Sunday, March 19, 2017

Let Me Turn Your NOT ENOUGH into MORE Than Enough - (Guest Post)

Hey Friend,

I am so pleased to introduce you to my friend, Jana Schmitt, who is guest posting here this week.  Texas born and bred, Jana lives and works in the small but growing town of Celina, TX, on the outskirts of Dallas.  She has been married almost 34 years to her best friend and partner in life, Darron.  She is mom to two grown children and grandmother to one sweet baby boy, who will soon celebrate his first birthday!

Jana went back to school in her forties to pursue a longstanding dream of becoming a licensed professional counselor and is now enjoying her "second calling" in life as a counselor in private practice.  She works primarily with adults struggling with depression, anxiety, life transition, and a host of other issues. You can check out more about her practice at

She is happiest when she is neck-deep in a creative project like remodeling a house, planting a garden, or hosting a gathering of some kind.  She believes we are called as followers of Jesus to leave a trail of restoration, repair, and beauty wherever we go. Her life is a work in progress as she seeks to live out this calling.  

Jana has been a source of inspiration and encouragement to me in my blogging and in my work with Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc.  Jana, my friends, is the "real deal". Will you join me in welcoming her?

Let me turn your NOT ENOUGH into MORE than enough ~ 

These are the words I wrote in my journal this past Christmas as I sensed Jesus speaking them to me. I was feeling inspired by the story of the feeding of the 5,000 in Mark 6… “Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.” We all know how the story plays out. They all ate and were satisfied and the disciples gathered twelve baskets full of leftovers! Jesus turned their not enough into more than enough.

But first He gave thanks.

Can you imagine the joy the people felt that day? The food just kept on coming! I want to experience that kind of joy every single day. Who doesn’t want to feel that deep joy the ancient Greeks referred to as “the good mood of the soul”? As a counselor, I hear stories of depression and anxiety and shame and loneliness. People want to feel the joy the Bible talks about and yet, honestly, it sometimes seems so elusive.

But what if there was a simple practice that we could insert into our daily lives that actually produced joy? What if joy is not so much a feeling that just happens to us randomly, but something we cultivate?

Two summers ago my husband and I were seeking respite from the Texas heat in the mountains of North Carolina. We took daily walks and breathed in the fresh pine and drank coffee on the porch and slowed down enough to feel the awe and wonder of God’s magnificent creation. I was reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and her words about joy & gratitude were leaping off the pages at me.

Brene Brown is a research professor who studies things like shame and vulnerability and wholeheartedness. Through countless interviews, she began to discover a direct link between joy and gratitude. Without exception, she found that the people who described themselves as joyful were people who actively practiced gratitude. They kept gratitude journals or created gratitude art. They took time out of their busy schedules to reflect and give thanks. 

She discovered that the opposite of joy isn’t sadness; it’s fear. She calls it scarcity. It’s that fear of not having enough or doing enough or being enough. This is what keeps us from experiencing the joy we were created for. She puts it this way: 

“We think not being grateful and not feeling joy will make it hurt less (when we lose something we love). We think if we can beat vulnerability to the punch by imagining loss, we’ll suffer less. We’re wrong. There is one guarantee: If we’re not practicing gratitude and allowing ourselves to know joy, we are missing out on the two things that will actually sustain us during the inevitable hard times.”

Brene Brown’s words stirred something in me. Then a client told me that Ann Voskamp’s book, 1000 Gifts, had changed him and helped him find joy during the hardest year of his life. It’s a book about cultivating gratitude. This intrigued me. God was challenging me to go deeper.

Throughout this past holiday season I was asking God to give me a word for 2017. One word to be my focus as I moved into a new year. I kept hearing “gratitude…gratitude…gratitude”.

I decided to accept Ann Voskamp’s challenge to write down 1,000 gifts this year. She calls it “a dare to name all the ways that God loves me…the True Love Dare”.

I started naming the gifts each day, writing them in my journal in red.

#1) bright red berries in a winter landscape 

#2) friends staying in our guest bedroom 

#3) kisses from Cyrus (my grandbaby :) ) 

 #7) my new email penpal, Bev

What would happen if all of God’s people did this?

What if our first thoughts in the morning and our last thoughts before falling asleep, instead of thoughts of not enough, were whispered prayers of thanksgiving?

What if, instead of being on constant alert for facebook-worthy moments, we lived our lives on the lookout for gratitude-worthy moments?

I decided to begin looking at my life as a photographer looking for beauty. I began snapping photos, not to post on social media, but into my own “gratitude file” on my laptop that I will open at the end of 2017 and share with my family and we will remember and give thanks and re-experience the joy together. 

