Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Real Woman Wednesday - "Real Peachy Mom!"

Good Morning, ladies!  I have a special blogger (with a great blog) to share with you today. :)

Heather writes at You'll find all kinds of wonderful topics - Family Night Fridays, Give-aways, Reviews, a Good Morning club and more! 

Below is Heather's testimony, which I know you'll enjoy... and please take time to visit her blog as well!

1. Can you introduce yourself? :)

My name is Heather and I am a SAHM to four children ages 9,7,4 & 2. I am just a 32 year old mom still figuring out who I am and who God wants me to be :)

2. How did you come to know Jesus Christ in a personal way?

I came to the Lord at the age of 4 and He has always been with me and guiding me. I have grown know Him more as I matured naturally and was able to read and comprehend the scriptures. I really dont know a time when I didnt have a close relationship with the Lord. I did waiver in faith when I allowed doctrine to take over. I struggled for a year in trying to understand what a particular church was teaching because it went against how I was brought up and made me question my relationship with the Lord. The good that came out of the year of darkness, was that I dug into the word and know I firmly know what I believe instead of being spoon fed by preachers.

3. What is “the story” or the main themes of your life?

Faith that the Lord is who He says HE is. From Him being my Father and Friend, to being my Protector and Provider.

4. How do you see God using this story to encourage others or to mold you?

Its hard to give everyone the whole story of what God has done in my life, but I hope that through some of my history others will see the hand of God and be drawn to a deeper walk with Him.

5. In what ways have you seen God be glorified in your life?

I find that the closer I get to Him the more I want to be like Him. My attitude is much better and I find myself praising Him during the day when I start my day off with some time alone in prayer. By seeking to live my life as Christ, I know others have been drawn to me and I am able to share with them and pray for them. I am not perfect and am not afraid to own up to my mistakes and ask for forgiveness. By living everyday and striving to live in love, I glorify God even in my weakness.

6. Can you give an example from your life of Romans 8:28 – all things working together for good?

My husband and I lived about 4 hours away from our family for about 3 years. We had just moved back to Indiana , where we are from, and my husband was offered a job in Georgia. We moved away from our family again, this time it was 12 hours away. Feeling stranded yet trusting that God knew best was extremely hard for me as a mother of 3 young children and seven months pregnant with my fourth. The Dr. I found in Georgia was making me have a c-section due to a previous c-section. I was totally aginst this due to lack of help during my recovery time. When my fourth child was born the Dr. had said that if I went natural the baby or I could have died because she was laying on top of the placenta. Neither of us knew this because all the ultra sounds came back normal. I thank God for leading me to the right Dr that would not give into my pleas for a natural birth. Not only was I blessed with my fourth child, but also we found that my oldest had special needs and the city we moved to has the best Special Needs Therapy School. Had we stayed in Indiana, the desire of our heart, we could have lost our baby in child birth and lost our oldest daughter in the school system since there is nothing to meet her needs there. The Lord truly knows best.

7. What is your prayer today – and how can we be praying for you?

My prayer today is to continue to have a growing desire to be like Jesus and to be a mirror that reflects every aspect of His character.

Thank you for sharing your testimony, Heather!  God bless you today :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Real Me Monday - in the small things

It was just a baking kit for a GIANT cupcake
but it got me thinking...

Why is it that a "giant" cupcake captures our imagination and causes those kids on the box to jump and seemingly shout with delight?  Why not simply 12 average sized-cupcakes?  They taste the same... are easier to bake (I know that from experience)...

Somewhere deep inside, I believe we crave the recognition and impact of BIG - big salary, big ministry, big leap of faith, big break, big success, a big name...

... unless our worth and security comes from our incredibly BIG God.  Knowing Him makes the mundane part of a glorious plan.  It makes stopping to put a bandaid on the wounded leg of a snotty-nosed kid an act of love and obedience.  Knowing Him makes serving food and cleaning up endless messes something valuable and worthwhile. Knowing Him makes taking just small steps of faith far more beautiful than waiting for the next big thing to come along - for He desires our faithfulness in the "small matters" first (Luke 19:17).

When we consistently respond to His will in the everyday, in the small things - we have the awesome opportunity to walk alongside the Great I Am and witness Him at work in the world.  The best part is, our great God is not JUST a God of everything major, but always God of the details as well.  His eye is on the sparrow!

