Perspective

Our view from earth within our unique circumstances is only a piece of the big picture, but for the most part it’s all we see during our life. I’m especially struck today by the ways God uses circumstances in one person’s life to affect and impact others at the same time and in the future. I’m reading through Exodus which chronicles the Israelites’ enslavement, the plagues God imposed on Egypt and Moses’ leadership through it all. This drew me back to Genesis in two ways, first back where God told Abraham this would happen:

“Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be foreigners in a land that does not belong to them; they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years. However, I will judge the nation they serve and afterward they will go out with many possessions.”

Genesis 15:13-14

This shows God’s omniscience, knowing all of the past, present & future. It also indicates that God allows hard circumstances into the lives of His children, sometimes for others even in future generations. I then began thinking about Joseph’s life (Genesis 37-50), he was hated by his own brothers, sold off into slavery, taken to Egypt, found favor with an officer of Pharaoh, accused of a crime he didn’t commit, put into jail for many years, then put in charge of Egypt’s kingdom & food reserves during a time of abundance to save people during 7 years of famine, which ultimately saved his own brothers & father when they were starving. Joseph gives this insight to his family & us:

“…don’t be worried or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there will be five more… God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt…I will sustain you.”

Genesis 45:5-8, 11

This all goes together explaining more of who God is, even His ways that I don’t understand, and that He is with us both in loss, pain, suffering and in abundance. When Moses asked God who he was in Exodus 3:13 in the next verse, “God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” Interestingly, in Hebrew God’s “I AM” is the same verb used three verses before this when God said, “I will certainly be with you.” The same God who sends you, or allows circumstances into your life, also promises to go with you and be with you in the midst.

God is so multifaceted and is working on the present and future of His plans simultaneously and still cares deeply about the individual circumstances in all of our lives. I see this over and over again through His word and it amazes me every time I read it! Although we see life through the perspective of where we are on earth, God sees all people throughout time with an eternal perspective & plan, even this imperfect world looks much different from His perfect view.

Depths of God’s Word

Reading through the Bible fills me with a greater picture of who God is. As I read & listen, through an app called YouVersion, my prayer is that God will be present, teach me, give me a love for His word, make His voice familiar to me, reveal His character to me, give me a heart that breaks for what breaks His, fill me with His love for people that overflows to those around me, draws me nearer to Him, encourages me through His great love, refines me into who He’s created and called me to be and helps me remain in Him as I move through my day, no matter what comes my way.

As I journeyed through Genesis, here are some of the overarching characteristics of God that jumped off the pages of my Bible (the references I’ve included aren’t exclusive, just some examples of why I’ve noticed those characteristics):

  • God exists & Creator of all good- light, night & day, land, sea, animals, humans, work & rest (Ch. 1)
  • God exists in three divine parts-God/Father (1:1), Spirit of God (1:26, 11:7), Jesus/Son (John 1:1-5, 14, 18)
  • Grower- planted a garden in Eden (2:8)
  • Present in creation & with people- God saw (1:4) walked in the garden (3:8)
  • Sin has consequences, but God is still present, loving & involved with His children; made clothing for Adam & Eve (3:21)
  • God grieves man’s corruption & regretted making man (6:1-8)
  • God remembers Noah, spoke to Noah & promises to never again destroy everything on earth & gives us the reminder with a rainbow (Ch. 8)
  • He is the God who hears & sees people in their suffering & pain (Ch. 16, 30:17)
  • Nothing is impossible for God (18:14)
  • God answers prayers (Ch. 24)
  • God gives children/opens wombs (Ch. 30)
  • God provides for human needs
  • God plans, gives insight & wisdom to people (Joseph- Chs. 39-50)

Of course this list is by no means exclusive or exhaustive, but these are some of the insights I’ve been reminded of through Genesis this year so far. What is so amazing to me is how God’s word is like a never ending well, no matter how much you read & study, He continues to teach through each passage by highlighting different aspects each time I read. His word is alive and active just like Paul stated in Hebrews 4:12. The depth of insight & understanding will sustain me all the days of my life & I am just beginning!

What treasures will you uncover as you wade with God into the depths of His word?

Beauty & Blessings,

XO, Michelle

1.1.19

Photo Credit: Nathan Poland

As the sun rises on 2019, anticipation and excitement well within me to begin my 5th year of reading straight through the Bible.  This New Year’s tradition began for me as 2014 was coming to a close and I’d just finished watching all seasons of The Office with my boys, quite possibly for the second time.  I thought why not pick up the Bible and read it cover to cover as quickly as I could starting on January 1? I’ve done it with TV shows and other books, so why not the Bible? This is not a new year’s resolution, an obligation, a box to check off, a way to earn points with God or a reflection of my spirituality, but has grown into an exciting way for me to look forward to the start of each new year and see what God will teach me as I read through all of His written word.

I’m starting now at Genesis 1:1, with a curious mind as to what God will teach me through His word.  Who wants to join me in reading straight through the Bible, at the feet of our Teacher, just for the enjoyment of being with Him on a journey through His word?

