Gooood Morning! Here’s my latest guest post over at Guys with Bibles! Have a fabulous day!
Category Archives: encouragment
Today was my day off and this morning I was asked last minute if I could help in my church’s VBS nursery. I didn’t really have any pressing plans so I showered really quickly and walked over. I LOVE the nursery by the way. I’ve always loved working with kids and 0-5 is my favorite age. From the time I turned 13 until I moved away from home, I did more babysitting than I can remember. I don’t think a week ever went by that I didn’t babysit for someone or something. And I loved every minute.
But with all the health stuff, it’s been a while since I held some babies so I was more than happy to oblige. Ummm…guys…it was EXHAUSTING! Seriously! I literally can’t believe how tired I am hours later! I’m pretty sure those kids just zapped the energy right out of me!
At one point, I was rocking a sweet baby and yawning (trying hard not to think of the two long hours that I still had to keep awake) and I realized that the other three ladies with me were all moms. The one was causally telling a story about how many times she gets up in the middle of the night to nurse and how many times her other kids wake her up just to ask simple questions. And the others laughed and nodded knowingly.
What??! Here’s the deal. Sleep is and always has been very important to me but even more so now. The little amount I get is a precious thing. I thought about how SO. VERY. TIRED. I am all the stinkin’ time and realized that I just have myself to take care of. And I can barely handle that on some days. And here these moms have all their kids dressed, out the door, and at VBS by 9am AND were talking about going strawberry picking after it was done!! I knew exactly where I was going when it was done and that was to lay on my couch. I sat amazed.
Now, I realize that my health issues complicate matters for me and that I take three medications that all have a top side effect of sleepiness. But I also know a lot of moms with health issues too. Like my mom. She’s awesome.
So I would just like to give a big shout-out to all the moms out there! I’m not quite sure how you do it but thanks for letting me love on some of your little ones today.
I consider myself a well-hydrated person. By which I mean, water is the only thing I drink (except hot tea) and I drink more than most people I know. I drink about 75-100oz of water a day. So whenever I’m not feeling well and people question if I’m dehydrated, I just laugh. I don’t think that’s it.
However, the other day, I was a little behind on my water for the day and I decided to go for a walk. A walk these days could be anywhere between 5-9 miles and it was a nice day so I picked a loop that I knew was about 8 miles and headed out.
I was about 5 miles in when it started. I realized I was actually sweating (which isn’t normal on a simple walk for me) and my mouth was a little dry. I checked my phone and saw the horrible thing. The temp was 86 degrees with a 44% humidity. (I’m a cold weather kind of person. Shoot me.) Hmmm…guess I wasn’t prepared for the real summer weather yet…oh well…can’t really help it now.
So I kept going but it just got worse. My mouth and throat were SO dry and hurting! Soon I was consumed with a single thought- water. I just need a drink of cool water. Okay, Lord, it doesn’t have to be cool, just ANY kind of water. A creek. Puddle water. Images of ice cubes, bottled water, condensation, and swimming pools(?) filled my head. I started to wonder how long it took for sunstroke to set in?? (Dramatic, right?) I was so thirsty that I thought to myself that if I saw someone out in their yard I would have absolutely no problem going up to them and asking for some water. That’s how desperate I was. But the countryside was completely deserted. Seriously, the ONLY person I saw outside was having a showdown with her toddler and I wasn’t about to interrupt that. I thought begrudgingly that probably everybody was inside enjoying their air conditioning like smart people instead of walking around, about to DIE!
I thought of a rivers and fountains. And nonchalantly, my brain thought of the verse where Jesus declares that he is the living water and whoever drinks of him will never thirst again.
And that’s when it hit me over the head like a brick. For over 30 minutes I had LITERALLY thought of only one thing and my mind never strayed from it. Water. I was SO thirsty and I asked God right then to give me that same thirst for him. That desperate, unquenchable desire to know him more and to love and obey him better. I’ve never had a more vivid parallel or understood that verse better in my whole life.
