Posted in Write 31 Days

This Is My Mission Field

For the Write 31 Days Blogging Challenge, I selected the topic On a Mission for many reasons. Of course, the fact that I’m going to fulfill a childhood dream of doing mission work in January is very much in my thoughts and on my heart these days. But, even more than that, I’ve had a phrase that I’ve tried to focus on for the past few years. For full disclosure, I got the idea from a Steven Furtick sermon I listened to a few years ago. The sermon made me realize that as much as I have a desire to do foreign mission work, my mission field is actually any place I am. My office at work is my mission field. My car in the middle of rush hour traffic is my mission field. The grocery store, the soccer field, the gym, these are all my mission fields. I realized that no matter where I am, I can always minister to those around me without ever saying a word. If I’m living my life as a reflection of Christ, then my actions should  reflect Him. I can show grace, forgiveness, love in every situation I’m in.

Now, do I? Do I shine a light where  ever I am? No, not even close.  Am I able to do it more than I could 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 5 hours ago? You bet I am. When I find myself in a stressful situation, and I can catch my thoughts before anger and rage take over, I’m able to recite five simple words to bring me back to where God wants me.

This is my mission field.

THIS is my mission field.

This is MY mission field.

Whatever the situation I’m in, this phrase serves as a reminder that I don’t have to be in a village in Africa or an orphanage in Central America to show others what it means to love and be loved by God.  My everyday provides me with golden opportunities to do this.

I struggle so much with allowing my emotions to take my thoughts in directions I know my Father would not be proud of. I beat myself up about this fairly often. Each time my mouth explodes with a slew of profanities over a frustration at work, or I find myself gossiping about a coworker, I know I am failing God. But, the beauty is, God knows my heart. He forgives me when I struggle and fall. He also provides beautiful reminders that He’s there in those situations. He makes sure I remember.  And when I remember He’s there,  it’s my job to let others know He’s there, and  it all turns around. My thoughts come back to a more peaceful place and my emotions become less explosive.

I have the following bible verse in two different places in my office.

Philippians 4:8  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

This verse helps me to refocus my thoughts so that my actions better align with my dream of being a missionary for Christ. Even if that mission field is a small office on Kennedy in South Tampa.

31days

Posted in Inspired by Music, Uncategorized

Crossroads

A week ago Gil and I headed down to St. Petersburg to see one of our favorite bands perform at The Hideaway Café. It’s such a great venue and the perfect spot to catch Sarah Mac Band when they’re in town. Of course, with any favorite band there must be favorite songs. Here are my Top 5 SMB songs, in no particular order:

Baptised
Crossroads
Gloryland
Satisfied
I’m Not Scared

In looking at these 5 songs, I realize there are very distinct reason why each one is special to me. Satisfied, because…well, just because. I’ll leave it at that for now. Gloryland is precious to me because of the memories surrounding the first time we heard it live, and it is now at the top of my list of funeral songs.  And of course I can’t hear it without crying, although it’s not the only one in the list above that leaves me in tears. Crossroads is a song that wrecks me every.single.time. I can’t help it. It’s spontaneous crying, kind of like when I’m in church during worship and my soul starts overflowing out of my tear ducts.

When I hear Crossroads I find myself transported back to certain moments and events in my life. I think it’s human nature to think about all the crossroads you’ve faced and what your life would be like if you went left instead of right, north instead of south, straight ahead instead of taking the detour.

“It’s funny how we don’t know then the weight of what we’re choosing at the crossroads”

Memories of the choices I made as a child often slip up out of nowhere to haunt me. If I had run faster for help, could my grandfather have been saved?  If I had not wrestled the gun away, would we have survived in the wake of suicide? If I hadn’t gotten into the truck with my crush, would my innocence have lasted a few years more?

“Spent so much time thinking about how it might have been
How my life could’ve turned out
It’s long gone and part of history now
No turning back and no regrets
No room for doubt, no holding debt
‘Cause from here on out, I’m gonna just forge ahead
It’s funny how we don’t know then the weight of what we’re choosing at the crossroads”

As my teenager years drew to a close, my wrong turns were numerous and with abundant  regrets.  I was a strong willed teenager who had a weakness for the boys. I didn’t go to art school because of a boy. I did start junior college because of a boy. I left a boy and embarked on a solitary journey that led me toward too much alcohol, sexual promiscuity, irresponsibility, bankruptcy, and one of the deepest depressions I had ever faced.

