A Common Life Lived with Uncommon Joy

Archive for the ‘Mission’ Category

The God of Immeasurably More

immeasurably more

After an almost eighteen month sabbatical, I’m finally coming back to writing!  The past year and a half has been a whirlwind of change and activity as God knocked down obstacles, challenged us to shed old crutches and habits, and stretched us in new areas of ministry.  It has been a season of preparation and our prayer through it all has been that God would make us “fit for service” so we could live a “life lived loud” instead of just a life in survival mode.  We wanted to thrive and grow and be used by God in whatever means He saw fit.  We are beginning to see the fruits of those prayers.  Here’s a quick update to catch you up to all the changes and goings on:

 

made to crave1. One of the first major changes in my personal life was reading Made to Crave.  This book defeated my idolatry to food and helped me see that God was my strength and strong tower, not doughnuts or brownies.  He is all I truly need.  I first went through the book with a friend.  Then, in January, I assisted another friend of mine in teaching it at Morning Grace.  Now God has opened the door to allow me to teach it at my own church to my dear sisters in the faith beginning next month.  Teaching and being an active part of women’s ministry has always been an unfulfilled passion of mine so I am excited to see what God has in store for me as He gives me the desire of my heart.  I’ve set up a Facebook group for those who would like to follow along online as we study the book in class.  You can request to join the class here.

 

 

2. Our house has undergone a major transformation! As we prayed for God to make us fit for service, asking Him to remove anything that might hinder us from being effective in ministry, He quickly helped me see that Satan was effectively keeping me occupied within my own four walls, constantly battling clutter instead of reaching out to others.  The devil is so cunning and crafty and he definitely had a stronghold in this area.  I went through our belongings with a new level of determination, got to know my local Goodwill drop off crew members really well and finally took back control of our home.  Last month I finished the final room in the house and we all feel like we can breathe again.  Clutter sucks the life out of you and you really don’t even realize how much it takes away from living your life until you actually get rid of it all.  This big step led to #3.

 

3.  In the spring, we made a major move from our long-standing Community Group at church to a new group – one closer to our house, full of couples about ten years younger than we are.  God is growing us as mentors, using us as examples (talk about accountability!), and stretching us into deeper roles of participation within the church.  This week, we will also begin hosting our new Community Group at our house – something that would have been impossible to do eighteen months ago.  What a testimony it is just to be able to tell the story of how God brought us to this place in our journey!

 

g and occ4.  Gracie (our little future missionary) has been busy with a big project for Operation Christmas Child.  Inspired by my friend’s son, who set a goal to pack 100 shoeboxes for OCC last year and then surpassed it with over 160 shoeboxes filled, Gracie decided that she wanted to pack 100 shoeboxes too.  What started out as a little Facebook page to tell friends and family about this and her endless parade of other mission projects she gets involved in, has turned into a major display of God’s faithfulness and care for the heart of a ten year old girl.  Gracie has over 120 fans on her Facebook page, Cup of Cold Water.  She’s watched in amazement as God multiplied her efforts and provided $700 to pay the shipping costs for her 100 shoeboxes.  She was overwhelmed by the number of people and the amount of items donated when she hosted an OCC packing party last month.  Every day, when she walks in the front door, she’s greeted by 80+ shoeboxes stacked almost to the ceiling, waiting to be shipped to children around the world, all because she asked God to help her do something big with her very little.  It is so exciting to see her faith come to life.

 

Over and over again, these past eighteen months have given us glimpses of the God of immeasurably more.  Time and time again, we’ve given Him our hopes and dreams and plans, then watched as He blessed us with over and above our wildest imaginings.  I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I know Who holds the future and He is willing able to do immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine.  I’m excited to begin to write about all the things that God is doing!

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we could 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, forever and ever! Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21

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Of Mercy, Mohawks and Misson

 

Once again, in my prayers for adventure and stretching outside my comfort zone, I find myself in an unfamiliar place with unknown challenges and obstacles waiting to be overcome.  I’ve volunteered for this, but now I’m hesitant and unsure of what I’m getting into.  What do I need to do?  How do I help my kids understand what is both new to them and a little scary?  And most of all, what if she doesn’t remember me??

