Monday, January 30, 2012

what are you waiting for

People do a lot of talking. Lots of it. Just look at twitter. And blogs. People have lots to say. I totally understand that (speaking as one with both a twitter and a blog) but you probably also notice that some days I just don't post. That's because I have nothing to say! At least nothing to say that I think is worth bothering you with. I do at least try not to waste my time...and yours.

But I read this article today and it resonated - mostly because I've been hearing this from God in several different ways lately.

I think I've been waiting. And not the good kind.

The good kind is waiting on God. I grew up with a Dad who was a "go out there and do big things" kind of person but the trouble was that he did those things apart from God. We absolutely do need to "pursue" and "press in" - but towards God - not some goal or dream. He is the the One we should be pursuing. There is a place for our earnestness - and that's in the hands of God. We don't hold our tomorrows. He does. How are we supposed to know what our lives will look like in five year? Or ten years? We really can't. Only He can. So by pressing into Him - knowing Him more deeply - only then can we be led by the Holy Spirit into what He has for us.

We will not get there by default.

Now I realize that statement delves into theology a bit and I don't claim to be any kind of theologian. I am just a girl who loves and follows Jesus. But nevertheless, I believe it to be true.

Yes - God is absolutely sovereign and nothing can "mess up" His plans. But we can also "fail to attain" all that He has for us. We can miss God's best for us. And that should scare us. It should scare us towards Him. You see, the default for humans is to follow the flesh and the Bible is pretty clear that the flesh doesn't profit us anything (John 6:63). Paul talks about it as "rubbish" (Phil 3:8).

We don't know anything. We must wait on Him so that we will know the truth (the words of life! His spirit!).

Waiting must be our posture, but there is a bad kind of waiting. The kind that I find myself slipping into on occasion.

It's the kind of waiting that is waiting for some circumstance to change at the expense of today.

We should not be waiting around for something to change because while we wait on Him, we have something we are supposed to do today. What are you supposed to do today? Where are you supposed to spend your time and energy - today? You don't have to worry about tomorrow or next week or next year or anything because if you can press into Him and find out what God's desire is for you today - then you'll be on the right path to get to tomorrow, next week, and next year.

Sometimes the "thing" we are supposed to do is a bit scary. That's okay too. because you're never alone in it.

Never.

So here's to scary things, today and the One who holds it all.
~Sarah~


Sarah Anne Sumpolec is an author of teen fiction. You can find out more about her and her books at her website and blog: a naked faith.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sometimes things fall

My daughter, who is 4, has always really liked blocks and Legos. (Her brother enjoys knocking them over. Which creates some real "Oy" moments in our household.)



Sometimes I'm amazed by her good attitude when she's building, bumps a block, and half her creation falls. There are times where she just sighs, then starts to rebuild.

And then there are other times when she'll exclaim something like, "Oh, I'll never get it right!" and throws herself on the floor and starts to cry.

Earlier this week, she had a particularly frustrating time trying to use all the blocks to build a castle. I was in the kitchen working on dinner when I heard them fall yet again. I closed my eyes, knowing what was coming. Sure enough, McKenna called out, "Oh, no!" and then came running into the kitchen in tears. "Mommy, it fell down again!"

"McKenna, that's just part of building something," I say. "Sometimes it's gonna fall down."

After she returned to her blocks and I returned to dinner prep, I felt that nudge in my heart. Felt God saying That's right. It's part of building something. Sometimes it'll fall.


I have lots of things I'm building, and I'm guessing you do too. I'm building a good marriage. I'm building two kids, helping them to become Godly adults. I'm building a relationship with God. I'm building a career, a blog, friendships. On and on.

Sometimes I have good building days. I see progress. McKenna says thank you without being prompted, or I hear from someone who has read and enjoyed the Skylar Hoyt books.

Other days, things seem to "fall." I'm snippy with my husband. I skip my Bible reading. I think about reaching out to a friend but don't.

How fortunate I am to have God's grace and the grace of those around me. To know that even if blocks are falling this way and that, I can always learn from my mistakes, and endeavor to rebuild it better.



Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.


