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...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wrapping Up and Looking Forward - My One Word for 2015

It's been a year of trust.

Challenges and blessings, unbelievable lows and exciting highs.

I am so thankful that through it all, God was, is, and always will be, constant.

And I am thankful for so many of you who took that journey of trust with me.

You sent me scriptures, and pictures, and devotionals that contained the word.  When I expressed frustration, or doubt, or fear, you encouraged me to remember my word - and the scripture that accompanied it.  Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."  In return, you often wrote that my journey of trust bolstered your faith, and for that I am humbled and grateful.

A treasured birthday gift I received from a friend last January is a book called "Trust - a Godly woman's adornment" by Lydia Brownback.  I cannot recommend that small book of powerful devotions strongly enough...even if trust isn't your "one word", give it a read and be blessed.

That same friend gave me a journal this Christmas with the words "Trust in the Lord with all your Heart" on the cover, and said "so here you are, wrapping up a year of trust."

Indeed, it is time to wrap up the year, file away the memories, pick a new One Word for 2015.

But you can't file away trust.

After being so incredibly changed by the journey of trust I've been on, I can't put it in a container and store it up in the attic like seasonal clothing.

So I began to pray about my one word for 2015 and how it might build on Trust.

This weekend, a word popped into my head, but I wanted to make sure it wasn't my word, but God's.

The word was Abundance.

I asked God to give me confirmation.  Something I might read, something I might hear, say, during Sunday's sermon.

I heard and saw lots of words that might mean abundance - completeness, fullness, etc. - but they weren't exactly right.

Abundance means: an extremely plentiful or over-sufficient quantity or supply.  Overflowing fullness. And the third definition is what might jump to mind first for many people - affluence, wealth.

The words I was coming across were missing the modifier "over".  More than full. More than complete.

I continued to pray, but no other word came forth.

On Monday, I was reading from my favorite devotional that I have quoted from many times - Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  It began with "Trust Me with every fiber of your being!  What I can accomplish in and through you is proportional to how much you depend on Me."  It went on, basically describing my life this past year, and ended with "Consistently trusting in Me is vital to flourishing in My Presence."

I pondered that.  Consistently (consistency was my 2013 word) trusting (my word for 2014) in Me is vital to flourishing (meaning growing vigorously; thriving; prosperous) in My Presence.

It sounded like it might fit the bill for my hope of "building" on my current word.  But while "flourishing" was close, I was really looking for God to give me the word spelled out - ABUNDANCE.

This morning I once again opened Jesus Calling and read the entry for December 31st...and I thanked God through my laughter.  He's got perfect timing.

"As this year draws to a close, receive My Peace.  This is still your deepest need, and I, your Prince of Peace, long to pour Myself into your neediness. My ABUNDANCE and your emptiness are a perfect match.  I designed you to have no sufficiency of your own.  I created you as a jar of clay, set apart for sacred use.  I want you to be filled with My very Being, permeated through and through with Peace."

God is good.  And He speaks clearly when we listen for His voice.

My One Word for this year is Abundance.

And my scripture verses for the year are among my very favorite - Ephesians 3:20 - 21.  "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever! Amen." (Emphasis mine).

Abundance.  Not in affluence and wealth which can evaporate in a moment in this uncertain world, but in the overflowing fullness of God's love, grace, mercy, and presence that is experienced when we trust in Him. Abundance is the fruit of trusting.  It is a natural progression in our walk with God.  And it is my prayer for all of us in 2015.

Have you considered a "one word" for this coming year?  Read more about the concept here.






Tuesday, November 18, 2014

When You 'Think No One Is Watching

This morning, I'm over at Circles of Faith, talking about the choices we make and how, even when we think no one is looking, we shouldn't react in the heat of the moment...



It may be that it was one of those mornings.

You’ve had them – you go to pour milk on the cereal only to discover someone put the container back empty…or you spill coffee on your last clean top and you’re already running 10 minutes late…or you lock the door behind you just as you realize you left your keys on the counter.

Maybe it was more serious.  A broken marriage, a wayward child, a job loss, health concerns.


Whatever the issue, I was keenly aware something was going on with the woman at the end of my pew.  

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Miracles & Moments of Grace - A Review

Everyone loves a good story.  And if it's a true story of faith, courage, or Divine intervention all the better!

Today at Circles of Faith, I'm reviewing "Miracles & Moments of Grace - Inspiring Stories of Survival"written by friend and talented writer of seven books, Nancy B. Kennedy.

From the very first page of Nancy B. Kennedy's book, "Miracles & Moments of Grace - INSPIRING STORIES OF SURVIVAL", I was drawn in.  I found myself transfixed as I read about an 18-wheeler careening off the road, barreling into the unknown during a blinding dust storm.  I held my breath through the tale of a masked gunman who crashed a home jewelry party.  Tears flowed as I read the account of Emily, a two-year old little girl stricken with cancer.

Read the rest of the review here.  Read more about Nancy and her books here.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Borrowing Trouble

On the other end of the phone the woman was weeping...screaming...sobbing from the depths of her soul.

All I could  say was "I understand".  And to a great extent, I did.

It was not that long ago I was looking at homelessness as a real possibility.

"Can I pray with you?"



I hoped bringing God into the mix would calm her down.  She told me she needed to make another call and would phone me back.

Honestly, I was surprised she called back just five minutes later.  As the crying began again, I quickly launched into prayer.

I thanked God for His Sovereignty and the fact that He was not surprised by this turn of events.  I prayed for His peace to surround her, to envelop her, to comfort her.

While I prayed, her sobs began to subside...replaced by sniffles and sighs.

But as soon as I stopped, the "what ifs" began again and in a matter of minutes she had worried herself back into a hysterical mess.