I sign in at the front desk, walk down the hall and around the corner, spot the room I’m looking for.  I read the name on the placard by the door, just to be sure I’m in the right place and then I knock.  There’s no answer but the door is cracked so I step inside and motion for the kids to follow me.  I see her and I smile, but I have to move closer to her before she can see I am there.  She turns and smiles, recognition lighting up her face, as she says, “Aw Jenny, I’m so glad you came to see me.”

I sit in the chair beside her and take her hand.  The children settle in nearby – Gracie at my elbow, Ross in another chair, Amber and Georgia hiding behind us still unsure of the whole situation.  We are here to visit my friend Karen, the once vivacious, outspoken pediatric cancer nurse who is now reduced to this shell lying in a bed completely dependent on the nurses of the rehab home to care for her every need.  Karen, who showed no fear or trepidation in sharing Jesus with her patients and their families, often praying for and with them as they battled cancer, now struggling to speak with slow, slurred speech as a result of her own brain cancer.

I sit and stroke her hand, taking in the changes in her since I saw her last more than a year ago, unsure of what to say or do.  She looks at me again and I smile.  I introduce her to the children and I’m happy to see she remembers Ross and Gracie.  Slowly Amber and Georgia peek out from behind chairs and begin to warm up to her.  And as the children begin to relax, so do I.  I tell her how pretty it is outside today and she asks for something to drink.  I find a cup of water with a straw on her bedside table and hold it for her to sip.  And then it slips into my mind, the words that tell me what to do here, and I know He’s with me again…here in the deep end of the pool.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.’  Then the righteous will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or without clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and visit you?’   And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ ”  Matthew 25:34-40

For the next hour and a half, we sat and visited with Karen.  I rubbed her stomach where it ached and scratched her back where it itched, helped her eat her dinner and wiped her mouth when she was finished.  I brushed her hair with my fingers and told her I liked her mohawk, noticing the c-shaped scar above her ear from her surgery, her battle scar.  She asked me how old the children were and afterwards I teased her that she and I were both 25 – “I’m not so sure how that works,” she said, “since I’m about 40 years older than you are!”  Shhhh…it’ll be our little secret, Karen.  She talked about missing her mom, her dad and her husband – all deceased.  She asked me three times to tell Michael she needed to buy a new car and wanted him to pick it out for her – “Definitely not a Volkswagon…it can be a Honda, since he’s good with those, but make sure he knows it doesn’t have to be a convertible”.

All the while, I thought of my Jesus – who lived his life without a home, scorned and rejected by his own hometown, on his knees washing dirt and stink from his disciples’ feet, healing the sick, raising the dead, restoring leporous skin and demonized bodies.  In all times and in all circumstances, Jesus stopped and served those who were around them.  He met their greatest needs, both physically and spiritually.  He lived the mission – to make disciples and make His name known – without complaint when days were long, or hesitation when crowds were hostile, or apology when his message was hard to hear.  And in thinking of Jesus, it is easy to serve Him as I serve Karen, to love her because He loves me.

On the drive home, I pray and ask for more…more boldness in proclaiming the gospel, more heart to serve, more opportunities to be in the deep end of the pool…because in essence what I really want is more of Jesus, and I know I can find him there among the hungry and thirsty, the naked and needy, the sick and imprisoned.  But first, I gotta get in the water, plunge deep into this challenge to live life loud for him, leave the safety of the wall and depend completely on him to keep me from sinking.  I’m ready to swim…are you?

As always, your comments make my day.  Feel free to share your own adventures so I can cheer you on!

 

 
Consider the Lilies

I Am The Church

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Today we are doing things a bit differently.  This is a little longer post, so hang in there with me – I promise it will be worth it.  When I hear a sermon that really puts a spark in my heart and pushes me to action, naturally I want to share it with you!  Today’s post is one of those gems.

