Walking in the Dark

When I woke up this morning, it was dark. But knowing I had to get up and jump in the shower so I could get the kids ready for school and out the door, I put my feet to the floor.

I couldn’t see, but I made my way across the room to the bathroom. You see, in the bathroom, I knew there was a light switch. I didn’t bump into anything on the way because I walked slow, moving one foot in front of the other, feeling my way, looking for things that might trip me. I knew there was a shelf along my route.

How did I know? I knew because I’d seen the shelf. I’d placed things on the shelf. I’d had experience with the shelf. I knew Alan was still sleeping in the bed. I couldn’t see him either, but I could hear him – his deep steady breathing let me know he was there.

And after inching my way along, I finally felt my way to the light switch and turned it on. You know what happened when light hit the room? It only confirmed what I already knew in the dark. I could see the bed, the shelf and Alan asleep.

Walking in faith is just like walking in the dark. When we can’t see in front of us, we immediately head to the spot where we’ll find Light. We slow-foot shuffle, feeling our way little by little. We may not be able to see God, but we can stretch out our hands and feel His presence.

Are you struggling with a situation because you can’t see? Perhaps you are scared because you don’t know the outcome. You desperately want to hear from the Lord but you don’t see Him.

Friend, I am with you. I’m looking for Him, too. No one said walking by faith would ever be easy. Just remember to head towards the Light. Because when Light hits the circumstances in your life, it will only confirm what you already knew in the dark. God was there all along.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV

 

*Photo credit

Carol

Learning to Be a Mom

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I watched my daughter Grace on the swing set yesterday. Dinner was cooked and waiting on daddy to arrive, so I ventured to the back yard and pulled up a chair to watch my youngest girl. The other two were holed up in their rooms, probably glued to an electronic device.

“Mama!” she yelled, so excited to have my undivided attention. “Watch me!”

I sat back into one of our patio chairs and propped my feet on the tiny plastic picnic table in front of me and relaxed in the evening sun. I watched as Grace swung her legs to and fro, pumping herself higher and higher.

When did she get so good at swinging, I wondered. Just yesterday she was outgrowing the baby swing with the bar to keep her from falling out. I thought of those first few times putting her in the big girl swing and praying she didn’t fall out the back. I would stand with my hands out to catch her if she accidentally let go of the chains.

“Hold tight!” I’d tell her, barely pushing her high enough to catch wind in her hair.

I was thinking of how many times I’d stood in the yard behind the swing, pushing her when she jolted my thoughts. “Mama! Do you see me? I’m almost touching the sky! Woooooooo!”

Without warning, my eyes filled and blurred the carefree girl across the yard. When did she get so good at swinging? I wondered again.

Next year, she’ll be in kindergarten. She’ll be six on her birthday. It doesn’t seem that long ago when I stared in shock at that positive pregnancy test and walked out of the bathroom to tell Alan, “You’re not going to believe this.”

“Waaaaa-hooooooooo,” Grace called out. “Look at me now, Mama!”

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“Wow! You’re great at swinging, Grace! Be careful.” I cautioned her.

“Don’t worry. I just hold on tight to these chains. Really tight. Just like you told me, Mama,” Grace said.

And my hands, in tense fists in my lap, loosened a bit. This is the way of things for moms. We place them into swings when their tiny bodies aren’t big enough to do it alone. Then we stand behind them, coaching them on what to do, close enough to catch them if they fall. In time, we are across the yard, watching from afar as they practice what we’ve taught. We relish in their accomplishments.

Because soon – my breath catches a little – soon, they will leave the yard. God help me when that day comes.

I bit my lip a little, to keep from the ugly cry. “That’s great, Grace. I’m glad you remember. Just don’t ever let go.”

Carol

One Thing that Completely Changed my Walk with God

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Eight years ago, my life changed completely.

I hint about it in my story on my “About Me” page. But let me tell you more. I lived a good life – attended church, prayed when needed and was a Christian. But I had a suspicion that I was missing something. I loved God, knew Jesus died for my sins and had accepted that He was my salvation. But still. I wondered if there was more.

My Christian life was mundane to say the least. I made a decision to accept Christ at age 10. I sang all the songs, heard all the Bible stories and attended Vacation Bible School every summer. When I joined Facebook quite a few years ago, I reconnected with some high school friends. One of them had become a Christian after high school and was very vocal about it on Facebook. After I posted a Bible verse, she private messaged me and asked, “Did you become a Christian after high school, too?” She was super excited for me.

Only one problem. I was a Christian all through high school. Why is that a problem, you ask? Because she should have known it by the way I lived. I didn’t attend parties or drink alcohol with my friends, but my Christianity was so subtle that people didn’t know for sure.

I think I lived most of my life that way. I was a checkbox Christian.

Do you attend church? Check.
Are you a Christian? Check.
Do you know Christ as your Savior? Check.