But it wasn’t over. I was still about 1/2 mile from my house, passing by a cemetery. A car was parking and I thought, “Maybe those nice looking ladies have some water. A half mile still seems like a loooonngg way.” I watched them as they checked the flower pots near a headstone and heard one say, “Yeah, they’re pretty dry.” I struggled painfully to swallow and thought, Me too.
As I got closer I kept watching and saw one of the ladies pick up a jug and carry it away. I saw in disbelief as she got to a red water pump and filled her jug. I looked across the cemetery and it seemed as if all the headstones just dropped into the ground and suddenly all I could see were these little red water pumps! Did you know they have those?? I walk by this cemetery all the time and I’ve never seen them!
I was so excited that I quickly (but um, respectfully) clambered to the one closest to me. I turned it on and nice cool water came out. I’m sure it wasn’t the cleanest and I. Don’t. Care. It was the best water I’ve ever had. I drank and splashed it on my face. A car drove by me and I almost hesitated because I didn’t know what they would think and then it hit me again that I still didn’t care. I felt so much better that I laughed and briskly walked the last part home. Just so thankful for water.
But that also reminded me of something else. Sometimes we let fear of what others think of us keep us from talking about Jesus, our Living Water. I want to desire him so much that I simply don’t care what others think of me. I want him to be my single thought and goal.
(And today I took a walk with a water bottle.)
Today I have the very special opportunity to share a story with you from my best friend. She wrote this up a week or so ago and has such a talent for communicating so I asked if I could post it. I hope it blesses you as it did me.
“So, how can I tell if it’s alive?” I questioned a stranger on the beach. “Hmm, splash a little water on it and see if it moves.” the stranger offered as she walked toward me. She drew in closer as I scooped a handful of cold ocean water into the shell. I caught this quick picture as the mollusk poked out of his shell. “O yah, it’s alive!” she exclaimed in her Wisconsin accent. “It’s just been out of the water for a while. I like to throw ’em back in and give ’em a second chance.” she said pointing at the water. I nodded in agreement and tossed the little guy back into the ocean.
This simple interaction sparked a life-giving conversation that moved me to tears.
You see, that morning I went to the beach feeling much like that stranded mollusk. Spiritually parched and so far away from God’s life-giving, soul-refreshing, Living Water. Feeling and looking rather dead and hiding from the light. Not that I didn’t KNOW or BELIEVE in God’s goodness and the fact that he is my source of life… it’s just I hadn’t FELT that abundant life in a long time.
While certain circumstances played a big part in feeling spiritually drained, the bigger culprits were sin issues and neglecting time with the Lord. Since my work is in a Christian ministry, I felt like I had to conjure up the appearance of spiritual vitality. I was exhausted from trying to keep up the facade while my heart was withering inside.
That week I was on a trip to Florida and had designated that day as my “Jesus” day. I was going to ignore my phone and other distractions and just focus on resuscitating my relationship with the Lord. In the past, I found spending time outdoors and acknowledging God’s hand in nature to be great faith-builders for me.
I decided to wake up early that morning and go for a walk on the beach to spend time in creation. As I got ready in my hotel room, I begged God to show himself to me that day. Like so many of my previous prayers, I felt like it fell on deaf ears and I was just talking to the wall.
As I walked toward the beach, the cold ocean air whipped through my hoodie and I wished I had stayed in bed. When I got to the beach I looked around and forced myself to come up with praises. (Not the right attitude, I know.) My heart said, “God you are so powerful that you control the tides.” Then my head butted in and said, “The moon controls tides, you dummy!” So my heart responded, “God, I’m so thankful for your control over ALL things!” Then my head came back with, “God if you are in control of all things then why can’t you fix…?” Ugh, not a very good start.
With a conflicted spirit, I reached down to pick up the little conch shell and noticed Sherry, who was walking several paces behind me.
