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Crazy Love

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Hosea and Gomer. I’ve always loved this story…not because it’s a happy fairytale, but because it’s not. It’s real. It’s human weakness and Supernatural love on display. The kind that only God can give.

Last week I purchased a copy of “For Such a Time As This” by Angie Smith. It’s a children’s book designed for little girls all about the women of the Bible. The illustrations are beautifully done by Breezy Brookshire and the writing style Angie uses is lovely.

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I settled in one afternoon on the couch with my eight-year-old sister to flip through the pages and read some stories to her. At page 120, I stopped. There they were. Hosea and Gomer. As I read the words aloud (well written, by the way, for a younger crowd) it struck me again. I’m in awe of this story.

Hosea is told to marry Gomer despite her checkered past. He does and he loves her. They have children, but Gomer’s old life pulls at her. She eventually leaves. But this is where it gets so unbelievable. Hosea’s love for Gomer is unreal. After all she does…her trickery, her lying, her cheating, her unfaithfulness…Hosea chooses to love her anyway.

My favorite part of this story is the end… Gomer winds up being sold into slavery. Dirty, penniless, and unable to help herself…she stands there on the selling block waiting for someone to buy her. Rejected. Broken. Unwanted. Hopeless. Her past is stained. Her future is bleak.

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Then a Jewish man steps up to bid. He buys Gomer and she looks up into the face of her master…and gasps. It is Hosea. Her Hosea. The one she was unfaithful to. The one she turned her back on for something worthless. He bought her back.

This is unconditional love. Crazy love.

At this point in the book, I am crying. I can’t hide my tears and my little sister is trying to figure out why I’m crying at a children’s book. My voice wobbles as I read the last few sentences. But it’s not a children’s story. This is my story.

This story is of Jesus rescuing me from myself. Loving me despite my flaws. Redeeming me though I am completely unworthy. Calling me consistently to Himself when my heart wanders. This is MY story.

Hosea 3:1-2
“Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods…So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley.”

Hosea and Gomer. Jesus and me. This is my story. Unconditional love for an undeserving girl….and I’m forever grateful to Him.

“Presentation” is Everything

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Before I start this blog I would like to say that it’s really a huge accountability act for me. It’s actually a declaration of my belief system…because you don’t know what you really believe until you write it down and because being accountable for God’s will for us is what often takes our faith to the next level. And I’m ready to climb higher with my Savior. Having said that, let me confess this….

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It’s one of those nights when I’m chasing sleep and it’s definitely winning. This is a brand new season for me. I hesitate to use the H word (hormones) but there, I did it anyway. I never lived the perfect life or anything like that but I would say that I have spent a considerable amount of time figuring out ways to muscle the circumstances that kept me from FEELING like things were spinning out of control. Did I say “control”? I am a fixer. There’s no medication for it but it does need a cure. Enter God’s plan to make me authentically usable. (Which, by the way, often looks amazingly like bonafide weakness).

God is teaching me that He is enough. I crave restful nights, productive days, and a well attended to family but He isn’t giving me those things IN THE WAY or IN THE MEASURE that my spirit is demanding. I admit that I have complained to Him on more than one occasion. He isn’t the only One Who takes the hits either. My sweet family is feeling awfully close to MY struggle. Take for example my 26 year old married son who stops over to pick something up, finds me in three day old pajamas with matted down hair and a sour look on my face. Special, I know. It’s always the ones you love the most that have to deal with the less than best you. I had been dealing with a myriad of various personal illnesses for several days. He just very tenderly asked me “are you ok”? I cried. I mean it was a fairly simple question but it made me just bust up in my soul. I wasn’t okay. Hadn’t been okay. Didn’t see “okay” on the horizon.

But God sees the sunrises for eternity. He remembers every time the sun has ever rose and set for about six thousand years. He is faithful about it too. He has made a predictable pattern and His power keeps all the heavens in check. The planets orbit on a precise axis just because He said so and He has the first and last and all the in between “says”. Bad grammar. But you know what I mean.

I mean to say that my sleepless nights and my fatigued days and my mom-deprived family does not have Him worried. He isn’t trying to concoct a plan for survival for me. He already did that. It was called Golgotha. My rescue prescription is called The Cross. My Rescuer is Jesus Christ. My Father sees and knows and hears and nothing is about to change with that. I, however, need to do a little changing. Like speaking truth. Out loud. Singing and making melody in my heart to The Lord. Maybe even a little shout in’! Because I know my Redeemer liveth! Come on now!

We are going to have rough days, trying seasons…maybe even a few thorns in the flesh…but we do not have to surrender to discouragement. We do not have to submit to having our joy stolen and crushed beyond recognition. We do have to allow God to be our strength though…keeping joy and walking in faith is not a work that the flesh can ever be sufficient for. It must be His Spirit taking control of mine. It’s true that I must yield but even my yielding is an act of grace that He has bestowed upon me. I once read something that said “never doubt in the darkness what you have known to be true in the light”. I wish I could give some wise soul credit for that statement. It’s true.

