Becca’s Precious Heart

Becca’s Banyan Trees

Friends are a precious, beautiful blessing from God.  They come in all ages and stages.  As I assess my close friendships, they span age generations.  Part of the reason is that  God’s given me the opportunity to lead high school girl small groups in Student Impact at Willow Creek Community Church.

One of my girls, sweet Becca, just stopped by for a quick visit since she is home for Easter.  She is a junior at Hope University in Holland, MI , and I haven’t seen her for months.  When she pulled up to my house I couldn’t contain my excitement, so I  jumped up and down and clapped until I could give her a big hug!  She brings such delight to my heart with her grace, beauty, love for God, love for community and love for the forgotten around the world.  It’s holy ground when God gives gifts of seeing the heart of another and it’s such a joy for me to have a glimpse into this precious heart.

Becca is going on a trip to India on May 6th for five weeks with a team of students from Hope. Excitement and passion overflow from deep within when she tells of her trip.  My heart is full of joy and excitement even after she’s gone so I wanted to share her plans.  Here is a link to her blog, Preparing for a Pilgrimage, telling her journey that has brought her to traveling to India:

http://apilgrimageininda.blogspot.com/

She also is selling these amazing handmade  Banyan Trees for $20.  I now have a trio gracing my dining room table.  This is what she says about them on her blog:  “The Banyan is the national tree of India, known as the tree of knowledge and life. It has the widest reaching roots of all known trees and some say that more than 10,000 people can sit under its shade at one time.”

I love and adore Becca! “God makes beautiful things. Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

XO, Michelle

 

An Honest ‘About’ Page

IMG_4431
Mom, Kristen (my sister) and me in Lake Tahoe

Who are you, really?  Not the you everyone sees, but the one you know in your heart?  The true, real, raw you?

If you were to write down on paper an honest “About” page accurately reflecting who you are, would you want others to read it?  Would you even be able to look at some of what defines you?  I am fairly certain we all have characteristics we’d not want to share with ourselves let alone others, but should we?  I’m not talking about shouting from the mountain tops all your character traits- the positive would probably be misconstrued as conceit and the negative as flaws.  Either would make it difficult to make and retain acquaintances and some friends.  But, do you have at least one friend who you can share the dark parts of who you are?  There is freedom in sharing difficult things with a trusted person who loves you and can affirm who you are in God’s eyes.

Personally, it is easier for me to identify the parts of myself that I don’t want others to see.  Hiding and denial don’t create change and I’m not good at changing myself, but when I listen to God, He changes me.  It’s a constant learning process, but when I’ve named it, I feel released and enjoy more freedom to be the good parts of me.  My desire is a beautiful heart to put before the Throne of God.

Since I’m hard on myself, I’ll start with a positive quality ‘About Me’: giving brings me joy.  If someone likes something I have, I try to give it to them.  Mike would say it’s so I can buy something new, but I really do love to give.  “Hold loosely to things”, is something I try to live by, but there is a dark side to my giving heart that I’m not proud of.  Although I know this is going to sound really stupid, I’m completely serious.

My confession is that I have a stingy food heart and have internal turmoil over giving when I have a limited supply or something special (for example: Smart Water,  Dark Chocolate Raisinets, Kind bars, gluten free baked goods…).  Crazy, right?  After naming and claiming this ridiculous food craziness to my friend and with practice giving away items, my food heart is more generous. You can now be confident that if you like my shirt, I’ll offer it to you and I will share my Spree candy too. Name it, claim it and let God change it!

When I have not-so-lovely or down-right-ugly behavior, usually in the form of unkind words or thoughts, I try to identify those dark parts by asking myself, “What is wrong with my heart?”  What is it deep down that is causing me to become angry, frustrated or critical of others? By looking at why I’m responding the way I am to various situations and people, the dark parts come to light.    In my head I think, “Whoa, where did that come from?”  This helps me slow down, pay attention to the details of the situation and learn about myself, someone else and God?  I practiced this process a few days ago, refrained from saying my initial angry words and simply stated what was upsetting me. It opened up an honest conversation between friends which we resolved without wounding each other.  That felt good and was worth the process of looking inward before acting outward.   

There is One who knows all the parts of you and loves you deeply.  In God’s love story, He clearly says who you are in His eyes.  If you search the Scriptures, you will learn and know who you are to God.  Not one of us is perfect, but God looks beyond our faults and failures and sees perfection in His creation.

Psalm 8:3-4 “When I consider Your heavens, the works of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what are mere mortals that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?”

