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Sunrise Path

Turning the corner the pastor stopped the car.  At the end of this dirt road was the answer to my hopes and dreams.  It was what we had waited for all those years.  Prayed for, cried for.  At the end of this road.  He mumbled something about getting our composure.  Really?  Composure?  I'm ready to jump out of my skin!  Excited and fear filled my heart.  And the words "Is this really happening" kept running through my head like an overplayed song. 

Those were the first few moment before I met my daughter for the first time.  Excitement understandable, fear on the other hand?  Why fear? Becoming a parent?  To have an adoption process go bad (many had before)?  No my fear was following God's plan for my life, our life, her life.

Those fears washed away quickly as she was placed in my arms.  Such a beautiful baby.  How could we have been so blessed?  I remember whispering to her over and over "Hi, I'm or mom and this is your dad."  We were in love.

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That baby is now a mom of her own.  And yes, I am confident in saying, this was God's plan for her life and ours.  And she wasn't the only one, a few years later we adopted another girl.  We thought our family of four was complete.  But God has a great sense of humor and our family planning wasn't God's family planning.  3 more years and 2 pregnancies resulted in 2 boys.  Our family of 6 was complete.

We told our girls their adoption stories right from the beginning and often.  In fact, it was such a part of our family story that when our youngest son was about 4 he wanted to know who his birth mom was.  When I told him it was me, he protested.  "But I want a different birth mommy too!"  

Those growing up years were crazy busy and I loved every minute of it.  There were hard moments and there were moments I wish I could freeze in time.  Like when they would all play together during family vacations.  Brothers and sisters became best friends.

Our adoption stories didn't send us out of the country.  God's plan, as we would explained to our girls, was for them to be in our forever family.

I love hearing about people and their adoption stories.  I cry when I see videos of forever families meeting for the first time. 

And if you are so inclined and feel God tugging at your heart to do more, by all means listen!  There are children out there looking for forever families.  Who knows, you could be one of them.

photo credit: James Wheeler

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Write to tell God's Story

I've enjoyed writing all of my life, but a few years ago I began a journey . I didn't know it at the time, but my journey would take me to the feet of Jesus for healing and understanding before he bore a passion in me to write. This was a little over 3 years ago. Although I have no formal training in writing, I just began to do so. I felt called by God to share my redemption story. I still struggle with words to describe how God redeemed me. But I know my mission is clear. Tell God's story. Tell others about his love, his grace and his mercy. Tell them they can know him too. So I do. It’s not perfect and some days its one hot mess, but I churn out letters that forms words and somehow it makes sense. Somehow….

So today I write, praying God will lead and give me confidence to say the things I think someone needs to hear. A little over a year ago I started a blog and this year I became brave and put that blog in my name. All those years of telling my kids not to reveal too much on the internet and now my name was out there! But God does not call us to be timid or afraid. (There’s another story there!) He calls us to be brave. I know I can’t do this without him. I know that it is because of him I love to write and I know that he will take my jumbled mess, my burnt offering and make it something beautiful.

In courage

So today we begin our new study.  Grace for the Good Girl, letting go of the try hard life.  And we jump right into what our definitions are of a good girl.  Why they may be flawed and how our expectations can cause us to live a life of performance that tangles the web of  lies that we indeed will never measure up.

While reading Emily's story, could you relate to any of it?  I sure could.  I spent my younger years being told how to be a good girl, being admonished when I failed and worst yet, being compared to my twin sister that she was doing it better.  (This last one was tossed back and forth between the two of us depending on who they thought was acting appropriately or not appropriately.)

When I became an adult I went after life with the same determination to be better and do better as a wife, mom and then later as a children's pastor.  In all things, I had in my mind,  that I was suppose to act or be a certain way in order to fit in.  How about you?  Have you felt that way?  Do you still?

As Emily stated, goodness isn't a bad thing.  God loves goodness and he want to shower us with his goodness.  It's when we take our viewpoint of goodness and twist it with lies called rules and expectations that our journey can become guilt ridden and we feel like epic failures.

Emily makes a comment in chapter two that poses a question.  "So now I stand at a fork in the road.  I can try to figure out a way to continue making life work on my own or I can admit defeat and accept Jesus invitation to simply "Come".  This place here, this Facebook page, is a safe place.  More importantly, its a place to be real.  To be real with us, but to be real with your self too.  We will not judge, nor compare, nor surmise.  This is a place to call home. We are friends searching to understand our God better.  So we are all in good company.  But we find ourselves in this fork in the road.  And it's time to let down our mask and know the real Jesus.

