—but no matter where you live, you can share the Gospel. God's OK if you move across town or across the globe, as long as you're sharing his love with others. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Guest Post at Skipping Stones!

I've got a guest post over at Skipping Stones today! Go check it out! But don't miss the post from A Pink Daisy Life below!

Friendly Friday: A Pink Daisy Life

Doesn't that title just bring a little sunshine into your life? I think so. And that's exactly what A Pink Daisy Life's author Heatherly Sylvia does, too! She's a sunshiny gal who's a new friend of mine on Twitter, and I'm so excited that I'll get to meet her at She Speaks next month!

Ooh, it's only a month away! Woo!

Heatherly actually submitted this essay for my She Speaks essay conference, but then her registration was paid in full and she withdrew her name. God works in amazing ways! So enjoy this essay as much as I did, and then go visit her here and follow her here!

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A Pinkdaisy Life


"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 3:13-14

My campus pastor gave an inspiring talk my junior year about finding the "one thing" and pressing in hard towards that goal. We were encouraged to "throw off anything that hinders" and "keep our eyes on Jesus."

For years I have pressed on.

Unfortunately, at times it has been a sporadic, sometimes half-hearted effort.

Because it seems that there are just so many little things involved in that "one thing." In order to follow hard after Jesus, I need to spend time reading and studying, fasting and praying, serving and loving...

Is it me, or does that seem like an awfully long list for "one thing"?

Of course, that's looking at it from a human perspective. Truthfully, I feel very human these days. My laundry isn't done, my correcting is half-finished, and my floors are covered in crumbs. My children spend more time in front of the TV than I would ever allow under normal circumstances, but I'm just too tired to turn it off and entertain them myself.

My list is long and my time is short. Instead of prioritizing, I do nothing.

I sit motionless, hoping that somehow, by some miracle, my writing will get done, my laundry will be folded, and a dinner will appear, all without any effort from me.

How did I get to this place?

It's simple. I tried to "press on" in my own strength. I forgot the most important piece, found later, in Philippians 4.

I forgot the secret to contentment - the secret to letting go of all of the extra "stuff" that makes my walk of faith feel like a walk of obligations. I forgot that it is Christ that gives me the strength, the joy, the peace that allows me to live hour by hour.

Whether my life is busy or whether I am using my self-inflicted exhaustion as an excuse, if I rejoice, and bring everything to God, it will all fall into place.

I will still have to get off the couch and fold the laundry, but I will be able to do it with a renewed perspective and the knowledge that my one thing is to have the faith that He will strengthen me in all circumstances. 

I can choose joy, lay my concerns at His feet, and rest in Him, even as I get up and get moving once again.


© Heatherly Sylvia, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Vacation Files: Panic in the Riptide

I really enjoy body surfing.

Well, I used to. When I was ten years old. I maybe did it when I was 14 or 15, but that was the last time. So it's been, what? Sixteen years since I did any body surfing?

*sigh* I'm getting so old.

During our first full day at the beach, I got out the boogie board our vacation house provided and tried my hand at it. Well, I guess I tried my whole body at it. As I got dumped in the surf and filled my hair and bathing suit with sand. I also taught my husband and my father-in-law how to do it. The waves were really big! We all caught a couple of them to ride in and had a great time doing it.

At one point in our surfing adventure, I got separated from my husband. I was just kind of floating on the boogie board and not catching any waves, and then I realized that I'd gotten really far out. I was past the breakers and farther out than I'd been—farther out than anybody else was. I was off the shelf and couldn't reach the bottom, so I tried to paddle toward my husband and the shore. It didn't seem to do any good.

I started to panic. I tried to swim, but I had that stupid boogie board with me. I couldn't figure out how to maneuver with that thing attached to me. I took it off my wrist, but that didn't help—I don't know what I thought that would accomplish. How did I get in this riptide and, more importantly, how would I get out of it?

Great. My first day at the beach, and I was going to be swept out to sea. And eaten by sharks. Clearly.

