My first marathon!!!

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A couple of months ago, I told you that my husband and I were going to run our first full marathon in November. I was so nervous to start this training program, because I knew if I did, I wouldn’t quit…and that it would be hard. I asked the Lord if I should even try something like this (mother of four young children, busy pastor for a husband, and recurrent back issues) and this is the verse he gave me: “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness.” I knew He would get me through. So, training began in July. It was a lot of hard work. There were many days that it was just too hot to run and others that I had to run in the pouring down rain. I would come back to the house sloshing in my shoes, or so worn out from the heat that I could hardly do anything else, but every time, I was filled with confidence that this was making me more ready to run my first marathon. God has this amazing way of growing your character and confidence in him-even while running-He doesn’t waste a thing!!!

Well, it’s November and we did it!!! We crossed the finish line after 26.2 miles!! Here’s my story:

We chose to run the Richmond Anthem marathon this past Saturday, because we had heard that it was a fairly flat course, had lots of great fans, and was held on a Saturday.

We arrived in Richmond a day early and pretty quickly went to the Expo. This is where you pick up your bib number and free t-shirt. There are loads of vendors selling everything from chafing creams to jackets, 26.2 stickers for your car and running shorts. There is also information about upcoming races etc.. in case you can think past the race you’re about to run.

This was my favorite shirt on display:

20141114_142208Yes! I have always loved a good wedge or some high heels, but lately, my feet have been craving my Brooks Adrenaline’s!

We went back to our hotel and laid out our race clothes. I was going to be wearing a running jacket I had recently bought, (you’d normally never wear a jacket for a long run) because it was supposed to be 28 degrees at the starting line!! What? It had been so beautiful in NC for weeks, but we have the “Polar Vortex” to blame.

20141114_162845Stomach aches and much anxiety ensued, so my husband and I spent some time reading scripture back and forth to each other. Then, we wrote favorite running verses on a piece of paper and put them in our jackets. Peace rushed over me. The Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my victory! We slept pretty well and woke up to race day!!!

It was cold as predicted, but such is life. We wore extra clothes that we could discard at the starting line down to the race. There were thousands of people and almost everyone was standing in line to use the portable bathrooms! Of course, having race jitters, I needed to go. I stood in line while Scott checked a bag for us, which they almost didn’t take, because we were the only ones who brought a rolling suitcase instead of a clear plastic bag to the starting line. Newbies! What can I say? They took pity on him and took the bag after searching it meticulously. I was still standing in line at the bathroom with thousands of others.

The race was about to start and I just had to make the decision to get out of line and “hold it”. We ran to find our “wave”, jumped in with the others and 20 seconds later we heard “Marathoners, are you ready??”

Everyone was cheering and screaming. The gun sounded and we were off. One of us had a full bladder. Ouch!

The first mile raced by. Our legs were rested from the “taper” we had just experienced for the past couple of weeks. It felt amazing. People everywhere cheering, many with hilarious signs like “Don’t poop on yourself” (a real problem for runners) and “Run faster, I’m cold!” There were so many others, but I can’t mention many of them on here. Mile 2 was done. Then 3 and 4…and you get the picture.

My good friend Shannon, who is a multiple time “Ironman”, told me to “take it all in”. To look at the faces, watch the leaves fall, and take in the scenery. This was the best advice! I shared it with my husband and he did the same. Really seeing our surroundings made us feel so present. We couldn’t have enjoyed it more. We threw up our arms and danced along as the bands played at each mile and we cheered with the crowds when they cheered for us.

By mile 8, I was having some hip and achilles pain. It must have been the cold weather, because I don’t usually experience that until many miles later. I just prayed and prayed. My husband could tell I wasn’t my usual chipper self as I ran and he began to pray as well-right out loud, as we ran along the beautiful James River. It was something I’ll never forget. The Lord answered. The pain in both places was gone by about mile 14.

river_350Isn’t that beautiful?? That was our scenery for miles!

We crossed the coldest, windiest bridge at mile 16. It felt like forever and again the signs said things like “Isn’t this the worst bridge ever??!” We laughed as our teeth chattered. But just as we crossed over the bridge, we heard our names being yelled and two of our dear friends were standing there with excited faces to surprise us!!! We couldn’t believe it. It was just what we needed at that point. Amazing how God just knows.

