Sunday, September 28, 2014

That Time God Gave Me A Couch To Calm My Nerves

We were all set for a big move. But for once in my life, the thrill of adventure was neck and neck with the fear of facing it.

Nathan had accepted his first senior pastor position and we were two weeks away from loading up and leaving Fort Worth behind. It had taken a straight up act of God to get me to concur that this was of Him. And although I was fully on board, I was also worried about how it was all going to turn out.

Along with the anxiety there was serious sadness. We were saying goodbye to friends who were like family, and a church we adored. But there were also some things to look forward to.

Like a new couch. 

We had been using a hideous blue thing Nate had purchased second hand during his pre-Beth days. It was a two-seater that reclined and He thought it was the I loathed it. But being poor seminary folk, I was just glad to have a place to plant our hineys while we ate jambalaya and watched The King of Queens. 

Me, the babies, and the ugly blue couch. 
But that was about to change as we were abandoning our teeny apartment for a parsonage that sported a spacious living room. My love of hospitality was in overdrive and I had big plans for hosting church families and fellowships. There was a problem, though, since our current furniture would limit us to four butts at a time. If both Nate and I stood. So, I had convinced my frugal Dave Ramsey loving husband to use some of the money we had saved to look for a brand new couch. Preferably one that didn't scream FLAT BROKE SEMINARY BACHELOR. 

The week before the move, I had a dental appointment scheduled. This was a slightly big deal because I sorta don't like going to the dentist (it's likely Titus got his mild aversion of the same from me) and it had potentially been a while years since I had been. I went in nervous as a cat. And left mad as a hornet. 

I had cavities that needed to be filled. Shocker, right? (Dear young people. Go to the dentist.) Since our dental insurance was more of a dental savings plan, this was going to cost us out the wazoo. I saw my couch going out the window.

Driving down I-85 south, I stewed over the whole situation. The cost of the fillings was going to leave about $30 to spend on a couch. I despaired at the idea of having that one tiny ugly blue thing in our new living room. I even considered not telling Nate about the cavities, ignoring the need for fillings, and buying a new couch anyway. Dentures aren't that bad, right?

It was in the midst of that stinkin' thinkin' that God broke in with His own thoughts on the situation.

Why don't you just ask me for a couch? 

Excuse me? I asked in disbelief. Figuring this was my own internal voice and not that of the Almighty, I shook my head as if to sling the thought aside.

But then, AGAIN...Why don't you ask me for a couch? 

Lord, I can't ask you for a couch. There are starving children in Africa. And lost people everywhere. Asking you for a couch seems so petty and materialistic AND SELFISH.

Beth, I want you to ask me for a couch.

Minutes passed as I drove along and chewed on how ridiculous this whole thing seemed. Finally, reluctantly...

Fine, Lord. Will you give me a couch?

Absolute silence. For the rest of the drive.

I arrived home, shoved my way through the boxes, and told Nate the whole ugly tooth decaying truth. I left out the conversation with God. Quite frankly I wasn't convinced He was going to say yes. And did God really prompt people to ask for couches? Or maybe this was just a lesson I needed to learn about accepting "no" from God and being content with what I have. Bottom line...I felt like God had bigger fish to fry, even in my own life, than giving me a piece of furniture. I told no one about that conversation with Him.

That was on Monday. By Thursday the couch issue was on the back burner and it was time to host my girlfriends for our last weekly Bible study. That evening we did our usual thing and then lingered in prolonged conversation, no one wanting to end our final gathering. Eventually the girls began to collect their things and edge toward the door, still finding stuff to talk about on the way out. 

It never ceases to amaze me the way God chooses everyday moments to drop Himself into our lives.

Just before Melissa got to the door, she said

"Beth, I almost forgot to ask... we've decided we need some new living room furniture. Would you be interested in taking our couch with you when you move? And the matching love seat? And that giant ottoman that goes with it? Totally free. Our moving gift to you if you want it. "

Jaw drop. "YES!" I answered over-enthusiastically, like some kind of couch covet-er. (In my defense, Melissa doesn't buy junk. We're talking NICE FURNITURE here.) God had outdone Himself. He not only gave me a couch, but a complete set of living room furniture. 

