Saturday, December 13, 2014

Overwhelmed

On May 16th of this year, Larry's dad became very ill.  For ten days, we watched him slowly ease toward the grave.  It was nearly unbearable watching Larry and Samuel grieve.  The girls and I were of course sad, too, but my favorite two guys in the world took it very hard.  In the days following Jim's death, Samuel had a tough time, but eventually his grief quit looking so heart-wrenching and began to fit him like an old comfortable pair of boots.  That is not a metaphor.  He took a pair of Jim's old boots from his closet and has worn them literally EVERY SINGLE DAY since.  It is his own private way to remember his grandfather.

I see the work of Your Hands
Galaxies spin in a Heavenly dance oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming

I hear the sound of Your Voice
All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming

For nearly seven months now I have walked through life daily holding Larry's hand, wiping his tears, trying to support and hold him up when I was worried that he'd collapse under the weight of the grief.  Some days it's hard to put up with him, extending him grace and closing my mouth when I want to scream.  Other days it's still hard, but for different reasons -- watching the person you love the most in the world suffer is so very painful.  Having to defend their actions to others when they aren't acting quite like themselves is difficult.  The days have been long but these months have slipped by so quickly.  In so many ways it feels like just yesterday that we got the phone call from the nurse at the hospital letting us know that Jim was gone.

We began cleaning, packing, sorting things just days after Jim died.  Dishes and furniture, clothes and old suitcases.  Books and bags and old photo albums.  Trucks and old boats, piles of bricks and old metal.  Appliances and pocketknives, record albums and trinkets.  Every closet, every drawer revealing a new hidden treasure, a new item that brings tears or memories or laughter.

I delight myself in You
Captivated by Your beauty
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

This summer, Larry's health took a hit.  I'm pretty much convinced it was due to stress.  Bearing the weight of all the responsibility for his dad's estate has been quite difficult.  He's dealt with each thing the best he could, asked for help when he needed it, and has tried to rest when he could.  His mental, physical and emotional stress have been mind-boggling.  Fortunately his employer has been extraordinarily gracious in allowing him time off any time he needed it.

In October, a giant tree fell on his dad's house -- the one where we'd been diligently working 2-3 days a week since June, destroying the entire roof, all the carpet, all the linoleum.  Last week the heater at the house gave out.  Today while we worked there, we discovered a water leak.  None of these things are devastating by themselves, but when you pile them all up on a guy who is stressed to the max already, they feel like huge, heavy weights.  Again and again, one more blow.

I know the power of Your Cross
Forgiven and free forever You’ll be my God

All that You’ve done is so overwhelming
I delight myself in You
In the Glory of Your Presence
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

You are Beautiful, You are Beautiful
Oh God, there is no one more Beautiful
You are Beautiful, God you are the most Beautiful

Today as I walked through the now almost-empty house, tented off with plastic as the paint and carpet team readies the house for more work, I found myself choked up. I didn't fight the lump in my throat as I sang to the bare walls the chorus of Selah's song "I Will Carry You".  It was written by Todd and Angie Smith, meant for their infant daughter who they lost at birth, but in my mind today, it was about the weight of carrying my husband through this most difficult year of his life...and of God carrying us through all of it.  I whisper-sang it as I looked in each room, taking in the 40 year old wallpaper left on his bedroom wall that will soon be covered in paint, the stacks of trinkets in the only room that was undamaged by the tree.  As I recounted the past seven months in my mind, I was overwhelmed by the range of emotions we've felt as we worked in my father in law's house.  Those early days when painfully sorting through silverware was about as much as Larry could muster the strength for.... the laughter of finding yet another jar of old keys, or uncovering the 500th pair of reading glasses.  The exhaustion on the 100th trip to the salvage yard with yet another trailer full of old metal stuff.  Somehow, watching him trudge this road has been both tiring and beautiful, heart-warming and excruciating.  And as I sang I was overwhelmed by how honored I am to be the one God chose from the beginning of time to be Larry's helpmate, the one who would carry him through all this.  I am overwhelmed in knowing that when God created me in my mother's womb, He knew that 40 years down the road I would be walking through this house, today, thanking Him for making me Larry's wife, for letting me be his cheerleader, his coworker in all this.

How powerful a reminder of our great big God and all He walks through with us.  The toughest, hardest, ugliest, messiest stuff of life that we deal with.  When we scream and wail, when we laugh and cheer, when we stare into space at the mundane routines of life, He is walking alongside us.

