‘Tis the Season

“This season doesn’t look anything like I expected.” Homeschooling three high schoolers and raising an infant was never on my list of expectations.

“I thought I was supposed to be leading women and writing books. None of that is happening.”

'Tis the SeasonDecember is a time of preparing for Christmas. For me it is also for reflecting on the past and preparing for the future. As I was reflecting on things the Lord was speaking to me two years ago I had both the reactions above. As I reflected a little longer He reminded me of what I am doing and though it doesn’t look like I expected, I am doing what He said I would be doing.

I may not be leading women’s ministry like I was a couple of years ago but I’m leading women through relationship, writing, and my Facebook group.

While I’m not working directly on a book I have started writing regularly on my blog. Any writing helps and gives me connection with readers and a place to offer value.

My season of life with an infant and teens isn’t working quite like I expected.

I’m having a hard time determining what to expect. I think that may be where God wants me for now. Trusting and resting in Him not in my sense of having things figured out. Maybe to have a season defined by relationship to Him instead of my doing.

Yes. That is my season. A season of drawing near, leaning in for His whisper. A season of asking for direction for each step rather than checking in every day or once a week.

What is your season?

Where do you see His faithfulness to work in you what He promised, even if it looks different from you expected?

Step Out of Overwhelm and Move Forward

“God, I look to You. I won’t be overwhelmed.”

I sing this as a commitment. A choice. A decision.

Life can easily be overwhelming.

Emotions and “what if’s” come flooding in. I can’t think. I can’t hear the voice of God.

I make the choice to not be overwhelmed.

I also need a strategy to make good on my choice.

Step Out of Overwhelm and Move Forward step out of overwhelm and move forward

This is an in-the-moment process to get back in control of my thoughts in a short time. It does not replace the need to spend time feeling, talking, processing, or praying through life’s overwhelming situations.

1.     Identify one emotion or screaming thought.

 I feel confused. OR They hate me. OR There’s too much to do.

2.     Put it aside – on paper, in your imagination, or physically grab the thought from the air and set it in a box. (We are told to take every thought captive in Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 10:5)

 They say one things and do another. It’s very confusing.

3.     Repeat until I feel at peace and can clearly hear what God wants to say to me.

4.     Listen to God’s perspective and plan.

5.     Refuse to think the thoughts I set aside. Most weren’t worth thinking in the first place.

6.     For those thoughts and emotions that do need some attention I set an appropriate time to think about them.

I have a friend in crisis. I allow myself to think about that situation for a few minutes in the morning and evening when I check in and pray for them. If they come to mind during the day I say a quick prayer, ask God if I need to do anything else, and then set it aside again.

How do you deal with feeling overwhelmed?

4 Important Steps to Prepare for Christmas

Preparing for Christmas can take on a life of its own.
Somewhere in my past I became convinced that Christmas had to be “prefect”. Trouble is I wasn’t even sure what prefect was. But I knew I wasn’t. My home wasn’t. My children weren’t.
I sat in this hoped for “prefect” season allowing it to magnify my lack of perfection.
I am very grateful God walked me through this when my children were young. I didn’t want Christmas to be about unattainable perfection on any level. I wanted to live that Christmas was about Jesus, not just say so. I will not say I have arrived. I go through the process I am going to lay out for you every year. Some years I do better than others. Some days I do better than others.
to Prepare for Christmas

Here’s my process of preparing for Christmas.

1. Identify expectations:

I can create a great amount of stress for myself if I do not take the time to sort through what I am expecting of Christmas. For me it’s a whole season, not a day. I am naturally idealistic.  I tend to have expectations I’m not aware of until I’m disappointed.

2. Evaluate expectations:

Once I identify my dreams and expectations I take them to God. In my time with Him I ask questions like, “What is doable this year?” and “What is most important?”, and “What matters to my family?”. I can let many things go when we have this conversation. Time with Him and time with family are all I want. Everything else is fluff. Fluff is okay as long as there is no stress attached.

