Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hope

Life sucking depression. 

That was the term he used.  And then he said, "you don't understand it...you can try, you can say you do, but unless you experience it, you never will." 

It tore at my heart, because I knew he was right.  I wanted to be able to understand this monster that pulls him down and renders him unable to sleep, or work, or function "normally".  I wanted to say "I've been there and it will get better", but I have not walked that path.

I have lived through the loss of a job, my mom's death at 45, verbal abuse, infidelity, and the break up of a marriage. 

But through all of that, through all the gut wrenching despair, anguished prayers and oceans of tears, I never lost hope.

And hope is what he lacks.  Hope that it will get better.  Hope that there is victory over this hell on earth. 

While my relationship with God may have been tenuous in the past, with each hardship it has grown stronger.  I cling to verses like Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

I wish that, like a blood transfusion, I could give him some of my hope.  I would gladly lay on an operating table and let the surgeon cut out a piece of my heart...my heart filled with hope for him and his future, and have it sewn onto his...a patch of hope to combat the despair that leaks out of his heart to course through his veins and poison every part of his being.  

But I can't.

What I can do is pray.  So often we say "all we can do is pray."  But praying is everything, not the only thing.  It needs to be our first defense, not our last resort. 

I can hear some people now saying, you can't just pray this away...he needs treatment.  And he gets it.  I fully believe that God has gifted people with the knowledge to understand our minds and bodies to aid in healing.  But he needs more than pills and platitudes.  More than trusting in an inward ability to work through the problems.  Hope is required.  Psalm 62:5 says:  "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him."

I haven't seen any answers to this prayer yet.  In fact, it sometimes seems that things are worse instead of  better. 

He's right.  I can't understand.  But God does.  And with all my ability I will point him in that direction, and trust that the life sucking depression will be replaced with hope in a life-giving God.  

I have hope.  And He has plans.  Amen.





Thursday, January 17, 2013

Adventures In Community Outreach - Christmas Edition

It's January, but I can still picture my church all set up for Christmas.  I can hear them too...the excited voices of families entering the Fellowship Mall, eyes wide, taking in their surroundings and anxiously awaiting the opening of our Christmas Store.

This was our "Second Annual Christmas Store", where financially challenged families could purchase new gifts for their children at 90% off.  Months of planning, weeks of shopping, and an entire day of set up was required for this four hour event!

We started with a "tag tree".  Each tag - numbered from 1 to 200 - indicated an age group from PreSchool to 18, a gender, and a price range of $10, $20 or $30.  Congregants signed out a tag, bought an appropriate gift, and returned it to the church with the tag attached to help us keep track.  Many bought extra gifts too.

We also had cash donations which a "buying team" used to purchase items in multiples, filling in the gaps the tags didn't cover.  When all was said and done there were between 800 - 1,000 gifts purchased for the main store where the parents shopped for their children and the Santa's workshop where kids shopped for parents and siblings.

While parents paid roughly 10 cents on the dollar - items like footballs and Barbies cost $1 while bicycles and mp3 players ran them $4 -  children ages 5 and up shopped in the Santa's Workshop with specially made "Christmas Dollars".  All items in both stores were gift wrapped free of charge, and the littlest family members were supervised in the nursery.

When the parents finished their shopping, they came back down to Fellowship Mall for breakfast, or lunch, or just a cup of coffee while they waited for their gifts to be wrapped and brought to the holding area.  It was a nice time to sit and chat with others, fill out a card for a soldier overseas, or wait their turn to have a family portrait taken.  We were blessed to have a professional photographer set up in one of the classrooms, taking 5x7 pictures which were printed out and framed on the spot and given as a free gift to our guests.  Several said it was the only family picture they had.

The two most important rooms we had were our prayer rooms.  In one room, there were about a dozen prayer warriors who prayed for our guests as well as for the staff of volunteers during the entire event.

In a second room, a husband and wife team made themselves available to any guest who desired prayer.  A number of people took advantage of the prayer room where it was said the spirit of the Lord was evident as requests were shared and tears were shed.

When all was said and done, we had 167 volunteers serve 90 families.  More than 50 cards were filled out and mailed overseas to our troops.  Over 40 family portraits were taken.  Dozens of Bibles were given out.  9 people received individual prayer.  Store sales totaled approximately $1,100.  We donated the funds to our local Salvation Army Drop In Center which serves the homeless population in Trenton, NJ.  Unsold toys were donated to a local organization that works with foster and adoptive families.

So many of the families served expressed their gratitude with hugs, tears, and kind words.  In fact, the director of one sending agency wrote to say that in 22 years she had never heard such wonderful feedback from clients or heard such words of gratitude.  The ripple effects go on and on.

The following weekend, we presented "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" and many of the families we served at the store returned to enjoy the show...then returned again to attend Christmas Eve services. 

We never know what our deeds will accomplish.  We pray for guidance in our approach and planning.  We pray that God would be glorified and that lives would be impacted with the love of Christ.  But beyond that, all we can do is plant the seeds.  Sometimes we are blessed to witness the harvest, and sometimes we toil trusting that God takes our sacrifice of time and talent and treasure and uses it to further His kingdom. 

