Raw and Real Me

My life is blessed.  It’s not perfect, but there isn’t a person whose life is.  Trust me, I’m not bragging here, there are things that are tough in my life, seriously tough things with my children, my Dad has Parkinson’s, the feeling of insecurity with Mike’s job and my personal health challenges and limitations. But I know with 100% certainty that I am loved by God, I am where He has planned, I can take all of my worries to Him to manage, I can surrender my fear at His feet, and He holds me right where I am.

This life is not my own and it is not the whole story.

When I am quiet before God, in the silence I have a visual picture in my mind with me down on my knees, head bowed with arms stretched out holding what I’m bringing before God’s mighty Throne.  As a mom, much of the time my arms are outstretched with my boys.  When I have much to pray for, I lay it all down at my sides and with both arms push it all forward as if they are gifts to put at His feet.  Praying like this lightens my worries and reminds me God knows. He knows before I even speak a word.

Why is it that I know and feel blessed, can take everything to God in prayer, but sadness pierces my heart and fear grips my mind so often?

It’s raining outside and like so many other days my eyes are too.  I’m stuck inside the house just like I feel trapped inside my body.  It’s a scary place to be because I know I can stay there for long periods of time.  It’s a constant battle and I’m fighting right now.  I want to scream, “Someone please tell me, how you can be thankful and cry tears of loss; filled with joy and sad; be blessed and mourn?”

How do these contradictory emotions coexist?

It’s like I’m on a teeter-totter, but I’m alone and running from one side to the other to keep tottering. It’s too difficult of a ride to expect anyone else to teeter with me and that’s not for lack of being loved by an amazing family and friends.  The only One that can totter with me is God, but I need to invite Him.

I do.

HE is HUGE, so in the air I sit.

God sits and waits for me to allow my pain to slide down to Him.  He’s not going anywhere and won’t allow me slam into the ground by getting up without warning.  As I let my sadness and pain go, I tumble down and He scoops me up.  I am safe in His arms.

Why can I visualize God holding me and feel it with my heart, but still feel sad?

Gender, ethnicity, age, position, religion, location, gifts, talents or skills don’t matter to circumstances that cause mourning.  Sometimes I try to make it a head game and think I shouldn’t feel this way or others have it much worse.  Those two statements may be true, but mourning is a heart process and can’t be taken care of by my mind alone, wished away or pushed into a tiny brain compartment.

I mourn for the loss of my health, my career, my colleagues, dreams I can’t bring into fruition like running a marathon, time with friends, freedom to do simple tasks easily and for missing out.  I want to mourn, be done and move on.  I believe in being ‘in what you’re in’ and the mourning process is different for every single person and situation.

My problem is that every day I have reminders of my loss and my response to some catch me off guard.  The tears come when I don’t want them, which is all the time, as they swell and sting in my eyes, then stream down my face, hot and wet, ruining my makeup, if I even put it on.

Today was a big one, it surprised me and I’m having a hard time with it.  To be fair in their replacement process for me, I promised to let my employer know if I would be able to return to work in April for next school year.  Last Wednesday, I asked my doctor to send the medical notification to work that I wouldn’t be able to return.  That way I’d get an email from my employer acknowledging they received the doctor’s letter without feeling pressured to make a decision.  My body made the decision, I was in control of letting them know, and I mourned, processed and cried a good cry.  Done.

Yesterday I received a call and today an email from my employer, clearly indicating that they never received the fax.  The tears ran as I called my doctor who hadn’t faxed the letter yet.  They ran as I sent a text message to a dear college letting her know.  At every turn today, I’ve been crying and I’m drained.  Even though I’ve not been able to physically work for a year, 3 months and 2 days, it’s still raw.  I just want to be done with feeling the loss of my career.

I don’t want to, but I have no other choice, so in it I sit.

I do not sit alone.

God invites me, so I sit with Him on His Throne.

Still, there is no deliverance from pain or a fixed body.  But in it I sit and stay and reflect back, what He says to me as best I humanly can, the only response God deserves:

“I love you always, no matter what”.

Beauty & Blessing!

XO, Michelle

Distractions- Day 17

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This is where I spend time with God. It looks like it’s time to organize this space!

There has been a flurry of sounds, messes and distractions surrounding me today.  After getting out of bed, I got a Facebook alert that distracted me before I even made my coffee.  I sat down in the family room otherwise known as Mike’s office with my computer going through status updates.  Mike works from home a couple days a week, dominates the family room and loves background noise, so the TV is on a lot.  When he has “meetings”, they are on speaker phone, the TV sound goes off, but the screen stays on.  It’s his thing, but I really don’t like extra background noise or having the TV on.  I record my shows and we watch them in the evening together.

