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::Save the Date:: July 25th

At a retreat last weekend, we were asked, “What’s one thing you’re looking forward to this year?” The girl I was sitting beside quietly confided that she was excited to welcome a precious baby into the world on July 26th. I gasped, thrilled for her, and then quietly confided that I too was excited to welcome a precious little something into the world just one day earlier…

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Of course, a book is nothing compared to a life, but writing a book does feel like giving birth — the mental and emotional investment involved are most certainly akin to carrying and birthing a child. Some of you know it has been a long, sometime tearful, journey. So, I’m happy to announce our “due date” — July 25th. 

Between now and then I’d love to gather a group of you, faithful blog readers who have journeyed along with me here in this place, who would like to participate in reading and sharing the life-giving, hope-filled, Jesus-saturated truth of Sacred Mundane. I’d be honored to share a copy with you, and just ask that if it blesses you, you share the love with others. 100% of my proceeds will go directly to benefit women and children in need through World Vision; I want women all over the world to be blessed by both the message and the money from this project. I’d love if you would consider joining me.

If so, drop me a quick contact here, and I’ll be in touch. Thanks so much, faithful blog readers. You are a gift to me daily–your kindness and camaraderie blesses my soul.

Thanks for reading. 

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Heidi, full of light.

Oh Heidi, where to even begin? Yesterday you turned eight, and the day was FULL of watching you shine and love and receive and give, and I just sat marveling at how God has grown you into a lovely little lady these past eight years.

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I was reflecting this week on how amazing it is to see prayer answered before my very eyes as I look at you. I went back and found this post from when you turned 2, and I was amazed to see that you have become exactly the things we prayed over your life all those years ago. I prayed that you would be:

  • Calm. This may not seem like the list-topper of an attribute, but a calm woman who keeps far from drama is a blessing indeed.  I pray that you will be able to minister to others, remain hopeful and steadfast in every circumstance.  I pray you will not be easily angered or upset, but steady and calm.  May you bring peace into every environment.

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  • Cheerful & Thankful.  I pray you will be a woman who is thankful for everything (1 Thess 5:18).  I pray that each and every day those in your sphere will find you a cheerful woman. I pray that you will know the secret of contentment, whether in plenty or in need–a thankful heart.  May your countenance always be pleasant, and may you bring joy into every environment.

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  • Modest & Gracious. I cannot lie, my love–you have the most beautiful face I have ever seen. (But I’m biased)  I am afraid that you might be in for a life of compliments.  It scares me.  I pray with every ounce of my being that you will be a modest and gracious woman.  Everything you have is a gift from God, offer it all back up as a sacrifice of praise. God will use all that He has given you for His glory. Remember Whose you are.  Remember Who is the King of Kings and the LORD of Lords. Remember our beautiful Savior. And bow daily at His feet. Remember grace.  Let Your life be all for His glory.

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This week has reminded me, The things we pray over our kids MATTER. Sure, they’ll have their fair share of successes and failures. We don’t pray to keep them from trials or struggles. But we pray to see God work wondrously in their hearts, minds, character, lives, to shape them into godly, kind, humble, wise, brave, beautiful beacons of LIGHT to shine in this dark world.

I’m encouraged all over again — let us not grow weary in praying for our kids. God hears. God answers. So much is at stake in their little lives. Let’s pray! 

Thanks for reading.

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A critical question to ask before 2016 ends

December 26th might be my favorite day of the year.

I mean no disrespect to Christmas, I love every bit of it, but there is something so glorious about that week after. Dec. 26th-Dec. 30th are my favorites, the days of absolutely zero expectations. They are the days of staying in your sweats all day, of kids content to play with new toys and read new books, the days of cleaning and tossing and organizing and attending exactly zero parties. Again, don’t get me wrong, those things are great. But by the 26th I am partied out, and I’m eager to hang up all my festive-wear and don a hoodie and messy-bun for five (or 50) days straight.