By mile 20, we were thrilled with our time. In our training, we had only ever run up to 20 miles, so from here, it was all NEW. I was starting to get really tight hamstrings. As we ran, I shared that with Scott. He had been the best cheerleader through the entire race. He was having so much fun, I honestly could have slapped him. But, it was also just what I needed much of the time. I’m a pretty focused runner, so his diversions of yelling to the DJ’s as we ran by, were fun. We took a quick stretch break and kept going. We realized that miles 20 to 26.2 separate the “men from the boys”. People were beginning to walk and make noises that were seriously painful. We prayed for people as we ran and encouraged others. It was hard after 21. Our pace slowed slightly, but because we had run so fast our first 16 miles, we were making great time. This was the point where I was saying verses to myself and praying for lots of strength. This is where you just have to push through even though everything hurts.

At one point, Scott yelled out “Shanna! I will mount up with wings like eagles”. I responded with “I will run and not grow weary”. A woman running by us said, “mmmm”, like she knew Isaiah 40:31 like we did. Or maybe she was just encouraged by it. I hope so.

At mile 24, my hamstring felt like it might pop, or maybe I just felt a little dramatic at that point because I was so close to the finish. I stopped for 15 seconds to stretch it and caught back up to my husband. He was so kind to not leave me in the dust! He wanted to cross the finish line together….my power is made perfect in your weakness.

At mile 25, we saw our friends again. They were telling us about a few turns ahead and the down hill finish. It was so encouraging to see them again at that point! The turns came, the crowds cheered, and the finish line was within eye shot. We picked up our pace and ran faster than our legs seemed to ever go! Scott said, “can I hold your hand?” He grabbed mine and we ran together those last 20 yards or so. I was screaming, “We did it!! I can’t believe we did it!!”

Then we heard, “Here come Scott and Shanna Lehr from Raleigh, North Carolina!” the most beautiful words as we crossed the finish line! I began to cry and a lady put a beautiful medal on my neck. It was done. All that work. Four months of hard training. Nine pounds shed. Lost toenails-no really! And we were done! Oh, and I never did get to go to the bathroom!

We killed the time we thought we’d finish in and came across at 3:43:48. I could not be more pleased with the whole experience! Praising the Lord for giving me strength and for allowing our bodies to run!! And for giving us so many friends who have run marathons and were incredible encouragers along the way!!

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I hope you were encouraged by my marathon story. If you’ve ever wanted to do something like this, do it!! Set a goal. Find a friend to keep you accountable and go for it!!! You’ll be so happy you did!!!

 

Dear Mom of little ones,

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Dear Mom of little ones,

I’m writing you as a friend who has been right where you are. In fact, I’m writing as a friend who is still there and has been there for a lot of years. I have four little girls that arrived graciously in this world, one after another after another. It’s pure joy to hold them in your arms, isn’t it? You wonder how such a perfect creation could ever have come from you and you stand in awe of the Creator who would give you such a gift.

But there are days when you feel tired and lonely and insignificant. Days where you’ve watched “Dora the Explorer” so many times that you’re pretty sure you’re going to begin speaking in fragmented sentences while singing about a map! You’ve had days where the walls of your house feel a little more like a jail cell than a home. You’ve wondered if all the butt wiping and bathing and teaching matter to anyone at all.

The answer my friend, is yes-a resounding, from the rooftops, yes!!!! It does matter. It matters to your precious children and it matters to God.

See, God uses those precious gifts to mold us into the women he desires for us to be: women who display the Fruit of the Spirit and women who know that the real secret to their strength is HIM. But friend, this takes time. Life changing character is not cheap. Character is built through long sleepless nights, thousands of selfless acts, and through deep soul-searching. Soul-searching, that turns your heart to the very One who drew you to your knees.

It’s hard today and it may be hard tomorrow too. But there is going to come a day when you wake up a different woman: one who loves greater, cares deeper, and whose soul surrenders regularly to her Creator. And you will realize that God used your children to be the catalyst to some of your greatest life change. At least that’s what I believe God desires for those of us privileged to be called “Mom”.

You might need help along the way and that’s ok. We all need help from time to time. Reach out and find a friend or two who will support you and “do life” with you. Laugh with her. Tell her the good, the bad and the ugly.