"'God's got this" I said.

Her response was, "yeah, but sometimes He lets you go through things."

Didn't I know it.

I spoke with all the authority I could muster.  "Yes, sometimes He does, but He's still in control.  What day is today?"

"Thursday."

"Then there are still four more days to your deadline.  Why do you insist on borrowing possible trouble that's still half a week away?"

The conversation went on like this for another half an hour.  Me telling her I understood her fears, doubts, and concerns - while reminding her God was bigger than all of it and already on the other side of it.  I told her these weren't just words and shared a little of my story...

My thoughts returned to this encounter today as I wait on my own "what ifs".

Something occurred this weekend - out of left field - and I was in to see a doctor on Tuesday.

He told me a biopsy was needed.

My heart sank.

In the back of my mind, I knew this was possible.  I had done the dumb thing and gone to WebMD.com to read about my symptoms, their causes, diagnosis, and treatment.  A biopsy was listed as a possible next step.

When looking for peace of mind, WebMD is not the place to go - read the descriptions and you'll be convinced you've got half a dozen diseases, all of them fatal.

What I should have done was go to the Great Physician who provides peace that passes understanding.

And yet. I had avoided Him all morning.  Not sure why, I just did.

I deliberately skipped my quiet time and busied myself until the clock warned it was time to leave for work.

While I was having trouble praying, I knew I needed it.  So later that morning, on the way to the doctor's office, I called a friend to ask her to pray.

When I got out of the appointment, I saw a text she sent with some of what I would have read had I cracked open my Jesus Calling devotional and Bible.

"I am perpetually with you, taking care of you."

"You need not fear the future, for I am already there."

"Your future is in My hands; I release it to you day by day, moment by moment.  Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow.

"I am training you to keep your focus on My Presence in the present."

Much of the day's devotional was based on Matthew 6:34 - "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Yep, it all sounded pretty familiar.  After all, they were the very thoughts I'd shared with my caller a few days before.

Thoughts I'd shared because I knew them to be truth.

The words calmed me.  For a moment my heart and mind stopped racing.

But when I finished reading, I confess, the "what if's" crept back in, demanding attention and answers.

I have to wait a week for the results.

During that time, I have two choices.

I can waste my days living in fear of the unknown, a slave to the what if's,

OR

I can consciously, deliberately, minute by minute, trust in what I know - the God who has shown His faithfulness over and over again.

Remember the woman who called me?  By the time those four days had passed, God had moved mountains and she continues to have a place to live.

She lost a lot of sleep, and cried a lot of tears, yet her worst fears never materialized.

There was no need for her to borrow trouble.  

So I'm going to make the better choice and leave that trouble right where it is.

After all, I believe what I told her just last week - "God's got this."







Monday, September 29, 2014

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

It was a picture perfect fall day that found me down at the lake.  As I turned toward my normal walking path, I heard the ethereal sounds of a pan flute playing the melody of Amazing Grace and it caused me to stop.

At the bottom of the hill, sitting alone on a bench, I spied the source and headed toward him, singing the words under my breath.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come.  Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far, and Grace will lead me home.

I thought about this past year and all of its concerns.  All of my doubts and fears.  All the impossible situations.  And all of God's grace bringing me safely to where I am today.

The Lord has promised good to me, His Word my hope secures.  He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.

He's been so faithful to that promise.  Not in my time, but in His.  I have a new home even though I couldn't see past the threat of homelessness.  I have a new job even though I had begun to wonder if a door would ever open.  And this past week, He gave me a little glimpse into how He was moving behind the scenes to secure this wonderful position for me.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Cor. 4:17-18

When we've been there 10,000 years...bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun.

This last verse was written by an anonymous author, added after the original was penned by John Newton, and it is one of my favorites.  Sometimes when I'm worshipping in song on a Sunday morning, or in my quiet time, I reflect on these words and smile at the thought of praising God and thanking Him for His goodness, and mercy, and faithfulness, and love...forever.

The man with the flute went on to play other tunes I did not recognize.  They were just as delicate and wistful as the first, but they weren't the same.  Only God's amazing grace could be so gentle and beautiful and powerful all at the same time.

I was grateful for the reminder.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Thirty years ago I sang along with Tom Petty...the waiting is the hardest part".

I had no idea at 23 how true those words were.

As I read my Bible today, I found this verse highlighted from three years ago this very day: 1 Peter 5:6-7 "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on Him because He care for you."

It's always easier to see that "in due time" is the perfect time after we've come through the waiting time.

None of us likes to wait.

Romans 5:3 tells us "We can  rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance."

But we don't want endurance.  Endurance takes too much time to develop.  We look at the things holding us back from our perceived prize and become Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka declaring "I want it NOW!!"



The problem with insisting on our own way, with trying to manipulate our circumstances to bring about our desires, is that it ends badly, as little Veruca discovered.

Thank goodness for the next verses, Romans 5:4-5, which show us what happens when we stay the course.

"And endurance produces character, and character produces hope.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love."

"And this hope will not lead to disappointment."

Let that sink in a moment.  If we hang on...if we are patient...if we wait for the "due time"...we will not be disappointed.

When I highlighted that verse three years ago I was newly divorced.  There were many cares to cast on God.  Finances, relationships, family heath concerns.  Each passing year brought more difficulties to slog through. It was a deep, wide, valley of cares.

As time went on, I moved toward the mountain, but often its sheer size was all I could see in front of me.

I felt the sharp stones on the path under my feet.

I scraped my hands on unyielding rock.

Yet when I thought I could not hold on another second, I would look up and see the Father's hand reaching down.  He beckoned me not to cling to the rock, but to Him. And He would show me in so many ways that He was still there, waiting with me.