That was over five years ago and that couch still seats our hineys. I've told the story multiple times because it's such a testimony to some things I have learned to be true:

1) God cares about every little thing in our lives. He tells us to "cast our cares on Him", with no specifics about which cares are viable to bother him with. Like a parent with a child, no part of your life is too insignificant for Him to care about.

2) God owns it all. And if He is of a mind to give you something, it's no skin off His back. Psalms tells us He "owns the cattle on a thousand hills." In Old Testament talk, that means He's really rich. His resources are infinite. Asking Him for something doesn't mean He has less to give someone else. 

3) Where God leads He also goes. That couch was God's way of saying "I'm in this. You don't have to fear this move, because where I send you, I go with you." This is the essence of faith, friends. His presence is more than enough.

And ya'll, when we moved into the parsonage there was exactly one piece of decor already provided in the home. Beautiful drapes hanging in the living room. That matched my new couch perfectly

Despite appearances, it wasn't family worship hour when I took this picture!

* I love hearing from you. What crazy thing have you been wanting to ask God for?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Getting What You Crave

One thing has become obvious to me. 

Many, many women crave a more vibrant, fulfilling, life changing relationship with God. But multitudes don't know how to go about it, and countless others are not convinced it's worth what they'll have to give up to get it.

I can relate. I had a head knowledge of salvation and all things Jesus for years before I realized there was more. I've done the mediocre Christian thing. And during that time I was not satisfied. I've never been a just stick your toe in type. I want to be fully submerged.

Once I wrapped my soul around the truth that there was more to faith than a brain belief and began to earnestly seek Him, my relationship with Christ became the most dynamic and exciting thing about my existence. It is now the one thing I know I can't live without. 

If you aren't content with your relationship with Jesus, take heart because that is one thing you have the option to change. Wondering how?

The first and most foundational step, my dears, is to seek Him daily. I know. It seems so obvious and elementary and baby faith-ish. But darlings, if you want a deep and thrilling relationship, the kind where you and Jesus are like white on rice, then you can not skip this step. It is the crucial path to intimacy with him.

Look closely and you'll see the coffee stains. I've spilled more than one cup.

Seeking Him daily involves two key things: communicating with Him, and reading the message from Him (the Bible). This is how I go about it:

1) I have the same four items ready and waiting in the same spot (my front porch) every single day: Bible, journal, pen and devotional or notebook. I have a set time for using them to seek Him. During this season of life, it's after I kiss my fellas goodbye and get the baby down for his morning nap. I settle Anna on the couch for an episode of Dora (don't throw stones...Mama needs Jesus) and take my coffee out to the porch. If I play my cards right, I get 30 good minutes. But the amount of time is not the important thing! Various seasons of life will greatly affect the amount of time you get to spend. The point is to simply set aside time and make it the priority.

2) I journal first. It's like I need to empty out words before I'm ready to be filled. I simply write what's on my mind. I pen down my prayers during this time too. Helps keep me focused rather than having thoughts that bounce from redecorating the room to that conversation I had at church yesterday. I also ask God to teach me through what I am about to read in His word.

3) Next comes reading His message. Applying scripture in the context it was written is essential, so I read through books of the Bible instead of picking random verses. Right now I'm in Hebrews. This part I believe is key; I read small sections! We're not going for quantity here. Go for understanding. Depth of meaning. Sometimes that means reading only 3 or 4 verses. 

4) Two options as to what comes next: Often I read a devotional. My favorite is Come Away My Beloved, but I have used many others too. If you are just starting out with a consistent time with God, I highly recommend this route. Most of them take 2 minutes max to read. God uses other people to speak to us, so don't discount a good solid devotional book.

The other option: As of late I've traded in the devotionals for a plain old spiral bound notebook. After I read the section of scripture at least twice, I write each verse in my own words. Next I write what I call a "BP"-a Biblical Principal. Basically, this is a boiled down version of what that scripture means. Then I consider how God wants to use that truth in my life. 