Years ago, women simply walked outside their door to find a village of women experiencing what you feel today. Today, you woke wondering if you were the only one who feels this way. Don’t believe it! The village is wide and deep, and beyond those thick suburban walls is another mom who feels just like you.

One day, you’re going to wake up and your children will be in a less “needy” stage. You will be able to have a few interests that don’t include finding the right consistency of baby food or what programs are educational for your kids. You’ll be able to celebrate that you’ve worked hard, though your work will never actually be done. Your life song will be one of intense experience and hope. You’ll be able to encourage others, and even your own, as they continue along in their journey. And you will smile at the future, content that you were obedient to your call.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. Proverbs 31:25

 

 

She’s not always going to ask.

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The other night as my husband and I walked into three different bedrooms to say good night to our little girls, I realized something very important.

In the first bedroom, is a little girl who loves to be read to. The images on the page excite her and the sing-songy voice in which we read lulls her to sleep. She lays down in her bed giggling about toys and kisses and asks to hold our hands when we pray for her. She’s easy to love and adore. The chubby fingers of a toddler and funny ways they pronounce words are some of the purest joys for a parent.

In the second bedroom are two little girls who giggle and jump on beds. Going to bed can be likened to the third world war against their parents because there is just too much fun to be had to go to sleep. They enjoy being read to, but what they really love are stories made up by their parents, where we are usually the star and on some epic childhood adventure that leaves them giggling and screaming for “more!” It’s easy to entertain these giggling girls.

The third bedroom holds a precious girl who is soon to become a young woman. She’s quieter than the others and reads often on her own. She asks deep questions about life and current events. She wants to understand the injustice in the world. She doesn’t ask for much personally, but she still needs it.

My husband was trailing a little behind me the other night after telling another of his epic tales that left the second bedroom screaming for a longer story. I saw him, as he was about to simply say good night to our daughter in the third bedroom and come down the stairs to me. It was one of those moments where you think, “Oh good, we’re all done. Now, we can finally relax for the night.” If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I mean. Just then, I heard a soft voice from the third bedroom say, “Dad, could you tell me a story?”

My heart melted as I stood at the bottom of the steps looking up at him. I hoped he could read my mind, which was screaming, “She’s not always going to ask!”

She’s growing and becoming more private as young ladies often do. But, she still needs stories and laughter with her mom and dad as we lay on her bed. She needs us to hear about the books she’s reading and the thoughts she’s having about her ever-changing self. She needs to be coached through friendships and understanding our difficult world. Sometimes, she just needs a silly bedtime story.

There was a brief hesitation and then I watched him walk in the room and begin another of his animated and hilarious tales. She went to bed laughing about a spy mission in Greece; a story that’s right up her alley. I went to bed with a thankful heart.

Embrace these moments with your children. They aren’t always going to ask.

A Christian’s response to current events

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If you turn on the news or even just read your Facebook news feed these days you’ll find reason after reason to feel uneasy or perhaps downright afraid. We are living in unsettling times with ISIS nearing the border of Bagdad in a mighty attempt to take down another middle-eastern city. A Houston, TX mayor is also attacking church leaders who didn’t like her “non-descrimination ordinance”, which in part allowed trans-gender people to use any bathroom they like…try sending your 12-year-old into a bathroom in that city. No thanks! And, Ebola is ravaging much of West Africa and has entered our beloved U.S. in a city that I love and used to live in.

When does the tragedy end?

I think we all know the real answer, which is that it won’t until the Lord returns and every knee bows to him. I can’t tell you how often I remind myself that one day every ISIS member, every killer, every atheist, and every one else will bow their knee and confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10, Romans 14:11). It doesn’t change today’s crisis, but it screams that one day justice will prevail.

So, what is a Christian to do? How should we respond? As a mother caring for her children at home, what can you do?

First, I think it’s worth saying that we shouldn’t just stick our heads in the sand and ignore what’s happening around the world, because it scares you. Not only does this seem like an irresponsible response for a Christian, but it also shows a lack of concern for the rest of the world; a world that God dearly loves and sent his Son for.

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

Because God loves the world, this means that I should as well. I desire to love the things he loves; sometimes I just need him to open my eyes to see this world as he does. That changes my response to the horrors on the news. It necessitates a response.

