Monday, April 29, 2013

Bitter Old Women and Grumpy Old Men

The topic of Bitter Old Women and Grumpy Old Men is often met with a full round of chuckles and head shaking. We love to watch them in the movies and equally love telling the stories of their presence in our own lives, but hate to be around them. Deep inside every person lies the fear of becoming that sour older person that no-one wants to be around and sadly the ones who embody this title have no idea what they have become. We can chuckle at Fried Green Tomatoes and love the mess out of each character, but when the woman spewing nasty words and negative comments is sitting near your new friend at church, it's a whole new issue! And sadly the church is full of them. You would think that in a building where the "Gospel of Grace" is taught from week to week that it would permeate the entire congregation, but alas...we are all human.

I once heard a Christian speaker say that women don't become bitter overnight. As I observe the people around me growing older, I can see that yes, that is so very true. We set out in life with a list of expectations for both God and man and when these expectations are not met properly, we give way to the potion set to turn our hearts angry and mean. The best description of this potion is one given by a Pastor who said "Bitterness is poison that you swallow while waiting for someone else to die". How often do you sit to talk to an older man or woman and they can talk only of the past as though life stopped 15 years ago. Not long into the conversation they will begin stating how awful this current generation is and how much better "the good old days were." Underneath this typical conversation is a life event that didn't meet their expectation and they are stuck in that era eternally. Life keeps moving, but their anger keeps them rooted in a moment.
 Bitterness is by far satan's favorite drink to offer our justice oriented souls. We long for the people around us to pay for how they treat us and gladly take the flask of bitterness offered thinking it will ease our burning souls. The problem is that bitterness is rooted in pride and God has stated very clearly that He opposes the proud. I can think of a lot of things God might feel towards me and cringe a bit, but it downright terrifies me to think of the Almighty God opposing my every move! We can be certain every thing God does for us is rooted in love so even His opposition is meant to bring us to confession and a healed relationship with Him. What I want us to focus on is what steps we can take to make sure we aren't thirsty for the bitter drink.

1) Empty our minds of expectations before the day begins
This truly can only be done through prayer. When we ask God to help us welcome the day whatever it may hold, we are loosening our need for control and allowing Him to use the day for His purpose. What a gift!

2) Forgive and Forget...then Remember
No matter how horrific the slight, word, or action taken against you, forgiveness is something we must follow through with. When we choose to stand our ground and hold something against someone, we are swallowing every bit of bitter poison Satan possesses and we are guaranteed an ugly heart. Forgetting is something that takes prayer and purposeful attempts to not think of the fault against you. Lastly, it is crucial that we remember how very much Christ has forgiven us anytime we long to hold onto an offense against us.

3) Purposefully forgive the person who wronged you long after the issue is over.
Bitterness is alot like gaining weight. It doesn't show up until we think we're out of the woods and safe to keep doing what we've been doing. A doughnut a day never attaches to one's thighs in the first two weeks. It's only after we've established a well loved habit and claimed our high metabolism for our success that the pounds multiply on the scale sending us running to the gym. In the same way, praying against bitterness has to be a daily thing. We don't even know the many ways we take a sip of the poison here and there and often don't realize how we've let it's root into our hearts until we spew ugliness at someone. I don't know about you, but I want God to dig that root out well before that occurs!

And last but not least
4) Pray for the person who hurt you.
This is HARD...this is painful...but this is the heart and soul of grace. In praying for the people who hurt us, we get the opportunity to do the very work of our Savior while He was on the cross. We say we want to "be like Jesus" and this is where we do it. As He hung on the cross in agonizing pain, He uttered a prayer of forgiveness on us all..."Father forgive them for they know not what they do". Grace...painful...self sacrificing...beautiful grace. It is the only antidote for the bitter, grumpy, path ahead of us. Friend's lets choose the way of grace now and work hard to be gentle and grace filled followers of Jesus as we get older

