Courage

| December 13, 2012

What is courage?
For over a month, we’ve been teaching our boys that courage isn’t the absence of fear. It is being scared and facing what you fear, anyway.

With three sidelined practices behind us, and another looming, we didn’t know if he’d be able to get through it. He’d gotten so scared being out there on the court with the coach yelling and a gym full of loud kids, dribbling, chasing balls and doing what seemed impossible for him:  Staying out there.
We simply asked him to make it through a night of practice and just TRY. He didn’t have to be good, keep the ball in control, make any baskets. He just had to stay out on the court. On the first night of practice, the coach didn’t teach them how to hold a ball. How to dribble. How to throw.  The coach simply told them to dribble 2 balls at once. To dribble, jumpstop, pivot, pass, all in quick succession to complete strangers. To make a layup -first thing- on the first night of shooting baskets.  For my little one, these feats seemed impossible. And, I couldn’t help feeling a bit frustrated with what was expected of him, myself. So, for three practices in a row that stretched over a month and a half, he started on the court and ended up sitting on the bench in defeat, watching his brother participate. And fearing the next practice when it would happen all over again.
This week, he left home and arrived to the practice parking lot already in a crying frustration.
Just to help him have the courage to get inside the building, his daddy told him something that must have stuck deep inside. And, I believe, God did miracles in that little heart. His dad told him, “There’s a long line of men in our family who have courage locked up, inside. When you use a little bit, it grows and becomes more.”  And, they went into the school with the understanding that our boy just had to sit on the bench and watch his brother.

I admit, after those three failed attempts, I was questioning if we should just let him stay home. I didn’t want to get through this whole basketball season, which would span 4 months, and have him live with the memories of sitting on the bench, each and every time, after an upsetting retreat from the court. But, I prayed! Oh, how I prayed! I really wanted him to feel proud of himself for facing his fear. I even prayed that if God could raise people from the dead, surely he could help my boy get through basketball practice. This mama was feeling desperate! Have you ever been there?

So, back to the gym. He must have felt some relief knowing he only had to get inside and sit on the bench with Dad. After a bit of just sitting, Dad asked him to play ball on the sidelines for a few minutes, and he lightheartedly agreed. And after a little while, Daddy asked if he might still want to give it a try on the court, adding that our bargain to go for ice cream if he could make it through the night would still be honored. To my husband’s surprise, our boy decided to go out on the court with all the other boys. My husband prayed like never before, and our boy stayed on the court. Then, my husband’s heart sank our son came to the side…. and asked to use the restroom. Would that be it for the night? NO! Upon returning to the gym, he returned to the floor with the other boys! The entire hour went by, and he continued with the practice! He stayed out there! He tried! He acted courageous! And, he was even caught smiling and laughing and having a good time.

Basketball Victory Cup

I cheerfully went out to meet my family for ice cream to celebrate this awesome victory! When I asked my boy about practice, he told me “It was easy!” When I asked if he wants to go back, next time, he said, “I will. But, when this is all done, I never want to do it again!” We agreed that was ok. We were just so happy he faced his fear and he was proud of himself for doing it.
And, when he drove home with me in my car, he told me, “Daddy told me that courage was locked up inside of me, and tonight I unlocked it.”
Yes, you did, my sweet boy. Yes, you did.

“CHANGE the World”

| December 11, 2012

Changing the world by collecting change? Yup!
It all started with a group of wonderful women who had been praying for orphan children in Myanmar (old Burma). Our pastor and some people from our congregation had visited an orphanage there and discovered that, due to great poverty, the children survive on only three rice balls a day. There is a cesspool much too near the orphanage. So land is needed along with updates to the facilities. When these ladies were asking God how they could help, God gave them the idea to collect change. It was that simple. But, after that handful of praying ladies had raised hundreds of dollars among themselves, they asked if the pastor could share the vision with the entire congregation. He agreed that it made good sense. (Yes, I was tempted to type in “cents”, there. Are you glad I didn’t?) So, the challenge for our entire church to collect change and help the orphanage in Myanmar was presented.