God is using his word to remind me over and over that this world is not my home. There is a future hope and this vapor of a life is to be lived for his glory. As a Christian, we are to carry hope to those we meet and as a Christian mother, we are to disciple our children so that they too, may know him.

Here are a few ways I choose to respond to the current events:

  1. Be aware: Times are quickly changing and we should be listening. As we saw in Houston just this past week, freedom of speech is becoming less “free” and those with agendas clearly against the Lord are hitting “below the belt” by attacking our churches. Pray for those making these audacious decisions. They need Jesus. They need his love. They need to repent and they need his forgiveness. As a Christian, you don’t have to take this lying down. Dr. Russell Moore makes a fantastic point in a recent article where he tells us to follow Paul’s example in Acts 16:37 where Paul and Silas had been unfairly beaten and placed in jail. After realizing what they had done to Roman citizens, the police were going to send them away silently. Paul said, “No.. we’ve been unfairly treated, they need to come and walk us out!” (paraphrased) In other words, they need to own up to what they’ve done wrong. As a Christian, we have a responsibility to vote for and call Senators and leaders who will petition for values that honor the Lord. We know that not everyone is going to honor and obey God, but when human rights are being taken away or liberty attacked, we should fight for them. Once it’s gone, it may never return.
  2. Be prayerful: I shouldn’t be, but I am so often amazed at how God answers the prayers of his people. Prayer is not only unifying to Christians as a group, but it also causes each individual to seek the heart of their Lord. When we pray “in Jesus’ name”, we are praying what he would pray for us if he were here. That truth has revolutionized my selfish prayers and caused me to seek the face of God for what HE actually wants to be done…. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Just understand that God’s will and your will are probably two different things. As you surrender your heart to his will, you can more readily accept his answer.
  3. Care for Christians around the world: This will look different for each of us. If you are a new mom or have a house full of kids, you may not be able to do anything more than pray like crazy for the refugees, the pastors, and the many other Christians who face daily persecution. Make it a priority during this season of life to do just that! If you are more able to move about, perhaps collect clothes, money, shoes, or books to send to displaced people groups. Pray for our military and send them notes of thanks. Write notes of encouragement to those God places on your heart-Israeli Christians, Syrian refugees, Houston pastors just to name a few. Even another step is to go and serve those people.

In those times that fear creeps in, claim the truth of scripture! The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

 

 

Pastor Appreciation: Let’s flourish together!

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Last year around this time, I wrote a blog called “5 Things you should know about your Pastor”. It was by far the most widely read blog of the year, making it to countries all around the world. I was most surprised however, at how many pastor’s wives wrote me just to say, “thank you!” Some felt I had said what is so difficult for most people to say and others were just thankful for being understood. It’s a unique position that bears tremendous spiritual battle and sometimes, we just need to hear someone else say, “You’re not alone.”

My husband and I started our church 7 years ago with a few friends and a dream to reach a city for Christ. We worked tirelessly as others joined our efforts and we watched God build his church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Over the years of our church plant, we’ve learned a few things about how to not only survive “life in ministry”, but how to flourish.