In this life we will have trouble.  It will never go away.

But like the psalmist, I am also confident that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

I am seeing it even now, even today.

God's due time has come to pass in the last few months.

For this chapter of my life anyway.  I'm sure there's more enduring and character building to come.

In my last blog post of 2013, on the eve of this new year, I said I was trusting Him for a place to live and a ministry with eternal impact.

He has granted both and more.

In June, He provided a beautiful place to live.

He brought my vision of donating fresh vegetables to the food bank through a church garden to fruition.

He has provided me a new job that I'll begin next week.  More than just a job, it is a the chance to make my passion for reaching out to the community with the love of Christ in tangible ways into my profession as I enter full time ministry service.

And He has given me the assurance that the ministry He used me to build over the past four years, CommunityConnections, will now be led by someone who loves its vision and purpose as much as I do.

In due time, He brought all this about.  None of it came quickly.  There was a lot of endurance and character building in the process.  But in looking back, it is obvious that it is the perfect time.  Three years ago, I was not ready to take on what has transpired this year.  The good OR the bad.  I needed the time for God to stretch, and teach, and grow me.

But from the top of this current mountain, the view is spectacular, and breathtaking, and very much worth the wait.

How has God had you wait this year?  I would love to hear how He has brought you through it.

And if you're still waiting, how has He shown that He is there with you in the wait?




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to Have the Best Date of Your Life

Divorced after 31 years of marriage and single since then, you might not think of me first when looking for dating advice!

But this is not just any date.

And it's not just any person.




Join me today on Circlesoffaith.org as I share how to start planning the best date of your life, whether you're single or married!


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hanging Up My Cape - The Best Yes

I'm excited to join many other inspiring bloggers and add this post to Lysa TerKeurst's "The Best Yes" Blog Tour. To learn more and join us CLICK HERE 

I sat in the pastor's office on the verge of tears. I had sought out his wisdom to sort through commitments that had left me feeling pressured and stretched to the limit.

Women's ministry.  Praise Team.  Dramas. Driving the church van to the homeless shelter.  Writing content for the church website.  And on, and on.

You see, I've been diagnosed with what Lysa calls the "disease to please".  I hated saying "no" to anything.  I just didn't want to disappoint people.

So I ran around saying yes to lots of things.

Practically everything.

Okay...everything.

Individually, they were all really good things.  "Church things."  But they weren't the best things.

At least not for me.

Of course my son likes to remind me I only have myself to thank for being in an over-committed quandary.

And he's right. (He'll never believe that confession made it to print!)

The truth is, if there's no white space in my life, if I'm only pouring myself out but never being filled up, if I'm always saying yes to everything...I'm not a wonder woman, I'm a worn out woman.

And that's why I was sitting in my pastor's office.

He wrote down all the ministries I was involved in and we discussed them one by one, examining whether each activity brought me joy or stress.

We tried to discern if any of my yeses had been a Best Yes.

Slowly, we chipped away at the list.

While I felt the load lighten with each thing we removed, I knew there would be push back.  Some people would not understand my need to say "no" - especially after having said "yes".

But the bottom line was the only person living my life was me.  And the only opinion that mattered was God.'s

I had to ask myself - were all these good things - ANY of these good things - my things to do?

Were they the things God had best equipped me to handle?

Because I could do them, did it mean I should do them?

Was I robbing someone else of the opportunity to use their gifts?

And could a worn out woman give anyone her best?

No.

By putting on my cape and swooping in, there was a good possibility that I was actually being disobedient...filling a need I wasn't called  to fill.

These days, I'm still a busy woman.  But instead of spreading myself across many different areas and ministries, I focus on my Best Yes - heading up the outreach ministry at my church.  It's what I've been called to do.  Something God put on my heart when I finally hung up the cape and dropped some of the yes noise from my life so I could hear Him more clearly.

Are you saying yes to things you shouldn't?  Are you feeling like a worn out woman?

Put that cape on a hanger and stick it back in the closet.  

It's time to figure out God's Best Yes for your life and Lysa Terkeurst's newest book, The Best Yes, is full of practical insight to help you do just that.  Grab your copy today.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Writing Process (and other weighty questions answered)

As I mentioned in another post, I attended the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer's Conference at the end of July.  There I met the lovely Kathryn Ross who blogs at The Writer's Reverie.  She invited me to participate in a blog hop of sorts where I answer four questions about my writing, and introduce you to three bloggers who then do the same.  

I hesitantly took on the challenge, concerned I wouldn't be able to find three other bloggers.  I read a number of blogs, but I know people are busy and it might not be possible for them to carry forth the challenge.  Unfortunately, this was in fact the case.  Several have already participated, a few are in transition with their blogs, and so on and so forth.  But to keep my obligation, I have answered the four questions below, and, because I love these other blogs, I will introduce you to three of them without requiring them to carry on the "hop".  In fact, one has already participated, so I will be redirecting you to her earlier response to a different challenger.

Here are the questions:

What am I working on? 

I've had a memoir in the works for about 3 years.  It began as a submission for a writing competition held by Women of Faith and was only required to be 10,000 words.  In the two years since the contest, I have pulled it out, dusted it off, submitted it for critique, added to it, reworked it and had it critiqued again.  Last year, after the word count had doubled in size, it became obvious to me it was really two books: a memoir and a "how-to" book on outreaches.  At this year's writer's conference I shared some articles I wrote on outreach as well as the idea for the book and they were met with favorable feedback, so the memoir is on the back burner for now as I work on the outreach book.

This month I became a regular contributing writer for circlesoffaith.org and so I'm also working on a continuing series of articles about women making a difference in their communities.  The first article was called The MAKE IT Program.

