A Common Life Lived with Uncommon Joy

Archive for the ‘Serving’ 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

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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