Friday, July 31, 2009

Smiles are Priceless

We had several interesting events this week. A busy week. Full of cleaning out pantries, refrigerators, cars and laundry bins. A week full of yard mulching and furniture rearranging.

Visits with cousins and practice with friends rounded out our week but the most memorable visit was a short one.

A twenty minute consultation with the orthodontist. "Ma'am, your daughter has the mouth of an average 12-year-old or late-blooming 14-year-old," he said. He followed it up with a statement about how it is now time for braces.

Braces! She's only nine for crying out loud!


Bring it on, adolescence.

The good news is that when other girls and boys are starting to think about braces and other adolescent things, Julia will be done. Finito with the brace thing. 

I think about the "early blooming" in my junior high. They seemed so beautiful, untouchable, un-awkward for sure. I wanted to be one. I was awkward way into my teen years, shaped a little strange, dotted with zits and weighed down with self-consciousness.

I pray for my girls. Hard. Daily. Desperately.

I want them to be laced with confidence that comes from within. Confidence that exudes from their hearts. The Bible is clear. Our outward expression begins in our heart.

This truth has always been hard for me to grasp. It is always hard for me to get past the mirror to view my soul. This is a faulty thinking I would do anything to not pass down to the next generation of Smith children.

And so we practice. Saying this over and over. Praying this over and over. "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)

Lord, may I live a life of confidence in You before my children. Teach me how to see, really see, their hearts. Amen.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Honoring Old Friends

In honor of a recent girls night out with my college girls, I'm reposting something. I am so thankful for friends who have known me and still know me. You know the type. Friends who you may not talk to regularly but seem to know exactly what your heart feels before they know the whole story.

Friends who've known you for so long you can just sit in silence with them and it makes you smile. Friends who you can laugh so hard you cry one second and the next second you really are crying because you feel so understood.

I'm thankful for my girlfriends.

I've been talking about this retreat. For over fifteen years a group of friends and I have made an annual pilgrimage to this place. I've only missed one year...last year. It's that good!

The group has varied from year to year but there are a core group of us who have been close friends for years. I tell these girlfriends, "No matter how you have to get me there, get me there!" We've become friends who carry one another to where Jesus is.

I'm thinking this is what the paralyzed man in Luke 5 told his friends. Luke 5:17 tell us Jesus was teaching to a large crowd from many towns "And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick."

Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat. When they couldn't get through the crown they climbed to the roof, removed some tiles and lowered the man down "right in front of Jesus." (v. 19)

Jesus saw their faith, forgave his sins and healed him.

Think about it.

The faith of friends who love you can turn God's ear to your healing!

These guys loved their friend so much they made a stretcher, loaded him on it and carried him. Probably for miles, maybe for hours or days. After carrying him through town after town with sore backs, blistered fingers and bruised shins, they discovered that the crowd was so thick, Jesus might not be able to see their friend. So despite aching arms they climbed to the roof just to get their beloved friend in the presence of the One who could heal him. Wow!

These ladies have saved, borrowed and sacrificed, traveled long distances after long days, given up time with family and weekends year after year all to get right in front of Jesus with me in a place where "the power of the Lord is present to heal the sick."

Luke 5:25 says, "Without a moment's hesitation he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God."

Year after year we all truly pick up what we've been lying on and go home praising God!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


The YaYa Retreat was wonderful.  The ladies are a chatty and fun bunch who will just step right up to the plate if you need a shoulder to cry on, girlfriend to laugh with or just a place to hang.

I enjoyed speaking to them and getting to know the specialness and beauty of this group of sisters.  My prayer for them is that they will continue to become all that God has called them to be.  Change begins within as we answer the call of God. Change occurs without as we live with will of God.

Secondly, it's sort of an unstated fact that I haven't been giving this blog the time or attention it and mostly you, deserve. Because of a hectic schedule due to speaking, traveling, vacationing, working and other fun but time-consuming familial events, my family and my home are completely attention deprived. Please be patient with me as I give them the attention they require. 