First I want to go back to the beginning of when God first started inviting me to join him on adventures in what he was doing in the lives of those around me.  One of the pastors at our church, Nick Swan, had preached on the mission of the church and I got really fired up about it.  I started rearranging my life in a hundred different little ways in order to make the mission – to spread the gospel and make disciples – the highest priority.  In the middle of turning my life upside down, our family took a little weekend trip to Atlanta for my Dad’s retirement ceremony from the Air Force.  I had been listening to messages by Louie Giglio online and found out his church was in the area so we planned to go that Sunday.  And oh, by the way, the worship leader was Chris Tomlin.  Needless to say, we were all excited about it.

Sunday morning we arrived at the church with plenty of time to bring the kids to children’s ministry classes and then head into the sanctuary.  We still had 15 minutes until the service started and the place was already PACKED.  An usher told us if we didn’t already have a seat saved, we could sit on the back row, stand against the wall, or sit on the floor in front of the stage. Of course, we chose the floor.  The next 30 minutes of worship, with Chris Tomlin leading less than 10 feet away, were nothing short of amazing.  Louie came out to preach next and his sermon is what I want to share with you today.  It fit in perfectly with everything God had been doing in my life at that time, and what he’s still doing today.

My friend Chelsey Miracle took what I’m about to share with you and put it on her blog Miracle in Me.  Her blog is an amazing look into how God is moving in the college campuses surrounding our city.  I highly recommend you check it out!  The response from my guest post is one of the things that fueled my start in writing Life Lived Loud.  So, without any further delay, here is “I Am The Church”.

I grew up thinking I knew everything there was to know about what church is.  I went to Sunday School and made macaroni crafts, held a heavy hymnbook and sang old songs full of words I didn’t understand, and tried to pay attention to a sermon that didn’t seem to be about anything relevant to my life.  Sometimes there would be a potluck dinner with all the old ladies flaunting their best pies or a whole week of fire and brimstone sermons when the revival preacher came to town.  Church was where you dressed up in your best most uncomfortable clothes to sit still on a hard wooden pew and listen to the preacher tell you about Jesus who came and died for sins everyone in the church was pretending they had never committed.  Everyone put on their best on Sunday – the best clothes, the best smile, the best appearances – then they went home, took it off and put it away until the next Sunday.

Maybe you grew up in a church just like that.  Or maybe the stereotype of church turns you off and you’ve never committed to attending one.  But church is more than a building full of Christians singing hymns and hearing sermons.  I am the church.  You are the church.  I’m not just an attendee or a name on a roll.  The church lives and breathes and ministers through me and through you.

In the book of Acts we get a picture of the early church, those first believers who spread the gospel and began the work of the mission.  The 120 people who began the early church included Jesus’ mother and brothers, his disciples and others who were eyewitnesses to his resurrection.  They had listened to Jesus teach.  They were among the 5000 people who ate and were satisfied by five loaves of bread and two fish.  They saw lepers healed, sight restored, mute tongues loosened and dead men rise.  They were there when Jesus was crucified.  They carried his body to the tomb and in three days returned to find it empty.  When he appeared to them after his resurrection, they touched his hands and feet.  They stood on the mountain and watched as he ascended into heaven.  When the clouds closed up and the glorious light faded and Jesus was no longer standing there with them, what did they do?  They didn’t go pick out a building to meet in, print some bulletins and write some worship music. The early church was vastly different from the church we are all familiar with.  So how did we get from those 120 people to the millions of believers in the church today?

The early church was not an incremental church with six people professing to new faith in Christ and twenty people baptized per year.  It was an explosive church.  On day one, the early church went from 120 people to more than 3000.  There are three distinct characteristics that separate the explosive church of early Christianity from the incremental churches of today.

First, the brand of the early church was Jesus.  They didn’t need a logo or a website, t-shirts or coffee mugs to spread the word about their new church.  They didn’t come up with outreach programs or community events.  They simply went out and preached about Jesus.  They told anyone that would listen, and many who didn’t want to hear, about this man who healed the sick and fed the hungry and fulfilled the prophecies of Scripture.  It didn’t matter what the name of their group was, the only name that mattered was Jesus.