Friday, January 20, 2012

But God


Usually when I say the words “but God” it sounds a little like this:

“But God, I don’t want to go hang out with that person. It’s exhausting.”
“But God, I’m so tired. Getting up early to read the Bible is too much work.”
“But God, this situation is awful. There’s nothing good that can come out of this.”
“But God, my dream sounds really impossible and it’s getting harder by the day. Can’t I just give up?”

Bleck. It’s all about me and how things make me feel and how much I don’t want to do stuff. Is that really what I want my Christian walk to be defined by? Do I really want to look back on my relationship with my Savior and remember all the excuses I made? The truth is, I really do want the best for my relationship with God, but I don’t really act like it sometimes. The truth is, there’s a different way to look at those things I’m always saying to God. And the truth is, I have a choice in how I think about these things.

It’s not really about what I do or don’t want to do, or how I feel about them. It’s about God, carrying out His purposes through me and using me…in spite of my attitude.

So instead, I can start saying:

“I don’t want to go hang out with that person. But God loves her, and has given me this opportunity, so I’m going to pray for joy in this situation.”
“I’m really tired and I don’t feel like reading my Bible today. But God gives strength, and He’s able to give that to me.”
“This situation is really awful. But God works all things for good for those who love Him, so I’m going to trust that He has a plan for this.”
And
“My dream sounds impossible right now. But God does great things in situations that seem impossible, so I’m going to watch Him work.”

I tend to make a lot of excuses. And life is hard. But the really great thing is that God specializes in those “but God” times…It may feel like everything’s crashing down around you, BUT GOD is still there and working everything out.

Ashley Mays is the former Editorial Assistant for Brio and Brio & Beyond magazines and currently writes her own fiction for teens. She enjoys rock climbing, people watching in airports, and expanding her shoe collection. Ashley lives with her husband in Colorado. No, they don't ski. Learn more about Ashley on facebook or on her website: http://www.ashley-mays.com/.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Better to Give


I just returned from having coffee with a friend. We spent the entire morning catching up on one another’s lives, encouraging each other, laughing, and finding out how we could pray for each other. What she might not know is that I also enjoyed one other detail of our visit—the chance to buy her coffee. (Actually, she had tea, but it still felt good to do it.)

Money has been so tight that, if not for the kindness and generosity of others, I honestly don’t know how my family would survive. Lately, whenever I’ve gone out to coffee or lunch with a friend, I have tried to pay my share only to have whoever I’m with insist on treating. I am always grateful, but can’t help feeling guilty sometimes, wondering if I’m on the receiving end of blessings too often. Today, I felt like it was my turn to treat someone else. But how could I do it with no extra cash? Then I remembered a gift card that I had tucked in my wallet. There was definitely enough on the card to cover two drinks. I saw it as God’s way of providing for me and a precious friend who could also use a lift.

Not only was I reminded why it really is more blessed to give than to receive—because it is fun—but I also started rethinking my response to receiving so much from others. If buying a cup of tea for a friend brought me joy, wouldn’t it make sense to assume that those who have treated me to coffee, lunch or a surprise gift experienced the same thrill? Instead of feeling guilty, maybe it was time to go back to my original response of extreme gratitude, knowing that by showing me kindness, those friends were blessed as well.

It’s fun to see the smile and relief that comes from hearing, “It’s my treat.” Covering someone else’s way or giving them something that they didn’t expect stands as proof that we have more than enough to share, even when our bank account tells us we’re living on the edge. I’ve actually discovered that I especially enjoy giving during this time of financial uncertainty, because I know how richly God has provided and I want to pass that on.

When is the last time that you treated a friend to coffee or saw a need and made a sacrifice in order to help? If it has been awhile, look for an opportunity, then note the blessings that both of you receive in the process.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Do you need a prayer schedule?

Warning:

If you are not a person who understands the simple beauty of a to-do list...

If you do not feel a strong conviction that meats should go in the meat drawer and veggies in the veggie drawer...

And if the sight of this:


does not make you giddy with anticipation of how organized your life could be after a shopping spree, then this post may not be for you.

My husband was the one who first suggested a prayer schedule. And as much as I love organization and neatness and all that great stuff, my initial reaction was to resist. Here were some of the things going on in my head:

Prayer shouldn't be scheduled! It should be the prompting of the Spirit!

I shouldn't have to schedule a day to pray for my kids; I should be doing it throughout everyday.

What's next? Scheduling when I tell my husband I love him?! Scheduling hugs?!

