Reflections of Summer

Me & my sweet friend

Me & my sweet friend

During the Christmas 2014 break, I told Hub I was missing my friend.  She lives in a town bordering North Dakota and Minnesota.  I told him I was thinking of heading somewhere over my summer break and inviting my friend to join me.  Hub thought it a good idea and so the planning began.  The summer trip morphed into several different scenarios with the final version of the trip being me heading up to the great white north to spend some time with her.

Two days on the road up and two days back meant Lisa had plenty of time to spend alone with God.  It was some amazing time, too!  I got to thinking we “city folk” have it completely wrong. We need to head out to the country, the undeveloped areas of our continent, to breathe the clean air, shut off all the social media, and listen to the silence.

Most important: look up and look out.

Missouri River Valley, Iowa

Missouri River Valley, Iowa

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Preacher’s Cove, Itasca State Park, MN

Red River North, East Grand Forks, MN

Red River North, East Grand Forks, MN

Storm clouds over the Minnesota plains

Storm clouds over the Minnesota plains

My friend has a “little man” living with her part of the week.  Little man’s brother stays with his other grandmother most of the time.  “Lisa, if anything happens to me …” I made the same promise to her concerning “little man” and his brother that I made concerning both her (now grown) children … and to my brother concerning the Princess. If anything happens, I’ll be there.  They … ALL of them … will be loved and cared for.  I immediately fell in love with little man.  6 years old and full of 6-year old little boy energy.  Lots of questions, lots of talking … lots of 6-year oldishness.  It broke my heart when he turned to me one morning as he and my friend were heading out the door to Summer School.  He looked at me with those big brown eyes and asked, “Are you going to be here when I get home?” “Yes, I’ll be here,” I replied.

I shared my heart with my friend over dinner that night. And we became quiet.  She adamant that she will ALWAYS, always, be there for this child. Me adamant that if anything happened to her, I’d be right there for him. No hesitation, no questions asked.

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“B” loved the ‘watermelon popsicles’

I posted the following on Facebook:

Question: How do you take “foodie” pics with a 6-year old in the house?

Answer: You don’t

Love that kid!

St. Joseph's Social Care & Thrift Store, Grand Forks, ND

St. Joseph’s Social Care and Thrift Store, Grand Forks, ND

I told my friend I wanted to join God at work in her community during my stay.  I had the honor of helping to pack over 1,000 lunches for children of low-to-no income families.  I cried … bucket loads of tears … as I left the building.  What an incredible work these people do.  Do they even understand how great their work is?

There were so many incredible moments this summer that I truly want to burn into my memory … driving through the Flint Hills of Kansas at sunrise and over the Missouri River into Iowa, soaking my feet in the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River, watching the crazy clouds of two storm systems colliding over the plains of Minnesota. In each of those moments, all I could do was praise God for this incredible trip.  And I wondered what these places looked like at the moment He created them.  Did they look like they do today? Was there a freshness, a newness, a cleanness when they were spoken into existence?  What an amazing moment that must have been!

Lake Itasca, Minnesota

Lake Itasca, Minnesota

Where Lake Itasca becomes the headwaters of the Mississippi

Where Lake Itasca becomes the headwaters of the Mississippi

The Mississippi River on its way to the Gulf of Mexico

The Mississippi River at the beginning of its journey to the Gulf of Mexico

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“Don’t wait for a fish to find you”

A prayer of surrender: it’s not an easy subject or an easy way of life. In fact, it costs us everything. We hand over our every dream for our lives – every hope, every remnant of control we think we have – to God, and say, “You have it all. You have me. I am yours. Anything you want to do with me. Anything. I am in.”

I read the above excerpt from Jennie Allen’s book, Restless, a few weeks ago and fell to my knees in absolute awe.  Jennie wrote in those few lines the very longing of my heart: to be totally surrendered to God’s will.  One prayer I’ve shared previously is for God to use me however He sees fit and for me to be okay with it.

Is God good or what?

Flashback: I made a commitment in January to attend the women’s Tuesday night Bible studies hosted by my church fellowship.  I very quickly realized my work responsibilities would heavily encroach on this time commitment.  I wrestled, over the next several missed Tuesdays, with trying to continue the study or allow myself the time I needed to finish my work. It wasn’t a battle of urgent versus important but important versus important. After a lot of prayer and receiving wise counsel from my friend and Bible study teacher, I stepped away from the Tuesday night study.