Of course, I'm always working on posts for my blog as well.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

The outreach book is different from others I've seen in that it will provide details like time frames, resources, and appendices with step by step instructions missing from other publications.  Rather than a book that just lists ideas, it will be a book containing solutions. Each chapter will start with a story of how someone was impacted by the outreach, and it will be followed by the logistics of the event making it personal and instructional.

Why do I write what I write? 

As a young teen, I wrote poetry and short stories in my journal.  I've always excelled at writing in shorter form, so blog posts, devotionals, and articles are easy for me relatively speaking.  Developing ideas into book form is far more difficult.

The blog posts I write because God has laid something on my heart to share or has taught me something I think others would appreciate reading about.  It is extremely personal in content. 

I'm writing the book because in the past four years God has placed a passion in my heart for servant evangelism through community outreach.  It is my dream to see churches large and small all over the US and the world step outside the doors of their buildings where it is easy to become inward-looking and self-serving and turn their gaze to those in their very backyards who will perish without the life-giving water Christ has to offer.  So many of them might never knock on the door of the church to request it, but if the church goes to them and offers the cup, they are far more likely to drink of it.

The bottom line is I write what I write because I'm compelled to use the gift of words God has given me to further His kingdom and to encourage those who already know Him.

How does my writing process work?

It works differently depending on what I'm writing. So many blog posts are born out of personal experience.  A situation will occur, something will be said, a word picture will present itself, and a title or "hook" line will come to mind.  I will marinate on that, working it out in my brain, trying different approaches often long before a single word hits the page.  I know it's truly from God when the words flow out of my fingers which often have to fly to keep up with what my brain is spitting out.  If things come to a halt and re-reading what's there doesn't restart the process, I'll let it lie for awhile, coming back to it in an hour, or a day.  I'll pray on it, think about it some more, then re-read what's there and edit.  It's been said that writing is rewriting and there is no bigger truth.  I am always rewriting - sometimes even after I've hit that "publish" button.

The writing process also involves a great deal of procrastination for me.  Because I use the computer to write, I run the risk of being tempted to "pop on" Facebook or check email and before long the shiny ball syndrome has struck and I'm doing everything BUT write.  I am still looking for that perfect place, that little corner where I can hide and type.  It's tough because the lap top I use only works when plugged in - the battery is basically dead.  This makes portability an issue!

Okay...now to those other bloggers I mentioned.

I met Beth Bingaman my first year at the conference.  Kind and wise, I liked her straight away and I'm glad we can keep in touch via Facebook.  It was a delight to reconnect in person at this year's conference.  Beth is a teacher and speaker and you'll find her blog on her website, http://www.bethbingaman.com/ .  It is filled with solid, Biblical truth.

Linda Cannon writes at One Woman's Pilgrimage...Pressing On.  Her Haiku is beautiful, and her lessons, memorable.  I met Linda at church.  She is a great motivator, life coach, certified group fitness instructor, and friend.  She also blogs at Coach Linda Bush.

Lastly, Susie Klein has already taken this challenge.  You can find her responses via this link on her blog Recovering Church Lady.  The name alone grabs attention, doesn't it?  Susie writes with wit and wisdom and is currently luxuriating next to the pool God gave her at her new Texas home (she transplanted a month ago from California). 

I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about me and that you'll visit these other awesome blogs!!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Helping others MAKE IT

Today at Circles of Faith I introduce Ikecia Lenese Mapp.  Ikecia is a friend, sister in Christ, co-laborer on the CommunityConnections outreach ministry I head up, author, and mom.  She has created a wonderful program called MAKE IT to encourage and empower women who find themselves struggling with life's circumstances.










Take what God has gifted you with and use it right where you are.

That’s exactly what my friend, Ikecia Lenese Mapp, did.  

Ikecia was 16 and pregnant, but determined not to become a high school dropout.

Her story is one of hardship, healing, and triumph as she fulfills God’s mission for her life.

Visit Circles of Faith today to read the rest of the story!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Writing His Answer - Can You Hear Me Now?














The email came while I was at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer's Conference.  It was a simple request to meet, but for some inexplicable reason, my defenses went up.

I called a friend to see if she could shed some light on what it was about. Even as she tried to allay my fears, I found myself getting teary-eyed.  She apologized for upsetting me, but I assured her the problem was mine. I couldn't shake the totally unfounded feeling that my purpose for being at the conference was about to be negated.

Lies of the enemy.  

In the back of my mind I knew what they were, but those lies still tried to find a place where they could settle into my brain and fester.

The theme of the conference was "Write His Answer" based on Habakkuk 2:2.  It is my belief that I can write His answer to a lost world by sharing the impact my church is making on our community and to encourage others to use those ideas as a jumping off point so they too can leave the confines of the church walls and begin to change their communities.  After all, Galatians 6:9 instructs us "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (NIV)

To become better prepared to write that answer, I took two main courses of study this year.  A continuing session on writing magazine articles, and a blogging clinic.

The first two days at the conference, I dutifully jotted notes during the clinic. The teacher spoke at length about key words, alt attribute text, Google Analytics, widgets, rss feeds, and SEO.

All technical, clinical stuff.

But the day after the email and phone call, our instructor decided to switch gears for a moment.  She asked us to write down how we felt about our readers.  What we wanted them to feel as they read our words. Some people shared what they had written.

"Encouraged.  Taking away nuggets of truth.  Challenged. Loved."

Then she said "How do you think God feels about YOU?  Not what you know in your head, but what you feel in your heart."  She added "You don't need to share those words if you're not comfortable doing that."

No one raised their hand.  

