Monday, January 16, 2017

Ambition

Ambition...isn't that an interesting word? When I think of people who are ambitious, I envision people who are always on the go. They have people to see and places to go. They have mountains to climb and summits to reach. So, imagine my surprise when I read 1 Thessalonians 4:11 this morning:

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life..."

I've read this passage many times. I know that because it is highlighted in my Bible and has notes next to it. Yet, this morning, the word ambition caught my attention. The idea of ambition and quiet being part of the same thought seems counterintuitive to me. But, should I really be so caught off guard by this?

Jesus, who I see as the most ambitious man to ever live, made time in quiet His priority. It was His discipline to spend time in quiet with His Father. Sure, we can say, "Hello! He was the perfect Son of God! Of course He prioritized prayer!" And, yes, that is true. But He was also fully human and recognized the need to be refueled by time in quiet with God.

This past Friday, I read the The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper. In their story, I was struck by how important quiet is to them. Joanna, specifically, writes of how God reveals His plans for her in quiet as she journals her thoughts. She is intentional about finding places of quiet and solitude to refresh and listen. It is in those moments that she hears most clearly the voice of God and His plans for her.

I now need to find a way to make this my priority. This verse came from a devotion that I'm reading, Savor, by Shauna Niequist. In today's reading, she offered this advice when considering which requests deserve a yes: "Will saying yes to this require me to live in a frantic way?" I find that to be very wise. Because, although I have become much better at prioritizing and, even when it's difficult, saying "no," I often times still say yes to too much, removing any possibility for a quiet life.

I find myself with a new definition of ambitious and a new understanding of what it means to lead a full, or should I say fulfilled, life. My soul longs for quiet and to hear from God. My life's desire is to walk the path He has for me. I am thankful for these eye-opening moments which have revealed to me the need to lead a much quieter life.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Word: Shalom

I've seen multiple people over the past year post about their annual theme words. Last year, I chose the word "bold." I certainly made some bold decisions and shared more of myself than I knew was possible. Through trial and error, I grew. God is creating something in me that I did not even know existed...someone who loves to teach His Word.

This year, I gave this much thought. I spent time in prayer asking God what He wants of me for 2017. The word that has been consistently on my heart is "shalom." One of the books I read last year, Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin by Cornelius Plantinga Jr., defines shalom as "universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight...the way things ought to be." God created this world to be peaceful, for us to be in perfect relationship with him. So, what destroyed it? Well, if you've ever even heard of the Bible, I'm sure you know about Adam, Eve, the serpent and the eating of the forbidden fruit. In that one act of disobedience, sin entered this world and destroyed the shalom, the world as God intended.

So, let's talk about sin for a minute... (Don't close the browser, I promise this isn't going to be filled with finger-pointing...except at myself) When I lead worship on a Sunday morning more focused on myself and the music than I am on God, that is sin. When I yell at my children or disrespect my husband with sharp words, that is sin. When I glare at the person who is trying to cut me off in the middle school drop off line (happened this morning, by the way), that is sin.

We often think of the big ones...murder, adultery, stealing...but sin is anything that hinders our relationship with God and destroys our shalom, whether that be inner or external peace. In the examples above, I am not peacefully worshiping when I am focused on self. When I am harsh with my husband or children, our relationships are, at the very least, momentarily damaged. The man in the drop off line, well, who knows if he even cares. But regardless of his knowledge of who I am, as a Christian, I am to shine the light of Christ not shoot daggers from my eyes.

Four days into the new year, I am realizing that this is going to be a larger task than I had originally anticipated. Even still, what I have been praying is that God will reveal sin in my life in order to restore as much shalom as possible. What I have also come to realize is that will only go so far. Turns out, I am surrounded by others who also have sin natures. And, I cannot control the actions of others. What??? Earth shattering news, I know. My only option is to choose how to respond to them. Clearly, I did not choose well this morning.

In order for this to become my reality, I must live by the words of John the Baptist, "He must become greater, I must become less" (John 3:30). Although John was speaking of himself in relation to Jesus, I must desire for God's will to become greater and mine to align with His.

So, how about you? Do you do a theme word?


