Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ready for Level 2

After her last gymnastics class, my oldest daughter came up to me sooooo excited!!!  She had a little note from her coach in her hand.  "Coralyn is ready to move up to Level 2."  Ever since her very first class, back in August, she has been asking when she would be ready for Level 2.  We told her to work hard, to listen to her coaches, and always do her best.  We encouraged her that as she did those things and pushed herself, she would be improve at the skills and be ready to learn new ones as well.  We always celebrated with her after each class, telling her how well she had done and how proud of her we are.

I knew she would eventually be promoted to Level 2, but I honestly wasn't expecting the news just yet.  I was almost excited as my daughter when she handed me the note from her coach.  I *might* have cried a tear or two on the drive home...

As I thought about my daughter's joy, I couldn't help but make a connection to my own life.  How excited do I get when I accomplish something?  When I reach a goal or fulfill a dream, I am thrilled.  I have a sense of achievement.  Maybe even a little pride mingled in.

And I believe I can do even more.
I want to dream even bigger.
To push myself even harder.
To stretch myself.
To get out of my comfort zone.
To be brave.
To let my faith be stronger than my fear.
To live out loud.
To go for it.

Today is the last day of 2014, so of course goals and dreams are on my mind and heart even more so than most days.  I am a planner and like to have things written down so I can see them and know what I am working towards, where I am going and how I am going to get there.

I was browsing on Google images in search of inspiration for the New Year ahead, and these pictures and quotes seemed to stick out to me the most:

As I have been thinking and praying about what God may have for me in 2015, some recurring themes seem to be coming through in what I am reading in Scripture, what our pastor has been sharing at church, the lyrics to songs we have sung during the worship time, my time on a Women's Retreat, and things other people have been talking about in their own lives.  When God speaks so clearly over and over and over again, I can't deny what He's trying to tell me!

In the days to come, I want to sit down and write out more about each of these truths God has been whispering in my ear.  He's been speaking to me so consistently that His whisper has really become more of a shout.  His message is coming across loud and clear.  It's undeniable.

I am excited beyond words to see what He does as I follow Him and put into practice the things He is teaching me.  I am eager to grow, to become the woman He has created and designed me to be.

But at the same time, I am oh so scared.
Terrifed, actually.
If truth be told, I am shaking in my boots.
This life of faith and boldness and courage is not going to be an easy one.
God never promised that following Him would be.
It may not be safe, but I can assure you it will be exciting and REWARDING.

Last Sunday, our pastor talked about what it means to be a DISICPLE of Jesus.  He showed a Rob Bell video clip I had seen before, but this time something NEW stuck out to me.

God has called us, so He must believe in us.  
We may not be the best of the best of the best, but we don't have to be.  
God has called us, so He must believe in us.  
He must think we have what it takes.  
And certainly, if we have Him, we have all we need.  MORE than we need.  
Thus we can do whatever He has called us to do.  We can become who He has called us to BE.

As Rob Bell mentioned, faith in God is of utmost importance, but we must also believe in ourselves.  When Peter got out of the boat, he walked on water.  Until he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the winds and waves.  That's when he started to sink.  Yet, his faith never seemed to waver in Jesus, for he immediately called out for Jesus to help him.  He KNEW Jesus could save him.  He never doubted that.  He never lost faith in Jesus.  Only in himself.  

This year, I not only want to get out of the boat, as Peter did.
I want to walk on the water.
I can only do this if I FIX my eyes on Jesus and KEEP them there.

As I trust my Jesus, He will uphold me.  
He will guide me.  
He will transform me.

As I trust my Jesus, He will equip me.
He will empower me.
He will strengthen me.
He will enable me.
He will fill me with Himself.
He will be everything I need.

Where I fall short, He will excel.
When I am weak, He will be strong.
When I am lost, He will be the Way.
When I am confused, He will be the Truth.
When I feel defeated, He will be my Victory.
When I am shaken, He will be my Rock and my Fortress, my Refuge.
When I want to give up, He will be my hope.

Again, if God has called me, He must believe in me.
He must think I have what it takes.
I do.
I have HIM!

And you can too.
He has extended an invitation to anyone who would receive Him.
He longs to be part of your life - to be your life.
He loves you and has amazing plans for you.

My prayer for you in 2015 is to reach out and take hold of His outstretched hand.
Then, hold on tight and follow Him wherever He may lead.

It's going to be an incredible journey.
An adventure.
I'm excited to see what lies ahead in 2015...

Won't you join me?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry CHRISTmas and a BLESSED New Year!

Seeing how today is Christmas Eve, I figured I should get on the ball and put up our family Christmas blog post (way too late in the game to get Christmas cards ready, a letter written, and everything in the mail - plus this blog is FREE!)

