The Real Life of a Pastor's Wife

Things are changing around here.... well changing and staying the same in an interesting dynamic! I am no longer a youth pastor's wife, but I am still at the same time! We have recently resigned from FBC Troup, which was the place we have been serving longer than any other place before it. We have accepted the call to be church plant pastors and with that church plant youth pastors at the same time, at least until the baby church grows into needing additional staff. So I am now a pastor/youth pastor's wife; translation I am still just a normal, girl who happens to be married to some one in the ministry. I am blogging to make sure everyone knows that my family and I are not perfect,to share with everyone what God is doing in me and to give you a peek into the craziness that is my real life. It is my prayer that no matter how you found this blog, and no matter who you are, God will use these words to speak to your heart and draw you closer to Himself. I would love to hear from you; comments, questions, complaints, and randomness is always welcome!!

The family!

The family!

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Friday, June 19, 2015

I Quit

So as you know, I have been eating only 7 food choices (only eggs, whole wheat bread, chicken breast, spinach, avocados, apples and sweet potatoes) for the last 19 days.  My goal was to make it until the 22 of June, that is the day we are leaving to take the 6-12 graders to camp and I knew there was no way I could find enough of the right foods to survive in a college cafeteria/food court.  But I think that I am going to call it quits with only 2 1/2 days left.  The idea of not finishing what I started is upsetting but the truth that this experiment/fast was simply too much for me is infuriating.  So I think its time for a motives check.

Over the past few weeks God has taught me so much about how entitled, spoiled and wealthy I, along with most people I know, are.  We have everything we need and so much more, to the point that it is hard for us to draw the line between what is honestly a need and what is just a want.  We NEED food; we WANT something new every day with varied flavors and textures and it would be even better if it didn't take much work or time on our part to have such delicious options.  We NEED clothes; we WANT to look cute and be able to go weeks without doing laundry and have something for every occasion imaginable.  We NEED shelter; we WANT to have the nicest house on the block and to be the envy of our friends.  Our idea of need and that of a person in a third world country is a vast contrast.  I have been convicted that I need to be using my resources better and not hold anything tightly, but being willing to give it up for the good of others.

I have also learned a lot about my motives.  Sadly every morning I would step on the scale hoping for a little decrease from the day before, I mean I haven't had sugar, fat, snacks, red meat or anything considered junk in weeks, but I found myself frustrated when the number stayed the same.  Now wait a minute-  the point of this fast is NOT to lose weight!!! That is self serving and exactly the opposite of what a fast should be focused on.  And by the way, I gained half a pound in the last 3 weeks even with going to a challenging bootcamp 3 mornings a week, that is God's way of sifting out my motives I am sure. Motive fail number 1.  

Secondly I have learned that I am beyond stubborn (well actually I already knew that but I surprise even myself sometimes).  I am one of those people who decides to do something and then will die trying to make sure I do whatever it was I decided to do.  Sometimes that a good trait,  sometimes that is a motive that needs to be cleaned out of my heart.  The point of this food simplifying fast was to seek God and to learn about my ideas and habits relating to food.  The point was not to finish just to impress everyone with my strong will power.  Motive fail number 2.

For the last 5 or so days I have felt like crap.  I have had a headache, been super tired, unreasonably grouchy and just slow moving.  I figured this was a result of being a little anemic so I got some multivitamins that were high in iron in hopes of feeling ok enough to make it to Monday.  They didn't help as much as I hoped, in fact this morning I was 15 minutes late to bootcamp because I could NOT drag myself out of bed.  Then a few hours later I fell asleep reading.  I am on summer break and have nothing major going on this week, I should not be so tired. The people who see me every day or even just pretty regularly have been saying for over a week that maybe I just need some red meat, or maybe it's time to give up and eat regular food, but I didn't want to be a quitter and I for sure didn't want to put my comfort over seeking God. I have been very conflicted and almost too tired to think about it all. Yesterday I got several comments about how tired I look and seem.  And this morning I had bags under my eyes big enough to pack for all my summer travels.  Apparently I look as rough as I feel.  I just feel like if I am going to ask my ladies to do something I should not only do what they are doing but go the extra mile (or 15 days in this case). Is that because I want to be a good leader or because I am ultra competitive or even worse (I'm ashamed to even let this cross my mind much less let you read it) because I think I need to be better than everyone else?  I honestly can't even tell you what my motive is there but I know its at the very least laced with some of all of that.  Lets just call that motive fail 3-5.  

With all my failures and all my motives aside, I can't stop thinking about all those women around the world who do not, and never have had adequate nutrition and it breaks my heart to think of how hard it must be for them to make it through the day.  I am sure they are tired and weak and feeling sick, and yet they work hard to just survive and provide for those around them the best they can.  They may not even recognize that they don't feel well since they have likely always felt this way.  This is not ok.   This is not fair or right or something we can ignore.  If I feel so awful after 19 days with an unlimited supply of 7 very nutritious foods, I cannot imagine the state I would be in if I had to skip several meals a week or lived off only what I could grow myself or depended on rice and maybe beans as my main food source.  The truth is some one is dying of hunger related problems every 5 seconds.  Even if you are a speed reader several people have died as you read these words.  We have the money and resources and information to change this trend.  We can  sponsor a child through Compassion International, we can loan someone money to start a small business through Kiva, we can buy fair trade items and directly support the people who made those items, and we can be aware and explore other ways that we can help the hungry around the world. I can make a difference, you can make a difference.  We may only be able to make a small drop in the bucket but if we spread the word and build awareness, together we can save lives!
I can safely say I will not become a vegetarian anytime soon, but I will certainly be more aware of my desire for foods I don't need and how thankful I should be for the resources to provide adequate nutrition to myself and my family.  I will absolutely be fasting in the future because, above all, I have learned why it is an important spiritual discipline.  I pray that God will continue to teach me and stretch me and convict me and move me toward a life that is spent well loving Him and loving others like I love myself.  Now excuse me while I go find some red meat and!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Food, Fasting and Feasting on Truth

