I lean not on my own understanding

This is not going to be a newsflash to anyone who knows me or who has read my blog on any type of consistent basis. I am a control freak. I have a very hard time sitting back and letting go. Instead I try to micro-manage, script, control, and dictate the way I think things should go. And may I just say that its not working out so great for me. I get so frustrated and discouraged with the fact that when I do try and control the outcome of things it doesn’t work. Things are going to happen the way they are supposed to happen according to God’s plan – he doesn’t need me to “help.” Secondly, my need to control things, situations, people, etc. hints to me (or screams at me) that my faith really isn’t where it should be or where I claim it to be…or want it to be. It’s so easy for me to tell a friend who is struggling that “everything will be ok…God is in control.” Shame on me for speaking it into someone else’s life when I barely allow it in my own. Truthfully, the last month or so has been extremely trying and difficult in my life. (Everything is relative – and even as I type “extremely” I know that there are others suffering much greater hardships than I). Brian and I have been married 6 months this week, and while we truly have an amazing, relationship built on God first, there have been challenges along the way. But it is only when I take things into my own hands – when I lean on MY own understanding – that I think things seem tough. One of our biggest challenges has been the blending of two families. Raising children is hard. Raising 5 children…hard. Raising 5 children – 4 of whom are teenagers…yep….hard. And throw in the fact that some are his and some are mine and the bar is raised even higher for difficulty level. And the thing about it is – we are blessed. We have really good kids who make good decisions and stay out of trouble,etc. Reflecting on the last month, I realize that things are toughest when I try and make things be the way I think they should be. In the last few days, I wasn’t sure how things would work out, where it would all end up, and how all of us would fare through it – but I WAS certain that all of it be ok – because we love God and he promises us that all things work together for good for those who love Him. I kept telling myself that over and over. Its in His hands. It will all be ok. Over and over – almost as if I was still trying to control the outcome. But I do believe in God and I know that He loves me. I do trust in His word. This morning, I went to church broken. I was at the point where I just had lost the energy to fight anymore. I was finally ready to turn it all over to God and truly ask Him to take it. (And all along God is waiting for me to get to this point. You would think after a while I would learn to make it easier on all of us and just give it all to him all the time.) At the end of the sermon, we stood and began to sing the following words…

“I lean not on my own understanding.

My life is in the hands of the maker of heaven.

I give my heart to you God

Trusting you will make

Something beautiful out of me”

At first, I couldn’t even bring myself to sing the words. They were a lie. I have been trying to do things my way – all on my own. Lately, my life has been in my own hands – not in the hands of the one who created it all. I have given God my heart, but my late actions have not shown a trust in God to make me into who he has planned. As the song went on and the words were repeated over and over I could feel the weight I’d been carrying around being gently lifted from me. As I began to sing the words, I truly was making a vow to lean NOT on my own understanding. If I earnestly believe that my life is in HIS hands, what am I so fearful of? Why am I worried? I’m always amazed at the way God  works. He knows me so well. I am so moved my music and by lyrics. Today he chose that avenue to really speak to my heart. He knew I needed not only to hear the words of that song, but He knew I needed to let it all go and to sing the words from my heart to Him. Will this be my last blog about my inability to “let go and let God’? Probably not…I’m not perfect and never will be. And I’m sure my need to control will be something that I continually will have to ask God for help with. God knows my heart and he knows exactly how to speak to me. And right here and right now I am letting him carry the burden. I’m confident my life is in His hands and I do trust that He is making beauty out of my messes.

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Perspective

When the kids ask the age-old question “What’s for dinner?” I can almost guarantee that at least one of the five will not be happy (or let’s say less than excited) about the answer. I can more than “almost” guarantee that if I say peanut butter and jelly all of them would be disapproving. Now, I have wonderful kids and I’m not bashing them here…it’s just about perspective. Brian and I recently made a home delivery of summer breakfasts and lunches to a local family. When the four children at the door eagerly dug through the bags before their mom could even get them in the door, the cheered and high-fived each other when they discovered peanut butter and jelly. From their perspective that was a great thing.