Changing the world by collecting change

Our family mission is “Live in Christ. Change the World.” So, we wrote down our purpose (Change the World) on our collection can and got started. That was one month ago. Our kids had a blast emptying every nook and cranny of our house and cling-clanging the change into the tin. Whenever I found change, one of the kids would happily run the change to the tin to help “Change the World”. It’s been such a great experience for all of us.
We exchanged the coins at the bank, today! Now have twenty three dollar bills plus some coins. In just one month! I encouraged our boys to pray about what God would have them add (from their allowances) and my husband and I will do the same. I think a whole church of families taking this challenge will truly be able to make a difference.
Going forward, we will continue to put change in our “CHANGE the World” tin and donate the funds toward another cause close to our hearts. We will donate our change to fight the terrible reality of human trafficking.
Most of us have change lying around, don’t we? In our purses. At our nightstands. In our cars. Anywhere we empty our pockets. Think for a moment: What cause do you care most about? Why not start a “Change the World” tin, glass or bucket of your own?
What an easy and awesome idea! And, all because of some praying ladies.
I have to say it. Prayer does CHANGE things! (hehehehe)

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

| December 6, 2012


I’m not the first girl to rave about “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. But, I’ll take my turn.
I heard references to this book, repeatedly, for over a year before actually purchasing a copy. It seemed it was coming up everywhere. Numerous women I admire referred to it… wherever I went, it seemed! Once, I heard Sarah Young on the radio and her message deeply touched my heart. So much so that I actually pulled it up online and printed out the excerpt that she had read on the radio.  For months, I kept it with me for daily encouragement. I still have it in my Bible.
It’s been since April of this year that I’ve been reading the devotional, each day. Since the Spring, I’ve purchased copies for numerous dear friends and family, hoping they will find the same encouragement, inspiration and daily drawing to Christ that I’ve experienced because of reading it. It’s become a common bond: “Oh! Did you read Jesus Calling, today?!”
I feel as though I am seeing a side of Christ that I hadn’t allowed myself to draw close to, before. Now, I read about the realities of His holiness, but it is through the amazing lens of GRACE and LOVE that leads to a joy-packed, adventure-filled life! Each day reads as if Jesus, Himself, sent me a love letter.  I am able to see the heart of God in a wonderfully open way.  I know. I know. This isn’t scripture and we can’t take every word literally. I’ve read the critics’ posts. But, I do believe that God has breathed all over these daily messages!
Another special thing about this book.  When I read the scriptures referenced, I see shiny new facets of God’s connected meaning strung all together, throughout the Bible. (*Flawed human alert here! Don’t read this next sentence unless you are willing to believe that this pastor’s wife is not so perfect that I get great glee and deep meaning out of EVERY reading of God’s word.)  In the past, I’ve found myself skipping over scripture references in some devotionals or Bible studies… i.e. not doing the extra digging.  It’s because they reference scriptures that say the exact same thing I just read in the exact same way or they seem to be “pulling at straws” in scripture to make a point. These references seem like time wasters and quickly lose my attention and therefore my ambition to page through books and chapters to find them. Not so with Jesus Calling!  I’ve found the scriptures listed are actually fun and exciting to read because they don’t just support the day’s reading, they build upon it. I admit, they also lead me to areas of scripture that I’ve personally highlighted in my Bible, before.  And, God has used those just as much to encourage me in this faith journey. In most instances, it seems like God is showing me one thing and then leaping to another that brings the first truth to an even deeper understanding. It’s totally worth looking them up!
For instance, today I read, “Stay ever so close to Me… What I search for in My children is an awakened soul that thrills to the Joy of My Presence! I created mankind to glorify Me and enjoy Me forever. I provide the Joy; your part is to glorify Me by living close to Me.” Oh, the beautiful, welcoming heart of God! Then, I got lost in Colossians, finding reminders on how to live a life worth living that can only take place out of a heart filled with Jesus! Wow! It seems most days I read exactly what I need to soak up and apply.
Thank you, Sarah Young, for writing this book that has affected so many lives in my own little world! I can only imagine how God has used it in personal and private ways that you will only find out about in heaven!
What about you, dear one? Have you read Jesus Calling? What did you glean from it?

Old Journal Entries

| October 19, 2012

Ha! I just found this journal entry written almost a year ago, when my little one had just started preschool. I think I’m getting the message!
09/13/11
“Being a writer?
I sit here in the cafe and I wonder, “Could my life really be like this? And I answer, “It is!” I have an amazing cup of coffee. I’m eating a blueberry muffin puffed way too high for good health. I’m surrounded by a spontaneous arrangement of music, sounds of chatter and laugher all around. What could be better? I’m so thankful for this year that will allow me a couple of free hours per day to pursue this possibility of a passion. I’m afraid I won’t be any good at it. I’m afraid the dream is going to be better than the actuality. I’m afraid I won’t keep trying through the hard, empty, silent moments. But, I believe that God’s destiny is greater than any of my dreams. And, I trust that if I will obey Him by moving in this direction then He will be faithful to direct my paths. I can end up in just the right spots along the way that He desires for me to be. And, I will grow and develop and mature and continue in this adventure of giving Him all of me. So, I say “Thank you, Lord for this opportunity. I’m yours. Speak through me. Develop my style. Give me content. Fill me up so I can pour it all out through these words. Make me a writer, please, Lord?”
I need to read stuff like that for motivation to really go for it!
Do you keep a journal? I encourage you to look back at what dreams have been brewing inside you for too long! It might be time to move forward.