So here it is March already. Usually by this time I’m wondering where the year is going, my New Year’s Resolutions lost under a pile on my desk. But this one is different. This one requires very little time, no special talents or abilities, no money, and I can do it with or without cooperation from other people.  

It’s simply about being present. It’s about showing up for my life with eyes wide open in wonder. It’s about paying attention to the gifts God scatters all along the path. 

And what I’m finding… 

I’m finding that the practice of gratitude turns the mundane, every-day into something glorious. That life is a beautiful mystery to behold. 

I’m finding that I spend a lot less time worrying about not doing enough or being enough and that He truly is MORE than enough. 

I’m finding that practicing gratitude even in the midst of the hard stuff, the challenging, the painful – it lifts me and sets me on a higher plane where I don’t get so bogged down in the muck, where my vision is clearer because God always has the best vantage point and gratitude ushers me into His Presence like nothing else. 

#236) perfect starry nights 

#237) friends around the fire pit

#238) Mom’s chocolate cake 

#239) a thank you note from a client

I’m finding that He really does love us so much. We only need to open our eyes to see His gifts. They’re all around us.

 “So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open, drinking in your strength and glory. In your generous love I am really living at last!” Psalm 63:3 The Message


Be Blessed...and please, friends, leave some lovin' for Jana in the Comments....

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Try Harder, Try Harder, Try Harder

Hey Friend,

Have you ever had one of those weeks that you want to take a big, old, red sharpie and draw a line through it...crossing it off your mind and out of your life? Sure you have, and I just had one.

Not that we need to analyze every move we make, but I am trying to look back over this week and find out where and when it really took its detour south.  

It started out well after a weekend of refreshment, but not long into the week interruptions began piling up.  I am a task-oriented achiever and so for me unwelcome interruptions can be the kiss of death.  I'm not talking pleasant interruptions like a friend stopping by, but people (especially one) who can get under my skin like none other.

I had a big project I was working on and all of a sudden everyone was demanding a chunk of my time.  I was allowing them to force their agenda on me and I was beginning to resent it.  Part of my problem is that I allow people to do that because I am, at heart, a people pleaser.  Perhaps that's why I agreed, against my better judgment, to babysit my son's two year old lovable, but full of boundless energy, dog.

As I sat at my laptop, trying to get some work done, she'd bring over one mangled, drool encrusted, squeaky toy and plop it in my lap and then sit back and cock her head as if to say, "This one...will you throw this one?"  "Leesi, I'm busy, I'd grumble." 

So she'd go get another toy...the raccoon who was about to have a tailectomy. this it?  She'd sit smiling expectantly at me.  With each new toy she brought to me, I felt my blood pressure start to rise.  Why do I let people (and even pets) encroach on my precious time?  Don't they see I have a non-profit ministry to run?

"I"...."me"...that's usually where it begins.  I even tried reading my devotional and my Bible, but I found myself skimming the words.  Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know this. Finished, done.  Now I can get back to my work.  Just when I thought it couldn't get worse, the interruptions, trouble, frustration mounted day by day.  

My response?  Try harder, try harder, try harder.

If I just tried harder I could get accomplished what I had set to accomplish.  My husband will tell you that by Thursday I was a growling grizzly bear and then Friday I was finally reduced to tears in the Walgreen's parking lot because I realized I had failed miserably this week.  

After my cathartic cry, in the quiet, His words came to me...I cast my eyes unto the hills.  Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and earth (Psalm 121: 1-2).

Once again I had been spinning my wheels so desperately that all they did was sink farther down in the muck.  Try harder obviously wasn't the answer.  So what was?

Instead of pushing my foot down harder on the accelerator, what I actually needed to do was let my foot off the gas, get out of the car, and let God drive. I had been relying on MY driving skills when what I needed was to let Jesus take the wheel. (cue song) 

Today, I have been meditating on the rest of Psalm 121 that came to me in my crumpled pile of exhaustion. Will you read it with me??

Psalm 121

The Lord Our Protector

A song of ascents.

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
your Protector will not slumber.
Indeed, the Protector of Israel
does not slumber or sleep.
The Lord protects you;
the Lord is a shelter right by your side.[a]
The sun will not strike you by day
or the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all harm;
He will protect your life.
The Lord will protect your coming and going
both now and forever.

Fifteen of the Psalms are categorized as Songs of Ascent.  Many scholars believe that these psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three Pilgrim festivals.  Perhaps that's why they are also called "Pilgrim Songs".