It isn’t just that I love holing up in my house (I do), it’s that this week affords time for introspective, reflection, musing, dreaming. These are my favorite things!

As I peruse the social media world, I notice that many are ready to set fire to 2016. Too many movie stars died and the elections left us bloodied and bruised. I get it– we lost not one, not two, but three dearly loved family members this summer. My kids had never been to a funeral and then they went to three within 6 weeks!

But let’s not set fire to 2016 yet. It would be a tragedy to move on too quickly. As I mentioned in last year’s post, we do well to spend ample time reflecting and evaluating the past year. If we don’t, we are apt to run headlong into the 2017, bound to make the same mistakes, not learning a lick from the events of our past.

Again, without meaning a bit of disrespect, I was saddened as I read through articles outlining the lives of various movie stars who had passed away. So much brokenness, drug use, immorality, depression, mental-illness. These are the people we’re paying billions of dollars to watch on a big screen or stage or arena? Again, I’m not saying these people are bad, I’m saying it seems like the entertainment industry often destroys people. It seems that our obsession with fame, beauty, and money has created a filthy breeding ground for every form of disfunction. 

So why do we keep feeding the monster? 

Various charities are struggling along, barely able to cover their expenses and their faithful employee’s meager salaries, while movies are netting billions of dollars and sports fans are forking out thousands for a single seat at a game.

Something is wrong with this picture, yes?

Similarly, we lamented our two choices in the recent election. But have we taken responsibility for OUR contribution? Have we acknowledged our own weaknesses, failures, and shortcomings? Have we acknowledged that both candidates are, in some measure, reflections of US?

I think what keeps us bound, more than anything else, is our unwillingness to acknowledge our own personal failure. I once read of a person who got divorced and was re-married three days later. Say what?! It’s as if to say the problem was the old person, but now that there’s a new person, the problem will go away.

But that’s not it. Right? A new person won’t fix us.  A new year won’t fix us.

The only thing that can “fix” us is when we honestly, humbly acknowledge before God the ways that we have personally failed. The ways we have neglected, overlooked, ignored, wronged.

Only God can fix us, and He only can when we admit we need fixing. 

I’m realizing this post is sort of a downer, and I don’t mean it to be! I just mean that before we can make glorious goals, before we can dream and plan and visualize a more glorious future, we must take the time to sit before our Father and ask the hard, but critically important question:

Where did I fail this year? 

Not in a vague, depressing way, like, “I’m a big fat failure as a person.” NO! That’s not it. It’s the stuff of:

  1. I allowed myself to veg-out on social media, when I could have been reading aloud to my kids or investing in quality books.
  2. I wasted a lot of energy obsessing over what people thought, instead of spending time in prayer asking the Father to speak His truth over me.
  3. I ignored a His still, small voice when He convicted me about a certain thing, and I chose to do my own thing instead.
  4. I stayed quiet in that situation where I felt prompted to speak, because I was afraid of how I might be perceived by others.
  5. I ignored my neighbors and those in need, because we were so focused on ourselves.
  6. I neglected my Bible reading and times of prayer with God.
  7. I spent more time and money on entertainment, comfort, and amusement than on giving, alleviating suffering, and investing in the eternal kingdom of God.

Our culture is so obsessed with not wanting anyone to feel the sting of failure. But failure helps us! We will learn from it if we’re brave enough to admit it.

I’d venture to say we all want to live a life of no regrets. Interestingly, we do this not by ignoring our shortcomings or failures. If we are careful to reflect back on what we do regret, we’re more likely to make course-corrections, and when we get to the end we CAN look back and see a life without regrets. 

Are we willing to ask the hard questions? Are we willing to sit down, in the silence, alone with our Father and ask Him for HIS year-end evaluation? Do we know His love enough to trust His words? Do we trust His gentleness to know that He won’t destroy us, but that He’ll kindly and mercifully bring to mind the areas He wants to transform this coming year?