But there wasn’t the passion to back it up. Honestly, I believe this is an issue with lots of people who grow up in church. You lose the spark. You somehow lose connection to the fact that someone allowed their only child to suffer and die for you. Your relationship with God has as much passion as an old couple watching TV on the couch – her snoring, him with his hand tucked in his waistband. Blah.

Wondering if there was more to my relationship with God, I became fascinated with the idea of seeking Him. The Bible tells us if we seek Him, we will find Him.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

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So I made it my quest to find God. I decided to start with reading the Bible. I grew up in church, so I could tell you the books of the Old and New Testament in order. I could quote passages. I had completed many a Bible study. But I had never read all of it – straight through. So that’s just what I did. I had tried it before but never made it past Leviticus.

But this time I was determined. I would read a few chapters each day and then ask myself what God was trying to teach me. Then I’d pray. I tied my boots tight, pulled up my socks and began the hike through those gilded-edged pages. Determined, I even marched through Leviticus.

And somewhere in the middle of the Old Testament, I started having “A-ha” moments. Pieces of the puzzle fit together in my brain. I had a new understanding of how things happened. All those stories I had heard and studied before made sense in a brand new way.

And I found God.

He was there all along. In the pages. In my prayers. In my praises.

And friends, He changed me. My close friends will tell you how different I am. I can’t help but bring God into my conversations. I look at the world through different eyes. My sister-in-law once told me I was like Moses after the burning bush experience. When you have been in the presence of God, YOU WILL BE CHANGED.

Reading the Bible through changed my life. It took me a while to complete it. I don’t remember exactly how long, but it was more than a year. When I finished, I flipped back to Genesis and started again. When I finished that time, I bought a chronological Bible and started the third time.

This week, I finished my chronological Bible. It took me two years and a month to do it. I tell you this not to brag but to encourage you to read the Bible from beginning to end. “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (2 Cor. 10:17) I challenge you to start with Genesis and work your way through.

If you feel stuck in life, if you are struggling with your marriage or finances or family issues or health problems, if you see God working in the lives of others and want Him to do the same with you, seek Him. Look for God in the pages of His Word.

I promise He will accomplish more than you can imagine. You will be changed. You can NOT encounter God and walk away the same. It’s just not possible.

Are you ready to see God up close and personal? Then get started.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… Gen. 1:1 NIV

Carol

All Lives Matter

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I woke with the rain this morning. And I was sad. I drug myself from bed and into the morning routine of waking, feeding and preparing three kids for school. But my heart was heavy.

I can’t get certain events off of my mind. A video I watched last night of men in Nepal digging a small child out of the ruble from the earthquake sticks with me. News stories of the rioting and hatred in Baltimore won’t leave my thoughts. And the knowledge of my best friend’s lung cancer is never far.

There is so much hurting and pain in this world. Last night, Alan and I spent some time discussing race relations in light of the events of Baltimore and Ferguson, among others. Just this weekend, we watched “42,” the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African American Major League Baseball player. He joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in April of 1947. My mother was born the same year. The prejudice and injustice he experienced happened not that long ago. Those of us who are white might like to think it’s a thing of the past, but I’m afraid we must pull our sandy heads upright and think again.

I remember clearly coming home in the second or third grade one day to tell my mom what I had learned about slavery. I was shocked and outraged. Teary, I asked my mom to explain how people could be so cruel. Friends, slavery wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things. And the hurt was real.

My mom once told me about a teacher friend of hers who was black. She and her family had gone out to dinner in a nice restaurant but had been treated like they didn’t belong. This was late 80’s – early 90’s. I’m ashamed to admit it but it still happens today. Just last week, the husband of a kind and sweet friend (who is also black) was pulled over on the way to CVS for driving suspiciously. What?!

It’s time we open our eyes. If you’re white, try to imagine how you would feel if you were treated with injustice just for your color. If you are black, don’t look for race in every situation – sometimes people are just mean because they are mean and color doesn’t play into it.

I’ve seen so much stuff on Facebook – everyone having an opinion.

Police Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter.

How about this? All lives matter. Hashtag that! #alllivesmatter

God created each of us in His image, and each and every one of us matter to Him. When you say “Purple Lives Matter” (we’ll just choose a random color) – while it’s true, it’s also insinuated that you are saying purple lives matter more than others.

All lives matter. People matter. You see God is looking at each one of us, and He loves us. He loves the mean people, the innocent people, the people steeped in sin – all of us. God doesn’t look at color. He is not white, nor black, nor yellow, nor red – He is GOD. And God looks deeper than color. He looks at the heart.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

All of this meanness in the world around us – the racial issues, the dishonesty in politics, human trafficking, ISIS – all of it is a heart matter. People need Jesus. To give a Sunday school reply to the aching question: What are we going to do about this world?

Jesus.