I teach in a school where 96% of our students on the federal free lunch program. The great thing about this is that I know that during the school year, my students are receiving two meals a day…sometimes their only two meals. The down side is that during the summer, I know that many of my students often go without. This is true for many families…not just students at my school. It has troubled me for the last few years. And Brian and I have prayed about how our ministry, In Our Own Backyard, could work to help serve those in our community who could most benefit. It’s really not about building a ministry or receiving ANY credit at all. To us, our mission is about serving others by doing our best to love on them like Jesus would.

So after lots of praying and even more listening for God to speak, we came up with “Summer Relief.” It’s a very simple program where we simply seek to help food insecure families get through the summer months by providing breakfasts and lunches each week to each of their children. We contacted the local schools and got the names of some families who could most benefit. We then called each of the families on the list…excited to serve. We faced some obstacles and disappointment when several of the families did not return our calls. But we prayed constantly and knew that God would provide us with the children we were supposed to serve.

Three weeks into our program we are so excited to share what God is doing. His guidance in setting up this small program has shown us things we did not see on our own. Since we deliver each week to the children’s homes, we re beginning to form relationships with the parents of the children. Weekly we will have the opportunity to show them the love of God in just a couple of bags of food…and as those relationships grow, we know God will open doors for us to share more about him.

In Our Own Backyard Ministries is blessed to have people who have jumped on board with this effort and are helping by providing us with food to fill bags. It is so special to see people with hearts for God come together and do small things with great love. Small things to us…but then again, it’s all about perspective.

Teens

Ok, when I sat down to blog, I had a certain topic in mind…but when I opened my computer yahoo news popped up and a headline caught my eye. It was a news story about a high school senior in South Carolina. He was his school’s valedictorian and had just stepped up to the podium to address the graduation crowd with his “pre-approved” speech. What he did next was awesome. He ripped his speech up. Rather than give it, he began to recite the Lord’s Prayer. In the video you can hear people joining in and applauding. This young man was taking a stand against his school district that had recently voted to remove prayer from their graduation ceremonies. This young man took a stand and did what he thought was the right thing to do. It makes me hopeful and happy to see young people speak about their faith and stand up for God. I often wonder what gives teens the courage…because we all know that teens are so often driven by the need to fit in, or to be like the world. To stand up and speak up about faith is such a commendable act! About a year and a half ago, Brian and I were singing at a Toy Drive on a Friday night. Several teens came in and worshipped with us. They were truly worshipping. Standing, hands raised to God, singing and totally engaged in the moment. I was especially struck by this. Here it was a Friday night and they had chosen to spend it in that manner. Should that be such a big deal…? Perhaps not, but to me it was. Maybe its because I don’t see the same conviction in my teens – and I wish to? I love my teens with all of my heart…and I truly believe they are special, wonderful people with beautiful hearts and minds. I just pray that someday they will be convicted in their hearts to stand up for what they believe in. I hope and pray that someday when the opportunity presents itself that they will do what they know they ought to do – for themselves and for God.

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. James 4:17

 

 

 

You become what you behold.