The second distinctive of the early church was that each and every one of them was an eyewitness of the resurrection of Jesus.  Peter wasn’t running around saying, “Hey, I met this guy who knew somebody whose cousin said he saw a man raised from the dead who claimed to be the Son of God.”  No, he preached “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses to the fact.” (Acts 2:32)

The church doesn’t hinge on the teachings of Jesus.  It doesn’t hinge on the miracles he performed.  It doesn’t even hinge on his sacrificial death.  The church hinges on the resurrection – the finished complete work of Jesus on our behalf. Through the resurrection, he interrupts our funeral, breaks the chains of condemnation, and frees us from the slavery of sin.  And we are eyewitnesses of this!  We need to carry in our hearts the experience of a supernatural power that has brought us to life.  We all have a past – we are broken and hurt and filled with pain.  But when Jesus steps into the picture, he uses the bow of brokenness to launch the arrows of healing. We feel like we’ve gotten our life back!

Death will not be the final resting place of those who are followers of Christ.  The end is not a cemetery plot or an urn on the mantel.  Death is just a doorway into the presence of Jesus.  And this is only possible because he has defeated death through his resurrection.

The disciples didn’t begin preaching after Jesus’ crucifixion.  In fact, they did the opposite – hiding in a locked room full of fear.  It wasn’t until his resurrection, when they saw him with their own eyes and witnessed the consummation of everything he had told them would happen, that they came alive and were anxious to preach the gospel.  But Jesus told them to wait – there was one thing more that was needed, the third distinct characteristic.

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about…But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:4, 8)

Remember, these 120 people were the closest witnesses to everything Jesus said and did on this earth.  They ate and slept with him, knew him better than anyone else.  If anyone was qualified to go preach the good news of the gospel, it was these guys.  But Jesus said even that wasn’t enough, they couldn’t do it in their own strength.  They needed the power of the Holy Spirit and then they could be his witnesses.  He didn’t say, “Hey guys, it might be a good idea if you wait around, because I’m sending you the Holy Spirit and he might be helpful to you in the mission.”  No, He said, “Do not leave…but wait”.  This is the third distinctive characteristic of the explosive early church.

If these men and women who were closest to Jesus weren’t qualified to preach the gospel without the power of the Holy Spirit, then I cannot assume I am able to.  I need the Holy Spirit to empower me to do the work God has called me to do – it’s a non-negotiable.  The church today is divided when it comes to the Holy Spirit.  Some churches say they are filled with it and others only talk about it.  When the Holy Spirit comes to empower you, then your life becomes a mission to be his witness.  That witness is the work of the church and it comes from people like you and me, not from a well designed building or a great website.  We don’t want a church that is cool.  We want a church that is powerful.  And that power comes from the Holy Spirit.

“For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.  Consequently you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the chief cornerstone.  In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”  (Ephesians 2:18-22)

Paul describes a church built on the foundation of the early church, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone.  He describes the church as you and me becoming a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  So how do we know when the Holy Spirit is dwelling within us?

First, the Holy Spirit always brings with it the evidence of a changed life.  Acts 3 tells the story of Peter and John going to the temple to pray.  As they walked through the temple gate, a crippled beggar asks them for money.  Peter tells him they have no money but they will give him what they do have.  Then in the name of Jesus, he takes the man by the hand and brings him to his feet.  The man immediately begins walking and jumping and running around the temple, praising God.  The people in the temple can’t believe their eyes.  They know this guy running around the temple.  They’ve seen him begging by the gate his entire life.  Then Peter says to them,

“Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power and godliness we had made this man walk?…You killed the author of life, but God has raised him from the dead.  We are witnesses of this.  By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong.  It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you all can see.”  (Acts 3:12, 15-16)

Peter and John were eyewitnesses of the resurrection and they couldn’t stop talking about it.  Even when the Sanhedrin put them in jail and questioned who gave them the power to heal, they continued to proclaim the gospel.

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.  He is ‘the stone that you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12)

The Sanhedrin were amazed at the courage of these ordinary, unschooled men.  They knew they were friends of Jesus.  But the thing they couldn’t ignore was the crippled beggar running around the temple.  It was evidence that the Holy Spirit was at work, changing the life of this man.