Matthew 10:29-31
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

I pray for my heart to be like His - one that is concerned for the least of these and that delights in the little things of life!  I pray for His eyes to see the small ways each day where He can use me to touch another life and advance His kingdom in this world. 

Making a difference doesn't have to be large-scale, just heart-felt and real. 

And, that's what I really want. 

By the way, I thought the giant cupcake was pretty good, but - because it was so big - the cake-to-frosting ratio was all off.  Way too much cake! As far as taste goes, 12 average-sized cupcakes have my vote. :) I must say, though, (aside from my above analogy) the kids loved making the cupcake and devoured it without any complaints!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Learning and Reflecting

Where have I been?

I'm pretty sure guilt has plagued me every single day that I look at my computer and decide not to sit down and write a post.

To be honest, so much has been happening around here, that I haven't even known where to start or what to talk about.  Have you ever been in times like that... where you can't even describe the step you're on, because you're hardly sure what's going on yourself exactly?!  That's been us these past few weeks.

It's been wonderful.  I tend to use the word "intense" more often to explain August 2010.  God just reached down and rocked our little world, setting us on a path of learning to trust Him more completely.  At first, it was simply the realization that God was opening doors for us to work as missionaries here in our town, not Mexico.  Big decision.  Then, just as we started "tracking with Him" on that, it because clear that He was propelling us towards something more than neighborhood ministry - to establishing a community / youth center in Storm Lake.  Then, it was suddenly learning to trust Him to provide a building, when the one we feel He's led us to was set to have everything in it auctioned off and to be demolished in the near future.  Then, it went from a community / youth center to planting a city base here with Christ For the City International.  If you're head is spinning with it all, mine has been as well.  I can't even begin to go into all the "little things" - all the mini-dramas - that are being played out as well during this time. 

It's been moving ahead so fast.  I remember one evening in particular, when I sat down to email my friend Angie all the updates of that day - and there was literally a list of 10 MAJOR events that had taken place.  It's been one thing after the other as we witness God's hand at work, unfolding piece by piece of His plan before us.

Such is life, right?  Anyway, I haven't been writing lately.  Writing is a way of collecting my thoughts - a way of reflecting. In fact, the only way I really process thoughts, ideas or experiences, is to put it all into words.  But, God's been breaking me down and teaching me so many things lately, I haven't had a chance to start reflecting.  Does that make sense to anyone else?  ;)

Tonight was the first night I felt right about starting to put all this into words.  Maybe it's because the neighborhood kids started school today, and I can officially say God brought me through a very busy summer. ;)  Maybe it's because it is Jay's birthday, and we had a wonderful, family party together.  Maybe it's because my feeble mind is being granted some wisdom from God - and it's His time to give me words. 

At any rate, I'm back.  Thanks for your patience, encouragement and prayers.  I have so much to share with all of you over the next days and weeks.  As with any aspect of my life, I pray He uses these experiences, my victories and my failures to point you to Him.  He's so worthy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Bridge of Storm Lake

Today I'd like to officially introduce to all of you...

Together with a group of great people, Jay and I are working to establish this community/youth center in our town!  God's faithfully guided these steps, and we are in awe of how He orchestrates every detail.  We are excited to see His plan unfolding! 

OUR MISSION:  To share God’s love by fostering relationships, standing in the gap, and promoting hope.

OUR VISION:  To be a place of hope and benefit for the community, where each person is valued and lives are transformed by Jesus Christ.

The three main function of The Bridge:

CONNECTING:  The Bridge will be a place for relating to one another, promoting greater understanding and awareness in our community. It will link individuals and groups with God’s love put into action.

Key Connections: 

Kids with positive role models
Area churches and service organizations with specific needs of the population
Mentors and mentees
Adults with employers
Between cultures
Among new friends
All people with their Creator

Plans to support this function:

Youth Program
Community language pairs/Language Lab
Men’s breakfasts/Women’s Bible studies
Mom’s Café and Play
Holiday meals
Community Athletic nights
Opportunities for local churches/organizations to facilitate activities/host events
Celebrating Culture – dance/cooking classes
Availability for rent by community (support groups, youth groups, cultural events, etc)

SUPPORTING:  The Bridge will foster a safe, positive and fun environment for individuals as well as provide opportunities for growth and betterment.
It will offer resources and assistance in order to aid individuals in transitioning from a certain mindset to a more hopeful lifestyle and spiritual growth.