I wistfully told her I needed to either find a study or lead a study that meets on the weekends or maybe during the summer.  Her response? “Don’t wait for a fish to find you.” I love her! ❤

Fast forward to the present: I opened an email yesterday morning talking about a new summer study.

In that moment … I knew.

I knew it was time to step out and say, “I’m in.”

I forwarded the email to my accountability partner letting her know I had signed up to lead a study. I asked if she was interested and if she thought our Lifegroup sisters might be as well.  She immediately responded with, “Yes, share this with them!” and then she asked if she could invite a colleague. Laughing, I said, “Of course!”

Today is a school holiday and I am ready to begin preparations to lead a summer study.  What is it? It’s Jennie Allen’s new study, Anything.

Again, is GOD good or what?

As if I needed any more confirmation, check out today’s video from the Bible study I’m doing:

Message received, Papa.  Please, no fish.

In that Moment

Have you ever noticed the lack of exclamation points in the Bible? I have.  If the Bible had been written Lisa’s way, there would be exclamation points ev.ry.where!

Seriously, this is exciting stuff!  Check out Genesis: “In the beginning God created … And it was good.” God created everything … no exclamation point on any of the first six days of creation.  Fast forward through “the fall,” through the flood, through Israel’s wandering and exile and into the pages of the gospels and God’s story continues to lack exclamation points.

I wonder why.  

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. ~ Matthew 27:51 [ESV]

Next to the creation of the world, the next-greatest moment in God’s story (in my opinion) is when … at the moment Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two.  From TOP to BOTTOM!

In that moment, GOD removed the barrier between Him and us.  

Remember the flaming sword and the cherubim of Genesis 3:24 guarding the way to the tree of life? God placed the cherubim there. Check this out: 

In that moment when Christ died on the cross, the tree of death became the tree of LIFE

In that moment, GOD tore the curtain from top to bottom. No man could do this! GOD did on that day what only GOD could do. The curtain was a barrier, like the cherubim with the flaming sword. GOD removed the barrier between Him and us.

In that moment, He restored our relationship.

In that moment, God’s plan … a plan He had before the creation of all things … was complete. He knew we would be tempted. He knew we would fall for the deception. He knew we would ruin the perfect relationship we had with Him. Before He even began the work of creation, He already planned to restore us to Him.

And He knew it would be painful. 

But He did it anyway.

Because He loves us.

Amazing.

  

Not afraid

I spent the better part of the weekend talking about being afraid.

My commitment for the weekend was to be transparent.  This statement may seem unusual coming from a woman who has been called, “real, open, strong” by her friends and colleagues. Truth is, I believe we all hold some part of ourselves back from others.  That tiny part of ourselves where hurt and insecurities dwell.  The part of ourselves where fear of failing or disappointing others exists. That very inmost part of ourselves we often deny existence for fear of what may happen if we are truly honest with ourselves and each other.

This is the part of myself I committed to opening others into that weekend.

This was how I approached IF:Gathering last month. 

A good friend and I co hosted an IF:Local at her house that weekend.  The central Gathering took place in Austin, Texas and the entire event was live streamed, as well as DVRd, for local gatherings throughout the world.  The local gatherings are called IF:Locals and I’ve heard reports that there were and still are over 1,000 IF:Locals taking place ALL. OVER. THE. WORLD! 

Our gathering was small … 3 of us taking over Brenda’s house for the weekend. Our preparation for the weekend was fairly easy and informal.  I took care of the logistics – printing all the needed materials, monitoring session updates and sequences through the Local Leaders page as well as monitoring the technology while we viewed the sessions during the weekend.  Brenda and Mary took care of the nourishment. 🙂

Although I am an incredibly reserved person, more comfortable listening and observing over actively engaging in conversation, my most favorite part of the IF:Gathering was when we got to turn the volume down on the TV and work through the conversation questions together.  There was safety in our small group and I allowed the Holy Spirit to gently push me out of my comfortable silence and speak up.  In this process, He allowed me to explore some of the insecure areas I’ve been afraid to share from.

I can’t speak for the other two women, but I came away from IF with an assurance that whatever fears I imagine are simply wasted energy.  The only one judging me is … me.

