inRL 2014 Conference Wrap Up

The pace of life can be so frenetic, at times, that I find it downright impossible to form connections in real life. I look for opportunities to meet others who share a desire to live life without just going through the motions.  I need flesh and blood people to come alongside and shoulder the burdens of life, with me.  I’m guessing you do too?

I’ll spare you the boring details of our whirlwind life over these past weeks, but suffice it to say that I am thrilled to be able to quietly sit down in front of my computer today and finally get to the important business of sharing about my inRL Conference meetup at the end of April.

The ladies of (in)courage deliver a constant stream of encouragement through that computer screen. To be able to share that with others is a gift.

We had another small gathering of five women, but make no mistake. Each one of these women were handpicked; by a God, who knows and sees.

Some arrived the night before to work together to get my home ready, to eat chocolates as we wrapped tissue paper around pretty little welcome gifts, and to laugh and cry as we watched the opening Friday night Keynotes. We sat around in our pajamas, quiet and comfortable, and listened as women opened up their hearts on the other side of the screen.

Saturday dawned beautiful. The rain that was predicted, wasn’t. There were calls made and emails sent, telling us that some couldn’t make it.  But, our spirits weren’t dampened a bit.  It’s almost as if with each new cancellation, our spirits were able to instantly see that this, this is exactly as it was supposed to be. The sun was streaming through the windows as we welcomed in two more brave souls.

We settled in to watch the Saturday Keynotes and it was obvious that heart connections were being made.  Community, the trials of living in one and the necessity of having one, was on full display.  Both in my living room and on that screen.

There were some priceless conversations about hurt.  And joy. Deeper bonds were forged. Friendships blossomed. As we stood around the table, eating and chatting together, I remember thinking that this is community. Right here, right now.

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Once again, I am so thankful for the vision that (in)courage had to provide this opportunity.  It helps me see, each time, how beautiful is the real life connecting to each of our sometimes web-weary souls.

And to the women who came… thank you.  Thank you for sharing yourselves.

Let’s do it again next year, okay?

 

 

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My One True Love

Sun_Rise

God’s not dead. His Son is alive!

On this, I can rely.

Upon the solid Rock I stand,

as storms continue by.

 

God’s not dead. His Son is alive!

I want for you to know.

His grace assures me I can stand

before Him, white as snow.

 

God’s not dead. His Son is alive!

He can withstand the questions.

the sneers and jeers and pokes and jabs

only served to highlight Perfection.

 

God’s not dead. His Son is alive!

Of this, I am quite sure.

He woos me back, time and again;

As my Eternal Cure.

 

God’s not dead. His Son is alive!

He rose from darkness to Light.

My One True Love, rose for me.

For your heart, too, He will fight.

 

Surrender it all to Jesus, my Christ.

Rest in His sure protection.

God’s not dead. His Son is alive!

Let’s celebrate His resurrection!

 

 

How To Cover Your Guilt

One of my son’s vocabulary words this week is “sentimental”.

Sentimental

As the hormotional component in this marital equation, I could wax sentimental about A Lot Of Things, but I’ll spare you.

Instead, my mind instantly went to the fresh new ways God has shed His abundant grace on me, lately.  So. Many. Ways.

I blew it, and big, this very week, in fact.

And, once again, El-Channun (the Gracious God) showed up. And big!

I committed to being  a part of an amazing team of women with servant’s hearts and a willingness to do a Great Thing each day, online.  As a member of this team, my commitment required one time slot over each of four days, over the course of a few months, to do my part in this Thing.

For the last few weeks, I dropped the ball.

And my gracious Team Leader covered my shifts.

I told her and myself, “I will not drop the ball again!”. And I meant it.

But I did.

And the guilt I felt as I heaped ashes on my head.

  • Letting someone I care about down.
  • Not keeping my word.
  • My inability to be consistent now revealed

I let my mistakes become monumental in my mind.

But she poured out grace, instead. God showered me in grace through her.

  • Recognition and praise
  • No condemnation
  • Love poured out

Undeserved.  All.

In this final week of my time studying A Confident Heart by Renee Swope, I came across a couple of words, mid-sentence on page 200 that spoke right into my heart:

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He cannot love me more.  Tears wash my dirty cheeks as I realize, afresh, how very much this God I long to be more like, loves me.  Despite myself.

He loves me no less for the times I snap at the ones I love.  Or whisper wrongly.  Or step forward too quickly. There is nothing I’ve done, not a thing, that He didn’t already know.  There’s not a single thoughtless word or deed that He didn’t already willingly agree to be nailed to the cross for.

God’s love is bigger.

And that is something to get sentimental about!

Yes indeedy.

