Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What's on Your Mind '09 - Testimony Edition

Shane started What's on Your Mind '09 as a blog carnival to challenge writers and encourage conversation. I have enjoyed thinking and writing about these topics each week and hope you have, too.
This week Shane is away on a retreat (Cue the violins.) and has asked me to play hostess to the current topic. Yea! I love having friends over. Especially when I don't have to clean the house first. *grin*
For this edition of What's on Your Mind '09, Shane is asking us to share our love story about coming to Christ. She said we can visit LauraLee if we need some ideas to help us get going.

Sooooo, my love story.
***Note: This story is longer than I usually let my posts get. I hope you are willing to spend a couple extra minutes with me!

I grew up in the church. Attended worship services most Sundays (Except when I could convince my mom I was just too tired to get up.), participated in the youth choirs, went to summer church camp seven years in a row, and was active in the youth group. Somehow, though, I missed the memo that I needed to receive Jesus personally.
I knew the Christmas and Easter stories. I understood that Jesus came to earth to be the Savior of the world and that He died to pay the price for our sins. I believed He was resurrected on the third day and later ascended into heaven.
I "got" all that. And I thought that was enough. Thought I was covered and good to go, because Jesus did what He needed to do.

And that is all Jesus meant to me for the first 18 years of my life.

He was God and He was Man. He was the Savior of the world, even. But to me, there was nothing personal about Him at all. Jesus was more like a fact of history to me. Someone who lived long ago and did a wonderful thing, but who really wasn't relevant to my life "today."
Oh, there were times when I paid more attention to Him. Like when I had a couple different boyfriends in high school. One was a pastor's kid and another was a nice "church boy." And when I was going out with those guys I certainly had a greater interest in God things.
With the pastor's kid, I learned lots of nice Christian songs and went with him to a senior center to sing them. We did stuff with his youth group and I was happy to sit and listen to the leader's talk about God.
When I was seeing the church boy, I went with him to his church and Sunday school. I talked the talk, and thought I was a nice church girl, too.

But when those relationships ended, so did my attention to "God." (I put His name in quotes, because now I know I wasn't truly paying attention to Him.)

Then I went to college.
And I met a guy.
And he was cute.
He asked me if I went to church and, of course, I said yes. OK, so I hadn't been to church since college started, but that wasn't what he asked. And when he asked if I would like to go with him sometime, of course I said I would love to. I mean, he was cute, and I'd been through that drill a couple times before. The guy likes God, so you do church things with him, and everyone is happy.

I had no idea my life was about to turn around.

This guy wasn't like the others.
He didn't just "go" to church. He talked about why he went. He asked me questions about why I attended church. He read the Bible with me. And talked about it. I had no idea you could have a conversation about what the Bible says!
And this is the part that really threw me for a loop.
This guy seemed more interested in me - I mean, Karen. The person inside my body. - than in this cute little body I was walking around in. (Trust me, it was cuter 19 years and three kids ago!)
So there I was, blown away by this guy who seemed to really believe in God. Whose faith in God mattered outside of Sunday morning. And who looked at me differently than any other guy I'd ever known. I was falling in love with him, and I wanted to hear what he had to say about this church thing.

As I listened, I came to understand I was missing something. While it was true that what Jesus did on the cross was "enough," I finally realized there was something I needed to do.
I needed to respond. I needed to confess my sin and admit my need for a Savior. And I needed to receive Jesus into my life as that Savior. I already knew He was the Savior of the world. Now I needed to accept Him as my Savior.

And this is where I like to say the love of my life introduced me to an even Greater Love.

But remember? I had been through the drill before. Like the guy, like his God. But when you break up, so goes the God thing?

Not this time.
Several months - maybe a year - later the thought occurred to me, Even if he and I break up, this relationship I have with God through Jesus is not going to end! Our relationship was personal. He was finally real to me.
I cannot describe the joy that understanding brought to my heart.

In the end, breaking up wasn't an issue, anyway. I married that "guy."

And so my love story continues...
Now, in the tradition of What's on Your Mind '09, will you share your story? On your own blog, or in the comment section, I would love to hear about how you came to know Jesus personally!

And for those of you who are reading but have never entered into a personal relationship with God through Jesus, I pray God has used something in my story to call to you today. If you have questions, or would like to talk privately, please, please, please email me!