Plans to support this function:

Youth Activities/Youth nights
Apprenticeship Programs
“Employment Ready” program
Homework Lab with tutors
Assistance in filling out forms
Promote network of available community resources
Summer camps and day-time activities for kids
Summer meals for kids
Computer Lab

EMPOWERING:  Empowerment is a way for individuals to move from where they are to a more hopeful, productive future. The Bridge will provide spiritual guidance, enrichment courses and training opportunities for adults and youth in order to benefit the whole person, family, culture and the community.

Plans to support this function:

Language resources
“Employment Ready” Program
Computer classes
Youth Program
Internet Cafe
Mom’s Café and Play
Homework Lab with tutors
Bible studies
Promote network of available community resources
Discipleship mentoring 

The Bridge YOUTH!  At the heart of The Bridge is our commitment to the youth of Storm Lake. We are dedicated to developing a vibrant, Christ-centered youth program that nurtures young people with love and attention, encourages academic success and provides a place where “a kid can be a kid!”

More details to follow!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thursday's Truth - Ephesians 1.3-8

Today's Truth:

I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will
to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace
that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."  Ephesians 1:3-8

Verses like these in Ephesians give me enough to think about for days.  I think - "really?  He chose me BEFORE the creation of the world?"  Yes, we all have free will, but in His all-knowing, all-powerful way He already knew who would choose Him and every aspect of our lives. 

"My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."  Psalm 139: 15-16

Why did He do all this? Because it was in accordance with His pleasure, His will, the riches of His grace to adopt US and make us joint-heirs with Christ Jesus. INCREDIBLE. 

Do you know you are a child of God?  I encourage you to read another post I wrote "Adopted by God" which explains more on this subject.  That post was part of a series I wrote on adoption.

Today, as I read this scripture and Today's Truth...I am thankful.  Thankful for having redemption in His blood and the forgiveness of sins.  I was just reading in the book of Hebrews this morning, a wonderful book that clearly describes this concept of having redemption in the blood of Christ.

Under the old covenant, the high priests paid for the sins of the people with the blood of animals - for, "...without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" Hebrews 8:22  But Jesus changed everything!

"Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people.  He sacrified for their sins once for all when he offered himself."  Hebrews 7:27

"For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance - now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."  Hebrews 8:15

The sacrifice of Jesus does not need to be repeated with each sin committed; He sacrified once for all and in doing so defeated sin, taking away sin for those who trust in Him.

"Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.  Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world.  But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself."  Hebrews 9:25-26

His sacrifice is sufficient!  What Jesus did was enough!  I learned once that there were no chairs for the high priests in the temple, because they stood and were constantly making sacrifices and interceding for their people.  Their work was NEVER done.  For that reason, it is SIGNIFICANT beyond words when God's Word says that Jesus, as our High Priest, sacrificed Himself and then SAT DOWN at the right hand of God.  It is done.

"Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.  Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy."  Hebrews 10:11-14

Based on today's truth, may we be secure in the knowledge of our position as children of God through adoption, chosen and loved by Him!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Food for Friday! 7.30.10

Happy Friday!

Guess what?  I cooked a couple of my favorite recipes this week - and then my oven broke.  Actually, it's been on it's last leg for ... well, 9 months.  When we moved in, my husband was standing on the glass cooking surface trying to clean off the top of the cabinets... and his foot went through.
We had just bought a new fridge, and there was no way we had budgeted for a new stove, so I just kept using it with only the back two burners.  Improvise, improvise, improvise!
Then, it started to go crazy.  While I was cooking, it suddenly locked and went into clean mode (as in, 500 degrees or so).  Nice it wanted to be clean, but bad because my food was locked inside and literally burning up before my eyes.  We figured it was a fluke and the kids had bumped something.  But, it did it again, and again, and again.  So, it's official... our oven is shot and can't be trusted!
This week, I cooked for the last time in the broken oven.  It went into clean mode again, so Jay busted the lock and we salvaged the oatmeal.  Good thing, because I was fairly frustrated at that point.  At any rate, I have a wonderful excuse for not cooking ;) ... but it would a bit more convenient to have a fully-functioning oven again!