3. Evaluate traditions. Does this bring God glory?

When I had my children I looked at every Christmas tradition through this lens “Does this give God glory?” If I could not see a way it brought God glory I modified it or threw it out.
This is where my first book, Christmas Is about Jesuswas born. I wanted to do the advent calendar where there is a window to open each day. I wanted it to be more than counting down days until presents. To me Christmas is about Jesus coming to bring us salvation. Yet everywhere we encountered things that had nothing to do with Jesu. I wrote the daily devotions to point our thoughts to Jesus. I made ornaments so my children would have something to “open” each day. The ornaments also helped us talk about the devotion throughout the day. We usually hung them where we could see them from the table.
I am not saying fun activities like gingerbread houses or games are out. God loves families. He loves families enjoying each other and making memories. For me activities like pretending Santa was real were out.

4. Ask kids what makes Christmas special to them. (You may want ot try this even if the kids are out of the house.)

One year (while I was stressing over all the baking, decorating, making gifts, and whatever else was in my perfect Christmas that year) God inspired me to ask the kids what made Christmas special to them. Their list was short and totally doable. They wanted to look at Christmas lights, go to Gramma’s, and make gingerbread houses. That was it. That was all they cared about! It made letting my list go much easier. Now every year after Thanksgiving I ask and we schedule what’s most important to each of us. Anything else that happens is extra. Way less stress. Way more time for peace, the Prince of Peace.
 

How do you prepare for Christmas?

Love Recklessly

God has been teaching me to love like He loves. Recklessly. With abandon. Without regard for His reputation in religion.

Our church has a weekly prayer meeting. One night we prayed for North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. The emotion for him and his people that rose up in me was from God Himself. God LOVES him! He LOVES the Korean people! It was completely overwhelming.

While I was in DC at Rise Up we prayed for mothers who lived with the fear of loosing their children because of the color of their skin. Again the emotion was completely overwhelming. God cares about how they feel and what they experience.

Love Recklessly

He was showing me that unless I connect with how someone is feeling, step into their shoes, feel their pain, my prayers can only go so far. By allowing myself to be vulnerable, uncomfortable, even pained I can pray far more effectively.

Jesus didn’t just imagine our situation. He identified with us fully, becoming human and facing every trial and temptation we face. Being Jesus to those around us means we must be willing to do the same.

I thought I was getting this. I was missing a piece. Judgement.

Judging keeps me from loving.

One year ago our community was searching for a 16-year-old boy who didn’t make it home. The roads can be bad and it’s dark so they were out looking within hours. Unfortunately the story didn’t end well. David Grunwald never made it home. His life was ended that night by a group of guys his own age. This senseless, horrific event rocked our community. Rocked me. Entering into the Grunwald’s pain is easy. They were robbed of their son and so much more.

The young men who committed the crimes involved? It’s easy to stand in judgement.

“I don’t know what to do. They’re having an affair.” I heard from a friend.

I immediately entered their pain. I was feeling the betrayal, the confusion, the accusation against them, against God. I prayed for hope and strength, perspective and faith.

Then God reminded me that Jesus loved the adulterer. He loves the betrayed and is close to the broken-hearted, yes. He loves the sinner, too. The one choosing sin – He loves, He died for. How reckless!

He was challenging me. Would I be willing to enter the pain of the adulterer? Would I love them and pray for them? Would I step out of judgement?

What about the young men that beat and killed David? Am I willing to enter their pain? (I’m not suggesting excusing their behavior. They need to be held responsible for their choices. That is a governing issue. I, we, the church, are commanded to love them. Getting there is a big step. Once we get there then we have another question. “What does loving them look like?”)

Judgement quote by Tony Robbins

Judgement takes me away, sets me apart. “I don’t see how you could do that?”, “What are you thinking?”, and worst “I would never”.

Love draws me in. “What has been going on?” “What is causing you pain or pressing you so you feel the need to escape or act out?”,  “What pain have you experienced to make that choice?” or “How can I help?”