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Grace-full Conversations

Colossians 4:6: Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

If you like my shirt, you can go here to order one of your own.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

His Grace IS Enough

OK, I had a nice post all written and scheduled to publish for your reading pleasure Friday morning.
Then Thursday afternoon and evening happened.
And I had so many thoughts running through my head, and emotions ravaging my heart - I couldn't leave the scheduled post alone. (Don't worry, I'll get back to it someday.) Because, for as much as I want Surviving Motherhood to be a place for you to come and receive encouragement, as much as I want to offer you hope through the storms you face each day, I also want to be real with you about my own struggles.
God is my encouragement and my source of hope. My only Source. But sometimes the struggles are so overwhelming they seem to eclipse His glory.

Check that.

Sometimes I fix my eyes on the struggles, rather than on God, so I can't see His glory. And that's what happened Thursday.

It started when I took Elizabeth shopping and to run some errands. And the trip took longer than it should have, and I was stressing about some other issues.
It escalated when I got home to find Matthew had not done the two things he was supposed to do while I was gone. The two things we discussed at length before I left. The two things he knew he needed to do.
It got worse when my little ADHD friend couldn't get a handle on himself, couldn't stay focused on a task to save his life, and started yelling at me because I wouldn't let him have his door closed. (When he can't stay focused I make him leave his door open. When it's closed, he seems to think he has a license to get distracted.)
And it came close to going through the roof when he finally sat down to do his homework, needed my help, and then refused to listen to what I was saying.

In the middle of trying to make dinner, struggling to be strong in the face of uncertainty, and floundering in my attempts to understand and deal with my son, my heart simply cried out, God, is this one too big for Your grace? Is this situation finally too much for You to handle???

Oh, in my mind I know that is not true. I know there is nothing God cannot handle.


But in the moment - with my eyes fixed upon the struggle - the question lingered in my heart.

God gently reminded me of His faithfulness. He reminded me of the prayers of faith I have offered for so many of my dear friends. And He assured me I could trust Him for my situation, too.

In that moment, God brought a song to my mind. A song I have grown to love because it speaks Truth to my soul. He used it to give me hope again, even in my despairing moment. And now I am sharing it with you.
If you're feeling like you might be in a situation that is too big for His grace, I pray He will bring you hope through this song, too.
Because, indeed, His grace IS enough.

May the peace of Christ reign in your heart this weekend. See you back here Monday!

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's Almost April Fool's Day!

April Fool's Day is next Wednesday. Have you made dinner plans yet???
Every year for the past four or five years I have made the same thing for dinner on April 1. We have "cake" for dinner, and "salad" for dessert.


OK, not really. C'mon y'all, it's April Fool's Day!

It just looks like cake for dinner and salad for dessert. Really the cake is meat loaf, "frosted" with mashed potatoes. And the dessert is a dressed up ice cream sundae in a waffle bowl that looks like a taco salad.

Here's a picture of last year's cake:
My kids simply love this dinner, and are already asking if I'm going to make it again.

Here's the low-down, if you want to give it a try.
Use your favorite meatloaf recipe and make the loaves in two 8-inch round cake pans. Drain the fat and frost them with mashed potatoes like you would a two-layer cake. I also put mashed potatoes in a pastry bag to pipe on an edge and then add dots of mustard and ketchup to decorate the cake.

For the taco salad dessert, scoop ice cream into waffle bowls and top with shredded coconut which you have colored with green and yellow food coloring (to look like cheese and lettuce), maraschino cherries (cherry tomatoes), sliced licorice (black olives), and whipped topping (sour cream).

I also like to make a yummy looking drink for our April Fool's dinner. For these, prepare two 3-ounce packages of strawberry gelatin as directed and refrigerate until partially set - about 2 hours. Stir in 3/4 cup each fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, and pour into six tall drink or soda glasses. Insert a straw and refrigerate until set.
They look like delicious drinks, but when you pucker up on the straw you discover the trick.

That's the trick I'm playing next week. Let me know if you give it a try!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Are Your Noisy Times?

"How are your Quiet Times?"

That is a question I used to hear frequently. Friends and spiritual mentors would check in on me - wanting to hold me accountable for spending time with God daily, wondering what God was teaching me, and generally looking out for my spiritual well-being. And somewhere along the way I acquired the belief that God's love for me and the quality of my relationship with Him was directly tied to the frequency, duration, and noise level of my daily time with Him.
Is it any wonder becoming a mother put my spiritual life in a tailspin? The quiet times to which I had become accustomed were virtually non-existent and I was under the impression it was impossible for me to grow in my relationship with God.
How could I spend quiet time every day reading my Bible and praying, when I was surrounded by needy, noisy children?
How could God speak to me if the only quiet time I had was when I was sleeping?
How could God love me when I wasn't able to devote an hour to Him every morning like I used to?

Last week I came across something I wrote several years ago. I was with a group of friends and we were talking about "Quiet Places." Re-reading what I wrote allowed me to remember how troubled I was at that time.