Instead of trying harder (this pilgrim that I am, wandering my way through life), I sure wish that I had pulled away and let quiet reign.  Nothing was really accomplished by my trying harder other than to build my mounting frustration.

When life gets frustrating, distraught, and despair filled, I need to pull myself away to His Word because in it is where I will find hope for what ails me.

This Psalm is filled with cheer, and comfort, and hope.  Read the number of times that the Lord offers protection.

He protects me night and day because He does not slumber. 

He protects me by being my shelter - my refuge from all the people and problems that assail me.

He protects my very life.  

He protects my coming and my going.

In short He protects me even when I don't realize He's protecting me.

All I see is what I see.  I don't see all the things God protects me from every day.  

Likewise, when I am caught up in the muck and mire of my problems, I lose sight of all the wonderful things that are good in my life - all the people and things that are gifts - all the love He pours out on me everyday.  

Gratitude, I'm learning is the antidote for grumbling!!!  Can I get an Amen? 

So how can I do this week differently?  If this week starts detouring south, I need to immediately lift my eyes unto the mountainous hills from whence my help comes from.

I need to take my foot OFF the accelerator and spend time in His quiet presence to hear what He would really say to my heart.

I need to offer prayers of thanksgiving - even in the midst of the unwelcome interruptions.  

I get interrupted from my work.  I have work that I love and is fulfilling.

My ex drives me crazy concerning issues with our kids.  I have two beautiful children because of him.

My son's dog comes whirling into my house for a day.  I have a house to live in and a place that people like to come to...not to mention a big back yard for running.  

My phone pings, and beeps and calls keep coming in.  On a global level, I am one of the wealthiest people on earth.  I can afford a cell phone and a laptop with an inbox that continually fills.

I get frustrated because I'm not accomplishing anything.  I am saved and eternally secure because of what Christ accomplished.  Thanks to Him it IS finished. 

Try, I think I'll try it HIS way next time... 

What are you spinning your wheels on?  What makes your day/week take a detour south?  What is God calling you to do to change your mode of operation? What truth is He speaking to your heart?

Dear Heavenly Father,  This week my heart has yearned for the quiet place, but I was trying harder, so much so, that I couldn't let go and just let myself go there....go to the place where Jesus holds me, the small, helpless lamb in His ever so strong arms, and gently carries me close to Himself where I can hear His heart of love beating for me.  Let this always be my safe place - my place of protection - where I am your beloved and where you delight in me.  When the world piles up - let me go, no run, to you and let you embrace and quiet me in your loving arms.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed,

ps.  I invite you to join me at our Website for our "sCARves for a Cause" campaign going on right now.  Donations will not only help us to purchase a MUCH needed vehicle for the school, but donations of $75 or more will get you a beautifully handmade scarf by the impoverished women and widows who live near our school.  Come check this out:

Thank you.....

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Why My Heart Bleeds The Way It Does

Hey Friend,

A good friend of mine recently returned from a medical mission trip to Haiti - which is so needed.  Listening to her stories and seeing the sweet faces of the children, especially, that they were able to help brought tears to my eyes.  They were able to set up their clinic in a local church there.

She said that while they were there they ran into several other missionary groups.  One was a group of opthamologists who were there, most likely, to provide eye exams, provide glasses, and treat diseases/injuries of the eye.  

My daughter has served on mission trips to Kenya.  Again, they were able to love on the children in an orphanage and helped to build a well and reservoir for clean drinking water.  One of the highlights of my daughter's trip was worshiping with the people there and sharing their love of Jesus together.

On one hand I was so encouraged that people like my friend and my daughter are called to help out in these countries, but at the same time I felt a deep sadness for my poor orphaned and destitute children in Pakistan that we serve through Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc.  

There are no missionaries that go to Pakistan...only martyrs.

The last time a western mission group tried to go into Pakistan and offer a medical clinic, they were bombed and killed by extremists that didn't want any Western/Christian influence (even though the mission group was there vaccinating children against diseases like polio that still run rampant).  It truly breaks my heart.  

Perhaps that's why I have such a passion for Pakistan - because they are the "unreachables".  Any Christian ministry groups that have tried to survive there have been run out.  All that is left is less than 1% of the Pakistani population that is Christian to bring the Good News to the destitute people of that country.
For the beautiful Pakistani Christians who, literally, risk their lives every day to bring the good news of Jesus, offer humanitarian aid like food and shelter, provide medical assistance, and oh so importantly - offer education to these impoverished children who cannot afford to go to school, I feel called to come alongside and go where few dare to go.