Friday, November 11, 2016

God Bless the USA

Happy Veteran's Day to all who have given so much of themselves in wars and conflicts for this great nation: The UNITED States of America!

We are in such a tumultuous time in this country right now. I hope that, in spite of that, we will pause for a moment to remember that there are people - sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and loved ones - who have given their very lives in order that we might have the opportunity to vote, to protest, to live in this freedom. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the phrase, "Freedom isn't free." But I know this as absolute truth. Freedom always comes at a cost.

Here are the two most important men in my life, in their uniforms, proudly serving their country.


My husband serves in the USAF-Reserves.

(I'm sorry, honey. This is the only photo that I could find of you in uniform!)



My dad served in the US Army.

I am one of the fortunate ones. My dad came home safely from Korea. My husband has returned safely from multiple deployments in the Middle East. 

We know this is not the story for everyone. We know that parents and spouses and children feel the loss of those who did not return home from war. We know that some of those who have returned suffer greatly - physically, emotionally and mentally.

So, whether or not you are happy with the state of this country, always remember to show a debt of gratitude for those who have given a piece or all of their lives to ensure that you could live here freely.

God bless America!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Finding God's Will for Your Life

How many times have you wondered what God's will is for your life? Should I be single or married? Should I be a mom? Should I apply for a promotion? I have prayed over some of these decisions myself. But do you know what God's will really is for your life? Paul gives it to us straight:

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV

It seems simple. Doesn't it? But I do not live a life that reflects this. I often find myself crabby and consumed with my own life circumstances. I am too busy, too stressed and too focused on what I want from this life.

And, how many times have you heard that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength? Well, let me let you in on a secret. Paul isn't saying here that you can run a marathon if you have never trained for it. Let's read this verse in context:

"I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me.Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:10-13


God strengthens us to be content. His will for us is to be thankful and content. I know that isn't easy. I find myself watching HGTV (like, Flip or Flop is on in the background right now), wanting to do all of the remodels that seem to be so simple and feeling discontent with what God has already blessed us. I look through my Facebook or Instagram feed and wish I were vacationing in the islands with friends who are there. 

Let's stop comparing our lives to everyone else. For the most part, I only post my highlights on social media. Even when I post the multiple "London broke her [insert name of bone here]...", I try to keep it upbeat. Social media isn't the place for me to hash out relationship problems or an argument that I had with my husband about some ridiculous miscommunication. We need to keep that in mind when we are scrolling through other people's feeds.

Here is what helps: journal the things for which you are thankful. Every morning, before I read my devotion for that day, I write down at least one thing that I'm thankful for. If I am feeling especially irritable, at the very least I can be thankful for the coffee that is helping me wake up...or the fact that I woke up in the first place...or the fact that I woke up in a home that provides shelter and with a family filled with love...or the fact that Jesus Christ pursued me until I turned to Him as my Savior. It turns out, I have plenty of reasons to give thanks!

For the past few years, I have done a social media 30 days of Gratitude. But the truth is, I could do that 365 days a year. God blesses me and our family daily. I guess I have figured out God's will for my life...remember that He is God, I am not, and for that I am thankful and because of that I can be content.

Monday, April 25, 2016

What is Love?

Love has somehow come to mean acceptance. If I am to love another person, I must accept them as they are, no questions asked.

If my children lie to me, am I just to accept that behavior because that is who they are? If I correct their behavior, does that mean that I do not love them?

Recently, my mom shared an article with me titled, Mean Mom. It is with a joyful heart that I share with you that I fall into the category of "Mean Mom". You see, it is my opinion that love often times requires discipline. This is not an original thought of course, the writer of Hebrews shared this:

"My son (or daughter), do not make light of the
     Lord's discipline,
 and do not lose heart when He
     rebukes you,
 because the Lord disciplines the one he
     loves,
  and He chastens everyone he accepts
     as His son (or daughter)."  Hebrews 12:5-6

I have spent a great deal of time studying character over the past few weeks. As a spouse, as a parent, as a friend...I hope to be someone who walks along side those I love as they seek to develop godly character. I am of the firm belief, as cliche as this may be, that God desires our holiness much more than He is concerned with our happiness. My goal as a Christian is to love others, yes, but also to have the grace to, in a trusted relationship, share when someone's behavior is not in alignment with godly character.