Quiet places, huh?
Lord, I feel discouraged, even a bit depressed. A couple of times lately quiet places, quiet times, a "special spot," or a "prayer room" have come up. These ideas sound great, but I don't see it happening for me. The when and the where seem to evade me.
No. They seem impossible.
I don't think I have the space in my house. I can't imagine truly quiet and uninterrupted time. My heart aches and even yearns for such as these!

Remembering where I was at that time in my life makes me so sad. I know now that God had not stopped loving me, but at the time - because I wasn't having "quiet times" - I basically put my relationship with God on hold. It didn't occur to me that God could love me and speak to me, and that our relationship could continue to grow, in the midst of the noise.

Do you know what I'm talking about?

Have you been there, too?

Are you there right now?

If so, may I suggest to you that God is just as near to you, He is just as holy and loves you just as much when you are changing a messy diaper or mopping up spilled apple juice as He is when you find a quiet moment to read a verse or two from your Bible?
And would you believe me if I told you that God can speak to your heart through the noise of a fussing baby or a ranting fifth grader, just as clearly as He can through His still small voice when you happen to find yourself alone in a quiet place?
I didn't mean to, but now I realize that when I was struggling so much to find quiet time, I was confining God to quiet times.
And He cannot be confined.
God has shown me that He can use any situation to speak. He is not afraid of noise, or messes, or tantrums, or even long lines at the grocery store. God is present in each moment. He is loving us. And if we are listening, we can hear Him speak.

I do not mean to say that we do not need to seek quiet time to be alone with God.
On the contrary, I treasure the quiet times I have with God and I encourage every one of you to find a way to have them, too. But maybe you are at a place in life where a daily quiet time isn't going to happen. Maybe you need to arrange for child care and can only have an hour or two alone with God a couple times a month.
I don't know your quiet time situation, but I do know that God is holy and good and loving in the noise, too. He is not confined to the quiet. God speaks, even when it's loud.

So my question for you today is this: How are your Noisy Times?

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On My Father's Lap

I have told you before about Mindy, right? My puppy who sits on my lap during my quiet times? The one God has used to show me amazing Truths about His love for me - particularly that it is entirely possible for Him to love me when I am not doing anything more than simply sitting in His presence?

Well, He did it again. God used that sweet little puppy to speak to my heart.

I was sitting in my chair and Mindy was curled up on my lap. She was quiet and comfortable and I was rubbing her back as I prayed. My conversation with God centered around concerns and worries that were in my heart at the moment, and my eyes were filling with tears because of my fear and uncertainty.
As I was asking God to be my comfort and to remind me I can trust Him, there was a noise in the other room and Mindy started to growl. I knew the noise came from Matthew. He was just moving some stuff around. So I held Mindy a little tighter and told her, "It's OK, Mindy. It's OK." And she calmed down.

Can you see where this is going?

As I sat there with tears in my eyes, speaking words of comfort to my dog and holding her close, God held me and spoke to my heart.
Mindy was upset by the noise coming from the other room, but I knew there was no need for her to fear. Matthew was not going to harm her in any way. I knew something she did not, and I was able to be calm for her and offer a comforting presence.
In the same way, I realized God knows what I do not. He knows how these uncertain circumstances are going to work out for me. He knows there is no reason for me to fear or worry, rather that I can trust Him fully to take care of me. And with that understanding, I was able to switch places with Mindy in my mind. I was able to imagine myself seated on the lap of my Father, to allow Him to hold me tighter and rub my back, and say to me, It's OK, Karen. It's OK.
Strange to think my tears increased at that point, rather than going away. But they did.
Thankful tears this time.
I stayed there a while, on my Father's lap - with Mindy on mine - and enjoyed the peace His presence brings. And as I went through my day I reflected back on that moment often.
My circumstances haven't been resolved yet. I'm still living in uncertainty. But I know everything is going to be OK, because my Father said so.
And I can trust Him.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

I'm Desperate!

For those of you visiting from Angela's place, Welcome! I hope you will find encouragement here for whatever you're facing today.
On Mondays I usually post a video devotion, and today you get to hear me admit that I am a desperate housewife. Thanks so much for stopping by, and please, come again.