Someone told me once, "The days are long, but the years are short."  Isn't that the truth?!  How in the world are we getting ready to celebrate Christmas and finish out 2014 already?  Didn't the ball just drop in Times Square?

Since then, the year has been FULL of long days, countless messes, sisters bickering and arguing, tears cried, tantrums thrown, and several head wounds treated.

BUT, the year has also been jam-packed with laughter and giggles, smiles and joy unspeakable.  We have crammed as much as we possibly could into 2014: trips to the zoo, storytimes at the library, playing at various parks, nature hikes, exploring around our own yard, making crafts of all kinds, baking cookies and muffins and more, learning about the sun, moon, leaves, apples and tons of other cool stuff with our homeschool curriculum, play dates, family vacations, and who knows what all else.  Most importantly, memories were made!

On a personal level, I reached my goals of running a 5K, a 10K, and my first ever half-marathon.  I even crossed the finish line under 2 hours (a huge surprise to me, but goes to show you can do more than you think)!  I made MANY new friends, reconnected with people from high school and college, and went deeper with some dear people I already knew.  I was able to retire from my in-home daycare, grow my It Works business, help people invest in their health, and spend more time with my girls on a daily basis.  Lawrence and I celebrated 7 years of marriage with a surprise trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas.  We have grown closer together as we served as a family at Ponca Bible Camp and opened up our home each week to a group of middle school and junior high kids.  Our girls turned 1, 3, and 5 and are such a blessing to us.  2015 truly was a wonderful year as God worked in and through us...

As I reflect on the past 365 days (well, almost that many - still have a couple days left in 2014 to sneak in a few more special times), I am simply OVERWHELMED.  There's really no other way to put it.  God has been SO good and faithful to us, as He always is.  He seems to be doing a NEW work, though, or at least opening my eyes, ears, mind, and heart in new ways.  He's probably been extremely consistent all 31 years of my life since He is UNCHANGING, but as He transforms me from the inside out, I am becoming the woman He created me to be, learning to think more like Him, to walk by faith, and to carry out the amazing plans He has carefully prepared for me before time even began.

That's a crazy thought right there - God has a specific purpose for my life.  It's not a haphazard, last-minute plan thrown together in haste, but rather something He laid out before He spoke the world into existence.  Before I was born - before the sun, moon, and stars were in place - all my days were written out in God's book.  And all those pages are filled with GOOD plans, plans for a future and a hope.  I am His workmanship, crafted with care.  I am His masterpiece on display for all to see, so that He might be glorified and honored and praised.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who does not make mistakes of any kind.  I am filled with dreams, to big for me to fulfill on my own, so that as they come true, all will see my life and HAVE to exclaim how wonderful God is, how powerful and majestic and utterly awesome He is.  I am broken, imperfect, ordinary - just like YOU.  BUT, I serve a perfect, extraordinary, supernatural God who specializes in using the weak and weary to showcase His strength and love and faithfulness.

So, as I prepare to head into another year, I am EXCITED.  I am eager to see what God has in store for me, for my family, for YOU, in 2015!

Just as we have been counting down the days to Christmas, waiting in expectation for the day of Jesus' birth, I am anxiously awaiting something even bigger and better - His return!!!!  We don't know the day or the hour when Jesus will come back, but it could be ANY day, maybe even TODAY.  Going into 2015, I want to make more of an effort to live in this way, to wake up looking forward to the possibility of seeing my Savior face to face.  This will require intentionality and dedication on my part, but I truly believe I will get so much more out of life as I do.  Jesus Himself said He came to give us abundant life.  That life can be found in Him and Him alone.  Thus, I want 2015 to be a year where I practice ABIDING in Him, treasuring His Word, following in His footsteps, walking hand in hand with Him as He guides me along the path He has picked out for me.  I want 2015 to be a year where I learn to DELIGHT myself in the Lord, to find my ultimate pleasure and joy and satisfaction in His presence.

We were going through an Advent devotional this year and towards the end read something that struck me deep in my heart, "Jesus doesn't give you what you need; Jesus IS what you need."

Only as I seek Jesus will I become the woman I was created to be.
Only as I long for Jesus, wanting HIM more than anything or anyone else, will I experience the abundant life He came to give me.
Only as I make my heart at home in Jesus will 2015 be the best year yet.

