Thursday, April 28, 2011

Your Story Matters

Your story matters.

It’s true.

But sometimes we don’t believe it, do we?
We think that it is too dull or too traumatic or too disturbing or too ________.  You fill in the blank.
We fear embarrassment or, worse yet, rejection. We fear that others will think we are ugly and turn away. Or we think that our story is not important or as powerful as someone else’s story.  Or someone has told us – not with their words, perhaps – but with their actions, that our story doesn’t matter.
Lies. Lies. Lies.
May I say it again?
Your story matters.
Our stories are complicated, often confusing.  Bits and pieces of our lives are woven together, impacting one another, at times not really making sense, and yet, all forming the whole of who we are, and who God is using.
The evil one wants you to think your story is not important.  He doesn’t want you to share your story – for even though it may be difficult and painful, when you ask God into it and allow Him to use it – it brings the Lord glory – and the evil ones hates that. Really hates that.
Dear friend, I just want you to know that your story matters – because YOU MATTER.
Your story is important. I do not know how or when the Lord may use it, but I believe when we you bring it to Him, He will begin to show you the truth in it and He will use it. He may be asking you to tell it -- or maybe not now. He may be using it to work deep inside of you, as He prepares you for something in the future. He may choose to have it in a book, spoken from a platform, or flashed across the movie screen. Or it may never be shared outwardly, but rather fuel your passion to help others – perhaps others who need someone one who understands.
That’s all for today.  Just a note from someone who cares about you, relayed from a God who cares even more.  You are loved and made for a purpose and your story is part of His plan to bring change and hope and healing to a broken world.
He uses brokenness – brokenness that we have caused within ourselves and brokenness that has occurred to us – to make a difference. 
How He does it? I’ll never know. But I believe it is true, and I know He loves you.
Your story matters. It's true.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sometimes ... I'm a Wiggle Worm, Too

My youngest daughter crawled up into the nest of my bed.
“Momma? Will you snuggle me?”
How could I resist?
I laid down next to her, and as I did so, the incessant movement began. 
She couldn’t – wouldn’t – stay still. First a leg poking me here and an elbow there, then a flip and flop, she wiggled and wiggled, alternating with groans and sighs.
“Now, just settle in, dear, and rest. Try not to wiggle. It’s hard for you to calm down if you are moving all the time.”
“But I can’t help it!” she whined, frustrated.
I reassured her, while rubbing her back and holding her hand.
She finally fell asleep, in my arms. 
I laid there for awhile, thinking to myself that I'm not that different from my daughter -- just in a bit of a different way.
Sometimes, I am prone to wiggling -- striving. I desire rest. I ask for His tender care, but I am constantly moving in my mind and heart. I can’t settle. I get tired, maybe even over-tired, just like my daughter. I weary of the world. The troubles of the day burden me, and I am restless.
Instead of laying back in to the arms of the Lord and giving up my cares, I flip and flop, discontent and anxious -- more than I would like to admit. I can be a regular wiggle worm.
But this is what Jesus offers us -- rest.
“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
 I am trying to bring my heart to Him, instead of wrestling it out on my own.
I am trying not to fight His care for me, but allow Him to love me.
I am trying to remember His Word and His promises for me.
What about you?
Can you hear His voice, dear friend?  Stop wiggling.  Stop striving. Stop resisting His love.  Lay back your head, dear friend, and rest your weary and burdened heart, knowing that you are loved.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Held

My cell phone pinged the other day, with a text message and a picture from a friend.

Morgan:  Making this now … look familiar?

Me: Ur making that????  Is it the lady we think looks like shame?

Morgan: Yes … with her Kinsman Redeemer holding her and lifting her out of her shame J

Me:  That is so beautiful!   Oh, if only I would believe it lately …

Morgan: Me too girl …. Love u!

Six months ago, I travelled to Nashville and spoke at a Women’s Retreat at her church. I shared with the ladies a statue.  The little lady in the statue has quite a story – both of how my friend and I found her (click here) and the story of how the Lord has used her (click here).
Now Morgan was creating her own rendition of the statue.
She knew that I would love it – and I do!
I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product, but even now, there is something about her and the One who holds her, that moves me.  She looks raw and simple. He is so close and His love is so pure.
Morgan and I continued to text for a bit more about a name; she is still “unnamed” for now.  I think Morgan should name her. She made created her. 
But her last text struck me ...
Morgan wrote.  “U already knew her when I met her – but I guess we all did in a way.”

Dear friend, do you know shame?  Shame says, “I am a mistake” rather than “I made a mistake.”  Shame draws your head down, making you feel unloved, devalued, unwanted.
I think Morgan is right. Perhaps, we all do in a way. 
Consider yourself held today, and every day, but the One who redeems you – the One Who is the lifter of your head. His arms are wrapped around you and He holds you close.

Thank you, sweet Morgan, for reminding me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Feeling "Humbugish" Today?