So, I am crazy (we established this in my last post so check that out if you're not so sure) and I have been eating only 7 food choices for 14 days now. That's breakfast, lunch and dinner- only a combination of eggs, apples, avocados, chicken breast, spinach, whole wheat bread (made by me) and sweet potatoes. This started out as a kind of obligatory thing since I ordered a Bible study for my ladies group without even reading it first, and I had to do what I was asking them to do. The plan was, I would simplify my food selection, better appreciate what I have afterwards and then be able to teach the lesson without feeling guilty. But it has morphed in the last two weeks. I have learned a lot about myself and my spoiled entitled tendencies.
I like food, in fact I can only think of three foods that I really, really don't like- chili (I had a very bad experience with canned turkey chili as a child, it's entirely possible that my step-mom actually fed me dog food with chili powder added, and lets just say I gave it back to her shortly there after), fruity or gummy candy (yet again I had a bad experience, but this time it was a case of car sickness not step mom sickness) and yogurt (I can choke it down, it just has a funky taste that I can get past, but there was no bad experience to blame this one on). Other than those three things I can literally eat, and enjoy, almost anything. I believe that God made food taste good and gave us taste buds so that we can enjoy it. This is one of those ways that He spoils us and gives us way more than necessary because He loves us. After the last couple weeks, I now believe that God made food for us NOT us for food. We are not intended to be driven by our desires, which includes what we want to eat. The past 14 days I have gone from super hungry and grouchy about not getting to have what I want to strangely less hungry for food and more able to feast on the truth of God. And I think I know why: this might not be a news flash to you and it honestly shouldn't be for me either but... wait for it... Jesus is really smart. No for real He is, and fasting has shown me one more way that that is true. I know I haven't been doing a true food-free fast, but I have been intentionally limiting myself and during those first few days as my stomach would start to rumble I would ask God to make me hungry for Him like my stomach thought it was hungry for food and He has honored that prayer and then one up-ed me.
I am convinced that our stomaches are very closely related to our hearts and minds. There is no quicker way to get some one's attention than to talk about food that they love. This is even obvious in babies and toddlers, they can't even think about anything else if they are hungry and they are very quick to let everyone in their world know about it. Think hangry, haha, you know you have been there, you can't even handle life until you get something in your belly. So by intentionally manipulating what my stomach is spoiled to, my whole self starts paying attention. At first this showed itself in grouchy, irrational, chocolate/coffee-craving ways, but as that wore off a clarity came over me. And no I'm not talking about a meditating with my legs crossed while making weird sounds clarity. I am talking about a clearer ability to be honest with myself and hear from God and let truths soak in. Jesus knew fasting would get our attention and loosen the world's grip on us long enough that we could better listen to Him. That is probably why He asks us to fast. In fact not only does He ask us to fast, He talks about fasting like it's something we are all doing. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full." Notice how He didn't say IF you fast, He said WHEN you fast. And when you are a little hungry and uncomfortable some how your ears work better.
For example, for a month or so, I have been reading in Luke. A few times I have read something that seemed new to me or that I felt like was very applicable to me, other than that it mostly seems like a repeat of things I have read a million times. But then insert fasting and all the sudden it seems like I am reading the same old words for the first time. One day this week I read "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?" and this hit me like a ton of bricks. I have never considered my self to be wealthy, so it never occurred to me that this verse might apply to me. I have always thought we were barely making it, and to be honest we usually are, not because we don't have the resources we need to survive but because we are consumers and we buy more than we need. Compared to the rest of the world even my lower middle class family is at the top of the food chain. If I am among the wealthy then this verse is talking to me. If God can't trust me to make the absolute most of the things He has given me here then why should I be trusted with the greater things of God? Yikes!! Of course we all want God to trust us with His great things, I know I do, so I better get the wealth of this world that I'm entrusted with under His control. I better make sure that I am not wasting what He has given me on spoiling myself and my family.  Most of what we have we don't need, we just want it and if we have the money we simply get it.  That's not at all a good use of what God has entrusted us with.
I also read about the rich young ruler in Luke 18, before this week I just felt bad for the rich little brat, I mean how could he value his riches more than he valued following Jesus? Having a slightly hungry stomach changed my ears yet again, what if Jesus asks me to sale EVERYTHING and to follow Him to the ends of the Earth with no safety net? Honestly I might go away sad too! Our stuff acts as a safety net for us and we feel like we have something to fall back on if things don't work out. And there is nothing wrong with the stuff, the question is what's more important the stuff or the God who trusts us to steward it well.  God didn't leave us here to fill up our bellies and have nice things and live in comfort.  If He wanted us to have every good thing He would have just taken us on to Heaven.  He left us here to take care of "the least of these" and to sacrifice our comfort to provide for others.  I would much rather give more than I am even capable of giving in time and love and energy and money and resources, doing without here so when I get to Heaven my legacy will be evident there.
I have 7 more days in this semi-fast and then I will be simplifying in other areas like clothes, media, spending, possessions and stress, and I really hope that I can maintain this level of clarity and closeness with God.  Otherwise I may just have to give up sugar and coffee (and everything good) all together.  Jesus is so worth that sacrifice and much
much more.  Just please remind me of that if you seem me drooling over your plate.

  

Monday, June 8, 2015

Call Me Crazy (I Know A lot of People Already Do)