They are rescuing children who otherwise are made to be slaves or are caught up in sex trafficking...the horrors are endless. These children live everyday wondering if they will lose their lives or their friends in the continual extremist bombings.  70% of the women in Pakistan have not completed a primary or grade school level of education....there really is little hope. 

For these reasons and many more, I just have to help out.  I cannot leave them to be forgotten and persecuted.  

That is why with the help of selfless Christian Pakistani servants of the Lord, we have started Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc. We not only provide a Christian education, but food, shelter, medical and humanitarian aid to those who have nothing.  We give them the love of Jesus Christ and the hope of a future.  

Specifically, right now, we have a great need for a CAR for our school.  Can you imagine running a Christian school, smack dab in the enemy's back yard, without a reliable form of transportation?
Here are some reasons we need a vehicle:

*Transport school supplies, equipment, and Bibles.
*Transport groceries to the school for daily meals.
Transport 25 pairs of jeans and 30 sweater dresses so that the children will have a Christmas gift.
*Transport supplies and food so that they can provide humanitarian aid to the poverty stricken near the school.
*Be able to provide Christmas and Easter programs to celebrate Jesus.
*Transport sick children to the doctor.
* Safely pick up money wires to run the school.


sCARves for a Cause
Car Campaign

A good used car will cost us $6,000.  We can do this!  A passionate donor to RCF, Inc. has purchased scarves handmade by needy women and widows who live near our school.  

For every donation of $75. or more, we will see that you receive a beautiful scarf from a Pakistani woman in need.  

Your ENTIRE donation will go toward purchasing the Car and is tax deductible.  The scarf is a gift to you for caring enough to help.
Can we count you in??

 Donations of any size are always welcomed.  But wouldn't you like to be able to wear a uniquely beautiful scarf knowing it's helping not only the children at our school but also the women trying to provide for their families?

Two ways to give:
send a check to:
RCF, Inc.
103 Silver Lining Lane
Cary, NC  27513

or visit our website and donate online:

and....even better:

The first $1,000. donated will be matched with a gift of $1,000 from Jana S. (dedicated RCF, Inc. contributor and me - I believe in putting my money where my mouth is).  So dollar for dollar your gift will be matched and doubled. * Scarf eligibility is based on an original gift of $75. and not the doubled amount. Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.

This is why my heart bleeds the way it does...please let these children know that they are not forgotten...

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.  (James 1:27)

Be blessed...

ps.  To my blogging friends...would you be willing to share this or the RCF, Inc. website link on your blog?  Or provide a link on your blog to this post, asking your readers to consider this wonderful (and fashionable) opportunity to share the love of Jesus?  If so, I would be truly grateful. Please, for safety reasons, only share on blogs and not on Facebook which can be scanned by those who would wish to do harm to our ministry. Thanks... xo

Saturday, February 25, 2017

If It's Up To Me I'm Going To Fail

Hey Friend,

I was recently struggling with an issue about which I desperately needed wisdom.  I know the first part of James 1:5-8

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.

Okay, I get it....need wisdom...go to God and ask and He will give.  Sounds good.  But then comes the rest of the passage:

But let him ask in faith without doubting.  For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.  

Uh oh...wait a mean to tell me that God's answer to my question is contingent upon my faith?  But I'm the queen of doubters.  I'm going to get crushed by the monstrous whitecaps of that surging sea.  I can be as indecisive as they get.  To me this spells failure!

Lord, I don't like this part of the verse.  Did you have to put that in there?

Panic stricken and unraveled, I start searching in my mind for scripture.  Key stories and verses I keep in my "Emergency Kit" for times like these.

I am reminded of the time that Christ says to the doubting father who is asking for his son to be healed, "Everything is possible for the one who believes."

The father responds, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"  (Mark 9:22-24)

Whew, I'm not alone.  I can relate to this father.  I believe, but there are so many times that my belief falls short and I cry out, " Lord I do believe, but help the doubting Thomas part of me that falls short."  

The truth is that I cannot create in myself the magnitude of faith that is called for.  No matter how hard I try, I'm just not going to be able to muster it up.  

Okay, that's what I conclude about Wisdom, but what about faith itself??  The passage on wisdom calls for the man to ask with faith without doubting.

So what does the Bible say about my faith?

For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this not on your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  (Ephesians 2: 8-9)

So the faith that I so boldly profess at times.  This is not my own doing?  My faith, itself, is a gift from God?  You got it.  Not even my own faith is my own. When I am tempted to be smug in my faith and knowledge, I am being an arrogant fool because the faith I have is a gift from God so that no one may boast.  And, not only is God the author of my faith, He is the perfecter....He will continue to grow the gift He's graciously given me.