My prayer for this coming year is that I will be able to do as Louie Giglio challenged in his book Waiting Here for You: An Advent Journey of Hope:

Don't settle down today as if the earth is your retirement home.  
You, my friend, are just passing through.
Everything you see is passing away.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is to live as if this world is all there is, 
when God's promise is for so MUCH MORE.
So MAKE THE MOST of every moment while you're here.
If you see something wrong, seek to fix it,
but as you do, know that Jesus is preparing something brand new (and exponentially better) 
for those who have put their hope in Him.
Endure like you believe this world will fade, but Jesus will remain.

With that, I wish you the very best as you celebrate CHIRSTmas and prepare to begin this new year! 

May 2015 be full of long days spent with Jesus, soaking Him up and cherishing His presence above all else.  

May 2015 be the year you realize God created you, loves you deeply, has a special plan for your life, and wants to work in and through you in ways you could never even begin to fathom, ways FAR beyond your wildest dreams.  

May 2015 be the year you experience the abundant life Jesus came to give you.  

May 2015 be your best year yet!

*Photo credits to Ashley Alexander with AAlexander Photography

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Kellah Grace {3 Years Old}

My little girl is growing up...

Wasn't she just born yesterday?

I remember that morning like it was yesterday, but sadly, I have blinked quite a few times between then and now.  Reality sinks in, and I must admit that my baby girl isn't a baby anymore.  She's 3!

She may be small (fitting in 18 month clothes just fine), but Kellah does NOT lack in personality.  Where she is short on size, she is BIG and LARGE in attitude, smiles, laughs, energy, and zeal for life.  This girl cracks me up on a daily basis!

Problem is that she KNOWS she is cute, and uses that to her advantage on a daily basis as well.  She certainly knows how to push my buttons, but I can't be mad for long. Not when she smiles back at me like this!

The girl has no fear.  She doesn't seem to care, or even realize, that she's little for her age (have been asked by countless people recently when she will be turning TWO).  She gets in there and hangs with the older kids.  She can hold her own.  If she doesn't like the way something is going, she makes her vocie heard and her opinion known.  She will not be left out, that's for sure.

She's the middle child and seemingly always in the middle of EVERYTHING.  She follows her big sister around like a shadow, but she is starting to do more on her own as well.  Coloring and drawing and "writing" have become some of her favorite activities as of late.  She also enjoys building, playing with her dolls, riding her bike/scooter, and tattling on her sisters.  She has fun baking and doing crafts.  During school time, she does puzzles and insists on doing "her work" too.

Kellah is also developing a heart for Jesus.  She likes to sing songs - mostly ones she makes up or has heard Coralyn sing.  She makes sure we read our Bible each night.  And her prayers.  Her prayers!!  They always start with "Amen."  They are so sweet, "Amen.  Thank you for Jesus.  Amen.  Thank you for Daddy.  Amen.  Thank you for Mommy.  Amen.  Thank you for the bunny rabbits and carrots.  Amen.  Thank you for our bed...."  Yes, she has that many amens all in one prayer! :)  

Most nights Coralyn and Kellah will sleep in the same bed, falling asleep as they read books or tell each other made up stories.  Melts my heart every time...

I seriously don't know what I would do without this precious child.  She may not greet me first thing with a hug and kiss each morning.  More like, "Mommy, I want my oatmeal."  But when she does sit on my lap, I enjoy those sweet cuddles.  She's not one to sit still for more than a few seconds, so those times are few and far between and cherished when they happen!!!  

I pray my Kellah Bear (what I called her as a baby) grows up to be the Gracious Warrior her name means.  I pray she stands bold and firm in her faith, not backing down or giving in because something is hard or becuase she's the only one doing what's right.  I pray her love for Jesus grows daily and flourishes as she commits to living all out for Him, pursuing Him with passion and purpose.  I know God has amazing plans for my little girl.  Like David, she is going to take on giants and win.  Just you watch and see!!!

For now, she can definitely make you smile!

I know I love her with all my heart!!!!
So, even though this blog post is a day late, here's to a Happy Birthday to my dear Kellah!!!

*Photo credits to Ashley Alexander with AAlexander Photography!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Filled Up and Poured Out {Living a Passionate, Purposeful Life}

Have you dared to dream big yet?  
Are you realizing you have a God-ordained destiny that will blow your mind?

Are you ready to be BOLD in your faith?
Do you understand that people might think you're crazy, but that's actually a really GOOD thing?

Have you faced the enemy yet?
Are you dressed for battle?
Do you remember that your brothers and sisters are standing by your side, and that as we put our shields together, we are stronger and WILL come out VICTORIOUS?!

Have you committed to going all in?
Are you prepared to live out each day to the fullest, finding God even in the "mundane" and "ordinary" aspects of life?
As you do, are you confident that God will fulfill the desires of your heart, show you the amazing plans and purposes He has for you, and bring much glory to His name?