Before I even realize it, I’m sucked into The Price is Right knowing I have other things to do around the house and even better things to get to like reading and writing.  Mike calls down from upstairs, “Michelle didn’t you do my laundry?”  Just then I remember before I went downstairs this morning, I did run the dryer a second time to get the wrinkles out of his clothes that I said I would fold yesterday and reran the washer with the clothes I put in yesterday.  I hustle it upstairs to apologize and see he is frustrated and saying he can just do it himself.  I grab the clothes from the dryer and start folding.  Saying I forgot or I’m easily distracted is a bad excuse and I’ve tried to stop saying it out loud, but it’s true.  There are so many things that as soon as I walk away I forget, as if I’m leaving my brain in the laundry room.  After folding the clothes I went downstairs to see Cooper was still outside.  Thankfully he is a dog, the weather is nice and it was only 20 minutes.

Sounds.. the rhythm of the washer, zippers hitting the sides of the dryer, the murmur of the TV, conference audio training from Mike’s computer, the unmistakably loud garbage truck, recycling bins crashing on the ground, the bell ringing at the high school and  the soft alert that I have a text message.

Hold on, the dryer buzzer is going off and I am getting up right now to take care of it.  That’s right this time I turned it on to remind me to take the clothes out and fold them. Finished and put away, talk about follow through!

There are also sounds and reminders floating around my head of what I need to do at every turn of my house, clean the dishes, organize the closet, take a shower, pick up the taxes, what should I do for dinner, finish up my Bible study lesson for today, call and make doctor appointments for the boys, put my winter clothes away and the list goes on….

I am also filled with sweet reminders of a touching text from Nathan yesterday and the feeling that I got parenting right with him, the hug I got from my over six foot tall 15 year old who towers over me, a fun date night with Mike, this calm I feel in my soul that can only be explained by God, a precious blog post from my sweet friend, Becca-Lecca-Lecca as I like to call her, about her upcoming trip to India, feeling some physical strength and absence of fatigue, quiet time with my Savior and how sweetly God spoke to Samuel when the Israelites were demanding a king.Samuel was angry and went straight to the Lord and prayed.

If I stopped right there we would have a lesson to apply to our lives:  go straight to God and talk to Him, not the person you are upset with or another person to talk about the person you are upset with (gossip). Get insight from Him on how to handle the hurtful or frustrating situation and do what He says.  More recently I’ve been realizing that most of my frustration is about me and allowing God to do His heart work. Often, I don’t have to go beyond my conversation with God.  It allows me to let go and gives me calm in my spirit.

Samuel’s story gets even sweeter and shows us about God’s character and love for us.  Our Father spoke encouraging words to Samuel (Samuel 8:7), “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king.”   The Lord told Samuel to give them a king and he did what the Lord told him to do. God speaks sweetly to each of us in different ways in every situation in our lives.  Are you listening?  He cares about the mundane tasks that need to get done during the day and the frustration I feel when I can’t even do those simple things.  He will encourage us if we stop to listen.  Samuel was known as a person whose relationship with God was grounded in prayer and when God spoke he obeyed.

“God taught Samuel that true prayer is always based first on surrender to the will of God, not on the need of man.  Samuel shows us what it means to pray the way God wants.”  This quote is from Life Principles from the Prophets of the Old Testament from the Following God Character Series by Barber, Rasnake and Shepherd.

Wouldn’t it be great to be known as a person who prays and obeys God? Let’s live like Samuel: pray and obey!

 

It is Eastertide- Day 17 and as we continue our celebration of our risen Savior, maybe some time for confession is in order as you pray today.  Our blessing today is Psalm 66:18-20:

“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.  Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me!”

If you don’t know what Eastertide is, here is my post that explains it:  http://iloveyoualwaysnomatterwhat.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=687&action=edit

Beauty & Blessings!

XO, Michelle

 

Sounds Like a Book Review to Me -Day 13

My Grampa Kabza's Family
My Grampa Kabza’s Family

God is full of good gifts and I’m in the midst of a few right now that fill my wildly expansive forced quiet, restful times due to my current physical reality!  I’m going through Listen to My Life which is a process of going through my past, present, and future experiences, passions and dreams while processing through the highs and the lows, mountain tops and valleys to get to what God has called me to right now and my future. It is challenging me to look at my time growing up and remember the good because it is riddled with illness, fatigue and struggle.  My study of Celebration of Discipline ends in two weeks and I just heard awesome teaching on confession.  This week I  started a study, Life Principles from the Prophets of the Old Testament from the Following God series and am in love with Samuel’s life of prayer, listening to God’s Word and speaking only the truth of hat God told him, even when it was difficult.  I guess the next book I’m reading makes it more than a few reading projects.

