Learning to Have Patience

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“Mama, will you play my new game I got for Christmas with me?” Grace asked. It was a floor game; not one you can play neatly at the kitchen table. I imagined crawling around on the floor to play and my back hurt just thinking about it. Exhausted but determined to spend time with my five-year-old, I agreed.

Then the phone rang with an important call from the body shop where my car was being fixed. “Just give Mama a few minutes to handle this call, and then we will play your game. Okay?”

I took the call while Grace paced around me in circles. After twenty laps or so, she wandered into the den and played with matchbox cars. When she heard me end the call, she came running. “Now Mommy? Can we play now?”

“Almost,” I told her. “Now I need to make a quick call to Daddy to explain to him what I found out.”

“Okay,” she shrugged her shoulders and walked off to the playroom. But minutes later, she returned holding her brand new game with the entire lid ripped in two.

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Shocked, I exclaimed, “Grace!! Why did you do that?!” She just looked at me with tears teetering.

I quickly ended my call with Alan to talk to Grace. Less than ten minutes had passed from start to finish for both calls. I didn’t ask her to wait that long. Sitting down at the table to assess the damage to her new game, I looked my daughter in the eyes.

“Grace, why would you tear into your game like this?” I knew the answer. She wasn’t patient enough to wait on me to help. But what I couldn’t understand was when it first began to rip, why didn’t she stop immediately? Why continue to rip off pieces of the box and tear the entire lid in half?

I walked to the garage for clear packing tape and returned to repair the box while Grace and I had a chat.

“Honey, did I tell you I would play this game with you as soon as I got off the phone?” Her curly head nodded, her eyes on the floor. “Did you believe me when I said it?” She nodded again. “Don’t I always keep my promises?” She looked up with fat tears in her big brown eyes.

“Yes,” she said, lip quivering.

And as I said the next words, the hairs stood up on my arms, and I listened as I spoke, as if I wasn’t the one speaking them. “Grace, when I make a promise, you have to trust I will keep it. You cannot rush ahead and do things on your own. You knew you couldn’t open that box without my help. Since you didn’t have patience, you made a big mess.”

I knew God was speaking the words directly to me.

I’ve been working on writing a book proposal for “Sheep to the Right: Becoming the Everyday Misssionary” for almost seven years. I wrote. I stopped. I had a baby. I stopped for a long time. I wrote again. I stopped again. But on the day Grace ripped her game open, I was close to finishing. I wondered if I was crazy for thinking God told me to write it all those years ago. He promised me He had a great plan for it. I questioned that, too.

God can speak through anyone and anything – and that includes yourself. He can place words in your mouth you didn’t know you had and use your everyday situations to tell you exactly what He wants you to hear. And He did. He reminded me of His promise and warned me not to push ahead.

So, I actually finished the book proposal last week and sent it to some of my trusted people to critique. I’ve already got some changes I need to make, but I will complete them and try to be patient during this part of the process. You see, after I repaired Grace’s game, we played together – just like I promised.

And I know God will keep His promise, too. He just told me so – last week.

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**Mission trip update! Thank you for those of you who bought t-shirts. The fundraiser was a great success and we raised almost $600 for our mission trip. Please continue to pray for the team as we prepare. Thank you!

*phone pic credit

Carol

Meeting a Princess

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I wasn’t expecting to cry.

I went on mission trips as a child – upper state New York twice, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania – but never out of the country. We drove into Mexico, sightseeing, when I was twelve, but other than that I had never left the U.S. at all. So this was my first-ever international mission trip (or any trip out of the country).

We had driven through an area that looked like something out of the movies. People were living in small shacks with barbed wire here and there. Roosters and dogs ran loose.

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The rented pink bus stopped, and our team from One Vision International walked down a dirt path towards the children’s center where we were to spend the afternoon doing a Bible story, crafts and taking pictures for the kids who still needed sponsors; I took in every detail. A mother was bathing her twin girls in her back yard. They took turns standing in a large pan, because beneath it was clay dirt. She washed their hair and scooped water from a large barrel behind the house, pouring it over the tops of them as they squealed.

The girls were absolutely adorable, shyly grinning as we walked past. But I couldn’t help but think of the differences between that and shower time at my house – where the kids would complain if the hot water was going and their shower was lukewarm.