You can look for some good things in the coming weeks around here. A facelift is in the works for Glad Chatter and I will soon start a series about all the awesome lessons God is teaching me through running. I know you are all excited about the possibility of some recent photographs both of my new hair and the children. Get excited because I will learn how to use my new camera, new computer and new phone...all in an effort to entertain you!

I think about sums  it up. We're in the final countdown until school starts and well, I'm not sure how I feel about that. I love the routine but dread the crazy pace. So, we'll be enjoying the last drops of summer and savoring it's sweaty aroma for a few more weeks. I'm hoping you can do the same.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Calling all Pray-ers

This weekend I am speaking at a ladies' retreat in Keller. The YaYa's are having a spiritual retreat. The sisters are getting together. All women are invited. If you are in the area and would like to come, leave a comment and I'll send you the invite and details. 

If you have a second would you say a prayer for me, for us? Once again, I am trying to prepare to speak in what has been a crazy, fun and very full time. I anticipated having all sorts of time while Julia was at Camp Tejas. Didn't happen. Wednesday night when I got home from the late movie, Andrew gave me a wonderful gift. A beach trip itinerary. Fun! Yay! Beach! Sand!

My brother and his family came here Friday morning. We put together bunk beds, sped ate a lunch, packed the Suburban, picked the kids up from camp, dropped the ginormous suitcase filled with nasty, mildewy towels and muddy tennis shoes, reloaded and drove five hours to Corpus.

Fun! I thought I just might have a couple of hours there. Nada. We drove back and forth to Port Aransas, rode banana boats, jet skied, surfed, built sand castles, swam, deep sea fished and shopped for souvenirs. We even sang a little karaoke out by the beach one night. There was time for the awesome beach reflections, reading the Bible and quite possibly the Lord used all of that to further prepare my heart for the message He has for the YaYa's. But words on a paper? Nope.

I'm not saying I don't have the words, I'm just saying they're dancing in my head instead of standing on a page. I have spent this week reminding myself of this fact. God has a message. It is not about me. He invited me to speak His message to the YaYa's and He knew how much time I would have. I am sure that as I sit before Him tonight and wait for His peace to still my dancing head. He will come. He will reign. He will reveal. He will prevail.

I just know it.

Please join me in prayer. The verses for the event are these:

We are ruled by Christ's love for us. We are certain that if one person died for everyone else, then all of us have died. And Christ did die for all of us. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves, but for the one who died and was raised to life for us.We are careful not to judge people by what they seem to be, though we once judged Christ in that way. Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.  2 Corinthians 5:14-17

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

yeah, i'm here

today i discovered reason #2 why one should never plan a beach trip to the beach straight from picking up a child from summer camp.

that's laundry.

number one was said child will be ready to come home, sleep in her own bed, pet her dogs and leaving for an awesome beach vacation will sadden her to tears. (this is a true fact. although i hated the tears, i was truly touched she would miss our humble and semi-peaceful retreat from the crazy chaos of the world. i honestly have been caught lately thinking we weren't that much to come home to.)

numbers three, four and five are laundry, laundry and laundry.

because it seems endless, i guess i need to go do laundry.

she had a blast a camp, by the way. my nephew can't stop talking about it. the beach totally rocked. my kids loved the ocean, the sand, the karaoke...

i have so much to share.

but for now all i've got is laundry.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Sisters Keeper (and My Brothers)

I saw My Sister's Keeper this week. I knew nothing about it going in the theater except that it would be sad. So sad.

It did not disappoint.

I had to go to the eye doctor and get new contacts the next day I cried so hard. True story.

Before I go any further just let me say that I really didn't want to see the movie. I did, however, want to see my precious friends. So to the movie I went.

The movie opens with an introduction to the characters. One introduces her family to the viewer. Her last sentence of this opening scene is, "This is my family. We are slightly dysfunctional but everybody loves each other."

Throughout the course of the movie I saw something. Dysfunction is a nice way of saying sin. My family is sinful but we love each other. Something like that. 

Whether we struggle with emotional issues, physical issues, addiction issues or mental issues, all families struggle. There are elephants in every room. Some large, looming, stepped over and talked around. Some addressed, dealt with and minimized.

But they are still there.