For so many situations I can’t get these questions answered. Asking them brings me out of judgement.

When Jesus met sinners He did not condemn them. He also did not excuse their behavior. He did release grace to “Go and sin no more.” He called sin sin. He gave forgiveness where there was repentance. He died to provide the opportunity for forgiveness – before any of us repented.

God work in me to love as You love. To see as You see. Not a love that is blind and says anything goes. A love that sees everything and recklessly loves anyway.

6 Steps to Enter into Rest

I can’t decide what to do.

Worse I decide what to do then don’t do it.

After weeks of this sad cycle I decided to pull out a tool the Lord gave me a few years ago. Key concepts for the word Father, because living with Him is key.

FATHER

  1. Focus

  2. Authority

  3. Thanksgiving

  4. Hope

  5. Encouragement

  6. Rest

Here’s how it went:

Focus:

Father, I want to focus on You. I find myself focusing on tasks, emotions, questions. Worse I find myself avoiding focus with distractions like checking email or Facebook. I choose to focus on You. You are good, gracious, faithful. So, so faithful. You love me. You called me. You say I am enough.

Authority:

I take authority over my thoughts and emotions. I am powerful. I choose what I think. I choose what I do. I choose what gets my time and attention.

Thanksgiving:

I am thankful for all You are teaching me. I’m thankful I am not who I used to be. The process is longer and harder than I want and I often forget to look at the progress in the middle of the process. I choose to thank You for the process. I thank You for making the process as long as it needs to be for me to be transformed, to take me from glory to glory.

Hope:

Focusing on You, taking authority over my thoughts and emotions, and choosing to be thankful has renewed my hope. You are my hope. You working in me. You so faithful to complete me.

Encouragement:

I encourage myself with Your faithfulness.

Rest:

I rest in Your goodness. Your faithfulness. I rest in knowing I hear Your voice. I rest in knowing whenever I say “yes” it will be worth it, no matter how uncomfortable it may be right now.

There you go six steps to enter into rest.

I still have to walk it out, I still have more ideas than I can do in a lifetime.

I also have hope and peace. I can rest.

 

I’m considering doing a class or webinar about this tool. I would love your feedback, possible interest, and questions.

How do you enter into rest?

Develop Thankfulness

Christmas is coming. The retailers won’t let us forget. It is a fun and exciting season. I enjoy the music, decorations, fun and festivities of Christmas.

I also don’t want to short change Thanksgiving. It’s easy for Thanksgiving to be little more than a day to be with family or friends and eat too much. Thanksgiving as a lifestyle is far more important.

To develop our habit of thankfulness we started a tradition. We record things we are thankful for every day of November. Everyone has to think of a new thing every day. Make it more of a challenge and have everyone think of something no one has said.

Recording our thoughts has taken many different forms over the years.

  • Written on a large piece of paper
  • Drawing what they are thankful for
  • Add a leaf to a tree, a feather to a turkey, or something every day to build a collage of thankful thoughts

Hopefully our thankfulness leads us to gratitude. We can be thankful for something and keep it to ourselves. Gratitude is takes action to express thankfulness. Listing things we appreciate is a good first step.

Ideas to move from thankfulness to gratitude:

  • Send out “Thank you” cards
  • Do someone a kindness
  • Speak up when you have a nice thought or appreciate something
  • Praise the Lord. For real. Out loud.

As you develop thankfulness and gratitude you are preparing your heart for Christmas. Preparing to focus on Jesus. Enter the Christmas season with thankfulness and a proper perspective.

Have you worked to develop thankfulness in you or your family?

What Do I Do with Halloween?

Well, this may be more risky that saying we don’t do Santa Claus – yet here I go!
First things first. I am sharing what I know, what I do and why. I am not telling anyone else what they should do.
Okay, now that that is clear you can choose from the Short Version or the Longer one.
The Short Version
Be sure people can see Jesus in whatever you choose to do or not do for Halloween. Ask about each activity: Does God receive glory for this?
What Do I Do With Halloween?
The Longer Version

Through Christian radio, Christian school and a great church youth group I have gleaned information about the roots of Halloween and the reality of the occult. I would love to include a bibliography, but I don’t have one.