This doesn't mean that I walk around pointing out the sins of others. I don't need to do that. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. He has the power and authority to convict people of their sins. Plus, I have plenty of sin issues in my own life. Yep, I recognize that I am a sinful person. But I certainly am not going to stand back and be called unloving because I disagree with beliefs and decisions that are in contradiction with my faith. I truly love many, many people whose beliefs are vastly different from mine. If I were to only allow "sinless" people in my life, who would be left? Not even one person!

Those who are hoping to shame Christians often use Jesus as an example of tolerance. He ate with sinners. He was friends with greedy tax collectors. He saved the adulterous woman from being stoned. While each of the things are true, during His conversation with the woman at the well, you can read her story in John Four, He loved her enough to tell her the He knew of her sin. He loves me enough to give me His Spirit in order that I am forced to open my eyes to my own sin. He loves me, therefore, He disciplines me.

Until my dying day, I will continue to love people regardless of their beliefs. I just hope that they will do the same for me.

Misty

Friday, November 13, 2015

je t'aime

I am supposed to be writing a paper for my New Testament class right now on the covenants that God has made with His children. But instead, my heart is heavy for His children.

I have been glued to my school work for a majority of the day and didn't read about the on-going tragedy in Paris until just a couple of hours ago. Sadness and fear quickly overcame me. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am not supposed to be fearful. Yet...I am.

I fear what the world will look like for my children and grandchildren. I fear that we are a country that has become more concerned with red cups than the bloodshed of innocent victims. I fear that we have become people who say that we are sending thoughts and prayers, but maybe not really taking the time to get on our knees humbly before God the Father. I fear that we are a bandwagon nation, not holding firmly to any belief but having a knee-jerk reaction when tragedy strikes.

I trust in the sovereignty of God with every fiber of my being. However, I am human. And my heart is breaking for those who have been injured or lost their lives today. My heart is breaking for the parent, the spouse, the child, the friend who will never hear the voice of their loved one again.

Now, I will get on my knees and pray for those who are suffering this evening in the City of Light.

Grace and peace,

Misty

Friday, August 28, 2015

Waiting at the Intersection

The other day, I was driving home and saw a man with two little girls. He was walking and they were running ahead of him. It brought me back to a point in our life where we would go for walks or take the kids on bike rides and let them go ahead of us with the understanding that they would stop at each intersection and wait for us. We were allowing them to have small bits of freedom.

This year has brought many changes for our family. I went back to work and started college again (22 years later...oy!). Sydney graduated from high school. Jacob completed middle school. And, London finished her last year of elementary school, which meant that after having a student at that school since 2002, I was done there too.

In mid-August, Jacob started high school. This past Monday, Sydney started college. And, the Tuesday after Labor Day, London will have her first day of middle school. Where does that leave me? It leaves me needing to let go a little. They are no longer waiting for me at the intersection. If I have done my job as their mother well, they will need me a little differently.

Parenting is such an odd thing. I was given these precious little gifts to love and to care for their basic needs. But ultimately, my goal is to raise them to know the truth of Jesus and to be independent adults. While I truly want them to learn to stand on their own two feet, I am a little sad to have life passing by so quickly.

The biggest lesson that I believe I have learned over the past few months is to be intentional.

We have worked to make our home a place where our children and their friends feel comfortable, a place where they feel free to open our cupboards and fridge and just help themselves.

We have learned that making memories is more important than buying them more stuff. Over the past few years, Christmas gifts have changed from being things to being experiences: concert tickets, game tickets, movie theater gift cards, vacations, ...

We have worked to have open communication with our children. They mess up. We mess up. There are consequences. We apologize and then forgive one another. They know that we love them unconditionally.

It is my hope that, because we have been intentional while building the relationships with our children, that although we need to let go a little, they will choose to continue to grow in their relationships with us. As I mentioned previously, as children grow and mature, they don't stop needing their parents, they just need them differently.

Now, more than ever, I drop to my knees and pray that God will guide them and that they will be patient enough to wait for His leading. After all, He will be the one leading them through the intersections of their lives.

Misty