I'm so sick of avocados I could puke! And if I never eat another serving of dry, bland chicken breast that is ok with me!! But I'm getting ahead of my self.... Let me explain, and you will likely think I'm crazy but that's nothing new.
For the last few months I have been reading and researching a lot about the condition of the world and how people live in different places and what we can do to help (read my blog from last week for more info about that).  Along the way I read a book by a church plant pastor's wife, who I could really relate to. They too are trying to change the paradigm and lead their church to sacrifice self for the poor and needy of the world. The book was about how God rearanged their world and thinking and is teaching them a new way (which is really the very old, original way) to do this whole Christian life. Fast forward a few weeks and it was time for me to start thinking about a summer women's bible study so, I just picked one done by my new church-planter-least-of-these-lover friend (she doesn't know we are friends yet but she will one day!), called 7. From what I read it was about simplifying life in the spirit of a fast in order to realize how much we have and that most of that we don't actually need. I ordered 20 copies of it without even reading it so I was obligated to do it now! I decided to go ahead and read the book that the bible study came from and quickly realized I might have bit off more than I could chew, and that the ladies in the study were gonna kill me (and think I am crazier than they already do)! The book is all about simplifying life and reducing it down to what we absolutely need and asking God to speak to us there in those moments of less stuff and less distractions. It sounds so much easier and normal than it is. 
The first month is simplifying food. We are so spoiled as Americans and have so many choices and flavors and options available to us 24 hours a day. So she experimented by eating only 7 foods for a month! That sounded kind of challenging but I was already committed since I ordered the books and I can't ask my ladies to do something I'm not going to do so.... For the last week I have not eaten anything except chicken breast, eggs, sweet potatoes, spinach, whole wheat bread, apples and avocados.  NOthing else, no butter, no sugar, no seasoning other than salt and pepper, no chocolate and NO COFFEE!!!!
A few things have happened in the last week that surprised me. 1. I have realized how much I rely on food to change how I feel. If I'm stressed or unhappy I instanly want something sweet. If I'm sleepy I go for some coffee.  If we are celebrating any thing there is food involved and it's usually the focus.  This means I am using food for things I seriously doubt God intended it for.  I should not need Jesus AND coffee to start my day.  Jesus should be enough. Period. 2. I learned that a lot of the times I eat because something looks good, smells good or I know it tastes good, not because I am necessarily hungry. Now that I've eaten the same thing on repeat for days I'm far less interested in food.  I'm only eaten to get enough calories to survive and even that is a struggle.  Most people don't have the variety and volume of food available to them, so they are eating what's accessible to them so they can stay alive.  I am so spoiled that I take all I have for granted.  Which is true of the things of God too, I have known the love and forgiveness of God for many years.  After a while the stories are on repeat and the sermons all sounds similar (no offense to my preaching husband, that's my bad not his).  The things of God don't always look appealing and tasty, but they are honestly the only thing in this life that's worth anything.  Everything else is going to pass away, God's things are eternal and worth feasting on.  3.  Variety is desired.  This is probably the most eye opening.  If I get bored eating the same food and have to MAKE myself eat it, then I can reasonably apply this to my spiritual life as well. If I am simply going through the motions and doing the same thing every day, as far as reading and praying, etc, then it makes sense that I would be bored with that and not necessary craving it, but just doing it because I need to.  I need some variety in my routine with Jesus.  I need to change things up and learn and connect with him in different ways.  God is huge and creative, I should not be confining him to 40 minutes of reading and praying in the mornings and nothing else.  So I'm praying for some ideas.
I wish I could say I don't crave coffee and sugar and fat and honestly anything other than these 7 foods, but I  can't.  I wish I could tell you that I am so in tune with Jesus that even this cheating version of a fast has been a breeze, well I'd be lying because this is hard and it sucks and I am crazy, but I would do a lot of even crazier things if that meant I could connect with the creator in life
changing ways and become more of who he intends me to be.  He is so worth simplifying and sacrificing and rearranging everything for. So if I need to eat only 7 foods for the rest of my life if that is what it takes to deny myself, give to others and most importantly obey God in real ways even if that's counter cultural!! So call me crazy or crazier than you even thought before! "He must become greater, I must become less." John 3:30. Maybe we all need to find ways to be a little crazy for the cause of Jesus.   

Thursday, June 4, 2015

It Should Make Us Sick

In Greek the word compassion is splagchnizomai which means to be moved in the inward parts, or in today's language, it makes us sick.  This is the same word used in Matthew 9:36, "When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." The state of the people Jesus encountered made him sick.  But he didn't stop with a stomach ache, it made him so sick that he was moved to do something about it.  


Over the last couple of months I have been talking to my church on Sunday's mornings during what we have named the Mission Moment.  Early this year I was praying one morning and thinking about the little girl we sponsor through Compassion International and I'm not even sure how my mental train proceeded from there but I starting thinking about unreached people groups (whole tribes, ethnicities, villages, etc that have never even had the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus), poverty, orphans, and human trafficking victims.  And I really felt like God was telling me to "tell the people". So I mentioned it to Tommy and he said that he was actually hoping we would have something like that soon and was planning on asking me about it.  That was all the confirmation I needed.  So I have spent the last few months "telling the people" and in the process I have learned a ton about the condition of the world outside of my safe, stable little bubble. More than I wanted to know about things that I do NOT want to even have to think about. I don't like to think about millios of moms watching their kids go to bed hungry while we are throwing food away. Or about the crazy number of orphans in the world. Or about the millions of people who are born and then die and go to hell, having never been told about Jesus' love for them.  Or about little kids  as young as three who are being forced to work to supply rich consumers in America with makeup. Or about little girls the age of my girls being sold as sex slaves for $90 or less and then raped, sometimes many times a day, until they die alone. 
Honestly it's all just too much for me to handle. In fact I'm hiding in my room sobbing as I type this.  It's 2015 for goodness sakes, the these just shouldn't be true.  There are more slaves in the world today then ever before in history, an estimated 27 million.  There are 600 million kids living in extreme poverty-  on less than $1.25 a day.  There are almost 4,000 entire groups of people in the world who have no access to the Bible or to the knowledge of what Jesus did for them, that's over 3 billion people living with out hope.  Those numbers are staggering and heart breaking. It all literally makes me sick at my stomach, but maybe that's a good thing.  Maybe God intentionally made compassion to have a physical side effect so that we wouldn't be able to ignore it, or be too busy, or stick our heads in the sand.  Maybe once we know something terrible is happening God gives us that sick feeling so we, like Jesus was, will be moved with compassion to the point of action.  
When God asked me to "tell the people" I'm sure it was intended to be as much for me as it was for them. And I'm sure He knew it would make me sick.  And that I would shake "my fist at Heaven, and say, 'God, why don’t You do something?'"   Just like the Matthew West song says.  God's reply is likely just as the song states too, "He said, 'I did, I created you'".  God never meant for us to focus on ourselves or what's good and easy for us.  He planned for us to sacrifice self to show his love and forgiveness and hope to others.  He set the example by dying to redeem us and tells us "greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:13). Laying down your entire life for some one sounds pretty drastic, but it makes it very clear that it shouldn't be about our needs and comforts but we should be living and giving and serving and laying ourselves down for the good of others.  This is hard stuff, this requires that we make some changes, changes in how we spend our money and time, changes in how we set goals, changes in how we view people and the conditions they live in, changes in just about every area.  He made us to do something. We are each different  by design and gifted in doing different things but the end goal remains the same, to love God and love people, no matter what.  That includes mean people, scary people, people who disagree with us, people who look and live  differently the we do, everyone.  Period. Matthews 22:39 say we are to "love our neighbor as ourselves". If something is good enough for me then it's good enough for everyone and I should be willing to do whatever I can to make sure they are taken care of.  
Please take some time and make yourself aware of the tragic conditions in the world and consider if YOU were the one starving, enslaved, homeless, hopeless, or headed for hell, would you understand why people are living in luxury watching you die outside their window? If it makes you sick to know how hard things are for so many people, praise God! He is using compassion to move you to action! We certainly can't change the entire world alone, but we can do so much if we join forces and take and stand, we can also make a world of difference by investing in the people right around us.  Find ways to help and serve and rearrange so that at the end of your life you will know you used everything you had to make the world a less tragic place to live. 