She moved on.

Eventually, we took a break, and when we returned to our seats, she had a funny look on her face.

"I feel like God has given me a word for someone in here.  You have to understand, this is not something that normally happens to me, but I really feel I have to share it.  Someone in here is discouraged.  I don't know if it's because their blog isn't what they'd like it to be or it's something else. I don't know who it's for, but if you feel it's for you, you don't have to raise your hand or anything."

"God wants you to know He's proud of you.  He's pleased with you.  You're on the right track.  You're doing what He wants of you."

Now that could have been a word for anyone in the room.  Or everyone.  But I believe it was for me.

Why?

Because I looked down at the paper where I had jotted down how I thought God felt about me.  It said:

"He loves me, cares for me, He's proud of me and loves when I lean into Him in good times and bad.  He loves when I seek His face."

But I had crossed out "proud".  I thought it sounded...well...prideful.  I changed it to "is pleased with me" and even then, I wondered.  Could I assume such a thing?

But those were the very words she used.  He's proud of you.  He's pleased with you. 

In. That. Order.  

It was no coincidence.  God wanted me to know no matter how I tried to position it, He had me covered.  He takes both pride and pleasure in me. 

If any doubts remained that the word was for me, they were wiped away in my next class, the continuing session on article writing.

I shared about a garden my church planted with the sole purpose of donating the harvest to the food bank. When I was done,  two of my classmates came to me asking for my contact information.  One had already been trying to unsuccessfully to convince her pastor to break ground on a garden and was excited to provide him proof that the idea was viable...the other was encouraged to bring a proposal to her church.

The lies of the enemy were exposed for what they were.  Lies.  Nothing was being negated.  God affirmed I was on the right track with every interaction I had on the subject of community outreach.from that point forward  I could rest assured I was doing what He wanted of me.

I am so grateful that my teacher not only listened to what the Spirit had to say, but that she was obedient to relay it.

I had been listening to lies until the Truth broke through.

But I can hear Him now.  

Clearly.

The Truth wrote His answer on my heart so that I can write His answer to others.

How is God speaking to you today?  




Saturday, July 19, 2014

Buggy-eyed Fears

I was blissfully unaware as I pulled the front door open to step into the evening air.

Moths, gnats and other flying insects were drawn to the light and as I waved them off, I glanced down to my right.  That's when I saw some THING clinging to the door just inches from my hand.

It was the biggest, ugliest bug I have ever laid eyes on. I wasn't going to whip out a tape measure at that moment, but it had to be almost 3 inches long.

I screamed.

I had to close the door, but this freaky, creepy crawly creature was mere inches from the knob.

I tried to slip my hand through the crack on the hinged side to coax the door closed.

It didn't work.

I debated leaving the door open, but feared it would make its way up the stairwell and into my apartment.

Unacceptable.

I whined and whimpered and called on Jesus as I made the decision to hold my breath, reach for the knob, and pull the door shut.

Success! 

I got into my car, skin crawling, and nervously looked around to see if it had followed me.

Paranoid? Hey, he could have flown...or crawled really fast...I didn't know if he had Super Bug powers!

My purpose in going out had been to pick up my son, and as we headed back home, I said "okay...now we're gonna pray that the HUGE, ugly beetle that was on the front door when I left, is gone."

As we approached the front step, my son told me to power up the flashlight app on my cell.  "I want to see what I'm dealing with" he said.

I fumbled with my phone, glancing toward where I'd last seen it and breathed a sigh of relief.

"I think it's gone".

Then I shined the light on the door.

There it was...right in the door jam next to the knob.

I screamed again

My son calmly used some papers in his hand to knock it to the ground and sweep it off the porch.

I knew that bug was still around, but now the way forward was clear and it was safe to move into the house.

I'm afraid all too often, I approach life's problems in much the same way as the encounter with that bug.

Although I've memorized "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6) the truth is, sometimes I don't go straight to prayer and I allow my fear to get a foothold.

Have you ever felt that way?

You're just cruising along one minute, and then panicked the next as you find yourself eyeball to eyeball with an unexpected circumstance?

Psalm 46: 1-3 promises "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."

Just like that bug was still somewhere once my son knocked it off the porch, our problems won't necessarily go away.  They may "roar and foam" or "quake", but handing over our fear allows God to step between us and our concerns and allows us to move forward in confidence, knowing He hems us in behind and before (Psalm 139:5).

So let's not allow problems, concerns, or fears hold us at bay.  Let's give them to God who isn't freaked out by them. 

Not even the great big ugly ones.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. I Peter 5:7


Photo credit Steffen Foerster - Dreamstime Stock Photos


Monday, July 7, 2014

Permission to Grieve

As I stood in the recessed archway of the now empty dining room, the memories came flooding back.

This was the spot that sold me on this house 28 years ago. 

I had been 8 months pregnant with my first child when we first walked through the front door, so I knew time was of the essence in finding a place bigger than our one bedroom apartment.

Still, I really didn't want to buy a semi, or as some call it, a duplex. And I definitely didn't want to buy in the city. But when I saw this perfect little alcove for my piano, it made me change my mind.

The plan was 5 years, then sell the house and move to someplace in Suburbia.

But plans rarely go, well, as planned, do they? 

We had a second child, money got tight, life took over, and time just flew.

So there I was, 28 years later, once again looking at the alcove, thinking about how much everything has changed.

The baby who was born just 2 weeks before we signed the mortgage papers is 28 now. Married last October and considering a family of her own. The second child is almost as old as I was when we bought the house. I'm divorced-almost 4 years. And my piano? Given away to a friend because there was no place for it in my new apartment.