We were two of only a handful of people willing to brave the 40 degree weather on the beach that morning. After tossing the mollusk back into the ocean, we started walking along the beach together.
Almost instantly she brought up her church and we started talking about faith. I learned that she grew up in church, but had fallen away a few times before returning the final time decades ago. She shared about her love for Compassion International, her passion for serving young adults in her church, and her interest in traveling. When she mentioned a life-altering career change to follow God’s leading, we talked about the blessings and sacrifices of the Christian life. I can’t even remember everything we talked about, but the conversation flowed so easily, it felt as if we had known each other for years.
For nearly two hours we walked along the beach together: gathering shells, tossing back mollusks, and talking about life. I found myself opening up to her about details of my life I don’t usually even share with friends. Her honesty, wisdom, and kind encouragement felt like cool water to my thirsty soul. What she was saying resonated so much with me that I felt like her words were a direct answer to my prayers.
As we neared the end of the walk, we hesitated, almost wishing we had more beach to walk and more time to talk. We both acknowledged what a mutual blessing it was to spend that brisk January morning together and felt God had ordained us to meet. Sherry gave me a big hug and we prayed together before a final farewell.
When Sherry first met me, I was that lowly mollusk that had been out of God’s life-giving water for far too long. With her encouragement from the Lord, she gave me a second chance by tossing me back into God’s great ocean of Living Water.
As I walked alone on the road back to my hotel, tears streamed down my face. For the first time in a long time I didn’t just KNOW and BELIEVE, I FELT the love and the presence of God in a real way. God had answered my prayer in a way I didn’t expect and I still don’t fully understand.
My revived soul spent the rest of that day soaking up God’s Word, talking with the Lord, and worshiping him. Only this time it wasn’t forced or conflicted, his praises came overflowing out of the abundance of joy in my heart.
“O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 68:1
Have you ever had one of those weeks where every single thing manages to go exactly as you want it to? Where you get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, work runs smoothly, devotions are deep, your family is well, you get together with friends, and you end the week doing whatever your favorite end-of-week activity is? Yeah, me either. And this week is definitely not one of those weeks. Let me tell you about it.
On Tuesday, I found out that one of my very good family friends from PA had had a stroke. She is only in her forties I believe and a pretty active and healthy person so I was really shocked. Praise God, she has recovered very quickly and is expected to keep doing so but it was still hard to take in.
On Wednesday, our church got the news that one of our dear elders had been taken to the ER for Acute Myeloid Leukemia. They had just gotten the diagnosis that day and needed to start treatment right away. As we were told, I looked katty-korner to the pew in front of me and saw his sweet, elderly mom sitting there with red and teary eyes. As I gave her a tight hug, I couldn’t even find any words to say. We just cried together.
And on Thursday, as I sat in a ladies Bible study I got a text that told me one of our campers from Insight camp (for kids who are blind or visually impaired) had passed away on Sunday. He was 15 and one of the sweetest guys- always had a smile for everyone.
Gosh this life is too much for me to handle. Sometimes the weight of everything really gets me down. And last night I realized I was struggling to hold onto Jesus and that’s when I remembered that isn’t what happens. He holds onto me. My aunt sent me this song a few months ago and as I listen to it, God calms my heart and reminds me that he is my strength, not me.
If there’s one thing this last month has taught me it’s to give more grace to others. When someone speaks to you in an angry tone, give grace. When someone lets you down again, give grace. When someone does something that you think is weird or odd, (mind your own business and) give grace. Why? Because EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. is going through something that you know nothing about. You have no idea what is going on in their life or what just happened that may be affecting their behavior.
Speaking for myself, (for better or worse), I’m one of the best fakers out there. My head could be about to explode, but I can still smile and ask how you are doing. And I’m willing to bet a lot of us are like that. Much of our suffering, whether it’s physical or emotional, isn’t seen by others. Now, we could probably save ourselves a little bit of trouble and tell a few certain people how we are feeling but you certainly can’t tell everybody.