Monday, May 25, 2015

We Have Been Invaded

I haven't written anything in a few weeks, which I hate since I have really enjoyed reviving this blog.  But I think once you read what has invaded us you will cut me some slack (as I am trying to learn to cut myself some slack).

At the "family" birthday party for the boys
First we need to go back a few months.  In late fall a little family with three boys moved in across the street from us, they quickly flocked to our soccer goal and trampoline and spent lots of time in our yard.  I was instantly thankful for them since my 12 and 13 year old girls had recently declared themselves too old to play with their 9 year old sister and she had been wearing everyone out with boredom. Our yard was invaded by boys! Not long after, the boys would hang around long enough for supper time and if you know anything about my house, I feel like there is always room for one more plate at the table ( I learned this cherished life lesson from my hospitable grandmother who I, one day, hope to share stories with, about how much her legacy is being lived on with my family and undoubtably my girls' future families as well).  Soon the boys were eating supper with us most nights and spending every waking hour of the weekend with us, including hitching a ride to church on Sundays and Wednesdays.  Our free time was invaded by boys!  I quickly grew to love them and felt tender toward them.  I am kind of an "adopter" so including random people in our life and family is very natural for me, and said people become not so random and more like family very quickly.  

Fast forward a few months and there is a bad situation that happens and at no fault of their own, the boys and there mom find themselves needing a place to live without the resources to make that happen as quickly as it needed to.  At this point I have never met their mom, only waved at her as I drove by, or said hello when I took the 3 year old home for a dry pull-up, but I could not stand the thought of the boys moving away, especially with only 5 weeks left in the school year.  That would just be so hard on them, so we scrounged around to try to find a quick place for them to stay.  We tried every resource we could think of and came up empty handed.  At that point my husband and I kinda looked at each other and he said "Well they could stay with us"  to which I half excitedly, half hesitantly asked if he was serious.  He was, so the very next day we consolidated the girls into 1 room, cleaned out the third bedroom, found beds and almost double the size of our family. Our residence was invaded by boys! The church that we pastor was great and all pitched in to make sure we all had what we needed and as always we really had an excess.

Now as I said before, I have three daughters ages 13, 12 and 9, so they are fairly independent and we have a pretty good routine in place.  For example, I make a menu every month along with a list and on payday Tommy goes grocery shopping.  Then we have what we need and we have a plan so meal time can happen somewhat easily and normally around 5:30 or 6:00.  I never realized how much I thrived in the comforts of planning like that until it was disturbed by a whole other family who has their own way of doing things.  I also didn't think that sharing a bathroom with Tommy and all of the girls would be a big deal but seriously, why didn't I teach them to put the lid back on the toothpaste and rinse the sink after they brush their teeth.  Needless to say it has been difficult.  Difficult for me as my routines and plans have been mixed up or even completely thrown out the window in some ares.  Difficult for Tommy because he is one of those people (which I don't understand at all) who needs alone time and that is almost impossible when 6 kids and 3 adults are living in a 3 bedroom house. Difficult for the girls because well they are rotten and used to having their space and stuff and both of those things are not where they once were.  Pretty much every corner of our easy, breezy life had been invaded by boys. But as we all have to do when things change, we adapted and although there are the occasional annoyances like when the washer is in use and some one else needs it or when some one looks for leftovers and they are already devoured, but over all it has been better than expected.

Let me be clear this has not been easy, there have been several tense, awkward moments. Meshing two separate families who honestly barely know each other is bound to be difficult.  And let me be even more clear, more than once I have wanted to throw a fit and be selfish and wish I had my old, smooth household back (but if we are being honest there are always so many people in and out around here I'm not sure why it even bothers me now haha but it still does).  

But something truly amazing has happened in the last few weeks, I have seen the people of God come together in ways that amaze me to tears, in order to take care of people who they don't even know.  We have had food and paper goods show up here.  A man from our church fixed their car for free so the mom was able to find a job in Tyler.  A few ladies who stay home with their kids have volunteered to watch the littlest brother while the rest of us are at school or work. They have worked and loved and shared and welcomed them with open arms. Just this weekend the two older boys had a birthday party and so many of the church families came out to celebrate with them!  This is what the Bible means when it says, " Love your neighbor as yourself."  Loving people is very rarely convenient.  Loving people costs us.  Loving people will likely hurt.  Loving people is complicated and messy and hard and crazy!  But if I found myself in a situation and needed a place to sleep, I would pray that some one would help me.  If my kids were hungry I would want some one to feed them.  If I was all alone I would want to be "adopted".  I know how to love myself well, most all of us do.  We should then be able to translate that to doing the same thing for others. Just because we should though doesn't mean that's always what we want to do.  But please take my word for it, loving others in ways that they may never be able to repay you is so very worth it!! God sent some boys to invade us so we can shine His light and love on them and hopefully this opportunity will change eternity for them and ripple out from there. And even better yet is that God sent some boys to invade us to teach us how to better love and serve others.  God adopts us into His family with open arms and showers us with so many things we do not deserve and the most logical thing to do to pay Him back is actually to pay it forward to some one else who needs loving and adopting.  The truth is no matter how much it costs us in comfort or convenience or even money it will never cost any where remotely close to how much we cost Jesus.

You might not have a neighbor that needs to move into you house but you do have people all around you who need you to love them even if its hard.  Its very possible that some of the things you have established for yourself need to be invaded and with the invasion will come lessons and blessings that you never dreamed possible. 


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Flower Bouquets and Wads of Weeds