I Am A Writer

| October 18, 2012

 

Photo taken by Cristi Schroeder at Warrens Cranberry Festival – a place of inspiration!

Dreams can be scary. That’s one reason they can take so long to come alive.
About eight years ago, I read and journaled through “The Dream Giver.”  Working through that book, three passions of mine came into focus as one dream. My lifelong love of reading, my desire to write and my desire to help adolescents combined into a focused dream to author fiction books geared at young girls. I imagined writing books filled with good morals and lessons and big purposes- all mixed inside the storyline. But, in the face of everyday responsibilities, my pursuit got sidelined. (Also, I honestly don’t think that the timing was right.)
It’s true, though, that those ambitions to be a writer have remained. I have often said, “Well, I always wanted to be a writer.” That’s way easier than saying, “I am a writer” which would lead to the question… “Oh? What have you written?” Which would then lead to a lot of self doubt and other’s judgments about my “minor works”.
Here’s that short list of writing accomplishments:
  • a children’s book in 11th grade that received high praises (from my HS teacher)
  • a bunch of A+ essays in college relating to psychological topics (graded and discarded)
  • a retreat curriculum for youth group teens based on the movie, “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” (a “whopping” 15 girls, participating)
  • most of the content for a quarterly church newsletter that ran for a few years (I joke that their were 5 faithful readers)
  • (not enough) posts on this blog
My biggest credit, I realize now, is that fact that I’ve been journaling since I was a child. It’s always helped me to get my thoughts and feelings onto paper. But, could all that really help me as a writer? Well, the authors at a recent writer’s workshop taught that anything that gets us writing in sentence form, pouring ideas onto the page-including journaling- will benefit our writing. As I soaked up every word at the workshop, my dream of writing seemed completely possible. And, I sense the conviction, confirmation and excitement that NOW is the time to pursue it!
No, I don’t plan to “take a year off to write my novel” or travel to France for inspiration. I’m just going to start with large amounts of the little things. Like finally blogging 3+ times a week. Writing at least 10 minutes a day with pen and paper in hand. Submitting some articles to local papers and eventually magazines. I hope to incorporate some of my Altered Story projects by writing tutorials for craft projects and seeking publication. Then, as my thoughts get fleshed out and my writing skills develop, maybe I will write that first book for young readers. Maybe, someday, I will write a bunch of books.
So, I’ve just decided to do it! I will finally, actually call myself a writer. I will face my fears and go for this dream!
Calling myself a published author? Well, hopefully that’s yet to come.
I’m curious… do you have dreams of being a writer? What would you write? Maybe we can join together in the pursuit of this dream… however scary it may be!

First Day of Kindergarten

| September 4, 2012

Since before college, I had my life planned out.
Vaguely.
I would graduate with a bachelor’s in psychology, get married to a handsome pastor, have two babies and stay at home raising them -just until the youngest went to kindergarten. THEN, I’d either go back to school for my master’s degree or begin a meaningful career. I love helping people… so counseling has always been a dream. But, I’d love to be a writer, and I thought maybe I could pursue that. Or, I would pursue a different kind of education and build on my art skills. No matter! I had lots of time to figure things out!


Life’s Check List
Marry handsome pastor – check!
Birth two beautiful kids – check!
Stay home to raise the wee ones – check!
Send off baby to first day of Kindergarten – check! (as of this morning)
Direction for what to do now – uhhhhhh?….

I don’t really have anything figured out.
My little boy is having the adventure of his life at his first full day of kindergarten. Gone from Mom. All new friends. Lots to take in and learn. I encouraged him to be brave. To have anticipation for the good in it all. To go in with a positive attitude and then just see what God can do! He has no idea what this day or this school year will bring. But, he’s pressing on and into all of it.
I’m all for God-adventures. I want the full life! I believe adventures can only be true adventures if they are a little scary, a little exciting and (at least) a little fun! I’m sure that’s what my kindergartener is experiencing on his first-day adventure.
Me? I’m at home with a lot of mixed emotions. I have a bunch of questions. I miss my boys but I’m excited for what’s to come. I have an adventure of my own to begin. Schooling & a full time career aren’t even on my radar. I’m a bit scared about life’s details, but I know I can trust God for every one.
To start, I think I’ll just take a little time to enjoy a quiet house. To rest. To seek after God’s heart and His real direction for me. To do some of the things I’ve had on the back-burner for a while. I think I’ll just give myself a teeny bit more time. I’m thankful for today and all the possibilities.
What about you? What does the start of this new school year mean for you?