Our focus for the weekend was on the history of Israel and their crossing into the Promised Land 40 years after their deliverance from captivity. Forty years! God told them He was giving them this land and yet, all but two – Joshua & Caleb – were afraid to move forward into His promise. How so like the children of Israel am I and yet, how so like Joshua & Caleb I desire to be!

As the weekend drew to a close, I had the honor of heading out to Brenda’s flower bed and picking, cleaning, and presenting a rock to each of our group. Our final assignment was to write a statement on those stones of what our next step, our testament & commitment would be following IF:Gathering.

My commitment is to no longer be afraid. Of what others might think, of what may or may not happen.  If I sense God is calling me to join Him in a work, no matter how big or small, clean or smelly, I’ll join Him. And I summed it all up in …



[1] The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? [2] When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. [3] Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. [4] One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. [5] For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. [6] And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;I will sing and make melody to the LORD. [7] Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! [8] You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” [9] Hide not your face from me.Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! [10] For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. [11] Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. [12] Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. [13] I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! [14] Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!  – Psalm 27 [ESV]

A Very Heartfelt Thank You

My friend, Sue, writes a sweet blog, Through the Prairie Garden Gate, where she shares insights about reading, writing, and life on the Illinois prairie.   She presented me with this award the other day:

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I am so completely touched and honored! 🙂

I’m supposed to share seven things about myself.

Here goes:

1. Hub & I are walking in our 30th year of marriage.  I have no idea how this is even possible since I definitely do NOT feel old enough to have been married for 30 years.

2. We are not parents to human children but have, over the course of our marriage, been the parents to five pups, hence the name of this blog. 😉

3. I am very excited to be co-hosting an IF:Local Gathering next weekend with my friend and Life group sister, Brenda.  It’s going to be an amazing weekend and I am so looking forward to it!

4. My heart’s desire is to seek and remain in God’s will.  My heart is to serve the neighbors where I live.

5. Did I mention I have some very awesome on-fire-for-Jesus friends?  We are a goofy bunch, and not all my friends know each other.  I dare to even imagine what would happen if we all happened to be under the same roof at the same time.  Mercy!

6. I am an educator.  This is my 16th year in public education.  Even though I’m contemplating retiring from public education when I hit the 20 year mark because I’ll still be young enough to pursue another as-yet-to-be-determined passion, I know I’ll always be a teacher. And a learner.

7. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you probably know more about me than I can try to share in a brief list of “About Me.”  A friend texted me awhile back and said that I was probably the “most genuine person they know.” Humbling? Definitely!  I appreciated the comment then and still do now because I really do strive to keep things real.

I’m also supposed to nominate 15 bloggers.  Sadly, I don’t know any other bloggers besides Sue.  So Sue, thank you so very much for considering me to be a Very Inspiring Blogger.  I appreciate your kind thoughts and so enjoy our friendship! 🙂

The day before the day before

Today is the day before the day before the new year begins. A time to reflect on what was and a time to plan for what we hope will come.  There have been so many things that have taken place over the past year.  Too many to count or list in one space.  Today, I’ll enjoy reflecting on the random thoughts that so often race through my mind …

I wonder about the hound sometimes.  Woke up to a cold and wet morning this morning.  Letting the poochies out, I reminded each of them to “stay out of the mud” as if they 1) understand me and 2) will comply. I glanced up from the book I’ve been reading only to witness the bassett hound sitting. in. the. mud.  {{sigh}}  Thankful for towels and mops.

Glanced up a bit later from aforementioned book to see a hawk perched on our back fence.  A remarkable sight because we live in a subdivision and our back fence blocks our backyard from a busy street.  The hawk, like the female cardinal and wren I spied earlier hopping from branch to branch in the sage below our kitchen window, had plumped it’s feathers to keep warm.  All three reminded me of the little brother in “A Christmas Story” with so many layers of clothing on his arms stuck straight out.  My mind works in mysteriously weird ways.

I love reading. Always have. I read a lot of books this year.  Not a Fan, Gods at War, AHA, Love Does, Unglued, The Best Yes, Quiet, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, Soul Tattoo, to name just a few.

