Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What Is Freedom?

To the slaves during Lincoln's time, freedom might have a different meaning or conotation than it does for me as a Caucausian woman in the 21st century today.

And my definition might be completely different than a mother in Saudia Arabia or a teenage girl caught in human trafficking far from her homeland.

And the way each of us explains freedom could be totally different than a commander in the Army or a prisoner in a Chinese jail or a young boy trying to figure out life with autism.

So many different ways to explain it.
All because there are so many different people, all from different walks of life and in different places at this very moment.

Personal experience.
Economic status.
Time period.

And that's just a short list of what could possibly affect one's interpretation of FREEDOM.

I have been contemplating the meaning of freedom lately.

Today, freedom meant I had the opportunity to stop my work at the computer and take my "baby" girl upstairs to read her some books before laying her down for an afternoon nap.  This morning, freedom let me sleep in and cuddle with my oldest daughter before her sisters woke up.  Freedom also allowed us to go to a Moms' Group for a play date before running some errands.

For the past seven days, freedom has meant I have been able to stay home with my 5 year old who was suffering with a ruptured ear drum.  I didn't have to drop her off at daycare or take off work so I could keep her home with me.  I didn't have to rearrange plans or call anyone to get permission to set up an emergency chiropractor appointment or run to the store to get some ear drops.  I was able to do what I needed to do when I needed.  I was able to be the mom I wanted.  I was THERE for my little girl.  I HATED watching her experience such pain.  I HATED that I couldn't take it away or snap my fingers and make everything all better.  BUT, I was THERE for her, and that is what matters most.  THAT is freedom to me.  This past week at least.

My definition of freedom is always changing and growing and adapting.
I think it is for all of us.

As I reflect on the FREEDOM I have had as a mom recently, I am blown away by the way God has been at work in my life.  This freedom is all of Him and from Him.  A gift.  A blessing.

I am certainly thankful for this type of freedom, but I am even more grateful - ETERNALLY so - for the freedom I have in Christ.  We celebrated Easter a few weeks ago, remembering Jesus' sacrifical death on the cross as payment for our sins and then His miraculous resurrection from the dead 3 days later, proving He is all-powerful and sovereign and worthy of our praise.  Because of THAT, I have freedom both now and forever and ever.

I am no longer in bondage to sin.
Yes, I will die physically (unless Jesus comes back first, which I am praying fervently that He does), BUT I will NEVER die spiritually.  My body will return to ashes, but my soul will be with Jesus in heaven, in His presence, for all eternity.  And when that time comes, there will be no more sickness or sadness, no more ear aches, no more cancer or miscarriages or anything else that causes grief here on earth.

Not only am I free from sin's power, but I am given the amazing privilege of sharing this good news with anyone and everyone I can.  As I read this morning in 1 Peter, I have been RESCUED out of darkness and called in to the marvelous light.  Best part is that I can invite others to join me in this light!  I can extend to them the same gift of salvation Jesus freely offered me.

Another song reminds me that I am free to run.
And so I run to the Light, run to His power and presence, His love and grace, His mercy and hope, His peace and joy, His strength and wisdom.  I am FILLED with the Light, so much so that it shines out of me onto anyone and anything I touch.

This freedom is not for me to clutch to my chest and keep for myself.  Oh no, this freedom grows and gets better and better as I share it with others.  The more the merrier!

What about YOU?
How would you describe FREEDOM?

Have you experienced ETERNAL freedom?
If not, I invite you to do so today!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Worst-Case Scenario

Are you a glass half empty or half full type of person?

Do you look for the silver lining or do you focus all the what if's and worst case scenarios?

Last night, at a women's Bible study, I was deeply challenged.

I was reminded - and convicted - to live a life of courage.
Not fear.
Not timidity.
Not worry.
Not dred.
Not hesitation.
Not regret.
Not intimidation.

What is a life of courage?
What does being courageous look like?
Does that mean you are never scared or nervous?
Does that mean you are always confident and bold?

Not exactly.
I love what Jennie Allen shared last night on the DVD.  She explained how courageous people ARE scared, but they do what needs to be done anyway.  She used David as an example.  You know David?  The little boy who faced a towering giant, taking only a sling shot and 5 stones with him to fight this armored veteran whose shield probably weighed more than David did!

David didn't focus on Goliath's size.
Or his sword.
Or the entire Philistine army gathered behind him, ready to attack the Israelites and take them captive as their slaves.

David didn't worry about getting a shield or sword himself.
Nor a helmet for his head.
King Saul tried to outfit the shepherd boy in his own royal gear, but it fell off the much smaller, and younger, David.