Monday, April 22, 2013

Grace in Preparation

I wonder if it's a coincidence that God always reveals Himself to me on the hard days...ones where Eden was up all night from those darn teeth coming in. The ones where I choke back tears as I pour my cup of coffee and pray for the grace to be patient. Well today was exactly that day and God revealed Himself to me while the girls and I were out for a walk. We donned winter jackets from the back of the closet, gathered sandwich bags, and ventured out into the chilly "spring" day to chase grace and look for God's beauty. As the girls filled their bags with rocks and small pine cones covered in a dusting of pollen, I prayed. Prayed for the eyes to see God here as the wind whipped our hair and my warm bed beckoned my tired body. My thoughts turned to the dirty breakfast dishes waiting for me at home and the two baskets of laundry that waited for my hand's attention. I marveled at how much of life we spend preparing for something. Pastors spend hours preparing sermons, students days and long nights preparing for exams, pregnant mothers preparing for the babe soon to arrive, anxious boyfriends preparing to ask their love to be their brides...and the list goes on to include preparing for each day by getting clothes and towels clean, food ready to be consumed, and homes presentable to welcome our families. We spend FAR more time preparing than we spend enjoying the fruit of our labor.
Thankfully, God showed up in this downward spiral of my thoughts and brought to mind something I learned from Ann Voscamp on her blog recently. She highlighted a few things she had learned from Gideon in the book of Judges. The one that stood out to my brain today was the way the angel of the Lord responded to the meal Gideon had prepared for him.

"Then the angel of God said to him, "Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth." Judges 6:20

Not sure about you Saints, but I have watched as my children have "poured out the broth" I have just labored hours over onto the rug beneath the table and my response has been anything but lovely. Back in Gideon's time, preparing a meal was even more labor intensive than it is now with conveniences such as the oven, microwave, and stove. He had poured much into the meal and probably never expected that the response to it would basically be, "Thanks, now pour it out." Talk about disappointment!

But in reality, isn't that what we're all supposed to do with the offering we've prepared? The meal that takes an hour to cook and minutes to consume is not wasted simply by it's quick consumption. The exam that took 2 all nighters to prepare for only to come back with a blazing red "C" circled on it isn't wasted simply by the grade received. You see God, is in the preparation...God is a God of moments and motives and cares far more about the process of preparation than the result we work so hard for. And here is the whole breakdown of the discouragement and failure we heap onto ourselves. We humans are so focused on results that we miss the offering of the process and the beauty of the offering being poured out.

Judges 6:21 gives us the picture of how God received the meal poured out
"The angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meal and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and unleavened bread."

God took Gideon's hard labored offering and consumed it with magnificence and splendor. He showed up in glory and fire and gave us all the picture of how He responds to a gift poured out. Friend, he sees it all and the more effort put into our preparation, the more glory He receives.

So what ever your week holds from the laundry to the paper waiting to be written or the phone call you've put off for weeks, chase the grace waiting in each moment and let your heart be encouraged when you release the work of your hands into the fire of God

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fasting From More

I'll never forget the day God put Noonday on my heart. I had viewed the website a million times and created a wish list for my husband. The beauty of the handmade jewelry caught my eye and the faces of the beautiful people who made them tugged at my heart. This was my first introduction to Fair Trade and it rocked my world. My heart pounded with excitement at the thought that my choice of where to spend my money held the power to change someones life.

One day something happened though. Something deep within me longed to do more than just purchase from fair trade companies...I wanted to BE A PART OF IT. But Noonday scared me and I pushed against becoming an ambassador for a few months before I ever mentioned it to my husband and friends. You see, one of my GREATEST struggles is the love of money. Anyone who knows me is probably laughing because y'all know my family of four is crammed into a one bedroom house with one car and a savings account that gets depleted every time we need groceries. The truth is though, the love of money has NOTHING to do with how much you possess. Shopping for me has always been a hobby whether it's browsing through stores, perusing the internet, or dreaming it up in my own head. I may not have much stuff, but my tendency is to let stuff have a lot of me. So when God impressed on my heart a way for me to promote shopping and make money of my own for the first time in 4 years, I was scared out of my skin. As soon as I said yes and submitted my application though, God gave me the disclaimer. NONE of my commission was going to be my money to spend. I would cover the cost of my samples and gas to get to and from shows, but every penny left was meant to help other people. Friends, that first check I ever received was over $400 and very tempting! It left my hands as quickly as it came into them though and the chains of money began to break around my heart. Making money, but not spending it became normal as 12 months went by and we never took my check and had fun with it. God didn't stop there though...the love of money goes far deeper than spending.