Well, here goes with my final meal from this oven:

Delicious Baked Oatmeal
1 egg, beaten
1/3 C oil
1/3 C sugar
2 C Old-Fashioned oatmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt
2 C milk
1/2 C fruit (optional) -
ex: raisins, chopped apples or strawberries
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C brown sugar

Mix egg, oil and sugar.  Add the oatmeal, baking powder, salt, milk, fruit (optional), and cinnamon.  Stir.  Pour into a 7x10 or 8x8 pan.  Sprinkle with brown sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  *I double the recipe for a 9x13.
LOVE this one - it's definitely a favorite around here!!

Baked Eggs and Cheese
1 1b. sausage
7 eggs
1 C milk
2 tsp sugar
1/2 lb Mont. Jack cheese
4 oz cream cheese
16 oz cottage cheese
6 T butter
1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder

Brown and drain sausage.  Beat together eggs, milk and sugar.  Add cheeses and butter.  Mix well, then add flour and baking powder.  Add sausage.  Pour into greated 9x13 baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Enjoy! :)

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Taking a blogging break...

Hello all! :)  We are taking a much-needed mini-vacation and heading north.  We need some time away to relax and regroup!! ;)  I'm refusing to take my computer... so there will be no new posts for about a week. 

Take care!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Real Women" Wednesday - Liz K.

Welcome to "Real Women" Wednesday! 
Today, my blogging friend Liz is sharing her testimony of the Lord at work in her life.  Liz blogs over at - please stop by and say hi!

1. Introduction...

Hello, I'm Liz, and I am a pastor's wife and stay-at-home-mom in southern California, in the uniquely beautiful High Desert. We live in a tiny town about an hour from anything, even Wal-Mart. Aside from having to "head into town" each week to go shopping, (think Laura Ingalls), we absolutely love it here! We came to this area about 6 years ago when my husband accepted his first pastorate, and it's a great place to raise our family. We have three adorable girls who keep me running all the time- Linsey (5), Hannah (3), and Natalie (1).

2. How did you come to know Jesus Christ in a personal way?

I like the way you phrased this. I had the privilege of being raised in a wonderful Christian home, and I've known about Jesus for as long as I can remember. When I was a young child, I vaguely remember praying with a friend at our pre-school, asking Christ to save us. But I soon began to have serious doubts about whether or not this had really happened, and I definitely did not want to stake my eternity on it! When I was a few years older, I remember attending a Vacation Bible School at my grandmother's church. The speaker was talking about how Christ had died to take away MY sin - it seemed so personal, and I felt so badly, that He had to die such a horrible death for me. That made me love Him so much, how could I not give my life to Him? After that message, I spoke to a worker and accepted Christ as my Savior.

3. What is “the story” or the main themes of your life?

In II Corinthians 12, Paul asks the Lord three times to remove his "thorn in the flesh." Finally, the Lord answers him, but not with some miraculous event that solved all Paul's problems. Instead, He says to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Then Paul goes on to say that because of this, he glories in his weaknesses, because he knows that when He is weak, God is strong for Him. I have seen this over and over again in my life. As a teenager, I went through a very difficult time as I brought to light the truth about an abusive situation that had been going on in my extended family for years. This tore apart my family, and I felt more guilt than you can imagine, having to testify against my own relatives. But at the same time, it's like I felt God's arms around me, holding me up. His grace truly was sufficient for my needs, one day at a time. The weaker I felt, the more I could feel God's power working in my life.

Then several years ago, when my husband and I were first married, we were hit by a semi-truck that didn't stop at a stop sign. I was knocked unconscious and broke my jaw, two bones in my arm, and crushed two vertebrae in my back, where I now have permanent metal rods implanted (move over, Abs of Steel!) I was on bed rest for almost a year, and things looked pretty bleak for awhile. But again, God's grace just overwhelmed me. There were days when reading my Bible was the only thing I got done, but that's what got me through those hard times. I read through Psalms over and over and found that the more I relied on God, the more He showed Himself to be near. I have a CD that I listened to a lot then that now I love to play, because the songs are like old friends, reminding me of God's grace and strength in that difficult time, and the comfort He gave me. I pray so often for God's grace to deal with whatever comes in my life in a way that honors Him. I'd rather have God's grace than an easy life!