     Since I have the privilege of teaching very young children I am in fact working with some of the most generous gift givers anywhere! I am given some very interesting gifts on a regular basis.  A package of gummies will land on my desk, or a stuffed animal or a granola bar, really anything that children like, they assume I like and want to share it with me.  Occasionally moms will intervene and slightly more grown up things like chocolate and coffee will arrive (talk about a teacher's dream haha)! But the most common gifts I receive are things that the babies find and bring to me: rocks, grass, bugs and lots and lots of flowers.
     One day last week while we were playing outside I received a few of these beautiful gifts from a couple of my sweet kiddos.  One little girl brought me a beautifully arranged little bouquet of clover flowers.  These are in high supply on our playground so I am given these several times a day, but she had them all in line with the blooms all facing up and I could tell she had worked on it for a few minutes.  She was showing me love by handing me such a finely crafted collection of flowers. Not two minutes later a tiny guy was on her heals with his own gift for me.  He was so proud of himself as he handed me a big wad of weeds.  He had clearly ripped up several hand fulls of actual clover plants and other various weeds,  some roots and all and crammed as much together as possible and rushed it over to me. He too was showing me love with his prize that he had worked hard to collect for me. This got me to thinking, did she love me more than he did? And the obvious answer is no, but based on the gift alone it would seem that way. Her gift was much more lovely and I could easily put it in a small vase and enjoy it for a few days. His gift on the other hand was just a mess with chunks of soil still attached and it didn't need to even be brought indoors. I believe that although the gifts were very different and barely comparable they both came from a heart of love and appreciation, even of neither of their little mouths could adequately express that! And when I looked at each of those gifts I easily recognized their intentions and thanked them both for their thoughtfulness. They were both doing the best they knew how with what they had available. Since I treasure children, I could never look into their little faces and deny a gift they were giving me (even if it was a June bug haha) because that would seem like I didn't appreciate their gestures of love and that could crush them! If I told my little friend I didn't want his wad of weeds he would never want to try to express himself like that again and what a tragedy that would be. His future wife may not want a wad of weeds several years from now, but she will appreciate him trying to express his love for her and that starts now. Next time, each of them might improve their gift giving skills a little. The little girl may add some dandelions for color and the little guy may shake some of the dirt off the roots before handing it to me. They are learning and growing and understanding more things about the world and people and how to show love to others.  I know that it is very early on in the process and I am happy to be the recipient of their young attempts.
     I don't think grown ups are much different than my 3 and 4 year olds. Except for the element of shame. We want to love God and others well but we know what a mess we are and how little we have to work with so we shy away and count ourselves unworthy. Or we compare ourselves to others and know that we can't measure up to the "super Christian" that sits a few pews in front of us, so our gifts to God look like a wad of weeds in our own eyes. (Let me just tell you that no one is really that super of a Christian and if they pretend like they are then they have a pride issue so they need to take it down a few notches anyway!) I think a lot of times our lives are messy and hectic at best and they just seems inadequate so we just go through the motions instead of offering everything we have, mess and all, up to God for Him to use as He sees fit. We don't have hours a day to study and pray. We don't have a huge bank account to bless the poor with all the time. We don't have all the right words to say and we haven't even been to a bible class much less seminary. We don't have our lives together so how could we ever help some one else get theirs straightened out? We don't always make it to church on time (yes I know the pastor's wife really sure figure out how to get there before it starts but... the struggle is real even for me) or to church at all. We don't have the gift of preaching or we aren't called to Africa or we are just a mom or just a kid or just an anything that we don't think is enough. We don't know how to put any of that together in a way that seems helpful for anyway much less something that's good enough for God. So we just throw our weeds down and give up. Or worse we pretend like we are living for God even if our heart isn't in it. But listen sweet friend, God doesn't look at your attempts to love Him and love others and see the tangles mess of weeds and roots and dirt that you see, He sees your heart and your intentions and He likes what He sees. He understands that life down here is hard and messy and hectic and that there are so many things pulling at us, and He is not looking for us to be prefect He is just hoping we will try. He doesn't take what we give Him in one hand and compare it to what Mother Teresa gave Him in the other and compare them, finding us to be so much less.  He looks at you with tender, understanding eyes and He appreciates your attempts.  He knows you and where you're coming from, He knows your story and your struggles and He really just wants you however that looks. Just like I would never shame my little friend for bringing  me a wad of weeds He will never shame you for your less than perfect gift. At least your trying. And to Him it looks like a beautiful bouquet of love! So please cut yourself some slack and relax! Of course we should be working with all of our hearts to know Jesus better and to find all the ways we are capable of living for Him. Of course we should be willing to sacrifice our desires for His. But never ever shy away from loving others and serving Him because you feel like a mess! God has a beautiful way of changing what we see as a disaster into something magnificent!  He sees your clover bouquets and even your handfuls of tangled weeds and to Him its a beautiful gift of love that He treasures simply because He treasures you. And He knows that you are a work in progress and that its all a process.  Next time you try to serve and love you will have more experience and what you're capable of giving will grow and expand too. He loves you and is happy to be the recipient  of your attempts to love no matter how basic it might be at first.  So breath easy and just go for it and see what God can do with your tangled wad of weeds!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

One Legged Birds And Us

     Before the half marathon my sister in law and I were standing there being nervous, waiting near the starting line, when she asked me to pray for us, so I did. But I couldn't ask God for a fast time or even to help us run the whole way, that just seemed too trivial and selfish to ask, so instead I asked Him to teach us something and to be glorified through us. So when the miles got long and I was getting tired I tried to just think on that and continue to ask God to show me something along the way.  Two ish miles from the finish line, I was all alone with no other runners anywhere near me, running along the river bank, when I saw a few little birds near the path.  They were hopping along doing what birds do when I noticed that one of the birds was a little crooked.  She was missing a leg.  She had one good leg and a little nub on the other side.  My first thought was "How sad.... Poor little bird something tragic must  have happen to her! And she obviously has such a hard time keeping up with her friends."  She couldn't hop as fast as the other birds and it just struck me as such a misfortune for her.
     Then I felt God press on my heart a little.... We are like that little bird.  We all have things in our past that have hurt us and scarred us and that threaten to disable us a little (or A LOT).  We have trust issues or low self esteem or confused ideas about how love looks or big mistakes that we have made (and sometimes are continuing to make).  We have hurts caused by those who should have loved us best or a chip on our shoulder because they didn't believe in us or any number of other deep wounds that have changed us in not good ways. Doubts get the best of us and we are scared to try hard things because we don't know if we are strong enough.  We really just don't know if we are enough in any area.  We are all limping along in one way or another.  We may hate to admit it but life is hard and people aren't always nice and we have all felt the effects of that.  Most of us still feel the effects of that.  We are limping through life with just one good leg.  We may even feel like we can't keep up with all the things life requires of us. And what's worse, we probably secretly compare ourselves to everyone else around us and feel like we can't measure up! But that's not the whole story for that little damaged bird and it's not the whole story for us either.
      As I approached the birds they saw me coming and did what birds do.... they flew away. All of them.  Even the little legless girl, she took off just as fast and high as the rest of her friends.  That nub of a leg had no effect on her flying skills.  And I instantly thought "Oo my goodness, I'm so glad that she is a bird, it's a very good thing she has wings!"  Her legs were not as important to her as I had first thought when I noticed her.  She was still more than able to do what she was made to do.  She took off and I quickly could not even tell which one was the hurt bird, she looked perfect in the sky where she belonged, no different than any of the others.
      Then God pressed in on my heart a little harder..... We are like that little bird.  We all have scars and wounds and things that may never heal just right BUT we, just like that little bird, are meant to fly, not hop along on the ground.  Those things that have happened to us or that we chose in our yesterdays do not have to define us, because as God's children we are able to rise above the past and be who we are made to be.  This is a broken and messed up world we live in and there is no avoiding heart ache, pain, scars, confusion or mistreatment.  Apart from God we would be forced to hop around trying to survive in our broken state.  But praise God, sweet friend, that is not the case!! God not only wants to heal us, He wants to redeem us! Psalms 103:2-5 says, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."  We are meant to fly and God wants to be our wings.  And once we are flying with Him those broken things about us won't be so obvious and heavy anymore.  We will be able to accomplish what we were made to do even with all the junk the world throws at us.  We may never be without scars but we can fulfill our callings well.
      So please, please don't hop around on the ground, limping from all the pain and scars of your past anymore! Surrender to the one who made you and let Him teach you how to fly!  Life will still be hard and people will still fall short of nice on a regular basis and you are sure to suffer more pain and scars along the way, but through the strength of your Creator you can handle it.  You were made to fly after all!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Crossing the Finish Line