XO, Michelle


God Knows My Mind

“…You, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts.”  Psalm 7:9b

Journaling is something I’ve come to enjoy over the past four years as I study God’s Word.  One way I learn is by writing and rewriting information.  That was a strategy I incorporated when I was a student and have continued to use as a student of life.  Oh, I know that was such a corny statement!  The real truth is that if I don’t write things down, I forget.  Honestly, I do love going back through my journals to see patterns of what God was teaching me.  For almost one full year, God was clearly teaching me how my mouth reflected my heart’s condition.

In the verse above, David wanted God to “rise up against the rage of his enemies” and decree justice.  God was David’s refuge and he knew the All-Knowing God.  David was thankful and sang God’s praises in the midst of being hunted by Saul and his men.

This morning my heart and soul were downcast.  I woke up after 12 hours of sleep feeling worse than I did when I went to sleep.  I had this overwhelming saddening sense that my day was fleeting, my days with my family were fleeting and that my life was fleeting.

As I drove my sister’s Fiat with the top down in the beautiful sunshine to Olympic Village in Squaw Valley to meet up with my family, the tears started streaming down my cheeks.

“Why God?  Why the sadness and tears now?  You are bigger than my physical limitations and pain, bigger than my emotions going haywire, bigger than my aloneness!” How can I be sad in the midst of having such a wonderful time with my son, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew?  Usually I want to rush through the tears and ‘get a grip’.  My instinct is to call Mike to  help me feel better, but it’s been on my heart to go to God when I’m sad to be comforted by the One who knows all of me.

As I search my heart and mind to explain the tears, I sense my Heavenly Father telling me, “I know your heart and mind, cherished daughter.”  As the tears continue to stream, I understand that I don’t need to know the answer, God knows.  He examines thoroughly my heart and mind and understands me when I don’t.

My heart overflows with thanksgiving for His love, the tears stop and I catch up with my family and enjoy God’s breathtakingly, beautiful, snow covered mountains.

XO, Michelle

Unfailing Love

Psalm 6: 3-4IloveYouAlwaysNoMatterWhat_CustomLogoDesign_R9_Opt3

“My soul is in deep anguish…save me because of Your unfailing love.”

David cries out to God when he was on the run with Saul hunting him down to kill him. He left all the comforts of home, his city and his family.  It’s understandable why he was in “deep anguish”.

Our soul is the core of our being and it is fragile.  A myriad of things can chip away at our whole soul that cause anguish: someone else’s hurtful and harmful actions, abuse, loss of a loved one, being deserted by someone we love, illness,  aloneness (I know it’s not a word, but should be.  It’s deeper than loneliness. Aloneness cuts to the core of our beings because we can feel alone even when we are with others.), and the list could go on and on.  What causes you deep soul anguish?

On the flip side, we can cause our own soul anguish by choices we’ve made.  When we walk outside of God’s plan for us and go our own way, we make decisions that can cause soul pain or life-long soul anguish.  A wise friend shared a way to pray for my children- claim God’s promises of protection upon them and pray they wouldn’t make any decisions in their youth that would cause life-long consequences.  What can cause deep anguish: drug or alcohol addiction, driving under the influence, pornography, having sex outside of marriage, or (you fill in the blank).

The greater part of David’s cry, is what we too can cry out: “save me because of Your unfailing love”. No matter what we’ve done or has been done to us, God can save us from our soul anguish, not because of anything we can do, but because of HIS unfailing love. He saves me not because of me, but because of His love for a damaged soul.  There are so many promises in God’s great love story for us, if we open up the Bible and read.  He will restore our souls, if we ask no matter how many times we ask.  Go before His Throne and with arms stretched out hold your soul, He will take it in His gentle hands, hold and heal it.

XO, Michelle

Simplicity, Part 2

As promised here are the other two quotes from the chapter on Simplicity from Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster (If you’ve jumped into this post without reading my first one titled “God’s Kingdom”, you may want to read that first.):

  • “The inward reality of simplicity involves a life of joyful unconcern for possessions.”

I love the wording “joyful unconcern” because of the complexity of those two words being put together.  They don’t seem like they should be in the same sentence, but in this context it is a beautiful way to put possessions into proper perspective.  It doesn’t say I shouldn’t care about possessions, but they should not be a concern that I spend my time focusing on.  I interpret “unconcern” as being good with what you’ve got and not focusing on what you don’t.  Freedom to be content with your gifts from God reflects a healthy soul. If my heart is co

ntent with my current reality and circumstances, no matter how difficult, I am free to experience joy.   When I put this together and apply it to my life, it really connects to putting God before ‘things’.