Maybe we could all try to give others a little more grace. Maybe instead of whispering about that frustrated and overwhelmed mom in the grocery store, you could walk up and tell her she’s doing a great job and ask if you could help carry her groceries? Maybe if someone leaves early from a party, they aren’t really being a party-pooper, but it took all their strength and energy to make it as long as they did? Maybe that person eating a granola bar in church is trying to keep herself from throwing up because of meds and it was a struggle for her to come to church at all? In these circumstances, will you (will I?) be the compassionate person or will you stoop to judging and mocking?
I’ve just come to realize through my own situations that I really only see a very little bit of everyone else’s lives. I want to be the person who assumes the best of people and shares God’s grace freely and abundantly.
Whether or not it’s deserved doesn’t matter because I certainly didn’t deserve it and neither did you. So why not look for some opportunities to give grace and show compassion?
So I have started writing a post numerous times but every time I just get so tired that I never get to finish it. This is not that post. That one will come. 🙂 Sometime…
I have had a lot on my mind lately and this prayer by Matt Chandler has been one that I have said often:
“My prayer, then is, ‘Lord, help me rejoice in You in this moment. Because I know You are in control. I know You love me; I know You love my family. And I don’t understand what You’re doing, and I don’t know how things are going to work out. But help me to acknowledge that if I have You, I have everything.'” -Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ, to Die is Gain
I love that quote. I say it to remind myself that it’s okay not to know how it’s going to work out. I remind myself that God’s love is unchanging, undying, and he won’t leave me. I remind myself that his sovereignty is my hope and that somehow, with Christ, there IS a way to rejoice and find that hope in the midst of difficulties.
And that’s what I have for you today. That, and this beautiful song to encourage you to find your hope in Christ and what he has done for you.
I used that term one time during a conversation and I got funny looks for it. Obviously, the person I was talking to was NOT a big sister. However, the phrase could use some explanation I suppose.
Big Sister mode is when God gives Big Sisters an essential extra supply of grace just when they need it.
Big Sister Mode is when your parents think your mom just had a miscarriage and is going to the hospital and you keep it to yourself so as not to upset your siblings.
Big Sister Mode is when your little brother has a life threatening seizure and you are bawling your eyes out but then your parents leave in the ambulance and you instantly collect yourself.
Big Sister Mode is when your younger sister almost drowns in a lake and you don’t scream or cry.
Big Sister Mode is when you find yourself in scary situations but know that you are the oldest and if you panic then so will your younger siblings. It’s when you put your emotions aside to deal with the emotions of others. It’s when you stop seeking someone to comfort you and you start to comfort others. You don’t have to be the oldest sister to have it; you simply have to be an older sister. (I suppose you could have big brother mode, but I’m not a brother so I’m not sure. 🙂 ) A friend of mine calls it survival mode.
I’ve thought a lot about those situations since that conversation. Why do I respond that way? I don’t think about it during those moments. I never THINK about going into Big Sister Mode. It just happens.
The more I think about it, the more I realize: it really is just by God’s grace. He provides strength at those times when it is most needed and mine is gone. He gives hope to me so I can share it. He comforts me so I can comfort others.
It reminds me of these verses.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Catchy title, no? I haven’t been blogging much lately because I’ve been preparing posts for over the summer when I’m gone and I’ve also been a bit busy!
I’ve been thinking about slavery a lot lately. My thinking has been prompted by reading the following verses:
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:16-23
I’ve been thinking: a slave has no choice of whether or not to obey. A slave MUST obey his master no matter what. We have been bought with a price and do not belong to ourselves. We belong to Christ. Recently, when there have been times when I’ve been tempted to sin, I think of these verses and say to myself, “A slave has no choice; he must obey.” It’s been such a help and reminder to me to be holy and righteous to think of myself as a slave!
Of course, there are rich rewards to this kind of slavery: the gift of eternal life with God!