Resolve

This is the fourth year I’ve started the new year in a new way for me, with resolve and anticipation in what I will uncover as I start in Genesis 1 and read the Bible cover to cover. I used to look back and make resolutions from my regrets and what I didn’t accomplish the prior year. This new pattern and has given me a different focus as I look in the rearview mirror of the past year. With this clearer lens I begin 2018 remembering what is behind and with a stronger, more intentional resolve step into the new year ready for the depths of whatever comes my way. Last year was filled with both highs and lows, joy and pain, life and loss, light and dark, laughter and tears, more and less, freedom and restriction, celebration and mourning, good and bad… it was a “both” “and” kind of year. As I look back, I am filled with gratitude that I can see God’s hand in all of it and look forward to this year anticipating how He will work and what He will do as I walk imperfectly with Him through my days.

Once again I begin from a what feels like a physically broken state, with a limited capacity to function in a day due to debilitating physical pain and fatigue. This reality reminds me how important it is to be present in my relationships, utilize time well, be grateful, patient, flexible, prioritize, live simply, generously, out of an internal motivation of love and to spend my energy on things that really matter. I’ve also learned how to be thankful for the relationships in my life and to find joy in the intangible things in this life. One of the best internal shifts for me has been a focus on gratitude for what I’m able to do instead of frustration over what I can’t do or what I used to be able to do. I’d seriously be amiss if I didn’t point to Jesus as the One who has transformed my heart, mind and internal motivations. It’s not by anything I have done, but as a result of His love, grace and mercy towards me and my imperfect efforts!

As I step into 2018, I will carry with me thankfulness to God for all of last year, both the good and the bad, lessons I’ve learned and resolve to love God and love everyone the best way I can and to read the Bible cover to cover, present with the God who never leaves me and see what He teaches me through His living and active word! Will you join me in reading the whole Bible in whatever way speaks to you this year? It’s been quite  a journey since I started this tradition January 1, 2015! Here is to great new beginnings in 2018….

 

Beauty & Blessings!

XO, Michelle

 

Life is Hard, Endurance Needed

I can hardly believe we are on the shore of 2017 and it’s rolling in tonight. As I look back on this year, I realize I haven’t written one post in 2016. I’ve had a difficult time organizing my thoughts this year and haven’t put much in writing. I’ve been learning and growing, but have often struggled to put words with what is going on internally. If I had to come up with a term that encapsulates 2016, I’d characterize it as a year of endurance. My health hasn’t changed much at all this year and it isn’t due to a lack of effort. I’m coming up on the five year anniversary of my diminished functioning without much improvement, just coping strategies. BUT, I’m experiencing more peace and joy than I did when I was fully functioning. Although I haven’t been able to expand my capacity, I’ve experienced a depth in relationships with my family, friends and God that brings blessings from the struggle, pain and loss. I attribute that to God and His transformational work in my heart. I believe He is able to do His work in my life when I spend time with Him in His word. At the close of 2014 I decided that every 1/1 I was going to start at the beginning and read straight through the Bible each year and see what God teaches me from His word. I did read through the Bible cover to cover for the second time in 2016. It took me until December, but I read it and was amazed at what I learned the second time reading straight through. AND, I’m excited to start in Genesis 1:1 again tomorrow morning. Will you join me? Set aside some time each day to sit with God and His word and just anticipate what He will do in your heart, mind and life. I’ll leave this year with something I wrote in August about endurance:

Is life going as you planned? Are you filling your days with what you thought you would at this stage of life? If you aren’t in the midst of a current interruption, have you ever experienced a change you weren’t expecting? Interruptions to life come in all shapes and forms from slow transitions to sudden upsets with mild pain and suffering to deep long-suffering without light at the end of the tunnel. If I could sit across the table from you over a cup of coffee, I’m sure you’d have a story to tell of how life took a turn or came to what seemed like a halt. It may be a current circumstance or one in the past, but I’m certain it would have marked you in some deep, specific, permanent ways. There are always surface level impacts, but what marks us most is below the surface at the heart, soul and mind level. When we look within at how our circumstances craft and create our story through the lens of God’s story via the Bible, we start to see that how we respond and react matters. Faith in God is strengthened sometimes through healing of circumstances, but most often, and in my personal experience, through trusting God regardless of whether or not the healing or restoration comes. When I committed to following God, did I make that commitment only if things were going as I planned in my life? Is He my God only if He fixes the broken parts of my life the way I want? In the midst of pain, suffering, loss and diminished functioning when I just want to give up, give in, medicate or end it, how will I respond?