4. How do you see God using this story to encourage others or to mold you?

These difficult times have really deepened my walk and my faith as a Christian. I don't have one of those testimonies where God saved me from a wicked life of addictions and turned me around. But I've been through some very difficult times, and God has given me the grace and strength to get through them. I can't even tell you how many times God has prompted me to share my testimony with others who have been abused, to give them some hope that God can still use their lives too. And I can relate to people who suffer physically in a totally different way after the car accident - I will always have limitations because of it, but again, God still wants to use me for His work!

5. In what ways have you seen God be glorified in your life?

I can't get over the fact that as a pastor's family, it is my JOB to help others come to know Christ, and to encourage them to walk with Him personally! To me, it's the best job in the world. We pray every day as a family, that God would use us to show His love to someone who needs it that day. I often counsel with women and have the opportunity to lead a weekly Bible study, and every time, I just desire for them to see God through me. I share my experiences and things He has taught me in hopes that it will help those who are listening to know that if God has been this faithful to see me through dark times, He has a plan for them as well.

6. Can you give an example from your life of Romans 8:28 – all things working together for good?

Before the car accident happened, I thought I could do everything - by myself. I wanted to be super-woman, and I thought I had enough energy to do it! God used that situation to humble me and admit that I wasn't as on top of things as I thought I was, and I was forced to slow down my whirlwind pace. I still can't do nearly what I could before - mentally and physically, my body runs out of energy quickly. But now, after being in the pastorate for several years, I can see what a detriment that attitude would have been to my church. When we came, there were mostly older people, and I would have totally pushed them away because they couldn't keep up. And I didn't always enjoy fellowship like I do now, because I was so busy. Now I can truly say that people - not a to do list- are most important in my life, and I know God likes it that way :)

7. What is your prayer today – and how can we be praying for you?

My heart's desire is to be an example of God's love and grace, to point others to Him. And I often pray that God will give me the wisdom to clearly know my priorities and my limitations - sometimes I feel like those conflict. I want so badly to be there for everyone, all the time! But I know that right now, my first priority has to be the precious little girls God has given me to raise, especially as homeschooling officially starts this year with my oldest!

Thanks for sharing, Liz!  We will definitely be praying for you.  And, I look forward to more good times of blogging together!  Be sure to visit Liz at

Monday, July 19, 2010

"Real Me" Monday - BOYS

What exactly is it about a boy that makes people stop, chuckle and say "He's SUCH a boy!"  Can't say I know for sure - but I thought these pictures captured a little of the boy-ness of boys. ;)  One thing is certain - my boy teaches me a lot and makes me see the world through different eyes... and I'm better because of it!

"Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom - WATCH ME!"

I especially love this one - the look on Samuel's face is pure joy, as his friend chases him around!  These two are both definitely "men of few words" - and they have great times together!

My boy is active, loving, sensitive, a sugar-addict, quick to question himself and eager to please.  He loves to be hugged, play sports and is becoming increasing "cool" as he gets older (which is why he desperately wants a mohawk)! ;) 

I'm learning a couple key things in parenting a boy - one thing a super friend showed me is to have Samuel draw pictures instead of trying to ask him to communicate verbally all the time (which he hates).  He draws about what he's thinking or feeling, and then can easily explain it to me. 

Also, after watching me try to have Samuel sit down and relax when he was a toddler, another friend told me - "Don't you know, Anne, you can't just tell a boy to relax, you have to wear him out!"  Pretty good advice if your boy is the active type!

How about you?  What are some of your tips and pieces of advice?  Of course, not every boy can be labeled a certain way, but in my family, the boy and the girls are definite opposites - and I love to learn more about parenting each. :)

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday's Family, Food and Fun 7.16.10

Last weekend we visited a local small town's celebration - Popcorn Days - which seems to fit all my usual Friday categories of Family, Food and Fun. ;)  What an experience!  Granted, where we live isn't exactly "big city" - but this town was definitely... quaint!  The kids had a ball - eating as much free popcorn as possible, riding a few rides and taking in the sights...

Couldn't get enough popcorn!  Here's Gracelin with her friend...

Ready for the ride!

And, then Gracelin decided she'd do the tractor pull.  She didn't make it far, but she walked right up there and went for it!! (I was proud of her)

The best part for me was hearing Lillian and Magdalene laughing - hysterically - as the slow, calm, predictable carousel "took off."  Their reactions were priceless!!  For my little princess Lillian, this ride was a great risk ;) and she made it!  Maggie just loved every minute!