You'll notice a lot of "shoulding" going on up there. Yeah, I should be praying for my kids regularly. But I'm not.  I mean, when I see Connor (18 months) gunning for the tallest slide at the playground, there's that part of me going, "Please, God, don't let him get hurt!" but that was about it. I wasn't praying about raising him up to be a Godly man. I wasn't asking God how I could be better at disciplining my kids, better at nurturing them.

In my prayer life 2 weeks ago, I was operating in survival mode, honestly. Lord, help me get through this day. Lord, help me know what to say to my daughter to make her understand such-and-such. There was virtually no proactive prayer happening.

And was I praying for people if I wasn't looking them in the eye at that moment? Not really. Sometimes it happened. Sometimes I had an okay week where I remembered to pray for my close friends, for family not living under my roof. But not nearly as often as I wanted.

Ben and I wanted to start praying together, but we've tried this before, and it's never gone well. And Ben, who has excellent project management skills, was the one who recognized that we were being held back by how much there was "to do" when we sat down to pray.

Here's what our current schedule looks like:

Sundays - Me and Ben
Mondays - McKenna
Tuesdays - Connor
Wednesdays - My parents
Thursdays - Ben's parents
Fridays - Ben's brother and fiancee
Saturdays - Friends

What the list does is reassure me that I don't have to cover everything and everyone tonight. Does this mean that we never pray for my parents on a day we're supposed to pray for Connor? Of course not. There's often overlap. Or if there's a pressing need - a friend who's sick, a parent who's stressed - we pray for them regardless. But the pressure is released.

The list also helps me to carve out the time to pray because there's a person assigned to it. "Too busy to pray for your own husband?" I might think. Somehow, when I'm thinking in those terms, I find it easier to make the time.

What about you? Could a prayer schedule work for you?

Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Non-resolutions for the new year....

It's 2012, and everywhere around me, people are making resolutions. Odds are, a lot of those sudden, flippant goals are going to fizzle out in a few weeks or a few months, as reality sets back in and life takes over. Some are dedicated enough to fulfill their resolutions, and those are usually the people who have been thinking about or wanting to do something very specific for a long time and are finally ready to fully embrace the change.

This year, I didn't make resolutions, but my toddler today showed me the importance of remembering to keep one important one. Sort of a non-resolution.

Showing grace.

She had a busy day today (went to the dentist for the first time at age 3 1/2 and did fabulous!) and then had lunch and played at the church library with my grandma and me (her great-grandma) When we got home, she was beyond tired, and started crying to sleep in my bed with me. (I had let her this past weekend for a good long joint nap, and she wanted to again.)

The cry turned into a full out fit and wail. "But I'll missssss youuuuuuuu". It was just because she was exhausted, she has no issues with her own bed typically, but I had to be strong and say no and put her in her bed. (which is awesome by the way and has the cutest owl bedspread!) I explained to her that sleeping in mommy's bed for a nap was a very rare occurrence and we couldn't do it all the time, and that if she acted this way she wouldn't get to again for a very long time.

She calmed down and I left the room and went to lay down on the chair for a minute to rest myself. I heard her hiccup a few times, but she was quiet. I snuck back to her room and peered through the crack in the door, and she was laying with her animals in her bed, just staring into space, and something shifted in my heart.

Grace.

I burst into the room, grabbed her and her blanket and animal up, and carted her to my bed. She said "where are we going? where are we going?" And I dropped her on my bed, tucked her in, and climbed in beside her. I said "You're going to sleep with mama today. Not because you pitched a fit, but because I want to show you grace."

She smiled and snuggled in next to me. "What's grace?"

"Grace is where you get something you want, that you don't deserve. You don't deserve to sleep in my bed because you were ugly and pitched a fit. But I love you and I want to show you grace. Because you know what?"

"What mama?" (she was listening SO hard)

"Jesus shows us grace every day."

She smiled bigger, snuggled in tighter, and fell asleep.

That's my new year's resolution. To show more grace. To try to demonstrate Jesus a little more often in the details. Isn't that what it's all about?

What about you? What's your resolution or non-resolution?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Red Flag!

Recently, I had an encounter with a stranger that doubled as a lesson in why we are taught not to talk to strangers, or at least why we need to use caution, especially when the stranger is a member of the opposite sex.