At church on Wednesday, I was encouraged to hear from an author I adore, Shauna Niequist, and a new woman/author, who is cute as a button, Rebekah Lyons.  They were both so encouraging and gave great insights into writing.  Rebekah shared that at one point in writing her story she realized that she was coveting it as her own.  She spent time with God in prayer because it was His story, not hers to take and control.  That resonated deep within and brought me before God to surrender the writing of my story. It belongs to Him and is not one I would have chosen so why would I take control of telling it?  At the Throne, with arms outstretched I hand it to God and bow down.  My desire is for my blog, stories and the dream to write a book  be in the hands of the One who created and loves me.

I started reading Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist.  I realize I’m in love with a lot of things, but I’ve got to add  Bread & Wine to my list.  Shauna’s writing style is real and honest with laugh-out-loud moments as she focuses on food, friends, faith and community.  I’m challenged by her ideas and suggestions because I love to entertain and have people in my house, even if they are smelly teenage boys after lacrosse practice and I’m making frozen pizza.  Shauna encourages her readers to “come to the table of community” literally and figuratively.  ‘The table’ can be anywhere with or without food, but a place of safety, transparency and love with family or friends in the midst of our messy houses and lives.  As you read, you feel like you are listening to a friend share stories about her day and life.  I want to slow down, listen, share and take time at the table to be that friend, mother, daughter, mom and wife to the people who God’s put in my life.  Of course, I’d love to be her friend and part of her cooking club too.

As an added bonus there is a recipe at the end of each chapter.  I’ve not yet, but can’t wait to try them.  They are fancy, but don’t have an overwhelming ‘there is no way I could pull this off’ list of steps in the process.  At the top of my list is “Nigella’s Flourless Chocolate Brownies” p.38-39 , since I’m in a craving chocolate like nobody’s business season (I can’t even say day or week because it’s been much longer than that!  At least, it is dark chocolate that I”m eating large quantities of since that is healthy!)  I encourage you to curl up on the couch and spend time with Shauna (I’m speaking figuratively, not literally) while reading Bread & Wine.  Then try out her ideas for having people around the table  at your house.  I’ll be waiting for my invitation! 

Please take time today to honor God in your story.  He’s created, knows, loves and has a plan for you.  Quiet yourself to hear from Him and read through the blessing for today, Eastertide- Day 13, which is Psalm 63:

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you,  my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 3 Because your love is better than life,  my lips will glorify you.

4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. 6 On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. 7 Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. 9 They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. 10 They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals. 11 But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God’s name will praise him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Beauty & Blessings,

XO, Michelle

Reflecting in the Quiet- Day 11

IMG_4209-001Although not sunny, the cool air smelled and tasted fresh after this morning’s rain storm, so I will count the beauty of this day as a blessing!    Right now it is quite in my home and I am able to quiet my spirit and rest.  This morning it was bustling with people and noise.  My parents came back from a visit with my sister, stayed last night and drove home this morning. I love it when they visit and miss them when they go.  An oh boy, does Cooper cry when they leave!  He loves my mom because she takes him to do something that I’m not able to do, long fast-paced walks.  So, he whimpered, wined, jumped up and down and moved around anxiously as they put their jackets on and took their luggage to the car.  He is sleeping like a baby on his bed now.

My parents… Oh, I love them dearly and so enjoy when they are in my house!  I’ve told them many times that they are welcome to move in with me.  Seriously, I would love that!  My mom, Barb Kabza, is the most amazing woman I know and I aspire to love others like she does. Psalm 33:14 says, “He (God) creates the hearts of all people. He is aware of everything they do.”  God did a spectacular, fireworks in the sky, job creating my mom’s heart.  She knows God and His Word, is so encouraging I could clap, is a leader among women in her church, has a passion for serving locally and globally, she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body and I don’t believe anyone could say anything bad about her!  She is the most loving, kind Mom anyone could ask for and I’m blessed that she is mine!  Besides being absolutely awesome, she knows exactly how to care for me and my broken body with gentleness and empathy.  She feels my pain even though her body doesn’t hurt.  Through daily exercise and eating healthy, she is slim, trim, strong and has a body that looks like it is thirty!  I’m certain I am embarrassing her because she is humble as well.

DSCN0525My sweet Dad, Lewis, who told me over Christmas break, “Your mom is the love of my life” is a treasure.  My Dad is handsome, has the best grey hair (just like his dad did), talented at wood working work, projects around the house, computers, is generous and serves at their church too.  He is in a ‘Community Life Group’ with my mom and, being a talkative guy, enjoys the time relating to his friends.  Since moving to Grand Haven, he joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary.  He studies, has hands on training , attends meetings and looks great in his official uniform!  My Dad loves the Lord and has the most life transforming testimony that I know up front and personal, because I was living at home when it happened.  I relate well to my Dad and we have many similar personality/DNA traits. We haven’t actually had our DNA tested, but I’m sure we have some of the same mutated genes.  When I was a teenager and we were in a disagreement my mom would say, “It’s because you are so alike.”  At those moments she wasn’t referring to our positive characteristics, but areas of conflict and stubbornness.  The most significant struggle we have in common is that we both live with depression and anxiety.  We support each other, because we understand what it means for our lives.