Emily again points to Jesus as our example.  Jesus didn't put expectations on himself, he lived expectantly waiting on his Father.  A life totally dependent on the one who would lead ~ and he would ~ follow.

When I came to the realization that performing was not giving me the freedom to live in Christ my world kind of came crashing down around me.  When I looked up from the mess all I wanted was Jesus.  I wanted to know him personally, deeply and intimately.

That's what he wants as well, to know you and to love you .  I'll leave you with this quote from Emily,

"All he wants is simply you, minus your good works, minus your perfect attendance, minus your politeness.  when you really believe that you may discover that all you want is Jesus, simply Jesus......To simply love and be loved by him.

What masks have you worn?

Did you relate to any of the "good girls" Emily spoke about?

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I'm joining Holley Gerth on her website today. Each Wednesday we follow a writing prompt to encourage each other.  I love encouraging others.  This week our writing prompt was “What are the encouraging words you want to hear when you’re having a hard day?”

I recently went went through a step by step process IMG_1101that took me through some specific events from my childhood.  To some, my childhood was fine. I had two parents who stayed married even through tough times and we always had enough.  But emotionally, there was a lot of dysfunction. That dysfunction led me to believe I had to earn people's love, including God's.  

Fast forward to adulthood and this "people pleaser" was burnt out and felt no love at all.  When I was having a rough day I would turn to my husband and tell him "I love you" in hopes I could hear those words back.  He always did.  He's such a kind-hearted person.   And as much as that would help me feel better there was still an emptiness in me.

But.....God's grace....

Oh, His sweet grace found me some how and showed me love.   His Love.

So friend, if you are having a hard day today, let me encourage you by telling you how much you are loved.  You are loved by a God who created you for the specific purpose of loving you.  And he wants to do that!

 This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only  Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us..     John 1:9-10

So if you are having a bad day please know this, you are loved.

Inlink

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They met serving in a Sunday school class.  Two single moms, busy raising kids and still wanting to help somewhere.  One said serving in ministry was their peaceful place.  Thus began their community.  I love to watch community happen.  This past weekend those two moms helped one of them move.  That's the beauty of community.  It births friendships, companionship.... families.

My husband and I go to a local McDonald's almost every morning.  We sit at the counter with about six others.  They are our McDonald's family.  It's our community.  If someone doesn't show up for a few days we call each other just to make sure everything is okay.  Here is how this community has been so invaluable to us.  My husband was diagnosed with cancer last year.  One Saturday they showed up to our house to do yard work.  Did I mention we live on an acre?  Most of which is landscaped.  It's an all day job to trim, mow and clean up our yard.  Our friends came and served unconditionally.  Not just once but several times. My husband has a servant heart, so allowing others to serve was a bit difficult for him.  But it's what community does.  Serve each other.

Community helps you not to be alone.  And you are not alone.  I know, you may be having lonely days.  You may feel there is no one out there that is going through what you are going through.  You may feel lonely, but trust me their is a community out there waiting for you.

You just have to look.

If you are looking for community I have a place for you to join.  (in)courage.me is a place for you to find community.  I know what you are thinking, an online community?  How is that possible?  Trust me it is.

It's a place for women to connect, to find their voice or just listen to others sharing their lives together.  It's a place you will find people just like yourself.  In the same season as you, whether that's a mom, an empty nester, a single person, someone who struggles with a chronic illness or an artist.

There is community waiting for you.  Right here, right now.

And to make it even more easier for you to join community, (in)courage is starting new community groups.  Groups with people just like you.  Groups that will do community with you.  There are community groups for just about every season of life.  You can check it out here .

Seriously, you need to do this.  You will find people here you can do life together with.  Someone who will understand exactly what you are going through.

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I'm joining Holley Gerth  in her community.  Won't you join us?

 

You are not alone.  Community will help you feel connected and not .....alone.

 

 

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I see you, rushing in late, flustered. Settling in to your Sunday School classroom you look up and greet that first child. He's a little uncertain and you kneel down to his level and welcome him. He smiles and comes into your classroom and starts playing with toys. You look up at mom and dad with a nod that things will be okay.

The time rushes by in a blink of an eye, 30 kids have heard a Bible story, used way too much glue on their craft and happy smiles greet mom and dad as they are picked up.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

Romans 10:14-15 (NIV)

Do you know how beautiful you are?