The elephant in this movie is that a young girl, somebody's sister, daughter and friend, is dying of cancer.

This movie made me sad for the most part because of the secular world view. The questions raised about creation and death astounded me. I left the movie feeling extremely sheltered. There was such utter hopelessness as a result of no true belief system.

I left this movie determined. Ready to convey some foundational truths. This fictional family could've been so different if they had but believed three basic truths.

1. God is sovereign. We are all appointed a time to live and a time to die. Nothing escapes his hand. God is in control not us. Psalm 139

2. God is good. Knowing God's character and clinging to it in trials and suffering reminds us that we are not forgotten. Each situation can be used for his glory. Even cancer. Cancer is a symptom of a fallen world filled with sinful people. Death, disease and sickness came into the world as a result of sin. God is, was and will always be good. That is his character. Psalm 145:7

3. Jesus died once for all so that we might be reunited with Him after death. All who believe in Him and have a personal relationship with Him will go to heaven after death. Hebrews 9:25-27

I have a Book chalk full of great advice, truth, for those movie makers but these three things would have been enough to help this movie's family. 

These three things will be enough to help my family should we come on hard times.

I'd also like to address the fact that I have never dealt with cancer in the way of this movie, a terminally ill child or many of these hard and heavy issues. Like I said, I'm totally sheltered. Blessed. Naive. Sheltered. I'm not saying how I would act, nor am I criticising anyone in this situation. I'm just saying I know these truths now and pray they would dictate my actions.

So in response to the movie, I'm going to be tending my responsibilities with a little more care. Since my husband and children are also my brothers and sisters in Christ, I'm going to be keeping them a little better. Starting with teaching them these three foundational truths. 

Truths that will be ever before the people in my house. I will intentionally live them, speak them, teach them. 

We will praise God for making us unique, planning our entire lives before us and for giving us Jesus as an atonement for our sins.

I'll be teaching them a new chant. The one that goes like this. 
I say, "God is good."
You say, "All the time."
I say, "And all the time."
You say, "God is good."

From there we will launch into the Amen chorus.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

While She was Gone

Yesterday was that day. The summer day I've been praying for, longing for and craving after since last year.

We took care of the day's business, well, some of it anyway and set off for the neighborhood pool. My children are fish, I tell you!

I watched Hunter as he swam an entire lap in the pool. I marveled about how tired he would be because of the amount of swinging, flailing and kicking out of the water that he did. When he finished he swam right up to us and announced, "Want me to do that again?"

Alyssa and I just stared at each other quizzically and giggled.

Alyssa then said, "My turn."

I thought to myself as she was swimming how tired her legs would be because her arms didn't move at all. She swims with her head out of the water, her feet kicking a hard, mean kick and her arms resting in place as a pillow for her sweet face.

When she finished she dramatically announced, "My arms feel like fruit roll-ups! and my heart feels like it's exploding outside my chest." She's always been one for theatrics.

As I gave her a questioning glance, she raced off to show me her flip off the side and pencil off the board.

Fish. I tell you. Fish.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


They are, in fact, located behind the knees. 

But as she was explaining that to me, she thought that maybe the appropriate term would be knee-crease. Since the crease in your elbow is the elbow-crease. 

This would, in fact, mean leg-pits are located in your hiney crease. "Where your underpants meet your leg," she said.

And, here in Texas, ya'll, they sweat too!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Another Alyssa-ism

"Mom, it was so hot when I hopped in the car this afternoon my leg-pits were sweating."

After I correctly identified where legpits were located, we had a discussion about where they could be located.

Where do you think they are? 

Monday, July 13, 2009

She's Gone

Today my daughter boarded a bus with eighty other elementary-aged children and headed for camp.

Camp. That glorious week of summer where problems vanish, insecurities fade and life is bliss. Pure bliss. 

Fun from dawn 'til dark. Snacks, swimming and sports all day long. Games, songs and campfires await.

But mostly, The Reason. Julia knows the reason she's at camp. That reason is the same as the reason she was created. To worship her Savior.

Would you join me in prayer this week holding her up to the throne of the One we worship?