Jesus is the answer. Jesus can right all wrongs. Jesus can mend broken hearts. Jesus can lift people from poverty and a lifetime of injustice. Jesus can open the eyes and minds of self-centered individuals.

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Jesus.

You see, world change is not really that complex. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. Repeat.

It’s time we work towards reconciliation with our fellow man. Are you in?

*photo credit: screen shot, personal photo; cross

Carol

Dominican Mission Trip Day Two

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Thankfully, our Tennessee team arrived a little before dinner on Friday night. So Saturday morning, we woke early and were ready to start the women’s conference. Maria, one of our interpreters, asked me a question the night before.

“How do you get up in front of a big group and speak like that? Don’t you get scared?”

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I told her that sometimes I do get a little nervous beforehand, but usually once I get started, God takes over. When you work in the strength God gives you, good things happen. But I’ll be honest. I was a little nervous Saturday morning. It was so helpful to have Alan with me.

Sometimes when I get in bed at night and am finally still, I struggle with anxiety. I keep scripture in my nightstand at home for nights when I can’t sleep. But one thing that really helps is having Alan touch me. Just a hand on my back, letting me know he is near, can calm me immensely.

So in the apartment where we were staying, Alan and I were to share a full-size bed. It was the bottom of a bunk bed. At home we sleep on a king-size bed, so I wasn’t sure how we were going to fit. But I have to tell you what a blessing that bed was. Every night when I went to sleep, I was touching Alan – I couldn’t help it in a bed that size. But that touch brought me such peace, that I was able to sleep.

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Isn’t it just like God to work out details like that in advance?

I got showered and dressed early Saturday so I could have a little time to spend alone with God before we left. I made sure I had my notes for my talks, my water, my insulin and my Bible. We drove the fifteen minutes to the church. It wasn’t until I walked into the doors of the church that I realized the one important thing I forgot – my contacts!!

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I could not see! Thankfully, the One Vision missionary, Claudia, offered to take the driver and the bus back to the apartment and get them for me. We started the conference with worship, so she had a little time. And about three minutes before I was to go on stage, she returned with my contacts. Praise God!

I was living out Amazing Grace. “…I once was blind, but now I see.” Ha!

I spoke to the women about how prayer is personal. We each have free access to the Creator of the Universe. He is our personal armor through prayer. The women nodded and responded as I spoke.

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Afterwards, we broke into small groups for prayer. Each of members of our team had a particular topic.
•Marriage
•Finances
•Unsaved Loved Ones
•Children
•Health

Alan and I led the group on marriage. First we played an icebreaker game. The ladies really had fun with that. We had them line up in order of height and then shoe size from smallest to largest, but they only had one minute.

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Then each group leader from the team had provided verses for their particular subject, before the trip, to be translated. So we were able to pass out sheets with a list of verses in Spanish for them to use in their prayers. We had our group read the verses aloud, because we know God’s Word is powerful and active. Then we asked them to split into groups of two or three.

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We spoke a few minutes about how important prayer is in your marriage and then gave them a particular topic. First we told them to pray for communication in their marriage – that lines would be open, that they would be willing to listen to their spouses and would be able to effectively communicate their needs. The groups took a couple of minutes to share their requests with each other and then prayed. We continued with four other topics in marriage.

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Each of the other team leaders was doing the same thing with their own breakout subject. After the breakout sessions, we had lunch. After lunch, I spoke again. This time I shared how prayer is powerful. I gave examples in scripture and in my own life.

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After my talk, we had the breakout prayer groups again, giving the ladies the option to choose another subject this time. So we led the marriage breakout again with a different group of women.

This time our group was smaller, so we decided to get in one big group instead of breaking up in groups of two. The great thing about this was the interaction we were able to have with the women. When they shared prayer requests, Alan and I were able to respond first with some advice and wisdom from what we have learned in our own marriage and from the marriage classes we used to teach. I really enjoyed sharing, and the women seemed to get a lot out of it.

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We ended that afternoon with more worship. I had many hugs and lots of words of gratitude from the ladies. I’m always in awe of the way God works.

We headed back to the apartment to rest before supper. We had a team meeting and prepared for the Sunday worship service and the rest of the conference. Alan played Claudia’s guitar, and we worshipped together and sang songs of praise.

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One of the groups, Rachel and Paula, shared how in their breakout session, the women prayed at the same time instead of taking turns praying together. They got the idea to get in a big circle at the end of their breakout and all of them prayed aloud at the same time. Rachel told us how powerful it was. So she asked if we could do it as a team before bed.

As we each prayed aloud, some in English and some in Spanish, I got chills. It was amazing. Hearing all of those prayers was loud and powerful. Think of how incredible our God must be to be able to hear every prayer that is uttered at the same time all over the world. All praises and glory and honor belong to Him. Amen.

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I’ll tell you about the rest of the conference tomorrow.

Carol