    So I ran my first half marathon!!  I never really realized how far 13 miles was until I tried to run the entire way.  13 miles sounded kinda far but it is actually VERY far haha!!  Anyway, I wanted to share something that I learned from crossing the finish line after running all that way.  That one step that I took from one side of the finish line to the other was not all that fulfilling.  I mean don't get me wrong I was EXTREMELY glad to be finished and I was happy with all the congratulating comments I got afterward but that one step was not the most important step.  The 20,000+ steps that brought me there that morning were much more meaningful and honestly more hard fought.     
   Saturday morning we woke up at 5:15 to get dressed and eat breakfast (I learned from experience that this is an absolute must on long run days- see my blog post "Running on Fumes").  It was already raining and had been for days, but since there was no lightening the race officials determined that the race would still take place.  We headed to Baylor where the race would start, about an hour before go time, while it was still pitch black dark outside.  I was getting very nervous by this time and so hoping that I would not embarrass myself.  I just really, really wanted to finish, better yet to finish by running the entire way.  We got out to where the race would start and there were sooooo many people! Thousands of them warming up, trying to stay dry, stretching and waiting around.  Some of them looked very fit and had all the professional running gear on, some did not, some were very young and some were pretty old.  But we were all there for the same reason, to torture ourselves haha.  As we lined up to start, there were so many people and we were so far back in the herd that I couldn't even see the starting line.  Then when the gun went off we had to take our first few steps at a walk as we waited on those in front of us to move toward where the race actually started.  Within a couple minutes we were running and taking our first of many steps that day.  The beginning was easy, the ground was flat and there were lots of people cheering and encouraging us.  Those steps were not hard and the first few miles passed quickly.  Then things got harder because the road went into a huge park that had many hills up and down. Quickly my steps became very labored, I wasn't just running anymore I was climbing up some pretty steep roads, but I was determined to keep running even if my running was the pace of a turtle and I felt like I was crawling.  This went on for several miles, maybe 6, but I'm not even sure really.  Going up the hills was killer on my legs but the steps going down the hills started to be killer on my feet as they were slapping down on the asphalt while I tried to use gravity but not literally roll all the way to the bottom.  There were many places in this stretch where there were no spectators, no encouragers, no cheering, just me quietly taking steps toward the finish line that didn't seem to be getting me any closer.  Those steps were hard fought, I could have easily quit.  I could have quit and no one would have even known.  Eventually the path slowly lead out of the park and back into the neighborhoods which was much more level again, but my steps did not seem to get any easier.  As I passed the 10 mile marker every step I took was the farthest I have ever run in my entire life.  For me those last 3 miles were the hardest mentally.  I wasn't sure I could do it.  I was tired and everything hurt.  There were no friendly faces telling me I could do this and finish well.  I was debating in my head as to why I had even agreed with this to start with and why it would matter if I didn't finish.  Those were very hard steps.  They were hard fought and each one was a battle.  Then I came around a little curve in the sidewalk and I could see the bridge over to the finish line.  I felt my pace pick up a little and I told myself that if I had come that far surely I could finish this last half mile.  And I did.  I wasn't pretty or fast or glamorous, but I finished and I had to fight back tears as I crossed the finish line.  Had the course been easy and the distance short that last step would not have meant near as much to me. I was moved to emotion because I knew how long and hard the race had been for me and no one could know that but me. Many, many of the steps I took that morning were difficult and my body is definitely still feeling the toll those steps took on me.  Not to mention all the countless steps that I took working up to race day.  
   A few months ago my sister in law asked me if I wanted to do a half marathon with her and since I am not that smart and I really do love a challenge I quickly told her I would.  I was a runner in high school and had recently started running again, with in the last year.  I enjoy the quiet of a run, the time to clear my mind and release some stress while enjoying the endorphins that sweating like that provides.  By the time I was challenged to do a half marathon I had ran a couple of 5k races and enjoyed doing them, so I didn't think twice about running a longer race.  I did not stop to consider just how much longer it would be, the jump from 3 miles to 13 is HUGE!!  So I downloaded a half marathon training app, got an armband for my phone and bought some new running shoes and hit the track.  This new phase of running started in November and each week I slowly increased the length of my runs on the weekends while trying to run at least a couple of times during the week.  I am very competitive so I tried very hard to push myself to get faster and to go further.  There were many steps in there that I honestly did not want to take, I wanted to stay home and be lazy, especially after school days, but I was always glad I went after I finished running for the day.  Then in mid December I got sick and very busy and skipped a few weeks of training.  That slowed me down and made the following weeks harder. Then I strained something in my foot and had to rest that for a few days.  The steps after that hurt and if my half marathon spot hadn't already been paid for I would have quite possibly quit at that point, but I kept going because I knew I had to.  Then the new year brought so many cold, wet days that some weeks did not allow for me to take very many steps at all.  I was frustrated and worried since I wanted to finish the race and knew I would have to train hard to get there.  Then just a month before my race I tried to run the longest distance of my life and it was a disaster and proved to be some impossible steps for me that day (once again read my "Running on Fumes" post).  I was able to get one double digit run in before race day but that was still 3 miles worth of steps short of the half marathon.  All of those miles together equalled 100,000 steps easy, steps on good days and bad days.  Steps on warm days and cold days.  Hard steps and easy steps.  The process of training to get to the finish line was where the real work happened and its the only thing that made that last step meaningful at all.  As I crossed that line, looking rough and tired and hurting all over,  I was fighting tears because I knew how far I had really come and I how hard all those steps prior to that had been.  The process strengthened me and built my confidence and taught me that I was stronger than I thought I ever could be.  Without that long process that last step would not have meant anything.  
    I am convinced that this is true for life too.  The majority of life is the process. We have a few finish line days, like graduation, new jobs, promotions, or any day that we seem to have accomplished a major feat.  But the only thing that makes those moments meaningful is knowing the process it took to get there.  The harder the road was leading to that big day the more of an accomplishment getting there will be.  This goes even further into our spiritual lives.  Those big "God days" when we feel like God is extra close or we really see Him move, those are the finish line kind of days.  Those are just one step among many steps and the process is really so important in getting there.  The spiritual process can often feel like a marathon.  Its very very long, it has highs and lows, sometimes there are encouragers and sometimes you feel all alone.  Sometimes you wanna give up and honestly wonder if it would matter if you did. But please hear me sweet friend, what you do day by day when you seem to just be trudging along matters.  Even if no one knows what you're doing it matters.  Even if you really don't feel like you are accomplishing much it matters.  Those are the steps in the process that make those big God days even possible.  None of us will ever be able to cross the finish line if we don't start out by stepping in that direction.   Hang in there, please!! 
    One more thing I learned: Crossing the finish line on my first half marathon was really just part of the process for me anyway.  It made me want to work harder and try again and finish faster.  Even that last step is just a middle step in reality.  The people around you need you to keep getting in the Word and praying and seeking.  They need you to keep loving and giving and serving.  They need you to keep moving forward and letting God change you from the inside out.  And the truth is we will never really cross the finish line this side of Heaven, so just embrace the process that is slowly shaping you into who God intends you to be and keep putting one foot in front of the other toward knowing God better and loving others with everything He gives you!!  By all means enjoy those days when you get to cross the finish line and let them propel you forward to do even more than you ever thought you were capable of.   But just try to cherish the training days, the long hard days that seem endless and pointless, because that is where the real work on your soul is done! Keep running!   
     