Looking at this empty house where my husband grew up, considering all the memories he made there before he even knew me, I got sappy and found myself praying.  

Thank you, Jesus, for letting me be here, in this season, in these hardest of days.  As hard as all of it is, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but walking this road, right by Larry's side.

You are Wonderful, You are Wonderful
Oh God, there is no one more Wonderful
You are Wonderful, God You are the most Wonderful

You are Glorious, You are Glorious
Oh God, there is no one more Glorious
You are Glorious, God you are the most Glorious 

(Words in italics are the lyrics to Big Daddy Weave's song "Overwhelmed".)

Monday, December 8, 2014

I embarrass myself regularly.

Perhaps no one else will think this is funny, but it is funny to me in a crazy, blonde, airheaded sort of way!

On my drive to work, I passed a friend named David in the highway.  He was going in the opposite direction & spotted me first.  He waved as he passed me.  It took a few seconds for my brain to register who I was seeing.  At my next stop (a mile later) I pulled out my cell phone & sent him a text saying "Hi back!"  That's when all the craziness began.  The text conversation that followed went like this.

David: Umm...hi?
Me: {thinking it odd that he'd already forgotten passing me & waving} Sorry I didn't wave back this morning when I saw you in traffic.
David: You saw me?
Me: Yes.
David: Where?
Me: On Highway XYZ {edited for my safety!}, going toward {town name}.
David: Oh, okay. Who is this?
Me: {laughing to myself because my text signature has my name in it} It's Liz Reeves. Wait...is this David W?
David: No, this is Jordan A.
Me: Oops! Sorry! I have this # saved as David W in my phone. I guess he changed phone numbers at some point & you have his old number.
David, err...Jordan: I thought maybe it was really someone I knew because I was on Highway XYZ this morning!
Me: How ironic! Well, sorry about that. Thanks for understanding. I will delete this # from my contact list now.
Jordan:  Well if you ever want to talk...
Me:  Ha ha!  Well you have my number and I'm on facebook.
Jordan:  Okay.  I'll look you up.

HOURS later it occurred to me that some Jordans are male.  All that time I was thinking I was speaking to a woman!  I figured one more friend is no big deal & it would be a funny story to tell people when asked how Jordan and I met.  Then it struck me that this Jordan person might have felt like I was flirting if it was a guy.  Oh my Lord.  I can sure get myself into weird messes.  I texted Jordan this afternoon & stated that I was sorry about the confusion and clarified that I am a happily married 39 year old woman and if my messed up conversation and invitation to look me up on facebook came across as anything more than just a random funny meeting, I was sorry.  I got no reply.

When I got home, I checked.  Sure enough.  My friend request from Jordan proves he is an 18 year old boy.  And I somehow completely misread his name.  It was JACOB not Jordan.  Oh my soul.  I am so embarrassed!  Hopefully he doesn't think I'm some creepy cougar!  LOL!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

39 Truths

 
Today is my 39th birthday.  A few years ago I would've cringed at the idea of being so close to 40.  Now days, it really doesn't phase me.  It's just a number.  Don't misunderstand.  Gray hair and a body that is not quite what it used to be are realities for me, but I'm not THAT disturbed by those things.  Yet.

Today I wanted to share 39 truths I hold to....39 things that define me...39 things that are important to me. 

But here's the thing.  If I try to make a list of 39 things for you, I will get bored (distracted!) about halfway through.  You most likely don't have time to read a list of 39 things that are important TO ME or you don't care to.  So let's just boil this down to a few that are really important to me.


1.  I love God.  My faith forms the very basic part of who I am, so it rolls over into every area of my life.  You don't have to believe or feel the same for me to be kind and respectful of you and your family.  Of course, I would love for you to hold Him near and dear as well, so if you are curious or confused and I can answer a question about Him, please don't hesitate to ask!  And if I don't know the answer, I will ask someone else and get an answer for you!  Comment here or send me an email.  (See the side bar.  My email address is there!)

2.  By virtue of loving God, I also believe that Jesus is His son and that Jesus died on a cross for my sins.  And here's the coolest part.  I believe He would've still done it if I was the only sinner on earth.  And that blows my mind.

3.  As a Christian, I'm sure there are many things you probably THINK you know how I feel about.  (politics, social issues, etc)  But I might surprise you.