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Another thing I love? Highlighting passages in the books I read.  There was a time I would have been horrified to have my books anything less than pristine.  Now? Not so much. I’m usually within arm’s reach of a pen or highlighter when I’m reading, a habit that remains from my college days.

Better than paper & ink? eBooks!  Goodness how I love eBooks.  I carry my whole electronic library with me literally EVERYwhere.

I highlight, I take pictures of pages with passages I want to remember, I share pictures of pages. I, ahem … make collages of pictures of passages I’ve highlighted.  And I share the collages.

Looking on the outside in, this seems to be a problem. I think I might need help.

Nah …

Our Wedding Day

Our Wedding Day

Hub & I started the journey into our 30th year of marriage a few days ago.  30 years seems like such a long time, such a large number of years.  In the scheme of our lives, the years have flown by.

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Hub & I were so young when we covenanted ourselves to each other. 24 (he) and 22 (me), we were babes almost fresh out of diapers but oh so grown up and ready to conquer the world when we made our vows!

I read the book One Word that will change your life at the close of 2012.  My goal-setting hasn’t been the same since.  I loved the concept of encapsulating all my resolutions, all my goals into one word.  And to allow God to lead me in the process? Doubly awesome.

Truth time: my quest for my word for 2013 was more selfish than selfless.  There were some serious conversations beween me and Hub prior to me reading One Word that actually guided me toward my word for the year:

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I reread One Word during my Thanksgiving break in 2013 and committed to really surrendering the process to God and allowing Him to guide me to my word for 2014:

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While this was God’s word for me for 2014, I still managed to make a mess of it.  My intentions began honorably but I still managed to lose sight of the important on more than one occasion.  All part of being human, I know, but I couldn’t help but beat myself up for my actions not matching my intentions.

Which leads me to today … the day before the day before the first day of 2015.  Just as I did last year, I surrendered myself and my word to His leading.  I am amazed and humbled at how much He loves each of us and how, if we let Him, confirms His words to us.  He meets each of us right. where. we. are.  In all our messiness, in all our falling-short-of-the-mark-iness. He is here.

Every day, but especially in 2015, He is calling me to one-word-poster-1.php

2014 – How’d I do?

“Everybody has a story”  

While I know this, I seem to have lost my voice.  Or perhaps what I’ve lost is my focus and I can’t remember my story.  Oftentimes my life keeps me running so fast I can’t remember who I am or how I got here.

Tired.

Many days I wake up tired and I go to bed exhausted. Days roll into weeks and before I can even comprehend what is happening or give it a second thought, a year — a WHOLE YEAR — has passed.

How did THAT happen?

I’m all about setting and meeting goals, preparing and completing “To Do” lists.  Our house? While not the showpiece of the neighborhood, it’s tidy. The dogs? Healthy.  Our marriage? Not without it’s ups and downs but we love each other and we’re determined to not let any obstacles or challenges destroy us. Or each other.

All this is to simply say: I don’t sit around and do nothing. I do stuff. Daily. I’m busy.  Too often, I’m too busy. Type “A?” Guilty.

And maybe that’s the point.

imagesMy One Word for 2014 was “Focus.”  My goal for 2014 was to focus more on the important than the urgent.  Looking back over the past twelve months, I could throw my hands over my face and cry about how miserably I failed at Focusing.

I have plenty of excuses: work, work, and oh yeah … work.  I’ve promised Hub, my parents, and my life group sisters to cut back and not work so late at night.  I even promised to not work on the weekends.

But there’s always that “one thing” that needs to be taken care of …

Really, who am I fooling? Urgent matters really aren’t that urgent. Especially when they’re at the expense of the important. ESPECIALLY if they’re at the expense of the important! If I’ve learned anything this year, I’ve learned this.

So maybe I didn’t fail as miserably as I thought I did.  I can beat myself up over where I think I failed in 2014 OR …. I can move forward and stop this cycle of regret.

I choose to move forward.

I read a dozen or so books on a variety of topics in 2014.  They all centered around one common theme: No matter how badly I fail at serving others or miss the mark on meeting timelines, or choose Urgent over Important … I am loved:

  • By a God who calls me child
  • By a husband who is my rock, even when I drive him nuts with my obsessions
  • By close friends & family that understand my absence is not personal and I’ll be there in a heartbeat if they need me

My story, my voice? It’s been here all along. I just had to stop. And listen.