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When we arrived at the children’s center, the kids were precious and happy to see us. The love they had for the One Vision missionaries was obvious. As we milled around, intermingling with the kids, one girl stood out to me. She was beautiful and stylish. She wore a white button up and a cute jean skirt and flats. Around her neck was a lanyard with scripture in Spanish. She reminded me of my daughter, Faith.

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Trying to make conversation, I asked if I could look at her necklace. The lanyard had small laminated pages with the Bible verses. I tried reading them aloud – butchering beautiful Spanish words as I went. She giggled and read them to me the correct way. I loved the way God’s Word flowed out of her mouth. Although I didn’t understand the language, I could recognize bits and pieces of familiar verses, so I repeated them to her in English.

“For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son…”

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“¿Cómo se llama?” I nervously put words together I hadn’t spoken in years, but remembered from a simple Spanish book I had as a child.

She pointed to herself and said, “Lady Diana.”

One of the One Vision team walked over and confirmed her name. “Yes. She told me. Her name is Lady Diana. I believe she is named after Princess Diana. I think she said her mom was a big fan.”

“Combien?” I asked her, thinking I was asking her ‘how many’ in Spanish. I wanted to know her age. But my default “other” language was French. So, instead, I asked her “how many” in French.

Emily, from One Vision, laughed at me and asked Lady Diana her age in Spanish this time.

“Diez,” she told me holding up both hands with ten fingers.

“Diez? Ten?” I asked. “My daughter is ten, too!” It was in that moment the floodgates opened, and I started bawling. I was in a foreign country, miles and miles away from my family, doing what God had called me to do, and I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed at His goodness. Overwhelmed with ache for my family. Overwhelmed at how similar and how different this sweet girl was from my own daughter Faith.

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“I just realized how much I miss Faith.” I told Emily, not completely able to put all my feelings into words. Emily chuckled and explained to Lady Diana why the crazy lady from the United States was bawling. Diana smiled and hugged me, stroking my hair.

I think I loved her instantly in that moment.

When I returned home and told Alan and the kids about her, Alan insisted we become her sponsor. And so we did.

So in a month from now, I will board a plane, with Alan and the rest of the One Vision team, to fly back to the Dominican Republic. I’ll bump down a dirt road in a bus (I hope it’s pink again.) and walk to a cinder block children’s center to be greeted in Spanish by the sweetest faces. And I’ll be scanning each one looked for a certain princess – the girl who stole my heart – Diana.

And I just might cry.

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**One Vision asked me to return this year to help put on another women’s conference. Alan is going with me this time. We are raising the money for this mission trip by selling t-shirts again this year. You can purchase the gray shirt from last year, or Alan has designed a new blue shirt this year.

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If you are able, I would love it if you would purchase a shirt or make a donation. If not, would you please pray for us? Pray for God to give me the words as I prepare to speak to these women at the conference. Pray for safe travels and for good health for the whole team. Also, if you can share this post or the link to the shirts, I would be so grateful. Thank you! Here are the pics of the shirts. Click HERE to go view them on the fundraising site.

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Carol

Letting Go of Me

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Have you ever seen someone else do something or achieve something and you looked on with envy wondering how you could make it happen for yourself?

I have.

If we are honest, we’d probably all admit we’ve had those thoughts before. With writing and speaking, it’s so easy to look on with envy when others have great success instead of rejoice. Why were they asked to speak at such a big conference and not me? Why did they get a book deal so quickly when I’ve been working so long?

We all want the prize – the mirror ball trophy – the golden cup – the seat next to Jesus. It’s a struggle that’s been going on for years upon years.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. Mark 10:35-38 NIV

In case you haven’t noticed, my last post was October 30 and even that was a repost of something I had written long ago. I’ve been struggling with that. Asking God why He hadn’t inspired me. Usually, the only time I’m uninspired is when I’m not spending time in His Word. But I’ve been there. I’ve spent morning after morning reading His Word and pouring out my heart in prayer.

I’ve been super busy, but still I’ve found time to do all my freelance writing. But nothing here on my site. I’ve worried God about this. “Lord, I’m going to lose my readers and followers.” He was silent.

“God, look at her! She is launching another new book!” Silence still.

“God, please let me write! Lord, am I still supposed to write? Send some encouragement.” The day I uttered that prayer, I received an email congratulating me for one of my stories making it into another Chicken Soup for the Soul book. (Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to my Mom Coming out March 2015)

I cried, knowing God sent encouragement but still my website remained unchanged. No new words to share. I praised Him anyway.