If you're just joining us for this series on living a passionate, purposeful life, I invite you to go back and start at the beginning.  Get a foundation for WHY this way of life is the only truly satisfying way to spend our time on earth.  Then, come back and finish out with us today as we look at how POWERFUL choosing to lay it all on the line for God can be - in your life, in the lives of everyone you know, and also far, FAR beyond to the most remote corner of the world, and EVERYWHERE inbetween...

If you haven't realized it by now, I have some news for you:
We are CALLED to live passionate, purposeful lives.
We were made for this very reason.
Yes, indeed.
Made in the image of God, a God who is passionate and purposeful Himself, we are to reflect His character to the world.  We are here on this earth first to KNOW Him and then to MAKE HIM KNOWN.

And thus, we should be DESPERATE to see God's plans and purposes worked out in us, through us, all around us.

Every morning we wake up, we should thank God.  We have been given an incredible gift - another day to live for Him, to serve Him, to please Him, to delight in Him.  We must realize each day, each MOMENT is an opportunity to go deeper in our relationship with God, another chance to show someone else how to do the same, to JOIN YOU in living with passion and purpose.

As we embrace this way of living, our expectations should be hightened.  We should have a spring in our step.  We should be known for our eagerness as we seek God out in every aspect of our lives.  Others should comment how earnest we are in following after God day in and day out.  Because, after all, remember dear ones, we are CREATED FOR THIS VERY REASON.
We are called to live passionate, purposeful lives.

We have but ONE life to live.
Should we not then make the most of it?
We can't afford to hold back.
We truly can't.

ALL that we do is to be done for the glory and honor of God.
And thus, we ought to be passionate about EVERY part of life - even the laundry...

To live this way is not natural, or easy.
But it is REWARDING.

In order to do this, to fulfill the plans and purposes God has for us, to carry out the tasks He has prepared for us and created us to do, we must INVITE Him in to our lives, every single part.
As we do, a spectacular, supernatural thing happens - God fills us with HIMSELF!!!  

Stop and read that again.
It's quite powerful.
And all that He is comes rushing in, flooding our hearts and minds.

the same power that spoke the world into existence,
the same power that made the lame walk and the blind see,
the same power that parted the Red Sea and dried up the Jordan River and brought the walls of Jericho tumbling down,
the same power that raised Jesus Christ back to life.

Yes, that power is within me, within YOU!!!

If that right there doesn't boost your confidence, I don't know what will.

However, if you're like me, you still have your moments of doubt, of fear, of hesitation.

You shrink back, you let what others may think of you keep you from doing what you were called to do, from becoming who you were created and designed and destined to BE.

You play it safe, you let worry of the unknown and all the "what if's" win out over all the "God can's" and the promises for Him to be with you, to lead you, to bless you.

And sadly, we miss out.
BIG time.

We MUST change.
This CANNOT continue.
Not any more.
I for one am putting my foot down.
I am standing my ground.
And I am committing to going forward, to PURSUING God, to seeking Him, to follow hard after Him, to fix my eyes on Jesus so that I can run with endurance the race set out before me and cross the finish line with joy and elation, knowing I will be falling into the arms of my Savior and hearing Him whisper in my ear, "Well done my good and faithful servant!"

I need YOUR help though!
We need to come together to stir up our faith, to build each other up, to keep each other on track.

We are not promised tomorrow.
But we have been given today.
Today is a gift.
TODAY is another opportunity for us to live out our dreams, to fulfill our destinies.
TODAY is another chance for us to do the very thing for which we were created, to become who we are meant to be, to help others do the same.

How many lives can we touch?
How many people can we help?

That depends.
How purposeful are we going to be?
How passionate are we about this life we have been given?

We are getting ready to end one year and begin another.
As you look back on 2014, are you satisfied?
Or are you left wanting more?

As we head into 2015, let's begin with the end in mind.
On December 31, 2015, I want to stand before you, exhausted, spent, poured out, knowing I left it all on the line, gave everything I had to know God and make Him known.
I don't want to have any regrets.
Instead, I want to be 100% confident I did everything with passion and purpose.

I have been created for this very reason.
So have you.

We are filled with the power of God Himself.
I am excited to see what happens as we allow that divine power to bubble up and spill out of us as we live passionate, purposeful lives!!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Want Versus Have {Living a Passionate, Purposeful Life}

Changing diapers.
Picking up toys.
Breaking up fights.
Preparing meals.