Perhaps, we might carve out a quiet moment, just an hour or two, and ask our Heavenly Father to speak His truth over our 2016. Even if it’s hard, we will bear the beautiful fruit of repentance when we’re let Him do His work. With all my heart, THANK YOU for reading along this year. We’ll talk about more fun things next time. 😉 Thanks for reading. 

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What I left behind, and why.

Hello from Redwood National Forest! Yesterday we hitched up the tent trailer, and headed out on our annual road trip down to California-Arizona-Utah. This year we got brave (and frugal) and decided that instead of renting a house we’d bring our tent trailer instead. Yup — nineteen days and 3,040 miles in a tent trailer. In the not-Summer. With temps ranging from 40s to 90s. The jury’s definitely still out on whether this is a good idea. But hey, it’s an adventure!

We spent all day Saturday packing, and it’s quite entertaining considering the things each of us chooses to carry. We’re a quirky bunch. But that’s another post for another day.

For me, packing this time was very different for me in one significant way: I brought no books. None. Other than the Bible, there isn’t a single volume along with me here.

This might not seem like a huge deal to you, but it is to me. I’m a book lover. I could read all day. And usually, vacation (especially road trips) is when I devour the stack of books I’ve been longingly looking at for moths.

Books are my life-soundtrack. I remember certain trips because of the stories I read during them. I can still remember wiping away tears as I read Same Kind of Different As Me on the flight to Hawaii. I remember laughing so hard the other passengers were staring at me as I tore through Anne Lamott’s  Bird by Bird. I remember The Glass Castle on the beach, and Half the Sky in Maui and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in the bench-seat of my dad’s truck. So many laughs and tears and the stories, pages, words, they have shaped so many seasons, especially on vacation.

But recently, I’ve sensed the Father urging me to push aside the stack of books. For one, it seems they are coming at me at an alarming rate.  I just feel like there are so many books it can feel like a never-ending onslaught of book recommendations and “you HAVE to read” and “can’t wait to get my hands on” and I just. Cannot. Keep. Up.

Please hear my heart. I have loved these recommendations. I’m grateful for every moment spent savoring these words. But on our last camping trip of the summer, I was reading yet another great book, and it was relating the author’s journey of feeling frenzied, busy, overworking and neglecting her family. She was working on slowing down and enjoying the moment.

On the one hand, I couldn’t really relate that much. We’re actually not very busy. I sleep 8-9 hours a night. The kids and I stay home every weekday. I don’t feel hectic or stressed. I don’t feel driven or pushed to do more or be more. I have in years past, but not today. However, I loved the author’s honesty and transparency, and appreciated her story. So, of course, I wanted to finish the book.

But then. Here we sat, on this hidden-away beach the kids and I had found, along a beautiful lake, all by ourselves, where we picnicked and threw rocks and splashed in the water.

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And they were playing happily so I pulled out my book. But immediately, it all seemed wrong. Here I was, enjoying the moment, but then I turned away in order to finish a book written to help people enjoy the moment.

Umm…?

Why not just … do it.

Then, as it were, scales seemed to fall.

I do this.

I’m a compulsive reader. 😉 I don’t feel driven or pushed in any area of my life, except that I want to read more and more, I want to know more, I want to learn more, I want to discover more so I can grow more. And you know, that’s not all bad.

But why not just … do it.

Do what I already know to do. I don’t need another voice telling me something I already know. I don’t need to read the latest book on prayer as much as I just need … to pray.

Maybe I don’t need another thing. Maybe I just need fewer things.

Fewer words. Fewer pages. Just for now.2016-10-03-14-23-20

Because maybe I need to read the moment. Maybe I need to read their faces. I need to read His writing on the wall and the sound of birds and the way the colors change from Portland to Phoenix and back. Maybe I need to pour out more words from my heart instead of stuffing so many in.

So for now, He’s telling me to read the moment, enjoy it, soak it up, live it, then write it. Reading is so much safer.