“But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there, there was nothing they could say.”  (Acts 4:14)

Secondly, when the Holy Spirit came to the early church, they began to live as one family – caring for one another, working together, eating together.  They became aware of the needs of the other believers.  This didn’t just stop at the doors of the church or the edge of town.

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked, ‘Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?…we hear them proclaiming the wonders of God in our own tongues!’”  (Acts 2:4-8, 11)

Can you imagine what it must have been like?  Surrounded by people from every nation, suddenly hearing the gospel preached so that each man hears it in his own language.  On day one, the church became globally conscious.  They didn’t need a missions conference, they just needed the Holy Spirit living in them.  Jesus had told them this would happen.  They were his witnesses in Jerusalem and then they went out, each to his own land, to the surrounding regions of Judea and Samaria, and even further to the ends of the earth.

I’ve heard so many people say that Christianity is a western religion, an American religion that we insist on spreading to the rest of the world.  The roots of Christianity began in Jerusalem, the most controversial city in the world, in the center of the Middle East.  When the Holy Spirit came to those 120 people, things happened exponentially and 3000 new believers were added to their numbers on day one.

It’s not weird for me to have a mission mindset.  The Holy Spirit is not reserved for an elect 4% who went to a missions conference and felt called to serve.  There are millions of people who need to hear the gospel and the Holy Spirit dwelling inside you compels you to go!

Thirdly, when the Holy Spirit came to the early church, they began to boldly proclaim the gospel.  Being bold has nothing to do with volume.  God may call you to stand and preach loudly on the sidewalks of your local shopping center, but it’s not likely.  But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you cannot help but proclaim the gospel.

Let’s go back to our story of Peter and John and the crippled beggar…the Sanhedrin didn’t know what to do about the situation.  Here is this beggar who has obviously been healed and these two men insisting that the Jesus the Sanhedrin had crucified was resurrected and had given them the power to heal him.  They couldn’t ignore the evidence right in front of them but they wanted to do their best to keep it from spreading.

“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked.  “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer in this name.” Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:16-20)

In spite of the Sanhedrin’s best efforts to shut them down, Peter and John continued to proclaim the gospel.  Many who heard them preach in the temple that day believed and were saved and added to the church, until the number of men grew to about five thousand.  Talk about explosive growth!  Peter and John returned to the church people and told them everything that had happened to them and they all began to pray.

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”  (Acts 4:29-31)

Notice that they didn’t ask God to get the Sanhedrin off their backs or even for protection.  They asked God to do it again! They prayed for boldness.  On day one, the gospel was under fire.  Christianity is not meant to be a life of ease, but a badge of honor we wear that says, “I’m with Jesus.  I’m never gonna be ashamed of the gospel and I will always fearlessly proclaim it.”

In December 1989, the people of Romania overthrew the communist dictatorship and formed their own democratic government.  Christians in Romania who for years had suffered relentless persecution, imprisonment and executions were suddenly free to practice their faith without fear.  Louie Giglio had an opportunity to meet one of the pastors who lived in Romania both before and after the revolution.  He asked him this question: Was it better for the church before or after the revolution?  The pastor said the answer was complicated, but offered this simple answer.

During the time of persecution, Christians in Romania woke up with only one choice to make – am I with Jesus or am I with them?  The answer to that question took care of the rest of your day.  People in the church prayed constantly with their families, especially before leaving the house.  They prayed for protection and strength and the courage to face whatever persecution might await them when they stepped outside.  Every goodbye was meaningful and tearful, knowing it could very well be your last.  Christians had to make a daily decision to follow Jesus and totally depend on Him in spite of the risk.

After the revolution, the daily choice of whether or not they would follow Jesus became less urgent.  It was no longer the main focus of their lives.  The choice to choose Jesus was swallowed up in the many decisions of everyday life.  And because of that, the church has suffered.

So what does church look like to you now?  Are you content to put your time in on Sunday singing worship songs and listening to a sermon, checking the clock to see how much longer until it’s time to eat lunch and watch the football game?  Is church just a once a week obligation for you? Or are you ready to be the church?