Okay, what about all the fruits of the Spirit - showing kindness, gentleness, compassion, love, forgiveness, patience....

"I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING." (emphasis mine)  (John 15-5)

Nothing?  Really?  Okay what about following your decrees Lord.  Surely I can follow your Word?

"And I will put my Spirit in you and move you (cause you to move) to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."  (Ezekiel 36:27)

Like a lightening bolt, it hits me between the eyes.  If it's all up to me...surely I am going to fail.  TRUE!

But here is the Good News:

"I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me."  (Philippians 4:13)  

In Jesus EVERYTHING is possible! Through Christ moving in me, I can do all things. 

Real discipleship is complete dependence on Christ for everything.  My life, our lives, should be Christ-sufficient and not self-sufficient.  This is the only way to bear fruit as a true disciple.

Also living in complete dependency on Christ requires great humility on our part.  Every day I need to humble myself before Him and acknowledge that apart from Him I can do nothing.  That's a big slice of humble pie!!

Apart from Christ, I do not have the ability to bear fruit.  He supplies EVERYTHING from His abundant fullness.  

So back to that wisdom thing....I am realizing by drawing on the Scriptures that only God can create in me the faith that He deserves.  The faith to follow His wisdom comes from Him, not something I muster up.  

I just need to embrace Him, let Him transform me, abide in Him and watch how He will move in me.  

Dear Heavenly Father,  Forgive me for my arrogance in which I give myself credit for the faith that I have.  Thank YOU for the gift of faith that you have so graciously given me.  I thank you that you don't leave me to fend for myself on my own self-sufficiency.  Help me to humble myself and know that the only way not to fail is to rely and depend on Christ's sufficiency.  Rely and depend are not "bad" words...they are words to truly live by.  Thank you that you realize I am but dust and I need your Spirit to move in me (cause me to move) to follow your decrees.  More of you, Lord and less of me.  Thank you for all the gifts you give me on a daily basis.  May I live my life to give you the credit and the glory.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed,
ps.  There have been three separate bombings near our school in the Middle East.  The children are afraid and frightened by all of this.  I can't even fathom the fear that they must live through each and every day.  

Would you please pray for our school, the children, the teachers and staff that God would place a hedge of protection around them and keep them safe.  And, that he would give them a sense of His abiding peace and comfort.  

If you would like to help financially, we could really use your support as we have been harboring more children to keep them safe.

Friday, February 10, 2017

True Hope For The Perfectionist

Hey Friend,

Recently I found my heart resonating with a piece by Mallory Manning, writer and blogger.  She was talking about perfectionism - something that I thought I had licked. What I've learned is that our nemesis may not go away that easily, but there truly is hope.  

Mallory writes:

"I feel like I can't uphold my end of the deal."

What deal did I make?  Who was involved in this deal that I don't even remember making?

Me, I make deals with myself all the time.  I will be punctual.  I will remember to send birthday cards.  I won't let anyone down.

In some form, things like maintaining our commitments and celebrating others reflects the loyalty and intentionality of Christ.  But instead of honoring God with my reliability, I often desire to meet expectations to maintain my image and prevent others' judgments.  So I make deals with myself, shaking hands with perfectionism.

But you know one truth I'm continually learning?  I will never be able to uphold my end of the deal and that's precisely the point.

I found some of Mallory's points to be spot on.  You see, as a member of "Perfectionists Anonymous", I get this.  Having spent a good part of my life trying to earn what was already mine through Christ, I know what a trap perfectionism an be.  

Christ died not so that we would "owe Him something" through our actions, but so that we could walk in FREEDOM.

Let me say it a different way...Christ died to set us free.  Being a perfectionist = being a prisoner.

One other thing that my perfectionistic ways uncovered was a nasty little stumbling block called "pride".  Funny how pride is often at the root of so many of our problems?!

By my continual striving and attempts to earn my salvation, I was in essence saying that what Christ did was not enough - that I still needed to do something above and beyond what He did.  That's pride.  When Christ sacrificially breathed out those last words, "It is finished,"  He meant it was complete.  

There is nothing more for us to do, but to walk in the freedom for which He laid down His life.

I have found a scripture that is like a soothing balm to the struggling perfectionist who wants to leave those ways behind and walk in the freedom that Christ intended.  It is found, interestingly enough, in this well known segment of scripture...

"Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy and My burden is light."  (Matthew 11:28-29)

Usually we associate these verses with someone who is going through a rough time, is weary, and needs the rest that only Christ can provide.  This may be true, but the real gist of Jesus' words here are this:

If you are weary and burdened by living under the weight of the Old Covenant, with its legalism and its laws, come to me because I can give you rest.  There is a new way of living.

If you are tired of living under the judging eye of others, let God be the judge and if you have accepted Christ, you are perfect in His eyes.  Human evaluations no longer matter.

Perfectionism, by the way, is weighted down by legalism and laws - a kind of get it right or else attitude.

Jesus bids us lovingly, "take up my yoke (the New Covenant that is based on grace and not on merit) and learn from me."  

Unlike the heavy yoke of the law that we continue to fall and stumble beneath, Jesus gives us a new, lighter yoke, of the New Covenant of grace and forgiveness.

"Because I am gentle and humble in heart and, In me, you will find rest for yourselves."  

No more having to make deals with ourselves because we feel like we will disappoint God or disappoint others.  Jesus is gentle and humble...He doesn't make deals.

"For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

If you feel like you are continually struggling under a heavy burden to "get it right or else", chances are you are wearing the wrong yoke.  I get like this sometimes - so frustrated with letting myself down, others down, God down.

That's when my dear husband looks me square in the eye and says, "Bev, you don't have to be perfect."

That is my reminder to set aside the pride I have unwittingly picked back up and put on.  That's my cue to lift off the heavy yoke of the Old Covenant- with all its burdens and laws and slip into the light yoke of Jesus - the one that says...

"It's finished.  There's nothing more for you to do.  I did it all.  Now go and walk in the freedom that I've paid the price for."

Do you struggle with perfectionism?  Do you ever feel like you are held to a higher standard than everyone else?  Do you find it hard to be easy on yourself? What's preventing you from taking in the freeing Truth of Jesus' words?

Dear Heavenly Father, Forgive me for the pride that says that I can do this on my own - that somehow I can earn your love and my salvation. Help me to take in the Truth that there is NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT unless it is me being seen by You through the blood of Jesus.  That is the one and only way.  Help me not to continually stumble beneath a heavy yoke of laws, legalism, and perfectionism.  Enable me to live in freedom under the yoke of your New Covenant.  You died so that I could dance....let me dance in freedom knowing I am loved by you no matter what because you paid the price for my mistakes.  Let me strive less and abide and rest more in You.  Thank you Lord and it's in Your name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...

ps.  Come and check out some of the new news and happenings with Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc.  See the faces of lives that are being transformed because they too are living under the freedom of the New Covenant!!  

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Craving Connection 2 - A Journey Through Life's Seasons

Hey Friend,

Given the response and the comments I've received on my previous post, I am revisiting this topic of Craving Connection.  

We were made, by God, to be in relationship. First and foremost is our relationship with God.  After that, God has put in us a desire for relationship with a partner in life and with friends of all ages, races, and nationalities.  It's just the way we are wired.  

When those connections aren't made it can make us heartsick.  Yes, ultimately, Christ is all sufficient for us and I have found there have been seasons when God needed to remove everyone from my life so that He could have my undivided attention.

I also know, that the enemy prowls about, seeking to isolate us and destroy us. Just like a lion in the wild will try to isolate a week member of the herd, the enemy does the same thing with us.  If he can get us alone, he has a better chance of his lies sinking in and his message of despair and hopelessness finding a home in a hurting heart.  

Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  (1 Peter 5:8)

That is why it is not a luxury or the cherry on top to have friends and connections, it's essential.  Now that I've said that, I will admit that making connections - extending my hand in friendship is not always easy.  Ask me to walk into a room full of people I don't know and my hands will begin to get sweaty; my blood pressure will rise; and thanks to this anxiety disorder I have, I have even been known to have panic attacks and have felt a need to flee the room.

I'm much better at one on one encounters, but to get to one on one, sometimes you have to walk into the full room - if you know what I mean.

I remember, in college, not knowing anyone on my floor.  I kind of sat back and did a study of people and tried to get a "pulse" on what made certain people tick.  I believe we are attracted to like minded individuals, so when I watched Christine from afar, I thought, perhaps, this is someone I would like to get to know.  Enter the hard part...going down to her room and introducing myself. That's right.  If there's one thing I've learned is that if I'm going to have  a friend, I can't wait for her to come to me...I have to go to her.  