Then, instead of looking at my husband (who was way down the beach from me), I looked at the shore right ahead of me. That's not so far, actually, I thought. It was only then that I remembered an important fact: you're supposed to swim parallel to the shore, not toward it, to get out of a riptide. I'd read some beach safety website in preparation for our vacation—mostly because (like a dummy) I'd been watching a lot of Shark Week and River Monsters and wanted to know how to avoid the large, scary ocean animals who were clearly going to devour me. Especially since I'd suddenly become a tasty shark treat floating away in the ocean.

But I digress.

So I started to swim away from my husband, parallel to the shore. It brought me in close enough to ride a wave in, and then I walked back to our spot on the beach.

How many times do we start to panic when we start to get carried away by life? And we have a tendency to focus on variables instead of constants. I was looking toward my husband (who was in the water himself) instead of the shore, which wasn't going anywhere. As much as I love my husband, he's no lifeguard. I was trying to get to him, not to the shore, and he couldn't have rescued me. I needed to keep my wits about me and focus on what mattered.

I've done that so much. I try to rely on people who are dealing with waves and riptides of their own instead of allowing God to be my focus. He's not going anywhere. He's got the stability I need. I don't know why I panic and look elsewhere.

What do you do when life's riptides start to pull you out? Do you keep it together and head toward God? Or do you try to hang on to something else that's merely floating around in your life?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Vacation Files: Toddler Vacations

I wasn't only on vacation from my blog last week—I got to take an actual vacation to the Outer Banks with my family! But I think I thought too much. I came up with several blog posts regarding vacation happenings.

Stop, brain! Stop! Jeepers.

Anyway, our beachy keen vacation was spent with my mother and father-in-law (Nonny and Pop-Pop to my son). They're really great to travel with—lots of fun, and my son adores them.

Maybe a little too much.

Between having my husband and Nonny and Pop-Pop around all the time, I was suddenly invisible to my toddler. Well, worse than invisible.

Rejected.

"May I have a hug?"


"No! I'll give Daddy a hug!"

*sigh*

"Here, baby. Hold my hand while we cross the parking lot."


"No! I'll hold Nonny's hand. I won't hold your hand."

*sigh*

It's so painful! I mean, I know he still loves me, but he just doesn't seem to like me when there are more interesting people around. It's one thing for him not to prefer me, but to out-and-out reject me when I ask him for a hug or a smooch or when I want to play with him?

Ouch.

Ooh—wait. I think—I think there's a lesson here. Wait. Hold on—it's coming to me...

Ah, yes.

The affections of children are fickle. I'm still his mom, so I know that, deep down, I'm still the tops. And it's not like I'll ever stop wanting to spend time with him or stop wanting affection from him or telling him I love him. I just have to wait until he's—well, until he's back in his right mind, I guess.

And guess who waits for me like that?

When all the other exciting people and things in life suddenly become more interesting, God waits for me. When he asks to spend time with me and I ignore him (or reject him), he still loves me. He still wants that time and affection from me.

"Do you want to have a chat?"


"No! I want to do what I want to do!"

*sigh*

"Can I help you with that?"


"No! I want someone else to help me with that!"

*sigh*

Same thing. Deep down, he's still tops, but I go through periods where I reject him or, at the very least, go to him as a last resort instead of a first choice.

Like a toddler on vacation.

Heavens. God has to feel the way I felt? That's awful. Of me. I'm awful.

Sorry, God.

Do you take "Toddler Vacations" when it comes to your spiritual life? Rejecting or ignoring God for whatever's better at the time?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Guest Post: Jesus and My Orange Juice

Sometimes, a gal just needs a vacation. So that's what I'm doing this week! Please enjoy this final guest post from one of my newest Twitter pals, Shannon Milholland from Jesus and My Orange Juice!