Thank you for joining me on this journey through “A Confident Heart” by Renee Swope.  Please consider joining us over at Proverbs 31 Ministries’ next Online Bible Study of “Made To Crave” by Lysa TerKeurst, beginning January 19th. Sign ups are here.  If you’d like to read some of the other thoughts participants had on these final chapters of “A Confident Heart”, please click the button below.

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Table For Two, Please

One of my dearest friends loves to eat at restaurants. She’ll bring her favorite book and politely ask wait staff if she can “rent the table” for a little longer, when she finishes eating.

When I get the privilege of meeting her for a meal, I can always count on two things.  The first is that she will arrive before me.  I try to get there on time – I really do; but she knows me well. The second thing that happens, without fail, is that as I round the bend in the restaurant to get to our table, I find her hunched over whatever book she is currently reading, devouring a page. It makes me smile every time.

Her enthusiasm for reading is infectious.

And I can identify. I feel a lot like that whenever I get alone time with my God to read His Words.

Carving out the time in my day to do that is no easy task.  And, I’m sure that’s true for many of us.  But, it’s also critical.  Renee Swope reminds us, in her book, “A Confident Heart”, that we can’t “find” the time to spend with our Jesus.  We have to make the time.

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And He can help us do that.  We need only ask Him to.

Even if we work outside the home and have family responsibilities. Even if we work the night shift, or struggle under the weight of unemployment, or suffer with a long-term illness. Even if we are double-dog tired by days end. Whatever your “even if” situation is, when you ask Jesus to clear the way for more time to spend with Him, I can promise you, He will! He’s just waiting to be asked.

Maybe, that’s why I love spending time with Him.  He doesn’t force me to come to Him. He invites me to.

He’s inviting you, too.

Who doesn’t want to accept an invitation like that?

Jesus_Invites_Us

The time that I carve out to spend with God is indeed at a table; but not at a restaurant table.  No. My kitchen table serves as the place where I can lay out His Good Word and my pencil and notebook and concordance and notecards and…

It’s a production, you see.  I want to be able to look up any word I don’t understand.  I need to be able to write any thoughts that He may bring to mind about my current thinking or behaving.  His truth needs to be underlined or starred or re-read out loud. Sometimes, I feel the need to re-write some Truth to be placed in a location where I can easily see it again and again.

And I just can’t do that in a restaurant.

But I most certainly can at home. For it is in those precious quiet moments, without distractions that I am able to hear Him speak soothingly to the hurt places and joyfully to the dark places and softly to the hard places.

And that table? It is always a table for two.

Join me over at Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Online Bible Study today. We’re discussing chapter 9 of “A Confident Heart” by Renee Swope.  And the topic?  #WhyWorry I don’t know about you, but I stand to learn much about that!  Go be encouraged.

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The Method of the Message

“All the world’s a stage.”

William Shakespeare

Recently, I peeled back some of those silly surface layers I pile on around here to share a little corner of my heart that needed some serious light shined in. And it felt like a too-bright spotlight was being shined on just such a space that desperately needed some cobwebs swept away to make more room for God to pour into. And He did.  Oh, how He did!

Actually, He’s still sweeping.

At the time that I wrote about all the editing, I felt some guilt. I’m not gonna lie. We like to call that conviction, around here. It was never my intention to make my daily life a stage.  I’ve spent more than a little time wondering where the line that determines sharing to be known for the rights reasons (making someone feel less alone) and sharing to be known for the wrong ones (do I matter to others?) lies.

But…

I’m enamored of a God who dispenses grace like candy. And, although He does indeed give me a good swift kick in the shorts sometimes, it’s only because I need it.  Here’s the beautiful thing, though – I can always count on Him to liberally apply The Balm of Grace to this convicted little heart of mine, afterwards.

And he did that this weekend.

Listening to a message about the different parts of the body and how they each have a function and each one is necessary for the entire body to function properly, I felt His merciful grace drenching my sore spirit. He whispered gently of how He lovingly created me.  Exactly as I am. And He reminded me of my function and place within the body of Christ.

We are each gifted with a different way to share the message of God’s love with others.

Gifted_To_Give_Missindeedy

I felt Him clearly telling me that it’s not a bad thing that I share my message with a side of funny.  That is part, I hope, of what appeals to some of you who so graciously subscribe to my nonsense on a regular basis. (I surely do like me some people with a sense of humor. Thank you LORD for my friends here!)

But… I realize that there are times when, to get God’s message of Love and Hope out there, I have to bring it uninvited.   And, I know this to be true from personal experience. There are so many folks on this here World Wide Web, especially in my little corner of it, who don’t want a full on message of Love and Hope.  They’d rather have a quick little morsel of truth wrapped up in Some Funny.  I get that.  I do. Mostly because, not so long ago, that was me. My heart couldn’t handle the truth.  It literally could not.