At some point in our personal suffering we consciously or unconsciously become committed to endurance, because the alternative is death, literally or figuratively death of the heart, soul or mind. The official definitions of endurance according to Merriam Webster are: the ability to do something difficult for a long time; the ability to deal with pain or suffering for a long time; the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; the quality of continuing for a long time; the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation with out giving way. Some synonyms for endurance: tolerance, sufferance; forbearance, patience, staying power, perseverance, persistence, tenacity, grit, resolution, determination.

Do you hear the repetition? How long does suffering last to produce endurance? A. Long. Time.

I will endure. I will get out of bed when I don’t think I can put both feet on the ground. I will remain physically active, constantly pushing myself to walk and stretch when my head, neck, back, hips, legs & knees are screaming to stop. I will engage and interact with those around me when I don’t think I have anything to offer or feel irrelevant, out of the game, unproductive, under-challenged, underutilized, insignificant or invisible. I will try to be faithful to God in the little things He’s given me to do, constantly being thankful. I will be patient with myself, my health and limitations as well as with those around me and encourage others to do the same, because Love is patient first, before it’s anything else ( I Cor. 13:4). I will always remember it’s the people in my life that matter most and try to make a positive, encouraging impact in their lives daily. I will still learn new things and pursue a healthy lifestyle. And on the days that I feel I can’t go on any longer, I will still hope and remember it will get better.  I have strategies to bring some temporary relief. I will endure.

I was reminded about this endurance this morning from Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”

This gives me perspective and points me to Jesus’ example on how to endure. His focus was not on His suffering, but on the future joy that His sacrifice would bring to that which He loved most- people. What do I need to lay aside in order to keep my eyes on Jesus and the future hope He gives me right now? This is a deep, soul searching question that every one of us will answer differently. Is there anything He is whispering to you right now? The good news is that you don’t have to endure any of it alone, Jesus never leaves your side!

Life is hard. It is hard for every one of us, but it doesn’t have to make us hard. It can make us loving, joyful, thankful, encouraging, enduring, long-suffering, peaceful, kind, patient, humble, brave, bold, beautiful and faithful. You can endure your situation beautifully, my friend. I just know it!

XO, Michelle

Reflecting on the Mountain

20130323_095559Forty years had passed since the Isrealites left Egypt; forty years of wandering a route that should have taken about 11 days to travel. The promised land was ahead, but they couldn’t see it. I want to learn so I don’t wander around longer than necessary for God to do what He plans in my life.  I love how sweetly the LORD speaks to His people in Deuteronomy 1:6-7 when they are stuck, as a result of their own sin.  “The LORD our God spoke to us at Horeb: ‘You have stayed at this mountain long enough. Resume your journey and go…”.  He gently told them to move on from where they were stuck, and I believe there is truth in this for us today.  There is something better ahead, resume your journey.

As I look back at 2015, I wonder what mountain I’ve stayed at long enough. If I were to choose the mountain to turn from and leave, it would be the Mountain of Pain & Fatigue.  Oh how I would love to resume my life, turn my back and go on, but despite my best efforts I can’t heal myself.  It feels like I’ve been trying to leave for all of 2015, but that mountain is on my back and I’m carrying it with me.  Sometimes the reality of carrying the weight gets too heavy so I set it down, sit and focus on it. Looking at it makes me feel sad and see loss, but carrying it somehow makes me stronger so I pick it back up and journey on; searching, researching, making physical changes, going to doctors, taking medicine, pacing myself, walking and living.  If my health puzzle is not the mountain I’ve stayed at long enough (4 years now), then what is I wonder?  Sometimes we have to search below the obvious layers to identify where we are somehow stuck or stalled so we can resume our journey.  While I ponder I ask God to help me name my mountain, so He can sweetly whisper, ‘You’ve been at this mountain too long, it’s time to go and resume the journey I’ve called you to.’