  1. Take care of your family. One thing we consistently talk about in our home is that your faith has to become your own. My husband and I diligently teach our kids, pray with and for them, answer questions that they have about God and do our best to prepare them for this difficult world, but before long, they have to choose for themselves if they want to know God intimately as their Savior. I’m always sad to hear of pastor’s kids who have walked away from the faith, wondering if they had ever really known the God I know. You must cultivate a gracious environment so that your kids can ask you any and everything-even when they aren’t so sure about God. We’ve had some really good conversations after one of our kids has said, “How do I really know God is real?” or “What if I’m not sure I want to obey Him?” I’m glad they are asking “real” questions. This is a great opportunity to show them scripture and explain how our belief in God ultimately comes down to faith in what Jesus Christ did on the cross…and then we pray like crazy! (Hebrews 11:1) How sad if pastors spend more time equipping those in his church than in his own family.
  2. Take care of your physical health. How many pulpits are filled with overweight, unfit, and sedentary pastors? The answer is pretty obvious. If you’re going to lead others spiritually, you must set a good example by being a good steward with your own body. “The Biggest Loser” recently reported that 80% of America is obese. Our diets lack real nutrition and we live sedentary lifestyles. That’s a staggering statistic! Most of us have struggled with weight at one time or another, but let’s just be honest and admit that you can’t eat out 8 times a week (even for pastoral counseling or mentorship meetings) and expect to stay in shape, unless you make some healthy and intentional food choices while you’re there. My husband and I decided to challenge ourselves this Fall with our first full marathon. This was after he looked at a picture of himself with what he calls “a tire” hanging over his belt and decided he was “fat”. Now, we’re not only running together, we’re also dropping pounds together and it has been so much fun!
  3. Take care of your mental health. The more leaders I talk to, the more I realize how important caring for your mental health is. How can you lead well if you are discouraged, have pent-up anger, or anxiety consuming you? My husband is very open about discussing how anxiety nearly consumed him several years ago. It was a difficult time for us as a couple, but with the help of a few trusted friends and a counselor who will surely receive extra rewards in heaven, he is healthier than I’ve ever known him to be. Before we made it to Raleigh, some mentors told my husband, “Find a good counselor as soon as you hit town. If you don’t need them now, you will soon.” They were right!! My only regret is that we didn’t find him sooner! You can’t put a price tag on living in freedom!
  4. Take care of your soul. Many pastors and their families are notorious for being servant-hearted souls. But they get tired and simply can’t always give out. In order for a pastor and his family to be truly healthy, they need time away, time to decompress the stresses and frustrations of ministry life, and also time to be “fed” spiritually themselves. Besides a night or two here and there to nurture our own relationship, my husband and I try to get to some sort of leadership conference (together) every 18 months or so. I’d love for it to be more often, but we have young children. Those times away fuel us for months as other pastors speak into our lives from God’s word.  I was so touched the last time we sat at a conference when a pastor named Ryan Gold from Denver, Colorado prayed passionately for us and for our ministry. I could barely stop the tears flowing down my cheeks as he said, “Amen”, because I couldn’t remember the last time someone had prayed for us in that way. We often pray with others, but to feel “pastored” ourselves was unforgettable! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a few people in every church made it their priority to humbly serve the pastors and their families by praying for them?

I am so grateful for the many pastors who are humbly serving the local church, God’s “Plan A” to reach this world for Christ. Please encourage your pastor and his wife by sharing this with them!

 

 

Intentional Family: Running and family time

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Last week, my friend Kelly, from “Redhead on the Run”, asked me to guest blog about running and our busy family. This is a different type of post than my usual, but I thought I’d let the friends of “Flourish” in on one of the challenges my husband and I are taking on this Fall. We’re running a marathon together in 49 days!! If you’ve read this blog for very long, you know that I really enjoy running and always have, but with a busy church and a growing family, some of my interests have gone by the wayside. I feel like I’m finally in a place to be able to pick up running more seriously now and the challenge has been so life-giving to me. It’s easy at this stage of life to steer away from doing hard things, but doing so has invigorated me and caused me to rely on the Lord for “new” kinds of strength.

As a little 8-year-old girl, I started running road races. My dad, who was in the Army and very skilled in running longer distances, says that I didn’t train like I should have, but could hold my own among the other girls. So, when I think of running, I have fond memories of listening to my dad’s footsteps along side mine as he sang Army cadences to keep me motivated and focused. It worked. I still sing those same songs today as I run!  20140917_150609

(Gotta love those 80’s feathered bangs!!)

Now, I’m a mom of four little girls who are 3, 5, 7, and almost 9. I home school the first three and run tirelessly after the baby! Our house is busy at all times of the day except for sometime after 8:30 pm when they are tucked into their beds.

In between babies, which as you can tell wasn’t much time, I would try to get back into shape. I even ran through my pregnancies until my belly could no longer handle the jolting. But, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t breaking any PR’s nor were these quality workouts. Over the past 10 years or so, I have simply been a mom-one of my highest callings.

But, this past May, we took our two oldest girls to NYC to see the sights and enjoy an end of the school year field trip. During our visit, many pictures were taken. One of which, changed a lot for our family. My husband saw himself and decided that he needed to quickly lose weight and so he was going to run a marathon this year. My husband is one of those “all or none” kind of guys. There is no middle ground, so leaping from “I’m fat” to “I’m going to run a marathon” from a guy who only ran a couple of times a week, but was a sprinter in high school, was a true leap.

