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.

Grudge match

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone that you tried to resolve but they just wouldn’t let it go? If you’re breathing and have a heart beat, the answer is probably yes. There is much teaching in the Bible about this type of situation and how it should be handled by each responsible party. So why don’t we follow that guidance like we follow other parts of the Bible. I’m pretty certain we aren’t allowed to just pick and choose which parts we will live by and which parts we just will skim over because they make us uncomfortable. We are told that if we have wronged someone -a brother or sister in Christ-we are to go to them, confess our wrongs, and ask for forgiveness. Okay God…what happens when we do that, in all sincerity, with true remorse, and that person refuses to forgive? Colossians 3:13 tells us to “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” This is not just a recommendation guys. There is a “must” in there. My husband is such a Godly leader of our home, and he is so disciplined at diving into God’s word. And he is a thinker. Lately his saying has been “You either believe, or you don’t believe.” Seems like a simple statement…but it’s really insightful. Do you believe that God created the heavens and earth? Do you believe in a guy named Jonah who lived in the belly of a fish for three days? Do you believe in Lazarus who was raised from the dead? If we believe any of this, we must believe all of it. And if we believe, then we must follow, trust and obey. Now, are we all going to be perfect? No way. But we should be trying every day to walk in the light, as He is in the light. We must listen and be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Asking for forgiveness is a hard thing. Forgiving is hard too. Trying to take the high road and accept that someone whom you have gone to in love and asked for forgiveness may simply NOT forgive is even harder. Who are you refusing to forgive? How tightly are you holding onto that grudge? We cannot let these things become stumbling blocks in our walk of faith. If you are holding that grudge, let it go. Stop carrying that weight around and forgive. “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Mark 11:25 If you are the one who has been shunned by another…pray for that person. Jesus tells us…”But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”

God, please forgive us when we let our pride get in the way and refuse to forgive others. Lord help us if we are holding grudges, help us to let go. Lord let us learn to forgive others even when they won’t forgive us. We know your Word is holy and divine God. Help us to remember that it is not up to us to choose which parts of it to follow. Guide us in our walk with you and give us the strength to live the abundant life you have promised us. In the sweet name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday Morning

I have always said that I love early mornings (when I’m not rushing around trying to get to where I need to be on time).  As I sit here this morning looking out over the grass still dripping with early morning dew, I have such a feeling of peace. Life is nowhere near perfect, and there are times when I feel like troubles are closing in around too fast for me to handle. The daily stress of being a single, working mom often feels overwhelming. Until a quiet Saturday morning comes along to quiet all of the “noise” and let me breathe. These moments alone with God are priceless.  I know that God is with me all day everyday as I go through life…but on mornings like this, He is more than just “with me, ” He comforts me, reassures me,  and blesses me with the beauty that surrounds me. This time together with my God is refreshing! I feel truly blessed to have been able to share this time with such a loving, wonderful God. I am thankful for the peace that only He can provide.

You tell me, I’ll go with you

I heard a woman on the radio the other day – I knew I would forget her name) talking about battling depression and the highs and lows that come with it. Since I suffer from depression myself I tuned in to listen more closely. What she said about the valleys made sense to me – that with God being the center of my being, the valleys are not as low, nor do they last as long. She also talked about how when no one else in her life can really “relate” or help her out of the valley – it is so comforting to know that Jesus is there – a constant – surrounding her with his love. I could totally relate to the ideas she expressed. But what she said next really made me think about my perspective on things. She said when she wakes up each morning, she asks the Lord where he is going today… Continue reading

He’s not finished

I heard a saying once – or maybe I read it on a magnet at Cracker Barrel – and I didn’t really commit it to memory intentionally, but I have never forgotten its words and the power of it message in my life. The saying was “Jesus accepts me for who I am, but loves me too much to leave me that way.” Lately this phrase has become really important to me as I seek to continue to grow in my love for the Lord and in my desire to bring people to Him. Through my lowest lows in recent weeks, I keep asking myself why in the world Jesus would want to use me for his work. I’m not the smartest, the most well-spoken, the strongest…I’m broken and often afraid of losing my way. I feel like sometimes I’m not worthy enough to call myself a child of God. And in spite of my broken state, God loves and accepts me for who I am! I don’t have to be anybody else but me. But it gets even better (do I sound like an infomercial…?) Jesus does accept me for who I am – but through his mercy and grace he loves me way too much to leave me like I am. Since I surrendered myself to his will, He has begun to change me. In small ways and in BIG ways. I am His work in progress. He is transforming me, renewing my mind, using me to further his Kingdom, placing amazing people in my path, and allowing me to grow in my faith and in Him. He showers me with mercy and grace in my daily walk. He listens and he speaks. He teaches me to believe when I doubt, to ask for his help when I’m hurt, and to rejoice in him when he has made me glad. He does not turn his back on me when I slip and fall, but rather opens up more to me to help me learn each day. I know that Jesus loves me, and I know that He is working in me to make me a better person every day. He accepts me and keeps changing me with his love. And He’s not finished with me yet.

Sleeping through my storm…

Recently Brian and I started a small group in conjunction with a series called “Fearless” we had been doing at Foundation Community Church. The study is based on a book of the same name by Max Lucado. So far there have been so many things that have really stuck with me. I’ve been asking myself what it is that I am truly most afraid of. Where do those fears come from? And on and on. And as a follow up to all of those questions, how do I react when my fears control me. There is a story of Jesus and his disciples climbing onto a boat one day. Jesus took a nap. While he was sleeping a violent, fierce storm blew up. The disciples immediately questioned Jesus by asking him if he didn’t care if they died. This reaction has always interested me. They knew what he was capable of…they just wanted to know why he wasn’t helping them. They were questioning his character. They were frustrated and angered even. My big take away from this lesson is that Jesus knew all along what was going on. He didn’t “accidentally” fall asleep. He purposely slept – for the disciples to grow in their faith and understanding. It makes me wonder how many times God has gone to sleep so that I could grow. How many times have I become angry at God for seemingly not caring that I was suffering? I know that he has slept through some of my storms so that I would come out better on the other side. That’s a lot of love. I see my responses in the words of the disciples. I have questioned God and his love for me. And through the course of each of those storms, my faith has grown. God loves me enough to sleep through my storms.

This little light of mine

One of my favorite Bible songs growing up was the song called “This little light of mine.” I loved the words, the hand motions, all of it. I woke up this morning thinking about the promise of the new year and all that lies ahead, and that song was in my head. I believe that things happen for a reason – there was some reason that song was playing in my mind. So I sat down with my Bible and began to look at scripture that contained the word “light.”
Continue reading