I may do all of these things on a daily basis, but I am super passionate about any of them?  Granted, I am extremely BLESSED to be a wife and mother.  I realize I am BLESSED to be able to stay home with my young girls and spend each day with them.  I understand I am BLESSED to be doing all these things, but if I am honest, I am not exactly passionate about the individual tasks on my to-do list each day.  Put them all together, and I AM passionate about my role as a wife and mother.  Wouldn't trade that for the world.  Being a wife and mother has been my dream for the longest time.  I remember praying late into the night with my closest frriends in college, asking God to fulfill our dreams of being married and having kids.  He has certainly done that, and more.  So, yes, I am BLESSED and thankful.

YET, those mundane things I HAVE to do daily are not exactly flooding my heart with joy and happiness and passion.  I can't not do them though.  Well, I could forgo those responsibilities for a few days, but I don't think that would have a very pretty outcome...

If my life day in and day out is not all I had hoped, does that mean I am in the wrong place, that I need to change how I "do" life?  NO!!!  Well, not exactly...

I am 100% confident I am right where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what God has called me to do.  I AM living out my dreams.  I AM fulfilling the plans and purposes for which I was created.  BUT, in order to do that, I have to dig past the piles of laundry, push through the dirty diapers, and look beyond the "ordinary" things I am doing over and over and over day after day after day.  To truly become the wife, the mother, the friend, the neighbor, the WOMAN I was created to be, I have to look for God in the midst of the mundane.  And He is there to be found.  I just have to open my eyes and see Him.  I have to tune my ears and listen and hear Him.  As I do, my perspective will change.  So will my entire life...

You see, living a passionate, purposeful life starts with HOW YOU VIEW LIFE.
We can't separate life into the sacred and secular.
There are no boxes.
EVERYTHING is about God.
God is in all things.
And all things are to be done for His glory and honor.

Paul reminds us of that in his letter to the Colossians, "And WHATEVER you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to Him through God the Father."  

He actually repeats this concept just a few short verses later, "Work WILLINGLY at WHATEVER you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ."

That WHATEVER includes picking up toys (the same ones for the millionth time).  It includes changing diapers, getting up in the middle of the night to take someone to the bathroom, changing sheets because you didn't get there in time.  It includes folding laundry and washing dishes and preparing meals and driving everyone to their activities.  It includes writing thank you notes, paying the bills, buying groceries, scrubbing toilets, singing Old MacDonald for the 100th time, reading Good Night Moon so many times you have the book memorized and don't even need to turn the pages but do so your kids think you are actually pyaing attention as you "read."  It includes ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you do on a daily basis, whether it fills you with joy or dread.  It means WHATEVER you do.

The catch is all in HOW you go about doing the WHATEVER.
Are you doing it out of obligation?
Or because you enjoy it?
Is it a HAVE to or a WANT to?

Passionate, purposeful living is rooted in this right here.
It is understanding and accepting that EVERYTHING is a mission field.
Your cubicle.
The grocery store.
The gym.
The people next door, even the neighbors with the unmowed grass and random tires in their backyard.  Especially those neighbors.
Your family.  Yes, even the cousins who annoy you to the core.  Especially those cousins.
EVERYONE and EVERYTHING is your mission field.

God has put you where you are for a reason.
You have purpose.
You were created to do good things.
God puts dreams and desires in your heart.
He then gives you the faith to carry them out.
And as you BELIEVE and act on those promptings, those stirrings, those whispers in your ear, you will be bringing massive amounts of glory to God...

Paul assures us of this.  Indeed, it was his very prayer for the believers in Thessalonica,
"So we keep on praying for you, 
asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of His call.  
May He give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.  
Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, 
and you will be honored along with Him.  
This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ."

I was reminded of this foundational truth - that PERSPECTIVE is everything as we set out to live passionate, purposeful lives - as I listened to a CD of Christine Caine speaking.  I ever so grateful to my friend Holly for sending those CDs to me in the mail.  That package is changing my life.  In sharing what I am learning and how I am growing, I hope you too are encouraged and challenged and inspired.  I pray you too choose to pursue God with every fiber of your being, that you commit to following after Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, that you LONG for Him above all else, and ultimately that you are filled with joy and peace and strength and power and love as you pour yourself out for our Jesus (because He will keep on refilling you and you'll never be empty again).

Caine reminded me how we so often confuse the supernatural and the spectacular.  People are looking all around for the spectacular.  The bigger, the better.  In fact, if it's not big, it's not worth their time or energy.  If you don't have something BIG to back up your claims or something BIG to prove your way is the best, then people sadly aren't going to listen.  And they will miss out on what God is doing...

You see, God is NOT about the spectacular.  Yes, He can do some spectacular things.  Parting the Red Sea was pretty amazing.  Restoring sight to a blind man is incredible.  Raising someone back to life is downright miraculous.  So, God CAN do the spectacular.  And He does.  BUT, that's NOT His heart.  Nope.  He is more about the SUPERNATURAL than anything.  