Dark Beginnings
Halloween is a very old festival rooted in superstition at best and pure evil at worst.

The traditions of wearing costumes and trick-or-treating were devised in an attempt to protect people from the evil spirits they believed to be most active on October 31. Some traditions come from ancestor worship, some from various forms of Satanism and Wicca (witchcraft). The hideous costumes were to blend in and not being recognized by the evil spirits believed to be about. The treats were gifts to the dead or the evil spirits so they would be nice to the household, not play any bad tricks.

What we know as a jack-o-lantern was also to ward off evil spirits. There is a legend of someone making a deal with the devil. Then they wander forever with their jack-o-lantern lit by a coal from hell. Some cultures observed Halloween as a night for mayhem, anything goes. For some it is a night of sacrifice – produce, animal and even human sacrifice – to appease the spirits and their gods.

In light of such dark beginnings it’s not too hard to see why some decide to have nothing at all to do with Halloween.

Redeeming
I am all for redeeming things, bringing light to something dark. I do not believe that everything can be redeemed. By Jesus blood everyone can be redeemed, but not every event or activity.

Centuries ago the church attempted to redeem Halloween by declaring All Saints Day on November 1. If people are going to celebrate give them something worth celebrating.

Martin Luther chose October 31 to nail his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church. This challenge to the church’s teaching contributed to the Reformation. Some hold Reformation Day celebrations teaching church history in a festival type setting.

There are churches and groups today that choose to provide a God honoring alternative to Halloween, often called Fall Festivals or Harvest Parties. Kids do think its fun to dress up and get candy. There are many fun things to do.

The Pumpkin Patch Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs is a wonderful example of redeeming something that once was dark. Using a pumpkin as an object lesson Liz teaches about salvation. God chooses us, cleans us up and gives us His love to share with everyone we meet. We carve pumpkins some years. We refer to the parable while we work on our creations and we carve whatever we want, nothing scary or gross.

Our Choices
We have chosen to not dress up for Halloween. My children can and do dress up for theme parties and for fun.

We do not go to any Halloween parties or haunted houses. The idea of intentionally going to get scared is quite strange to me. Jesus died to give us not a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love and a sound mind. He conquered fear. Why would I invite it back into my life? Or give it permission to enter my children? The enemy is already a thief trying to steal, kill and destroy me and my family. Why help him out?

We live in an area where people do not come out trick-or-treating; it’s too far out, too cold, and too dark. It sort of defeats the purpose of a costume if it’s under your snow suit! I have never had to decide what to do with people coming to my door. If I lived where people came to my door I would not hide. What I would do I can’t say for sure. I think I would have treats, be kind and find a way to share Jesus. My house sometimes has fall decorations, sometimes cheery carved pumpkins but no spiders, witches, bones, ghosts, etc.

“Just for Fun” 

I know there are those who say “It’s just for fun”. Remember Satan is a thief, opportunistic. He doesn’t care if you meant anything by participating in his traditions. He’ll take it. In a way the “fun” as well as all the very cute ghosts and witches help feed the cultural idea that Satan and evil aren’t real.

What better way for Satan to operate? How much opposition are you going to have from people who think you don’t exist or are not a threat? If dressing scary or haunted houses are “just for fun” what’s to say that séances or Ouija boards aren’t? Satan is real, and though defeated, he still has power in this world.
I am cautious of the “not wanting to be left out” attitude. “Everyone is doing it” is a poor argument in any situation. Is this a reasoning you want your children to live by? We are called to be different, set apart. We can’t do that by looking and acting like “everyone”. I want to be living a life that leaves the world feeling left out; in a way that draws them to my loving God.

What do you do with Halloween?
Why?