Yes, I've moved. After a year of ups and downs, court papers and prayers, it seemed clear that God's plan was for me to leave this house.

But it's been more than just a move. The past year has been one of loss. 

I hadn't thought of it that way at first. I mostly thought of it as change. 

But the truth is, there have been many losses, large and small. The house, the piano, the many things with sentimental attachment that had to be sold or given away because there's nowhere to store them.  The neighbors who have cared for me cutting my grass, shoveling my walk, keeping a watchful eye on my home. My space and my privacy. It is much harder to be undisturbed in a 4 room apartment than a 7 room, 3 story house. Even the loss of sleep as I try to acclimate to a smaller, less comfortable bed.

I've wrestled with God over a lot of this. Asked Him lots of questions. I'm not angry. Just kind of confused about how and where He's leading in all of this. And kind of sad about all the loss.

I love Ephesians 3:20, but this current circumstance is certainly less than I've asked for or imagined. 

So I have to ask myself, does that make the promise any less true?

No.

God still loves me. He's still in control. Still working things together for my good. Still able to do abundantly more than I can ask or imagine. 

But I can still mourn that which has been removed.

Yesterday's sermon was on renewal. The pastor closed by quoting Ephesians 3:20 and said "The altar is open. If you have a burden, come forward and leave it here." It isn't something we do every week in my church. I didn't know the invitation would be given when I got there.

As I went forward and knelt, I couldn't pray. Tears began to flow and they became unstoppable, silent sobs. I stayed kneeling until the singing began again, then quickly slipped into my seat down in front. I sat in the sanctuary until most were gone, not wanting to-not even sure I could-explain my tear-stained face.

My pastor came over and asked what was wrong. I blurted out a mish mosh of everything, nothing, and I just don't know. That's when he said to me "you've been through a lot lately Toni. It's okay to give yourself permission to grieve."

I can't tell you how freeing that was. 

I'd been looking for the bright side in all of this a long time. And when friends encouraged me with "it's an exciting new chapter" I knew it was true, but couldn't always feel it. 

My pastor's words spoke such comfort to me. We don't have to have it altogether all the time. Life isn't tied up with a bow. Sometimes, we experience loss. And sometimes, we just need permission to grieve before we move on to those new chapters in life. 

And that's okay.









Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Trusting the Dream-Giver

We were in uncharted territory and there were a boat load of questions.
For years, we held Kid’s Camp (aka VBS) in our church in the suburbs. Well over 100 volunteers working with upwards of 200 kids.
But three years ago, God planted a bigger dream…to take that program and do it all over again in the inner city. Two Kid’s Camps in two months. The visionaries were excited…the detail-oriented, planning people thought it was crazy....
For the rest of the story, visit me over at God-sized Dreams today...I  pray you will be inspired to trust the Dream-giver to dream big!! 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Giving Up Control

I've been writing a lot about trust this year, and for good reason.

But there's another lesson I'm being taught that I haven't jumped to write about. 

And there's a good reason for that too...it's not as "pretty". 





It's just as raw and real as learning to trust, and it's even related - in an ugly step-sister kinda way.

That lesson is humility.

A lesson I didn't realize I needed to learn.  A problem I didn't realize I had. 

When you think about it, it makes sense. 

Not trusting comes from wanting control. 

And being in control means the power is in YOUR hands.

Power is a heady feeling that doesn't play well with humility.

You see, the definition of humility is:  the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc.
 
When you think you're in control, you have an inflated opinion of your own importance, whether you realize it or not.

For me, the first inkling of a problem with humility came when I was faced with the very real possibility of being homeless.

Those who follow this blog know that I am in the process of selling my home with no profits to use to go elsewhere.

I have been forced to look at assistance programs and affordable housing which has wait lists many months long while I'm measuring time in weeks and days.

When I explain that to those assistance organizations, I am handed phone numbers for crisis situations, and those situations involve shelters.

Those who also follow this blog know that I am very involved in outreach, especially to those living in shelter situations.

But live in one?

The thought - and I am not proud of it...in fact, I am ashamed of it - crept in.

"But I'm not like those people."

Even though I don't live in an expensive home in the good part of town...even though I live hand to mouth...I had lifted myself above others.  I had a pride problem.

It was a disturbing and eye-opening truth to discover about myself, especially given my ministry.

Someone commented on my last post that she was sorry I had to go through this testing to learn what I am learning...and my response was one that has been rolling around in my brain since I wrote it.

I think the deeper our relationship with God, the harder the tests.

They have to get harder, because as we mature in our faith, God begins to dig deeper to get at those things that aren't as obvious.  Those things that hide in the corner of our hearts where we may not even realize they've taken root.

I thought about writing this sooner.  I thought about not writing this at all.  I thought about what others would think about me if I confessed my thoughts.

But when a sister sent me a snapshot of a devotional this morning, I knew it needed to be said.

It started out with "Sometimes My Sovereign hand - My control over your life - places you in humbling circumstances..."and the accompanying scripture was from 1 Peter 5:6 "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time."

I don't know what my immediate future holds. 

If staying in a shelter is part of it, I pray I can humble myself to be thankful for a roof over my head. 

Make no mistake.  It is not what I desire and I pray that God will spare me that difficulty.  But I am told to "be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." 

I am thankful that He has exposed this part of my heart and brought it out into the light where He can now deal with it. 

In Psalm 139 23 & 24, David prayed "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

That's a brave prayer to pray.  You have to be willing to give up control.  To be humble.  To take the test regardless of the outcome. 

Are you ready to give up control?





Tuesday, May 20, 2014

There Goes That Trust Word Again...

Two weeks ago I began to write this, but was too weak to finish...