I remember introducing myself and asking if I could join her for dinner in the cafeteria that night.  Thankfully she said "yes".  Thus started a long friendship. We were both looking for friendship, so we ended up joining the same sorority and wound up as roommates.  So that was a success story.  

I have extended my hand in friendship to others only to be rejected or at least the friendship not reciprocated.  I've had to learn, albeit the hard way, that this is the price you pay for finding kindred spirits.  It doesn't mean you are a loser, it just means you haven't found the right friend yet.

When I was young and newly married, I easily found friendships through work and with neighbors in the townhouses in which we lived.  Besides, I was a young newlywed so friendships were great, but not something on which I depended.

Enter the season in life, however, when with a newborn baby (my first), I found myself relocated to the Mid West, in a town where I knew no one, in January, amidst one of their nastiest winters.  This is when depression greeted me for the first time.  I was like a sitting duck for the enemy.  My hormones were everywhere.  I had experienced several major life stresses at once, and basically I was a mess.

I prayed earnestly to God for friendships.  I knew I needed a lifeline.  I needed others I could ask questions about how I was to raise this little person who demanded all my time and didn't come with instructions.  

Enter my neighbor, who though she had older children, had a friend who was the coordinator of a group called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers).  The nice Welcome Wagon lady also came to my door and invited me to the Newcomers meetings.  Sweaty palms, racing heart, fussy baby and all, I mustered all I had and went.  

One thing my mother told me has always stuck with me...ask people questions about themselves.  A good conversationalist asks lots of questions.  No one likes a person who goes on and on about themselves ad nauseam.

To say that Newcomers and MOPS, especially, were lifesavers for me, would be an understatement.  For women with children birth - 5 years of age (even if you have older children but still have one in this age group you are welcome). Through two more moves MOPS became my gateway to connection.  I found Christian women who were real, like me, and also were craving connection and some adult conversation.

When I moved to NC and my children were 4 and 9 I was moving out of the preschool set and I found myself thrown back in time to college days.  I was going to have to observe and seek out someone with whom I could relate. Fortunately many of us were newcomers in our neighborhood.  I thank God for the one woman who had the gift of hospitality and she invited all of us new folk to her house for coffee.  

That's where I met Claire.  I can't exactly remember who extended the hand first, but we've been close friends for 20 years.  She recently moved to Florida, however, and I'll say losing close connection with friends is a grieving process unto itself.  

I will say that finding a church where you feel at home is also crucial.  That is one of the first things I seek out - I'm like a heat seeking missile when it comes to that.  It may take time, but a church is a gateway to Bible studies, small groups, and other forms of community.

Slowly, over time, I built a comfortable circle of friends.  All was good.  Life was fitting like that old shoe except for my marriage which suddenly ended one day when my husband simply up and left.  To say my world was turned on its head (again) would be an understatement.  Divorce, by far, is one of the hardest things I've ever gone through.  Single parenting is downright HARD!!  

I also found that some friends that we had as a couple disappeared into the woodwork.  Other married friends were busy with their families and weekends became a lonely nightmare.  

Here I was back to square one again... having to seek out like minded and similarly situated individuals.  

I have discovered that God will put people in my path, but it is up to me to take that scary step of extending my hand in friendship.

Sweaty palmed and anxious, I ventured into building connections with three other separated and divorced women.  We became what we called, "The Perseverance Posse".  If there was ever a time I needed friendship, this was it. I really relied on these women and my married friends who stuck with me.  I would have never made it through had I not had these women in my life.  I thank God for them all the time.

So here I am now, an empty-nester who runs a non-profit ministry from home. I am by myself most of the day, except for the company of my trusty beagle, Topper. I can be a bit of a loner, at times, so I don't mind being alone.  In fact I rather enjoy it, but how much alone time is good?  How much is dangerous?

Thankfully I am remarried to a wonderful, godly man, but I still crave connection with other women.  It's harder to make coffee dates and such so I have found an on line community of women through a Christian group called (in)courage.  

The wonderful group of writers at (in)courage put out a daily blog/devotion that I read and comment on religiously.  

They have also just released a wonderful book called, not surprisingly, "Craving Connection".  Each short chapter written by a different writer includes ways to build connection, avenues to join and have community, and opportunities to engage with others and ....yes, even some challenges.

I invite you to join us (yes, I'll be there) starting on FEB. 7th as we will go through 5 weeks of short chapters and challenges.  I am hoping to find some new, fresh, creative ways to make connections.

As I've tried to point out here, craving and building connection is a lifelong journey.  It may look different in the changing seasons of our lives, but the necessity and even the command by God remains.  