So, David headed down to the stream and picked out 5 smooth stones.
Armed with these rocks (measly pepples in the giant's eyes), young David headed to face Goliath.
Perhaps the shepherd boy was quaking in his sandals on the inside, but from what we see in Scripture, he was quite bold and extremely confident as he climbed the hill to approach the 9 foot giant who had been mocking his God.

You see, THAT is what David cared about.  THAT is what motivated him to volunteer to do battle against Goliath.

He wasn't in this for his pride, to show off, or accumulate massive amounts of wealth.
David was ADAMANT that God's name be defended.  How dare this man - who cares if he's a giant - make fun of the Creator of the universe, the God of their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?!  David could NOT let that go.

He didn't see the Philistine army.
He didn't see a 9 foot giant armed with sword and shield.
He saw GOD ready to help His people conquer this pagan nation and claim the victory that was rightfully theirs.

David didn't even consider a worst-case scenario.
His FAITH in God was rock solid.
He didn't doubt or question if God could protect him.
He didn't hesitate or stop to formulate the perfect plan.
He simply saw a need, made himself available, and let God do the rest.

THAT is what emboldened David and gave him the COURAGE needed to walk up to Goliath and declare that GOD would hand him over to him and that he would cut off his head.  Pretty BOLD for a small shepherd boy!

If only we could live with the same kind of courage!

Stop right there.
Why can't we?
Don't we serve the SAME GOD as David?!
YES, we do.

And He's just as powerful today.
We may face different giants, but when we do, GOD is right there with us too.
Ready to give us the victory.
If only we would ask Him to help us.

Instead, all too often, we focus on the worst-case scenario.
As a result, we get trapped in fear, worry, dred, and anxiety.
We are gripped with intimidation, afraid of what people will think of us or concerned about what might happen if we fail or come up short.
We haven't even taken the first step and we're worried about not crossing the finish line or everything that MIGHT come up along the way to stop us or slow us down!

How ridiculous is that?!
Just about as silly as the Israelites looked when they refused to figth Goliath and the Philistines.
If David, a young shepherd boy can go up against a 9 foot giant, then surely we can face our fears, with the same FAITH and COURAGE he did.

To end the Bible study, we passed around cards and answered questions like:
What would your life look like if you lived without fear?
What is fear keeping you from?
How could you help others if you didn't live in fear?

As I said, I was challenged.
Moved to share with you all.

You see, if I step out in faith and live boldly and courageously, maybe that will inspire you to do the same.  Then, as you live out the plans and purposes God has laid on your heart, without fear in your heart, YOU will inspire someone else to do the same.  And the ripple effect will keep on going, getting bigger and bigger as it does.  In reality, we could CHANGE THE WORLD!

Let's not fear hold us back.
Throw away the worst-case scenarios and focus instead on what our AWESOME, powerful, amazing, loving, gracious, faithful, sovereign GOD can do.

When we do that, our hearts and minds are too full of GOD to make room for fear.

Monday, April 13, 2015

My Little Dreamer

If I have learned anything in the past 2 years, I have learned to DREAM.

I have realized the importance of dreaming.
And dreaming BIG.

I have come to understand how dreaming is beneficial and GOOD.
Not just for me.
Oh no, for my 3 young girls more than anything.

I want them to truly believe they can DO anything and BE anything when they grow up.
And not just then, but NOW too.
Why do we listen to the LIE that we have to grow up before we can fulfill our dreams or make a difference or impact a life or change the world?!

MY girls will NOT hear any of those lies in this house.
Not if I can help it.
Instead, they will be reminded DAILY that they can do whatever it is that God lays on their hearts.  If He gives them a dream, then by all means they should GO for it.  Who cares how ridiculous or big or hard or impossible it might be?  Who am I to stiffle their imagination or pop their bubble or bring them back down to reality?

I am their mama.
MY job is to give them HOPE.
My job is to model to them STRENGTH.
My job is to be an example of perseverance and determination and hard work.
My job is to show them what setting and reaching goals looks like in real life.
My job is to invite them to join me on the adventures God has for our family and to encourage them all along the way.

I am their mama.
I pray I teach them to dream.
To dream so big that people think we are a crazy family, and then to stand amazed as GOD brings our dreams to fruition as we TRUST Him and follow hard after Him.

Our ultimate purpose in life, the main reason we are here on this earth is to KNOW JESUS and to MAKE HIM KNOWN.
Everything else is secondary.

Now, how God chooses to work in our lives to fulfill those plans and purposes He has for us, that's a funny story.  I never ever in a MILLION years would have imagined that He would use a crazy wrap business to provide for our family and enable us to live out our dreams and help others do the same.  But, here He is doing just that.

And again, who am I to question GOD?