I'm excited about Shannon's guest post for a couple of reasons. First, she's one of the new friends I'll get to meet at She Speaks next month! Hooray! I honestly can't wait to hug the necks of all the ladies who have been encouraging me, writing for me, and making me laugh over the past few months. So exciting! Second, on her blog, Jesus and My Orange Juice, her writing style is so unique—kinda feels like you're reading a novel instead of a blog. She's got such a gift for prose. I love it! Third, as evidenced by the post below, the girl's got guts. For reals. And on top of all that, she's a godly woman with cool perspectives. Super awesome!

Read her here. Read her there. Follow her here. Like here there. I just know you'll love her everywhere!

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Confident in Christ

Isaiah 32:17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.

I wouldn’t call myself lazy. Overconfident would be more descriptive. Though I met Jesus at 20, I never really developed a relationship with Him. I was satisfied to have a spot in heaven and didn’t really consider if there was more to Christianity than praying a prayer and volunteering at church.

Over a decade passed before one ordinary day at the office, God took me by total surprise. He nudged me to witness to a co-worker—not typical behavior for me. I was a Christian who opened her Bible at church and prayed during crises. Getting a cue from God was not something I expected.

I was going through a divorce at the time, as was the guy sitting in my office. He was on one of his daily social calls. I still don’t know why I agreed to God’s crazy suggestion but I did. Mustering up far less confidence than I felt, I meekly offered, “I’m not trying to pry into your private affairs but I just want you to know that I’m going through the same thing that you are. Even though these are the hardest, darkest days of my entire life, I still have hope. If you’d be interested in having hope in your life, I’d like to tell you where you can get some.”

You’d have thought I was offering him a key to Fort Knox because he enthusiastically agreed. In the nine months since his wife left him, he had spent more than one night in total despair. He fingered his guns and contemplated his options. Having no hope, he locked up his weapons, certain he would use them.

One especially dark night he came across the Bible that his grandparents had given him as a boy. The spine on his Bible was pristine. He cracked it open to a random page. He then called out to God and simply asked for help.

God sent me in answer to that prayer. That’s why so enthusiastically accepted my offer of hope. Six months later he accepted Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. In another six months he offered me a diamond ring.

I married Scott Milholland almost two years after that first office encounter. Five years later he left the corporate world to become the Chief Operating Office of a church—called Hope.

I learned the power and excitement of walking closely with God. I talk to Him not because I have problem but because I can. He’s captured my heart. Even so, I still have moments and days when I’m tempted to face a situation without Him.

When I am, I think of that lonely guy who once sat in my office and now sleeps in my bed. Saying yes to intimacy with God never disappoints. This once overconfident Christian has experienced the joy of placing her confidence in Christ.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Guest Post: Wimps for Christ

Sometimes, a gal just needs a vacation. So that's what I'm doing this week! Please enjoy this guest post from one of my newer Tweeps, ML Smith of Wimps for Christ.

Now that's a name I can get behind!

She points out that sometimes it's tough to be a warrior for God when we feel more like a wimp. Agreed! I often feel like a wimp. And I'm definitely feeling this post today. Make sure you check her out!

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It’s not you…it’s me. 

Sounds like the opening line of a bad break up.  Things have gone awry.  The person wants out and (s)he assures you that you are not the problem.  I’ve got bad news for you: you are the problem.  Unfortunately for many of the “bad” things happening in your life, you are the problem.  The sooner you realize and admit that, the happier you can become.

I am domestically challenged.  I hate cleaning.  I am not very good at it and it puts me in a very, very, very, very, very, very (get the picture) bad mood.  I don’t like cleaning up after other people (even ones I’ve given birth to) and I especially hate cleaning the bathroom.  I am not one of those people that sits back in a clean house pleased with myself. No, I sit in my clean house irritated because I know if will be dirty again soon.  People leave stuff out, don’t pick up after themselves, get mud on the carpet, have poor aim at the toilet, can’t put away their laundry, won’t vacuum their crumbs—sorry I’m starting to rant.  Needless to say, when two domestically challenged people marry, they produce a domestically challenged child, and the house forever looks like a tornado – make that 3 tornadoes – went through it.