I know this one is blurry, but their faces tell it all!  Abosolute joy!!

Happy Friday everyone! 
Hope your weekend is great. :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thursday's Truth ... 1 Cor 12.27

Today's Truth: 
I am a member of Christ's body.

1 Corinthians 12:27
"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."  

Growing up, I was part of a church that regularly preached against having "Christian" friends, or being influenced by "nominal" Christian teachings via Christian books, Christian radio, seminaries, etc.  I came to believe that my particular church was THE only way to God, THE way to salvation - and that all others were less faithful, less obedient and less pleasing to God.  I can see now how destructive that mentality was - rooted in self-righteousness but also fear of anyone/anything different that our own man-made sub-culture.

Over time, thankfully God's revealed to me my sinful thoughts on this subject.  When the Bible talks to us about "His church" or "the body of Christ", it's not referring to a paticular denomination or a particular gathering, obviously, but to all believers everywhere across the entire face of this earth. 

While that may seem pretty elementary to many, that was revolutionary to me.  My life had revolved around "church" with a little "c" - not Church, as in the body of Christ.  Yet, I came to understand that I was part of something bigger than just my denomination - that I was a member of His Church most importantly, and I was united in Christ with believers all around the globe!  My walk with the Lord may look different than others, but thankfully He seeks unity (in Him) not uniformity or conformity in our appearances and traditions.

What is the body of Christ?

It is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, not a group of humans or any one individual:

Colossians 1:17-18
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

The Church is nourished and cherised by Christ:

Ephesians 5:29-30
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

It includes all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ:

Romans 12:4-5

"For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another."

What is the purpose of the Church (His body)?

-to reveal the wisdom of God's eternal plan through Christ Jesus

Ephesians 3:8-11
Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

- To give glory to God:

Ephesians 3:20-21
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Real Me" Monday - made to love

OK, for "Real Me" Monday, here's what I've been thinking through lately... Love.  A friend of mine stopped over this morning, and we ended up on the same subject... so I'm sitting down now to blog my thoughts and reflect on some verses:

Mark 12:28-34
28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
29"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'
31The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
32"Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.
33To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
34When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

In the simplest form, that's our heartbeat - that's the motivation behind all this.  It's to simply love people.  Why?  Because, He started it all!

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

1 John 4:10-11
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:19
We love because he first loved us.

In our lives, God's fleshed out this concept by having us open our house to be a youth/neighborhood center of sorts - and we've met some incredible people and learned a great deal in the process about ministry, culture, faith and...loving people.  As in, choosing to love people when the warm-fuzzies are gone, when irritation and exhaustion has set in, when differences far outweigh similarities, when the person is actually pretty annoying, extremely needy and - dare I say - unappreciate and ungrateful for all our good deeds. ;) 

In light of all that, I must say we can't drum up real love for another human-being... there are far too many cultural implications, resentment, skepticism, pride and self-centeredness in us to actually be able to love someone like God would.  Yet, we're learning... when HE is our source of love, it can flow through us to other people... and they see a glimpse of their Heavenly Father, whether they have accepted Him as Lord or not. 

1 John 4:11-12
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

God can work in incredible ways when we allow His love to flow through us to another person.  On the other hand, we can really mess things up when our sinful nature prevents this.  A missionary friend once challenged me along these same lines - as we were talking about how people like to "categorize" sins, saying some are far more "sinful" than others - like adultery versus being greedy or murder versus being filled with bitterness towards someone.  She said, "if the second greatest commandment is loving your neighbor - then, in God's eyes, wouldn't one of the 'greatest offenses' simply be... to NOT love?"

To not love.  That really hit me.  As in, to not care.  To pull into my garage and shut the door to the world.  To make enough food for just my family and me, and ignore the needs around me.  To drive off to church every Sunday and wag my head at the Godless society surrounding me.  To do an occasional mission trip to some far away land, but fail to see the world at my door step or my community as a mission field.  To justify myself by saying what I do won't really matter.  To loudly declare the evils of abortion but never build a relationship with a teenage-mom, never promote adoption, never invest emotionally in any of the kids in foster care, or the countless who are on their way there.  To even more loudly fight against homosexuality and all kinds of "immoral" bills in Congress, but never take a step across the street and actually just love that person, just listen, just be there without judgement, just letting the Spirit work.  To not reach out a hand to someone who may need help, afraid they'll "just take advantage of me" or "be enabled."  To not love.