As I drove down the highway this morning, the rising sun rested over my left shoulder and storm clouds percolated over my right shoulder.  The contrast was dramatic in the Spring sky, mimicking the drama going on in my own heart.
“I’m just not up for today,” I murmured aloud to myself. 
What I was really saying was, "I’m just not up for myself, today."
And at the expense of you, my dear reader, thinking that I am an old curmudgeon walking down Humbug Street, I gotta tell you, I'm plain old down in the dumps today (-- or down ON the dumps as my youngest child would say).
Covered with the trash of my own negative self-talk, the garbage clings to my weary heart.
And although I am trying to look for the new growth, quite frankly, I’m stuck in the mire of my own junk. 
 I’ve contemplated sitting here in the stink, letting it permeate even deeper in to my soul – trying to figure out what I should DO, but I was not – am not -- enjoying it.  At all.
And so, I’m choosing to remember and focus on the Lord’s love for Me, despite how I am feeling or what my circumstances may be – or not be – He loves me.
And He loves you, too.
Perhaps you’re feeling a little “humbugish” today?
May I pray for both of us?
Dear Lord,
Some days  are really stinky.  I know you know that, and yet, you have things for us in this day – things to bless us and things for us to bless others. Help us, Lord to see your grace in this day, even when we feel down in the dumps. Thank you for loving us and for showing us that love. Help us to truly have eyes to see and ears to hear so that we do not miss you, even on – maybe even more so on – a day that is gray.
Amen

Monday, April 18, 2011

Appreciating the Little (Which Really are Big) Things

“When Spring finally comes you have to look every day for what’s new, otherwise you’ll miss it!” – My dear friend, Dorothy.
Dorothy approached my table at our Women’s Bible study, talking about Spring.  I wish you could hear her speak.  With a beautiful, British accent, her voice carries along on what seems like a ribbon of fragrant lilacs.  I love listening to her talk. I love listening to her wisdom. I love what she said about Spring, and I love her.
She was talking about Spring in Wisconsin.  It’s been a tough one for us.   Surprise snow storms.  Cold, rainy/sleety days.  One just never knows what’s going to happen in Spring. Even today I heard that we are under a Winter Weather Watch for tomorrow and Wednesday!
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about what Dorothy said.
I’m intrigued by Spring.
I’m even more intrigued – more like moved – by the Lord and His ways.
One of the things about me is that, sometimes, I’m just looking for the “big, beautiful bloom” – and I miss the little green growth – the little green gifts.
In Spring – and in life.
Despite the chilly temperature of 35 degrees today, mid-April,  I took a walk through my yard and looked for new growth. I had to get down to the ground and look closely, but it was there. Little bits of life bursting through the soil.
How anything springs forth out of the ground, I’ll never know -- but it does, in God's good timing and in His way. 
I’m working on changing my point of view about what the Lord is doing in each day, too.  I’m diligently, carefully looking for the life and truth and love that He brings about NEW every day, in every way.
Things like:
* Time to talk to my son while rubbing his back.
* An unexpected opportunity.
* A phone call from an old  friend on my birthday.
* A snuggle with my girls.
* An encouragement from God's Word.
* A hand-made gift, dropped off at my home by a friend and her family.
* A reminder that I am loved via a song on the radio.
How about you, dear reader?
Do you sometimes miss seeing the little (which really are big) bits that the Lord has just for you?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Destination -- Villages of Hope, Zambia


Phote from AKCL International Website

The Great Road runs north and south through the country of Zambia, Africa. 
And on this road sits a plot of land. 
And on the plot of land sits an orphanage.
And in the orphanage children live – children who are orphaned because their parents died of AIDS.
At one time, homeless, helpless, and hopeless, they now live together in “new” families at the orphanage.
They have a home.
They have help.
And they have hope.
At the Villages of Hope orphanage, started and supported by All Kids Can Learn International (click here) and churches in the United States, “Aunties”  and others take care of the children, showing them love in the name of the Lord Jesus,  educating them and teaching them life skills to become godly, independent adults.
My family – yes, all seven of us – plan to board a plane this summer and fly half way across the world to Zambia  where we will spend two weeks ministering to – loving on – the children and staff at the Villages of Hope orphanage.  Along with five other members of our church – a church that supports the orphanage monthly – we are going to be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus – for the Lord Jesus.
And we can hardly wait.
It’s been a dream for us to do this.  For many years, we have waited on the Lord and prayed for an opportunity to go.  It seems as if He has opened the door.
There is a lot to do between now and then.  Intermittently, we meet with the other members of our church to prepare for what the Lord may have us to do. We are praying and saving and fundraising. 
And we can hardly wait.
Micah 6:8 says, “…act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.”  It’s my hearts desire to do that and to watch my children do the same. It’s a start in showing them that the world goes beyond their school, their city, their state or their country, and that God is at work all the time,  everywhere -- and that part of that work, includes them.
Will you pray for us?  