That's it ya'll. Nothing complicated. But nothing more necessary. If you feel like something is lacking in your relationship with God but aren't spending time in His word, you'll be stuck in that feeling until you do. 

And if a faith without fences is what you're after, this is the first fence you must tear down. When you say "no" to meeting with Christ daily you build a teeny, confining fence around your life. That fence limits His involvement, His power, and His communication with you. 

I dare say if there is a woman whose faith you admire, it's due to the years that she has spent reading God's word and seeking Him daily. It isn't what we do every now and then that makes us who we are. It's what we do with consistency. 

One last thing, ladies, the only real difference in those who have a rocking vibrant faith and those who don't, is the intensity with which they seek it. 

The blessed truth He promises is this: 
Everyone who seeks, finds. 
Matthew 7:8

*I love hearing from you! Tell us how you seek Him by commenting below! Give us some fresh ideas. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What I Promise to Do For You

When I got the first email alerting me to a completed survey, I danced a jig in the kitchen. As more and more came in, I was delighted that so many participated. You have given me much to chew on the past few days. The responses are captivating and oh so telling as to what is going on in the lives of women everywhere.

After compiling and contemplating the answers to the survey, here is what I learned about what you seek, what you struggle with, and what you hope I can do for you.

What You Seek  

Reading about what you yearn for resonated with me! Based on your responses, here are the things I believe you crave:
  • A vibrant, living faith. 
  • A sense that someone else gets you.  
  • God's truth applied to your life.
  • A good laugh. And a good cry. 
  • Feeling like you are the wife, mother, woman Christ desires you to be.
  • A word from God. 

What You Struggle With

No matter how things look on the outside, we all struggle with something. And some of us are struggling with many somethings. How many of these are all too familiar to you?
  • Trying to balance it all. 
  • Feeling alone, left out.
  • Struggling to trust God with every little thing.
  • Raising children.
  • Strained relationships with husband and friends.
  • Wanting a deeper faith, more quality time with God.
  • Dealing with anxiety over how God and others view you.  
  • Worry. Fear. Grief.
  • Discovering your place in God's plan.
  • Stress concerning job, finances.
  • Accepting imperfections and inadequacies. 

What You Want From Me 

Let's be honest. There are about 10,000 things you feel pulling at you during any given day. So why dedicate any of it to reading a blog written by an obscure woman with too many words to use? Clearly, there must be something in it for you. (Or you're my family and I make you proof it.) Quite frankly, I think what you want from me and this blog is directly related to what you crave. What we all crave. This is what I believe you are looking for when you visit my blog:
  • Someone to help you feel a little less crazy and alone by being real and transparent. Nitty gritty truthfulness.
  • Words that point you to Christ and His word.
  • Divine insight in the midst of the every day.
  • Real life stories so you can relate, connect, and experience the "I get you" factor. 
  • A laugh. And a cry!
  • Inspiration to live your faith fully.

Can I share something with you? Reading the responses to this survey may have been one of the most affirming experiences of my life. Why? Because what you want from me, I can give to you. Ya'll, I am WIRED to share about what is going on in my life. Can't help but talk about what God is teaching me. Love nothing more than convincing people they should follow Christ with crazy abandon. It is what makes me tick. It's like breathing for me. 

But along with that, hear this confession: Many of you listed words like "inspiration, encouragement, and Godly insight" as reasons you visit my blog and what you hope to get when you come here. This causes no small amount of anxiety and there may be some shallowness of breath, too. I've chewed on it for days, constantly asking myself this question, "Can I handle the weight of that expectation?!" 

And this is what I concluded:

Nope. There's just no way I can promise that every time you visit this blog you'll be inspired. Encouraged. Motivated. Receive Godly insight. I know me. And I'm just too human. 

But this is what I can promise you. 
  1. I promise to write with abandon telling you the real, honest, and often embarrassing truth about my life and what God is teaching me. 
  2. I promise to point you to Christ every chance I get. What He reveals to me, I will pass on to you.
  3. I promise to be both funny and sad so that you have plenty of opportunities to embarrass yourself while reading this blog in the presence of others.
  4. I promise to shoot straight with you. I will not sugar coat or pretty up the hard truths He asks me to type. 
  5. I promise to share what I've learned about developing a deep and vibrant faith in the midst of a messy and imperfect life. Any spiritual nugget of truth I posses is yours too. 
  6. I promise to take you with me on this outlandish adventure He has me on and will push you to live yours too. Faith without fences, dear hearts. 