Good Friday 2017

On Good Friday I’m thinking about the pain and suffering Jesus faced and the way He cried out to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane asking for what He knew was coming to pass; seeking His Father, but asking if there was another way; presenting His request, but obediently submitting to His Father’s will. Jesus knew His Father intimately and that He could trust His plans no matter the human cost, but He also knew what was coming-betrayal, beating almost to death, humiliation, ridicule, denial by His own disciple, crown of thorns, carrying His own cross, being nailed to that cross, carrying ALL the sins of mankind on His perfect, sinless soul and separation from His Father. This prayer is a reminder of the tension between human pain, suffering and loss contrasted with the desire to do the Father’s will. The way of the cross for Jesus “was chosen before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20) so that I could be reconciled with God and never be separated from His presence for ALL of eternity; not in this life, in death or in the afterlife. I am challenged as I bring my personal prayer requests to God to add, like Jesus showed me in the Garden, “not my will, but Yours be done.” It feels like a small, insignificant response compared to what my Savior did for me over 2,000 years ago. And with Jesus as an example, I know I can be strengthened through prayer (Luke 22:43) to take the next step the Father is asking of me and because of what Jesus did by defeating death and what He tells me about His return and eternity in the Bible, I can live abundantly no matter the circumstances I face today or in the future. ​​

What a Windy Day!

Oh man, was it windy last night!  As I let Cooper out this morning, I saw the snow blowing, gusts going through my backyard, the overturned glass table (fortunately it didn’t break) and the cover of the hot tub stopped by the basketball hoop which fell over.  Internally I feel the winds strongly blowing my thoughts around.  It isn’t necessarily bad, but it is exhausting and distracting to think, rethink, over think the same situation as I fall asleep and wake up.  I can analyze a situation or interaction and see ways to improve and grow as a wife, mom, friend and leader.  I make mistakes and can identify what I will do differently next time.  I’m pretty hard on myself, but once I make it right, it’s time to get moving. The only way for me to do this is spend time with God in prayer and His Word.  After feeding Cooper, I got out my journal and wrote out my prayer:

Dear Father, I need to lay right at the foot of Your throne and say I’m sorry for getting ahead of You and myself, quite frankly.  My mind gets going and doesn’t quit then it floods out of my mouth.  I didn’t lead my small group well yesterday for our study.  I know you forgive me so please get it out of my brain.  I will lead rightly next week. Clear my brain so I can hear from You. Teach me about You as I spend time with You in Your Word.  I love you! Amen

I spent some time reading Luke 7:23-30, learned about John the Baptist, Jesus and myself.

It’s still windy outside, but not in my mind anymore.  Off to continue working on organizing my healthy home and eating.

XO, Michelle

 

Amazed

When I focus on only big things, I miss out on the small joys in my days.  I’ve always felt that most of what I did in my profession (middle school teacher and high school dean of students) was very important as it affected students.  There was great purpose behind my day to day interactions and I was passionate about it; I still am! When I talk about what I did as a teacher and administrator my face still lights up.  I haven’t been able to participate in my profession for two years due to my health.  If I didn’t pay attention to the little things in my days, I would lack amazement, joy and God.

I’m reading Jesus 90 Days With the One and Only by Beth Moore.  Each day there is a passage of scripture, reflective questions and her insights into the scripture.  Yesterday was Luke 7:1-10 where a centurion’s worker was ill and dying, he sent some elders to Jesus to ask Him to come and heal the man.  Through an interaction with Jesus that demonstrated this man’s faith, verse 9 says, “Jesus heard this and was amazed at him…”  This indicates that God can be pleased with us.  I’ve always thought God would be pleased with someone doing ‘big things’ for Him, like a missionary or pastor.  There were two questions from Beth Moore:  1. Name something that has pleasantly surprised you lately.  What makes amazement one of life’s sheerest joys?  2. How often do you think God is pleased with what He sees in His people?

I was amazed at the beautiful sunrise last Thursday!  We had the most beautiful orange/yellow sky as the sun came up.  It was absolutely breath-taking!  It was surprising to see something so beautiful come through our frigid, snowy, cloudy weather!  In the grand scheme, it was something small and routine.  The sun has come up every morning during my whole life and I often don’t notice the beauty of it.  If I hadn’t been paying attention, I would have missed the joy of seeing beauty in our frigid winter.  God is a great God who created us and knows our limitations.  He is pleased with His people more than I’ve thought before.  We have been given free will so whenever we choose to love Him and others, He is amazed at our hearts.  Like a proud Father, He says, “Look at her, she showed love to another.”  Any small act within His will or in obedience to Him, pleases the God of the universe.  Creating a healthier home through cooking and creating chemical-free products, is a little thing, but it pleases God and makes a difference in the health of some very important people in my life!

“Perhaps you’ve bought into the “wretched worm that I am” mentality enough to be uncomfortable thinking about Christ being impressed by anything wretched man can do.  But since we’re attempting to develop God’s taste in us -to love what He loves, hate what He hates, and marvel at what He finds marvelous -perhaps we could all use a little adjustment in our perception of the Divine.” Beth More

In Isaiah 66:2 God spoke these words: “This is the one I esteem (regard with pleasure…have respect): he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word.”

XO, Michelle

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

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

 

 

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