When he told me about the idea and invited me to join the “fun”, I immediately resisted. So many questions surfaced, like “How in the world would we have time for this? What about the time spent away from our girls?” And just, “why?!?”

I counted the cost ad nauseam and finally came to a point where I felt I could actually attempt such a goal as my first full marathon. In November, my husband and I intend to make this big dream a reality. But, I’m not going to lie. It’s been a real sacrifice and has taken a lot of planning. Here are a few things I would recommend when trying to juggle marriage, family, and racing:

  1. Develop a workable schedule. Seems simple enough, but with work schedules, early morning meetings, schooling children, and children’s sports, it’s no small feat to work around. My husband and I try to run opposite each other, whether that’s one of us running as the sun comes up and the other in the evening or on opposite days of each other when that is applicable.
  2. Run together whenever possible. This is extremely difficult for couples with young children, but it’s wonderful if your speed and effort match each other in any way. “What do you do with your children?” has been a common question from friends. Well, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be chanting, “It takes a village to run a marathon” by the time this is all over with! We have hired babysitters and asked family and friends to watch our girls so that we could run together. It has taken a lot of coordination and outside help, but it’s worth it! My husband and I have loved the times we’ve gotten to run together simply for the moral support and the joy of watching each other fiercely accomplish a goal. It has brought us together in a new way that after 14 years of marriage has been really fun to experience.
  3. Keep traditions a priority. If you have kids then you know that there are certain elements of family time that are just non-negotiable to them. Sitting down for meals together is so healthy and tucking them in for bed for a few minutes of valuable one-on-one time is necessary to their little hearts. Before attempting a marathon or some other intense training, I’d encourage you to talk it over with your kids and explain that Mom and Dad are working hard towards a goal and will have to miss a few things during this “season”.
  4. Celebrate the finish. Since the whole family has sacrificed, be sure that they also get to celebrate with you! There’s nothing quite like a child cheering you on and tucking the truth into their hearts that they too, can work hard and accomplish a goal. During our training, I’ve talked to my girls about my hard runs or how I persevered through the heat, so letting them celebrate the finish will be as satisfying for them as it is for me….well, almost!

I hope this encourages you to get out and run or exercise! Encourage healthy habits in your own family by setting the example yourself. Set a goal. Work hard. Finish!

 

It’s Monday y’all!

I know it’s Monday and for many of you this day comes with dread and a little fear. It’s a new week and the fun of the weekend doesn’t hit for 5 more days. Ugh. Here in North Carolina, we’ve received an early Fall treat better than any pumpkin bread or pumpkin spiced latte: Cooler weather!! I ran in it early this morning and thought for just a moment that I might have even felt “chilly”, but then that quickly passed as my feet hit the pavement mile after mile.

When I got back to my house, it was time to get breakfast ready and start school with my girls. They awoke with the usual case of “the Mondays”, which tends to bring a little moaning and groaning about their school work and a less than exuberant attitude about starting the day. I get it girls, I really do, but let’s just not do this today. Still being on a “high” from my run, I eagerly sat down to the table and opened my Bible to a familiar passage that I knew we all needed to hear today:
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”1 Corinthians 10:31

This applies to Math too!

I wonder if you need to hear this scripture today? Are you tired? Tired of working hard? Have sick kids…still? Working for a company or boss that doesn’t seem to appreciate you? Well, here’s the good news: You aren’t working for them! You are working for the Lord with the purpose of bringing glory to HIM!

If you woke tired, ornery, and not ready for this day, it’s time to refocus. Fix your eyes on the Lord and work hard for Him today at whatever He has called you to do! Wipe little noses for His glory! Teach your children for His glory! Fill out that report for His glory! Answer with kindness for His glory! Love someone difficult for His glory! And if you’re my kids, do your Math homework for His glory!

Let’s not just survive, but flourish as we bring glory to our Father in heaven!

Bent beneath your load

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Ever overwhelmed? Me too.

The culprit is different for all of us. Maybe it is health concerns for you or someone you love or relationship issues that leave you unsure. For others, it’s the weight of caring for children or another responsibility that leave you feeling desperate and less than adequate. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been overwhelmed. Perhaps you are there right now.