It, however, is a huge temptation to do so. To doubt, that is. To recoil…to wince…maybe even kick and scream? What He longs for me to do is to yield my body as an instrument of righteousness. His righteousness. He tells me clearly that first I must be fully dedicated to Him…body, soul, and spirit. The Scripture puts it in these terms: “I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

I conform to this world (the things that I want) when I set myself to be the lord of my life…the lord of my health…the lord of my family…the lord of my schedule…the lord of my sleep. I am transformed when I immerse myself in Who He is by getting into His Word and allowing it to wash away all my expectations of what is good and acceptable and perfect. My mind is renewed when it gives Him complete Lordship and the right to say when, where, and how. My life becomes “presented” when He is the Will Maker…the Will Keeper…the Will Sustainer.

Is this easy? As my 18 month old granddaughter would say “no way”! Living sacrifices are prone to crawl off of altars. That’s why under ceremonial Hebraic law the sacrifice had to be tied to the horns of the altar. Bound up there so when the knife and the fire and the dying began that sacrifice wouldn’t get away. That’s when things get tight. That’s why He says in the New Covenant “present” your bodies. Maybe presenting is a little like dying to self. He isn’t interested in fighting us. He doesn’t market coercion. He loves us to do it out of our love and our trust of Him. When we KNOW WHO HE IS and HOW HE LOVES then we will not crawl off that altar. We will want to. Let’s be honest. Deep down in our humanness we will want to flee quickly! We will have to hear His voice to have the courage to stay there. But God even gives us all the necessary staying resources. It’s all a mysterious act of grace that our minds can’t fully comprehend.

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I don’t know how many more nights of chasing sleep I might have…I have no idea if or when or how I will minister to my family in the ways I desire to…I cannot predict what a productive home will really look like for me right now…but I know Whom I have believed in and He is able to be the Keeper and the Master and the Giver of every good and perfect gift. I am only the “presenter” by His merciful grace.

Carrying the Light

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Matthew 5:14-16
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is n heaven.”

Last week an ice storm came through and our power went out for a few days. This presented some interesting challenges in day to day life. When you’re a kid, this becomes one thrilling long journey…when you’re an adult….not so much. After eighteen hours I was ready for power again.

We have wood heat (praise the Lord!) so despite the chilling cold, we were able to keep warm and our gas stove allowed us to cook, but the adventure wore off quickly for me. Who wants to take a candle to the bathroom? Or have to carry a flashlight in your pocket all the time? Or watch the laundry pile up because the washer and dryer is out of commission? And I must have said, “Please shut the refrigerator!” a thousand times. What is it about a power outage that makes people so hungry that they have to survey the refrigerator contents twice an hour?

Two days without power and it shows you a lot about life….and attitude. Believe me. At the end of the second day (when I was thoroughly sick of no lights) I had a light bulb moment. Almost literally.

It was pitch black, and even the candles spread all over the house didn’t cut the darkness very well. I was sitting on the couch in the thick blackness. I don’t remember what I was doing, except for having a sour attitude. I mean, really, what can you do when it’s dark and you have NO electricity? Then this light entered the room…it was my little sister. She is not an adult, so this was still a huge adventure for her. She was LOVING the moment and I was in the same house HATING it.

She was holding a small glass dish with a tiny tea light candle in it. Strange how the moment hit me, but it was like she was HOLDING LIGHT. You really couldn’t see her glass dish, because the light obscured the container. It really looked like she was cupping light in her hands…and she was bringing it to me. “Faith, look!” she said.

I stared at it. All I could think is how BEAUTIFUL it was. This cupping of light in her hands. It made me want to hold it in mine. To carry it around the room like a little child and share it with others. To wonder at it and be filled with the adventure that was in those sparkling eyes. Why couldn’t I find joy in this moment?

The light was amazingly bright. It seemed so luminous. Chasing away the shadows and lighting the face of this little girl. This child bringing light to me. I had to smile. I couldn’t help it. The moment was beautiful….and since phones don’t run on electricity, I had to take a picture.

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When the moment was past, it got me to thinking…what do I look like to this dark, dying world? Do I cup my hands like a willing servant and carry the light to dark places? Do I smile like a child and enjoy the journey…carrying the Light, the Beauty to others? Is my life’s light bright enough to draw them to JESUS?

I have this picture as my phone’s wallpaper right now…and it’s a visual reminder that I am to carry the Light wherever I go. I want to cup JESUS in my hands and take Him to the dark places.

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” Isaiah 9:2

Sometimes Provisions are Really Tests

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Exodus 16

Funny how we complain about things….we are just sure that our needs are being overlooked by someone….when it’s really just an indictment against God our Father. We wouldn’t admit that but the truth is we FRET instead of acting in FAITH. We WORRY instead of choosing to WORSHIP. We COMPLAIN instead of deciding to COMMUNICATE OUR GRATITUDE.