A few months ago, the poverty crisis really started weighing heavily on me and I delved back into researching the philosophy behind fair trade. My research un-earthed article upon article about consumerism and the way the global market is the key to ending poverty. Teaching people to work a trade and then paying them fairly for it is changing entire villages. Children are able to go to school, women are free to get out of prostitution, men regain respect for themselves and others, and the quality of the actual product rises! The consumer will be paying a higher price for something, but gaining a better product, thereby not needing to purchase the same quantity as before. With my husband's permission, I began adding a few things to my wardrobe and even found fair trade shoes and makeup! The quality blew me away and I was filled with passion to speak out about our need to change the way we shop in this country.

Along with my passion though, grew that tiny seed of what I have termed the "more disease". We see it everywhere from the toddler who mumbles "can I have another" with her mouth full of a cookie; to the mother who gets a full night's sleep while praying for another one tonight; The girl who loves her new shirt so much that she returns to the store to buy it in a few other colors; and the lover who tells his wife, he can't wait to enjoy her again. The constant need for more fully steals our ability to embrace the moment we have right now. This reality stopped me dead in my tracks as I was pinning fair trade outfit after fair trade outfit on pinterest last night. Although, I wasn't pining away for any of them, I was feeding the monster within that always thinks of more.

Jesus tells the people in Matthew 6:25, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?"

While Jesus is encouraging people here not to be anxious, I think the statement encompasses obsession as well. Weight loss, fitness, healthy eating, clothing, anti-aging, and the like all point to an obsession we have with getting more and more and more. I see it in my daughters...and I see it in myself. God has placed a burden on my heart to do a fast from anything that leads me to want more. Beginning on February 13th (the beginning of lent), I am committing to fast from all shopping and pinning on pinterest. I am rallying my family and closest friends to keep me accountable to savoring the moment rather than thinking or talking about what's to come. My passion for Noonday is stronger than it has ever been before and I will continue to do trunk shows and speak out about fair trade. My heart however will be fasting from feeding the worm of desire that thrives on the more disease. God has given me a passion and a voice to speak out on this issue, but He needs to prune my heart first.  If you'd like to join me, let me know and we'll do this together and if you'd like to remember me in prayer, I'll love you bunches. If you are interested in changing the way you shop, leave your email address and I'll send you a list of awesome fair trade companies. Thanks for reading friends!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Shopping With Heart

I was 15 years old, sitting on a plane, returning home, and bawling my face off. I had just spend two weeks serving in Brazil with Compassion International and had come face to face with raw, horrific, poverty. I held children covered in filth who lived in mountains of trash that would never see a day past their 10th birthday. I walked hand in hand with children who longed to go to school and yet would never see the inside of a first grade room or feel the luxury of a fresh sharpened pencil. I looked into the eyes of young women longing for freedom, but had only one vocation for their bodies to pay the bills with, and I was crushed under the hopelessness of it all.

When people say that Americans have no idea what it's like in third world countries, they are speaking the truth. Even if the fiscal cliff takes us places we never thought we would go, Americans have something that every single third world country lacks and that is hope. America was born out of a vision that came from hope. We dream and plan and work together to make life better and easier.