4.  I firmly believe in not having sex until after you're married.  I know it's not a popular stance any more and I am NOT naive enough to believe that everyone agrees or that even those who do agree will always follow through.  But it's where my feet are planted.  And yes, I was a virgin on my wedding night.  Guess who else was?  My groom!  (How's that for #4 on the list?  Shocked yet?  ha ha)

5.  My husband comes first.  I will defend him, stand beside him, hold him up and hold him tighter than anything or anyone else on earth until the day I die or God returns, whichever comes first.  He may irritate the snot out of me sometimes, but just below my devotion to Christ is my devotion to Larry.

6.  My kids are crazy cool.  I can't imagine how they got to be so awesome because Larry and I are total nerds.  (It's okay.  I can call us that.  Larry would agree.)  Seriously, they are all unique and amazing in their own ways.  I love them to pieces!

7.  I have sincerely terrific friends.  I have a handful of REALLY close girlfriends who all own the title BEST friend.  They are all my BEST friend for different reasons or we are bonded over different things.  But I also have a million other really good friends.  Men & women friends!  I am abundantly blessed in the friend department!  I can't imagine living this life without them.

8.  I am not a big TV watcher.  I am, however, a bit of an internet addict.  My downtime is typically spent reading articles, pinning to Pinterest, posting on Facebook, writing blog posts or emails or articles.  And when I'm not reading or writing online I am usually reading a book or magazine.  TV just doesn't appeal to me much.  {I do however get really involved with Dancing With the Stars each season.  It's pretty much the ONLY TV show I watch religiously.  There are a few others I enjoy and will watch them on DVD as the seasons are released, but I don't keep up with anything else.}

9.  I am a teacher.  First the first 9 years that my kids were alive, I was their teacher.  None of my kids went to day care or preschool and they have all flourished in school.  They never lacked anything educationally when they started school.  When my youngest was 4 I went back to work 2 days a week teaching 3 and 4 year olds.  I continued to teach little ones for another 5 years until I moved up to high schoolers and later to junior high kids.  I can't imagine working in any other environment.  {Trust me.  I tried another field for a very brief time and nothing felt more foreign that those 4 months in an office desk chair.}

10.  I am pretty sure I have ADD.  And OCD.  But mostly ADD... which means I am really obsessive about a lot of things but I am too distracted to obsess over them for very long.  But I re-visit the obession regularly.  ha ha!  I have actually flipped back and forth between this screen and 2 others about 10 times in the 15 minutes it has taken me to type this list.  That explains my lack of posting to this blog on a regular basis for months and then having weeks where I post 15 times.

God bless you for making it this far.  I hope your day is full of fun and laughter.  In honor of my birthday today, please look up a humorous video on youtube and send it my way!  I love to laugh!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Random Thoughts with Liz

 
It's that time again.  Throw on a conductor's hat & grab your choo-choo whistle.  Jump on the crazy train and see if you can keep up with my topic-jumping brain.  Here are a few things going on in my head.


#1:  It's Fall.  Or Autumn?  Harvest time?  Death of the trees & coming of winter?
Whatever you call it, it's here.  Or at least the calendar claims that it is.  Texas has its own ideas about Fall/Autumn/Harvest time/Death of trees & coming of winter.  Texas balls up its fist and shouts to the heavens "I will change colors & cool off when I'm good and ready."  Or at least that's how it sounds in my mind when I'm wiping my sweaty brow on Halloween night.  {Note:  I remember about 4 Halloweens in my lifetime when it was actually cold by that time.  But that's rare.}  {2nd note:  I am ready for Texas to decide that it's time to cool off.}


#2:  Scentsy
All my girlfriends have filled their Scenty burners with fall scents.  Since I am poor & cheap, I refuse to spend $25-50 on a scentsy burner.  I can buy scentsy wax bars & put them into a clear votive holder on my candle warmer & voila.....works exactly the same.  Okay, I'm totally lying.  I only have 1 actual scentsy brand bar.  The rest came from Walmart & work just as well.  See?


#3:  Ugh, really?
I can not even begin to wrap my brain around the fact that we're already 11 days into October.  Because I'm really clear on the fact that once you have made it this far into October, we're only like 3 days away from celebrating Thanksgiving, then (it feels like) about 2 days later it's Christmas.  Then New Year.  Then Valentine's Day.  From October through February, time seems to FLY for me.


#4:  Bethany's coming!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Actually I will be okay with THIS month passing rapidly.  On the 25th, one of my very best best best friends is making a trip to Texas to see me.  Well, actually she's coming to Texas a couple days prior with her husband for a work trip of his, but I'm telling everyone that she's coming just to see me.  We met online in the late 90s and have been BFFs ever since.  Larry & I made a quick trip to Missouri several years ago & got to spend about 48 hours with them...and now they're coming here.  I can't wait!!!

