Friday, January 28, 2011

What in the World?

"What in the world?" That is probably what you are asking as you look at the pic above.  It's a picture of the inside of my elbow.  And again... "What in the world?"  Well you see... that is the part of my body that hurts so much right now I want to scream.  This week I decided to join a couple of girls on staff as they did a 20 minute intense workout.  It was a butt kicker.  But apparently it was an elbow kicker even more than that!  Wednesday was the day we worked out.  And today it hurts to straighten my arm.  Seriously painful.
I have had lots of thoughts about this.  First... what muscle is that any way?  I didn't even know that muscle was so sensitive.  And what exactly did I do that made it so stinkin' sore?  That little guy was obviously way out of shape and that workout sent it into shock!
This morning I read a devotional about resistance and how it produces strength.  Such a great reminder.  To often I think that the things that are pushing against me, challenging me in what I believe and asking me if I am going to continue to walk in what I know to be true, feel like pure stumbling blocks.  When at the end of the trial or the challenge, I usually am stronger and have a deeper faith in the Lord.
This truth is found in James 1:2-4...
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
I for sure don't always feel like that is what is going on.  But I have experienced it before and I know it really does work.  And you might be asking, "what in the world" does this have to do with your elbow? Well, not a ton.  Except that I am hopeful that the resistance I am feeling in being able to straighten it is producing some strength!  I'm gonna need it for the Warrior Dash!!!
What resistance are you facing right now??

Saturday, January 22, 2011

This Doesn't Feel Good

Do you struggle to believe that God wants good for you? Or that what is going on in your life right now is good?  I personally think this is one of life's biggest struggles.... to believe that God is good.

One of my favorite books of all time is Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb.  Two of the ideas that he talks about are... "At this exact moment, God is giving us what He thinks is good." and "The highest dream we could ever dream... is to know God and actually experience Him."  It took me a long time to really let that idea digest and to believe that is was true.  Throughout the whole book the main point is that our highest need and our highest want is God.  We were created for Him, to know Him, to be in relationship with Him, we NEED him. And yet we look for our fulfillment and needs and life in so many other things.  And those dreams need to be shattered so we can experience what is best for us... God!

At times it feels like it is prideful on God's part to believe He is best or to not "give us what we want" because He knows it is not what is best for us.  But think about every loving parent, they don't just give their kids what they want at every whim because they know it isn't what's best for them.  And the child doesn't even know that feeling better, or being able to go to sleep is actually what they need. And as adults we experience this too... there are so many things we think we WANT, and yet as we experience God and His plan for us and experience HIM we realize we are living out what we were created for, those things don't looks so appealing.  And there is just nothing better than being smack in the middle of God's hand.  We feel alive.  We feel free... we are free!

And so that takes me back to the question of believing that what God has for us is good. And the reason that believing He is good is the root of that is because if God is good, then what He does is good. And when you know that He is in charge of everything, sovereign over all creation, you realize that what has come into your life has either been caused by Him or allowed by Him. And therefore it must be good. He will use it for good.  He will use it to change us.  He will bring glory to Himself through it.

And yes, at times that is not an easy thing to swallow.  At times it is just plain hard.  Hard to continue to trust Him in the midst of what seems so, so...  truthfully wrong at times. But that's where our faith comes in.
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1

I also read this morning verses about God's goodness towards us when our hope is in Him.
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. Zephaniah 3:17

The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

For the Lord delights in his people; He crowns the humble with victory. Psalm 149:4

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land.
Jeremiah 32:4-41

What a great truth... God is what is best for me.  I was created to be in relationship with Him.  He knows it is what's best for me, and He protects me from putting my hope in things that will fail me.  It's still a battle at times to believe that God is good. And that my circumstances are what is best for me.  At times this life doesn't feel good.  But I choose to trust Him.  Choose to remember truth and be reminded of His faithfulness.  Choose to believe what is true... that He is good!

Side note... God absolutely allows me to stray away from Him when I choose to go looking for life in other things.  He does not force me to stay or make me be in His will. And He also lovingly calls me back and always has open arms for me to run into!

Friday, January 21, 2011

25 Life Lessons from 50 Years in Ministry

Each January our staff gets away for 2 days to refuel, bond, and focus for the upcoming year.  This year we were blessed to have Chuck Swindoll come to our staff prayer time and share some "life lessons" he has learned in his 50 years of ministry.  It really was a sweet and encouraging time.