As I said, “me too”. I know the feeling and at times could “write the book”. Over the last several years our family has met “Anxiety” in many ways. I’d like to share a few steps I take when anxiety over situations rears its ugly head…you know, on a good day, when I’m fixing my eyes on the Lord, which of course, is the goal.

1. Take a step back and look at the facts. Sometimes we just need to “sort” through the details. As in, is it really “a million things” or is it actually a few manageable items that need some tending? Is the “sky really falling” or is your inadequacy or control over the situation the real issue? This seems simple, but it’s good to identify.

2. Pray. The other night as I was feeling frustrated with my situation, all I really wanted to do was call my husband and cry. I felt like the Lord instructed me to just stop and pray, so that’s what I did. What followed, was the next step.

3. Read scripture. Don’t cross this one off the list or minimize how meaningful it is. There is a treasure of truth awaiting you if you’ll simply dig in. Here are a few scriptures that have encouraged me:

“I cry out to the Lord; I plead for the Lord’s mercy. I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles. For I am overwhelmed, and you alone know the way I should turn.” Psalm 142:1-4

I’ve told you all this before, but I love King David-the man who penned these words. This man fought lions and bears, dodged a blood-thirsty King, dealt with seriously consequential sin, and even had to run from his own son who was trying to kill him. Overwhelmed? Yes. He knew overwhelmed. Depressed? Yes. He knew that too! Relationship issues? Yes. Job loss? Disobedient children? Yes and yes.

I kept reading and found this golden nugget…

“The Lord helps the fallen and lifts up those bent beneath their loads.” Psalm 145:14

As I continued reading, I found this same verse again in the next chapter: “The Lord lifts the burdens of those bent beneath their loads. The Lord loves the righteous.” Psalm 146:8b

Oh that spoke to my heart right there in my kitchen. I realized right then that I was “bent beneath a load”. It felt too heavy to carry and I had simply fallen and felt “crushed” by it. I wanted to cry or call someone. I wanted to call for help, but the Lord was showing me that I just needed Him. He answered, as He often does, with His Word.

While my overwhelmed might be different from your overwhelmed, we all have times of it. Scripture shows us that there is freedom to say, “I’m overwhelmed! And I need some help, Lord!” It’s once you’re there seeking him, that he guides you to the words he planned out long ago. Words that would comfort not only my heart, but also yours and the many generations before us.

“The Lord lifts the burdens of those bent beneath their loads.” Will you trust Him to be faithful to do it?

 

 

You thrill me!

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I love when I read scripture that feels like the author is “speaking my language”. We all have phrases are that are common to us and this particular one, caught my attention today. “You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!”

*The author is not stated, but some believe it is David, so I will refer to him.

I feel David’s passion in this verse. You know that bubbling-over, almost could cry, about to burst kind of feeling? He had it. I hope you’ve had these moments where you’ve sensed the Lord’s presence so fully that it was palpable. Where you recalled his faithfulness to you or just felt His love so completely that you almost felt wrapped in a big warm hug.

Psalm 92 is a lavish praise Psalm. Read over these words and let yourself praise the One to whom they were written:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening, accompanied by the harp and lute and the harmony of the lyre. You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done. vs.1-4

I also love that David sings this praise to God because he feels loved first thing in the morning. Wouldn’t it make a difference in our days if we acknowledged how much the Lord loves us and set truths about Him in front of our eyes first thing in the morning? I imagine that victory rather than defeat would be the anthem of our day.

Some of you don’t “feel loved”, because you don’t truly understand the gospel. I invite you to dig further into God’s word so that you begin to have a greater understanding of the One who loves you, not because of how you perform, but because you are His CHILD.

In the evening, David is still recounting the Lord’s faithfulness, as though the day were now done and he takes a moment to just thank the Lord for being present. First thing in the morning and then again in the evening. I have to believe that David really just thought about the Lord all day long.

I’m going to make it a priority this week to praise the Lord and acknowledge His love first thing in the morning and then recount His faithfulness over my day in the evening. While we have little control over what happens during the day, we certainly can control who we turn to in the midst of our circumstances. I choose to go to the One who thrills me! Would you want to join me this week? Let me know you were here!

 

“Camp Virtue”

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Do you have little girls like I do? Ever wish there was a camp for young girls that would focus on biblically based character qualities, while pointing them to God’s Word in a fun and active environment? I sure do!