I take this so seriously that I am choking back tears. (I'm in a coffee shop or I would probably just give in and sob.) I'm humbled by your trust in me, your willingness to spend time listening to me. 

And your incredible desire to hear from God sends me running to Him all the more.  Thank you for that! Because there is nothing I want more. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reader Survey: Tell Me About You

Greetings darling readers.

I want to improve this blog and to do that I need to know more about you!

If you are willing to help, click the link below to this super short survey that will give me a better feel for who you are and what you're about. Don't worry, no names or identifying info is needed. Every response is completely anonymous.

Thanks in advance for your time and help. Every one of you matters! 


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Life Changing Love

Experiencing God as King has long been my thing, but grasping His deep love for me has often proven elusive....until he recently revealed it in a most profound way. 

It was Friday and I was taking my foster son out of the car after dropping the big kids off at school. Smiling at that darling face, I hefted him onto my hip and smooched my thousandth kiss. He buried his little head in my neck and I marveled again at my love for him. 

Because despite the fact that he's not from my body, I love this baby boy.

The way he smiles from the inside out. Peach fuzz head and ears that poke out. His double chin and chunky thighs. The unbelievable softness of his skin. His little arm hooked around my neck. 

I love how he's found his feet and thinks they're hilarious.  I love that he loves my singing voice even though it's hideous. I love the way he grins with two fingers stuck in his mouth and a line of drool dripping down. I love that his favorite place to be is with me.

I love him despite the fact that he has nothing to offer me except dirty diapers and infantile affection.

I love every square inch of this new chick with a fierceness I could not have predicted. But as I considered my deep affection for him, I remembered again the possibility that we might get separated soon. And if that happens chances are good that he will never know about me. Or my love for him. And that thought shatters my heart. Every. Single. Time. 

Because I'm eager. Desperate. Passionate for him to know my love. 

I want him to know that he brings me unspeakable joy. How I think he's wonderful and that I love to simply sit and stare at him. I want him to know the way I marvel over who he is and covet his continued presence in my life. To know I am jealous for him and would do anything to protect him. How I am for him. And that I yearn for a relationship with him that does not end. I want him to know I wish my place in his life was secure. That I shake with sobs over the thought of losing him. And most of all this: That if it were up to me, he would never go a day without experiencing my love for him. 

Because my love has the power to change everything for him. In him. Around him. About him. Love is a game changer. A life changer. It transforms circumstances and casts out fears and fights offenders and offers a home. And given the chance I would apply it to his life over and over and over again. I could change the trajectory of his life with it.

As I stood in the driveway with love for my foster son overwhelming my heart, God gently reminded me how weeks ago I had asked Him to help me grasp the depth of his love. And then He said.

Look at your love for him. You'll see my love for you. 

And for the first time in my life, I bowed my head and wept over the intensity of His love for me. 

Ya'll, I grasped hold of itHow he deeply adores me. How he graciously pursued me. How he gave everything to have me. It was the single most profound experience of God's love I've ever been wrecked with.

And I was suddenly, shockingly, irreversibly compelled to share it with those who have not taken hold of itNot His Lordship. Not His Faithfulness. Not His Majesty. His Life Changing Love.

Because there are so many separated from him. And what if they never know that He marvels over them? What if no one ever tells them that He craves a relationship with them? That He has moved heaven and earth to have them? That His every thought is for them? That He grieves over the thought of losing them? And how if it were up to Him, they would never go another day without experiencing his profound, life altering, senseless love for them?

His love is The Game Changer. The Life Changer. It moves mountains and casts out fears and fights offenders and offers a home. It can change the trajectory of a life. His love has the power to change EVERYTHING. 

It is life changing love.

Do you know someone who needs to hear about (or be reminded of) God's love for them? Share this with them! God might just use it to change a life.