God helps me remember that 2015 was a good year full of great memories with rich family time and a lot of letting go.  There were highs & lows; great joy in the midst of pain & suffering; success & failure; storms & calm; laughter & tears; progress & set backs; insight & overwhelming confusion; a couple more pieces to my health puzzle & tough treatment roads; great effort towards getting well without the desired result, but through it all God was in and with me teaching me about Himself, who He’s created me to be, His faithfulness, how to trust Him, put hope in His promises, live with joy, hold onto peace in the storm, love beyond myself, how to have patience no matter the circumstances and faith in His plan for my days.  I’ve learned, grown and changed in the process.  Here are some themes I can identify as I reflect through this past year: be faithful in the little things; walk worthy and walk well in all situations; honor God in my relationships; love others- it’s the people in my life who matter most; do challenging things; lean into hard circumstances & conversations; in my weakness, He is strong; even if healing doesn’t come, I will trust Him; be kind; Jesus is enough.  Of this I’m confident: God has been faithful through it all and will continue to be, no matter what comes my way.

So, what is the mountain I’ve spent far too much time at?  I’ll continue to ponder this question in my heart.  Can you name the mountain you’ve stayed at for far too long?  Here is the link to the message, ‘Can You Name Your Mountain’ by Steve Carter, revolving around this scripture from December 26/27 at Willow Creek Community Church, give it a listen:  https://willowcreek.tv/

Three days until 2016 and the start of reading through the Bible cover to cover. I can’t wait!  Will you join me at your own pace with your own plan?

XO, Michelle

Insights Gleaned from Reading Straight Through the Bible in 2015

2012-03-03_14-32-40_112I started 2015 with the goal to read the Bible straight through, cover to cover. When I began that goal I had no idea the impact it would have on my life, heart, soul, mind, relationships, perspective and circumstances. It was a seed planted in my heart from an article I read that took root and grew. I don’t share this for a pat on the back or to compare Bible reading plans, but to maybe plant a seed in Christian hearts that reading God’s word matters and has the power to transform a life regardless of the circumstances in which you find yourself. When I set out to read through the Bible, I decided it would be something I would restart every January 1 of the New Year. I often don’t follow through on New Year Resolutions, so this was simply a goal I set and met.

My excitement has been growing for January 1, 2016 to come so I can start the New Year reading straight through the Bible again. As I look forward, during this Advent season, I am spending time looking back at what God has taught me through His word this year. God has taken this seed and my obedience to sit with Him in a way that fits my current life circumstances and poured into me to the point where it overflows from my heart. He’s given me a deep rooted love for all of His word exactly how He’s given it even if I don’t completely understand what or why He is giving it; all I had to do was show up, listen, be obedient and trust He would teach me something, anything. I am somehow different, in a way that isn’t always easy to put my finger on, but I feel more peace, joy, content, calm, others focused, less selfish, with a deeper understanding of God and how deeply loved I am by Him. Here is some of what I’ve learned:

God loves us, all of us!

God is extremely patient with His people. I’ve really pondered why in I Corinthians 13 the first description of love is patience, “Love is patient…” So far I’ve decided that it is the root of all the other outward descriptions of love. If you are not patient, can you be kind, others focused, humble, generous, and forgiving?

Although I may not understand all of what is there, it is ALL important and significant or He wouldn’t have inspired the author to record it. Therefore I’ve concluded that every part of my life, my years, my days, my moments are important, inspired, purposed, planned and orchestrated by Him. If I seek Him, I can find him in even the most minute detail, circumstance and situation.

He is God, I am not, and I can trust Him with all of my circumstances.

I LOVE His word and can’t get enough of it. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to burst with excitement over what I learn.

He teaches me new things every time I reread a passage.

Genesis and Revelation are perfect book ends to His story of Love for us. It starts in a garden with the tree of life and ends in heaven with the tree of life.

He is intentional and purposeful and has eternity and His perfect plans in view. I have a limited, imperfect, human perspective, which He still cares about.

There are consequences for sin.

Living life for God requires sacrifice of selfish desires.

He knows all and it all matters to Him.

Although  Jesus’ earthly life is recorded in the New Testament, He is present from Genesis through Revelation.

His word is Truth and shows me how to live. Everything I need is in there.

My comfort and happiness in this life isn’t the main point of living, I’ve been created for eternity and somehow this life, and who God’s created me to be, matters for eternity.