I'm on the couch wrapped in a blanket and propped up with pillows.  Face pale, hair askew, sporting the same sweats I've worn the past three days.

I'm sicker than I've ever been before and the timing couldn't be worse.  

In one week my church will hold it's Spring outreach - an event I oversee.

In three weeks I need to be packed and my home "broom clean" for closing.

A double-whammy of bronchitis and pneumonia has rendered me weak and exhausted.

The simplest task sucks the life out of me.  

I'm not used to inactivity.   To handing over the reins.  To being weak.

I've talked a lot about trusting God. But I confess, right now, staring at everything that needs to be done, knowing that the clock is incessantly ticking toward a deadline, I really want to ask Him if He's checked His calendar lately...if He's aware of exactly what's going on down here.

Two weeks ago, I labored under the illusion that if I only had the strength, I would be in control of things.

Fast forward two weeks...

A recheck by the doctor and another chest x-ray confirm it.

I am on the mend. 

God took care of the Spring outreach.  He empowered my team, the site leaders, and over 100 volunteers, equipping them with what they needed to carry out the day. 

I was present, but there was no need for me to be hands on. 

The buyer contacted my real estate agent to say he'd be out of town the week we were to close - so would I mind pushing back the date a week? 

I have "regained" my lost time.

All the things I thought I had to do, God did or is in the process of doing.

There is one thing I have been doing however.  Seeing one central theme...one singular message, as I read my Bible and a variety of devotionals.

TRUST.

Oh that word!  Look at just some of the verses and reminders that have come my way in the past few days...

Psalm 56:3 "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you."

From The One Year Walk with God Devotional: "We are called to believe God with reckless abandon — not just believe that He is there and that He is involved with us somehow; but that He is actively, personally seeking our good and answering our prayers. We are to give up our own strategies and ambitions, to relinquish all "Plan Bs," to recklessly, irrevocably cast ourselves completely into His arms."

Psalm 9:10 "Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, have never abandoned anyone who searches for you."

From "Trust...a godly woman's adornment": Sometimes we stop believing that God will keep his promises; other times we attempt to reinterpret his promises to suit our plans and our schedule. If we stop trusting that God is able to act or to make clear how we are to act, then we are certain to seek our own solutions by laying hold of what lies right at hand. The bottom line is that we hate to wait. We crave a life we can control, and if we give into this craving, we are going to be tempted to wrest our circumstances away from God when he doesn't act as we think he should."

John 14:1 "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

From "Jesus Calling":  I am a mighty God.  Nothing is too difficult for Me.  I have chosen to use weak ones like you to accomplish My purposes.  Your weakness is designed to open you up to My Power.  Therefore, do not fear your limitations or measure the day's demands against your strength.  What I require of you is to stay connected to Me, living in trusting dependence on My limitless resources.  When you face unexpected demands, there is no need to panic.  Remember that I am with you.  Talk with Me, and listen while I talk you through each challenging situation.  I am not a careless God.  When I allow difficulties to come into your life, I equip you to fully handle them.  Relax in My Presence, trusting in My Strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Today, my prayer is that...

I will learn to trust BEFORE the worry. 

I will learn to trust THROUGHOUT the storm.

I will learn to trust that He sees the END when I can't even get my bearings in the now.

I will learn to trust in His strength.  His goodness.  His power.

Isaiah 26:3 "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!"

Are you trusting Him today?  Will you join me in my prayer?







Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tracking "Trust"

It's hard to believe it's the middle of April.  A month that has seen a high of almost 80 degrees on Sunday and a dusting of snow by Tuesday evening. 

A paradox - rather like my life at this moment in time.

And in the midst of the flux...in the middle of the ups and downs...I'm pausing to review the status of my "one word" for 2014.

I never dreamed the extent to which this word would change my life this year.

I knew it would bring testing.  I knew it would bring growth.

But the journey has really just begun.

My word is trust.  And my verses are Proverbs 3:5-6.

I am literally standing on the threshold  between old and new. 

Selling my home of 28 years, in search of a place to go.

Many try to heap on encouragement. 

"How exciting! You are free to go anywhere!"
"It's a new chapter in your life!"
"Think of the stories you can blog about!"

But I am not free to go anywhere, do anything.  I am bound by circumstances and finances. 

If I let it, the fear of the unknown could easily overwhelm.  The storm clouds of "what if" could overtake me and plunge me into darkness as the rain falls heavy on my soul.  And if I'm being honest, there are days I feel like I don't have it in me to trust any more.

But God. 

Each day He sends me little love letters.  He uncovers this word trust that is tucked into the pages of His word. 
  
There are so many, but  Psalm 84:11-12 is one that comes to me frequently. Psalm 56: 3-4 was His gift to me today.

And of course, those verses in Proverbs.

They tell me NOT to lean on my own understanding.  My finite, narrow, inside the box understanding.

They use words like "trust" and "submit".  These are not passive words.  No...they are full of action even as I stand still, waiting and watching.  They are not words for the weak in spirit.  They take a full and deliberate act of will.

And they are not cursory suggestions.  I am to trust with my WHOLE heart.  I am to submit in ALL my ways.

Right now I can see no answers.  No possibilities.  No light at the end of the tunnel.

But I trust all those things are there.  Even when I wander, wallowing just a bit in the mire of doubt and fear, I feel His hand grab mine.  I sense His arm around me, pulling me up again, setting me on firm ground... and I trust the One who has never given me a reason NOT to trust Him.

Psalm 118:5 says "In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free."

There are limitations on this human form.  But my God is not bound by this world.

He sets me free in a very different way.

So how am I doing with my one word this year?  I'm holding on to it for everything it's worth.

I'm linking up today at Circles of Faith will you join me there?