Here is what I got from it... (Things in parenthesis are a little commentary from me!)
1... Now isn't forever and today might be the start of the change. Let people grow, don't trap people in the box of who they are now.
2... Talk things out and write them out!  It helps in processing this life. (I clearly have this one down ;) )
3... Tell people how you feel about them NOW!
4... Be faithful!  You have no idea what people notice, what they take away from what they see in you!
5... He has seldom felt sorry for things he didn't say and often thankful for what didn't come out!!! (Filters are your friends!)
6... Being REAL is a lot better than trying to look spiritual.  Learn who are are... Accept who you are... Be free to be and to become who you are!
7... Learn to say... I was wrong! I am sorry!  Please forgive me! and I love you!
8... You shouldn't try to talk people into or out of a big decision.  Let the struggle happen! Let God work!
9...  “Always hold things loosely, even your children.  If you don’t it will hurt when God pries them from your fingers.”  Corrie ten Boom told him this one Sunday when she was at his church.
10... We are not that big of a deal!  Stay humble.  We’re just a bunch of depraved sinners that God has selected and chosen to use.
11...  Don’t settle for a job when you have the privilege of pursuing a calling.
12...When you fit... things flow!  Don't try to force yourself into something that really doesn't fit you.
13... Be intentionally and passionately crazy about your spouse.  Do the work!
14... It's hardest and most worth it at home.
15... Days of maintenance far outnumber days of magnificence.
16... Some people are not going to change no matter what.  Love them, walk with them, pray for them, but it's not your job to change them.
17... Take your day off!  What good are you to the ministry if you burn out?
18... Perception overshadows reality! Truth of your life will win out in the end.
19... Often the hard thing is the right thing!
20... Stop saying NEVER and ALWAYS!
21... Some things aren't worth the sweat.  Lighten up!
22... You can't beat KINDNESS and you can't beat FUN!  Both are essential.
23... LAUGH loudly!  Especially at yourself!
24... Go deeper not faster!

All of us were really blessed by the time and all that he shared.  One of the guys made an interesting observation when we were all discussing what we heard and liked and took away.  He said that none of them were groundbreaking because of how we have been taught in our time on staff and I really agree with him.  I feel like our leadership has done such a great job of keeping us grounded in what this is all about and that God has given us so many opportunities to learn, grown and be stretched.  What a gift!

I know I have a LOT more to learn in applying all the truth I've been taught and I am thankful for this wise man who was willing to come and share with us some of what he has learned.  And I am so thankful for all the wise men and women that I get to work with every day on staff!  Man I have been stretched and grown in amazing ways in my 8 1/2 years on this team!

(The picture at the top is of the sunrise on the retreat!)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Surprise Laughter

Christmas 2010 will go down as the Christmas that I was most surprised, and it had nothing to do withe my actual presents.  It had everything to do with the surprise moments of laughter and beauty that I got the experience.  I am sad that our holidays are going to be forever changed, but I am thankful that they aren't "ruined" or "over!"  Here are some pics and a few explanations of the surprise funny moments!

On our way up there it snowed lightly and dusted the trees.  It was so beautiful.  We took the pic above right after we ate at the only restaurant we found open Christmas Day... a Chinese food restaurant in a motel.
This was the sunset the first night we were there!
 The next morning... frost!
 My Aunt had decorated both houses for Christmas and really helped all of our moods.  Here is one of her cats enjoying the holiday decor!
 In honor of the year of the raccoon, my mom covered the last quarter by giving me a stuffed raccoon. 
My mom is extremely creative and thoughtful. 
It was really funny because my aunt's cat was a little freaked out by it. 
 This probably provided some of the greatest laughs! 
This is a remote control millennium falcon!  It was not easy to fly. 
But every time my dad and I got going we were belly laughing before it ran out of juice. 
We said to my mom... "We hope you didn't pay too much for this. 
Her response, "I've already gotten my money's worth!"
And the last pic... 50 pound bags of feed.  I hauled a few of them.
 And yes, use your imagination... I'm a wimp!