I love to blame the train wreck that is my house on my husband and son.  Neither of them put their dishes in the sink after eating and I can’t remember the last time either of them put a coat on a hanger. But not so long ago I realized a sobering truth: the problem wasn’t them, it was me. While I can blame them for the pee on the toilet seat, I can’t blame them for my messy desk or for the excess of junk in my car.  I created both of those disasters all by myself. 

Matthew 7: 3 – 5 says:  “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

We are all too often happy and eager to point out the faults of the people (and the world) around us but are slow to examine and fix our issues. No one will ever be perfect and have it all together, but we can all investing a little more time getting our own house in order.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Guest Post: Midwest MOMments

Sometimes, a gal just needs a vacation. So that's what I'm doing this week! Please enjoy this guest post from my first repeat guest blogger, Jenn at Midwest MOMments!

Yes, this is the second post from my pal Jenn (you can read her first one here). I'm so glad to have her!

And I really enjoyed this post. I thought about what would happen if the world ended on May 21. And my first thought was, "If the world ends tomorrow, the last movie I watched was Gulliver's Travels. Is this how I want to go out?"

True story.

But this post is a great wake up call! Be sure to follow Jenn on Twitter so you can be encouraged by her the same way I am!


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Rapture (And I Don’t Mean The Song by Blondie)

Last month there was much ado about Harold Camping's prediction about the Rapture. For those of you living under a rock, here's a link to recap.

The unbelievers scoffed. Many believers didn't want to seem judgmental, but were thinking the old guy was nutty, and pitied those who chose to follow him. Though, I think everyone had a moment or two on May 21st when we thought, "Hmmm, what if?"

After the day came and went without people disappearing, Mr. Camping revamped his claim saying that instead of preceding Armageddon, the Rapture will happen the same day that the world will end, October 21st, 2011.

On the home front during this time, things were a little rough. We’ve had a seemingly never-ending cycle of illness since the beginning of April. First, S had pink eye, then Baby R got it, then DH got it. Then I had an ear infection, then Baby R had one. Then Baby R was teething and had a cold, S got strep throat, and my allergies were making me feel terrible. Then on the first of June, Baby R got croup. This has resulted in an abundance of sleepless nights causing grouchiness and impatience in us all. In addition to that my dad had a Pacemaker put in, and my mom’s memory has continued to deteriorate while her paranoia has increased. A large project at work was not going well, and I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed. 

How did I deal with all of this? Did I pray? Well, yes, but sort of those desperate pleas of “God, just get the baby to go to sleep!” or a quick “Please bless Dad’s surgery.” Did I read my Bible? Um, no. Did I seek a quiet place to reflect on God’s Word and listen to what His will is for me? I wish I could say yes. Unfortunately, I got bogged down in the mundane details of life and didn’t have time for God.

Can you believe that? I didn’t have time for Him. How can I not have time for God?

All of this hullabaloo about the Rapture was just more background noise to me to a certain extent. In general, when discussions about the end times arise, I simply refer to Mark 13:32 "But about that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

But when the 21st came, and my little “What if?” moment happened, it got my attention. God is the one person I need to make time for.

Maybe Mr. Camping is right about October 21. Maybe he’s wrong. It doesn’t really matter; the world could end then, or in another 2,000 years. Or I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. The point is, my time here on earth is finite. And I know God won’t be too wrapped up in the mundane details of, gee, I don’t know, running the universe, to find time for me in this life, or in the next. I certainly need to redirect my energy, and focus on Him. Not tomorrow, after I get one more load of laundry done. Not next week when the kids are feeling better. But today. Now. Because I may not have another minute here to praise Him. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Guest Post: By Word of Mouth Musings

Sometimes, a gal just needs a vacation. So that's what I'm doing this week! Please enjoy this guest post from Nicole Morgan at By Word of Mouth Musings!