“In the dark, all alone, I tripped on a dead seal washed up on the shore
The smell was on my hands when I handed in my visa at the border the next morning
Left behind, something died, washed to Asia by the pull of the Pacific that night
But it made room for something new and it brought me to you”

When I hear these lyrics, I can’t help but think of where I am today. I have a job, a home, a car, and a healthy family. I have a husband who takes care of me and loves me without reservation. I am blessed. My life is blessed. Had I taken the straight path instead of staying on the winding one, any one of these blessings might not have happened.

“…But it made room for something new and it brought me to You”

Even though I could easily apply these words to my relationship with Gil, it’s often not him that I think about when hearing this song.  I think mostly about how my bad decisions, stupid mistakes, careless behavior, and sinful transgressions have all allowed me to experience God’s grace and love. God was at every crossroad I’ve encountered, and He allowed me to choose my own direction. While I wandered aimlessly, He held on and He loved me.  When I took the path that led me away from Him, he would just wait at the next crossroad, ready to show me which direction to take. For so long, I just turned away from Him seeking acceptance and love from other sources.

There was a point several years ago that I realized how tired I was from all the years of running down roads that never seemed to go anywhere. And sure enough, when I stood at that crossroad, my God was faithfully waiting for me, just as he had been my whole life.

I hope one day I don’t look back at my journey through a lifetime of crossroads and feel regret and shame. I hope that I will someday cherish my wrong turns and know they were not wrong at all. Each of them was preparing me for the greater God has planned for me as I serve His kingdom here on earth. I try to look at my trials and tribulations as blessings, because with each one I have come to know grace and forgiveness in ways I never thought possible.

Posted in 40 Bags in 40 Days, Inspired by Music, Uncategorized

First Love and Transformation

I took a vacation day today so I could go spend some time with my first love. Now, don’t go thinking I was stepping out on Gil today. It was nothing like that. The first love I’m referring to is the first BAND I fell in love with – The Oak Ridge Boys. I think they were the first band, or artist, that made me feel what one is supposed to feel when music touches your soul. You know, that feeling deep down, the one where you know a spark has been lit. And then every single time you hear their music or see them live, the spark just grows brighter. Well, I can tell you that today I’m absolutely beaming.

Even though my first concert was not The Oak Ridge Boys, I do think it was my second and third concert (my first was Marty Robbins and I was very young and have almost no memories of that). I have such fond memories of TORB on Hee Haw, or some music awards show. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, we were lucky to catch our favorite artists on one of the three channels maybe 2 or 3 times a year. But when we did, it was a family affair. For me, The Oak Ridge Boys represent a time of innocence. It was before I discovered boys and rock and roll,  and my dad was the only man in my life.  He loved this group of musicians, and because of his and my mom’s love for them, I loved them too.

As I developed into a teenager, my childhood innocence faded. It was replaced by boys, and booze and even a few drugs along the way. The Oak Ridge Boys were replaced by Iron Maiden, Ozzie Osborne, and Judas Priest. Family time was no longer spent watching silly variety shows. Actually, family time became much less important as time with my friends took priority. What was a simple child who loved God, family, and country music, became a teenager who wanted none of that.

I drifted far away from the things that were important to me, not the least of which was God. It seems that overnight, I went from a child with a dream to become a missionary to a young woman who wanted nothing to do with God or His churches. I’m not even sure what happened, or even when it happened. All I know is that for many years, God was nothing more than an afterthought, much like the music of The Oak Ridge Boys during that time.

IMG_8736Now, fast forward 30-35 years. As much as I love TORB’s county and crossover music, their incredible harmonies when singing the Lord’s praises is what melts me now. During the show today, they all came together on stage and sang Life’s Railway to Heaven, a capella. And it was truly Heaven inspired.  As the Boys beautifully sang these lyrics, my heart opened up and was filled with the knowledge that no matter what path leads us to God, the important thing is that it LEADS us to Him.

Life is like a mountain railroad
With an engineer that’s brave
We must make the run successful
From the cradle to the grave

Watch the curves, the fills, and tunnels
Never falter, never fail
Keep your hand upon the throttle
And your eyes upon the rail

Blessed Savior, Thou will guide us
Till we reach that blissful shore
Where the angels wait to join us
In that great forevermore

As you roll across the trestle,
Spanning Jordon’s swelling tide.
You’ll behold the Union Depot into which your train will glide.
There you’ll meet the superintendent,
God the Father, God the Son.
With a hearty joyous greetings:
“Weary Pilgrims Welcome Home”

The beautiful thing about God is that he extends His grace to the lost and fallen. God loves me as much today as He did when I was a young girl living for Him. What I didn’t know during those dark years was that God was faithfully pursuing me. I was running and turning my back, but He never did. Every sin then and every sin now is forgiven. He is waiting for me with His arms wide open, ready to welcome me home.