The Israelites had just made a mass exodus from the land of their bondage…been led by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day…the Red Sea had been parted…they were even given an awesome water resource after realizing they were thirsty. Then the big idea became meat and bread. It didn’t take that thought long to go viral.

After God had done the impossible in their lives multiple times they turned around and grumbled. Miracles weren’t enough, they had to have meat. Honestly. It’s not just WHAT they complained about either. It was the WAY they murmured. The insults they hurled upon God their Provider! They said it would have been better to die in Egypt where at least they could have meat and bread. Really? It’s so good I’m not in charge of influencing God. Because about 600,000 men plus women and children would have been sent right back where they came from! I would have marched them back to Goshen myself!

But there’s this little verse in the 16th chapter of Exodus that just haunts me. I mean it really corrects me in my spirit. Enter God’s answer to murmuring: MANNA. For real? He told Moses ahead of time that bread would come from heaven. First, quail to the full and then the next morning manna. There would be rules. There would be a measure given to communicate sufficiency. HIS sufficiency. Not ours. Isn’t His mercy amazing? His goodness keeps chasing us. He keeps racing to rescue us!

So Moses gives them the gist. Two quarts per person. No more. You can bake it, boil it, eat it raw…but don’t save it. There’s always a few people who try to push against the stops. For them it was worms the next morning. On the day before Sabbath He let them double up. No worries about worms though, because that was one 24 hour period when God shut down decay. Only He gets to do that. Only He gets to keep the destroyer held back. We would be good to remember that when things seem to spin out of control in our lives. Trust in His power and not our own muster-the-mind problem solving techniques. When you really step back from your calamity and realize Who us really in control, it looks like a no-brainer.

But that verse still grabs my attention. Kind of arrests my thought patterns about what God is doing here for the Hebrews. What He is ultimately doing for US.
Exodus 16:4
“Then said The Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out to gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or no.” KJV
God told Moses He was giving into their complaint. He heard their grievous and ungrateful lamentations. But He had something bigger than bread in mind.
THAT I MAY PROVE THEM! The Holman Christian Standard Bible says it this way: “I will test them to see whether or not they will follow My instructions.” I WILL TEST THEM. He wasn’t as concerned about their stomachs as He was about their submission.

What if God’s provisions for us are really tests? What if His ultimate rescue plan involves seeing if we really will serve Him in righteousness or not? What if His meeting our needs really represents Him discerning our level of relationship with Him? All the best teachers, professors, and disciplers give tests to see what the student has learned.
What if God’s main goal was not provision but rather proving? And what is there to prove other than our faithlessness? HIS FAITHFULNESS! He proves what is in our hearts so He can reveal what is in His heart toward us. He cares for us so much. He longs to be Abba Father, the One and Only that we run to when we are in trouble. He seeks for us to trust Him implicitly, to resist the temptation to work our trials out in the flesh. He wants us to trust Him to the point of obedience…even if that obedience means we will suffer or if it means we will lose something important to us. He wants to be first in our lives. He will not share His glory with any other…He will not stand for anything or anyone that competes with our deepest affection for Him. He wants to be our All in All. So He provides for us to prove us…to test the stuff our heart is really made of. What is my heart made of today? Do I have Him on the throne of total power? Does He have my whole heart or only the small areas I think I can trust Him with? Am I willing to follow His instructions even though it might mean personal sacrifice? Have I laid my expectations on the alter of surrender so that He can give me MANNA from His Storehouse that is sufficient for my soul searching needs? What do I do with what He does give me as provision? Am I the faithful steward or do I try to gather more than He has really given? Does my life praise His provision or does it squander it through disobedience to His heart?

He fed the Israelites faithfully for 40 years in the wilderness. He never missed a day. Maybe they dreamed about steak and potatoes but they never had to go to bed hungry. Forty years of food that they didn’t even recognize when they saw it for the first time. They didn’t have to grow it, only gather it. They weren’t even sure what to call it. Incredible how God wants us to remember what He has done for us…and so they were told by God Himself to gather up two quarts of manna and to put it in a container so that it could be kept throughout their generations. That manna went with the Ark of the Covenant everywhere it traveled. There inside with all the other articles of testimony was a container filled with manna…or as it was said in their tongue “What is it?”. A powerful reminder that God does provide and that He also proves us in the process…to see “what is it” that is in our hearts! Sometimes His provisions are really a test.

“For He satisfieth the longing soul and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalm 107:9

I Have Enough

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“And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.” Genesis 33:9

Forgiveness leads us to believe we have enough. Believing we have enough causes us to sense authentic gratitude. Authentic gratitude generates joy. So what creates an environment of forgiveness? The belief that we have enough.

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Jesus on the Cross…said Father forgive them for they don’t realize what they are doing…and then He said “it is finished” because He knew His sacrifice was enough.