Nicole is one of my favorite Tweeps. So friendly and encouraging and funny! I love her. She's also a really inspiring writer—very insightful and interesting. I'm sure I have more to say about her, but you really should just go check her out here, here, and here. You won't be sorry!

Unless you don't go. Then you'll be sorry. *insert growl and snarl here* Go!


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It really is a great pleasure to be here today as a guest in the the bloghome of The Lazy Christian - don't you just love her name?  It always makes me chuckle because its just so honest. I thought that since my blogname is By Word of Mouth Musings, today I would write a little post about words.

How many of us Talk the Talk, but do not Walk the Walk?

I do. Often.  I tell my children right from wrong and tell them why they should behave in a certain way.

But do I always set a good example? No. Sometimes they are just empty words.

Guilty of the "do as I say and not as I do." Like many parents. I'm pretty sure of this.

Like when I tell them there is not going to be a snack before dinner because we are eating shortly, and then sneak a chocolate cookie out of the pantry (please tell me that you do that too).

Or where I tell them that if you don't have anything nice to say about someone, then perhaps you should keep it to yourself, but then find myself on the phone with a friend doing exactly the opposite.

Or today, when I told a police officer I was looking at directions on my phone when I pulled into a handicapped space to make a quick call. (instead of commending me for not being on the phone while driving, she offered to give me a $250 ticket - see what lies can do for you!)

They are just white lies.  But still lies, and sometimes we want to hear them.

Like the one I expect my husband to tell me if he doesn't love how my jeans fit, I want to hear that my butt is adorable. All of it. I encourage him to lie too me.  Sad really.

But what about our walk in faith? Do we lie to ourselves?  We do the talk, but not the walk.  Pray only when we are in need, and not just to give thanks? Do we turn to God only when the going gets tough? Teaching our children to be grateful for each waking moment, a gift from God, that is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. Showing them the way, because we are their teachers.

My goal for teaching our children to live as good people, is following in the footsteps of Jesus.  We discuss what we think Jesus would do. When you think about following in His footsteps, you choose your road a little more carefully.  In our house, I am a Christian and my husband is an Atheist, but together we teach our children to be accepting of all people.  To each his own on their politics, their religion, their belief's or their lifestyle.  To treat people with love, kindness and respect. In the words of my 13 year old, "Judgement Day will come, and God will be the judge." She is wise beyond her years. And I think we did good.

Teaching my children to "walk the walk, and talk the talk" makes me think of:

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. - Ephesians 5:2

Because if we walk only in love, the talk will be kind and compassionate.

Which brings me back full circle with those little white lies, instead of telling your children that little white lie, you know the one where you have eye's in the back of your head, maybe just tell them this ...

The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. (Proverbs 15:3)


Maybe that will help - ALL of us!



Monday, June 6, 2011

Guest Post: My Life as Mom

Sometimes, a gal just needs a vacation. So that's what I'm doing this week! Please enjoy this guest post from Jessica Torres, one of my fabulous Twitter pals. Wait, what do they call those? Tweeps?

Clearly, I'm quite savvy to the Twitter lingo.

Anyway, Jessica is the author of My Time as Mom, a wonderful mom blog filled with humor and the antics of her two adorable girls. I'm grateful to have her here today, as her post is filled with reminders we all need. Go check her out!

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Over the course of the last 7 ½ years my life has changed dramatically. I went from being a young, single adult working full time to now a married stay at home mom to 2 adorably insane little girls. I have had many ups and downs during this time, but I would not change anything because it has made me who I am today. I have also learned many valuable lessons that I would like to share with you:
  • A simple smile can go a long way
  • There is nothing better than hugs and kisses from my children (even if they have monster dragon breath because they have not brushed their teeth yet)
  • Real friends in life are hard to come by so cherish them
  • Taking a nap with the kids is quality family time
  • Waking up early in the morning will not kill you
  • It is possible to survive without caffeine – really it is
  • Walks around the block picking flowers with my kids(weeds really but we will call them flowers) are one of the best parts of the day
  • A package of bacon can be opened in more than one way
  • Date nights with the husband are important even if we only ever go to the movies
  • Take lots of pictures because time moves way too fast
This list may seem like it is filled with some unimportant items. But to me, this list represents memories of things I have learned while spending time with my family. It captures great memories that I hope to remember for as long as I live. My family is the most important part of my life, and I love them even more every day.