While this is a wonderful thing in our country, we are at a place in life where it's time for us to extend this to other countries. We have a gift we can give those who are struggling and it begins with hope and a dream and is executed through the power of money. You see every time we make a purchase we are giving the support of our hard earned income not just to gain something for ourselves, but also to pay the person who made it. This is not something we think about since we are so far removed from the makers of our products. Most items we purchase are made in mass quantity at a factory overseas. The reality is that almost every one of these factories mistreat the people making the products and underpays them if paying them at all. Poverty will never be eliminated unless we start paying the person producing a product rather than the company in between the worker and consumer.

And while I myself could sit in my American home typing on my foreign made computer resting on my foreign made couch and try to explain the concept of fair trade and the opportunity to change the lives of individuals, I've chosen instead to let me dear sister give you her thoughts. She lives in Bangkok, Thailand...home to thousands of sweat shops and a prostitution capital of the world. I pray your eyes are opened and your heart stirred to be a part of a movement...a movement that has ripple effects farther than we could ever imagine.
When Beth told me that she wanted me to help her write a blog about the issues women face around the world, I felt very inadequate to do so. Living here has opened my eyes to how complicated the issues are. For example, before I moved to Thailand, I would have thought that any woman who was given the choice to get out of prostitution would take it. Now I know that the issues run deeper. She might have been brainwashed or be on drugs, she might have nowhere to go, she might have children to support, she might be completely rejected if she ever went back to where she was from (or might not even be able to get home if she doesn't have a passport). Helping women is more complicated than I thought. I went to a party to support a ministry here that helps women get out of prostitution. They told how much it would cost to support a woman and her child per month. It was extremely low, just over a hundred dollars. I wanted to just give the money. But then I realized that what they wanted me to do was buy something the women had made. They can't survive on handouts. Having a job and a trade and doing something is a key to creating a new life for themselves.
Another thing I've realized is that cultural beliefs really influence the issue and those are very hard to change. How do you explain to someone that prostitution is wrong when she sees it as a chance for a way out--she might marry a rich foreigner and then support her family for life (this happens enough to make them think it works). This can be discouraging, but I remind myself that ONE person at a time--ONE heart at a time is the focus. And, that the gospel is powerful and everlasting and changes people and cultures. When I get sad and overwhelmed about it, I just try to focus on Jesus' love--how His love can change anyone.
We are on the cusp of an amazing movement...and we have the opportunity to use the power of our money to support people and help them make a long lasting change! Noonday Collection goes into countries and does THIS VERY THING. We offer sustainable income for people, through their work. We buy our products directly from them rather than paying them a percentage which means they are getting paid far above what they would get anywhere else.

When you make a purchase through Noonday, YOU ARE CHANGING LIVES. As a thank you for reading today's blog and wanting to make the change to impact the world, I am offering one of our best selling scarves as a gift to one lucky winner. Just make a comment about how you plan to make a change to purchase more fair trade products and the winner will be chosen at random before midnight January 5th.

          To see the full collection of what Noonday offers visit me at:

                                                                        Thank you!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Meeting People in their Messes