I met the guy while traveling with my sons. At first, he seemed normal, and so friendly that I expected him to latch onto other people besides me. Hours later, however, things got a bit uncomfortable. One sniff told me that he’d been drinking. His tone and behavior reminded me that too much alcohol can do unattractive things to a person. I thanked God that we were in a public place. Still, I felt trapped as he bounced from one random topic to another, sat way too close to me, and made inappropriate suggestions. I didn’t have the guts to ask him to leave or to call for help. I figured that as soon as we reached our stop, I’d be out of there and he’d probably move on to someone else. But as I gathered our luggage and exited, reality started to set in.

When I told my sisters the story, I recognized red flags that had been waving wildly, even at the “he seems like a nice guy” stage. He’d hooked me with a sad story and seized every opportunity to connect with me; his interests echoed mine; the fact that I was with my kids and said I was married didn’t hinder him; he sat beside me uninvited even though I was clearly focused on something else. Then there was his unsettling habit of casually touching me. That’s when I got a little freaked out. What if I hadn’t been in a public place? What if I’d been traveling alone? What kind of message had my tolerant response sent my sons? And it had all started with nothing more than being friendly. News stories of rapists and serial killers played in my mind like a sobering slide show. How many times had I heard or read, “He seemed so nice?”

“Unfortunately,” a friend said, “When you’re friendly, some people take that as an invitation. I’ve learned to be aloof in certain situations. I’d rather be perceived as rude, than deal with weirdoes.”

As much as I hate to leave people feeling ignored, I decided to start taking my friend’s advice. Unfortunately, there are a lot of scary people out there who appear safe on the surface. Being female immediately makes us vulnerable. This experience has prompted me to ask God for sensitivity to red flags—to help me recognize them early on and have the courage to say no to inappropriate behavior.
In case you find yourself in a similar situation (and I hope you don’t), here are a few things rules that I made for myself:
• Be leery of strange men, especially if they are alone and seem bent on talking to you.
• If he strikes up a conversation, share as little as possible about yourself. Don’t tell him your name.
• Stand or sit at least an arm’s length away.
• Avoid friendly gestures like smiles, extended eye contact, and getting caught up in sob stories.
• If you’re in close quarters and feel uncomfortable, make an excuse to move. (“Excuse me. I need to ask that police officer a question.”)
• Take advantage of those around you. Start talking to someone else if you sense that he is getting too clingy.
• If he asks “Do you have a boyfriend” or “Are you married,” and the true answer is no, just say “I’m spoken for.” Your heart belongs to God.
• Don’t be afraid to say, “I need you to leave” or ask for help. If he gets mad or you’re shaking inside, at least you’ll be safe.

Remember that, as much as we want to be friendly and kind, it is not our job to be everyone’s friend. God wants you safe for His purpose and so you can impact those that He brings into your life.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

A Month or Two of Grace


So about that whole having grace for other people thing.

I didn’t do it.

See, I’ve decided that the holiday season is the.worst.time. for. grace. Sacrilegious, I know.

People were cutting me off in traffic, cutting me off in conversation, and cutting me off in the line at Wal-Mart.

Oh, don’t get me started on Wal-Mart.

I told you not to.

Two days before Christmas, not one – but two – people cut right in front of me. I swear. They looked me in the eye and did it.

I was mad. And here’s where I tell you about the spiritual lesson I learned from it. How I forgave and had grace and smiled back at them.

Nope.

To be honest it still sends my blood pressure up when I think about it.

See, Grace doesn’t come naturally to me. But as I was thinking about it just now, these words came to my mind: while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

God loved us when we were still cutting Him in line. While we looked Him in the eye and ignored the fact that He. Deserved. First. Place.

It makes me mad. Again.

Not with Him. But with myself. For my lack of grace. For the little things that get under my skin. For all the ways I look Him in the eye and choose myself first.

And it motivates me that maybe… just maybe… grace isn’t about me. It’s about Him. And when I choose to put others first, I’m choosing to put Him first.

And He deserves it a lot more than I do.

{So how were your two months of grace? For me, I’m hoping to pursue a lifetime.}

****
Bekah Hamrick Martin is the editor of www.realteenfaith.com, and the author of The Bare Naked Truth About Waiting, to be released by Zondervan in spring 2013.

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