I'm praying God would meet her in a new way. Show her some of the plans he has for her and made for her life before the foundation of the world. Show her how her passions can bring him glory.

I'm praying Ephesians 3:17-19
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

I'm praying because going to summer camp each year changed my life. Camp is where God proved his unending love to a mess of a little girl. Camp is where God reminded a scared and lonely child that God would never leave her. Camp is where God took a self-centered, confused teen and made her into one firmly planted in his love. 


It changed me. Every single time I got on that rickety old bus, God prepared me for something. He showed me glimpses of my heart...and his. He revealed my dreams...and his. He saw me there...and I saw him.

Pray for my baby.

And for my nephew who got on that rickety old bus with his cousin...and his Lord.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

It Rocked

Soccer camp rocked. At least that's what Julia said when I asked her how it was.

She did an amazing job receiving an outstanding player award and MVP for two days. She improved lots and fell in love with the game she loves even more.

Her coach told her what he loved about her more than anything else is her aggressive nature. She plays a fierce game. I've said it before and I'll say it again.

If she's on the field with you...Beware of elbows in your side, feet between your legs and legs tangled in your own. 

This year she has learned that she loves playing defender. That's the position for her, thank you. She is developing quickly with the programs we are involved in this summer.

Actually, she just told me that when she grows up she wants to play soccer and read.


Friday, July 10, 2009

In honor of...

In honor of soccer camp. I am re-posting on Julia's first season of soccer. She is having a ball this week, a soccer ball that is.

Out in the hot, hot, hot Texas sun for six hours each day, she comes home and what? That's right, plays more soccer. She has learned so much and already won some awards but you'll just have to come back this weekend to hear all about that. 

For now, remember her first season where her team won nary a game. Remember her excitement to finally play the game she thought she loved before she ever tried it. That's okay because she was right! 

We just finished up soccer season. Yay! I love playing games in seasons. This is so much nicer than the one hour a week lessons we have had in the past. One hour each week for nine or ten months is very tiring. Soccer season lasted three days a week for eight weeks. Now we have a magical break. Rest. No practice. No games. No hourly, weekly lessons. Ahhh!
Julia did a really great job. She's been sleeping with her soccer ball for a whole year in an effort to get us to allow her to play this team sport. She convinced us. She loved it. She's a natural.

She loved playing forward. She loved being in the action. She was in her coach's words, "The new girl that won't stay back. No matter where she's told to stand she goes further into the action!" That's pretty much who she is in life. One who seeks the action. One who can't seem to stay back. (Yes, we are praying!)

When she played goalie she would see what needed to be done on the field and forget she was supposed to stay in the box and try to run on the field to kick the ball.

When she played fullback she would forget she wasn't the goalie and try to stop the ball with her hands or even with her body! She really gets into the game. She's competitive. She's aggressive. She's fierce.
She certainly doesn't get any of those skills from me! Team sports was not my thing. I love to watch her play. She's confident. She's enthusiastic. She loves to run. She loves to compete. She has the greatest fun doing it.

She has a great time. She encourages others on the field. She passes the ball. She helps the referee. She doesn't get mad. She is a real sport.

Be on the watch for what this sporty girl's future holds. She's a real winner!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Day on the Lake

We spent the Fourth of July at beautiful Lake Travis with some friends. Old and new.

Listening to the laughter of nine kids splashing in the lake was fun! Fearing one of my children was going to fall and bust it on a rock really badly, not so fun.

Watching the children float on the tube, try tricks and have a blast was fun! Seeing them bust it when the tube flipped, not fun at all.

Eating a meal sitting in the lawn chair soaking up some sun was fun! Carting enough stuff to stay there three days only to move it all again in three hours, not so fun.

Watching fireworks on the water was fun! Waiting hours to get the boat out of the water and up the ramp at the end of the day, not so fun.

Packing lightly and carrying bags up to the hotel was well, easy. Discovering that out of nine children three lost shoes in the lake and they were all my kids, not fun. Waiting until noon on 

Sunday for Old Navy next to our hotel to open so I could buy them new shoes, inconvenient, not fun.