     *Is your identity wrapped up in hobbies or your church or a great ministry you‘re involved in?  Or is it in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus?
*Has God interrupted your funeral?  Are you a witness to the death of your old life?  Can you see the effects of a resurrected heart?
*Are you trying to be the church in your own power?  Or are you tapped into the power of the Holy Spirit?  Can you see changes in your life? Do you have a global mindset? Are you ready to boldly proclaim the gospel?

We don’t have to wait to find the perfect church.  A great church or ministry program isn’t enough.  It starts with you and it starts with me.  We have to go out and give away what was freely given to us.  We have to be the church.

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”  (Ephesians 6:19)

What would happen if we moved this to the top of our prayer list, that every time we open our mouths, God would give us the words to speak so that we can fearlessly proclaim the gospel.  We don’t have to settle for incremental church growth.  We can see explosive growth in the church.  We just have to be willing to open our mouths.

Maybe you’ve been reading this post and you aren’t very familiar with this gospel I keep talking about.  The simple facts are these: None of us are perfect (holy, righteous) as God requires.  God loves us so much he didn’t want our imperfection to keep us separated from him, so he sent Jesus into the world, to live the perfect life we can’t live and die on the cross as the perfect sacrifice we can’t offer, so that through the perfection of his Son we can also be declared righteous to holy God.  When we confess that we believe this, and receive the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice in our place, we become a child of God and he adopts us into his family (more on this part in a future post).  If you have any questions about the gospel, or you responded to what you’ve read, I would love to talk with you more about it.  Just send me a private email at givengracegomer@earthlink.net.

As always, comments make my day! I love the adventures God is calling me to pursue and I’d love to hear about yours too so I can cheer you on!

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

My adventure started out as a routine trip to Aldi during Gracie’s dance class.  Because the littles were at home napping while Ross did his schoolwork, I was driving my shopping cart solo.  I whizzed through the little store, systematically grabbing groceries, throwing them in the cart and checking them off my list.  In less than 15 minutes, I was finished and standing in the checkout lane.  It’s amazing how fast I can shop when I don’t have Georgia poking her finger into my produce, Amber constantly asking if we can go to Harris Teeter (because they have cookies, Mommy!), Gracie being the little mommy to both of them while simultaneously trying to read my chicken scratch grocery list, and Ross asking me what HFCS is and why we don’t want it in our food.

I guess everyone had decided it was a good day to buy groceries because the store was busy.  I had already seen two other moms whose daughters were in dance class too.  The line to checkout went halfway to frozen foods.  I pulled out my smart phone (instant entertainment while waiting!) and tried to avoid looking at the big box of Snicker bars calling my name from the nearby empty checkout lane.  And then I saw the flowers.

I love fresh flowers.  I think they make a house look so fresh and pretty.  It’s really one of the few really girly things about me, this love I have for a fresh bouquet in a pretty vase – a thing of beauty in the middle of the chaos that is my kitchen.  I’m also not above buying them myself instead of pouting and waiting for Michael to be inspired to bring them home.  I  wandered over to the floral display and looked past the daisies and carnations, eyeing my prize.  The first sign of spring in my book is tulip bouquets and here they were, brightening up their corner of the dingy little grocery store.  And they were on sale! Only $3 for a little spot of sunshine.  I chose some pale pink blooms and went back to waiting in line.

All of a sudden I heard the one sound you can never truly get out of a store without hearing at least once – a wailing child.  Her mama was trying her best to stay calm and comfort her preschooler, fully and uncomfortably aware that all eyes were now on her.  Her daughter had decided to help mommy put the groceries onto the conveyor belt and dropped her jar of pickles.  Glass shattered, pickle juice oozed, girl wailed and mama was somehow calm through it all.  The cashier helped her take her groceries to the next lane, voided her order and started over scanning everything.  Meanwhile, the lady in line behind the wailing little girl high-tailed it to the pickle section in the back of the store, grabbed a new jar and thrust it toward the mama.  But the little girl was well past hysterical by now and even baby kosher dills wouldn’t console her.  The mama kept repeating “It’s ok, almost done, the pickles are in the cart now.”  I wasn’t sure if she was talking to the girl or to herself but the stress of the whole situation was all over her face.