Very, very thankful that the first holiday without all my grandparents is over, and thankful it far exceeded the nightmare I was expecting.
A little update on me.  After the holidays I felt a major life in my spirits and emotions.  I do still have moments of being really sad from all that happened last year.  But I see how God's truth and  love is continuing to heal my heart!  So thankful!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Be Sure to Dry Them

Back in the fall my friend was commenting on all the fall leaves and how amazing they were and she wished she had a way to capture them.  When I went to Connecticut a few years ago to see the fall leaves I brought back a handful and framed them in my office.  To my surprise they have kept their color.
After talking with my friend I had an idea to make a tree out of fall leaves.  So I went around town and picked up leaves, and I maybe might have pulled some off the trees.  They were gonna fall of anyway right?  And I might have ventured into people's yards if they had ones I could not live without.  Over Thanksgiving my dad and I worked on the tree.  He has a great eye and is really creative and helped me get it just right.  I hung it on my wall.  As time went on I started to notice the leaves turning colors, and eventually they went black.  I was confused.  Then I remembered that I had dried all the leaves I brought back from Connecticut.  So I rushed back out and gathered more leaves.  I took each one and placed them between newspaper and weighed them all down under a heavy book.  And waited!
A couple of weeks ago I pulled them all out and recreated my tree.  So far it is holding its color!
I sure do love the creativity of our Creator!  And I'm thankful that we are having actual "falls" in Dallas!
Here's a picture of it...
(Sorry the pic is kinda bad, my iphone, inside, and with glare made it kinda hard to take, but you get the gist!)

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Prayer Board

Each year our mailboxes fill up with Christmas cards.  I love opening the cards and finding pictures of my friends and their families.  (And since I don't send one out of just my mug, I'm glad I am on their lists!)  A few years ago I started putting them on a board that I keep up all year long above my desk in my room.  It has become a great reminder to pray for the people in my life.
This year I think I am going to pray Colossians 1:9-10!
We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will
and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord,
and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit.
All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
Now I wish I could say I pray for them daily or even weekly.  Not the case.  But it has really helped to be intentional through out the year. Prayer is something that I want to be faithful to do!  And putting this out there will add even more accountability for me :) !
And on a bonus note... they just plain make me happy!
So thanks to those of you who sent me your family Christmas card... love seeing your faces all year long.  And even more glad that most of you I get to see in person just as often as I see you on my board!
I'm so grateful for relationships!  They sure do make this crazy thing called life more interesting and fun!

Too Seriously!

I saw this photo and it made me smile!  I'm sure there are so many, many things that can be said about it.  But it reminds me not to take myself too seriously!
That's it... nothing too profound. But... Happy Friday!
Do you tend to take YOURSELF seriously?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Peep Pressure... the good kind!

I've only done 2 races in my life.  The first was a 5K, solely done in preparation for the 2nd race, the White Rock Marathon RELAY (felt like I should capitalize that in case anyone got it mistaken for the entire marathon.)
Here's how I ended up in the RELAY:
I was sitting around a table at Freebirds with my A&M girls and someone brought it up and the next thing you know I have signed up for the relay.  Yes in my memory, it happened that fast. And yes, it was total peep pressure AND not wanting to miss out on the fun and memories!
And I wish I could say I have grown and would never give in to that or feel the need to do something insane as to not miss out on the fun... but I have gone and done it again.  This week at our staff meeting one of the girls brought up the Warrior Dash and explained what it was and said it would be fun for us to do together.  So who's in?  All these hands went up and mine STAYED DOWN.  No one was really surprised as thankfully my team knows me well and knows... I don't walk, workout, run, and I especially don't DASH!  But as the day went on and more discussions were had and the hype got started, I started to FEEL IT, that desire to want to be in on the fun.  The desire to not miss out if everyone is doing it.  The thought of the pictures and the memories.  Now I was totally in my right mind and had MANY MANY excuses and thoughts of...
I'll slow you all down.
"No Suz, we will all stay together."
But I don't run!
"Suz, there is so much mud you can hardly run."
But what if I can't keep going?
"Suz, we will totally drag you!"
Wait what?
So I started trying to picture myself in the race, really getting in and making it happen... here is what I pictured...
And after lots of conversations, a few pep talks, a promise to not leave me behind, I gave into peep pressure and I signed up!  I have had total buyers remorse since then, felt sick to my stomach, fear I might die and secretly think we will have a BLAST!
April 16th... just a little over 3 months to think about it... YIKES!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Miracle Mouthwash