Will you join us?  I really hope so!!  

And now the winner of my giveaway drawing for a free copy of "Craving Connection":
Dawn B. - Woohoo!

If you didn't win, please pick up a copy at your favorite bookseller and join us, won't you?  We were not meant to be islands unto ourselves, so lets roll up our sleeves and dig in together shall we?

I will be praying for you as you are brave in building connection.  I hope you will find connection here at my blog as well.  All who are real, honest, and not afraid to be a little vulnerable are welcome...

Be blessed...

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Are You Craving Connection? (Plus Giveaway!)

Hey Friend,

Ever since I can remember, I've always belonged to groups.  Whether it was youth group growing up or joining a sorority in college, I liked "belonging". Perhaps that's why I joined Newcomers groups when I moved around, MOPS when I was a mother of preschoolers, Bible studies, church small groups....

There has always been something deep inside me that craves community.  I find this kind of ironic because I was an only child who learned, early on, to be comfortable in my own company.  In fact, I like being alone in the quiet and still of the early morning.  

I am now in a season of life where I am working from home.  I head up a non-profit ministry - Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc. that supports and fosters Christian education for the orphaned and destitute in one of the scariest places on earth - the Middle East.  How I got here is a story unto itself, but it all began through this blog. 

I'm up at 5 am. while it's still dark outside (revisit loving my alone time and quiet time with God).  I work pretty much non-stop all day, taking time out for lunch and perhaps a cup of coffee in the afternoon.  I'm pretty much alone all day (except for my beagle) until my husband gets home.  This is REALLY different for me.

I tried joining an evening Bible study, but since I'm up at 5 am. I find that my brain turns to mush and pretty much shuts down by 7:30 pm.  Not good for adding to, or deriving anything from Biblical discussions.  

I'm learning that at different stages of life, connection looks different.  

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.  (Matthew 18:20)

I'm learning to maybe put extra hours in one day so that another day I can meet a friend for coffee.  To be able to look my friend in the eye and pray with and for her is just good for my soul.  

The way the enemy prowls about, I know this time is not a's a necessity!

On a regular basis, my husband and I have one of my single friends over for dinner. After we eat, my sweet husband excuses himself for some hockey on the tube upstairs while my friend and I chat away.  I know we both need this community.  We are both dealing with some of the same trying issues with our adult children and it's good to know we are not alone.  

You know those ideas you get....gee, wouldn't it be great to invite a few of my neighbors over who I never get to spend time with?  One day I decided I'd share my coffee time with three neighborhood friends.  I kept it simple - just coffee and scones that I picked up at a cute little french boulangerie.  Can you say non - stop talking?  I admit my "coffee break" ran a little long - oh say 2-3 hours long. I politely had to show my friends the door as we could have easily sat and talked for a couple more hours.

And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken.  (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

The next day I started my workday a little early and got caught up on the time I had set aside for community with friends. I needed that time with friends to hit the "refresh" button! 

I am learning that I NEED unity and connection with God, my friends, and my community.  

Community is not an option or a's a life source.  Cut it off and we'll soon perish.

God created us to be in community with others.  So where do I start....

I'm excited to announce the release of a new book "Craving Connection" which is a collaboration by some of the best Christian writers I've read.  They talk about:

* EMBRACING the desire God has given each of us for connection
* INVESTING in meaningful relationships, right where God has you
* BECOMING the friend you wish you had

Each segment, written by a different writer, gives you things to consider.  She'll also give you a challenge and ultimately a way to engage with others.  

Not only do I love the different writing styles, but I love the different ideas that I wouldn't have thought of - like this one:

**Set your phone alarm to remind you to pray for friends and family on your prayer list throughout the day.  **

The best news is:  I'm giving away a free copy of "Craving Connection" !!

To enter the drawing you can get one entry for:
1.  Leaving a comment either here or on   Facebook
2.  Another entry for subscribing to my blog

Drawing will be held on Feb. 6th so be sure to get your entries in.

If you aren't fortunate enough to win, I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book online or at your favorite bookseller.  It's a must read!!

So, what's holding you back vs. what is there to be gained by making connections?  Who might God be putting on your heart to make a connection with?  How can you be an easier person to connect with?  

I also invite you to join our online connection group hosted by (in)courage.

We will be doing 5 sections of the book together starting on Tuesday the 7th.  For 5 consecutive weeks we'll read a section (about 8 pages) and then do the challenges together.  I think it will be great fun to learn new ways to connect.  I hope you'll join me!!

You'll be glad and blessed if you join us (yes, I'll be there)...