Finally I paid for my groceries and went to bag them on the counter by the door.  There was the same little girl, still sniffling and whining about her pickles on the floor.  And there was that mama, still repeating the same phrase, shoving groceries into bags as fast as she could.  We both went to our minivans and proceeded to unload the groceries from cart to car, all while the girl continued to whimper and cry about her precious pickles.  This child could test the patience of Job, but this mama somehow remained calm.  As I put the last bag in the car and reached for my beautiful tulips, I felt the Lord nudge me.  “Those tulips would really encourage that stressed out mama.”  Really Lord??  My tulips, my little bit of sunshine – You want me to give it away?  I don’t even know her Lord! She’s gonna think I’m crazy, giving flowers to a stranger.  “You want to live life loud don’t you? Step outside your comfort zone? What about those prayers for boldness?  Do you really want it? Show me.”

I returned my cart to the corral and stood there holding the tulips, feeling like a fool, just standing there waiting on the mama to return her own cart.  But when she finally walked up, courage surged up in my heart and I couldn’t give her the flowers fast enough.  “I want to give you a gift,” I blurted out.  I walked up to her and pushed the tulips into her hands.  “Sometimes, us mamas have really hard days and we just need someone to encourage us and let us know we are doing a good job.  I’m amazed at your patience with your daughter.  You’re doing a great job.”  Before I knew what was happening, I had my arm around her shoulder and I was hugging this stranger, this fellow mama, in the middle of the parking lot while she held my tulips.  I looked at her and saw tears in her eyes.  “Thank you so much. I saw these in the store and I thought they were so pretty,” she said.  And then she stunned me.  “You must have really been listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice.”

And now the tears are in my eyes too.  I have no way of knowing what that mama is going through or how those simple flowers will impact her life, if they do at all.  But the God who hears my prayers asking for boldness in sharing Him with others is the same God who knows the needs of a mama with a crying preschooler and a broken pickle jar.  It was all I could do to walk back to my van and not run into the store to buy every bouquet they had, just to give them away to other mamas.  We need to remember we aren’t alone.  Other mamas struggle with sleep deprivation and potty training and moody preteens and husbands with long work hours.  In the midst of our struggles, we can look up and see those around us who are struggling too.  Then we can reach out (maybe with some flowers in hand) and remind them they aren’t alone either.  We can spread the little bit of sunshine.  This praying for boldness, this desire to live life loud for Jesus, is pushing me and stretching me.  I never know what adventure will come next.  But I’ve had a taste of the excitement and joy that comes when I push past the fear of being a fool and I want more!!

Comments make my day!  Let’s share our adventures together – whether it’s a spiritual adventure like my grocery store experience, or something new you are daring to try.  I want to cheer you on!

 

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Welcome to the Adventure

I’m so glad you’re here!

I want to invite you to join me on an adventure – a fantastic journey of learning new things, pushing boundaries and living outside your comfort zone.  I want to do the things everyone else only talks about doing…someday.  I’m taking this common, everyday, ordinary existence of housework, grocery shopping, endless laundry, homework, dinners, bedtime drama and those few minutes with my husband every night – and I’m choosing to crank it up a notch.  I’m gonna stop wishing I could_____________ (you fill in the blank), and just start doing it!  And I want to take YOU with me along for the ride.

We get one chance at life, and one day it will end.  There won’t be a second chance to run that race, start that business, lose those extra pounds, write that book…do what I’ve always said I would do someday.  No second chance for me, and no second chance for you.  So why not do it NOW???  Seize the moment, grab the bull by the horns, squeeze your eyes shut tight and then jump in with both feet.

This blog will be my adventure diary.  I want to share my journey with you – the things I learn, the crazy things I do and the new things I attempt.  And I want to hear YOUR adventure story too!  So will you join me?  Let’s walk through this life off the beaten path.  Let’s grow and stretch and dare to dream…and then act on it.  Let’s take this life we’ve been given and use it all up, squeeze every drop of wonderful out of it.  Let’s live a LIFE LIVED LOUD.

Comments make my day! Let’s cheer each other on and share our adventures with each other.

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