#5:  I am a pig.
Actually all of my family members are pigs.  I might oink a bit myself sometimes.  Seriously, we live like wild animals about half the time.  The house is ALWAYS a wreck.  I wish I was kidding.  I don't just mean there is a pair of shoes by the front door or a couple of dishes in the sink.  But it's not FILTH either.  It just gets very messy & cluttered very fast because our house is small & there is not a ton of storage space.  Things tend to get dumped and never picked up.

Case in point....a couple weeks ago I was home alone for a few hours.  I couldn't stand the kitchen for one more minute.  I even took before & after pictures. This is the view from my bedroom door looking into the kitchen.

Before:
And after:


Still far from perfect, but oh my gracious, I hope you can see the difference!  I can!  Seriously, it was disgusting!  (Please tell me yours looks like this sometimes!!)

Oink.


#6:  I finished season 7.
I am a die-hard fan of the TV show Friends.  Yes, I know it went off the air in 2004 and I need to let it go.  But I will always love it.  A couple years ago, a friend loaned me the 1st season of Big Bang Theory (TV show) on DVD.  I finished it rapidly and began looking for season 2.  I found it on Amazon for $10-15 and bought it.  As soon as I finished it, I re-listed it online & sold it and put that money toward season 3...then season 4, 5 and 6.  Season 7 finally hit the market in early September.  I just finished watching it today.  I am such a fan of nerdy comedy.  It runs a close 2nd to Friends.  I see a lot of similarities in the story lines.  There is the group of friends who all hang out at one particular apartment for most of the shows.  (Monica's/Leonard & Sheldon's)  They have the 1 "outside" friend who starts out as a bit part in the hang-out place but becomes a bigger part of the show as the series goes on.  (Gunther/Stewart)  There is the one couple that you root for all throughout the show who keep breaking up & getting back together.  (Ross & Rachel/Leonard & Penny)  You get the idea!


#7:  Church shopping
A couple months ago we began looking for a new church home.  We have visited 1 methodist church, 1 baptist church, 1 charismatic church, 1 non-denominational community church and tomorrow we're visiting a church of Christ.  You could say that we are mutts.  Ha ha!  The little community church is a strong contender, but we have so many others we want to check out before we make a decision, we are continuing our journey, but growing a bit weary.  We are enjoying having a time of not being connected to one particular place, giving us the freedom to visit churches we have always wanted to scope out....but at the same time we are also ready to get settled.  All of us as human beings have a deep need for connection & feeling needed/wanted....and that certainly extends to the local body of believers.  We are seeking God's will in finding the right place for all of us to feel loved & nurtured, to grow and be taught, to serve and support, to worship and lead us into the next season of life.
 
#8:  Savannah
Our sweet girl is mid-way through her first semester of college.  She is taking 4 classes at the moment, but she is about to start a 5th class next week.  It is just a half-semester class.  She is GIDDY to get started in it, however, because it is an art class (her major.)  She works as much as possible, goes to class a lot and spends pretty much every minute of every evening tucked away in her bedroom working on homework.  I am about as ready as she is to see this semester end so she can get a little rest.  I figure next semester her load will be a little lighter and she will be able to breathe a little more.

#9:  Samuel
Sam is playing football like a pro these days and is enjoying his Ag class in high school.  The first six weeks has ended with 1 high C and a bunch of As and Bs.  I'll take it!  For a kid who has never really ENJOYED school and would prefer to be climbing a tree or fishing or hunting or just about anything else outdoors than sitting in a desk, I am super proud of him!

#10:  Sarah
Sarah's first six weeks of 8th grade have been good.  She is a library aide one period of the day and is in high school level algebra along with all her other regular classes.  She is anxiously preparing for UIL All Region contest for band & has pretty much perfected her music already.  I love seeing her excited about band!


#11:  I'll quit now.  I could keep going because I have other random stuff to talk about.  God bless you for making it this far!  I'm going to grab my latest People magazine & hit the bubble bath.  It's 10:55 PM after all!  Goodnight.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It Works! product review -- Skinny Wrap & Greens

 
Have you heard about It Works?  Until about 2 years ago, neither had I!  It is a wellness company that sells all sorts of fun products.  Before I tell you about what I did this weekend, let me tell you a little bit about the company.