Brian and I have 5 kids. Three teenagers. One tween. And one still young enough to like us. The four older ones love their music. Brian and me…not so much. Sometimes I feel like that old person I swore I would never become…recalling the good old days when music was real music. But I have to say…some of the stuff our kids tend to want to listen to is just garbage. Since we married a few months ago and are all now sharing one house we have laid down guidelines about what will be acceptable in our house as far as music and movies. The kids have not bucked us – too much. Our approach was not to yell and scream and just simply tell them we don’t like the music. Rather we have tried to make them really think about what the lyrics in their music represent. The lesson to them has been what you put into your mind is what you eventually begin to think on and speak. Garbage in, garbage out. This thought process isn’t just for our kids, though. We as adults are also bombarded with so much. Constant information, images, status updates,and tweets feed our brains. They help shape and determine our thoughts. And it can be very easy to let all of that noise infiltrate our hearts. In 2 Corinthians, we read that “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” I believe that Satan uses the veil of this constant noise to keep us from seeing God and a better way for ourselves. However, if we allow that veil to be removed through God’s endless grace, then we begin to see things differently. And then, we eventually become what we behold. “But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” As we live with our sights set on God and his glory, we change. Our minds are renewed, our hearts are changed. About 6 months ago, Brian and I got rid of a lot of the “noise” that was feeding us in ways that we knew weren’t reflecting the Lord and his will for us. The change has been amazing and we have drawn closer to each other and to God in our daily walk. We pray daily that we will be able to influence our kids to learn to take in less of the world and become new creatures in Christ. After all, you become what you behold. 

 

Heavy heart

There are many nights that I lie in bed trying to slow my mind down so that I can catch four or five hours sleep (at best). It often proves to be a difficult task for me to shut out all of the thoughts, to do lists, worries, and responsibilities though. But last night, it wasn’t my mind racing that I battled. Last night I was troubled beyond the typical clean ball uniform, crazy practice schedule, grades due worries. Last night my heart was full…full of anger and hurt feelings and resentment. I am human and as much as I fight those types of feelings, they attack me still. And last night they weighed so heavily on my heart that it was nearly too much for me to carry.

Too much for ME to carry…

So why am I trying to carry it alone?!?

Why is my need to be in control so strong that I don’t allow God to carry my burdens for me? Jesus tell me to come to him with my heavy burdens and he will give me rest. He doesn’t want me to struggle through life – or even through one night – carrying a load that is unbearable. I get so frustrated with myself for carrying around feelings that I know are not…good and right (for lack of better words). And so I shared my feelings and concerns with my amazing Godly husband and did my best to sleep.

When I woke up this morning and prepared my mind and heart for my daily walk in the word, I was “guided” to Galatians. To this passage in Galatians “16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” In this case, my sinful nature was my thoughts and feelings of anger and resentment. But if I let the Spirit guide me that sinful nature…those ugly emotions become this…”22But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control.”
Personally those sound like much more attractive traits to be carrying around. And the Spirit is in me because of God’s love for me. I have to get out of the way and let the Spirit lead…it comes down to my stubbornness and control. I am not capable on my own to rid myself of the sinful ugly stuff. I don’t have to be strong enough to do that because God IS strong enough.

I am so thankful for the gentle voice of the Spirit that guided my heavy heart this morning. I’m no longer carrying so much of the heavy ugly stuff…but rather I am letting the Spirit lead me as I learn to produce a new, more appealing fruit…and it’s much lighter to carry.

It was love.

crossOn this sacred, holy day there isn’t really much I can say to emphasize the sacrifice the Jesus made for us. My brain cannot come up with the precise words to describe the act that took place on a Friday many, many years ago. My head cannot be wrapped around it…but my heart can feel it.

I have been a Christian most of my life…but I truly feel that I have been a Jesus follower for only a couple of years. I must say that up until the recent past, I just didn’t truly “get it.” Even though I have loved God my whole life, and have tried to do all the “right things,” it wasn’t until hitting rock bottom and crying out to God for guidance that I really started to feel it. Continue reading

Hold on…

Have you ever hugged someone and felt their pain, or their joy in that hug? On the flip side, have you ever hugged someone and felt that it was “empty”? We all have experienced one of those “fake” hugs – just going through the motions but not truly meaning anything. This weekend, Brian and I were watching his beautiful daughter head off to her first Homecoming! She was beaming and her daddy was one proud man! As we prepared to leave and let them go on their way, Savannah hugged her daddy. You could just tell by watching the exchange that it was one of those “real” hugs. She held tightly to her daddy, Continue reading