Esau fell on Jacob’s neck and wept…he embraced his former “enemy-brother” and seeing all the entourage of Jacob’s company ask “what is all this?” Upon finding out it was Jacob’s way of pleading for mercy he says “I have enough”. This satisfied man came with a heart of forgiveness because mercy rejoices with truth and he had figured out the truth that he had more than he deserved!

Those in Scripture that lament in bitterness of soul are always the ones that feel they don’t have enough…not enough vineyards for Ahab…not enough babies for Hannah…not enough family for Naomi…not enough fruit trees for Eve…not enough loyalty for King Saul…each one focusing on what was missing instead of what was present in their lives.

How does “enough” affect us in our daily living? In our culture? In our aspirations? In our generations?
So is forgiveness paving the way for sensing His giving of enough or is sensing His grace of enough paving the way to forgive?

I am realizing day after day and as I look for gifts God gives out of mercy that I have this mountain terrain of expectations that loom over me. Like God owes me this relationship or that fruit in ministry or this answered prayer or that wonder filled day…and I climb from one precipice of disappointment to another. I am undone and exhausted at the days end and when forgiveness presents itself as an opportunity I fail to see it as a viable option for expedient living. I mean, after all, isn’t sincere forgiveness …forever and ever kind of forgiveness for the lionhearted Christ followers? The real giants of the faith? Sigh.

Enough. What compels a cup to deny any more water when it becomes full? What happens to fish nets that carry too many fish? Where does all the extra air go that we aren’t breathing? Who determines the enough level of our soul?

And whoever started the shouting match words ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!? Because I beg to differ about them meaning it!

Enough is when my soul agrees with the truth embedded deep down in my regenerated spirit (that part of me born again by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ). It’s when my spirit can override what my mind, will, emotions, and even my body tell it in weakness. Like getting “enough” sleep…enough affirmation…enough laundry done…enough time to think…enough heart to heart communication. The realization of enough is when I rehearse what I should get out of life by merit and compare it to what I have gotten out of life by the merciful kindness of the Almighty. Honestly, if we go on merit I am sunk and it’s over!

I have been reading through the book of Genesis. It just leaped at me today. The really hard question I have been asking Him tumbled out between the inspired words. Well, it’s hard to me anyway. “When is forgiveness conceived in us since we are too weak to make it happen in ourselves”? There was the answer in small print …sandwiched in a verse that could well swallow it up. It was just three little words that held on to a huge secret. A secret with the potential to thwart the enemy’s big gun artillery attack on me. I have enough. This is what it looks like if I emphasis it: I HAVE ENOUGH. Esau said those redemptive words having already forgiven his broken and repentant brother. But then a curious thing happens …just two verses after Esau proclaims enough Jacob also acknowledges enough. Jacob the deceiver who has met with God in the night…wrestled the angel…obtained a blessing he did not deserve says “God hath dealt graciously with me…I HAVE ENOUGH”.

Esau had to forgive his brother. Jacob had to forgive himself. Both spent years finding out that ultimately they both possessed enough. They both had more than they ever deserved….the grace of God imposing itself on their idolatrous hearts. It is an answer that I thank God for…it is an answer found at the Cross. It is finished. Enough is enough and we are the victors in Christ Jesus. Lord God, allow me to sit at Your feet and sense enough. Let me hear Your heart in the pages of Scripture and know You are enough. Forgive through me by allowing my heart to see You as enough.

Word art is all the rage these days. I think I will make my very own wall plaque…it will be bold and obvious and uniquely displayed. It will state simply and ornately these three powerfully true words:
I. H A V E. E N O U G H.

Becoming His

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(Guest Post by Kathryn Zarzycki)

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalms 37:4

My hope and prayer is that as you read this, you don’t see an extraordinary woman or even extraordinary actions. I hope you see an Extraordinary God who can do all things through those who trust Him! (See Philippians 4:13)

About five years ago I started reading Katie Davis’ blog. Her story was amazing to me. God used an ordinary girl to do that?! I wanted God to use me in THOSE ways. I was just an ordinary 14 year old living life in a very uncommon family. So I was going to raise money for Katie Davis with a book sale, and very uncomfortably step out of my comfort zone and share her story with everyone and anyone that would listen. Unfortunately God shut that door. The next year I decided I was going to make pillowcase dresses and send them to Katie. That too was a closed door. I tried and tried to help in anyway I could think of. I then started obsessing about Africa. I dreamt of Africa. All my thoughts were about the people of Africa and I was sure that as soon as I turned 18 I was going to be living in yes, Africa. Then I realized that although all of these things were considered good they were¬†all about me and what I wanted. I was not asking God what His plans were. I was so frustrated and full of questions. How could I help? And why was God closing all the doors on me? I was doing everything “right”.

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Then one day I read a blog post that I am sure God wrote for me! The title of the article was Serving the Least of These. Yes! Finally God sees my heart. But as I continued to read, the least of these the article was talking about was your younger siblings! Okay God maybe you don’t see my heart…. One quote in the article was, “We need to see our younger siblings as we would orphans in Africa.” Ouch! How convicting! Here I was trying to help the people living in Africa but my relationship with my siblings was broken. I took some uncomfortable steps and as my relationship with my siblings has changed, God has been opening doors in ways I could never imagine!