I am His child.
HE has given me HOPE.
He has modeled STRENGTH.
He has been the best example of perseverance and determination and hard work.
He has shown me what it means to set goals, to have a plan, and to do every single thing He said He would do.
He has invited me on a GRAND ADVENTURE, preparing the way in advance and then encouraging and supporting and sometimes even carrying me all along the way.

He is my Father.
And has CERTAINLY taught me to dream.
He is the MASTER dreamer.

I pray I can help my girls know this about Him.
And become like Him in this regard.

As a former teacher, I know children tend to learn best by WATCHING.
Someone recently told me, "People don't hear what you say.  They see what you DO."
Oh, I pray my 3 young girls (and the baby on the way) see me dreaming BIG, going after my dreams, and believing with all my heart that GOD has a plan and purpose for me that is so much more than I could ever imagine for myself.

In watching me, I pray they too will become DREAMERS.
Now, as children.
And NEVER lose that sense of wonder or their vivid imagination or child-like innocence.
I pray they take that with them as they grow up, changing the world all along the way.

Today, my 5 year old let me know that so far she is catching on quite well.  She saw our family dream board by my desk.  We went over everything on it.

Then, she asked me if we had any magazines.  I knew I kept those Family Fun magazines stored away for a reason!  I immediately got them out, and my daughter got right to work.  She keeps calling me over and showing me another thing she has found that she wants to do!  I LOVE it!

She inspires me.
Maybe I can learn more from her than she can learn from me!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

From the Bottom of My Heart

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

March was an amazing month for our family!  My husband and I earned $50,000 in bonuses from our health and wellness company It Works!  We worked HARD, but we couldn't have done this without help...

from YOU.
Thank you to all of who became customers for the first time.
Thank you to all of you who ordered something extra this month.
Thank you to all of you who told your friends about our natural health products.
Thank you to all of you who prayed for us.

God heard you.
He answered.
Big time.

So, of course, I have to thank Him.
Without Him, none of this would have happened.
No way!
HE gets ALL the glory.
ALL the credit.

Yes, I worked hard.
I posted on Facebook.  I sent LOTS of messages.  I sent LOTS of texts.  I made LOTS of phone calls.  I asked A LOT of people to become customers or take the step of faith and join my team.  I stayed up late.  I talked to moms at the park, the zoo, the library, the grocery store, everywhere we went.  I put it all out there.  I laid it all on the line.

My husband worked hard too.
He did LOTS of laundry, washed LOTS of dishes, vaccuumed floors, swept and mopped floors, cleaned toilets, took the girls on Daddy-daughter dates, spent good portions of the weekend watching the girls while I did parties, ran errands so I could get more work done, and sooooo many other things behind the scenes.  His work may have not been seen or seem like a big deal in terms of signing up customers and distributors.  BUT, without his help, we could not have promoted and earned these crazy bonuses!

So, yes, we worked hard.  I am not going to deny that.  You don't earn $50,000 in bonuses sitting on the couch, twidling your thumbs, and watching hours of television.

My team worked hard too.  They too enrolled new customers and distributors.  I couldn't have succeeded without their help.  That's the beauty of this business - you can NOT get to the top on your own.  You only get there by bringing others with you.  The more you bring, the higher you go.  It's a wonderful thing!

However, we HAVE to give credit where credit is due.
And that would be to GOD.
And HIM alone.

You see, all our work would have been in vain without His blessing.
I truly believe HE multiplied our efforts.
He took what we did and DOUBLED it.
Tripled it.
Quadrupled it.

The whole month is testimony to this.

First, we were given the vision of a "Big Ask," which confirmed in our hearts that God would do something "infinitely greater than we could ever ask or imagine."

As the month went on, I had people join my team who I never would have tought about asking even.  One friend in particular BLEW ME AWAY.  She was a blessing before becoming an It Works distributor with me, sending me CDs of Christine Cain's messages that continued to speak to my heart and stir up the fire God had first sparked on our church's womens' retreat.  Her saying YES to this journey was ALL God, and He has continued to use her to push me and keep me going and RUNNING on this path God has placed me.  He has prepared all of this in advance, but as He unfolds the story and shows me the next step - one step at a time - I can't help but stop and stand in awe, my jaw on the floor.

This wasn't the quote my friend sent me, but I can't find that one.
As I was looking, I found THIS one and it is perfectly fitting too!
All month, I held tightly to the promises that God was going to make this promotion happen.  However, with only a week left to fill spots on our charts and increase our sales volume SUBSTANTIALLY, I was beginning to wonder.  Doubt was creeping in.  God had me sit down and read on in the book of 1 Peter.  I had been doing a devotional on my phone, but I had finished it, and didn't know exactly what to read that morning.  I opened my Bible to 1 Peter to pick up where I had left off several weeks earlier.