As I began looking over our summer and planning fun events for my kids and our family, I began longing for a camp like that, that also didn’t cost hundreds of dollars. Well, I didn’t find it. I began praying about what God would have me do with my girls this summer that would point them to him as well as focus on some of the qualities that we desire to see them develop. As has become typical in my life when I pray, I didn’t get something I could send my kids off to, but instead, God showed me ways that I could create this fun and equipping camp for my kids…. right here in our home! I know it sounds crazy, but just trust me, if you asked my kids what their favorite week of the summer was, they would be sure to tell you about “Camp Virtue”.

Camp Virtue is what I chose to call it. We held “camp” for 3 days in mid-July right here in our home. It took planning and “Pinteresting”, and prayer and study, but it was definitely worth it. My kids came out with a greater understanding of several stories from scripture as well as how they relate to our every-day lives. I never want them to think that the Bible is boring as some disenfranchised folks would have them believe. It’s just not true! And this Mama will spend her last bits of energy pointing her children to Christ so that they will truly know him.

Here’s a peek at “Camp Virtue 2014″:

One of the first things I did was raid our local Dollar Store like Southerners raid the grocery store before it snows. This didn’t cost a lot to do, but the impacts were profound. I put together a whole Hawaiian theme, complete with hula skirts for the girls, because what game isn’t more fun with a hula skirt on??!

We started each morning in our living room, which we nicknamed the “Cozy Room” for the week. I would tell my “campers” the agenda for that day and go over our theme verses for the week. We would play games to remember the verses and by the end of the week, even the baby was trying to say it! For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7

20140715_084837Then we’d move “fireside” where I’d tell our first Bible story, which had to do with the virtue we were studying that day. While those verses are jam-packed with amazing virtues, there was only so much time, so for our camp week we focused on goodness, self-control, and perseverance. Each story showed someone learning or exhibiting these virtues. Now, when I say one of those words around the house, their little ears perk up and I can tell they are recalling the lessons they learned from Camp Virtue. 20140717_092158Games are an essential part of any camp, so we played many. They were a mix of games I read about on-line or played with my own sisters growing up. My Mom rarely let us watch t.v. so we were always coming up with something to entertain ourselves. Thanks Mom! Your perseverance paid off!

We did several games blind-folded (because it’s fun) and because one of the verses that follow our key passage says: “But whoever does not have them (the virtues) is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” So, I tried to keep reminding the girls that we are to put these virtues on in increasing measure and not forget what God has done for us in forgiving us of our sins.20140715_092329

Snack time was a highlight of each day. I bought some simple Hawaiian themed toothpicks to poke into fruit or cheese some days, but our favorite was this little gem, which a friend had posted on Facebook and I knew I had to use. It’s called “Bear on the Beach”. Isn’t it cute??! This “honey graham bear” is laying on a fruit Roll-up towel. Adorable.20140715_103909Other game-times included going outside and using balloons or playing “pin the beach ball on the Flamingo” inside. While most games went according to plan, I did learn that water balloons look a whole lot easier to fill than they actually are and unfortunately never got to use those wretched things! I was disappointed about that one! 20140716_105838

Craft time was probably the girls favorite part of camp. We had so much fun painting sea shells, making Sand Art, and modge-podging (for the first time ever!) I don’t consider myself crafty, so this part was a stretch for me, but the girls love it, so I figure it’s time to embrace craftiness and just go for it!

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20140715_104407This hot air balloon craft followed one of our Bible stories, where some men brought their friend to Jesus to be healed (Mark 2). Jesus didn’t only heal the man, he also saved him! Our theme that day was “Carry goodness to all you meet”. These now hang in the girls’ bedrooms as a constant reminder. 20140717_110541

 

On our last day, we made bookmarks with our theme verses on them. I wanted the girls to be reminded of our fun week of camp all year-long as they read or just look at it. More importantly, I want them to hide God’s word in their heart, so this was a fun way to help them to do it. We laminated the bookmarks and used paper from our other crafts.

20140717_112107So there you have it…”Camp Virtue 2014″! If you ever wanted to do something like this or were inspired by reading this, do it!! You’ll be glad you did. It won’t be perfect, but you’ll learn a lot and your kids will too! Next year, we hope to invite a few friends as my prayer for our little girls (and myself) is that they would grow to be more and more like Christ.

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