Last year God started urging me to do what I had been trying to do for the last four years. But that’s the thing, I was trying to serve the people of Africa. It was completely about what I could do. All in vain. So this time I decided to pray, and let Him lead me in His ways, instead of my own. As I was doing dishes one day, God spoke to my heart. Why not sell Amazima’s necklaces? It was a grand idea! Now the hard part was beginning. For those that don’t know me jumping in and talking to the Amazima team was…not me but all God! He has been so faithful to me in that way. He showed Himself in every instance!

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Fast forward one year and I am now a part of the Amazima’s Ambassador Program. I am selling necklaces and sharing the stories of what God has done to the lives of these precious women and children! Although I am now 19 and am not living in Africa, I am learning to serve God in the little ways. It may be “little” in my eyes but in His eyes it is not. Just imagine if all the Christ followers in the world just followed God in the simplest ways? Just loving the people God places in front of them. Serving everyone as if they were Jesus! God is preparing me for GREAT things and my job is to be ready for it when He calls me! Will you join me on this great God-given adventure? – Kathryn Zarzycki

“We aren’t really called to save the world not even one person, Jesus does that. We are called to love with abandon. To enter into there lives of our neighbor’s sufferings and love them right there.” – Katie Davis Majors

(All pictures from this post are taken from amazima.org)

Savoring the Simple

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Just this week I went into a purgative mode…facing our home office with incredible fervor. It had become a strong case against evolution. I began the purge with persistence! Pitching and heaving and reevaluating “former treasures”. Sometimes I think in our quest to purge assets our souls are really crying out to purge our insides….to have our Father create in us a clean heart. It was one of those days. I had gotten to the part where I was filing photos into photo boxes (now there’s an original thought!) …and I had made a pact with myself not to linger…but to quickly grab the photos, shove them into the box, and my only goal was to get them all in the same direction. I promised myself I would sort and file someday in the distant future. For real. It was going along smoothly and every once in a while I would come across a greeting card or a baby announcement or an occasional artifact of memory but I tried my best to stay focused…stuff and shove and sift and stack but DON’T LOOK WHATEVER YOU DO. I knew it would derail my endeavor…I would end up AWOL at the end of the day with nothing to show for my time. But God is trying to teach me to slow down, to savor, and to steady my heart over life’s moments. I was about midway through my “project” when the letter fell out of a clump of photos. It was a tri-folded letter written on college ruled paper …it caught my eye. It became like a burning bush in the desert. I felt like God was calling me to turn aside…to notice something valuable. He was asking me to revisit the past so that I could experience the present with a greater depth of appreciation. Truthfully the letter should never have been in that plastic bucket…it was completely out of place. Imagine that!

imageIt was the ONLY letter I found that day. The outside of the envelopeless letter read this: MOM. All caps. I opened it up slowly and I felt my heart begin to race a few beats faster with each line. It was from our oldest son …dated May 11, 2008. It was Mother’s Day. But when a 19 year old boy turned man writes you it doesn’t really matter if there is a reason or not, only that you get the privilege of hearing his heart. It was hand written, a full page, and I felt like it was brand new all over again.

This is some of what it read:

“Dear Mom,
As you know I’m not good at writing letters. But I would like to tell you how much I appreciate you. Words can’t express my gratefulness for all you have done for me. I always enjoy sitting and talking with you. I know having nine kids is not easy but we all love you for all your sacrifice for us….you are truly a Proverbs 31 woman . May we both be blessed as we grow together in the years to come. May I find a wife like you. So Happy Mother’s Day. Loving you always.”

For some reason the words “may I find a wife like you” felt audible to me. I could hear his voice and the print seemed to leap from the page…
I immediately texted him a photo of my archived trophy…with a sincere notation telling him he got an even better wife! God answered the sincere prayer of a nineteen year old young man. And how in the world did he ever get the notion that he wasn’t a good writer?

The very next day he called to ask me if I could drive him from the bean field back to his truck. He is a farmer now. All grown up and learning to stretch with the pulls of His Maker. I watched him climb out of his John Deere tractor with those thermal overalls….ball cap all dirty from miles it had seen and his boots all caked with mud…his gate was rugged yet worn. As he pulled himself into our 15 passenger van I recalled earlier days when he rode bikes and made forts and wore a cowboy hat two sizes too big. But I feel even more excited to be his mama today then I did then. He has come a long way from a peanut butter and jelly eating boy to the steak growing in the back yard man he is today…but I am most impressed with how God chooses hard things to soften us. The farmers life is a life of faith. It’s best lived with an open hand and a hopeful heart. Tight fisted, self sufficient men might farm fields but they miss out on eternal harvesting. It might take a lot of bushels of crop to figure that out but it’s worth finding solace in the Rulership of God than in hands waxed feeble with pride. This farmer will turn 26 in a few days.

imageWhere did those seven years go? How did I race through them so quickly and forget to go slow and savor? How did I get so rushed that I missed the marinade of life? I was probably taking snap shots and forgot to pause for life moments. God help me to freeze the frame and focus on the faces right before me. Slow my moments so that I can turn living each day into loving each day. Let me lose myself in buckets of memories instead of focusing on neatly lined boxes of photographs of the past. Make me fully alive to the now. Slow. Steady. Purposeful. Intentional. Purged from my hurry to enjoy the heart of right now.