Lost and Found Bible

| June 8, 2012

Wanna hear a cool story? It’s over 8 years in the making!
Back when I was 17, I bought myself a brand new (expensive) Study Bible. I think it was like $65, which was quite an “investment” for a teenager in the 90′s! As a brand new Christian, I brought this Bible to church and then faithfully plopped it on my nightstand to sit… until I went back to church, again. (Maybe you know what I mean?) After graduation, I brought it with me to Guatemala on my first missions trip. I shared a devotional, for the first time ever, to our team across the world. I remember it vividly, in the yard of a women’s prison, sharing about the plan of God in Isaiah 61:1-4 – which have since become true life-verses for me. I brought it along with me to Bible College and really started reading it. I mean I studied it. I underlined it. I highlighted it. I read the study notes to figure out what it was really saying. I made notes in it, myself. The more I read from it, the more I began to really understand it.  I read it during my early years of marriage. I spoke from it in our early years of church ministry. I looked to it for encouragement through the hard times. I found passages to share in cards with those I loved. I memorized scriptures. One scripture, in particular, was Psalm 23. I spent more than an hour reading it and re-reading it, scared to death and all alone, during a dark night when my husband was away. God met me through those words and I fell asleep, at peace. As the years went on, I noted the verses that meant something special to me by writing the date or short thoughts, alongside.  I read it as my new baby boy slept next to me, in the early, weary days of motherhood. This Bible was my lifeline to God, and had become a spiritual journal of  sorts.
Then, I lost my Bible.
I was sure I must have left it at a hotel in Milwaukee. I called there. They didn’t have it. I asked everyone I knew to look around for it. It was nowhere to be found. I prayed that God would somehow return it to me. But, it never showed up. Finally, I bought myself a different NIV Bible. But, I didn’t write in it. I didn’t highlight it. It wasn’t MY Bible. I investigated other versions and have been reading from those throughout the last eight years. But, I always missed my first Bible.
And, then my prayers were answered!

My long-lost Bible - an answer to prayer!

Last night, my Mother-in-law surprised me with my long-lost Bible. She said that a women found it in her church’s decorating closet! Can you believe it!? For eight years it’s been shuffled around a church I’ve only attended a few times. God knew just where it was, all along.
I’m so thankful for my mother-in-law returning my Bible to me. I’m so grateful for Jen, a woman I don’t know, who “came across my Bible” and thought I “might want it back.”  I’m so thankful to God, for answering my prayers. All these years later, I have a greater appreciation for this book and the history written on it’s pages. Absence makes the heart grow fonder… and appreciate much more! What great care He has for each of us! Thank you, Lord!
Do you have any fun stories about answered prayer? I’d sure love to hear them!

What Is Your Desert?

| April 29, 2009

 

Streams In The Desert

STREAMS IN THE DESERT

by LB Cowman

 A collection of prayerful meditations, Christian writings, and God’s written promises.  This book has become one of the most dearly loved and bestselling devotionals of all times.

Although the original version of Streams in the Desert was published in 1925, my copy was printed in 1974 and still has the author listed as Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. I think that’s how she would have wanted it to appear. It seems just as old fashioned as the language inside, but her relationship to her husband was key to building her faith. According to the foreword in my version, the book is a compilation of “thoughts, quotations, and spiritual inspiration which had helped to sustain Mrs. Charles E. Cowman during her years of missionary work in Japan and China–particularly the six years she nursed her husband while he was dying.”

Can you imagine the depths of agony, frustration and grief she must have experienced? Yet, she sought God through it all, encouraging herself through the writings of others. It makes me wonder if she thought, “hm… I think someday there will be a bestselling book of all the excerpts that I’ve been putting together.”  No, I bet she was just doing what she knew to do, to find God in it all. I bet there were some days that she found it hard to really feel comforted by what she was reading. But, she knew that it was true, and she chose to keep her focus on Christ.

I love to journal things from the Bible or the other books I’m reading. It helps me focus on truth and I can refer to them, later on. I do it all with the small perspective that it helps me grow in God. But, what if somebody comes across my journals someday? Might they compile them in a book that would encourage millions?

What about you? Maybe the author listed on your bestseller would read something like “Hospital Hansen” or “Addiction Anderson” or “Mommy Miller” or “Nine to Five Nelson.” What is that ingredient of your life that seems to be taking over your days?  Streams in the Desert might not exist if it weren’t for what Mrs. Cowman experienced with her husband. 

Be brave through what you are facing. Look to God in it all. Trust Him. Your situation is exactly what He will use to encourage somebody else, someday.