Father in heaven, thank You for being our Father. Thank You for Your amazing love. Thank You for the blood of Jesus which covers all our sin and makes us new. Thank You that You don’t see us dirty – as failures – but You see us with grace because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for us.
God, I am asking You right now to speak Your love to my friend. I am asking You to assure her of Your presence and Your power and Your peace in her life. When she is feeling like a failure, when she is upset because she “lost it” again, Lord, will You remind her that Your grace is sufficient to carry her? Will You comfort her with the understanding that You are good – all the time – and You will make her good enough? Lord, please show her how to rest in your grace. Teach her to trust in Your mercies which are new for her every morning.
We fall short as mothers, Lord. Every day. And You know it. We struggle to be perfect. We try, but we can’t do it. Forgive us, Lord, for losing control, for not loving our children as we know we should. And help us, I pray, to fall into your arms of grace. We can’t do this on our own strength. We need You. And so we come – desperate and needy – thankful for Your amazing grace.
Thank You, Jesus. Amen and amen.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

That was Easy

Have you ever noticed that children can enjoy the simplest of things? Like a great big box, or a pile of leaves, or even a clump of dirt? My adult mind cannot remember how these simple things can bring such joy. But my son reminded me of that fact just the other day.
Joshua and his friend wanted to take a walk to an undeveloped area in the neighborhood next to ours, but I didn't want them to go without an adult. Since I'm an adult, Joshua asked if I would take them.

So, I did.

It was a nice walk - rather long - and I enjoyed listening to the boys talking about important fifth grade stuff.
You know. Like, who ran fastest in gym class. And did so-and-so really mean it when she said she liked so-and-so? Because she really sounded like she was being serious. But it might be that she's just good at acting.
You know. Important stuff like that.

When we made it back to the undeveloped area (After discussing what we would do if those big paw prints we saw were from a bear, and it came out chasing us, etc.) the boys ran over to the pond they saw and started throwing rocks into it. And they threw rocks into the stream that fed into the pond.
They discovered that if they threw bigger rocks into the stream, the rocks stirred up the dirt and made a very cool fog effect in the water. And that fog thing was rather entertaining to them.
But then one of the boys picked up an even bigger rock, and threw it in with even greater force, and the very large splash it produced brought even more delight than the fog effect from the stirred-up dirt. Now Joshua and his friend were running around gathering large rocks and throwing them into the stream - with sound effects - pretending they were releasing bombs.
And as I stood back to watch, the boys busied themselves "bombing" unsuspecting piles of dirt in the stream. For a minute I forgot these were fifth grade boys, as their squeals of delight sounded much more like those of a toddler. But, indeed, they were the same boys who had been discussing girls just moments before.

After a while, I looked at my watch and told the boys it was time to start heading home. Of course, Joshua had to throw just a couple more bombs first. But then we were on our way. And as we left the war zone, Joshua must have thanked me five or six times for bringing them on this walk. "This was so much fun!" he said, over and over.
All I could think was how easy it was to bring my son so much joy. In fact, I didn't "do" anything. I just walked with him, and let him be a boy. Honestly, I didn't even understand why he was having so much fun. But the squeals, the laughter, and the overflowing thankfulness convinced me. This walk was a good thing. And I felt like I had hit a home run by agreeing to it.

I wish all of mothering was that easy for me. I would love it if I always felt like the decisions I made brought joy to my children. It would be wonderful to feel like I might actually be in the running for "Mother of the Year."
But most days I fall short in one way or another. A day rarely goes by when I do not feel like I have blown it - somehow. This mother is still trying, still struggling, still clinging to God.
But one thing is for sure. The next time Joshua asks me to take that walk with him, my answer will be an immediate YES!

May the peace of Christ rule in your heart and mind this weekend!

Loving Jesus,

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

The New Deal

When our country was in distress from the mess of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated a sequence of programs intended to clean up the situation and bring relief to the people. He called his programs the New Deal.

As I have been looking around my house I have experienced distress from the mess caused by my children. Sometimes this mess leaves me feeling like I am about to enter my own Great Depression. The clutter gets overwhelming and I want to clean it up, but they come in and drop more clutter, and I begin to think, What's the point of trying to keep this place clean???
Sooooo, I have come up with my own New Deal. Yes, I have created a sequence of programs intended to clean up the situation in this house and bring relief to ME the people.
Here's how it works:
I have posted a chart on the wall with which I will keep track of any time I pick up and put away something which belongs to one of my children. And for each check mark one of my children receives on this chart, they will owe me five minutes of work. Any kind of work I choose.
If I take care of something and I don't know who is the originator of the mess (like a dirty dish left on the coffee table), all three of them will get a check mark!
And when I decide there are enough check marks to redeem, I get to put my child(ren) to work so they can pay me back for taking care of their things.