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Beautifully Different

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“But do not be conformed to this world, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind, that you may be prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2, NKJV (emphasis mine)

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Let’s face it girls. We all like to be “in the club”. No one likes to be the odd ball…to stick out or be different than the crowd. We are a culture of sameness. People don’t want to stand out. We all want to blend into our favorite click and be like everybody else. We want to look like, talk like, and be like whatever person is currently the image. We enjoy our clicks.

It’s sad really. We feel like if we can hide in the sea of normality that it’s better for us. It’s safer. Less dangerous.

Now I’m not a Bible scholar…but I do love the Word of God. It is hope and healing and redemption when our world is painfully short of these things. I’ve found my only solace in the pages of Scripture and in this amazing JESUS I’ve come to know and love…but…nowhere in the Bible can I find where God tells us to fit in. Actually I find the complete opposite.

Now before you click off this page and start looking for something else to read, let me give you some clarification here. I’m NOT saying that you need to purposely go in every opposite direction that the crowd is going. I’m NOT saying you need to dress wild and weird just because you want to be different. I’m NOT encouraging you to be rebellious or to act strange and justify it according to Scripture. What I am talking about here is the heart…and that will affect every area of your life.

You see, being a Christian is more than going to church and having John 3:16 memorized…and those are wonderful things. Being a Christian means you are a “Christ-follower” and that means you are to be set apart for His purposes. Jesus repeatedly tells you and I in Scripture to “take up your cross and follow Me”. Crosses are heavy. They are abnormal. If you carry a cross you are definitely different from the average Joe. Who wants to be uncomfortable, right? We’re all about being cozy…and carrying a cross is everything BUT cozy.

I was thinking about this whole concept of fitting in one day as I was driving to a meeting. The topic of standing up, standing alone and standing out was rolling around in my mind. It’s something that I deal with on a personal level but also as I talk to young ladies everywhere. It’s a common thread in all circles…fitting in is just the thing to do, or at least try to do.

I take the back roads when I’m going places because I Iove this beautiful time of year. As I turned one corner on this particular morning, I noticed that a corn field had recently been harvested and a fence row of trees now stood in full view. My jaw dropped open. I stopped my car.

There in front of me was a huge row of brown, crusty trees, dead from the autumn wind and mostly barren of leaves. Directly in the center was a big, beautiful tree in full color. It stared at me. It was so different from the others. So beautiful. It seemed to beckon me.

Sitting there on the side of the road, it was as if God spoke to my heart as I stared in disbelief at the beautiful sight.

Being different for the right reasons can be incredibly beautiful.

I sat there and thanked God for a word picture. (I really need those sometimes!) Suddenly, being different didn’t look so scary or weird…it looked beautifully alive and strangely wonderful. You see, our lives are to be so radically different that it beckons our dying world to take a look at our JESUS! We should look different so that those we come in contact with cannot help but hunger for the Bread of Life. We should make people thirst for the Living Water as we live purposely set apart.

When we follow Jesus fully, our lives are different…but they are beautifully so.

What does that look like…to be set apart from the world. We want to be in the world, but not of it….so (practically speaking) what does that look like?

Let me ask you- does your facebook look any different than your non Christian friends? Is it selfie-focused or others-oriented? No…I’m not saying you can only post Bible verses and sermon videos! I’m saying…does it speak of your different-ness? What about presenting an accurate picture of who you are…not always making your life seem like a fairy tale and stretching the truth to seem more glamorous. Everybody knows it’s not girls, you live in a broken world like the rest of us…so just be honest. If you don’t have something nice to say on there…don’t say anything! Do you partake in gossip and slanderous talk or do you speak with kindness and make them wonder about your JESUS?

What about your speech? Do you talk with the same language that everyone else uses? Do you refrain from profanity, or do you struggle to not fit in…so maybe you curse sometimes to be cool?

Do you do things and go places that you know you shouldn’t, but it just feels awkward to go against the flow so you do it anyway?

Do you only choose to befriend people who are like you or do you have lots of age groups and personalities in your circles? Look at people through Jesus’s eyes…It’s different, but it’s beautiful.

What about the way you look…the way you carry yourself…your attitude…how you treat your parents and siblings…what activities you spend your free time on? Being different is our call to bring others to the Cross…because let’s get real…who wants to follow Jesus when there’s nothing different about His followers?