Staying at a hotel with an awesome breakfast was fun. Having to leave before I was ready, not fun.

Coming home to a clean house was awesomely fun! Seeing it torn up after a good hour, not so much.

We had a great weekend. Makes me want to say it again, "I love summer!" 

Remember my camera bit the dust so I have no pictures but Andrew does so I'll update with pictures later. 

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


"Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does." Psalm 96:2-3

Beautiful words written by the Author of life itself that remind me to take a look at all that really matters in this life. And be filled with gratitude for it. All of it.

Here's a few. The week's top ten (in no particular order):

10. Healthy children who run, play and are free to be kids make my days brighter, busier and just plain better.

9. Being married to my best friend who thinks of me when we're apart...and then brings me a new giraffe laptop bag for my new BFF :)

8. Bunk beds, new paint and the patience & determination to make it happen.

7. P90X, Muscle Milk, my favorite workout buddy & commitment.

6. The smell of clean laundry.

5. Man's best friend.

4. Soccer camp.

3. Dreams that come true.

2. Prayer. It works.

1. Bloggy friends who encourage me, inspire me and have created this wonderful bloggy world where God has richly blessed me.

And last but not least, being intimately acquainted with the King of Kings who knows me completely and lavishes his great love on me for the glory of his name. I love you, Jesus!

"You thrill me Lord with all you have done for me, I sing for joy because of what you have done." Psalm 92:4

Monday, July 06, 2009

Ahem, Help Please!

Throughout seasons of life, help comes in many forms. Some years we've had a maid service and tons of babysitters. Paid help. Some years we've had grandmas and college friends. Love help.

As I've had to spend more time helping Andrew at the office over the last few years, help has always come. Friends who volunteer to run carpool when I'm late, friends who share cross town driving, college girls who fold laundry and children who become old enough to help with household chores. 

With the changing of seasons, I've felt a tad overwhelmed. When summer comes to Aggieland, things change. As much as we love our sunny days and pool passes, we miss our college girls and school year routine.

That can be translated as, "I need help!" 

This year our Elizabeth left. Sniff. Sniff. Our neighbors moved. Sniff. Sniff. People I was used to seeing here are gone. People I loved being around and counted on are gone. Some coming back but others not. 

The neighbors moved away and the children are still asking if they can come play. They know they're gone but it hasn't registered yet that they won't be back for school. Sad. College girls will be back and that's good but I feel God trying to make an exclamation point on my soul.

In times like these I can choose to feel forgotten, neglected and lonely or I can choose to go to the greatest source of help ever.

Where do I look for my help? My cell phone or my Lord? Whose name do I call on when I'm having trouble getting to camp on time? Where do I turn when the laundry is eight loads high and the toilet overflows? 

All too often I find myself wishing so-and-so was here. I think if only my children could all go to camp for a week, the same week, I could "get it all done." 

The reality is the second they set foot back in this house, I'd be just as behind as I ever was. Plus I'd be missing them, Not that camp is bad. It's just that I think I know what type of help I need. The truth is, I don't.

That's why the Psalmist tells us all about help. Whether it's help guarding their very life or help making it through the dark, fearful night, we are to know where our help comes from.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble...I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 46:1, 121:1-2)

I find it very interesting that Psalm 46 speaks of God's ever-present help in times of need in verse 1 and then further down in verse 10, "Be still and know that I am God."

Part of God's character is being an ever-present help. A help we cannot experience if we are not still. A help we cannot know if we are running around like chickens with our head cut off because we need help. Oh the ironies!

I'm not sure what form my help will take on but I'm sure help is coming because I know Where it's coming from.  "We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help..." (Psalm 33:20)

And just so I'm clear, know that this summer I have wonderful college babysitters. Lots of them. They take the children to the pool and the park and the dollar store and Sonic happy hour. They fill water balloons and attend happy birthday parties with teddy bears in bedrooms wrapped in toilet paper and homemade decorations. They make grilled cheese sandwiches and read library books and referee arguments. They play hide-and-seek, board games and listen to Hannah Montana until they're cross eyed. They avail themselves to my crazy schedule and love my kids unconditionally.