About a month ago, we learned that my Dad has Parkinson’s. It’s hard, difficult and scary for me to comprehend, but we are glad to have a diagnosis that explains why he slowed down so much over the past two years, at such a young age.  The exciting part is that his doctor put him on Dopamine and he is back to his regular self, dance moves and all!  It was such an encouragement having him back to his talkative self  interacting,  joking and laughing with us! I had to add this picture of my Dad when he was little:

LewKabza01

God’s blessed our family with my Mom and Dad.  They have been married 43 and 1/2 years!  All four of their grandchildren love having Grammy and Papa around and since we don’t live close, their visits are always too short for all of us in Schaumburg and San Francisco no matter how long they really are.

God puts people in our lives, puts His favor and blessing upon us, sprinkles us with love, puts a cherry on top and tells us to love them. I’m hungry and thinking about a hot fudge sundae.   I know there are people who have strained or non existent relationships with their parents or have lost them. Friends, for those situations, I am sorry.  I pray that this blessing will be an encouragement, wherever your real, honest self is today.

 

Our blessing for today, Eastertide Day 11, is Psalm 33:

1 You who are godly, sing with joy to the Lord. It is right for honest people to praise him. 2 Praise the LORD with the harp. Make music to him on the lyre that has ten strings. 3 Sing a new song to him. Play with skill, and shout with joy. 4 What the LORD says is right and true. He is faithful in everything he does. 5 The LORD loves what is right and fair. The earth is full of his faithful love.

6 The heavens were made when the LORD commanded it to happen. All of the stars were created by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together. He puts the oceans in their places. 8 Let the whole earth have respect for the Lord. Let all of the people in the world honor him. 9 He spoke, and the world came into being. He commanded, and it stood firm. 10 The LORD blocks the sinful plans of the nations. He keeps them from doing what they want to do. 11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever. What he wants to do will last for all time.

12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Blessed are the people he chose to be his own. 13 From heaven the LORD looks down and sees everyone. 14 From his throne he watches all those who live on the earth. 15 He creates the hearts of all people. He is aware of everything they do. 16 A king isn’t saved just because his army is big. A soldier doesn’t escape just because he is very strong. 17 People can’t trust a horse to save them either. Though it is very strong, it can’t save them.

18 But the LORD looks with favor on those who respect him. He watches over those who put their hope in his faithful love. 19 He watches over them to save them from death. He wants to keep them alive when there is no food in the land. 20 We wait in hope for the Lord. He helps us. He is like a shield that keeps us safe. 21 Our hearts are full of joy because of him. We trust in him, because he is holy. 

22 Lord, may your faithful love rest on us. We put our hope in you.

 

Beauty & Blessings!

XO, Michelle

Who Am I to Question God?-Eastertide Day 10

Aaron, 4 years old
Aaron, 4 years old

Why do we ask questions?  Questions help us gather information.  When I meet someone new, I like to ask questions to get to know them. Sometimes the questions are flying so fast in my brain that I don’t listen to the answers and other times my brain is so slow that it doesn’t process what’s been said to retain or respond to the information (another awesome effect of Fibromyalgia!). I’ve grown in that area over the past year with concentration and observation.  Talking to Nathan and Aaron are at the top of my favorite things to do and I like to gather as much information about their lives as I can, but I have to be careful that I don’t ask too many questions or they get annoyed and the conversation ends.  I must choose my questions carefully so I don’t get only ‘yes/no’ answers.

All children ask ‘why’ questions like crazy around age three.  Nathan gathered information by asking questions and Aaron was more of an observation and hands-on little guy.  When he was young, Nathan’s grandmother had to give him a limit of four questions per topic, so he had to choose carefully.  When we answered his questions, we could see the wheels turning in his head while he processed the information.  Aaron was inquisitive, but got into things to understand, sometimes it was to learn consequences for getting into things he was told not to.  Once he started reading, Nathan gathered much of his information from books and the internet.  Aaron likes to be shown how to do things.  That was quite the trip down memory lane to get me to my point that I’ve got about a four question limit with the boys.  I’ve also learned that when they are giving me information, I need to listen and not ask clarifying questions as that interrupts them.  Even when I don’t fully understand when Nathan is telling me about engineering stuff, I need to just listen, because I learn about him.

