I’m not good with titles 

We all have that one person. It could be a friend, spouse, niece, nephew, close or extended family member… Someone who words just can’t adequately express how we feel about them. This could be positive or negative expression but the example I’m going to give in this post, it’s positive. It’s my daughter. She’s changed me. 

I know every parent at some point says their entire life has changed after having kids. For me it’s more than just my day to day or how I choose to spend my time that’s changed. Sure those things may have changed some but what I have noticed is my relationships have changed. My heart has changed. I’ve noticed people more. I’ve noticed brokenness more. I’ve always had empathy but since having my daughter I’ve found myself feeling and hurting and loving so much deeper than ever before and not just my daughter but people. People I didn’t used to appreciate or recognize as much as I do now. I’m still learning what to do with these emotions so I’m not saying this to sound proud or like I have things figured out. To say I don’t have it figured out is an understatement. 

God uses different people or experiences to show us things He wants us to know. He has definitely used my daughter to show me His never stopping, never giving up, unbreakable, always and forever love for me and others. My heart aches for those who are hurting and the unjust situations in our world many others and even at times my own family (albeit on a first world type basis) experiences.  I believe God’s heart aches at these things too. 

I called my mom on her birthday. I texted her in the morning but later that day I dialed her number into my phone and called her. I told her I know I texted you earlier but I’m guessing you wanted to hear my voice. When I think about Marijka getting older I can’t imagine living as far away from her as I see my parents having to do from their children and grandchildren because myself and my siblings are spread across the country practically in every corner. I’ve spoken with my parents and in their heart, as well as I can imagine in most parent’s hearts, they wish it were possible to be everywhere with everyone but unfortunately it’s not so they do the very best they can trusting God with the rest of their children’s lives they can’t be a part of. 

Life happens and I know there will come a day when my husband and I will watch M drive away and have to trust we’ve done our very best possible with the time we had and trust God with the rest of her life. Right now though, I can’t imagine it so I call my mom and let her hear my voice and try so very hard to put myself in hers as well as others shoes. It’s uncomfortable and painful but I feel the need to in order to be the person I want to be. 

Think again about that one person. Someone who words just can’t adequately express how we feel about them. If it’s negative emotion I’m curious what the relationship would look like if we took a moment to step into their shoes? 

If it’s a positive emotion or deep love that person stirs in us, I’m curious what the world would look like if we spread that love among friends, family, even strangers. What if we couldn’t go on with our own day to day tasks without making sure others around us were able to accomplish theirs along side us? What if we loved everyone the way we love that one person? Too hard? That one person is most likely someone you’re really close to. It may even be yourself. If it’s someone else, you’ve probably had a relationship for awhile and trust has been solidified right? Definitely. You wouldn’t, you couldn’t just love a stranger right? 

Well on our own you’re right we couldn’t and we wouldn’t. We may try but we are human and our love is conditional whether we like to admit it or not. I love my daughter and if asked I would say it’s unconditional love. Loving certain people is easy no matter what they do. You may get frustrated or your attitude briefly changes toward them but your love doesn’t change right? What about others though, strangers, or those you’re not so close to? There’s a condition. Humans are incapable of loving unconditionally on their own. We don’t like to hear we’re incapable of things either but it’s true. This, this is why I love Jesus. He makes the impossible, possible. Only through relationship with Him can I truly put myself in other’s shoes, love them unconditionally, and truly make a difference in relationships. He is my example and He can be yours too. 

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up His life for us. So we also ought to give up our life’s for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, (I think we are addressed this way because we are all God’s children) let’s not merely say that we love each other, let us show the truth by our actions.” 1 John 3:16-18

It’s time to ACT. It’s time to stop talking about change and it’s time to stop waiting for someone else to make a difference. Start praying now. The power of prayer can be described in a whole other post but in a nutshell it’s where you begin not end. Start with prayer, start with silence and listen for direction. It will come and with that go, RUN, and make a difference in the life of someone you may have never imagined coming in contact with. It can happen. It will happen and someone’s life in addition to yours will be better because of it.  Let’s make the world a better place one person/situation at a time. 

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What I want this Mother’s  day (and the rest to come)

What I want this Mother’s Day and honestly all the rest to come is for this weekend to pass as peacefully and harmlessly as possible for my close friends and the strangers I may never meet, yet, who I know struggle with watching their dream slowly slip away from them.  

If we all take a moment, each one of us has had a moment in our life where we’ve realized achieving one of our dreams is going to be a lot harder than we ever anticipated. A lot more difficult than we ever imagined it could be, it SHOULD be. A lot more challenging then apparently it is for everyone else around us. Obviously you do everything you can to achieve it and some actually do, usually at a great cost which they’ll say was worth every challenging and down right painful moment, right? However, for others at some point they become exhausted, depleted, completely run dry and what if their dream is still out of reach? Unexplained and seemingly impossible to attain despite every effort on their part?

Now imagine if there is an event every year that celebrates your dream and all those who have (seemingly) easily attained it. Yet you aren’t celebrated. You smile, you try to celebrate with others all while your heart is breaking and your mind can only think will I ever be celebrated for achieving this? Is this in the cards for me or is my life going a different route? It’s not that you aren’t happy with life the way it is. Your life could be so full in other ways and you could be completely content with so much about your life yet still wonder why this dream of yours, the dream you thought was a given, there for the taking when you were ready, is so much more difficult for you than most and may no longer be attainable for you? 