I'm just still a bit overwhelmed at times with life with The Smith Team and all they're activities,schedules, needs, personalities, habits and laundry. I love life with The Smith Team. It's a challenge I gladly meet head on! Let's just get one thing straight. I know where my help comes from...
"Unless the Lord had helped me, I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave. I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer." (Psalm 94:17-19) 

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Beyond the Cage

This time of year always gets me thinking.  Pondering many things. July first rolls around and I spend time thinking of the sacrifices many others made for my freedom.

The soldiers who died defending it. The soldiers who killed Christ as he provided it.

A little over ten years ago, I was with a group of ladies that I was just getting to know. Awesome ladies. Ladies who love the Lord lots. Ladies who are a little further down this road called Life than I am. 

One stood and read a poem about fear. The image created was one of fear being a cage. The story was a young girl living "locked" in a cage only to find out when Christ came and lovingly let her out, the cage was never locked to begin with but she had been to0 afraid to try to even open it at all. 

Another lady began praying for me. She stopped, looked at me and said, "I think you are that girl. God is saying open the door and step out of your cage!"

I kind of panicked. I mean, really! Me, locked in a cage? I was fearless. I was outgoing, outspoken and out-of-my-mind thinking how crazy this sounded. I was many things but fearful and timid was not on that list.

But as she prayed, something in me lay bare. Raw in a new way. A very sweet and loving yet, humbly convicting way. I realized for the first time in my life that I was afraid to go forward with the Lord. I had been in a holding pattern waiting for a spot to land. What I considered a safe spot. I had been flying in circles for months, maybe even years.

Even as I realized there was some truth in this word from the Lord, I didn't throw the gate open and run as fast as I could. I waited. Timidly. I waited for God to gently take my hand and lead me out.

Not exactly the grand entrance to my new fear-free life I wanted. Nor was it the type of statement that I was known for. Still. It was a start. 

That vision appeared to me many times over the next ten years. It appeared to me as I birthed babies, mopped floors and shed tears. God used that picture to produce a hunger in me for more. 

More freedom. More steps. Bigger steps. 

More trust. More faith. Bigger.  More. 

Less fear. Much less. 

Because it was so long ago and this particular word had taken so long for me to unravel and fully grab hold of, I didn't talk about it much. Especially to the one who prayed it. It was just for me and God. I knew when he had done what he wanted in me concerning this cage, he would tell me. So I just pondered it and put it back in the cage of my mind.

Just a few months ago, that same lady prayed for me. This time she saw a different vision. She saw me on a horse. A fast horse. Quickly galloping up a tall mountain. as fast as I could go. (I imagine me laughing with sheer delight, eyes closed, face lifted as I fly up the mountain as fast as I possibly can with the wind blowing through my hair.) She looked at me and said, "This means freedom."

The Lord spoke to me in that moment.  He reminded me how he had used that same lady ten years earlier to pinpoint an area of fear in my life. An area in which he had and would always and forevermore prevail. As I shared that with my now friend and mentor, she laughed in bewilderment that our awesome God would take something she had no recollection of and use it so mightily for over a decade to transform my life. Then use her again to confirm he had done what he set out to do.

I love how God is like that. I love this cage-free life.

Now if I could just get on a horse...

"Oh, I'll guard with my life what you've revealed to me, guard it now, guard it ever; And I'll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom; Then I'll tell the world what I find, speak out boldly in public, unembarrassed." (Psalm 119:45-47 The Message) 

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Freedom's Ring

In honor of the Fourth of July being Independence Day and all, I thought I'd rerun this blast from my past. Originally posted on last year's Fourth of July. Enjoy!

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

About ten years ago, I received a prophecy. I didn't quite understand it at the time but as the Lord carries me forward, I can look back. And, as the old saying goes, "Hindsight is 20/20."

As this wise woman of the Lord prayed over me she said she saw me taking an engagement ring off my finger and throwing it down in disappointment. She said she thought the ring was a representation of the promises of the Lord.

At the time, I knew I was disillusioned about some things, I just didn't want to admit it because I thought if it was hard to accept what God was doing in my life that it would mean I didn't love Him anymore. And, that, was the furthest thing from the truth...ever.