   

Monday, March 9, 2015

I. Want. More.

    This is not what you think....this is a personal post about what God has been chiseling away at in me for the last year or so.... I think it  actually started years ago, maybe even when I felt my call to ministry but I was so young in my faith then and had so little experience with anything that I didn't even know what I was getting myself into (good thing I didn't or I would have tucked tail and ran the other way) much less what all that stirring of the Spirit to "something more" even meant.  So lets start there.
   When I was about 16ish I "accepted Jesus" or more appropriately described- Jesus confronted me in my desperate need for Him and I grabbed hold for dear life.  After that, I would read large chunks of the Bible (most of which I had no idea what meant) because I have always been starving for information and knowledge.  Good thing I am not a cat or my curiosity would have used up all nine of my lives before I even reached adulthood.  Anyway, I wanted to know everything and I had so many questions but alarmingly few people to answer them, and the people who seemed like they should have the answers were confusingly not like the words I was reading in the Bible.  This was perplexing to me to say the least.  It seemed like some one, anyone, should know more or do more or I don't know... just more.  Fast forward a couple years and by a strange sequence of events I found myself at a small Baptist University. I loved learning about the Bible from people who seemed like Christian giants to me and I was so encouraged to know that there were so many people there who were willing to follow God with their lives.  It was during this time that I was home one Sunday morning at my church,  and during the invitation at the end the preacher said the standard "If you wants to accept Jesus come forward now" spill that I had already heard enough times to memorize.  Then he went on to say that if anyone felt like God was calling them to any type of ministry that he would love to talk to them too.  That's when my feet took over and marched me right down that isle.  I literally did not even know what I was doing, but it didn't take long for me to be face to face with the preacher.  He is the same pastor who baptized me so he knew I had checked-off that box and was wondering why I was there to talk to him (I was wondering the same thing).  Then my mouth took the baton from my feet and raced forward.  I told him that I felt like God was asking me to do more with my life (this was the start of something because in the back of my mind I knew God MUST be calling all His followers to more because the Christianity and church that I had witnessed were alarmingly weak and self centered compared to God's word).  The pastor then asked me his scripted questions, "Is God calling you to missions? Or children's ministry?  Or to be a pastor's wife?  (please do not EVEN get me started on how much I have always hated the degree to which being a girl defines my capabilities in most people's eyes!!) All I could give him in way of an answer was, "I don't know."  He questioned me some more but quickly realized I had no clue what God was calling me to apart from "more".  This was the last time he asked me anything about said calling and he probably dismissed the whole thing since I did not have the answers to his questions that morning.  For me however, not having answers was not a stumbling block but a starting block.  (Remember that unquenchable curiosity I mentioned?) I soaked up everything I could get my hands on at school and quickly found myself in a place of ministry, with my soon-to-be husband, that I was in no way equipped for, but for some odd reason being ill-equipped did not scare me, I trusted God with my baby faith and knew that He was big enough to work in spite of me.  For the next several years, I struggled through growing and teaching and figuring out how to be a Christ follower and wife and mom and youth minister's wife, all the while moving in and out of so many broken and heart breaking churches. Long story short church has been hard on me from the start and apart from God's leading being so unshakable I would have given up on the whole thing a long time ago.  I just knew there was a need for "more'!
   Needless to say I do NOT fit the mold for a minister's wife (can I get an amen?) and since I never had a woman disciple me, I have always felt like I was a pioneer.  I am making this up as I go and trying my best to be faithful and godly in how I act and live.  There have been long stretches when I did not ever spend time with God.  I just couldn't figure it out and it seemed like no one could explain it to me, so  I learned everything by trial and error and error and more errors. I doubted a lot, and I mean a LOT!! I doubted my calling, I doubted my abilities, I doubted if I could even hear and obey God and I even doubted my salvation (on a a regular basis)!! Somehow through everything there was always in the back of my head, a longing for more, more for me and more for the people I am ministering to. I think I occasionally tapped into the more, goodness knows I tried, but even among Christians I felt like we were swimming up stream, going against mostly everything.
    So that brings us to the last year or so.  Since we are in the process of planting a new church we have had the freedom to evaluate why we do what we do as a church (and hopefully as individuals) and sift things out if they don't match up with the Bible.  This has been a wonderful, difficult, eye opening, exhausting process.  In the midst of that God is chiseling away at me and opening my eyes to long held beliefs that I really thought were biblical.  For example, "If we are obeying God, He will bless us." Right?  Or, "Things will work out and fall into place if they are meant to be." Makes sense huh?  How about, "God loves us and wants us to be healthy and comfortable and well taken care of"? It sounds true doesn't it?  We so badly want those things to be true, but what does the Bible say?  Well it says things like "The first will be last." and "those who do not give up EVERYTHING can not be my disciple" and "everyone will hate you because of me."  Not statements that make you feel all warm and fuzzy are they?  Maybe the things I hoped were true about Christianity were really just human additions meant to make us feel better about life.  Maybe it is not as warm and fuzzy and easy as I hoped.  This is when the Disney Channel started to really not sit well with me.  The kids on those shows all have the nicest things, usually aren't satisfied with what they have and are not super honest in what they do to get more things.  Is this a mind set I want my kids growing up with? Honestly balancing how much my kids want (or I want for them) with what they actually NEED is a struggle for me anyway.  When I realized I am supposed to be self sacrificing and counter-cultural for real, a lot of things started to not sit well with me.  (Please know this is all my personal conviction and I am not trying to come down on anyone.) Can I justify spending $60 plus a month on cable when that could provide food, basic needs and education for two children who are trapped in poverty?  Does my junior higher need a fancy phone when I could use that money for something else more helpful to others?  Do I really need a new car or can I keep driving this old one until it falls apart?  So many new questions started to arise in me and lots of those questions still remain.  What also remains is the question of how much am I willing to change when I get the answers to some of these questions?  Am I more in love with the American Dream Westernized Christianity or the real Jesus who didn't even a bed to sleep in?  Do I love my comfort or people? Do I love my image or am I willing to associate with people who might change how people see me?  How serious am I about being "a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God"?  And the honest answer is I am not even sure what the answer is to that yet, but I do know this is where the "more" is! In simplifying and sacrificing I find life so much more satisfying. Everything that Jesus teaches seems backwards and upside down, but I have to trust that He knows what He is doing in all things.  If my girls do not have the nicest things then I am doing them a favor.  If neighborhood kids eat us out of house and home, we are blessed.  If I have the opportunity to speak truth to anyone around me, what a privilege, even if I get dirty in the process.  Eureka!! The "more" has always been right outside my door!!
    So if we have to be a little odd, do things differently, and take some persecution (even from well meaning church folk) in the process then so be it! I am ready to really dig into what God is honestly asking of me and pushing me toward even if it costs me!  I do not want more things, more trash, more status, more power, more of anything but Jesus.  I am scared to death, but I have never been more hungry for the "more" I have always sensed was out there.    