I think about that big, bold and beautiful autumn tree a lot. That’s what I want to look like. I’m a tree…a person like everyone else…but what’s inside of me is what changes how I look, act and speak. I do stick out from some of my fellow trees…but I hope and pray it’s the kind of difference that makes people long for my JESUS. I want my life to beckon others to look toward the God of the universe and be willing to follow Him as well. I want to be Beautifully Different.

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What about you? I’d love to hear from you, friend. What are some ways you can be Beautifully Different and reflect JESUS in your daily life? Leave your comments below or shoot me an email!

Thoughts from Lauri’s Porch

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I pour a cup of hot coffee…swirl in the cream and the stevia…stir until it is the perfect shade of blond…it’s for the fifteen year old who is painting our front porch steps. It’s his favorite treat…piping hot coffee. It’s the least I can offer for this son who does so much to make our family work well. I sit on the porch and watch him work that brush back and forth. These steps he paints have been in our minds eye for ten years now….long ago we built that enormous wrap around porch but never made it assessable from the front. Seems rather inhospitable to say the least. Like saying we are here but we aren’t wanting anyone to invade our out of reach spaces. Which is really not our heart at all. So when we finally built them a couple of weeks ago we built them long and wide and now our young man paints them bright white.

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They stream from the edge of the porch clear out to the sidewalk…to scream the one true message “come, please, anyone, interrupt us with your need”. As I sit here and chat casually with my resident painter I realize that he too needs to see us welcome the stranger…he needs desperately to know that neighbors are treasured gifts given to us for such a short time for the purpose of transporting the Gospel of Hope from one family to another. It’s a generational effort. He does well, this amateur painter…filling in all the cracks and crevices and carefully covering all the wood to look like an invitation to know our God. For as long as we have lived here our porch has been filled with children…our own…and a great host of others…there have been summer tea parties here…music and singing and laughter …Bible studies …and all manner of little people pretending going on! But as we have lived here, have we really loved here? Today we paint a statement of welcome. Finally there is a royal invitation. There’s nothing really majestic about our southern style porch…no elaborate outdoor furniture or matching chair sets…not even a wreath on the front door…but I sit here and pray that for as long as we end up living here we might communicate His grace filled love here. That this strapping strong fifteen year old lad will look forward to the day that he can build a front porch that will welcome strangers. That he will catch the spirit of hospitality to neighbors…that he will know all his neighbors by name …that he will know how they take their coffee or if they like pumpkin pie or if they prefer apple better. I pray he exceeds us in the ability to make someone feel comfortable and loved and needed. Oh that he would purpose in his heart today that his neighbors are worth investing in…in sacrificing for …and in communicating Christ to as an act of true worship. It’s not about the size or the stateliness of your home entrance…it’s about what that welcoming spot communicates. It’s more about how the door swings open all friendly and how your heart begins to look for ways to welcome whoever you might find there. Eternity steps…that’s what I hope our son is painting in his heart today. A place to visit the Redeemer without fear of rejection. A place where our neighbors can experience the only Jesus they might ever know on earth. God help us trade the temporal for lasting treasures not touched by human hands.

Why did God make me a girl?

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“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you…” (Jeremiah 1:5, NKJV)

When I was a little girl and up into my teens, I spent a lot of time struggling through how to life out my God-given femininity. It’s not that I wanted to be a boy necessarily…but I just struggled with being a girly-girl. I wanted to ride the line.

Some of this was because I was the only girl in my family (at the time). My playmates were my brothers and their friends. I loved climbing trees, playing Cowboys and Indians, and jumping ramps with my bike. I got dirty and played hard. I liked fishing with worms and target shooting with bows and arrows. One time I even remember rubbing dandelions and mulberries all over my face with my brothers and their friends like Indian war paint. Unfortunately, that wasn’t one of our best ideas…especially since it was right before Wednesday Awana classes.

But there was this other side of me…this princess side. I loved to dress up and have tea parties. I loved singing and playing with dolls and wearing high-heels. I liked jewelry and flowers and pretty things. I loved reading books about princesses and looking at pictures of far off places with fine china and ball gowns. I loved being beautiful.

I was forever caught between the two worlds…of hard play in the dirt with my bros and dainty tea time with my dress up outfits.

Becoming a teen didn’t simplify the problem either. I mean, let’s face it, there’s not a whole lot of easy stuff in your teen years. It’s pretty much rough to the core stuff. Figuring out who you are and what you believe are challenging issues to face. So I came to this crossroads in my teen years…what was I going to do with my femininity? Don’t get me wrong, I never hated God for making me a girl…it’s just that I didn’t embrace it. I was more into surviving instead of thriving.

I remember being sixteen years old and looking in the mirror one morning and asking myself, “Faith, why did God make you a girl?” It wasn’t a rebellious question. It was honest. I knew if I could understand why God chose to make me feminine, then a whole lot of dots would connect for me. What did God want of me? Since He made me a girl, how should I respond to that? What did it mean to be a girl? To be feminine?