Now I can see that because my life wasn't particularly unfolding the way I thought it should, I was really questioning whether or not I truly believed if God and his promises are, in fact, good.

I did. I do.

I just couldn't see the goodness at the time. I had grown up in the church. I had been walking closely with the Lord for over ten years and I knew what "God's best" should look like in my life. I saw it all around me and others told me about it all the time. I just forgot to read the promise that tells us we can only see and know in part until God's revelation enlightens us. I was so unsure of myself, my calling, my purpose. I felt like my uniqueness was a curse, not a present, an invitation to freely be who I was created, by the only One who could set me free, to be.

I was ashamed of the way I felt and I didn't feel like I could take my questions to God, a very big God who can, in fact, handle my piddly, little questions. I was afraid of who I really was and just like Adam and Eve, I hid.

As the years have passed, I have become brave enough to voice my questions and wise enough to never forget that God's goodness is always evident if we see through his eyes. I have learned to fear the Lord and to question his ways less. I have learned that his ways are not ours and understanding everything would negate the need for faith.

I have left behind my preconceived notions of what a "blessed Christian life" looks like and learned to see the blessedness in my own Christian life.

I have learned to embrace the present, look toward the future and learn from the past and then simply leave it there.

In spite of the long way I have to go, I have experienced freedom's call and its release. I have picked up all the promises I so hastily threw down and have begun to let my life shamelessly dazzle with the sparkle of True Love.

As I placed that ring of promise back on my finger, the bells began to ring and my life had...the ring of freedom!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Her Story is History

I have a friend who is battling cancer right now.  She has a story worth hearing.

April has been battling cancer for about two and a half years.  She has an almost-two-year-old daughter, Jordan.  April is a beautiful woman on the inside and out that I just can't stop praying for.  She was at a retreat I was at in April and although, she knew she had a tumor, she didn't know what the future would hold.  Here's her story. (What I know of it and I hope I don't butcher it!)

A little over two years ago, April became pregnant.  During the course of that pregnancy, April's doctor found some cancer.  That doctor and all other doctors told April she needed to "terminate the pregnancy" in order to save herself. She needed to begin chemo immediately.

Against all medical advice, she chose to continue with the pregnancy giving Jordan life.  She trusted God with her own. All doctors told her that her baby would be sick having many birth defects so this was not a wise decision.  April values life like God does and had peace with her choice.

Jordan was born healthy. All of April's doctors publicly declared this a miracle. April underwent cancer treatment and went into remission. The cancer did not return and God received much glory. 

The testimony was powerful. Make God's choices your own, God's values your own and He will bless you.

And then.  Just a few months ago the cancer returned. With a vengeance.  It is inoperable.  

What happens to the story at that point? April has been determined that God will get glory in her life. As she fights this horrible disease with all of her strength, many, many others are praying. They are holding up their swords while down on their knees as they proclaim the word of God in prayer. A common thread through the prayers has been, "Let April live!"

We all know that it doesn't matter how things look to the medical world or those watching. There are others watching in expectation for God to do something big and something great.

I'm not sure how the cancer will be treated. In the last two months April has undergone extensive surgery to learn about the tumor which has attached to the bone, stayed in the hospital for many, many weeks trying to manage pain, taken much medication with horrendous side effects and been unable to care for her family in the way she desires.

Each time I pray for April, I see the same vision. I close my eyes and there it is. April is sharing her story with groups of women. I do not know April's story beyond what I have shared here. I really don't know April except a few smiles, tears and prayers at one women's retreat in April.
But I have begun to pray that God would use her story. 

This is the conversation I had with God.

Lord, use her story.
Her story is my story.
Yes, Lord, I know that.  Use this suffering for your glory.
Do you know what my story is?
Yes, Lord, your story is His Story.
Pray that.
Lord, please make her story History.

Please join me in praying that her story would be his. History. I am specifically praying that the cancer part of her story would be history. His story. Told. To others. Shared. With power.

Would you join me? 