God's love for children is beautiful.

Your love for children is beautiful!

How can they know?  How can they believe unless someone shows them, teaches them, loves them.

Your willingness to spend an hour a week, just an hour of week sharing God's love makes you beautiful.  In God's eyes you are beautiful.

How precious are the feet of those who bring good news?  You are precious to Him.  Thank you for sharing, thank you for loving, thank you for accepting the call to share the good news.

You. have. beautiful. toes.

I'm joining Holley Gerth's Coffee for your Heart.  Would you like to join us there?

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Hi friend.  Did you know your were created by love and for love?  That’s right.  God created you to love you.  After God created the world he said it was good.  In fact, after he created each thing in this world he said it was good.  But when he created man he said it was very good!

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NIV) 
 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day. Genesis 1:31 (NIV)

God wants so much to have a relationship with you and to love you.

And I could write a whole bunch of words right here about how much God wants you, but he’s told you right in his word.  That’s right.  The Bible is full of his words, love letters just for you.

 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.                             1 John 4:9-11 (NIV)

He didn’t even wait for us to get our “act” straight either.  He loves you and me just as we are right now.  And, well, if you could see me right now……. lets just say it isn’t pretty today.  Today is one of those days, when life hurts, life is crazy and unexpected and uncertain.  And even though in these days I don’t feel very loveable, he still loves me.

And I know he loves you.

Although sin entered this world and separated us from him, he even took care of that by sending his son to pay the price for our ugliness.

So, today friend, know that you are loved and beautiful, in God’s eyes and in mine too.

And, if there was ever a chance to sit with you and share love together, God’s love and ours I’d be there.

I’ve join Holley Gerth for her Coffee for Your Heart.  Won’t you join my there?

http://holleygerth.com/coffee-for-your-heart-love/

I am joining Holley Gerth each Wednesday for a little encouragement.  You may join us over there today by clicking here,

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As you enter into 2014, I want you to know that God is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow.  He knows what will happen to you on January 1, 2014 and he will know what happens to you on December 31, 2014 and everything in between.  He knows your hopes and dreams, he knows your secret desires and your fears.  He knows.  And he will be here in the discoveries, the struggles, the fulfilled dreams, the disappointments and yes, even the gut wrenching and awesome surprises.  He will be here.

And He loves you.  He wants you. He wants your dreams to come true.  But what he most wants is you.  You have a purpose in this life.  His purpose.  His desires, his dreams, those are what is worth pursuing.  Those hopes, dreams, desires are what he has designed you for.

Are you ready?  Are you prepared?  This journey will be amazing.  This journey will be so very scary, but this journey will.

Be. Amazing. 

But there is a few things you will need to take on this journey.  First off, you will need to trust.  Trust him.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) 

 Then you will need to believe –him.  Believe he has the best for you, that he created you with a purpose.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,

which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

You’ll need to accept he loves you.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1 (NIV) 

When you realize God loves you and wants the best for you remember to think good thoughts.  But those doubts (and Satan’s lies) away and think good.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.  Philippians 4:8 (NIV) 

My prayer for you today is that you will be amazed by his beautiful grace this year.

The words in the email stung.  As I blinked back tears my defenses went up.  ”But, I did this for you…I was thinking about you.” I kept repeating to myself.  What had started out to be a fun, playful and thoughtful event had just turned quite ugly in a matter of seconds.  It came out of left field and I wasn’t prepared for it.  Nor did I really know how to respond.  So I waited.

I had planned and prepared for this Christmas season.  The month of November came and I spent the month serving others.  This inspired me to get all my busy work done early i.e Christmas shopping, running around – you know, the hectic stuff of the season.  Get all this done and then in December spend my time focusing on Jesus.  Living and breathing and being in the presence of God.  Sounds great right?

Until I received that nasty email.

I lost my focus on Jesus. I was focused on me.  I was trying to be helpful.  I was trying to be nice.  I was trying to be thoughtful.   Did you notice the “I’s” in there.  Yep, I lost my focus all right.  This put me in a very foul mood for a few days.  It was during this time I was suppose to be putting up my tree and decorating my house.  My birthday is in December so it’s a family tradition, we decorate around my birthday.  We’ve done this since I was a little girl.  But this year…..was different.