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I started incorporating some serious praise in my daily time with God. I listened to worship songs on YouTube singing along and lifting my hands here at the kitchen table. I poured through the words of the Bible and found myself weeping over the miracles of Christ, His death and resurrection and the stoning of Stephen.

But today, I started my day reading THIS post by Jon Acuff on the difference between inspiration and comparison. Then in my quiet time I read the story of Simon the sorcerer. It’s in Act 8 if you want to read it.

Simon heard the gospel from Philip and was saved. Then he saw Peter and John lay their hands on believers and watched them receive the Holy Spirit. It was powerful! And since Simon, who was a sorcerer or magician by trade, like to put on a good show he envisioned the awesomeness of having that type of power.

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:18-19 NIV

Peter rebuked Simon telling him:

“May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God.” (v.20)

It would be so easy to gloss over this story and think, “Ha! I would never do that. I have never offered to slip our pastor a $20 to let me give the invitation. That’s crazy!”

But.

What kind of pushing and manipulating have I done with God? God, I’ve baked goodies for the widow down the street. Can you hook me up with a speaking engagement? Or Lord, I just donated all of our old stuff to a homeless ministry. Think you could send that book proposal this way now?

Because isn’t that the way the world works? You do this to get that.

But y’all. That’s NOT it. God’s kingdom doesn’t work that way. It’s the opposite of this world. Jesus told James and John just that after they asked for special seating.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

And just in case I may have attempted to gloss over Simon’s story in Acts 8, the Lord plopped Philip and the Eunuch’s story right after it.

You see, the reason Peter and John came to Samaria (where Simon the sorcerer lived) in the first place was because they heard people were accepting God’s message there. Guess who was the one preaching it? Philip.

Philip had a great ministry going in Samaria. The Bible tells us many men and women were being baptized. But in the middle of this great ministry God asked Philip to “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26) God sent Peter and John to take over in Samaria while he sent Philip elsewhere. It would have been so easy to say, “Hey! This is my ministry! I’m not leaving!”

But Philip didn’t, and we know by reading the rest of the story he was allowed to participate in the conversion of an Ethiopian Eunuch. God had a plan for him there. But Philip would have missed out on it if his heart wasn’t in the right place. Philip wasn’t focused on Philip. Philip was focused on God. And God’s message for the world.

And friends, that’s what God has been reminding me. It’s not about me. It’s not about speaking engagements, book deals, number of followers or how often I write on my website.

It’s all about Him.

The comparison thing? It takes the focus off of God and puts it on us. The trying to “buy” the Holy Spirit? It’s like trying to buy the spotlight. The holding onto ministry so tight you aren’t willing to let someone else take over? Again, the focus is on us.

I’m obviously a slow learner. But God has been teaching me the lesson of dying to self. My wants, my desires, my love for the spotlight all have to die. It’s a matter of heart. As I’ve read the Bible through, over and over again that’s the same theme I see.

It’s a heart issue. When we put God first, others next and ourselves last, we view the world the way He does. It’s hard to be judgmental when you are Christ focused.

So, I share my flaws with you because we are in this together. And just maybe there’s something in your life that you need to give to God. Maybe you struggle with the same things as me. It’s time we do some letting go. It’s not all about me. It’s about Him.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV

*photo credit

Carol

Learning to Listen in 3 Easy Steps

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I wrote this a few years back for the Internet Cafe, but my son reminded me of it last night. We got a good chuckle, so I thought I’d share it again with you here in its entirety. 

I’m a doer. You will usually find me folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, reorganizing the canned goods, or making sure my closet is color coded in order of the rainbow. I tell you this so you’ll know that sitting on the couch and ordering around the children isn’t the norm.

But that’s exactly what I was doing this particular day. I was sitting in our overstuffed chair, diet Coke by my side, with my feet perched just so when I realized my toes were cold. “Colin,” I called my son from upstairs. “Will you run to my room and grab me a pair of socks and toss them down?” Run, grab, toss. Simple instructions. Any eight-year-old could have done it.

A few minutes passed when I heard my son run the length of the hall and bound down the stairs. He got close enough to my chair and tossed. What landed in my lap, friends, was not socks. It wasn’t even anything in which I could wrap my feet to warm my tootsies.