"Your very life is a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God's living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it." 2 Corinthians 3:3

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The King's Table

"Don't demand an audience with the king...It's better to wait for an invitation to the head table." Proverbs 25:6-7

The invitation is extended to us. Every day. An open invitation. To sit at the king's table. And dine. Feasting. Talking about the day. Pouring out hearts. 

As I pour out my own heart, the King of Kings listens.

Audience with the King.

We have it.

One thing that strikes me about the word invitation is that to be invited means you have advance notice of the event. You have time to prepare. Time to put on a special dress. Time to get excited. Time to think about what you will say and do and how you will act. Preparation.

How often do I demand that God listen to me. Asserting my rights as I vent my feelings, my needs, my list to the King. Demanding an audience.  Demanding He listen. Listen with the intent that something will be done to change things!!!

I know all too well what it feels like to not receive an invitation. It hurts. Feeling rejected and left out of the fun is a feeling I'd rather not have to experience again. Being set aside and passed over as another is chosen is a position I hate to hold. I can create my own place. I've become an expert at it over the years in an attempt to mask the pain I feel when I don't get the invitation. 

But still, even though I''m there, I hurt. I'm self conscious. Feeling as if I've barged in on someone else's party is not a great feeling either. So I've learned to wait. Wait for an invitation.

What refreshment comes when an invitation is offered! Extended. I love how restoration occurs when I've poured my heart out to God at his request. 

As I wait on his presence, he always offers an invitation. Sometimes it is to speak. Sometimes it is to sit. Sometimes it is to receive. Funny thing is all of those revive my heart in his presence.

"You prepare a table before me  in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." Psalm 23:5

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Princess and the Pauper

Lately I've been tired.  Exhausted really.  Come to find out I've traded my life as a princess for that of a pauper and I didn't even know it.

"They have exchanged the glory of God for the shame if idols." Hosea 4:7 

Think about it.  We live as a new creation.  Clothed in glory.  When we accept Christ into our lives, we exchange the shame of our sins for his righteousness and glory. We become co-heirs with him to God's glory, fortune and inheritance.  Princes and princesses.

After that, we willingly put down the new and take up the old.  Yuck!

"Longing after idols has made them foolish." Hosea 4:12

I think of me. I am filled with longing.  Longing for good things. I long for God to use me. I long for my marriage to thrive in every way. I long for my children to serve God. Good things. Godly things.

Things that make me look foolish if I long for them more than I long to know Him. Long to meet with Him. Long to be transformed into His image exhibiting His glory. Which I exchange for shame when I focus on what I want His hand to do for me instead of the beauty of His face. I look foolish.

"Worshiping foreign gods has sapped their strength and they don't even know it." Hosea 7:9

Suddenly I am tired.  Exhausted. Stressed. Irritable. Cranky. Angry. Dissatisfied. T.i.r.e.d.
I don't even realized that I am guilty of setting down glory and taking up shame.  I don't realize that my longings have caused me to make foolish choices.

"So while these new residents worshiped the Lord, they also worshiped their idols." 2 Kings 17:41

In a feeble attempt to refocus I reach out to the Lord in worship. I praise his name. I pray. I share stories of blessing with others, only to realize I'm empty. I'm unworthy. I'm falling short. I'm losing in the battle.

Humbly, I return to the Lord. Ask for help. Look deeply into his heart. Drink deeply from his word. Fall feebly at his feet. Place my broken heart into his open hands. There I find what I really need. Confess my foolishness for thinking I know better than him. Find rest. 
Forgiveness and peace meet me. Truth invades my mind forcing all the idols in my heart to bow.

The God who wants a relationship with me.  With us.

"I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

I trade in my shame once again for his glory. I praise him that I know the value of eternal worth. I thank him for sharing the secret with me. I thank him for sharing his glory with me. For giving me an eternal inheritance. For making this pauper into a princess.

"The Lord says, "Then I will heal you of your unfaithfulness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever...I will be like a refreshing dew from heaven...The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them...Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest...You must worship only the Lord your God. He is the one who will rescue you from all your enemies." Hosea 14:4-5, 9, Isaiah 28:12, 2 Kings 17:39