We have only been doing this for a few days, and I'm telling you - it is working wonderfully. We cleaned the house Sunday to get this program started, and it's still clean!
I love it. My kids don't like to "work" and I am able to capitalize on their dislike of work to get them to take care of their stuff. The thing is, they're working by putting their stuff away, but they think they're getting out of work. I love mind games! *grin*
And this is only Phase One of my New Deal. Phase Two will involve the counter tops in the kitchen. When everyone is good with putting their own stuff away, I am going to institute check marks on the chart for any time I have to wipe someone else's crumbs off the counter. That'll be nice.
And, I am seeing another benefit of my New Deal. Since the kids will be affected by someone else leaving a dish or other item sitting out, I intend to help them see the benefit of taking care of things laying around - even if it isn't "your" thing. Certainly, picking up and rinsing someone else's dish will be less painful than five minutes of labor assigned by Mom!

Yes, I am proud of my New Deal. Looking around at a clutter-free room makes me feel peaceful. And knowing I don't need to nag my kids to get it to stay this way does wonders for my heart!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm Going to Florida!

If you live in or around Ocala, Florida, or if you're going to be in that area on Monday, April 27, I want to invite you to come spend the evening with me and a bunch of other moms.
On April 27 I am going to be speaking for a moms' event at Christ the King Anglican Church in Ocala. Doors will open at 6:30 and I will begin my first talk at 6:45. There will be door prizes and a Chocolate Reception, and then I'll speak again.
I am brimming with joy and filled with anticipation for what God will do in this evening, as we gather for hope and encouragement and a touch from our Father.
Tickets are $5 in advance and $8 at the door, and you may get them by emailing Greta at gsowens@cox.net.
I would love, love, love to see you there!

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What's on Your Mind '09? - Psalm Edition

This week for What's on Your Mind '09? Shane is encouraging everyone to join in on the psalm journey we took last week. Since I already shared my psalm as we were going along, today I have "dug up" the very first psalm I ever wrote.

This was written on July 24, 1994, as I sat on a big rock off the edge of Prentiss Bay in Michigan's upper peninsula, just outside of Cedarville.

A psalm of thankfulness to my God

It is good to praise the LORD;
to consider His works and marvel at them,
to consider his deeds and bow before Him,
to remember His faithfulness and give Him thanks.

My heart sings praises to You, O LORD.
My eyes behold the beauty of Your creation;
the deep blue waters extending beyond the horizons,
the towering green trees rising from the land,
the vast blue sky powdered with clouds of white.
Even the waters sing in rhythmic waves upon the shore, as birds, too, sing Your praises.
You warm me with the sunshine and cool me with a gentle breeze.

My soul sings praises to You, O LORD, in thanksgiving for Your great mercy.
For You, O LORD, created me.
You knew my needs and watched over me as I foolishly sought fulfillment elsewhere.
You fully knew my sin and wickedness;
You saw me in rebellion.
I was blind,
a fool,

But in Your great mercy You reached out to me.
Though I had not listened before, yet You called me again.
And this time, thanks be to God, I listened to You!
You came into my heart and saved me from an eternity of hell.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, for He has become your salvation!
You, O LORD, have become my rock.
I look to You now, to You alone.

My spirit sings praises to You, O LORD.
You have displayed Your faithfulness to all generations.
You kept Your promises to Abraham, Issac, and Jacob;
You also keep Your promises to me.
You cause my heart to rejoice as I remember answered prayer,
reflect on Your steadfast love,
trust in Your mercy and grace.
Your ways are wonderful LORD,
beyond my comprehension,
yet within reach of my praise and thanksgiving.

And so I sing to You this psalm of gratitude, with my heart, soul and spirit.
For You are great, O LORD, and greatly to be praised!

I still remember sitting on a big rock, writing that psalm. How strange to think that was almost 15 years ago! I was 22 years old; hadn't been married even a year yet. My, how life has changed!
God has been so faithful.
He has carried me through so much.
And though I know I loved Him as much as I could at the time, because of all I've been through with Him - because I have known Him through the storms - my love for God today is far greater.
Makes me smile to imagine where I'll be with Him in another 15 years!

And so I will encourage you once again to write your own psalm. You can take the journey I led last week, or go on your own. Digging up this psalm from 1994 has reminded me again how much I love remembering where God has taken me. And I trust you will be similarly blessed.
If you would like to see the psalms that other bloggers are creating, please visit Shane.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Write Your Own Psalm, Day Five - The Big BUT!

Good news! We're finished lamenting and now we've made it to the big BUT! You may recall my joy with making it to the big BUT when I was going through Psalm 31. I shared about it in this post.
David poured his heart out to God in lament - being completely honest about his pain and anguish - and then he declared, "But I trust in you, O LORD, I say you are my God." (Psalm 31:14) And he spent the next four verses declaring his trust. Take time to read Psalm 31:14-18, reflecting on your ability to trust God to take care of the circumstances and challenges in your life.
As you write this portion of your psalm, recall the laments you have written over the past three days and ask God how you can trust Him to meet those needs. While you were writing the laments, I encouraged you to not look for solutions. Today I am hoping you will invite God into those moments so He can show you how you can trust Him with each one.
Here's my big BUT:

But I trust in You, Lord.
Though my heart is bruised, still my hope is in You.
Even though I struggle as a mother, still I find peace in You.
I am a broken woman, yet I know You will make me whole.