To my husband and my beautiful daughters, thank you for teaching me these lessons in life, and I look forward to many more.

What has your family taught you in the course of your life?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friendly Friday: A Latte with Ott, A

Today's Friendly Friday highlights another Indy Blogger I had the opportunity to meet way back in February at the Blogger Roundtable. Her site is the cleverly named A Latte with Ott, A, and she is, of course, Ott, A.

Now, I'm what you call a City Mouse. I didn't even know what those green fields were when we moved to Indiana (turns out they're soy!). And Ott, A—well, she's a Country Mouse. She's actually gotten to work on a farm! But she is certainly no hayseed. She's stylish and fun, and she's a whiz in the kitchen. She's a one-woman episode of Green Acres! And if you don't understand that reference, just trust me: this gal has it all!

Read her here. Go check her blog here. Follow her on Twitter here. She's super great!

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Faith on the Farm

My grandparents have a farm in North Central Indiana and raise sheep.  Late one winter during my Junior year of high school, my grandfather had some surgeries that kept him in bed and unable to go out to the barn to take care of the animals.  Our ewes (female sheep) have their lambs in February/March, the same time as his procedure.  Needless to say it was a busy time of year on their farm, so in order to help out, I would drive out to their farm (about 7 miles from my parents' house) before school each morning bright and early to do chores, then shower and get on to school.  As a junior in high school, this was not fun or even convenient to my schedule.  

Yet, every morning I went out there in the snow and cold, and every morning there was one group of sheep that slept every night at the far back part of the field.  Their feed went at the front of the field near the gate.  So, every morning, I would holler for the sheep to come get their feed, and they wouldn't come.  They didn't know me from Adam, and my holler was completely different than my grandfather's, who they had been used to hearing.  If he hollered, they'd come running.  

So in order to get them to eat I would have to climb over the gate, walk halfway back in this big, cold, snowy field shaking my bucket and hollering until they saw me. Then they would get up and come to the front to eat their feed.  Each morning I walked back there to get them, and each morning all I could think was, This would be so much easier if they came when I called them.  

After two months of doing this day after day in the snow and sleet and ice, I would complain to myself how cold it was and how this was going to make me have to rush to get ready for school---on and on the complaints would swirl around in my head. Then one day, just like any other, I threw the feed down in the troughs, hollered for the sheep and as I was putting my foot up on the gate to climb over I looked out over the horizon and saw the sheep coming up on their own. 

I didn't have to go out into the field to get them.  They knew my voice.  

At that moment the first thought that came into my mind was.... so that's what they meant in John 10:1-5 when the bible says:

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  

It worked.  The sheep knew my voice and knew I would take care of them.  How many times have I been stubborn just like those sheep and not come when the Lord spoke to me?  It took two months of farm chores in the cold for me to figure out the stubborness in my own heart.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Retail Therapy

I spent all day yesterday shopping. I wanted to get a sundress and a hat for vacation, and that required two stores. Then my son left my sunglasses in one of the stores, and I deemed them hopelessly lost and had to buy a replacement pair. And while I was buying the replacement pair, I found a couple of cute shirts on clearance.

Let me be clear: I don't like to shop. Well, I like to shop for things, but not so much clothes. I especially love kitchen gadgets or fun accessories (despite the fact that I'm terrible at wearing jewelry). And there are some days—like today—when I just feel like shopping. But if I find the right items, buying stuff is fun!

Paying for stuff? Less fun.