It’s so much easier to ingest someone else’s story than to live–and tell–your own. 

But writing, for me, requires courage. It requires me to do something more than just regurgitate someone else’s thoughts. I have to feel this day and their faces and read into each moment. I have to engage and then articulate.

I have to offer something of myself out for all to see.

And risk that even though there are already too many words out in this world (*smile*) it’s still worth while to add a few of my own.

So, for this trip, I left books behind. We’ll be embarking on some varied adventures–everything from National Parks to a Bethel conference to a Half-Ironman triathlon. And of course, plenty of mishaps and memorable moments in between. So I’ll be sharing bits and pieces along the way. I hope some can be a blessing or encouragement to you, in some way.

{With so many words out there, thanks for reading these.}

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On baking bread and slow days

*We are camping this week, out enjoying some slow days. No bread baking, but lots of time for slow rising of hearts and souls, letting them get filled back up by God’s peace and joy as we spend time, unhurried, with Him and with each other. It reminded me of this. Praying you are able to take some time out for slow things, for savoring summer, for relishing His goodness and glory, for listening to each other and just enjoying this life He has given us. Have a great week!

On slow days I bake bread.

Sometimes as many as six loaves, if I know the pace is about to pick up or the afternoons are about to get hot. I only use my oven on cool, slow days.

Last Thursday was my slow day. The last cool day on the forecast, the kids were happy to be home, and when I returned from exercise they were nowhere to be seen–lost in imagination, hidden in large cardboard boxes turned to transmogifiers and time-machines and secret hide-outs and space ships. There are 12 of these giant boxes currently on my back porch: I long ago gave up on strict tidiness. My kids’ creative inventions aren’t always cute, in fact, most often they’re eye-sores.

But I figure I have decades ahead for a tidy, cute house.

No doubt then I’ll ache with missing these cardboard-box days.

So I let them make believe, and I make bread.

My mom was a bread baker. A legendary one. A paleo-dieter would not have lasted long in her kitchen. Her crescent rolls–buttery, perfectly-puffed-up, slightly golden brown on top–were a staple at every holiday. She taught me how to feel the dough, the right warmth and elasticity. She taught me how to knead with quarter turns, sweeping flour slightly underneath, pushing the heels of my hands down and pulling up gently with my fingers to pull the dough over on itself–rhythmic. She showed me perfect bread isn’t as much science as art, and her recipes included lines like, “Add flour until the dough feels right.”

At lunch time, I call the littles and slice a loaf into sandwiches, heavily-loaded with chicken-salad. Their eyes light up: It’s their favorite lunch. We sit on the steps of the back-porch, surrounded by boxes, and silently savor our simple feast.

Later, while I’m wiping up crumbs, Dutch calls: “Mommy, will you come sit with me?” He’s on the front porch, perched on the wooden railing, feet dangling over the edge, above the flowers far below. I join him, carefully perched on the railing, my legs dangling beside his.

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He is my nature-boy. He once remarked that the ocean was his best friend. Today he points out colors–the purple japanese maple, the light-green new-growth, the dark cedar branches, the “sunset orange” (his words) zinnias and white-magenta striped pansies. He thinks the pansies look like purple tigers. 

“I’m so happy, mommy. This is my favorite thing. If only people could just be happy with what they have, the trees and flowers and bugs. Then we wouldn’t have so many problems.”

I smile at his philosophizing. 

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We stay there, on the porch, dangling legs, and I think of kneading dough: Think of how often parenting baffles me, until I slow down and put my hands on it and feel–then I know when it’s right. I think of gently forming loaves and lives and letting them rise slowly, on their own. I think of watching and waiting to see these rounds turn golden, almost ready.

So often I think I need a trip to the store and a parenting book.

More often I need a slow day to bake bread and dangle legs. 

{Here’s to slow days. Thanks for reading.}

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The Ark (Part 3)

… Okay let’s finish this story!