Sunday, April 13, 2014

From Praise to Praise Revisited

The crowd sang hosannas on Palm Sunday, the disciples were ecstatic over a risen Savior on Easter Sunday...but in between was a week that got ugly.  The crowds cried crucify him, the disciples hid.

When things look bleak, don't lose hope.  When all appears lost, remember we serve a RISEN Savior!

From Praise to Praise

Palms laid down
On the ground
People join the joyous chant

Songs of praise
Hosannas raised
The King arrives triumphant

Passover meal
The deed revealed
Judas takes his leave

Anguished prayer
The cup He'll bear
All sin Christ will receive

Judas betrays
A kiss he lays
Upon the cheek of Jesus

Peter denies
Three times, then cries
He knows his sin is grievous



The guards mock
Chief priests lock
Forces against this man

Pilate abstains
The crowd complains
So he gives in to their plan

"Crucify Him"
"Crucify Him"
Replace last Sunday's praise

Whipped flesh torn
Crowned with thorns
Upon the cross Christ is raised

"Remember me"
Is one man's plea
Although the other scorns

"Into your hands"
The end, as planned
The temple curtain torn


Three days He's gone
And then at dawn
The stone is rolled away

No body here
Alive, it's clear
All praise this Resurrection day!

By Toni Campbell  All rights reserved

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Long Way to the "Big Way"


As a young girl, I’d never heard of “God-sized dreams”, but knew in my heart God would use me in a big way. 
At 13, my aunt gave me a journal with this inscription “God blessed you with a creative writing talent. Whether it will be something that will serve just to give you pleasure or become something that will truly get your name in “important” print (for many to enjoy) only time will tell. You, however, with God’s help and guidance should develop your ability as much as possible.”
I filled that journal with poems and stories, but even more than writing, I loved singing.
So in college, I was sure that performing was the “big way” I’d be used.
Why do we think Almighty God…The One who created US…THE Dream Giver…needs help to chart our course?   
But I was 18 and knew everything.  Until I knew nothing...

The Long Way to the "Big Way" is the guest post at God-sized Dreams today...won't you join me there to learn the rest of the story?






Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cleaning Closets

I open the door and it all comes tumbling out.  Rain boots, bags filled with papers, work out equipment, even the vacuum cleaner has "gone rogue" and attacks me handle first as the door swings wide.

The hall closet has become a catch-all.

Don't feel like heading all the way down to the basement?  Throw it in the closet.

Company coming over with no time to clean?  Shove the mess into a bag...and toss it in the closet.

Not sure where something should go or how to deal with it?  Stuff it in the closet.

Sound familiar to anyone else?

Unfortunately, the day has come when my house must go on the market. There's no more hiding things in the closet because people will come in and look there.  And in the basement and attic and all the other places I try to hide everything.

So this week, I started the painstaking chore of  beginning the clean out with that closet.

At first, it was overwhelming.  

I pulled EVERYTHING out.

Now the mess lay exposed, all over the dining room floor.  I started by sweeping out the empty space.  I made sure nothing was hiding in a back corner.  If this was going to be done right, nothing could remain untouched and hidden.

Then I began to tackle the "obvious".  The stuff I knew was useless and unnecessary.  I quickly filled a trash bag and hauled it to the curb.

The weight lifted just a little bit.

Then there was the stuff that was still usable, but not by me.  The skateboard.  The clothes in a size 6 I'll never again fit into.  Those things got brought down to the basement, set aside for the yard sale that will happen when the weather breaks.

I breathed a little easier.

Next up were the emotional things. The things that brought memories flooding back.  Some sweet, some bitter.  Sifting through these were tougher, but ultimately, I gave each their due and then dealt with them, filing and tossing as needed.

Now I was feeling empowered.

What's left is the practical stuff.  Things that still need my attention, still need to be worked on before they can be filed.  Each day I work through a stack, steadily making progress.

Is your heart like my hall closet? Filled with things you need to toss, give away, or deal with?  

As we hurry through life, we don't take the time to deal with situations as they arise.  We stuff them inside, shove them down, until one day, they spill out all over the floor.  The mess of our lives exposed for everyone to see.

It requires a clean sweep...nothing hidden in the back recesses where it can live on to become the start of a new garbage pile.

In Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at his disciples and said "with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."  He had just had a discussion with the rich young ruler who was unwilling to sell all his possessions and follow Christ.  As the man left, unable to give it all over to God, Jesus tells His disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.   The disciples are "greatly astonished" and ask, "who then can be saved?"  Jesus responds with the quote above.

Jesus wasn't just talking about giving up wealth.  He was talking about giving up what you hold dear. Trusting Him enough to give it ALL to Him.  

Have you ever really looked at what you're holding on to?  It's probably a lot like the junk I found in that closet.  

God is more than willing to help you sort through the mess.  

Some things need to be tossed right away. 

Some things may be the lessons you've learned.  Their greatest value is realized when they're given away - shared with someone else who will benefit from them. 

And then there are things that will require some working through.  

But God is up to the task.  It's not overwhelming for Him.  It's just important that you give Him EVERYTHING.  No leaving something in the back corner of the closet of your heart or the attic of your mind.  He'll see it anyway, but He wants you to retrieve it and willingly hand it over to Him.

The mess in the closet didn't take a day to accumulate and it's taking more than a day to deal with.  The important thing is that I started.  I saw the need, I knew the solution, and as hard as it was to tackle, I felt so much better when that closet was emptied.

Won't you join me today?  Open the door of your heart.  Acknowledge the clean up that's needed.  Ask God to grab a broom and sweep all the junk out. You'll feel a weight lifted.  You'll breathe easier.  You'll be empowered.

Because with man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.