**************************************

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2

Today’s 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge was another small success, but a success nonetheless. Because I took the day off work, I was able to get in several hours of quality computer time this morning. I caught up on several blogs and even cleaned out several hundred emails. These are two items on my declutter list that I hope to work on each day, little by little. Even though these non-stuff items don’t get a bag sticker today, I did check two items off my list.  I headed off the the bathroom with the intent to only clean out my medicine cabinet, as task that should have taken me only a few minutes. Because so few items needed to be tossed, I decided to go ahead and tackle my other cabinet of miscellaneous items and my makeup. The result was another stuffed grocery bag in the trash.

Sadly, though, I failed to start YouVersion at the beginning of my task and missed out on about 15 minutes of more bible time. I wasn’t going to let that discourage me though. I came back to the computer and pulled up an unread email from Joyce Meyer’s 3030 Challenge. I read her devotional and several bible passages.  I love the verse above. It speaks to my blog post today, as well as this project I’m working on. I’m changing my mind, my habits, and my life.  God is transforming me and I’m loving it!

Posted in My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge

216/365 Stranger Danger?

Tonight I had the wonderful pleasure of having dinner with my new friend Debra from our growth group. I only met Debra a few weeks ago but, as with everyone in our small group, I feel like we’ve known each other for much longer. You see, it seems we are a group of sharers, and it’s one of the most liberating and rewarding experiences ever. Each person in our group has been so transparent and the honesty is sometimes overwhelming. We still have several weeks to go before we finish our study and I have no doubt that these relationships we are fostering will continue to grow well beyond our 10 week study.

I took advantage of a free Monday evening to invite Debra, who lives nearby, to meet up for dinner and some get-to-know-ya-better chit chat. Oh, and get-to-know-ya-better we did. It took us 2 hours just to eat our meal because we were both talking so much.

It was in the middle of one of my long-winded stories that the lady in the booth behind Debra decided to join us at our table. She literally grabbed her giant, almost empty, margarita glass and scooted right into the bench with Debra and began to recount pieces of the conversation we were just having. She explained how she and her husband had been listening to us talk and that she wanted to tell us ‘we were beautiful’. She explained that she had been listening to us talk about other people not in a bad way, but with love. She shared personal information with us that most definitely fell in to the TMI category and then went on to praise us for not sitting there gossiping about others. At some point Jesus became the topic of conversation and she squealed with drunken delight as she proceeded to proudly display her Jesus earrings that ‘she wears every day’.  Then she strangely began lecturing us on how we should unconditionally love everyone, just like Jesus did.  Then, in her next breath, she praised us for being good Christians and that the world would be a better place if there were more people like us.  It felt like several hours ticked by although I’m sure it was only about 15 minutes. Every now and then she would compliment us and then lecture us some more on unconditional love. She sat and talked and shared and talked some more until her husband, ever so delicately, encouraged her to get up and leave. After a few more minutes of “Bless Yous” she had finished her margarita and they were gone.

When I say “God bless Debra” right now, I truly mean God bless her. She sat there and tolerated this strange, very slurry lady hugging on her, and never once expressed any discomfort. I sat there completely in shock and bewilderment. I had no idea what to say or do. Debra was a champ and is now my new hero. Honestly, I think I would have handled that situation in an entirely, less Godly way had I been with anyone else. She was the epitome of grace under pressure. And the best part was when the lady was gone she looked at me and said, “She was nice. And that was odd.” And that was it. We picked up our conversation exactly where we had left it before our interruption and I never once thought about the lady and what had just happened again.

Well, at least not until I got home. As I sat thinking about what my blog would be about tonight, I kept thinking about the new TV show, “GCB” and desperately wanted to post the show’s logo. Seriously, while that lady was praising us for being good Christians, my warped sense of humor kept replaying that show over and over in my brain. I soooo wanted to come home and post that “tonight I was a GCB” but, alas, my fear of Debra reading this and NOT appreciating the humor kept me from doing just that. I did just a few hours ago give her the link to this blog and invite her to read my post from yesterday, so it is very likely she’s at this very moment reading. (*waves* Hi Debra!)

So, I moved onto plan b. Since the topic of our conversation had been all about unconditional love, I hit the googles and started searching for images reflecting scripture about God’s unconditional love for us. And of course, the rabbit hole opened up and here I am 2 hours later with a completely different post flowing from my fingertips to this page. After reading verse after verse and several bible study lessons on what unconditional love truly means, I settled on this one. I won’t share the details of our conversations or the personal stories from the tipsy woman, but I found this particular verse to be very appropriate for our evening’s conversations.