So, in January, we were generously given a raise by the elders of our church. At first was uncomfortable with receiving this increase. This was God’s money! Plus, we were fine. We weren’t starving, and we literally had no needs. We are clothed, we have cars, we have plenty. But again, as I went to the Lord in prayer, I kept sensing Him saying to receive because this was part of the journey. We had become comfortable with being conduits of His love and resources in teeny tiny amounts, and He wanted us to be willing to be conduits of His love and resources in larger ways now.

Plus, to my amazement, because we had whittled down our monthly budget to such a small amount, this “extra” now put us in a completely different position to look for the Ark. I still didn’t have a $ amount, but I began to see that this was all part of God making the impossible possible.

Then I accidentally sold our house.

Ha! Yes, that’s right. This is the part of the story where I say, “Wives, don’t do this.” Jeff laughed so hard saying,

“You sold our house out from under me!” Haha.

Actually all I did was click that teeny tiny button on Zillow that says “Make Me Move.”  I was praying and fasting, and the idea came to mind so I did it.

Yeah, like, I did it without asking Jeff. (Cringe face.)

Thankfully, he laughed later and said it was fine, but we received a FLOOD (ha!) of calls with interested buyers. We agreed to just show the house to two people who seemed most eager. The second one came and cried when she saw the house she loved it so much, and offered full price. Jeff agreed, we accepted.

So, um … now what?

The same day we received the offer, a house popped up on the market. I had no filters on my search at all, but it caught my eye because it was 4.5 acres and it looked like …

…  an ARK. 

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The front angled out like the bow of a boat and there were decks all the around. I looked closer. 4.5 acres. Two full living spaces. Huge shop. Wood stove. On a well.

With a pond and creek.

Oh good grief!

My eyes widened. Was this for real? And, with the more-than-expected equity from our house-sale, it would be the exact amount we’d already been approved for, with our new income.

We went to see it and it rang so clearly in my heart, “This is it.” The kids, of course, were ecstatic. We’d seen some absolute hovels of houses, and after seeing all those dives they couldn’t believe we were actually considering a house that they LIKED! Haha, and that’s how I felt. I was like, “Wait what?! This house is actually pretty! I didn’t expect pretty to be part of the process.” I thought it would be like an old school, or a warehouse, or some weird thing like that, I didn’t expect it to be clean and lovely! Of course I would never have picked green countertops or some of the other stylistic parts of the house, but I didn’t give a rip about those things.

This was THE ARK!

Of course I was thrilled at seeing this God-thing come to pass. It was so remarkable I could barely believe it, but then would come the uprooting of more heart-issues. God doesn’t waste anything, and He used this blessing to show me lingering sin in my heart …

Bet you can’t wait for that! Haha. 😉 More soon! 

 

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The Ark (Part 2)

{Continuing the story from yesterday! So sorry to keep you waiting!}

… So we prayed and asked God to show us what to look for. Altogether we sensed 7 things, but they came one at a time. I think if He’d showed us everything all at once, we’d have laughed in disbelief and abandoned the whole adventure altogether.

First, He had to help me abandon an incomplete view of what it means to be faithful financial stewards.

See, I’m the Faithfully Frugal girl. I wrote the book, people! And I wholeheartedly agree with every word in there, but I hadn’t realized how much I’d equated frugality with godliness.

With good reason. Nine times out of ten, erring on the side of frugality is going be a safe bet. We’re a nation of over-spenders, often over-indulging ourselves while refusing to help our brothers and sisters with real needs. God had done such a dramatic work in my heart regarding finances and frugality, that I was zealous for frugality.

But in October, God began revealing to me, that although my passion for frugality was well-intended, He wanted to take me deeper. He wanted to teach me to the way of the Kingdom, living as a child of God.

In October I distinctly heard, “I no longer want you to make decisions based on money.”