In 1995, a couple, Mark & Cindy Pentecost (a teacher and a stay at home mom), had a desire to start a company to give people the opportunity to work from home, set their own hours, and really live well, not just scrape by.  It Works was born.  With a desire to help people make healthful choices for living, the ultimate body applicator (skinny wrap!), a line of supplements and other products were developed and became their life blood.  Quickly, the company blossomed from one couple to thousands of distributors nationwide.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine became involved with the It Works company.  She recruited a few other friends to sell the products and take charge of their family's finances as well.  Traci and her husband have built quite a business and have been able to pay off debts, build their savings and live comfortably since their introduction the company.  This is the video they created to explain their involvement with It Works and how it has changed their lives.



As you can see if you watched even just a couple minutes of that video, Traci & her husband are very excited about the company and what it's done for their family.  About a year ago, Traci and I began trying to work out a time to get together so she could show me the skinny wrap (their biggest selling product.)  The idea was that she would give me 1 wrap for free if I would do a review of it here on the blog and share it with my friends.  Of course, being a GOG (that is, a Girl of Girth) I was not exactly thrilled about baring my belly to my thin, fit friend to let her stick a big lotion-infused cloth to my tummy.  But I was very curious based on seeing pictures online like these!  After all, every GOG wants a magic tummy shrinker!




On Traci's website she shares this video about how to apply a wrap.  (That's Traci on the right.)



After a full year of trying to track down a time when we could get together, Traci mailed me a wrap & one other product (more about that in a minute!) to try.  I was most excited about trying the wrap first, so that's what I did first!  Actually, I think you could say I grabbed it & RAN to the privacy of my bathroom to put it on.

Here is what it looks like when you get it.

And these are the instructions on the package:


As suggested in the video above, I put on the wrap, then wrapped Saran Wrap over it to keep it in place.  After all, a GOG may have more trouble keeping the wrap in place as she moves & twists than her thinner, more flat-tummied counterpart. Let's just say there are ripples and rolls and bumps that come into play and keeping the wrap flat would be impossible without a bit of help.  ha ha!

As much as I love my loyal blog readers, I will NOT be posting my pre & post wrap pictures or measurements, but I can tell you this much.  I took measurements up high (just under my bra line), about mid-way down my tummy & right about the belly button line before I did the wrap.  After I took off the wrap, there were differences in those measurements!  I'm not looking at them right now, but I believe there was a total of about 2" difference between the three measurements.  And to make sure I measured in exactly the same place each time I drew a line on my stomach with a sharpie marker where I placed the tape!  So I'm 100% certain the results I saw were from the wrap. 

Full disclosure, though, folks:  Most people continue to see results from the wrap, meaning the numbers continue to drop, over the next 72 hours.  I did not have that result.  By the 48 hour mark, my numbers were returning to the pre-wrap measurement.  I was bummed about that, but I know that for most people it does continue to work for 72 hours.  However, I only used 1 wrap.  A full treatment is actually 4 wraps, each done a couple days apart.  So I am confident that the wrap does what it says it does!  If you have a wedding to attend or a dress to fit into for your class reunion or just want to lose a few inches in a short time, this is the way to do it!  It's like magic!

The other product Traci sent me a sample of was the Greens product.  I got the on the go berry flavor packet variety.  (There is also a tub of Greens you can use at home.)  The little packet looks like this.

Let's be honest.  None of us eat enough green things.  I try to get in a lot, but these little envelopes of powder pack a mighty punch!  Each packet of Greens has 8+ servings of fruits & vegetables and a blend of 38 herbs and vitamins.  Score!

The packet says to mix it with 8 ounces of water or juice, so I started with water.  I thought that might be the easiest.  As much as I wanted that to work, it looked like this.


It's a little difficult to see in this picture, but it was bright neon green and had little flecks of well...green things....floating in it.  I tried it, but it wasn't exactly my favorite.

Fortunately I bought a bottle of juice last week (which is rare -- we never keep juice in the house!) so I tried it mixing into that instead.



And bam!  Just like that...we have a winner!!!  It was tasty & simple to chug back my 8+ servings of broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, arugula, and whatever other veggies I want to imagine were in it!

I must admit, seeing this gritty-looking stuff on the side of the cup was a little icky...