If I’m really honest, I don’t struggle as much with what I don’t have, but sometimes my initial response isn’t one of being joy filled when other people get things. That sounds really ugly to say out loud.  Most of the time it is relational or position based, but there is still something wrong with that.  When I check my heart I have to ask, “Where is that feeling coming from?”  I don’t have a great, insightful answer to that question and clearly need to dig deeper with God.  In the deepest parts of my soul, I know I don’t deserve anything that God gives me and I am thankful for all He does.  I want my first response to be

excitement for what God gives to people in my life.

Here is the next quote that I love:

  • “Freedom from anxiety is characterized by three inner attitudes.  If what we have we received as a gift, and if what we have is to be cared for by God, and if what we have is available to others, then we will possess freedom from anxiety.”

Which of those three attitudes are easy or challenging?  I’ve been most focused on “cared for by God”.  When it comes to finances I’ve had the perspective of me caring for what God’s given us (Mike and me).  If we make a bad investment and lose money, I’m not caring for God’s resources well.  The thinking isn’t much different, but what it means for me is that I need to be more prayerful so God is directing what I do with His gifts.  By putting my trust and faith in His provision, I am free of worry about holding on to what I have.

 

My friend Paul gave great perspective in Philippians 4:11-13 when he said he learned to be content in all things. He had the experience of both humble means and prosperity. Gosh, Paul was in jail when he wrote this letter to the church in Philippi. He continued to say, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Paul didn’t do it alone and we don’t need to either.

What next steps do you need to take to put the two quotes above into reality if you want to simplify your life and seek God’s Kingdom first? Answer that question and then do it.  It may start with listening to the series on Simplicity from Willow Creek Community Church.  Here is the link: http://media.willowcreek.org/weekend/simplify/#content

simplifymedia

 

XO, Michelle

Simplicity Part 1-God’s Kingdom

One of my favorite books (besides the Bible) that has had the greatest influence on me spiritually is Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.  I would recommend it to anyone who craves to go deeper; deeper with God, deeper with who God created you to be and deeper with those God’s put in your life.  It teaches how to create a space in your life where you can know and be known by the One True God.  If you are up for practicing the Spiritual disciplines, I would highly recommend reading it with a friend.  The first time I read the book was with my accountability partner and dear friend, Deb in 1995.  Everyone should have an accountability partner!

Currently, I’m in a woman’s Bible study and we are studying the book.  This is not a light, easy read, but a meat on your ribs, deep, rich, life changing study and like my sweet niece, Olivia, said at the age of three when Uncle Mike gave her a sip of his Mountain Dew, “I like it!”

This week we read the chapter on Simplicity.  I love, love, love to journal, so as I read I write down what reaches out and tugs on my heart or challenges my mind.  There were three quotes that I wrote down.  This first one challenged my heart and mind:

“The person who does not seek the Kingdom of God first does not seek it at all.”  Go ahead and reread that quote.

I spent time cross referencing the Kingdom of God (on my new favorite website www.biblos.com) and learned a few interesting facts.

  • Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  The “things”, food and clothing, were clearly stated in the previous verses.  God’s righteousness goes along with His Kingdom.
  • I Corinthians 6:9- “…the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
  • John 18:36- God’s Kingdom is not on earth; it is somewhere else
  • Matthew 25:34- His Kingdom is for us! It has been our inheritance since the creation of the world.
  • Mark 1:15- Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.”  I’m no Bible scholar, but it sounds to me like Jesus is the Kingdom of God.  He announced this in Galilee right when started His ministry.
  • Mark 8:31-9:1- Jesus was first talking to the disciples about His death, then to a crowd about salvation and He told the people if they were ashamed of Him in this world, “…the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when He comes in His Father’s glory.  And He said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the Kingdom of God has come with power.”  Did the Kingdom of God come with power when Jesus was crucified?

What response do you have to the original quote I shared:  “The person who does not seek the Kingdom of God first does not seek it at all”?  Does it stir a craving to seek God’s Kingdom first, before the things in this world that rob us of simplicity?  What do you seek first?  Take some time, grab a piece of paper and process through that question. Go one step further and write out your weekly commitments and schedule specific times each day to “Seek God’s Kingdom”. This challenge comes from Bill Hybel’s message at Willow Creek Community Church on February 24, 2013.  Here is the link for the entire series. The message I referred to was week 2: http://media.willowcreek.org/weekend/simplify/#content

Don’t think I forgot about the other two quotes I mentioned from the book.  I’ll post more on those soon.

XO, Michelle