Let’s be honest girls, we all have this little thing inside of us that wants to be beautiful. To be loved. To twirl our dresses in front of our Daddy and to hear Him say how pretty we are. It’s in us. We long for affirmation. We are drawn to beautiful things. Don’t you think there’s a reason?

Psalm 90:17, “and let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us…”
1 Chronicles 16:29, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name…worship Him in the beauty of holiness.”
Psalm 27:4, “One thing have I desired 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 behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.”

We are drawn to beauty because we were made to crave JESUS. We were created to be drawn to the beauty of the Lord. We want to reflect that beauty. To be like Him.

These questions drove me to the Word of God….and what I found in the pages of Scripture have forever changed my life. I camped out at Psalm 139, reading it over and over. Trying to internalize its message. What I discovered was Purpose, and Meaning, and Value.
“You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mothers womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are thy works, and that my soul knows right well.” (Psalm 139:13-14) God made me beautiful.

Here’s some wonderful Bible trivia: If you ever want a fascinating study, look up who God calls beautiful or “fair” in Scripture. Since He wrote the Bible through His Spirit, you can bank on these gals being beautiful! I’ve found ten mentions in the whole Bible. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Abigail, Bathsheba, Tamar (Absolam’s sister), Tamar (Absolam’s daughter), Vashti, Esther, and Job’s second set of daughters. Check it out! It’s an amazing study. I especially love Job 42:15. Wow, what a thing for God to say of you!

Beauty is important. Femininity is important. They are who you are made to be. You see, what you believe about yourself will shape your purpose in life. We all need purpose to thrive. I love the verse in Jeremiah where God speaks truth to a young, quivering heart. A teenager at the time, Jeremiah was having an identity crisis too. He wasn’t sure if God really knew who He was choosing…then God says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5, NKJV) At the beginning of time, God chose Jeremiah ON PURPOSE. He hand -picked Jeremiah before He made him in the womb. Seriously. Stop and chew on that for a minute.

I used to think that being feminine meant wearing white gloves and letting the servants pour your coffee. I used to believe that femininity was the same as weakness. But what I found was the opposite…being a Godly woman in the world we live in takes a powerful kind of strength. In fact, I think being truly feminine, as God would have us be, takes MORE strength than being a normal gal. (Going with the flow is always easier, right?!) Femininity loves being a girl! Femininity is accepting the design that God has engraved on our very being…and it starts in the heart.

So there I was at 16 years old, realizing that since God made me girl…that must mean my femininity was the best way He could show up in my life for His glory. That changes everything, friend. Everything. He made me a girl ON PURPOSE and chose me to be a reflection of His beauty. He made me 100% feminine and colorful and beautiful and womanly. Now it was my turn to be asked a question, “What are you going to do with your femininity?”

I remember the lightbulb turning on that year for me. Instead of just dealing with myself, I began EMBRACING my femininity. I suddenly wanted to look like a girl. When boys or guys tried to hurl insults like “you throw like a girl”or “you fight like a girl”, I could grin and say to them “you bet I do!” I meant it. No, it didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. Slowly, God replaced my feelings of insecurity and frustration with joy and love for the girl He had made me. Don’t get me wrong, femininity doesn’t mean I can’t go target practice with my brothers, play in mud puddles with my younger siblings, or ride four wheelers…it means my attitude is different…and that changes how I look and respond to life situations. I’m a girl, and I’m glad.

I wonder, have you ever questioned what in the world you were made for? Or maybe why God made you a girl? It’s ok to ask God questions. He’s God and can handle your problems, frustrations, and even anger. Ask Him to show you His purpose for your life. Embrace your femininity.

Quote this to yourself and remember that God is speaking these words right to you…”Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born I sanctified you.” Breathe it, sister. Insert your name in there. He makes NO mistakes. You were created beautiful on purpose! Thank Him for making you feminine!

God’s purposes are bigger than ours and sometimes He has a sense of humor. I run into dozens of girls like you every year who tell me they struggle with being a girl. You just want to do fun things like the boys do and it’s frustrating. I hear your voices and I smile. I’ve been there. My heart melts when I meet you and you ask me, “why did God make me a girl?”

It’s in moments like that, I want to hug you big and long and say to your wondering heart…”Sister, can I tell you”…

He made you a girl so you could be soft hearted like He is.

He made you a girl so you could put bandages on banged up knees and hug people with broken hearts like He does.

He made you a girl because He wanted someone beautiful to reflect His beauty.

He made you a girl so you could be all the things that a man can’t be…like a mom and a big sister and an aunt. He wanted someone who could have a gentle heart towards children, like He does.

He made you a girl because He wanted a warrioress that could be tough in battle and tender with the elderly.

He made you a girl because He loves you and He wanted the best for you.

He wanted a princess…a daughter. So He made you. You are precious to Him, sweet girl! You are the daughter of the King. Embrace it for all you are and live in it unashamedly. You are beautiful and loved and treasured….because He made you a girl.