There is another side to questions that can be hurtful.  Questions can cut to the core of your being when they are hurtful, condescending, insulting, questioning your intelligence, embarrassing, used to get information that is passed on as rumors or gossip.I’ll venture to make the statement that everyone has been on both sides of those questions and it is painful.    This past year it seems that wires are mixed up in my brain.  I make statements or ask questions using the wrong words.  It’s frustrating to me when my family questions me by restating what I said when they know what I meant.

John 16:30: “We now we can see that You know all things and that You do not even need to have anyone ask You questions.  This makes us believe You came from God.”   The disciples were talking to Jesus and it struck me as interesting. Okay, I know that this was right after Jesus told them that He’d been speaking figuratively and that  a time was coming when He would speak clearly about His Father, told them the Father loves them because they loved Him, He came to the world by His Father and was going to return to His Father.  Jesus had told the disciples and followers these things before.  This wasn’t at the start of their three year  participation and observation of Jesus’s ministry.  They saw Jesus feed the 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and a couple fish, they saw Him walk on water, heal people, talk about being God’s son, the Savior that the prophets of the Old Testament talked about and listened to Him teach.  They said this right before Jesus was arrested and crucified.  Surely they already knew Jesus was from God.  When I think “That must have been frustrating to Jesus, they should have already known that.”, I need to take into account the context of their statement and that I wasn’t there.

What I can do is read the Bible to learn about God, listen to His voice and do what He says.  Who am I really that I should question God?  He knows what I need and the plans He has for me- the good and the painful, hard, dark and difficult.  Maybe our questions get in the way of what God wants to reveal?  Where would I be today if I just kept asking God questions, “Why did You do this to me? Why is my body in pain?  Why do I live with depression and anxiety? Why did I have to go on disability?  Why can’t I just get better so I can go back to my old life?  Why do I have to take medicine to function? Why don’t you make my life easy?…”  It sounds like such a depressing place to be.

It isn’t my place to question God.  He didn’t promise to make my life easy or to protect me from difficult or life changing events.  He promises that His ways are best for me and that He loves me so much, He went to the cross for me so I could spend eternity with Him and I live in a fallen world not perfect Eden.  I’ve thought and heard others say, “When I get to heaven I am going to ask God this or that.”  Personally I think I’m going to be so amazed by His glory that all I will do is praise Him.

God is good all the time.  On my knees, with my arms raised to heaven, I say to my LORD and savior,  “I love You always no matter what”, because that is the best I can give as a flawed human.

 

Beauty & Blessings,

XO, Michelle

 

Serve -Eastertide Day 6

“Our dreams grow holy put into action”  Adelaide Ann ProcterIMG_20130405_142855

Isn’t that so true?  Honestly, I don’t know if it’s true because I haven’t lived my life with the dreams God’s given me in my heart of hearts.  I definitely don’t say that in a ‘sad, woe is me way’.  God’s given me exciting work to do as a teacher of middle school students with special needs and a Dean of Students at South Elgin High School!  He blessed me, used me, changed me, challenged me and grew me in those 18 years.  Being a mom to Nathan and Aaron has been the most amazing, important job God has or will ever give me to do.  Blessing, blessing, blessing!

Now that I’m not able to work and my life has slowed down drastically, I started writing.  One of my dreams is to write a book, so I will keep writing and see what God does.  There’s a story in my heart that I want to share.  I’m in the beginning stages of this dream, but I can’t say that it’s ‘grown holy’.  Truthfully, I don’t even know what that would feel like.  Maybe that was a bad quote to use (Sorry Adelaide- but I love your name).  It was in my purple ‘Book of Beauty and Blessings’ and sounded good at first, but not so much anymore.   I wrote too much about it to go back and delete it, so it will stay.

Another dream that’s been in my heart since I was a teenager is to do mission work in another country, and my heart is drawn to Spanish speaking people and South American countries.  That is not in the cards for me physically right now, and may never be.  My initial response is to say “and that’s okay”, but as I think about it tears swell in my eyes.  God’s plans are the best plans and I’ve got more joy now than ever before by being ‘In what I’m in’, as I like to say.  But I give myself space to still have some sadness for not being able to do things I love doing, like running, and that is okay.  For goodness sake, I went to the grocery store this morning and could barely walk in the front door when I got home.  Thankfully, Mike works from home and took care of that for me.  Simple, easy things I used to do all the time are difficult.  I had the choice to lay on the ground, pound my fists, cry and be angry, but I know better.  God’s my Protector and Teacher and I’ve learned.  So, I spent some time in the garden looking at new growth and snapping some pictures to capture a new season.  Beauty and Blessing!