If you would like more information on outreach ideas to impact YOUR community, just ask in the comments below and I'll be happy to contact you.





Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Liebster Award

My dear friend, Christine Wright from Living Joel 2:25 has nominated me for a Liebster Award.  Christine loves God, is incredibly honest and often funny as she shares about her struggles and triumphs in her daily walk.  Love her and her blog...give it a read!

Actually, this is the second time I've been nominated by a fellow blogger, but only the first time I've accepted it, because it takes some time to properly accept and pass on.

To accept, I am required to a) give you 11 random facts about myself,
b) answer 10 questions posed by the person nominating, and c) come up with 10 questions for the blogger(s) I nominate in turn.  There are some rules somewhere about the number of people to nominate, and how many readers they can have, but, I'm throwing the rulebook out the window and nominating two worthy blogs without looking at their readership.  Yeah, I 'm a rebel!

First, my 11 random things...


1)      I threw the javelin in high school

2)      I feel closest to God near water – the ocean, my “lakeside lessons” lake, even a pond or creek...I wrote about that connection in my post: Lakeside Services.

3)      Although I never even considered it, I wrote “English teacher” as 'future profession' in my senior high year book...guess I figured it was a more believable career than 'performer'.

4)     I love doing puzzles.

5)  I've always lived in New Jersey.

6)      Fall is my favorite season – colorful, not too cold, still great beach days.

7)      I have a “black thumb” – if you are a living plant, you will not fair well under my care…

8)      I love to search for bargains and the unusual at yard sales, flea markets and 2nd hand stores.

9)      I’ve always believed God would use me in a big way - I'm a vision-casting, impossible dreamer.

10)  I love to travel by train – heading to Georgia and South Carolina next month!

11)  I was born without a “math gene”.

Christine's questions for me:


1.  Do you wrap Christmas presents as you go, or do it all at once?   It used to be never - my daughter would wrap them all because she loved it...but now that she's all grown up, moved out and getting married this year (Time to Plan A Wedding) I do it all at once…usually late Christmas Eve after church service because I’m a procrastinator! 

2. What was your favorite grade in school?  Why?  I am that rare person who just loved school...every grade.  But I guess my senior year was best because I only needed to take history and chemistry to graduate and filled the rest of my day with fun classes!  Plus, I was involved in sports, the school musical, choir, advanced choir…all kinds of cool stuff!

3. Favorite dessert?  Impossible question for a baker!  Just about anything chocolate, but I love chocolate mousse and my "famous" chocolate cake.

4. How many siblings do you have?  2 – a brother 5 years younger and a sister 9 years younger.

5. Favorite verse?  Again, hard to narrow down.  There are several – Joel 2:25 & Exodus 14:14 which were what led me to read your blog Christine!  Joshua 1:9 and perhaps my all time favorite, which I talk about in Beyond the Beyond  is Eph. 3:20-21:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.



6. How was life different 10 years ago?  It was very different…I was married, unemployed and back at school (studying for what would become my change of career), my kids were 12 and 16 so there were science projects (don’t miss those!) and school socials to think about on top of my own studies. 

7. Would you rather watch a movie at home or go to the theater?  Theater…so much gets lost on the small screen!

8.  Do you have a pet?  1 cat, Angel – a rather vocal feline who’s almost 11 years old.

9. Favorite author?  Fiction, John Grisham.  Non-fiction, Mark Batterson 

10. Something specific you want to say “Yes!” to in 2013... Well, I tend to over commit, so what I want to say Yes to in 2013 is not what I feel obligated to do, but only what God wants me to do.  I want to say yes to consistency in all things :)

And lastly, my nominees and the questions I have for them (same questions for both).  Jess at  Journeying On... - a young woman with wisdom beyond her years and refreshing honesty...and Linda at One Woman's Pilgrimage.  Linda is a personal trainer, life coach, poet, encourager and friend...ladies, your questions:


1.       Do you make New Year’s Resolutions and do you tend to keep them if you do? 

2.      What was your favorite subject in school? 

3.      What is your dream job? 

4.      What is your life verse? 

5.      What is your favorite movie and why?

 6.      Do you have a hidden/secret talent? 

7.      What country would you love to visit and why? 

8.      What is your family’s goofiest tradition? (Stealing Felecia’s question to Christine - it’s a great one!) 

9.      Who’s your favorite Bible “character” and why? 

10.   Something specific you want to say “Yes!” to in 2013... 

Looking forward to reading your answers!









 


Thursday, January 3, 2013

I Am A Lego

Yes, that kind of Lego...a small, unassuming building piece that isn't functional unless it's used as part of  the bigger creation.  A piece whose sole purpose is to connect things - or in my case, people - to one another.

I've often mentioned in my posts about the God-sized dream given to me January 10, 2010.  It was a burden He put on my heart to see my church move beyond the walls of a building to BE the church in the midst of our community.

God has taken that dream and given it wings.  Our numbers grow as people are attracted to a body of believers who have put feet on their faith.  And some blessed as recipients of one outreach have joined us to go out and be the blessing the next time around.  I am just in awe of the way God delivers...bigger and better than I can imagine, every time. 