You are good - all the time, Lord. And my complete trust is in You.
You, Yourself - You, Lord hold my every day in Your hands. You know my past and the reasons for the bruises on my heart. And You can bring healing and restoration. Yes, Lord, please bring it.
Let Your face shine upon me. Fill me, Lord, with all that is missing from my past. Let me find my satisfaction in You, alone. Let me not be dependent on the love of others, but let me be fully satisfied with Your love.
For Your love is eternal, unchanging, perfect and true. Your love is better than life. Your love, Lord, is beyond my comprehension and I am so thankful that You want to pour Your love out on me!

Lord, You know my future, too. You know how my children are going to "turn out." You know how our relationship will be and I can trust You to take care of it all. I can have peace because You are God. Father, I commit my children to You - and my future with them. Shine Your face upon us all. Keep us in Your hands. Lead us in Your ways. Guard our steps, Lord, and use us for Your glory!
I do not need to fear the future, Lord, because you are God - Creator of heaven and earth - Maker of the universe - Holder of time. Even my future days are in Your hands and I have peace about those days because I trust You.

And You, Lord, You are God of the present moment, too. You see me as I am - a broken woman - yet covered by the blood of Jesus. I am broken, yet I wear a robe of righteousness. Not my own robe, but the one Jesus died to give me.
So I am fully redeemed right now from the sin of my past and present and future. And You are continuing to redeem me - to make me fully Yours - to complete me and shape me into the woman You want me to be. And I trust You, Lord. I trust You with my present moment and I believe You are doing a good thing. A very good thing.
Let Your love cover me and fill me up, Lord.
Yes, Lord. I trust in You!

OK, girlfriend. You've poured your heart out to God. You've made it to the big BUT. Now let God pour His love out on you. As you seek Him today for this portion of your psalm, watch for the ways He answers the concerns of your heart.
You may find it encouraging to re-visit the words you write today several times this weekend. Be sure to come back Monday. We're going to celebrate God together as we write the final section of this psalm.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Write Your Own Psalm, Day Four - Still Lamenting

Back again, I see! I'm so glad you're still hanging on, and I pray God is working in your heart as you write this psalm.
On this third day of lamenting, God lead me to look at myself. I had spent two days crying out to Him about my hurts, concerns, and fears regarding the people in my life and now He was calling me to look inside. Not always a pleasant thing, but I have learned to trust my Father and I know He knows what's best for me, so I looked:

Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am broken.
My heart is consumed with selfishness and pride. Though I want to be like You, there is so much of me to battle that You get pushed out.
My spirit grows weary from the battle. Lord, truly my spirit wants to be conformed to You, but my flesh - O my flesh - puts up such a fight.
I am selfish.
I am stubborn.
I am prideful.
I blame others for my inadequacies.
I am insecure - I care way too much about what other people think of me!
I am weak.
Yes, Lord, I am broken. Broken, indeed. And just thinking about my brokenness - how desperately I fall short of who You want me to be - Lord, those thoughts break me even more.
I want to be who You want me to be. But I am not there yet!
I know I need to change. I want to change. I don't want to be this broken woman anymore, Lord. I am sick and tired of her!

Lord, have I mentioned that I am also impatient?
I want what I want NOW. I want to be holy - like You - NOW.
Have mercy on me, a broken, impatient woman.

Now it's your turn again. How is God leading you today? Where is He asking you to look? Is there a lament in your heart you've been holding back? Spend time sitting with Him and allow God's Spirit to stir your thoughts. Then pour your heart out to Him again. Remember, He is your Safe Place.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Write Your Own Psalm, Day Three - Another Lament

Hi, friends! How's the psalm coming? I pray God is speaking to your heart through the very words you are writing.
Although the lament section of Psalm 31 is just that - a section - I chose to spend a few days writing my laments. As I was going through Psalm 31 one verse at a time, I was very aware how much I did NOT want to spend time in the sorrowful verses. I just wanted to skip past them and get to the "good part." That's the way I operate a lot of the time, and God helped me to see that I needed to take some extended time to be real with Him - my Safe Place.

So on this second day of lamenting I focused on my fears about the future, particularly as they related to the things I wrote about the day before. And I began it by saying:

Have mercy on me, LORD, as a mother...