And, honestly? I still wrestle with The Truth sometimes.

So, I write about the mishaps and the grace that always follow because I want to be reminded that it’s True.

God will always shed grace.

Always.

We can really only share what we have authentically experienced ourselves, right?

It turns out that Shakespeare was pretty stinkin’ smart.  Our entire world really is a stage. Each of us truly is an actor of sorts.  We each have a message inside.  And we are each gifted differently for its delivery.  The method of my message will continue to be delivered in a way exclusive to what God lays upon my heart and the way He has wired me to deliver it.  The same is true for you.

As I vigilantly watch for that swift kick before it connects with my backside,  I will continue on with my message.

The mishaps will continue to be a’plenty – I’ve no doubt.

But there is always grace galore.

Yes indeedy!

All The Editing

I’m keeping the tone of what I have to say light, but be sure of this – I’m sharing deep here, today.  And it’s scary deep, to me.

“Conversations happen in real time and cannot be edited.” *  This quote, my friend Katie heard recently, really stuck in my craw.

Hard.

Then, a few days later, I listened to an online message about looking for likes in all the wrong places. And my ears perked up all over again at this: “Instead of trying to sound interesting, build others up.” (by Steven Furtick)

Ouch.

In all of the thinking I’ve been doing about these two quotes, I keep going back to that first one about conversation. I’ve realized that people only see a sliver of what’s really going on in my real life on social media exactly because I do so much “editing”.

All The Editing can’t be a good thing. It makes it seem like I am so much more witty, intelligent, or jovial than I really am.

Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t believe that being any of those things are negative. In fact, I’m a firm believer that God gave each of us particular gifts to be shared with the world.  As long as we’re pouring Him out into and onto others as we go along, and doing it all for His glory.

But here’s the rub, for me: I start to believe that I am nothing if I’m not able to make enough people laugh (at me), or join the conversation (with me), or show interest.

In me.

I’m cringing as I’ve tapped out those two little words.  They tell me all I need to know about the condition of my heart, deceitful above all things.

I just can’t get that initial conversation quote out of my head, either! Maybe because I’m not supposed to. It sure felt like that quote was directed straight toward my heart when I first read it.  The dagger of truth only sank deeper and deeper in each time it crossed my mind.

I truly can’t edit a conversation. Right? Not if it is happening in the now. Oh sure, I can go back and tweak it, or polish it up to make a point, or highlight certain words for emphasis that I hope others will find interesting or important or impressive.  All of those “I” words that our God actually cares nothing for.  He is not interested in my highest highs being the only thing others see.

He’s interested in being the only thing I show others.

Let_Every_Detail_Missindeedy

The more I think on it, the more I believe that was the lesson for me.  No matter how I go about living my life, what tweaks I make, or places in my life that I decide to polish up – I need to be doing it for God’s glory. And His alone.

Every detail, for God. Period.

*(Click on the quote at the beginning of this post and you can read more about what sparked all of this thinking in the first place. You’re going to want to check that out. I Promise.)

Life Interrupted

Some of God’s greatest gifts truly are wrapped in unlikely packages. Mine came in all 6 pounds and 10 ounces of baby goodness.  Sweetman and I loved every single inch of this package.  He seemed perfect.  We dreamed of life as parents of a bouncing baby boy.

Two years later, our lives were interrupted by the diagnosis of Autism.  I could try to tell you how I wrapped myself around that diagnosis and accepted it with open arms, knowing that if “God brought us to it, He’d see us through it.”  But I didn’t.  I really didn’t.

Here’s what I did do:

  • I cried out to God for answers
  • I leaned hard and heavy on friends who loved us despite my child’s behaviors
  • I continued to believe God had His hand in this, on us, and around him
  • I learned the power of a desperate prayer thrown heavenward morning, noon, or night

There were moments where I longed  are still moments when I long to be able to take part in those conversations where I talk about the sports that are played, the interests that are pursued, the unique passions that are on display “already”.  But I can’t.

What I can do, however, is to stick with it.

Because there isn’t any easy button for this life interruption.

But God…

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I realize, now, that the healing of this mama heart of mine is going to be a life-long process. And there will be more heartache along the way. But, you know what?  I can honestly tell you that I’m okay with that.

In fact, I say “Yes!” to God because my Sweetboy is fearfully and wonderfully made.  By Him.  For me.

And through it all, I’ve come to understand that this child? He is indeed perfect.

For us.

Oh yes he is.

I’m joining a community of over 24,000 Jesus lovin’ ladies from all over God’s Green Earth for a blog hop today.  We are studying the book “What Happens When Women Say Yes To God” by Lysa TerKeurst over at Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Online Bible Study. If you’d like to read some of the other beautiful words from this online community, click the button below.

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