We've been on a cash-only system for a while. Kinda like Dave Ramsey's thing, although we've never taken the class or anything. I like it—when I remember to take the cash with me. I don't like having it on me all the time (too much temptation!) so I just take it when I'm on my way out the door. When I remember. Today was one of those non-remembering days. But, generally, it works out pretty well. Knowing there's a finite amount of cash keeps me from just charging, charging, charging. And the things we do charge (like gas for the cars) goes on a credit card that gives us cash back for our home and car insurance—stuff we'd have to pay for anyway. It's pretty cool.

We think a lot about stewardship in our home—how our money is spent. There are lots of Bible verses that remind us that the stuff here is temporary (Matthew 6:19-21), or that everything we have belongs to God anyway (Psalm 24:1) and we need to use it wisely (Luke 16:9-11). So, in our home, we budget.

And, oh, how we budget!

Now, my husband first broached the idea of budgeting with me before we were even dating. Just friends. He offered to help me make a budget so I could get my finances under control. So one afternoon, we sat down with my credit card bills and my bank statements and made a budget.

I will tell you this: Having my (future) husband look over my finances is, to this day, one of the most embarrassing events in our relationship. For me, anyway. I'd have preferred prancing around in my underwear in front of him than having him look at my money. It was just as revealing and twice as mortifying. Worst. Day. Ever.

What I didn't get about budgeting then—despite my husband's attempts to explain it to me—is that having a budget actually gives you more freedom with your money, not less. I understand that now.

Because my car died last week.

Not died died, but there was an incident on the highway where the car started shaking uncontrollably. Something with one of the tires or the suspension or something, probably. Not something I want to drive my toddler around in. Or drive all the way to She Speaks next month. We'd planned on getting a new car next year, but it looked like our plans had to change. Our twelve-year-old car just wasn't going to make it another year.

We shopped around. We got a great deal on an already-moderately-priced new car (since used cars are almost as much as new cars these days, anyway). We have a car payment now, which is something we haven't had in a few years.

But you know what? I'm not concerned. We don't have to "tighten our belts" all of a sudden now that we have a car payment because our belts were already fairly tight. We've been living within our means and saving up for a new car, so it's not a shock to our bank account.

And that feels awesome.

I've always been terrible with money, so I'm grateful God blessed me with a financially savvy husband. Now he's helping me to be financially savvy, too. And if you're not great with money, it's not too late to learn! You just have to have someone teach you the ropes (someone like Dave Ramsey, if you don't know anyone else who can help), try an awesome (and free!) budgeting program like Mint.com, and be willing to change your lifestyle.

Do you try to be a good steward and keep a careful eye on your finances?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Music and the Mirror

This is one of my favorite new worship songs. Take a listen:



As we were singing this in church on Sunday, it got to the part that says, "My heart will sing no other name," and I thought, "That's right, Lord! What other name would my heart sing?"

Rachel.


Oh. That name. But I mean, like, what name would I put first in my heart? Clearly, it's only Jesus!

Rachel.


Come on! Really?

Really.

This may be a new kind of smackdown: A Worship Smackdown. *sigh*

I feel like I've been super selfish lately. Not necessarily in ways obvious to others, but obvious to me—and to God. How little time I've spent with him because I want to do what Rachel wants to do. How little studying or praying I've done because Rachel has gotten in the way. I don't feel like I've been extraordinarily busy. In fact, it's possible that I've been extra lazy, instead. Life isn't keeping me from what I ought to do. Rachel is. Me. I'm doing this to myself. And to God.

My heart is singing my own name louder than God's.

Yikes.

Sometimes I like to imagine that there's this mirror in my heart. When I look into it, I see what's truly in my heart—I usually see Jesus. And I figure that's what's shining out to the world, too. Lately, I haven't even wanted to look. I caught a glimpse the other day, and the only face in the mirror was mine. There was maybe a part of Jesus' shoulder or something in the frame, but that's about it. It's all me now.

And I don't like it.

Who's in your mirror? What name does your heart really sing?