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Resurrection Tradition

My two youngest daughters and I created our family tradition of the Resurrection Basket this weekend.  We had a lot of fun designing our own versions. We made one for our home and they each made one for their teachers.
I broke away from the “basket” version and decided to use my grandmother’s old soup terrine.  Instead of using flowers like I did last year (click here for last years post and picture), I arranged little house plants in the container and surrounded them with moss.  I inserted the usual – a cross, the nail, the purple ribbon, the little piece of towel, a twig of thorns from a rose bush and a stone. 
It is special for me to use something old and meaningful and this year I am calling it the “Resurrection Garden.”

The girls picked out cute Easter baskets from a local hobby store. At half-off, they were a deal!  They chose small flowering plants, and worked hard at creating their own rendition of the Resurrection Basket, including the handcrafting of their own wooden cross by tying two sticks together, gathered from our yard.
It’s a fun tradition for our family and it gets us talking and thinking about the real meaning of Easter. 
What Easter traditions does your family do?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Recommended Reading: Half the Sky

It’s a good read, a powerful read,  and an eye-opening read.  I couldn’t put it down.  It gripped my heart.  God gripped my heart, too.
Page after page reveals specific stories of tragedy – some difficult to read without my gut churning and tears rolling down my face.  From rape, to maternal death, to  post-partum fistula’s resulting in cultural isolation, from poor birthing conditions, to sex-trafficking and abuse and HIV/AIDS – we hear the cry of women from one corner of the world to the next, and every space in between – even here at home, on  American soil.
However, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, husband and wife journalist authors, they don’t stop in sharing stories of pain with us – they also show us stories of hope. They reveal what women are doing to climb out of poverty and destitution and what others are doing to help them. 
They show how the most effective way to fight global poverty is to uncork – unleash – uninhibit the potential of women.
It motivates me and moves me to do more.
I wish I could summarize the book, but the truth is there is no summarizing the stories that ripple across the pages.   My recommendation is  -- read it.
And as you read,  ask yourself, “What may the Lord be asking me to do?”
I will be honest with you, I am often tempted to recoil back and think “What can I do to make a difference? I’m only one person!”  
Maybe you are tempted to feel the same, too.
Remember this – (Half the Sky. Page 45. A Hawaiian parable taught to the authors by Naka Nathaniel).     

       A man goes out on the beach and sees that it is covered with starfish that have washed up in the tide.  A little boy is walking along, picking them up and throwing them back into the water. 
      “What are you doing,son?” the man asks.  “You see how many starfish there are? You’ll never make a difference.”
      The boy paused thoughtfully, and picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean.
     “It sure makes a difference to that one,” he said.
And so it is. Do not believe that lie that we as a group of women – or as one – can’t make a difference.  We can and the Lord will equip and lead accordingly. Move forward. Ask the Lord to show you what He wants from you.  There is no “small” thing when we do it for the Lord.
“Learn to do what is right!  Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17 NIV).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Beauty of Bridges

I'm a big fan of bridges – especially foot bridges.
I like them spanning over streams or small rivers and covered by a canopy of trees. I especially like them handmade; each one is unique.
I’m drawn to them.
They beckon me forward to experience them and to venture in to the space that is on the other side.
I like walking over foot bridges, feeling the sound of the water on my feet. I like watching the  water wash past me.  There is a sense of being suspended above, and yet standing firm on a bridge.
They remind me that when I come upon places in my life that appear impassable – the Lord makes a way. 
They are a picture of a place where He lays down His grace, handmade and unique, helping to bring me from here to there, across ravines and rivers, on this journey of life.
Today I’m thinking of some of these places of grace that He laid down in my life, where I have walked suspended and yet with my feet firm confident in Him, over areas that I could not pass on my own.
It's a beautiful thing. God lays down His grace and it is amazing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What Does Your Heart Say?

I hustled in to the hospital, clutching the hand of my ten year old daughter.
“Let’s hurry, dear.  We only have a few minutes to visit our friend Mary and then we’ll need to get home to make dinner.”
I turned right and headed down the hallway past the gift shop.  No time for shopping today. 
As I passed by the showcase filled with jewelry and picture frames, I caught a glimpse of a square plaque with the words,
What does your Heart say?”
written across the front, spelled out in scraps of newspaper print.
I stopped.
And I thought.
“What is my heart saying?”
Am I not only hustling here and there but hustling past my heart?
It’s what I’m working on this week with the Lord.
I'm not positive that He put that plaque there just for me, but I’m starting to think He just might have, and so I’m having a good “heart to heart” with Him about my heart.
I went back the next day and bought the plaque and have it on my desk. It’s prompting me to ponder and to pray.
What is my heart saying?
It seems to have a lot to say. A lot about how I’m feeling. A lot about the Lord. And a lot about those I love. And so, so much more. There’s a lot packed in there and I’m looking to the Lord to help me unpack it, bit by bit.
And I venture to say there just may be a lot on your heart, too.
May I encourage you? I do not know what your heart is saying, dear reader, but I know the One who does.  Psalm 62:8 says, “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”
I’m taking refuge and pouring my heart out to Him, and although I am short on answers, I am counting on Him to help you and to help me.  
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