 

....but it tasted great!  {No matter how much I mixed & stirred, I could not get all of those little flakes mixed in.  It sort of looked like a protein shake mixer bottle that always seems to have a bit of the powdered mix stuck to the sides.}

If you haven't checked out It Works yet, I encourage you to do so!  Talk to my girlfriend, Traci, if you'd like to hear more about getting involved in the company, or if you'd like to hear about more of their product line.  There are tons of other things to choose from, each one derived from natural ingredients and backed by a debt-free, faith-based company who endeavor to give their representatives and customers a fuller, more amazing life!

Check out Traci's website here: http://livemoregivemore.com or contact her via email at traci@livemoregivemore.com.



Saturday, September 13, 2014

My day with Jesus, Beth and Katie

There is this lady I admire who speaks at women's conferences nationwide about Jesus.  She writes phenomenal, life-changing Bible studies, too.  She is beautiful, inside & out.  Maybe you've heard of her.  Did I mention she's a Texas girl, which makes me love her even more?


Girlfriends, if you haven't heard of Beth Moore, let me give you just a teeny tiny taste.



Beth is both hilarious and wonderfully intelligent.  Over the past 15-ish years, I've been through a number of her Bible studies.  They were all incredible!  Confession time: there isn't a single one that I've ever finished all the homework for.  You see, they all follow a workbook format where you go in once a week & watch a 45 minute long video with a room full of ladies, then you talk about what you learned and discuss your homework from the previous week.  Let me tell ya, Beth Moore's studies are meaty.  So meaty that the 5 days' worth of homework you're supposed to complete between group meetings never gets totally done at my house because it requires so much time.  If I could make a full time job out of doing Beth Moore Bible study homework, that would be great, but anyway...she's GOOD y'all.  But friends, if you ever get a chance to do a study of hers, do it.  Even if you don't get a chance to pick up the workbook one single time between meetings, you will learn so much from the videos, from the girl talk around the table when you are hiding the book in your lap so that the others can't see you didn't finish the homework.





A month or so back, I saw a post on Facebook by a friend who is the pastor's wife at a local church.  She said that her church was hosting a Beth Moore simulcast event TODAY.  I was giddy because, folks, it's been way too long.


Let's rewind.  When my kids were younger, I was in a new Bible study every couple months.  When one study ended, our church would have another one waiting and we'd plow ahead into it.  I loved the camaraderie of sitting with a group of girlfriends (or strangers who became girlfriends by the time we finished the study!) and hearing how God spoke to them through the study that week.  But I loved spending time soaking up the Lord even more.  I had young children then and spending a lot of time reading anything by myself meant that I would likely doze off, but during those caffeine-fueled hours of reading my Bible and the workbooks, I was filled with doses of HIM through and through.

 
All that changed about five years ago.  Upon moving to a new church and our finances hitting an all-time low I began giving up organized Bible study time in lieu of working in the paid childcare side of the building.  Oh how I've missed the devoted girlfriends & Jesus time.

Sure, I still attended church.  I've taught 4 and 5 year olds for four years.  I've listened to a million sermons.  I've read Scripture on my own.  But there is something special and unique about the time we spend with other women pouring over the Word of God.  So today, I went to a simulcast event at my friend's church (along with 190,000 other women worldwide.)  I know a lot of the ladies who attend church there.  We talked about the event at length on Facebook.  I planned for the day, bought a new spiral to take notes in, set out my highlighter and Bible last night.  I was ready!

Except for one little detail -- I was going alone.  I know my reason for going was not to socialize, but in the past few years I've become more of an introvert, more of a homebody.  I like my alone time, but if I'm going into a room full of people, I like having a steady shoulder by me.  Today was a stretch for me.  GOD was stretching me.

When I arrived this morning, I waved to friends (the ladies from the church) but they were all 'working' so they were outside the auditorium doing their thing and I had to select a seat, not knowing who was sitting where or if I'd be parked next to a weird stranger all day.  I tried to remember why I was there, and focused my mind on spending the last few minutes before it began praying for God to show me what He wanted me to see today.

An elderly, white-haired lady sat down next to me and introduced herself as Katie.  I had never met Katie before, but throughout our time as next-door-seat-neighbors today, we spent some time talking.  Throughout the day, Beth had us turning to our neighbor & repeating things she said.  "You are a beautiful woman." ...  "God has a plan for you."  Each time, I was struck by the warmth and sincerity in Katie's eyes.  What a sweet lady!  I learned later tonight that she used to be a missionary.  I can imagine the way she talked to people in whatever place she served --- holding their attention with her kindness and care, holding their hands, showing them the Word and living alongside them.