Recognizing, and understanding, the difference is crucial to living a passionate, purposeful life.

If we get caught up in watching for the spectacular, we don't see the supernatural things God is doing everyday, all around us.  When I realize this, I remember that God is in the midst of EVERYTHING, and thus NOTHING is a waste of time.  Sweeping and mopping and vaccuuming take on a whole new meaning.  Changing diapers, picking up toys, breaking up fights, playing board games, crunching numbers, waving at the neighbor, smiling at the store clerk.  They all have meaning.  Purpose.  And they can all be done with passion.

For only as we see God in the mundane will He fully reveal Himself in bigger ways.
Only as we commit to doing the "little" things well will God entrust us with the "bigger" things.
As we develop an attitude of trust and faith and surrender in our daily lives, God will lead us deeper into His truth, asking us to come out on the water with Him.  When He does, we will be ready to get out of the boat, to walk on the water, to follow wherever He leads, do whatever He asks.

Back to my original lists of daily to-do's.
Changing diapers.
Picking up toys.
Breaking up fights.
Preparing meals.

While they may not appear to be doing anything to help me fulfill my dreams or accomplish my big life goals, I must not forget they are exactly what I am to be doing.  Indeed, they are the stepping stones, showing the way on this path God has carefully and lovingly prepared for me.  Each task has meaning, purpose.  And so I must commit to doing them with passion.

My life does not end there, though.
Rather, this is simply the beginning.
The door opening to much more...

Writing books
Speaking engagements
Touching countless lives all around the world
Inspiring other mamas
Encouraging tired, weary souls
Helping lift downtrodden faces, raising their bleak eyes to Jesus where they stare hope, peace, joy, love in the face
Carrying the faint of heart and laying them at the feet of Jesus, placing them in His arms so He can embrace them with His strength and faithfulness and goodness and grace

I truly believe God has called me to do those things.
And it excites me.
A lot (yes, those two little words are FAR overused, but I don't know how else to put it)
A WHOLE lot (there is that better?!)
I know I was made for all that, and more.

But I must not forget that I am also made for the "mundane" - the laundry, the dishes, the dirty diapers, the meals, the errands, etc.

My daily life may not be glamorous, but it is definitely purposeful.
Thus, I will do it ALL with passion.
As I do, I am beyond excited to see how God "gives me the desires of my heart."
As I come to DELIGHT in Him in ALL things, I know He will do more than I can even begin to imagine or dare to dream possible (Psalm 37; Ephesians 3:20)!

Won't you join me?
What is God calling you to do RIGHT NOW?
Who is He calling you to be?

May we do those things well, and watch and see what happens as God leads us, flings open doors, and shows us the amazing things He has planned for us...

"No eye has seen,
No ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love Him."
~1 Corinthians 2:9

And so...
May we live for God EACH day in ALL things.
May we serve Him out of a WANT TO rather than a HAVE TO attitude.
May we remember THAT is what passionate, purposeful living is really all about!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Facing the Enemy {Living A Passionate, Purposeful Life}

War is everywhere these days.
Genocides in Africa.
Racism in Ferguson, Missiouri and New York City and everywhere in between.
Jealously, affairs, divorce.
Frustration, anger, child abuse.

Everywhere you look, sin stares right back at you.
Everyone, everywhere is affected.

We are ALL involved in this war.
Though, we tend to forget.
We get busy with life.  The responsibilities, the chores, the tasks, the running to and fro.
In all our coming and going, we don't actually SEE the enemy.
But he's there.  And he's ALWAYS attacking, ALWAYS sneaking, ALWAYS plotting.

Oh yes, he's very real.
Ephesians 6: 12 assures us of that, "For we are not fighthing against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."

And he's very serious about his mission.
"The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy." ~John 10:10

"Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." ~1 Peter 5:8

Satan may be a theif and roaring lion out to steal, kill, destroy, and devour, but he's extremely quiet and stealth in the way he goes about his evil work.

In fact, I think one of his greatest tactics is to keep us so busy that we forget about him.
He distracts us with everything else going on in life.
He overwhelms us.  He discourages us.
He highlights things that don't go our way, heaping on the disappointment.
He emphasizes how life isn't fair, and blinds us in our disillusionment.

We don't even realize what's happening because we have become so accustomed to running around like chickens with our heads cut off.  We fall into bed each night exhausted, and as we lay our heads on the pillow, we go to sleep, wondering if there isn't more to life.