Not much of this life will last for eternity, but God’s word will, so I best store it up in my heart because I’m taking it with me. I Peter 1:22-25

I am His and He cares deeply about me.

God hears our prayers. There is power in prayer, even if God doesn’t answer in the way I’ve asked.

Revelation is important and promises blessing to those who read it. Rev. 1:3

Jesus Christ loved us in Revelation 1:5, beautifully looks back to the cross according to David Guzik’s commentary. “The work of Jesus on the cross for us is God’s ultimate proof of His love for you. He may give additional proof, but He can give no greater proof. No wonder many believers are not secure in knowing the love of Jesus toward them- they look to their present circumstances to measure His love. Instead, they need to look back to the cross, settle the issue once for all and give praise to Jesus, to Him who loved us.” If this insight is the only blessing I receive from reading Revelation, it is a blessing indeed!

There are so many other insights I’ve learned from reading the Bible cover to cover in 2015. I’m anticipating what God will do in my heart, soul, mind and life as I repeat this process during 2016.

XO, Michelle

Jesus’ First Sign- John 2

Writing about Scripture has proved to be more challenging than I thought. My task was simple, to read through the gospel of John and write about words that

My Mom and me
My Mom and me

Jesus spoke and the context of when He used the word believe.  I was planning to go through a chapter a day, but there is so much in each chapter and organizing my thoughts and ideas has not been easy.  I am not a Bible teacher, simply a student of God’s word who loves practically all of it and thinks it’s all important.  Plus my blog has technical issues, it isn’t organized in a way that makes sense to me, it looks better when there is a picture with the post, the formatting doesn’t look quite right…my distractions could go on and on, if I’d allow them and I’m not even going touch on the thoughts that run through my brain on what others will think about what I’m writing. Isn’t life like that though?  Full of distractions to keep us from what is truly important?  A lot of times we can be consumed by the details and miss the big picture.  I want to be taught by God from His word and for my writing to reflect what He is teaching me.  I’m hoping my words will reflect what is in my heart and in some way encourage others to read the Bible and learn more God’s great love story.

I’ve been listening to the chapters of John while reading along, highlighting Jesus’ words, and putting a box around the word believe to try to help stay focused.  Yesterday I went through this process with chapter two and three and find that most of chapter three (vs. 3-21 ) is now highlighted!  One of my biggest struggles as a student has and continues to be summarization.  I’ve always over highlighted and struggled with deciding what is the most important. I found the word believe three times in John 2; verses 11, 22 and 23.   I’m going to focus on just the first 11 verses today and attempt to organize what I’ve learned.

In the beginning of the chapter, we encounter Jesus’ first miracle turning water into wine. I love how His mom, Mary, came to Jesus when they ran out of wine at the wedding. She knew who to go to in a crisis situation.  This reminds me that she knew Jesus; she was His mother after all.  Although I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be the mother of Jesus, I am a mother and I know my children, so I can identify with Mary, the mother and this ‘hostess-type’ role she seems to be in. (The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke give accounts of Jesus from conception to birth and some information on Him when he was a boy, but John starts with His ministry as a 30 year old man.)  One of my biggest fears is having some kind of a party and running out of food, which almost became a reality when we hosted my high school son’s lacrosse team for a pasta party this week.  Running out of food or in this case wine, would seem like a crisis to someone hosting guests, so I’m imagining Mary’s stress level is a little high.

Jesus’ response to Mary is a little confusing to me, “Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come” vs. 4.  But it doesn’t seem to be confusing to Mary because she tells the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Mary brought her need to Jesus and allowed Him to meet it.  How many times do I bring a need to God then proceed to tell Him how I think it should be resolved?

The waiters do what Jesus tells them and they get to experience a sign from Jesus on whom He really is- One who can take water and create the best tasting wine the headwaiter had tasted at this wedding celebration.  It was worth noting because usually they would serve the best wine first then the cheaper imitation after people already had the best on their palates.  Jesus isn’t like that.  He has ‘the best is yet to come’ message for us and He never gives a cheap imitation of love, grace, goodness, peace, joy, or anything for that matter.   John 2:11 says, “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.”  Imagine you are at this wedding, what role would you step in to? Would you be one of the disciples already following Jesus whose belief is strengthened, one of the servants interacting with Jesus for the first time with a new belief in Him or a guest who is drinking the best wine offered, but not knowing from whom it comes? Whomever you identify with, what do you currently believe about Jesus and will you continue to journey through the Bible to learn more about Him?