Yesterday during my Bible Study we did a service project instead of our normal routine, since the chapter from Celebration of Discipline was titled ‘Service’.  It was absolutely precious!  The organization is called ‘Loving Covers’ and they create blankets for children in other countries with the mission of “Sharing the Love of Jesus”.   These are not run of the mill blankets; they are so creative, detailed, lovely, colorful and gorgeous!  They take donated fabrics then volunteers go to work.  Someone organizes the various materials into groups, people cut them into squares and arrange them into a design, take a picture, stack everything up and then someone makes the quilted blanket the way the designers envisioned it.  They use the leftover fabric to make a backpack with a little pouch on the front and put a beanie animal into it for the child.  I got to be part of the cutting and arranging of a blanket!  Val Whetter founded the ‘Loving Covers’ ministry when she was challenged at the 2011 Leadership Summit by Bill Hybels to listen to God and make a difference through service for the next five years.  She had a dream, put it into action and it is a holy ministry.  (The quote worked after all!)

They need people who have a heart to serve alongside others. Everyone is welcome whether you have experience quilting or no experience at all. You’ll be surprised by the creativity you have within!  Tomorrow, Saturday, April 6th from 9-12:30 they will be sewing blankets at Willow Creek Community Church from 9-12:30 in room B207.  Bring your sewing machines, if you have one, and sew (if you don’t know how to do that, they will teach you).

Here is the FB link to ‘Loving Covers’:  https://www.facebook.com/LovingCovers?ref=ts&fref=ts

They will also have a booth for all three weeks of Celebration of Hope at church and need help 30 minutes before and after every service so our church can see the process of making blankets!  Please contact Val at:  vwhetter@comcast.net

Here is a picture I took yesterday of an amazing blanket (It’s not a good picture, but hopefully gives some vision.)20130404_094134

 

Our blessing today is from Psalm 9 (Italics added for emphasis):

vs. 1-2: “I will praise You, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of Your name, O Most High.”

vs. 7-10: ” The LORD reigns forever; He has established His throne for judgment.  He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity.  The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek You.”

vs. 15-18:”The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.  The LORD is known by His acts of justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.  The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God.  But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

God uses us to serve the needy, lost, forgotten, and afflicted.  It is up to us, we are His plan!  What would your life look like in five years if you used your dreams and God’s calling to serve Him?  Can you pray a prayer for service opportunities every day of Eastertide (until May 19th), pay attention to the small acts of service God shows you and do it?  This is from a handout I got from ‘Loving Covers’, “Lord Jesus, I would so appreciate if today you would bring me someone whom I can be of service.”   Think about how exciting life can be if we look for Beauty and Blessing throughout the entire day.”

Beauty & Blessings!

XO, Michelle

 

 

You Can Never Fall Too Far

Our sin does not define us.  Peter was chosen by Jesus to be in His inner circle, one of the 12 disciples.  He knew Jesus intimately and loved Him deeply.  Jesus asked the disciples who they thought He was and in Matthew 16:16 Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Peter was with Jesus when He healed and performed miracles.  Jesus told the disciples that He was going to suffer, be killed and on the third day rise again (Matthew 16:21).  Peter was with Jesus at The Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30) and was told by Jesus that he would disown Him that same night, not once but three times.  As recorded in Matthew 25:31-35, Peter declared in front of all the disciples, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”

No matter where we are on our journey with Jesus:  far from Him, investigating who He is, accepting Him as Savior and going your own way or knowing and living a life with God’s mission as yours, at some point we have denied knowing Him.  Saying, “I believe in God” or “I am a Christian” or “I go to church” is easy to say.  But saying “I know Jesus”, at times feels like a risk.  God gives me opportunities to share who He is with others and sometimes I deny God by simply saying nothing.  Other times my actions don’t reflect that I know Jesus.  I must ask, how does my life reflect knowing Jesus?

Before telling Peter of his upcoming denial, Jesus said in Luke 22:32, “But I have prayed for you, Simon (Peter), that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  Jesus had a plan of leadership for Peter’s life and didn’t want sin to get in the way of him living it out. There is a song by Unspoken called “Who You Are” that I love.  My favorite lines from the song are:

“So let the ashes fall wherever they land, come back from wherever you’ve been. To the foot of the cross, to the feet of Jesus. The feet of Jesus.

You can never fall too hard, so fast, so far that you can’t get back when you’re lost where you are. It’s never too late so bad, so much that you can’t change”.