We wake up in the morning, still exhausted, looking for satisfaction and fulfillment.
We don't really have time to do any soul searching, though.
We're too busy keeping up with the Jones, hurrying from one activity to another.
Going through the motions, trying to look like we have it all together, takes up all our time, all our energy.  We don't have anything left to give.  We're emptying and running on fumes.

But that's just how life is, right?
It does NOT have to be that way.
It is NOT supposed to be this way!

Jesus has a much different, much BETTER way.
Looking back at John 10:10 we see that He came to "give us a rich and satisfying life."  Some other translations describe this as the "abundant life."  This is His purpose.  His passion.

Yes, our God is a purposeful, passionate God.
Being created in His image, shouldn't we be purposeful, passionate people?
Should we not be living passionate, purposeful lives?

Jesus left all of heaven's glories to come to earth.  Born a babe, in a dusty stable, a manage of hay for a bed.  How fitting to remember as we celebrate Christmas...

He then lived for 33 short years, misunderstood and severely mistreated.  He gave up all His rights of deity to become man, to suffer and die on my behalf, in MY place.  He was beaten past recognition, then nailed to a cross, mocked and left to suffocate.  As He breathed his last, He cried out, "It is finished!"  My debt was paid.  My sins erased.  Forgiven.  Forgotten.  And 3 days later, when the stone was rolled from the tomb, and my Savior was raised back to life, death was defeated.  A new life began.

This new life is available for anyone and everyone.
Jesus' offer for a "rich and satisfying life" in John 10:10 is open to all mankind.
To me.

If we choose to accept this amazing gift, we are able to start afresh.
As Paul encourages us in 2 Corinthians 5, "the old is gone, the new has come!"
This new life is all about living out the purpose for which we were created, fulfilling the destiny God has for each and every one of us.

You see, my dear friends, we are not aimlessly wandering this earth.  We are here for a REASON.
We have purpose.
And by all means we should be filled and overflowing with PASSION as we "do the good things planned for us long ago." (see Ephesians 2:10 and be sure to catch that you are God's MASTERPIECE!)

We ought to be consumed with ZEAL for Jesus.  Our hearts should be bursting with love and gratitude for this man who gave His life on our behalf.  Every day, every moment, should be spent expressing our thanks to Him.  From the moment we open our eyes in the morning to the time we close them at night, we should be EAGERLY awaiting His return, EARNESTLY seeking to know Him more and more, DILIGENTLY working to make Him known to every man, woman, and child in every corner of the world.

When someone sees us, they should notice something different about us.
Our passion should set us apart.
But it should also draw others to us, for they are LONGING for what we have.
They may not come out and admit it, but they are empty, broken, wanting more.
They are looking in all the wrong places, though.
A big house with a 3 car garage.
A title.
Fill in the blank...

We have the answer!!!  We have the hope they need.  We have the joy they are missing. We have the peace they are frantically trying to find.  We have JESUS.  And get this - the same power that raised Jesus from the dead all those years ago is inside US today.  Right now.

Tell me that isn't powerful.
Tell me we shouldn't be excited about that.
Tell me we shouldn't be jumping up and down, shouting at the top of our lungs to share what we have.
Tell me we shouldn't be purposeful in reaching others with this amazing, life-changing news so they too can experience the power and peace and joy and strength and hope and love of Jesus themselves.
Tell me we shouldn't be passionate about this mission we have been given.

Tell me we should just go with the flow.
Fit in.
Be normal.

No, thank you.
I much prefer the wild, crazy, fierce, passionate, purposeful life to which God has called me.
So, today, I face my enemy.
I look him square in the eye.
And I let him know that he's not going to defeat me.
He may have come to steal, kill, and destroy, but he's not going to win.  Not in my life.
I am claiming victory - not in my own strength or power, but through the name of Jesus Christ.

I stand armed for battle, dressed for war.
Stand with me.
We'll be stronger together...

Monday, December 8, 2014

#SorryNotSorry {Living a Passionate, Purposeful Life}

"Every man dies, but not every man truly lives." ~William Wallace, Braveheart movie

Last week, I listened to a CD from a friend.  She had seen me post about how the message from Women's Retreat had really touched me, so she mailed me a Christine Caine sermon on Passionate Living.  Her words only fueled the fire that was already burning in my heart.  Her enthusiasm stirred the embers.  Her excitement was like putting more wood in the pile.  Her joy, her passion, her purpose were undeniable.  As I listened, something inside me awakened.  

I tend to be a practical realist.  
BUT, God is working on my heart.
He's transforming me into a passionate dreamer.
He's helping me see the bigger picture of life.
He's reminding me I only have one life to live, so I had better make the most of it.
And to do that, to experience the ABUNDANT life Jesus left heaven and came to earth to offer me, I must lay it ALL on the line, pour myself out, and trust that in losing myself, I will gain EVERYTHING.  