Say what?! Then how on earth would I make them? Yes, we gave generously overseas and to our local church, but in my day-to-day decision-making, I almost always made decisions simply based on what was cheaper. At restaurants, gifts, groceries, choices of all kinds. My go-to, default, decision-making process was almost always What’s cheaper? or What’s the better deal?  

That’s fine for some things, but it’s terribly incomplete. It often isn’t motivated by love, faith, or the gospel. It’s motivated by a passionate commitment to spending as little as possible.

Again, that might be a good place to begin, but I sensed the Father saying from now on He wanted me to confer with Him about every single financial decision, and trust His leading (with my husband, of course) and buy or not buy what He wanted, regardless of price.

Ok, this might seem like no big deal to you, but this was a HUGE SCARY DEAL to me. I kept thinking, “This is fine and dandy for those people with plenty of money, but what about for us?! We can’t afford to be willy nilly with our finances!”

I could almost hear Him laughing. Of course this wasn’t “willy nilly” … this was learning to live more fully in relationship with the Father, not with a commitment to a certain financial principle. I felt so scared to step outside my comfort zone in this way. But you know what? I did it and …

It was awesome! I found myself being so much more generous, buying gifts for people because I genuinely thought it would be their very favorite, not just because it was on sale. I had so much fun dreaming up ways to bless others. I found myself feeling so FREE!

And to my everlasting amazement, of course, we never lacked. 😉

In the midst of this, when I asked God to show me what price range to search for as we looked for the Ark, I kept sensing,

“No. I don’t want you to have a house in a certain price range, I want you to have the house I have for you.”

Um… ok?

But I had no idea what to look for!

So again, we prayed, and slowly but surely, over the next 4 months, seven things kept coming back to our hearts & minds.

  1. Big. (Not real specific.)
  2. 4 acres. (Real specific!)
  3. Two living spaces so that our housemates could come with us.
  4. An outbuilding of some sort.
  5. On a well.
  6. Wood-stove.
  7. With a water source (pond, creek, etc.) on the property.

So…can you see why I was tempted to laugh in unbelief?? Um…have you SEEN house prices in the Portland area? Sky high! Have you SEEN the million-dollar price-tags on anything that would have all 7 of these items? Seriously I felt like Sarah when she was told she’d have a baby at 90-years-old!

But, the Ark impression kept coming back in alarming frequency. I’ll spare you all the specifics, but it seemed everywhere I turned there was a reference to Noah and the ark, specifically Jesus’ references to this in the gospels.

But again, would money rain down from heaven? How on earth would this happen?

More tomorrow! Thanks for reading.

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Global 6K for Water {Join us!}

Things are officially crazy-town at my house. I’m finalizing edits on the book, we’re moving in 9 days and I have yet to pack a single box, then it’s Good Friday and Easter, then after moving we leave the country for a week. I want to help my kids transition well through this season, so I basically need to say, “Dear World, I am unavailable until April 15th. Thanks bye!” I apologize in advance for my lack of online presence. Please extend grace!

But while my life feels hectic right now, I cannot imagine if I had to do it all without water, or if I had to send my kids to walk more than 4 miles each day, down to the Willamette river to fetch (filthy!) water in a bucket for us to drink.

This is the reality for many moms and kids in Africa each day.

But, we can help! This Saturday, March 19th, we have an opportunity to join more than 5,000 others around the globe in walking, running, jogging, or skipping a fun 6k to help provide clean drinking water for kids in Africa.

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Nearly 1,000 children under age 5 die every day from diarrhea caused by contaminated water, poor sanitation, and improper hygiene. We believe the global water and sanitation crisis can be solved within our lifetimes, and World Vision is focused on providing clean water and sanitation to every man, woman, and child in every community they work in, including the most vulnerable populations in the hardest-to-reach places.
World Vision and their partners commit to expanding our reach from providing clean water to one new person every 30 seconds to reaching one new person every 10 seconds with clean water and sanitation by 2020, and then continuing at that pace for another 10 years until we reach everyone everywhere we work by 2030.
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Six kilometers is the average distance that a kid (usually a girl) in Africa must walk to reach water, and this water is often unsafe to drink. By walking or running this distance, we stand in solidarity with these brothers and sisters, created in the image of God, and raise funds to help provide safe drinking water. Here’s the story of Violet, to give you an example: Please watch! Worth it!