How is God leading you today? (This is a thought provoker - not necessarily something I'm expecting you to answer in the comments!) Ask Him where He wants you to go today with your writing. Perhaps it has to do with a worry about your future. Maybe there are still things from yesterday you need to work through. Ask Him and sit silently for a few minutes, waiting for His Spirit to lead you.
Please don't try to come up with solutions, just pour your heart out to the One who is your Safe Place.

Praying for you, Friend!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Write Your Own Psalm, Day Two - Lament

If the first eight verses of Psalm 31 establish God as our Safe Place, the next five take advantage of that fact. David pours out very raw feelings of lament, and really lets God know how he's feeling. Take time to read through verses 9-13 if you haven't already. In fact, even if you have read them, doing it again wouldn't be a bad idea.
You may recall that when I was reading through Psalm 31 I just wanted to get out of these verses of lament. But God used my time there (and the wise words of my mentor) to show me that I needed to be open to the pain and allow Him to love me through it - rather than to run away from it. So I spent a few days in lament when I wrote my psalm, and I am inviting you to do the same thing.
I am not going to share everything I wrote in this portion of my psalm. Partly because I don't want to influence your writing - I want to leave that up to God! And, partly, because I got real honest with God as I wrote and some of it is just too personal. You still love me, don't you?
So, on this first day of lament I started like this:

Have mercy on me, Lord, for my heart is bruised, and it hurts when certain thoughts touch it.
When I think of...it hurts.
When I think of...it hurts.
When I wonder if...it hurts.
And I continued on with God, pouring out my heart about past things which still affect me today.
Before you begin writing today, spend time in prayer with the Lover of you soul. Ask God what He wants you to bring out. Ask Him to bring to mind anything that you have kept closed off in your past. Don't look for solutions to the problems, just be honest about your feelings - remembering that God is your Safe Place and He can handle anything you have to say.
Come back tomorrow to write some more.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Write Your Own Psalm, Day One - My Safe Place

I am praying for you as you begin writing your psalm. Perhaps this is something you will want to share on your blog. If so, that's great. Go for it! But my greater desire is that you take this opportunity to enter into deeper fellowship with God - who is your Safe Place, who loves you so much, who wants you to pour your heart out to Him.
If you don't think you're a "good writer," please don't let that hold you back from writing your psalm. Let God love you through the process and just watch for Him to grow your faith!
I pray His blessing on you today.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

The Writing Plan

With the hopes that you aren't tired of me plugging this write-your-own-psalm journey, I want to give one more invitation to join the adventure - as well as a little more explanation.
My intent in sharing this opportunity is not to begin a blog carnival. In fact it has nothing to do with blogging, except for the fact that I'm using my blog to reach out with the idea. My hope is that you will use the thoughts and suggestions I write about next week to spur you on in your own personal time with the Lord.
If you have a blog and you want to post your psalm as you write it, that's fine! I just want to be clear that I'm inviting you to participate for what God wants to do in your heart - that's all. I don't want someone to NOT do this activity because they don't want to share their writing, or because they don't have a blog.

Are we clear?


Now then, a little explanation about what you can expect from me next week...
I see Psalm 31 as four distinct sections, and that's how I wrote my psalm. I will discuss each section as we come to it, I'll share some or all of what I wrote in my psalm, and I will encourage you to spend time seeking God as He leads you in your own writing. Just so you know, I spent three days in one of those sections and I'm going to encourage you to do the same thing.
So we'll meet here Monday through Friday next week, and return the following Monday for a final celebration.
You can also expect me to be praying for you. In fact, I already have been. God knows which of you are joining me on this journey so I know He hears my prayers for you. But if you would like me to pray for you by name, please leave me a comment letting me know you're writing a psalm, or send me an email, and you can expect me to be praying for you personally.

May the joy of the LORD fill your heart this weekend.

See you back here Monday!

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Pay It Forward

Look at this! I am now the proud owner of a genuine, one-of-a-kind, highly collectible, priceless, handmade refrigerator magnet, which was made by none other than MyADHDMe!
It arrived in the mail this week as part of a Pay It Forward blog project. And this is how the project continues...The first three people to comment on this blog post will receive something in the mail from me. (After you give me your address, of course!) After my item arrives in your mailbox, you will post about it on your blog and send a little goodie to the first three commenters on your post. And so the fun goes on.
The idea behind the goodie is that it should be something you made, yourself. To be honest, I do not know what I am going to make. Though I like the magnet MyADHDMe sent me, and I think I might be able to do something like that. I was also thinking I might give away my books. I mean, I didn't technically make them, but I did write them! Does that count???
Anyway, the first three commenters here will get something from me, and then you'll get to Pay It Forward.
Let the fun begin!