Luke tells about Peter’s denial in such a detailed way that I can visualize the scene in Luke 22:54-62.  When Jesus was arrested and taken to the house of the high priest, “Peter followed at a distance.”  In the courtyard, there were people standing and sitting around a fire to keep warm.  Peter went and sat down among them.  The flames illuminated his face and the first to recognize him was a servant girl.  Peter responded, “Woman, I don’t know Him.”  He stayed by the fire keeping warm when a man recognized him as one of the disciples, but Peter answered, “Man, I am not!” About an hour later another man asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”  At this point Peter gets angry and in Matthew 26:74 it says, “He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”

Jesus told Peter he would hear the rooster crow three times, and when it did “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” (Luke 22:61) Then Peter remembered what Jesus said earlier that night.  His response was that he “wept bitterly”.

Can you imagine how that hurt Jesus’ heart when Peter denied Him?  Have you experienced betrayal by another?  It pierces the heart.  Peter was wrecked to his core when he realized he rejected Jesus.

There is beauty in this situation with Peter, the same beauty offered to us by Jesus.  Jesus went to the cross and died for the very sin Peter committed and did the same for all people.  After three days, Jesus defeated death, rose from the dead and spent time with the disciples.

When Jesus saw Peter, He asked three times “Do you love me?” (John 15-17).  I bet there was healing in Peter’s heart knowing Jesus forgave him.  We are offered the same blessing of grace from Jesus.  God used our friend Peter to build the early church and many people followed Jesus because of Peter’s leadership and teaching.  God wants to use you to bring people closer to Him.

This is Holy Week.  Acknowledge that you know Jesus and reflect on what He did for you at the cross.

Please cut and paste this link so you can hear and see the words from “Who You Are” by Unspoken. (It’s worth 3mins 23 seconds!):   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_BLbj5q8_0

XO, Michelle

The Valley- Eastertide Day 3, 4 & 5

IMG_20130404_161208This Eastertide  post covers day 3, 4 and 5 because I can’t stand to be behind and want to catch up today!  The picture in this post is of the orange tulips I mentioned seeing on Easter Sunday.  Today I was at church for my Woman’s Bible Study appropriately named ‘Sacred Journey’, and on my way out I captured the photo.  It doesn’t really do the flowers justice, but I have imprinted on my brain the real flowers. It makes me want to get out in my garden and look for greenery and growth.  Beauty!

Psalm 23 is our blessing for today and verse 4 is a close reminder of where I was for the past year. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”  Last year was a dark valley for me, but I allowed God to work through it and now I’m at the top of a mountain peak full of unexplainable joy.  That was not the only valley I’ve been through.  In 1998, I went through my darkest valley ever, but  I was there on my own, by my own choosing.  I was a christian, but I didn’t turn to God and the darkness lasted longer, about three years, and I missed out on the benefits of the valley.  Yes, there really are benefits to the valley when you are there with God.  He promises to be with us, but we can choose to go at it alone.  I’m here to attest that the valley with my Heavenly Father was much richer than the one without.  And the resulting joy is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

If you’re in a dark valley, please turn to God.  He does all He promises in His Word.  My heart hurts and tears stream down my face when I talk about my valleys, but the one that lasted for three years is still heavy and carries regret.  I missed out on my boys, family, friendships and time I could have spent learning about my Lord and serving Him.  The quick of it is that my health issues were different during that time 12 years ago, depression and anxiety filled my heart and mind.  It took too long to identify what it was and to get help on my own.  I didn’t talk to many people about how depressed and lonely I was.  It felt like I was crazy and the only person who could feel so sad and alone while being surrounded by such a loving, caring family, great friends and a job I loved.  I was blessed and I knew it which made me feel even worse. I had extreme highs and paralyzing lows.  My mood was high and I would go, go, go then at some point crash into a brick wall and slide down to the ground unable to get up or move.  Through the help of medical professionals, I learned that I was living with Bipolar Disorder, depression and anxiety.  When I started a treatment plan that my doctor prescribed for me, it was literally like the darkness lifted.  Thank God for medication that helps manage my mental health.  After that experience, when I was sinking further into the valley last year, I went to God and let Him love me.  It was still a long, dark 10 months, but He was in charge of the process.  My physical health issues this past year haven’t gotten any better and I still have dark, painful days, but mentally and spiritually “I’m good”.  Actually I’m better than good, I’m full of joy for how good God is to me.

 

Our blessing is from Psalm 23:

“The LORD is my shepherd.  I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil: my cup overflows.

Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days o my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

Beauty & Blessing!

XO, Michelle

Surrender- Eastertide Day 2

Back to Easter service…  “All new futures emanate from fresh surrenders.” Bill Hybels

During the message my pastor, Billy Hybels, gave a powerful message on surrender along with three brave people who shared their stories.  He asked,  “Who is the CEO of your life?”  One of the things I love is that our church gives us tangible ways to mark the decisions we make.  When we entered the service, we were given white pieces of fabric.  We were asked if we needed a “total regime change today”?  Three options were given of what to write on the ‘white flag’:  “surrender” control of my life to God’s love, guidance, wisdom, and plan, “resurrender”  if I’ve wandered away or the honest truth of “I’m still in charge”.  Add “Easter 2013” and sign my name.