As I read this familiar verse, God SPOKE to me.  He whispered in my ear.  He calmed my heart.
"I've got your back.  I know what this means to you.  I care about you.  Don't worry.  Trust Me.  I've got it covered."

And so, I got up from my chair, once more CONFIDENT God was going to come through. He was going to have to if this was going to happen.  That day I enrolled 4 new cusotmers.  The next day, I felt sick (due to my pregnancy) and spent the entire day on the couch.  Still, I enrolled 4 more new customers.  That night at church, I couldn't even make it through the entire service; I had to go into the nursing mothers' room and lie down on the couch.  Sunday, I enrolled another new customer.  Monday was the first day of my husband's Spring Break, so we went to the zoo in the morning.  When we got home, I enrolled 3 more new customers.  Tuesday, the last day of the month - the day everything HAD to be finalized and we were still JUST short of our goal - I enrolled 2 more new customers BEFORE leaving with the family to explore at the Nature Center.  By the time we got home that afternoon, EVERYTHING was in place and the promotion official.  We had indeed earned $50,000 in bonuses!

Looking back, I can't believe how it all unfolded.  14 customers in 5 days.
As if icing on the cake, I got a 15th customer an hour before the month end deadline, helping a team mate earn a $100 Fast Start Bonus.

In all, I personally enrolled 27 customers in March.
I also personally welcomed 8 new people to my team.
My monthly goal is 4 customers and 3 distributors.
I told you God doubled, tripled, and quadrupled my efforts.

On Friday, before I knew any of this was going to happen like it did, I made a list of what needed to happen for my husband to promote to Diamond and earn a $20,000 bonus.  I thought we MIGHT be able to accomplish everything on that list.  MIGHT.

I prayed over it and asked God to help us.
I told Him that ONLY He could make this happen, that without Him we would come up short.

He nudged me.
Make a list of what YOU need to go Double Diamond and earn that $30,000 bonus you really want.
I did.
And I shook my head and laughed.

NO way would we be able to do all of that.
But, again, I prayed and asked God to come through, reminding Him that ONLY with His help would this happen.

Then, I got to work.
I enrolled all those customers.
GOD sent them to me.
Some of them I knew and had been asking and following up with for awhile.
Others were totally off my radar, and I had NO idea they were even interested in the products.
Moms, dads, high school students, relatives, distant friends we only see once a year, people I have never even met (friends of friends of friends).
ALL of them were sent from God to order products for the first time.

God touched other people's hearts too.  People who were already customers.  They needed something extra this month or wanted to get something as a present for a family member.  They had run out of something and needed more, immediately.  Again, all those "extra" orders were of God too.  Some of them totalling the EXACT amount I needed under a specific team mate to reach a requirement for the promotion.  You can't tell me that is concidence.  Divine appointment is the ONLY explanation for it.  I haven't taken a math class since my junior year of high school, so I am glad God is a much better mathematician than me!

When everything was official and the promotions were announced, I cried.
All the emotions that had been welling up inside of me came rushing out.
I was so overwhelmed by God's goodness and grace and faithfulness and provision and love.
I don't deserve this.
And yet, He gives it to me freely.
He pours His blessings out on me.
Generously.  Lavishly.
And doing so gives Him joy!
I am His child, and He takes DELIGHT in making me smile.
The Creator of the Universe, the God who spoke the stars into existence and holds the planets in place, knows my name, the number of hairs of my head, and cares about EVERY detail of my life.

In fact, I knew this about God.
When there were 6 days left in the month, and we were still FAR from our goal, I was driving in the car.  At a stoplight, I was struck with the thought, "God made EVERYTHING in 7 days.  Well, 6 really, since He rested on the 7th day.  If He can speak the universe into existence, then surely He can help us reach this goal and help us get the customers we needed."  And so I prayed asking Him this very thing.  It was a Big Ask, but then again, I was supposed to do that...

And because I did, God gave a BIG Answer.
$50,000 in bonuses!

That pays for our trip to Ethiopia this summer.
That will start our adoption fund.
That will allow us to save up for a trip to Disney World, and answer the NIGHTLY prayers of our 5-year old daughter (and bring many smiles to all 3 of our girls' faces and create countless memories to last a lifetime).

Again, I say THANK YOU.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
From the bottom of my heart.

As I look back on March, I fall to my knees and bow my head and lift my hands in the air.
And I humbly proclaim, "Now to HIM who is able to do INFINITELY more than all we could ask or imagine, to HIM be the glory and power forever and ever. Amen."