And so, I am been mulling over what exactly this means, what this passionate, purposeful living looks like day in and day out.

Part of me is so excited, I want to climb to the tallest mountain and shout at the top of my lungs.
Another part of me, quite a BIG part, is scared to death, terrified of what others will think, worried that people will roll their eyes, call me crazy, ignore me, or perhaps even mock me.

I have to choose which part of me I am going to listen to.  
I have decided.
Excitement, enthusiasm, desire, dreams, hopes, goals, prayers, courage, and FAITH have won out.
For today...

You see, it's a DAILY decision.
Not a one time thing.
Rather, each day, moment by moment really, I have to CHOOSE to fix my eyes on Jesus and seek Him, pursue Him, make Him my first priority, and sacrifice all else to get to Him, to know Him, to make Him known.

This type of passionate, purposeful living is not easy.
But it's definitely rewarding.
Totally worth it.
The prize at the end of the race, when I am totally spent and fall flat on my face before Jesus as I cross the finish line, will be more amazing than I can even begin to imagine.  I picture my Savior picking me up, looking me square in the eye, embracing me, and whispering in my ear as He holds me tight, "Well done, Sarah.  Well done.  I am proud of you!"

I get chills just typing that.
I am almost crying.
To know my Jesus is honored by my life, that He is glorified, that He is pleased with me, that I bring Him joy, that I make Him proud...


Yet, part of me wants to hold back, to play it safe.
I don't want to push any buttons, to step on any toes, to call anyone out, to make anyone uncomfortable, to have anyone feel awkward.  
Yet, I do.  
I DO want to do all that.

I want to be radical.
Set apart.

Because that's how my Jesus was.
And He has called me to follow Him, to be like Him.

So, I am giving you all fair warning.
I will NOT be quiet.
I will NOT stand on the sidelines.
I will NOT be indifferent.
I will NOT be passive.
If any of that offends you, I am #SorryNotSorry...

Instead, I am going to be LOUD, active, intentional, eager, earnest, diligent, dedicated, committed.
I am going to be living life to the FULLEST.
I am going to be seeking after Jesus with every fiber of my being.
I am praying for Him to show me His ways and to lead me in them.
I am asking Him for the courage and strength to follow wherever He may take me.
I am trusting Him to provide for me, to satisfy me, to fill me.
I am looking to Him and Him alone.
I am giving Him my heart, my soul, my mind, my everything.
I am going to be passionate and purposeful as I make the most of each day I am given.
Again, if any of that bothers you, I am #SorryNotSorry...

The other day, in the message I was listening to, Christine Caine mentioned how Shirley Valentine (I think that is who she quoted) commented on the sad but true reality, "Most of us are dead before we die, and the thing that kills us is all of this unused life that we carry around."

Well, I have resolved to NOT let that statement be said of me.
I'm going to do what Robin Williams challenged his students to do in the movie Dead Poets Society, "Make the decision to suck the marrow out of this thing called life."

The author of Hebrews made much the same summons many, many, many years ago:
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith 
(see Hebrews chapter 11 for specific and inspiring examples), 
let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith."

Paul, a man completely changed by Christ and fully committed to living all out for Him, wrote something very similar in his letter to the believers in Rome:

"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I PLEAD with you to give your bodies to God 
because of all He has done for you.  
Let them be a living and holy SACRIFICE - the kind He will find acceptable.  
This is truly the way to worship Him.  
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, 
but let God transform you into a new perosn by changing the way you think.  
Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

He didn't just talk about living this way, though.  Oh no, Paul actually DID what he said.  He poured out his life for Jesus, as we can see in his words to the Philippian church:

"I once thought these things were valuable,
 but now I consider them WORTHLESS because of what Christ has done.  
Yes, everything else is WORTHLESS 
when compared with the INFINITE value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  
For His sake I have discared EVERYTHING else, counting it all as GARBAGE, 
so that I can GAIN Christ and become one with Him.  
I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; 
rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.  
For God's way of making us right with Himself depends on faith.  
I want to KNOW CHRIST and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead.  
I want to suffer with Him, sharing in His death, 
so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!  
I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things 
or that I have already reached perfection.  
But I PRESS ON to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, 
forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 
I PRESS ON to reach the end of the race 
and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."

That, my friends, is how I too want to live!
This is how I am committing to living right NOW.
That is how I am going to be living from this moment forward.

I urge you to join me.
Then, we can be #SorryNotSorry together! :)


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