2 Ways I’m Praying When Life is Busy

Life homeschooling three teens with an infant is busy. Making time to pray can be tricky. These are two ways that are working for me in this season.

1. Songs

Songs are almost always running through my spirit like a soundtrack. In this season certain ones are prayers for things that concern me or I feel the Lord wants me to pray about.

  • Over the situation in North Korea I sing Reckless Love by Steffany Gertzinger
  • For a friend overcoming cancer God I Look to You by Jenn Johnson
  • No Longer Slaves by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser – Verse one for me, verse two for my children
  • Let it Rain – Jesus Culture – for America
2. Typing

On Facebook there are many people and issues that need prayer. I find that if I just type “praying”. I don’t. I may think of them. And I may not.

If it’s something I care enough to type “praying” then I take the time to actually type a faith filled prayer. One I really believe God wants to answer. Then when I think of them again I already have prayed and it’s easier to pray again.

How do you pray when life is busy?

I’d love to hear from you.

Transforming Culture Starts with Me

Jesus, you are worth it all. Every nation every soul.

Jesus, you are worth it all. Every nation every soul.

Let it rain, let it rain. Open the floodgates of heaven let it rain, let it rain.

Let it rain, let it rain. Open the floodgates of heaven let it rain, let it rain.

I can hear the sound of rain coming to America again.

I can hear the sound of rain coming to America again.

These lines are on repeat in my spirit. Almost anytime I tune in my spirit is singing these lines.

These were part of the worship by Lindy Conant at Rise Up in Washington DC. Realizing my spirit is still singing them makes me remember the moments and weep. It also makes me rejoice. God is moving in America in the hearts of His people and the hearts of those who don’t know Him yet.

In the weeks leading up to this event I felt led to start a Facebook group. I shared ways to pray and prepare our hearts for what God was doing through posts and live videos. It was a stretching and rewarding experience.

Rise Up was a historic event for me and for our nation.

Rise Up morning session

Rise Up afternoon session

Each one has a part to play. Each one starts from wherever they are with God this moment, the moment they say “Yes, Lord. Anything you ask.” Each “yes” is another step in the shift of our culture, the expansion of the Kingdom of Heaven here on the earth.

It’s time to walk out the changing of history.

We must rise up. Day after day. Situation after situation.

I’m continuing the Facebook group and opening it up to anyone who shares the passion to rise up with the Lord. I am being transformed so I can transform culture. I will share posts of mine and others I find helpful. I will do videos of things the Lord reveals to me. The rest of 2017 I will focus on being very intentional. It is crucial to steward the seeds God has planted through Awaken the Dawn and Rise Up. I invite you to share what the Lord is revealing to you in this season.

It’s fun how God works. This morning as I prayed and felt I led to continue the group. I saw how it fits with my heart and purpose for my blog. I remembered that I had the goal of creating a Facebook community to encourage you on your journey by October. Up until yesterday I didn’t see any way to possibly make that happen. The idea of taking the group that had focused on praying for Rise Up didn’t seem to fit with my blog. It didn’t seem like it would work. He made my dream happen without me realizing it, just by me saying “yes” to sharing what I felt He was telling me.

How is He asking you to rise up?

Where do you need to take a brave step?

Arise! Shine! Your Time Has Come!

My heart and my spirit are so full with what the Lord is doing I don’t even know how to put it into a post.

So I’m doing something different.

I’m giving you some videos to watch and links to follow.

Rise Up

Register or learn more The Call

Awaken the Dawn! What’s Behind the ‘Holy Spirit Woodstock’ Coming to DC

Awaken The Dawn: The Story

I am traveling from Alaska with my daughters to be part of these events in Washington DC.

The Moral Outcry

If you believe abortion is wrong go to The Moral Outcry and sign the  petition. Share this. I am not condemning women who have had an abortion. I believe they are victim, too. I believe they have been deceived in so many ways. There is grace and forgiveness for everyone, for every sin.

For my sons and daughters, for your sons and daughters.

I will rise up.

What are you seeing God doing?

Will you arise?