We are hosting a race in Oregon City, and if you’re local, we’d love to have you join us! We’ll also have a Kids 1k for those littles that aren’t up for the full-length.

DATE: March 19, 2016
TIME: 9:00 AM on Saturday morning
LOCATION: starting and ending at Clackamette Park
1955 Clackamette Dr, Oregon City, OR 97045

Links:

Even if you cannot show up at one of the race locations, would you consider giving a gift to provide clean water for a child? We’ve almost reached our goal and you can help! Click here to give. 
Thank you so much! I appreciate your generosity and grace.
{Thanks for reading.}
hope deferred

Everything can change in an instant

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

(Prov. 13:12)

Everything can change in an instant. 

Five minutes before Jesus said, “Come forth!” Lazarus was dead.

Five minutes before Jesus broke the bread, thousands were famished.

Five minutes before Jesus said, “Ephphatha!” the man was completely deaf.

Five minutes before touching His garment, the bleeding woman was 12-years hopeless.

Five minutes before Jesus said, “Talitha cumi,” the little girl lay lifeless.

It’s darkest before the dawn, and it’s bleakest five minutes before the miracle.

Wednesday night, I had shared with our Bible study women about an area of discouragement. A long journey. Years. Some confusion.

Five minutes after I closed my eyes in sleep that night, a message buzzed on my phone.

The answer.

Some parts were different than I had expected, but it was the answer. Literally, it had come to pass, I just didn’t know it. As I listened, and learned, I realized God had done what I’d prayed for, waited for, longed for.

In an instant everything changed. 

How easy it was, then, to rejoice in this new perspective on challenges! I was ready to shout to the world, “God does answer prayer, people! Trust Him! It might take time but He is faithful!” In the rearview mirror, that long rugged path of struggle and confusion is just a distant ribbon of road, past and forgotten. I was brim-full, overflowing with hope, ready to encourage any weary travelers along the road of prayerful perseverance. There are 3 things in my life that I resolutely and daily “claim,” 3 things I will fight, in faith, to receive, because I know they are in line with God’s will and He has placed them heavily on my heart.

This was one of those. That desire fulfilled, that prayer answered, it was most certainly a tree of life! LIFE springs up, hope overflows, faith seems to flourish in abundance.

But two days later, the 2nd prayer item plummeted.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. How quickly my hope wavers, heartsick. Yes, God accomplished one amazing feat, but this one? Maybe this is the one that’s too audacious. I’m so foolish for praying for something so seemingly impossible. Why risk disappointment? Why subject myself to these tears, this heartache?

Why not just “accept” the circumstances and move on?ask seek knock

Because Jesus didn’t tell us to do that.

Because just that morning in my Bible study with the kids our passage was Matthew 7:7-11. Heidi had moved her tiny finger along the lines, slowly reading aloud in her sweet little-girl voice,

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

The kids giggled at the thought of me handing them a  stone for lunch, or dishing up a bowl with a slithering snake in it. Of course not! They understood this lesson loud and clear.

Jesus knew we’d need encouragement. He knew we’d lose heart and lose hope. He knew we’d be tempted to believe that our Father doesn’t want to give us good gifts. He knew we’d be stray from truth and begin crafting theologies to justify our experience instead of pressing in to see our experience fall in line with God’s Word.

He knew hope deferred would make our hearts sick, but He urges us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking, because that answer is a tree of life. It will buttress our beliefs and give us new strength to fight. There’s nothing like experiencing the power of answered prayer.

No wonder there’s so much opposition, urging us to quit.