And don't forget about beginning our psalm-writing journey on Monday!

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

My Compassion Child

I am so excited! I just received my sponsor packet from Compassion International for the young girl I have "adopted." Her name is Yamileth, she is 13 years old, and she lives in Ecuador. When I went to Compassion's website to choose my sponsored a child, my heart quickened as I looked at Yamileth's picture. I can't explain it any other way except that God was nudging me to know this was the girl for me.
I have written her a note and enclosed a picture of my family which I will mail out tomorrow. And I sent Yamileth an email from Compassion's website today. Having read the stories of God using people to make a difference in the lives of children who are living in poverty, it thrills my heart to consider the hope I can hold out to this little girl.

Please us me, Lord!

And if you sense God nudging you to sponsor a child, too, just click on the button in my sidebar. You'll go right to Compassion's website where you can search for a child who is in need of someone like you to hold out hope to them.

BTW, I hope you're considering joining me on an adventrue to write your own psalm next week. Please spend some time reading Psalm 31!

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What's on Your Mind '09? - Devotion edition

It's time for What's on Your Mind '09? again. This week Shane has asked us to write a devotion from Mark 1:40-45, and since I didn't do a video devotion yesterday, I decided to do one today. So, please join me while I share what's on my mind...

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean."
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: "See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for you cleansing, as a testimony to them." Instead he went out and began to talk freely spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
Mark 1:40-45

In case you're interested, the verses I quoted from Isaiah are 40:12-14 and 28-31.

To see what others have to say about Mark 1:40-45, visit Shane.
May the peace of Christ rest upon you today!

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Weekend Report

Look who I met this weekend! It's Shane, from Heart Reflections. She and her mom came to the Kaleidoscope Conference where I was speaking, and Shane sat in on my Confessions talk.I was in my room chatting with a couple of women when Shane walked in. It was delightful to meet her, and I was thrilled that she made the trip to Michigan for the conference. As soon as I got over my excitement, though, I asked Shane if I could put her to work. There was no one designated to run Power Point for me and, while my mother-in-law said she would skip her Focus Group to do it, I told her I thought my friend would be willing to help. (Yes, I can be a bit presumptive. Make note of that fact, in case you ever come to hear me speak...I might just put you to work, too! *grin*)
It was so much fun for me to meet "the woman behind the blog," to talk face-to-face, and to discover that Shane really is as warm and kind as she seems in her writing. I hope God will bless me with opportunities to meet other blogging friends. Truly, I love the fellowship we have over the internet, but there's nothing quite like wrapping your arms around a sister's neck!

The theme for the conference was A Spirit of Trust, and as I reflect on everything that took place, I know trusting is what I need to do.
When I went to set up on Friday night, I was invited to join the committee members for a prayer meeting that was about to take place. God's perfect timing, you know. We had a wonderful time of individual and corporate prayer and as I left that place, I was confident God had heard us and that He would be at work among us Saturday morning.

But Saturday morning, I was tempted to be disappointed.

My talks, themselves, went well. Women in the audience seemed to be tracking with me and responding positively. That was all good. But as soon as my sessions were over, they needed to report to the next event on the schedule, which didn't leave time for me to interact with anyone regarding their reaction to the words I spoke.
While I love speaking, I can honestly tell you - my favorite part of any speaking event is the time I have to talk personally with women after it's all over. I love to hear how God has ministered to their hearts and given them hope that they "aren't alone" in this mothering thing. And as my Foucs Group attendees cleared out of the room to move on with the rest of the conference, I sadly realized I was going to miss that blessing this time around.
But as I sat and listened to the Key Note speaker at the end of the conference talking about trusting in the Lord, and not leaning on our own understanding, it was as if He was saying to me, Karen, don't lean on what you think is the measuring rod for whether or not I'm moving. Don't trust in the words of women. Trust in Me. I was listening last night. I brought these women here. Each one of them. I have been speaking to them today, just like I am speaking to you right now. Meeting them where they needed Me, just like I'm meeting you now. Trust Me, darling. I am moving and I know what I'm doing.
That's just the way God works, isn't it? He knows what we need, when we need it. He knows when and how to speak to us. And I trust that God was speaking through me, and each of the other speakers at Kaleidoscope - delivering to every woman exactly the life-giving words she needed to hear.

And that is my Weekend Report - Trust in the LORD with all your heart. He is faithful!!!

BTW, I know I have been posting a video devotion on Mondays lately, so maybe you were expecting one today. Fear not - tomorrow's What's on Your Mind '09? assignment is to write a devotion. I have it in my head, and if I can get the time to record it today, I'll post it here tomorrow!

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