My son tossed me a pair of panties. Panties! In what scenario would I be sitting in my overstuffed chair and decide I needed a new pair of under drawers? What was he thinking?

“Colin,” I started slowly, “What did I ask you to do?”

“Ummmm….” He started, having no clue.

Sometimes, I’m the same way with God. I know He is speaking, but I have no clue what He has asked me to do. Just so I don’t show up at the children’s shelter with sixty-four pair of Fruit-of-the-Loom, I need to be familiar with hearing Him speak.

How can we hear God?

1. Put yourself in front of Him.

We can do this by going to His Word and spending time in prayer. Enter His throne room. Look into His face.

If you want to hear from God, go to Him. Don’t call out for Him to speak and then expect Him to meet you in the aisles at Target. (Although, He can certainly find you wherever you are if He wants to get your attention bad enough.)

2. Reduce distractions.

Turn off the TV. Walk away from the computer. Leave your cell phone in another room and find a quiet place where you can talk openly to Him. Don’t do it in the shower – you’ll forget whether or not you’ve shampooed your hair. Just find time to be with your Heavenly Father while doing nothing else.

3. Be still and listen.

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10 NIV) Don’t spend so much time talking you forget to listen. God will show up. He will whisper to your soul in a way that only He can. But if you are too busy giving Him a run-down of your day and your problems, you might not hear Him.

God desires a relationship with us, one that goes both ways. He will speak if we are prepared to listen. Be sure you are ready. If you listen half-heartedly, you might be embarrassed when you show up in the den with panties.

*photo credit

Carol

Who is God?

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Have you ever watched a dog show? Or even perhaps seen a hunter with his four-legged partner? I’m always in amazement of how the dogs are taught to heel and fetch, drop and stay with simple commands. If you’ve ever owned a dog, you understand the absolute wonder of this accomplishment.

I used to have a dog – a yellow lab. Labradors are known for their intelligence and are often used for hunting dogs. We tried teaching our dog to shake and speak on command. No luck. And as much as our sweet Comet loved running after whatever we threw in the yard – balls, Frisbees, sticks, toys – she would never return them. Instead, she’d run to a corner to chew on her prize for a while.

The problem wasn’t with our dog; it was with us.

Dogs who can obey on command are wonderful, but the real amazement should go to the trainers – those who can somehow turn obstinate into obedient.

We can all agree that dog trainers are awe-inspiring. Think about how that animal instructor stands in one spot and looks almost effortless as he calls a command or whistles. Now imagine if your doctor had that same trait. When you walk in his office with a sore throat, he doesn’t move from his chair and says, “It’s better.” You swallow and realize he is correct.

Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Or how about someone who could blink and cause the flowers to bloom or whose sigh could change the seasons.

There is someone who can do all of that.

God.

The further removed we are from the time when Jesus walked the earth, the more we convince ourselves the things of the Bible are fairy tales, and God is mundane. We throw His name around without reverence. See shoes you absolutely love? “Oh my God, I love those shoes!” or “Oh God, you scared me!”

May the Creator of the universe forgive us for tossing his name into our conversations like salt on fries. He is more than a condiment.

He is. That’s it. He simply is.

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Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.” Exodus 3:13-15 NIV

In reading Matthew 8 about Jesus healing people, I almost glazed over the Almighty. I’ve been a Christian a long time. I’ve heard about, read about, watched puppet shows, made popsicle stick renditions of, and sang songs complete with hand motions of the miracles of Christ and the greatness of God.

But today, God stopped me. He slowed me down as I read, asking me to re-read the words.

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. Matthew 8:14-16 NIV

Jesus touched Peter’s mother-in-law and healed her. She felt well enough to immediately get up and cook Jesus and Peter some supper. Earlier that day, Jesus had been in the temple when a demon-possessed man came up to him. The Son of God cast out the demon from the man with a simple command – as simple as the dog trainer’s “fetch” or “leave it.” Jesus said, “Leave him” and the demon did. Word traveled fast, because after supper that night at Peter’s, all kinds of people needing healing started showing up.

And “with a word” Jesus healed all the sick. Do you truly comprehend the magnitude of that? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because his father, God, created the entire universe with words.

Friends, it’s about time we stopped throwing God around like seasoning and recognized Him for the omnipotent, omnipresent, almighty GOD He is. He is the Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end.

It’s time we showed a little reverence to the true King of Kings. Can I get an Amen?

*photo credit

Carol