But let us remind ourselves: Everything can change in an instant.

{Keep on asking, seeking, knocking. Don’t give up! Happy monday; thank you for reading.}

new day

Hope-filled Vision for 2016

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Rom. 15:13)

~

Daring to dream takes unreasonable hope.

Those with the most hope win. Hope is what fuels vision, dreams, courage. Hope is the only thing strong enough to keep us pressing on in the face of opposition, discouragement, or drudgery. Hope is the steadfast belief, the certainty that God is who He says He is, He will do what He says He will do, and that all Word-anchored commands and promises can and will be fulfilled if we remain in Him.

Hope is essential for life and hope is essential for vision.

Where there is no prophetic vision, the people perish (Prov. 29:18). Another translation says they “cast off restraint.”  Both are true. Without vision, nothing can move forward — movements die, people die, good works die. And, without vision, people “cast off restraint.” That is, there is no discipline. No habits, no faithfulness, no stick-to-it-iveness.

We know this by experience, right? Without a passion and purpose, we lack the motivation to follow through on the hard work of daily habits.

Without vision, we quit.

Instead of the New Years Resolutions, how about pursuing a hope-filled Vision for 2016? This vision informs what Habits you will practice, which will inform what action Plan you pursue. 

This way, instead of the uninspiring “read 10 books and lose 5 pounds and try to pray more” sort of deal, you have a real vision of how God wants you to change and grow and mature and flourish this year.

This isn’t about legalism, it’s about lordship.

How will my life become more entirely under the lordship of Jesus Christ in 2016? 

After writing out a vision–a dream, really–you are ready to address the habits.

What habits need to be done in order to move in this direction?

Then, when you have a list of habits, look over your year and determine where to begin. Typically, it’s most helpful to begin with what bothers you most. It’s amazing how tackling one disorderly area (in your home or life) inspires change in every other area. This is your plan. It’s most effective to tackle one habit at once, focusing exclusively on that until it’s mastered. The New Year may be a great time to make a plan for 10-12 new habits, but it’s not a great time to begin 10-12 new habits.

It’s a great time to begin one.

Plan for 12, begin with 1. 

So, I suggest taking some time to pray and ask God to show you a renewed vision for your life. Then brainstorm a bit and journal your thoughts. Here are a few questions/exercises to get us started:

VISION: What 10-12 words would you want to describe your life? If you wrote your obituary in 4-5 sentences, how would it read? What would it look like to have complete victory in a troublesome area of your life? What would freedom look like? Where have you not yet surrendered completely to His control? In a sentence, what is your mission or purpose for your life and family?

HABITS: What virtues or character qualities would be absolutely crucial in order to have a life like that? What habits do you observe being regularly practiced by those you most admire? List out 10-12 habits or virtues you most desire to see in your life. (Examples: Orderliness, Generosity, Kindness, Patience, Temperance, Punctuality, Speaking less, Gratitude, Health, Stewardship.)

PLAN: Which habit or virtue MOST stands out to you as absolutely critical for the mission? Or, which unhealthy habit has the most possibility of sabotaging success in that area? What three concrete behaviors or activities would begin cultivating this one habit or virtue in your life?

The concrete behaviors are just that — behaviors. But they are forming new grooves, new ways of thinking, new habits for becoming a more grateful person. This same rough pattern can be helpful for household habits, eating habits, parenting habits, anything. We start big (a God-given vision)and move our way down to habits (we are what we repeatedly do) and then down to the nitty-gritty: What am I am going to practice doing today? The smaller you start the better! It’s amazing how energizing a little success is!

This isn’t self-help mumbo jumbo, this is receiving a God-inspired vision for your life, the life He created you for, and asking Him for the practical wisdom to walk in the godly habits necessary for His purposes.

According to God, there is hope.

We are only allowed to be hopeless about what God is hopeless about.

Where He sees hope for change, let’s do the same. 

{Happy New Year! Thank you for reading.}