Thursday, March 5, 2015

If It Were a Snake

     When I was a little girl I was notorious for misplacing my shoes.  It would be time to go somewhere and we would be all ready, except I was still barefoot.  I loved being barefoot so I am sure my mom thought I "lost" my shoes on purpose, but I honestly did not know where they were. She would ask me to go find them and I would search everywhere to no avail.  So I would report back to her that my shoes were in fact lost.  She would ask me if I looked in my room, outside, in the bathroom and living room, all the logical places for a little girl to strip them off.  I would assure her that I searched all those places and there were no shoes.  At this point I am sure she was getting impatient with me, especially since this was an almost daily problem. We really needed to leave by now, so she would come and help me look.  We would go over the same places I had already been and re-look.  The shoes would normally turn up very fast in a logical and obvious place.  My mom would then be a little exasperated with me and amazed that I had not found them myself and would say "lucky for you, your shoes are not a snake or else they would have bitten you." I am sure this confused her to no end since, not to brag, but I was a smart kid, I made great grades, I was in gifted and talented classes and I was constantly asking questions to satisfy my overly curious mind.  Yet I could not find my shoes in plain sight.  Then one day my mom watched me as I looked for my shoes and realized I was looking up and not down, like I thought my shoes were magically on the ceiling.  Well no wonder I could not find them, there is no way that they would be there.  I was literally stepping over my shoes in an effort to find said shoes.  After that every time I was sent to look for shoes I was sent with a reminder, "look all around the house, and make sure you are not looking on the ceiling." Needless to say I was a lot faster at finding my shoes from then on, because I was looking in the right places AND in the right direction.  I have grown up (some) now and can usually find my shoes and everyone else's around here because I am the mom and that is a skill that moms need, but those words "if it were a snake it would have bitten you" come back to me often. I even say that to my own kids (and husband) on a regular basis. 
     I think those words ring true for a lot of us in our spiritual lives.  "If God were a snake He would have already bitten you." Many of us, actually I would say MOST of us want to know God and follow Him but there seems to be a disconnect that we just can't figure out. We go to church (some) we read books and maybe do Bible studies (when we have time), we try and have a "quiet time" (I hate that term by the way but that's for another day), we do all these "Christiany" things yet we often times still feel alone and like we just can't find him.  So many times this leads to frustration and doubts and then just giving up on God all together because He seems to allusive to us.  So here's the deal,  I think maybe we are looking in the right places but in the wrong direction. In Jeremiah 29 we have all heard the famous and much quoted verse about God knowing the plans for us and wanting good for us and we LOVE that!! And we should love that, it is very comforting and reassuring to know that our Creator has a good plan for us has not left us on our own and even more comforting to hear that He wants to share these plans with us and help us to be who He made us to be.  But if you keep reading there is more to it, verse 13 it states "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Did you hear that?  ALL YOUR HEART!! He didn't say you will seek me and find me when you make good choices or when you busy yourself with church things, or when you read every how-to Christian book out there.  He says that we will find Him when we seek him with all our hearts.  He just wants us, all of us, and He wants us to love Him and trust Him with everything that is precious to us.  That doesn't mean that we should stop going to church or never have a quiet time, it simply means that we need to be doing those things while looking in the right direction.  If we are doing those things as an attempt to impress God or as a check list to holiness then that's looking the wrong direction.  If we are doing those things as a way to look better for other people that's looking in the wrong direction. We are stepping over God in attempt to find Him.  He doesn't want us to be busy and overstretched and drowning in all the things we think we have to do.  He just wants us, all of us, our whole hearts.  That is how we will connect with God and in turn know His good (please keep in mind that our ideas of good are not always the same as God's) plans for us. Stop and breath, you are precious to God and He wants you.  He hates to see you striving so hard at things that are empty without Him. Breath and relax and remember.  We did nothing to earn His love and favor and we don't have to work in order to remain in His love and favor.  Grace and mercy are a beautiful and very freely given gift from God.  Please know that He is for you and He is the safest best place to rest.  He just wants us to look to Him and trust Him with all we have.  
     Please don't keep stepping over God with all the things that you think He wants from you.  He loves you and just wants you heart.  Don't let your busy Christian life rob you of a real actual relationship with the God who loves you!