We then sang “White Flag” by Chris Tomlin.  Here is the link to the song:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYuBdnaLNtw

“We raise our white flag
We surrender all to You, all for You
We raise our white flag: the war is over
Love has come, Your love has won

Here on this holy ground
You made a way for peace
Laying your body down
You took our rightful place

We lift the cross, lift it high, lift it high”

 

What do you need to surrender to see God’s blessings and beauty?

I felt a prompting from God to write our names on the bulletin with Mike’s cell # and gave it to Victor with an offer to meet up at church and for a home cooked meal.  I turn around to walk and who was sitting behind me, but Karen from Khols (where I was shopping the day before). Blessing!  Blessing!

All aspects of our service really were a joyful celebration of Jesus defeating the grave.  That’s the church, and this one, Willow Creek Community Church, I’m proud to be part of!  Here is the link to the service: http://media.willowcreek.org/

 

Our blessing for today is Psalm 32 (Italics added for emphasis)

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

 

Beauty & Blessings,

XO, Michelle

 

 

Beauty and Blessing!- Eastertide Day 1

IMG_20130329_165122Day 1 of Eastertide, Resurrection day, Easter Sunday (3/31/13).

When I woke up, out my window I could see it was a bright sunny day.  I bounced out of bed, gave a sweet shout to my boys, “Arise, Jesus has risen!”, they too hopped up, got ready with their special new pastel color Easter clothes, we had pancakes and eggs for breakfast, and with joyful words and sweet laughter walked out the door to our car at 8:15 so we would be on time for the 9 am Easter service.  Wait.  That isn’t exactly how it went. It was more like this:

Alarm, snooze.  Alarm, snooze.  Alarm, and  I finally roll out of bed, later than I planned.  “Mike, we need to leave in 30 minutes.  Wake up the boys.”  After getting ready, I head downstairs and find Nathan ready to go.  I looked all around for Aaron, called his name, Nathan thought he was in the shower, but he was not, so I went upstairs to check his bed.  Nathan announces that Aaron was down stairs playing video games.  Seriously, on Easter Sunday?  I holler down to turn off the games we need to leave in 5 minutes.  I’m not sure where I disappeared to, but in a split second I hear the shower turn on and I start yelling and pounding on the door, “You don’t have time for a shower, Aaron! Turn it off and style your hair.  We need to leave.”  Mike, who is on the phone with his best friend, Mike, wishing him a Happy Easter, peers out our bedroom door to see what my problem is.  Aaron is arguing with me, but turns off the shower begrudgingly.  We all rush to get out the door 10 minutes behind schedule.  “Way to go Michelle, yelling on Easter Sunday.”  Instead of beating myself up, I counted it as a minor blip and didn’t let it derail the morning.

I’ve been writing in a purple journal with a purple pen that I titled “Book of Blessings and Beauty”.   I was inspired after reading One Thousand Gifts, but needed to put my own name to my list.  I mention this because I’ve been paying closer attention to details so I can see blessing and beauty in the regular parts of my day.  As I was walking up to the church doors, I noticed the tulips planted in the flower pots.  They were such beautiful arrangements of new colorful blooms even a burnt orange color that I never saw before!  Beauty!  A good friend, Cindy, was holding the door open to church and I got a friendly hug.  Blessing!  If you go to a church where ‘everyone knows your name’ you may not see that as a big deal, but it is at my church because it is possible to walk in and walk out without saying “hello” to anyone you know.

With my family in tow, I insisted on sitting in a specific section on the main floor of the auditorium.  It looked full, but there were 10 minutes to spare so I walked closer to the front than Mike thought we’d find seats.  We found open seats, I looked around, didn’t see anyone I knew so we sat down.  I didn’t know the man sitting to my right.  I decided since we were going to celebrate Easter together for the next hour, I would introduce myself.  As it turned out, Victor was from Georgia and a guest to WCCC along with the eight men sitting to his right.  They are all going to be in the Chicago area for six months on a work project.  We chatted for a few minutes then the music started.  The talented team of musicians open up playing violins, guitars, drums and a banjo and the ladies wearing cowgirl boots with their dresses and voices like I’d imagine the angels singing. What a way to welcome guests from the South with a country western vibe!  Beauty and Blessing!

The message from my pastor was on surrender and they did something cool with that, but I’m going to save that for Eastertide-Day 2.

What a morning full of blessings and I’m only half way through the Easter service!

Our blessing for today is Psalm 16:

Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.
LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
 
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

 

Beauty & Blessings,

XO, Michelle