Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Can I really do all things?

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

It is written on the wall in my kitchen. One of my favorite verses from the bible. One of my "life verses". I say it to myself all the time. When you are a Christian in the midst of a challenge it can become a mantra of faith. When I ran a 5k a few years ago I think I might have said it at least a thousand times. This morning I've been thinking of what it REALLY means. How can I deeply apply it to my life in every doubting moment.

I can do all things even when I think I can't. Heck, even when I "know" I can't. All those things that we see as a mountian we could never climb or get around much less move out of our way. But what does this verse really mean?

It means,

we can even when we feel stupid or unqualified.
we can when we feel scared and ashamed.
we can when we don't feel brave enough.
we can when we feel sick, tired and weak.
we can when we don't think we look the part.
we can when we feel like we have messed everything up.
we can when we don't feel important enough for the task.
we can when we don't feel we have enough talent or skill.
we can when we feel 100 other people would do the job better.
we can when all logical and earthly reasoning would point to failure.

We can do all things because God is. His spirit that dwells within us has a power that can. The greatest strength. The deepest joy. Unending hope. Greatest wisdom. Healing. When we are called to do something that we can't imagine we could possible do we often say "Why me, God?" God's answer to me has always been "Why not you?" The bible is full of men and women that God chose not by list of qualifications but by faithfulness and williness to be used for God's glory and purposes on earth. This verse means that even when we feel the job, task, problem is impossible God sees an oppurtunity to show us all things are possible when we rely on his strength and not our own. His power, wisdom, grace might and mercy.

I've been in a situation recently that requires this strength to do things I can't imagine. I'm trusting God completely. Believing in him, I can.

"God can do anything, you know-far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it... by working within us. His Spirit deeply and gently within us." ~Ephesians 3:20 The Message

Thursday, May 19, 2011

God is so amazing!

One of the most amazing things about God to me is that his plans are always bigger then we can see. Living in our world limits our perspective. It keeps our dreams small when his plans for us are so big. Just a few months ago I was praying to God to help me in providing for us in a way that would lessen anxiety and panic when we were running out of something. That our "storehouse" would be full. Never did I expect that he would not only do that but provide a way for me to bless others in his name. This week a request was made at church for emergency toiletries for special troops in a remote part of Afghanistan. They had lost all theirs in transport and only had their sea rations. Guess who had a full shelf and could give in great joy to those who give so much? Items that I got for next to nothing or free with coupons? Me. Amazing. Thanking and praising God for opportunities to serve him. If you have any items to donate please let me know. They will be packing items at church to send on Saturday. If you don't, a simple prayer that these items get to those who so badly need them would be wonderful as well.
Thank you!

"When I bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in God's house, the Lord of hosts will open the windows of heaven for me and pour me out such blessing that there won't be room enough to receive it." ~ Malachi 3:10

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

((singing)) These are a few of my favorite things...

Ruby asked this morning why we have crosses on everything in our house. I replied, "Honey, we don't". She didn't agree and decided to try and count them all. The kids didn't get a grand total before the bus came so I guess we do have lots of crosses in our house. After the boys were off to school I started dusting and was looking at some of the crosses. I landed at one of my favorite spots in our house, the bookshelf. My husband inherited the bookshelf from his parents. It is one of two 10 foot tall family built bookshelves. His brother has its twin. On one shelf sits a few of my most favorite things.

A special bible that the Grandfather of one of my students made special for my family. It is art, beauty and the Word. Hand crafted leather design. I almost tear up whenever I open it. It is so special to me.

A cross that I got when we started a church plant. It is Jesus on the cross handing over the Holy Spirit. I found it at a small bible store and fell in love with it. I had never seen one like it before. I just have to look at it to feel Christ reaching out to me from the cross. So powerful. So many prayers have been said meditating on this image. A reminder that I'm never alone. Death and life. Sacrifice and gift.

A bible of my Grandmothers (one of many bibles and hymnals I have of hers). This one is from 1893 and has beautiful details. The pages are so fragile. It has a special dedication inside from my ancestors from 1894. I love the symbol of a long line of believers passing down their faith. It gives me goosebumps. What better legacy can you leave?

The last is a picture of my Great-grandmother praying with her hands laying on her bible. My aunt gave me this photo years ago and it instantly became one of my favorite things. I've studied it so much over the years. Her hands, the bible, even the details of her sleeves. It captures a beauty about her that few other angles could have captured. True beauty.

I know this isn't anything like Oprah's favorite things list. It may not be exciting. But, looking at these things made me realize how important it is to have things that remind us not only of where we have been but where we are going. These things are symbols of both my past, present and future. Maybe my kids will have a similar picture of my praying hands on their shelf one day and will have the same feelings I feel now. A feeling of gratitude. How many prayers were said for me? How many verses memorized to shape those who then shaped me? How awesome is that?

I think it is so important for us to have these reminders of not just who we are but also how loved we are. Find your favorite things and put them out on display today friends. Share your faith story, your legacy. These things are precious.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I've reached a new level of couponning.

I am going to be very transparent here people, so bear with me.
I don't "love" coupons. I actually don't love sitting and clipping, sorting and organizing coupons on my one day off each week. For us, right now, it is necessity. Four kids and two adults that love to eat and a husband finishing college makes this a way for God's provision for us. When Rowan's doctor told us he had to go on one of the most expensive formulas I thought well, either I try this coupon thing or we go to DHS. I just couldn't do it. We were already just barely getting by.