Christmas is dawned a new year...and yet I cannot shake the theme that ran through my head during the entire advent season. Images of what a true manger looked like coupled with the mental picture of Christ bent over washing His disciples feet created a running thought of Jesus coming down to meet us in our messes. As if the humility of the Christ child lying in a dirty feeding trough isn't enough, we then see Him dwelling with fishermen, prostitutes, and homeless people. None of these were privy to regular bathing and clean fingernails. When He healed the sick He chose not just to speak the words, but to touch them..and His touch was what drove deep beyond the healing of their bodies and healed their lonely souls. Now contrast that with today's culture where super sized bottles of Germ-X are on every counter in every store, bathroom, and size. They are even sold in travel size containers with handy accessories that allow us to ward off illness in style! I'll be the first one to laugh at myself with how I practically bathe my children and myself in it every time we go to the grocery store. I'm that crazy mother yelling "no don't lick that!" and "Olivia don't touch your lips so much!". Shamefully I am also the one who sees a sick friend and rather than reaching out, I run the other way and throw a "get well soon" over my shoulder to them. Funny...Jesus came to meet us in our messes and I spend my time avoiding them. And it doesn't end with illness...what is the natural instinct when we hear that a husband or wife has been unfaithful? We might have pity on the spouse that was cheated on, but what about the one who created the mess? Or what about the person in church who we avoid at all costs because they don't understand boundaries and if you say hi, you can forget being able to pry yourself away for an hour? Mangers are messy places where animals stick their germ filled faces to feed, feet are messy appendages that come into contact with dirt, and filth, and carry pleasantries such as corns and warts. Fishermen smell like....well fish...prostitutes carried the aroma of their lifestyle, and yet I believe the pride that keeps us from meeting people in their messes smells far more foul to our Heavenly Father than anything of those scents. So what's to be done? How do we swallow the pride that keeps us clean and neat and make our way into the messes other people are wallowing in? I think the answer can be found in Matthew 18:3 where Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Then Jesus goes on to say in verse 4 "Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Obviously Jesus sees in the hearts of children something that adults truly lack and I think it can be narrowed down to they way that children love. Yesterday I had the privilege of getting one of the worst flu's I have had since I was a child. It came on fast and left me hugging the toilet for a few hours. No matter how hard I tried to get the girls to stay in the other room, they kept running in to hug me, rub my hair, give me pictures they had drawn, and lavish kisses anywhere I would let them. Not once did they hesitate to show affection due to fear of contracting the illness that ravaged my body. It didn't phase them when I said they needed to stay away because mommy didn't want them to get sick. They pushed past my pride and worry and met me in my mess. In doing so, I caught a glimpse of the very face of Jesus Himself as Love came down and hugged me...and kissed me...held me in my messy state. No wonder Jesus said that children are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. They lack the well groomed self preservation we adults adorn ourselves with. They lack the carefully nurtured worry we have spent years cultivating. Children aren't afraid of is one big mess to them...and they don't know anything but to love all through it. I have always said that I am a visual/tangible learner and yesterday was proof. The visions of Jesus, the One who meets us in our messes became so real to me and I don't want the lesson to end there. Old habits die hard so you will probably still see me with my hand sanitizer hanging from my key chain and my bottles filled with anti-sick promises in my medicine cabinet, but my prayer is to be drawn to messes rather than afraid of them. I want to be like my daughters and reach down with hope. I want to be like Jesus and love the unloved. I want to be the one people call when they have no-where to go, not to gain a pat on the back or walk away feeling good, but because that is what love reach out when it costs you meet people in their messes