I've said it before...I am constantly seeing Eph. 3:20-21 in action.

New Year's Eve I sat with a group of women talking about our latest outreach and ministry in general. One woman has led a Bible study for 9 years that's grown to over 70 women.  She mentioned an overseeing organization committed to getting leaders equipped and trained.  Then someone asked me "and you've learned to run your ministry how?"  We all laughed as another woman piped up "trial by fire."  

While it hasn't been as painful as all that, my team and I are still on a learning curve.  We have no "formal" training, but I can't help but think our lack of experience allows God to be creative and unrestricted by preconceived expectations.  We are not careless in our approach, but there are always many unknowns.  The beauty is that God is gracious and when things are done with a right heart, He works it all together and is glorified in the outcome.

It's been my experience that God uses my natural gifts of curiosity, friendliness, communication and helpfulness, and spiritual gifts of leadership and encouragement, to connect people with needs.  There is great joy and satisfaction in having an organization we've worked with - or better yet, one who has only heard of what we're doing in the community - contact me to see if we can help...or to have people call me because they want to plug into something and make a difference.  As I talk to people about my passion for what we're doing and how God is using us, it has opened many doors and offered many connection opportunities. 

In truth, each of us can be a Lego.  Just like the pieces in a kit, we come in many shapes, sizes and colors.  Left to our own devices, we would sit in a pile and never create anything.  But when we allow the Master Builder to use our strengths and abilities, when we open ourselves up to reaching out to others, He connects us all together and creates amazing, awe-inspiring things! 

Won't you be a Lego this year?




Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My One Word for 2013

It's the first day of a new year.  Maybe you're one of those people who religiously make resolutions every January 1.  I'm not.  I've taken to saying "I can't break what I don't make".  But this year, I thought I'd try a different approach...the concept of "one word".  

Perhaps you're very familiar with the idea.  Until last year when my blogging friend Dawn from Beneath the Surface: Breath of Faith unveiled her one word for 2012 - "Less" - I had never heard of such a thing. The idea is to intentionally focus on one God-given word throughout the year that will resonate with your heart and act as a reminder and challenge.  I figure I may not be able to do a laundry list of things, but I can meditate on one word.  

Last year I didn't officially take one on, although "Surrender" has been my 'unofficial' word for 2 or 3 years now. 

This year, a local friend and fellow blogger Pam from In The Shadow of His Wings shared that Melanie from Only A Breath was creating and giving away free blog "buttons" with the "one word" of your choice.  I knew I wanted to participate and immediately, one word jumped to mind.  I was shocked it wasn't "surrender".  I don't think I've mastered that word by a long shot, but every time I tried to set my new word aside, thinking 'I haven't really prayed on this...let me think about it some more', it came charging back into my brain.  In all honesty, another word never even made the list for consideration.

So while you may have guessed it from the large button on this post, my one word for 2013 is...CONSISTENCY.

I confess, it doesn't sound very pious.  It's not like "praise" or "believe" or "trust"It sounds more like the moral to the story of the hare and the turtle...slow and steady wins the race.  But then again, Hebrews 12:1 says "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  You can't really persevere if you aren't consistent.

As I sat down to write this unveiling post, I looked up consistency for a dictionary definition.  I was surprised by what I read.  It's not that I didn't know of the other definition, it's that I never thought about it and how beautifully it also encapsulated what I hoped to do this year.

Consistency:

1. a degree of density, firmness, viscosity, etc.
2. steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc
3. agreement, harmony, or compatibility, especially correspondence or uniformity among the parts of a complex thing: 
4. the condition of cohering or holding together and retaining form; solidity or firmness.

I was only thinking of the word in terms of the second definition - steadfast adherence.  As I thought about what my resolutions WOULD be if I made them, more regular Bible reading and prayer, writing every day...even if just a few sentences, and getting back to regular exercise and healthier eating, I thought if I could just be consistent in my practice of those things, I could accomplish much in the coming year.  

But looking at the rest of the definition I see the layers of meaning that God intended.  

Density and firmness.  I want a firmly planted, deep-rooted faith that can only be watered through the consistency of time alone with God.

Agreement, harmony or compatibility - especially correspondence or uniformity among the parts of a complex thing.  As I write new chapters in my book - or think about them because I haven't committed word to page - they need to be in harmony with the existing ideas.  I struggle to have the parts create a compatible whole.

Retaining form; solidity or firmness.  Okay, this one might be a stretch, but what 50 year who needs to get back to an exercise routine doesn't dream of retaining (or regaining) her form and achieving firmness?   

Levity aside, I think that consistency is the perfect word for me this year.  It fits the needs in every aspect of my life.  And since I serve a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, and He lives within me, I think it's an attainable goal.  I'm not going to achieve perfection, but I can certainly aim for consistency.

You don't need to have a blog or a button to challenge yourself in this way this year.  Take some time to pray about it and then jot your word down on an index card.  Keep it in your wallet, put it on your dashboard or affix it to your mirror.  My prayer for each of us is that we will be consistent in focusing on our personal "one word" and seeing how God works through it!   

Happy New Year!