It doesn’t seem fair does it? Life isn’t fair and some times life really hurts. It isn’t fair some have a holiday to celebrate their dreams and others don’t. It isn’t fair those who have to work so hard to achieve their dreams, or be told it isn’t possible have to watch others who don’t appear to deserve or appreciate those same dreams go on and achieve them, take advantage of them and sometimes even abuse them. 

Does this mean no one should celebrate? Does this mean holidays like this shouldn’t exist and those who are being celebrated should go around feeling miserable and not celebrate what life has given them? Of course not. That’s not what anyone wants. 

My hope for this Mother’s Day (and the rest to come) is that I can fully appreciate what I have. Acknowledge the dream I’ve worked hard for and remember that not everyone who puts everything they have into this dream gets the same result. What I want for this Mother’s Day (and the rest to come) is for everyone to look beyond themselves. Take a step back and look at the world around you. Remember everyone has dreams and we have no idea what they are doing to try and achieve them. They could currently be struggling and giving their all to achieve them despite not knowing the outcome in the end. 

Grace. Love. An open heart and a listening ear. I’ve always liked the saying we have two ears and one mouth because we’re meant to listen twice as much as we speak. I’m still working on this but I do believe it. We’ll all be a lot better off when we share grace, love, an open heart and listening ears with one another. Please remember that this Mother’s Day (and the rest to come). 

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Women’s Retreat 2016

Last weekend I went away to the mountains with some other women from my new church here in Charlotte. The mountains, ocean, or nature in general gives me a sense of peace like nowhere indoors is able to. There is just something about being surrounded with a space so much larger than life itself that makes me feel like my soul is home. The conference was designed in such a nice way with a great balance of group message, small group gatherings, and down time to tend to your own individual soul and reflect or just physically rest. We all know how as adults we are lacking time for the naps we crave. We had an entire afternoon free, nearly 6 hrs! There were activities available if you felt inclined to get a pedicure, massage, do some art with watercolors, hike to a waterfall, or exercise to name a few. At the inn where we stayed there was also an amazing porch with rocking chairs facing the sunrise and beautiful views. So, in other words it was a very refreshing weekend away.

The theme for the retreat was Steady. We had a speaker, a close friend of someone at my church, who came all the way from Canada , and out of her public speaking comfort zone to share with us her story. Grace, God’s steadfast love, and the ability to be stable and on a firm foundation through knowing who God is. She spoke about how she believes we all have 3 chapters and to the extent we understand our chapter 1, is the extent we understand life in Christ.

Chapter 1 is death and sin. Sin has no sliding scale. Sin=Death There is different consequences for sin but no difference in sin itself. We like to believe because we haven’t committed some heinous crime based on earthly human standards we are overall a good person. The Bible teaches from the moment Adam and Eve broke God’s first and only command, sin and death entered the world. Sin isn’t something we do, it is something in us that we have no control over.

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me… Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me though Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:14-25

Chapter 2 is Being called, loved, and saved through God’s love. God loves, period. I love the way our speaker spoke about Christ’s love. I’ve heard the story of Christ’s crucifixion many times. I will admit one thing I’ve always done is focus on how He died. I’ve been to many Good Friday services where they show you the awful, gruesome way Christ was beat, tortured, and nailed to a cross to die. What I’ve missed all these years is the most important piece of His death. The way He died isn’t what the focus should be, it’s nothing special. There were two other criminals there with Him, dying the same way and many other people before and after him who were nailed to a cross to die. What makes His story different is He STAYED. His LOVE for you and I and the world in which His Father created kept Him there. He CHOSE to STAY for us because He LOVES.

He chose to stay and now we have a Chapter 2 that erases our Chapter 1.  That is also why we can only understand our life and relationship with Christ to the extent we understand our chapter 1 (sin and need for a Savior) I pray that everyone will understand the extent of God’s love for them. Too many let their past or present define them. One practice we did on the retreat was fill in the blanks:

Even though (fill in the blank), I will rejoice.

Even though I’m unsteady, I will rejoice.

Even though I often lose my cool, I will rejoice.

Even though I swear more than I’d like, I will rejoice.

In Christ there is no shame. Shame is from the enemy but don’t get me wrong when you follow Christ there will be time for correction. Correction, however, does not destroy you, it changes you and stabilizes you. It lifts you up and shows you your true identity. Trust me, your identity through Christ is so much more than you could ever imagine. Which brings us to Chapter 3, how do we become who we were made to be?

Biblical Foundation. We need to know WHO GOD IS. This is where I am always growing. I’ve grown up hearing about God and been surrounded by it my entire life. However my head knowledge is not as far along as I’d like it to be. I’m insecure in my faith. I have a relationship with God but crave to KNOW HIM MORE. If this is where you are too than I encourage you to spend more time with Him. How do you get to know someone you’ve just met and are more interested in getting to know? You stalk them right? haha just kidding but you do spend as much time as possible with them. You ask them questions, have conversations over coffee or dinner. You try to find time to fit them into your crazy busy schedule. How often do you do that with God? Are you making time in your life to get to know Him more? I heard recently, God’s language is silence and in 2016 we don’t practice that well. Silence is the gateway to your soul. Practice silence and intentionally remove distractions whenever you can. You may be surprised with how much you hear when you are still and silent.

I leave you with one last thing I heard from the speaker on the retreat. We each have small subjective details in our lives unique to us. Our testimony is the same. God saved us. We were in sin, it’s His story, He saved us. We can’t add or take away from that. We were all raised from death. The story of Lazarus has a whole new meaning to me now. Jesus stands outside our graves every day. He shouts “_____ come forth” It’s up to us to rise and walk out of our grave. We all have a choice, but that doesn’t change the fact that He is standing arms stretched out, calling us by name and inviting us to join Him.

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