As Beth's worship team led the music, I surrendered to the Spirit, closing my eyes, clapping and lifting my hands, folding them in prayer, wiping the tears that escaped.  Doing this day on my own, I found myself soaking it all in.  I wasn't whispering to my neighbor or focusing on the people near me.  It was all about me & my Creator.  As Beth began to speak, my heart melted. I felt like I was back in those old, familiar chairs at Bible study class.  Surrounded by my girlfriends, I leaned in a little closer to hear God whisper in my ear.

In an opening comment, Beth mentioned Luke 1:45.  It says "Blessed is she who believes ... that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished."  The first 5 words to that verse were sort of a theme verse for us today.


A few notes from today about doing womanhood well:

*It is impossible for me NOT to qualify for an encounter with Jesus Christ.
*Jesus changes the story of every woman He meets. (and He is writing a great story.)
*Acts 1:24:  He is the heart-knower.
When considering past pain, is it time to take off the bandage from your healed heart?  Do you just like the comfort of wearing the bandage?  Are you getting a rash from wearing that bandage too long?  Move on.  Jeremiah 7:24 says to focus on Him and move forward, not backward.
*God wants a woman to know WHO she is & WHAT she is not.
With that in mind, Beth challenged us all to write down this Identity Declaration:


(Please click it to blow it up bigger & read it!)

Beth suggested that sometimes we need a clean sweep to find what we're missing.  Is your life filled to the brim with so many things, so many relationships, so much STUFF that you tend to lose focus on the ONE thing that wants our attention most?  (God!)  Is it time to sweep a few things out of the way?  God doesn't want to be just one of many things that keeps you busy.

Ouch.

One of the points we wrote down today states "A woman's joy is not the same without girlfriends to share it."  We are really not connecting our joy deficit with our girlfriend deficit.  {Quality time!}

In scripture, EVERY instance of the phrase "complete joy" or "...so your joy may be full" is in connection to a time shared with multiple people.  In this day & age of social media, texting, emailing, etc., we are losing our understanding of being together with family and friends.  People in your life can only rejoice FOR you, not WITH you, if they're reading about your life on twitter & facebook, email, etc.  We must endeavor to preserve physical proximity with friends and family.  That connection is so important.  If hospitality is not your gift (hello, blinding neon arrow that is pointed in my direction), find ways to physically be with your family and friends on a regular basis.

And the same connection with Christ is equally important.  While you may not be able to physically stand next to Him, listening to a sermon or reading a book about God or worse, "liking" or "pinning" pictures of inspirational things online aren't the same as having an intimate, close, personal relationship you pursue daily.  We need that connection with Him, too!  Prayer, worship, and time in the Word is vital.

As the day drew to a close, Beth asked every person in the convention center where she was, every woman in a church or small group environment watching a simulcast, every lady sitting at home in front of her computer to turn to the lady next to her, whether you knew her or not, and speak these words over her as a blessing and a commission to go out into the world and live as women of God.  As I turned to face my new 'tas philas' (Greek for girlfriend), sweet Miss Katie reached out & took my hands.  In the most precious moment of my day, we looked into each others' eyes and spoke these words.  Powerful words, friends.


My Beloved Sister,
Jesus drew you to this day. To call you to respond. What will you do with what He has said?
God chose you and gifted you for this very generation. You are the exact woman Jesus came looking for today.  Stop telling yourself this is about someone else. You are the one He wants.
You’re not too young.  You’re not too old.  You haven’t strayed too far or waited too long.  Let Jesus step fully into your story and write a narrative for your life. That does the world good and gives God glory.  People out there need what you have to offer.

Quit listening to your fears and insecurities. Stand up and step out and meet some needs.
You are my sister. I’ll cheer you on. I will support you and love you.  I’ll stop competing and comparing.  I want to be a woman women can trust.
Let’s do this thing side by side. We’re so much stronger together.
Sister, stay in His Word. Fight for love and keep your faith.  Follow hard after Jesus all the rest of your days.
He will never do you wrong. He will never reject or betray you. He will make something beautiful
out of all your pain. In every loss, He will be your gain.

A lost world is waiting out there.  The darkness is aching for light. Get out there and serve with all your might.  

Because, my beloved sister, You Are A woman Of God.  Go show somebody what she looks like.

As I chewed on my lip and tried not to cry, looking into the eyes of this precious, tender, older, wiser sister in Christ, a lady at the church snapped this picture.  She texted it to me tonight.