Two points I’m taking away from this miracle, sign and wonder is that Jesus always only gives the best to us and He can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

XO, Michelle

You Are Known-John 1

John 1 ImageThe gospel of John starts in verses 1-5 by taking us back to remind us that Jesus, the Father and Holy Spirit have always been in existence together.  It’s become particularly significant to me that Jesus, the Word, was “In the beginning” and that “all things came into being by Him”.  Genesis 1:26 “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;” Jesus didn’t just begin existence when He was born.  He is God, has always existed, and chose to become fully man.

As I read John chapter 1, I highlighted words that Jesus spoke and looked closely at the context of when He used the word believe.  I found believe in three places in the first chapter, verse 7, 12 and 50.  I’m going to briefly highlight the first two verses and spend more time on Jesus’ interactions with people. Here is a link to John 1: https://www.bible.com/bible/100/jhn.1.nasb

Before Jesus comes onto the scene we are introduced to John the Baptist 1:6-7, “a man, sent from God…for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, the all might believe through him”.  This is not the same man who authored the book of John.   Luke 1 tells about John the Baptist from conception to birth and Matthew 3 gives further detail about his ministry, if you want to learn more about him and his parents.  John was telling people that Jesus was coming and had a firm conviction of who Jesus was.

John 1:12 tells us, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name”.  We are told who we become when we believe in Jesus.

Jesus is all-knowing, so when Simon first meets Him, he need not introduce himself.  Jesus already knows him, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cepahs (Peter)” 1:42.  If I put myself in Simon’s sandals, I can imagine that he felt Jesus look straight into his heart and was known for the first time without having to say a word.  The same is true for us.  Jesus knows us; the good and bad, and loves us so much that He left heaven and lived on earth so He could be the “Lamb of God” 1:36, the Sacrifice for our sins that have separated us from a perfect God.

What is it like to walk into a room and be known?  Can you think of a time when you felt known or at least recognized?  There is significance to us when someone knows our name.  Think about all the places we go where people wear name tags.  Try addressing the person by name while you are checking out at the grocery store or ordering your food at a restaurant.  Does the person react to hearing his/her name used?  We can make this small gesture a habit by showing people that they are known.  It doesn’t compare to believing you are known and have been known by the One who created everything, since the start of time. Jesus knows you.

We encounter the word believe gain in John 1:50 in the context of Jesus talking to a man named Nathanael.  Earlier, Jesus called Philip and said to him, “Follow Me” 1:43.  This made such an impact on his life that Philip went and found Nathanael to tell him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” 1:45.  All the details prophesied about in the Old Testament about the coming Savior were lived out by Jesus.  Nathanael was an Israelite, so he would know what was written about the coming King of Israel.  As you read the account of Nathanael meeting Jesus for the first time in John 1:45-51, ponder what was it that made Nathanael a believer?  Can you fathom being seen by Jesus not just right where you are in your current circumstances, but from the beginning of creation?  Jesus sees you.

From the start of time, Jesus existed and He knew you.  He sees you now and loves you deeply.  He invites you to believe this is true about Him and to become God’s child.

XO, Michelle

 

 

Believe- John

What does it mean to believe? According to Merriam-Webster the full definition of believe is:
to have a firm religious faith; to accept something as true, genuine or real;
to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something;
to hold an opinion; think
This definition ranges from a firm religious faith to a firm conviction to holding an opinion.  What we believe seeps out into our actions and interactions with others.  This is true for what we believe deeply about ourselves to superficial beliefs about the weather, for example.  There is a complexity to our belief system that is, much of the time, unspoken or even unidentified, but surfaces through words, actions and sometimes most vibrantly through reactions to others.  What is my core belief about myself when the not-so-nice side of me surfaces; when I become prideful, fearful, insecure, angry, selfish, withdrawn or controlling? For me personally, I’ve identified that comes from a deep rooted belief that I’m worthless, unimportant and insignificant, but I know based on what God says in His word that those beliefs are lies.  When you are in circumstances that prevent you from striving to achieve success and the value that comes from it, whatever that looks like for you- the tough situations in life filled with some kind of loss, you have choices on how you respond to your beliefs- the positive and negative. Over my life, I’ve spent time in the pit with my negative belief system and experience has taught me it leads to darkness, loss and death.  In my current situation, by far the most long-lasting challenge I’ve experienced regarding my health, I’ve found joy, truth, gratitude, grace and wholeness because of my belief in who God is, not what I can do.  God replaces false, deep rooted beliefs with His truth.  It is possible, I’ve experienced it.