In the end, it's not easy "getting our hands dirty."  My heart's been broken in ways I never thought were possible.  I see the hopelessness of addictions, I've looked into the eyes of fearful, battered wives, kids without safety or security, I've seen them run to us for love and attention.  I've felt so defeated when faced with the enormity of cultural issues, what's "always been" - what people say "can never change"...

and I pray for more love.

I pray for more of His love, to be able to see people with His eyes, knowing He has a purpose and a special plan for each life.  It's not up to me to judge, or to bring people up a notch on my perceived, American ladder of success, or to tear away their dignity by making them charity-cases.  It's up to me to Love, for when God's love touches another person, that's when change really happens.
Galatians 5:14
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

1 John 4:21
And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

At the end of the day, we are all created by God, on a journey of being redeemed.  Along that journey, we are blessed in order to be blessings - we are healed of the emotional wounds that life beats upon us, in order to be agents of healing to others - we have been loved so that we can love others.

I don't know how God is moving you to love the people around you, but I do know that loving people is exactly His aim, and when we ask Him to align ourselves with His aim, truly amazing things can happen in and around us for His glory. 

Made to Love by TobyMac

New Blog ... Our Family On Mission

Update!  I'd like to invite you to follow our new family blog...

Our Family on Mission

When I started this Open Book Girls blog, the vision was simply a blog to encourage women towards being real and seeking Truth.  Much of my own spiritual journey reflects those themes, which I've written about often and want to continue with.  In order to stay consistent with that vision, we've decided to start a seperate "ministry blog."  We'll use it to keep everyone updated with the work that's being done in Storm Lake and Mexico as we serve with as missionaries.  I've moved all the mission-related posts from Open Book Girls over to that blog, and we'll be adding new pictures and posts about what's going on as we continue on this journey!  Hope to see you over there :)  Your comments and prayers mean a lot to us.  Thank you.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

saturday morning visit

There is a special family in the apartments who are planning to move back to Indiana soon.  Their four girls have become great friends with my kids, and we will be so sad to see them go! 

This morning we stopped in to visit - and stayed for some delicious food, tea and interesting conversation!

There is an incredible opportunity to learn about people and culture here in Storm Lake... and it constantly amazes me.

We watched a video of the mom's family back in her home country - with her pointing out her siblings, her mom and relatives.  What could've seemed like National Geographic became so personal and real, and it thrilled me once again to try to comprehend how great our God is, and how wonderfully creative His must be to make all kinds of people across the face of this earth. 

I can only imagine how awesome and wonderful it will be to join with all races around the throne of God in Heaven someday - to worship the One Creator, the Father of us all, the One to whom salvation belongs...

Revelations 7:9-10
"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."  
The more I am immersed in other cultures, the deeper I understand God's love for people as well as the needs and desires He built into each one:  namely, to worship a higher being.

Across the face of this earth, people are striving with everything in them to gain access to some form of god, to some higher power, to something beyond themselves.  As humans, we've set up rituals and traditions, attached meanings to them in effort to somehow earn the favor of that god.

But, praise God for being the answer, for being in the business of redeeming every culture.  While our human desire will always bend towards legalism and religion, His divine plan is just the opposite - the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.  We don't have to engage in certain religious acts or attempt to justify ourselves with our good works - Jesus has done all that for us! 

Ephesians 2:8-9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Nothing we can do and no amount of efforts on our part will earn us His favor, for His favor rests on His Son, Jesus.  By trusting fully in Him, our faith "is credited to us as righteousness."

Romans 4:5
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Anyway, it was a beautiful morning - although, Maggie was extremely tired and isn't quite accustomed to having a short table to eat around.  She did better this time, but last time I was there and ate with them, she tripped over the table and knocked over the drinks three times... thankfully, they are gracious and wonderful people who just smile and wipe up the mess! ;)

In summary, the more we encounter the world around us, the smaller we feel and the bigger God becomes to us.  Although it's typically unsettling and challenging to function outside our cultural "norms" on a daily basis, in doing so we have the opportunity to see more and more of who God is... and His perfect plan for humanity - a personal, saving relationship with His people, through the sacrifice of His Son.