I put our tree out, put a skirt around it and then left it.  No decorations, No lights.  I was unmotivated and uninspired.  Image

The days turned into a couple of weeks and even though I was choosing to focus on Jesus and being in the presence of God, the tree stood bare.

Really, Lisa, I kept admonishing myself, you should get some decorations on that tree!  But I couldn’t do it.  It wasn’t that I was still upset or even uninspired.  Other decorations found their way out of boxes and into the house, but the tree still stood bare.  Every time I thought about getting something out, I reminded myself that it wasn’t about the decorations, it was about Jesus. It was about being in the presence of God.

I began looking at the empty tree and it reminded me of the empty tomb.

It does sound strange to think of an empty tomb when everyone else is celebrating a baby being born.  But I was.

That little baby, in a manger, represented the gift I would receive as a young teenager.  That same gift that gives me hope to this day.  So much hope.  That precious gift, given so long ago shows me I’m loved, unconditionally.  It whispers that I can’t do anything to earn His love, it’s already there.   This precious gift glistens and glimmers like lights on a tree reminding me there is beauty in brokenness.

My tree will probably not have fancy ornaments this year.  But it will have a cross on it.  This cross will remind me of Him.  It will remind me of the sacrifice a little baby came into this world to do – for me.  And for you.

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I’ve been reading through the Gospels lately.  I love good stories.  I like to read about each character, discover the conflict and read the final climax of a story.  Even better if it’s wrapped up in a happy ending.  So it’s easy for me to read the story of Christ and get so wrapped up in the drama that I find myself skipping through the story just to get to the end.  There is so much to learn, so many minute nuggets in His Story you can’t go skipping through it.  You have to read slowly, purposefully and allow God to show you the story.

Yesterday, I asked you to sit with me and hear the story of Jesus’ birth.  Won’t you take some time today as we finish hearing the best part, the greatest present we could receive this Christmas season.  Put down the to do list for just a moment, grab your coffee and sit.  Enter into the presence of the Holy One for a bit.  You won’t be disappointed.Image

One thing I have found so curious in these stories of Jesus is what is going on around him at any given moment.  There seems to be so much chaos.  Crowds pressing in, wanting something…healing, a teaching, or sadly to trip him up and catch him in a lie.

For instance, in Mark 5, Jarius, a synagogue ruler begs Jesus to heal his daughter.  There are crowds of people pressing in on Jesus but his heart is filled with compassion and he goes with Jarius to his home.  As they are walking, a woman who has been bleeding for years approaches Jesus.  ”If I could just touch his robe I know I’ll be healed”, she says.  Not Jesus, touch his robe.  And he knows!  He senses power has left him and someone is healed.  Jesus turns around and asked “Who touched me?”

So much going on around him, but he knows someone needs forgiveness.  Scared to death, trembling, this woman admits what she has done. Jesus tells her your faith has healed you.  There is a young girl sick and dying waiting for healing and yet Jesus stops to offer forgiveness to another sick one.

Here’s what I find so fascinating about this story.  He’s not in a hurry, he’s not caught up in the drama of the moment.  I know what your thinking, but this is Jesus.  He can bring anyone back to life.  Yes he can and yes he does.  In fact, he does just that for the synagogue ruler’s daughter.

It’s nothing for Jesus to feed 5,000 people or to bring his best friend back to life after being dead for 4 days.  It’s his purpose while here on earth.  To seek and save the lost.  To show us God’s love.

It’s not understood at the time.  Even his disciples can’t seem to get it right.  They kind of understand and then it’s lost on them.  No one sees the big picture.  Even the night he is betrayed, Jesus knows what his purpose is.

My favorite moments in Jesus’ story is when he is alone with God.  He takes time out of the chaos to be alone with his Father. To pray, to talk, to listen to God.  It seems to give him strength, clarity.

While here on earth, he taught us what to do.  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

But in order for us to have a relationship with God, Jesus had to make one final sacrifice.  Because our sin separated us from God, Jesus gave us the ultimate gift in being that sacrifice so we could be with God forever.  He showed us how to love others, to take care of each other, but his best gift?  That was to make a way for us to be with God.

Jesus best present was giving us the presence of God.  So this Christmas season, take some time, a lot of time and fully be present in the presence of God.

He loves you, cares for you and wants to spend time with you.  The chaos won’t stop.  It will continue to swirl around you, but don’t let that stop you from slowing down a bit and seeing God in this season.  Invite Him into your home, your heart.

God doesn’t want us to do, he wants us to be…still….with Him.