Debra, if you are reading, I just want to say again how much I enjoyed our evening. Your insight and perspective are inspiring and enlightening. I look forward to many more talks about faith, God, struggles and Jesus’ love for us.  I think I’m going to learn a lot from you.

Source: pinit.tk via Diana on Pinterest

Posted in Random Writers

That Was Some Crazy Ass Thinking

Random Writers Week 5 Topic: What is one thing you felt strongly about but changed your mind?)

When I first started my blog I only knew that I wanted to use it as a way to discover my authentic self and simply to get more real with my internal thoughts and feelings. I wasn’t at all sure of where I was going to go with it and I have to tell you, I’ve really surprised myself with some of the things I’ve written. There have been times I sat down to write one thing with a clearly defined conclusion in mind and ended up somewhere completely different, a thousand miles from where I started. For this reason, I feel that I’m a long way from completing this journey but I know I’m on the exact path I was meant to take.

Herein lies my problem. When I started this blog I had in no way intended for it to be a blog about God or faith or religion. I know there were a few posts back in January and a couple sprinkled in since, but for the most part, I would intentionally leave God out of my writing if I could. I had this very strong belief that if I wrote too much about my faith, that it would turn people away. I felt that way because of some of my own ideas toward others who openly and loudly proclaimed their love for Christ.

Let me explain a little bit. There have been times in my life when I’ve been surrounded by ‘in your face’ Christians. I’ve had family members, coworkers and acquaintances who only spoke in a language where every other word was God or Jesus or Heaven or hell. I found myself in situations and conversations with these people that left me feeling angry and this would typically result in an eye roll and quick exit. I think it was these situations early on in my adult life that turned my faith inward and I became much more reserved in what I shared about my beliefs. I know that God wants us to share His word but I was too busy hiding from it to make it known it to anyone else.

There was also a big part of me that was scared to share my beliefs with others.  I always felt that I wasn’t a very educated Christian so, rather than find myself in situations where I had to back up my beliefs, I just remained quiet. Even though I grew up in church, I don’t feel like I retained much of the knowledge that was shared with me by teachers and preachers. I didn’t grow up reading and studying the bible in a way that I should have and by early adulthood, I very rarely ever stepped foot inside a church except for weddings, funerals and Easter services. I just couldn’t explain why I believed and refused to put myself in a circumstance that required it. I found if they were challenging me, they wanted definitive proof and most people just didn’t accept “because the Bible says so” as proof of God.

It’s so sad but these feelings have followed me into my Forty’s and I didn’t even realize it until recently. I never talked about how I felt and that I was intentionally excluding my faith from my blog and my journey to find my authentic self. Well, that’s not true. Back in May I wrote a post about addiction. Near the end of the post I mentioned ways someone might help another who is struggling. When Gil read this post he actually called me out on how I didn’t mention prayer. I had typed it, then deleted it. I told him I had done that and how I didn’t want my blog to become one of those ‘crazy Christian’ blogs. I explained that I was concerned about turning people off with an overtly religious sentiment. I’m sure I spewed out some other lame rationales for not including the suggestion of prayer but I can’t remember them all now.

What it boils down to is that I felt very strongly about not turning my blog into something that might turn a so-so Christian or a non-believer away.

WTH?!?

What kind of crazy-ass thinking was that? THAT is exactly who I should be sharing my faith with. Can you believe how much I allowed the devil to creep into my thoughts and hold me back from sharing a message as powerful as the love of God? So, here’s the thing. I’ve come to realize that I was writing for who I was before. Now, I’m writing for who I want to become. And that person is someone who is proud to say that I love Christ and I’m trying to live a life that would make Him proud. I’m not always successful but that’s the beauty of God’s grace. He will forgive me when I mess up.

I’m not planning to change the way I write my blog but I’m certainly not going to censor myself when I feel God speaking through me. Gone are the thoughts that I need to justify my faith in God by spitting out scripture and passages from the bible to back it up. I’m not teaching Sunday School. I’m sharing my story and my story doesn’t exist without God’s grace. I’m writing this blog for me and I cherish those of you who continue to read each post and those who pop in and out when you can. The last thing I want to do is turn someone away from me or from God because I write too much about my faith journey. But, what if the last thing I do is turn someone toward God because I shared my story?

To read about how my fellow Random Writers’ changed their minds, please check out thier blogs (Gil, Jeff, Lindsey) or read them all at the Random Writers website.