I thought about doing another year in review post, but decided against it!  Feel like those who read this have gotten a pretty good picture of my year and there's just no need to rehash the already hashed out stuff of 2010.  I learned a ton this past year, won't go down as my worst year ever, but I can honestly say, glad to see you 2011!
And so on to this post...
Christmas Eve morning I woke up at 3am with a throbbing in my mouth. I knew the feeling and I was not excited that it was back!  I had brushed my teeth (like I do every day!) in the last couple of days and had noticed I had a sore on my top outside gum and just assumed it was an ulcer and it would run its course.  But waking up that morning I realized I had other cold sores in my mouth and the one had decided to head to the roots of my teeth again.  Now if you were with me back in June you know this was extremely painful and so not fun.  So I did what any normal person would do knowing that this could get tons worse... I panicked!  I called my dentist, I called all the doctors I knew, I texted my friend who connected me with the person who helped me last time... you see, I needed the Miracle Mouthwash.  This is not a name I made up for this stuff, it is exactly what is on the bottle!  It is what I got last time and it worked wonders to help me through the pain and I think to kill the ulcers in my mouth.  And I was also ready to attack this by brushing with Mentadent and using mouth wash, not just after I ate, but OFTEN!
I was reminded of a conversation I had with a group of girls I was in a study with a couple of years ago about brushing our teeth. Each day we brush our teeth, most people twice a day, others many more.  But we brush our teeth for a bunch of reasons... so we have good breath, to remove the nasty taste of whatever we just ate that was good but left a lingering, because our mothers told us to, and of course to prevent cavities and decay.  Because once the cavity is there, the brushing doesn't matter any more for that spot, you have to DEAL WITH IT!  So the brushing is preventative in a lot of ways.  We want to take care of our teeth.  We need our teeth.  We like to eat!  And so we do what we can to preserve them so they can do what they were intended to do.
Then we talked about how this is so much like why we need to be in God's Word.  God's Word protects us, it changes us, it moves us, it encourages, it gives us what we need to do what we were intended to do.  But we have to spend time with it, we have to do it often, or things will creep in and distract us and decay what was there.  And my little scare with the ulcers sent me straight to the regimen of taking extra care of my mouth, of treating what was there so that they didn't spread and get worse.  And it was a reminder of God's Word.  When these hard things came into my life this past year and when I find myself struggling with old sin patterns or fighting lies of insecurity, what do I do?  Do I resign myself to them and just give up and believe I have to live there?  Or do I fight, do I keep putting God's truth in, do I keep talking to friends, do I even "up the game" of what I was doing before because the enemy is running a little hotter right now?  Do I know what works?  Do I "make all the calls" I need to fight and stay in it?  I really do want to.  And I want to be sure that I have the regimen in place before the "ulcers attack."
And my "regimen" in God's Word has been in place for a while, before this chunk of circumstances hit.  God had moved me to spend more consistent time with Him, and to do it in the morning (this in and of itself was truly an act of Him as I am NOT a morning person.)  I had also been challenged to start memorizing scripture (again a super natural act as I am not a good memorizer.) And I had to keep running to these things, this regimen that was put in place to sustain me in the hard.  And I have to keep running there. And now, that it seems the clouds are starting to part a little, I have to keep running to His Word.  I have to study it, know it, believe it, and obey it.  I have to keep surrounding myself with truth, because there will be more yuck and I know this is how you make it through.  It really is a miracle mouthwash... it doesn't make the hard not come... but it sure allows for peace and trust to mark the times of hard.
And when the hard comes, it makes it much harder to start spending consistent time, to start trusting in what His word says.  It is never too late to start, but it sure helps if the "habit" is already in place.
And so... I really do pray that this year I will be even more consistent at spending time with the Lord... journaling, praying, reading His word, memorizing His word, listening and obeying... as consistent as brushing my teeth!
And this morning... Blake did a great job of talking about the importance of God's Word.  Check it out here...

(It's a small miracle any of y'all follow what I say, I am a little random :) And apparently like to make up words.. .memorizer, journaling, and texted!)