I can't imagine having spent my day next to anyone else.  Tonight as I go to bed, I am thankful for Beth Moore and for Katie.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Changes Ahead

  
In 1997, Larry and I stumbled into the doors of a precious church in town.  From the moment we walked in the doors, we felt at home.  We were welcomed, nurtured, taught and loved through the early years of our marriage.  Our young marrieds Sunday School class was far more than a group of people we spent an hour a week with.  They were our best friends, the ones we desired to spend time with over anyone else, the moms I did play dates with and Bible studies with.  These were the men Larry hung out with for Guys' Nights and those he studied the Word with.  They were our closest companions and some of our biggest cheerleaders.  They were the ones we would call late at night with prayer needs and those who would show up at our door with food in times of crisis.  Larry was a deacon and served on the missions board.  I was involved in the ladies ministry, worked in the nursery & preschool departments and taught VBS.  In late 2004, we said goodbye to the sweet souls there and moved across town to another church where Larry would serve as a pastor for the next 4 1/2 years.  We desperately missed all of our friends in those early months, but in time, our new church became 'home.'


In the spring of 2009, Larry stepped down from his job at the church.  God was calling us in a different direction, so we followed.  It was a hard, painful road back into 'regular' life.  Larry grieved the loss of that part of his identity.  We mourned the loss of the ministries we had helped start.  We missed the families we had served and become so close to.  But we knew it was the right thing to do.

We returned to our old church.  It seemed the most logical, simple transition.  Upon arriving there, we realized that nearly the entire congregation was different.  Only 1 staff member was the same.  We questioned if this was where we should stay, but determined that any church we attended would be the same --- we'd have to adjust to new church members & staff anywhere we went, so it was time to settle in & get used to a new body of believers.  We were anxious to get involved again and become a part of this old, familiar, warm place.


Around the 1 year mark, Larry voiced a concern that maybe this wasn't the right church for us after all.  It just didn't feel right to him.  He struggled to "fit".  He didn't feel connected.  He was having a hard time finding his niche.  We tried several different Sunday School classes and small groups, but couldn't find "the one" where he felt the most at home.  As the kids and I got settled into a routine of serving and involvement, Larry floundered, but he was willing to "stick it out" for our sakes.  He was happy that we were all plugged in, filling a role in ministry of one sort or another.

In the coming few years, he quietly suffered.  I nudged him to try becoming involved in one ministry or another.  I urged him to seek out the staff & try to connect with them.  I called his old guy friends and asked them to seek him out & help him find a way to get involved.  I kept pushing for him to make it work.  As the years passed I grew more deeply involved in women's ministry, the preschool department, relationships with ladies of the church, but he became more & more lost in the crowd, feeling like an outsider.


I guess I knew a long time ago that I should probably submit to his leadership & move to another church with him so we could find a place where he 'fit', but I kept closing my eyes or shoving my fingers in my ears, trying to ignore the facts.  I figured as long as he didn't push the issue, I'd just try to keep tiptoeing along until it came up.


In May, Larry reached a breaking point and announced privately to me that he just couldn't keep going.  He felt lost, abandoned, disconnected from everyone and lonely.  He was silently suffering and he had grown weary of trying to force something to work that didn't seem like it ever would.  He said that he didn't want to ever go back.  He was ready to move on and find a new place.  I couldn't blame him.  Five years is long enough to feel out of place and incomplete.


And so, today we spent our final Sunday at the place I've known as my church home for 12 of our 20 years of marriage.  I am a little sad, but more than anything I am at peace.  I know that following my husband to a new place  is right.  I know that submitting to his leadership is so very freeing.  I know the search for a new church will be hard, and possibly LONG, but I ache to spend my Sunday mornings next to Larry, worshiping and learning by his side.  I am also anxious to make this move & get it over and done with, so pray with me that God helps me relax and rest in this journey.

The kids know we're making a move and they have a whole range of emotions about it.  They understand WHY we're moving.  They agree that it's best for us to find a place where we can ALL feel at home & plugged in.  But of course leaving behind something comfortable is always hard.  Pray that God helps us find a place where they can get settled in quickly.

I am not gonna lie.  This is a hard move.  But it's the right move, so I'm game.  Father, lead us.








Postscript:  I feel like I should note that we are not angry with anyone at the church.  We are not disgruntled or mad.  We do not intend to destroy the church's reputation or gripe about them at every turn.  We have just realized it's not the right specific church group for us anymore.  Fortunately we live in the Bible belt where there is another church on just about every corner.  There are plenty of others to choose from & we trust that God will lead us to the right place.