I joined Savings Angel (see the link at the bottom of the page). I got a newspaper. I made up a binder. I got a tip that the best deals would come from a store that would double dollar coupons. I checked those stores out. I can't really explain how intense these stores are. Every shopper has a binder. Every woman is a coupon pro. They all have calculators and lists and move with stealth and precision. I didn't think I could do it. How could I get to the point where I knew product prices off the top of my head? How do you grow a stockpile? It was overwhelming.

For the past month I have been really saving up all of my $1 value coupons preparing for "the big trip". I was excited looking at the store matches knowing I had coupons that matched with the "Mega Sale" would give me many free products. The excitement kept building. Yesterday at 9:30am Ruby (my 5 year old assistant) set out for the big adventure. It was almost 5 hours and three full carts of crazy. Ruby and I both had moments where we wanted to give up. We were tired, weary from our power shopping. All in all the amount I saved was well worth the sacrifice of time and energy. When the register went over $700, I actually lost my breath and started to panic. I sent a text to my husband to pray. Two cashiers and a manager came over to start working on the coupons. The people behind me were watching, as excited as I was. Checkout took almost half an hour and when I was all done I had saved over $450.00! I couldn't believe it! I actually did it. I did spent just over $300 (my goal was to get under that but I came darn close) I was able to stockpile some great items for us too. It was a miraculous blessing. God is always teaching. In this He is showing me that if I am willing to work, He WILL make a way. He even showed me how to bless others in the midst of his blessing on me. Giving out coupons to those unexpectedly, giving help to those that are new to coupons and giving away extra items that I have are all ways that I've felt God's leading. I'm even at peace with strange looks and people calling me "The crazy coupon lady". I wouldn't say I'm a pro, but I am learning and I feel like I am at the point where I can be successful in my efforts. Keep saving and praising, ladies. Any time you use a single coupon it is money still in the bank! All glory to Him!

"The Lord shall command the blessing upon me in my storehouse and in all that I undertake...The Lord makes me to have a surplus of prosperity through the fruit of my body. He blesses me in the land which He gives me." ~ Deuteronomy 28:8,11

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Reflections from a Mom in Training.

I can't remember a time when I didn't want to be a mom. In fact, I think I played with dolls a bit past the point where it was cool or accepted by my peers. I loved to dress them up, change diapers, and feed them. It was my favorite thing to play.
I always wanted two little girls, just like my mom, that I could dress up in fancy dresses with lots of bows. It was going to be so fun when I had an actual baby to "play with" and love someday.

Seven years ago on a Tuesday morning I crossed the magical bridge into motherhood. It was actually nothing like I had planned or envisioned. Ryan was born early and with complication. I actually wasn't able to see him or hold him for almost eight hours after he was born. When they finally did bring him to me I can remember thinking, "This is mine?". It wasn't at all a moment like the Hallmark cards I had gotten at my baby shower. I thought, now what? What do I need to do to be a "good mother?"

I guess after seven years and three more children I should have it figured out. I should be a mom that has moved up the ranks into a position of "having it together" or getting it right or at least mostly getting it right. The straight and honest fact is that I still don't have a freaking clue. Don't get me wrong, I can change a diaper with one hand while tap dancing but it really isn't those skills that I ever lose any sleep about.

The hardest part about being a mom, the parts I still struggle with, are the things that change my children. Not like changing a diaper, but change who they are. Remember those points in your childhood where you can look back and say yep, that was a turning point? That was when this became important to me. This is when I decided I wasn't good enough at that and gave up. This is when I realized I was different. This is when the first scar on my heart was made. I can feel them with my kids. Moments I know are spiritual growth markers. Moments I can see and feel changing them, molding them, shaping them. Sometimes you don't even have time to think when those life-changing parenting moments are upon you. Where was that chapter in the mothering handbook? Why didn't I get a magical wand at the baby shower for this day? I feel so unequipped. I don't know the right choice to make, the right words to say. How can I be enough?

I guess there was a moment where God whispered the answer into my ear. I can't remember the exact moment it came over me. I might have been driving in the car or in the shower because God likes to speak to me there. But, in a divine moment God simply said "YOU aren't enough, but I am." I think he may have actually laughed as he said it. This was a mommy revelation. Relief. I didn't have to be the perfect mom because I can't be. It is spiritually impossible for me to be the perfect mother. Grace. My view of myself as mother changed from that moment. I gave up control. I allowed God the space in my parenting to do His work.

It becomes more about prayer than correction. More about investing in soul than investing in coolest mommy and tot class. It means being open to letting God lead even if it doesn't fit your plans or vision for your child. It isn't easy. Part of me so badly wants to be their everything. The first born, natural leader, control freak wants to always being holding on to them tightly and instructing their every move but that will only fail them. God's perfect plan is for us to point our children to him. There is no magic mommy formula. No class or playgroup that will make our mothering any better. God did not call us to be the perfectly-equipped mommy but he was equipping me so that I could be what these children needed. He daily shows me how to love them the way he loves me.

Amazing grace and mercy.
Unconditional love.
Patience and wisdom.

I will always be a mom in training. God will always be using the gift of motherhood as a tool to make me more like him. Motherhood is a gift, my friends. Some days it may not seem like it. Those days when you are covered in baby spit and have about a dozen loads of laundry and you haven't showered this week. Motherhood is an opportunity for God to show us what unconditional love really and truly is. A chance for us on a small scale to experience the love he has for us, his child. I'm praying we all take moments as we are on this journey to thank him for the gift of motherhood and for the blessing of our children.

As the clay is in the potter's hand, so are my children in the hands of the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 18:6