Our beliefs affect us, or at least they should.

When it comes to living my life for Jesus, do I want to have a firm faith and conviction or just hold an opinion about who He is, what He’s done and how He says to live? Does my belief change my heart, mind, speech and actions or do I simply hold an opinion, but it doesn’t mark my life? Even more than what do I think, how am I going to live because I believe? Do I live in a way that reflects that I accept the Bible and its message of Love to be true, genuine and real? Do I believe in the goodness of God regardless of the circumstances I find myself in? Do I believe that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are true and does this affect how I treat others?

As I read through the gospel of John, I’m going to highlight in my Bible words that Jesus speaks and look closely at the context of any tense of the word believe.

In John 1:38 Jesus asked His first question, “What do you seek?”  Imagine you are in Bethany in 85 AD with John the Baptist, not the author of the gospel, in when Jesus begins his three year ministry and you are hearing Jesus ask you, “What do you seek?”.  Would you journey with me through the pages of John in the Bible to discover who Jesus is and to decide for yourself if you believe in Him?  An invitation has been issued; it’s now up to you.

XO, Michelle

Grace Effect

IMG_20130329_165122 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No I worked harder than all of them (apostles)-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”        1 Corinthians 15:10

I love Paul, of the Bible.  When I first met him on the pages of scripture, quite honestly, I thought he bragged a lot about his knowledge of the Law in the Old Testament.  He even said he worked harder than the apostles.  As I spent time with him and looked closely at his life, I’v learned it’s quite the opposite.  In the verse prior to the one above, Paul stated, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church.”  When I didn’t look at all of what Paul said, I formed an incorrect opinion about him.

Isn’t that how our interactions with people are sometimes?  We make assumptions based on limited interaction, sometimes just from observation.    I’ve found that when I make assumptions, they aren’t always kind or may be built with jealousy or envy as the foundation.  My conclusion then is that those opinions are more about me than the other person.  It surely doesn’t come out of a heart of love for others.

As I read 1 Corinthians 15:10 I was instantly drawn to the part of the verse where Paul said, “… His grace to me was not without effect”.

You read it right, effect not affect.  Effect is defined as: something produced by a cause; power to bring about results; influence.  Other translations of the Bible verse say, “not without result; did not prove vain”.

Paul, previously known as Saul, was blind to who Jesus was.  He knew God’s Word, but He didn’t recognize Jesus as the Savior the prophets told about.  He was actually killing Christ followers.  But God got Paul’s attention by literally making him blind. When his eyes and heart were open, Paul accepted what he didn’t deserve and lived his life telling others about it.  God’s grace changed Paul’s life. It was not without cost.  In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, Paul shares what his life was like as a Christ follower.  God used Paul to share His saving grace with the Gentiles.  His letters fill the New Testament with wise insight into living a life worthy of God’s grace.

God gave me something I didn’t deserve.  His Son as a sacrifice for my sins.  I’m thankful and grateful, but does my daily life reflect the cost of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection?

How has God’s grace influenced my life?  Is it without result or in vain?  Truthfully I’ve gone through times, years where my life didn’t reflect the effect of God’s deep love for me.  I can make excuses for why, but the fact of the matter is that after accepting Christ’s saving grace, I’ve gone through long periods of time without effect.

God’s grace was costly and I don’t want to live a life reflecting cheap grace.

We are all on a continuum of understanding and living out God’s grace.  Paul’s life is a testimony to how a life can be transformed.  From a killer of Christ followers to one teaching about how to follow Jesus Christ.  How about you?  Will you investigate how you can live the grace effect?

XO, Michelle

Distractions- Day 17

20130416_110241
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