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I must have been 7 or 8, although I can't remember the exact yr...nor can I remember the location of where my eyes first beheld it, but I do remember the feeling I had when I laid eyes on the object of my desire. Hope turned into anticipation and as lights went up on the tree and carols floated out of every speaker in our house, my mind was consumed with the FUN I was going to experience as soon as I got my hands on that BARBIE CAMPER. Did you have one of those? My sister and I got matching ones and it sure didn't disappoint! Barbie went on more adventures than you can imagine in that thing and she didn't even have to remove her pink high heels because she rolled into every camp ground in style and got to sleep in her luxurious pink bed rather than a silly sleeping bag outside. ;) This is a fond memory for me as are MANY other Christmas memories I have. However, something about Christmas has nagged at me for years, especially ever since Olivia was born. You see, we as Christians are caught in a bit of a rock and hard place with how to marry the very secular and even selfish magic of Santa with the holiness of the birth of our Savior. Some have decided to throw Santa out the window or tag him with harsh and hateful titles while others embrace all of it and try to celebrate all that the Christmas season has to offer equally. I won't point the finger at anyone...I believe each family makes their own traditions which is totally fine by me, but Brian and I had never found one for us that felt right. I think the moment I was sure I wanted something different for us was when Olivia and I were in our favorite toy store this week. I saw the look on her face when her big brown eyes locked onto the sweetest baby doll we had either one seen. She hugged him (yes a boy baby doll) and looked at me with yearning and expectation. Due to his price and the extravagance of the gift, I told her we would have to wait to get something as special as him for a special occasion to which she replied "maybe I can get him for Christmas?". In that moment all the years of wishing the Christmas season by and counting down days, and asking Jesus to forgive me for not being as excited about His holy birth as that Pink Barbie camper...or new bike...or whatever it was my heart longed for that year came rushing back and my heart sank into my stomach. I put the doll back on the shelf and consoled Olivia by telling her I would talk to daddy about it. I mulled over it and prayed over it for do I help my girls keep the focus of Christmas and enjoy the sanctity of it while still keeping the wonder of that special gift too? Well two days ago, I was driving the girls home from the park and the answer hit me right over the head...of course it's all brand new so I'm not sharing a fool proof idea with you here, but this is our plan for this yr. On Sunday Nov 25th, we are going to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season. We are going to have a big lunch, and decorate the house, and OPEN PRESENTS. It will be a fun and festive day much like December 25th always has been in years past. And then from that day forward, we will celebrate every aspect of the advent season and the wonderful day of our Savior's birth. We will open a part of our manger advent calendar each day, go Christmas caroling, take in as many candle lightings as we can attend, and put as much excitement into the gifts we make and buy for others as we used to into the ones we expected for ourselves. We'll attend the Christmas Eve service with family and friends and drink hot chocolate and stay up way too late as we always have...and then on Christmas morning we will celebrate! I'll make cinnamon rolls and big cups of coffee and we'll all gather together to read the story of Jesus' birth and we will worship. If we are with family on that day, we will eat yet another big meal and exchange gifts with them, but our prayer is that our hearts will be focused differently. I cannot tell you how excited I light my heart feels at the beginning of my favorite time of the year. As adults we know it's not about the presents, but by starting this new tradition, we have a better chance that our daughters will know that too :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Walk of Remembrance

Stones of Remembrance...these were stones the Israelites used as reminders of God's faithfulness. They served as a visual reminder of the amazing miracles He performed and His unfailing love as He never gave up on them.
I by nature am not sentimental in any way...clean out my house regularly...and can be called anything BUT a hoarder. So keeping something like stones of remembrance has always been totally out of the question, however I was struck this morning by a place that is that for me. I took Olivia and Eden down to the beach early this morning for a long walk (I know I am incredibly blessed :) ). The sun beat down warm rays and we ran the paths the tire tracks left behind, poked at a jellyfish left by the receding tide, and dug our bare feet deep into the cool sand. In one moment when both girls were squealing in delight, I was overcome with gratitude and allowed my mind to review all that I have experienced on this beach. 25 yrs of memories flooded my mind as I remembered the summer when my mom, sister, and I came to the beach everyday for two solid months...yes we experienced a drought that summer, but we sure enjoyed the sunny days! I relived the walk I took where I petitioned God about whether or not I should go on a mission trip to Brazil...ended up being the trip where God caught my heart and gave me a love for people around the globe. There was the walk I took where I cried my eyes out in loneliness because my sister left for college...and the one I took right before I moved to Colorado to attend school myself. This was the first beach my husband had ever seen and the same one that he knelt down in the sand to ask me to marry him. I then allowed my mind to recall all the walks of sorrow...when my marriage crumbled and everything felt so dark...the days after I lost each girl through miscarriage...even the day I found out I was pregnant with Eden and I walked this wellworn path on the beach begging God to let me keep the pregnancy. You see, I have no physical tangible object to remind me of the faithfulness of God, but I do have this place...this beach that I call my home. And as I looked at my marriage that God faithfully restored; and my heart that He faithfully healed; and my two daughters that He is faithfully keeping for me in heaven; and my other two duaghters squealing and laughing on the beach; I am OVERWHELMED by the faithfulness of our God. He is faithful no matter what! I am blessed by my "walk of remembrance" this morning....blessed to be called a daughter of this beloved Savior of mine.