Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Living Story of Freedom

"Write, dear ones. Write your struggles and your victories. Write about the moments that you feel God speaking, and write through the moments when you don’t." Allume, A Call to Write

I'm in our nation's capital enjoying a weekend with my son and his wife. My son has been stationed here with the Navy for the past two years and this is my fifth visit here. I've grown rather fond of this place. To me it's a place that honors those that have served this country and made such great sacrifices.

As I Google how others would describe this place, words like majestic and inspiring are used. I'd use the word mesmerizing. I'm mesmerized by its history and how it captures the great sacrifices made for our country. But as it captures those sacrifices, it also brings life to a country that continually overcame.

I think of my daughter-in-law and her family who came here from Bulgaria. Coming to America was a dream come true for them. Do we Americans realize we are living the dream of so many others?

I read again the quote I shared above. I began this post with an unsure objective, but realize the words of the quote are what Washington, D.C. is to me. You can walk the streets of D.C. and read of America's struggles and victories. There are stops along the way where you can feel God's presence and others were you may wonder where God was.

And maybe that was what I felt God wanting me to do with this post..."Write, dear one. Share with others both the struggles and victories of a great country where whether or not you questioned my presence, I was surely there."

During my time here, I will spend a day at Arlington National Cemetery.

If there is ever a place that speaks to the sacrifices made for the freedoms we enjoy every day, this is it. The word mesmerizing accurately describes this place. At times it seems wrong that I'm so drawn here. As you walk the sections of the cemetery, you walk a nation's history of war. Final farewells are made here to hero's from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as hero's from World War II, Korean conflict, Vietnam and the Cold War.

I can see how God's presence could be questioned as you walk through Arlington Cemetery. Where was He during a time such as the Vietnam War?

But God never promised to prevent the storms of life. He does promise to be with us through the storms. At a Hearts of Valor Ball, I witnessed how God saw this country through a time like Vietnam. As our Vietnam Veterans were asked to stand, they were given a proper welcome home tribute.

Our country did not crumble, we eventually rose. And we rise over and over again.

On the website for Arlington Cemetery they share their vision of being "America's premier military cemetery - A national shrine - A living history of freedom - Where dignity and honor rest in solemn repose." What rests on my heart are the words, "A living history of freedom."

Again, I find myself mesmerized. I'm mesmerized by the loss, but more than anything I'm mesmerized by how God breathes life into me when I am here. There are so many stories waiting to be told. There is something these heroes want to teach us...and that is to keep moving forward.

And I believe God is saying to me, "Write, dear one. Let your words speak to how their sacrifice changed you and your family. Write a living story of freedom and continue to share how we will overcome. Write to let others know that I was and will always be present."

As the one hymn goes, "Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place."

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Building a Platform

I continually come across new words that are used in the writing/blogging world and one I see rather frequently is the word PLATFORM.

What is a platform? I'm a big fan of writer Jeff Goins and in one of his recent posts he answers this question.

"A platform is exactly what it sounds like: It’s a stage on which we stand to share a message. It's not an end to itself (i.e. "Hey, look at me and how great I am!"); its a means to an end.

We don’t build a platform to bring attention to ourselves — or at least we shouldn't. We do it to help people. To serve."

After reading Jeff's post, I open up my blog page and reflect on what stands out most. It's the words, Let all that you do be done in love. This was the platform I set out to build. A platform built on the foundation of love. And why should all you do be done in love? "We love because He first loved us." - 1 John 4:19

Jeff goes on to say that whatever platform you are building, make it about someone else and not about you. He writes, "Because the truth is we don't find our purpose in life by looking in the mirror. We find it by looking out the window."

When I look out the window I find God. He is the Someone else I want to share with you. And He is all about loving and serving others.

I feel convicted that maybe the words I share are still directed more inward. So much of what I write reflects how He is changing my heart. But are my words changing lives? As I write this post I hear God saying, "Listen to the words I've placed on your heart." And I read what I've written here and realize if my platform is to be about His love, I need to focus more on loving and serving others.

For some time, I've been sensing God directing me to step out of my comfort zone when serving. My church just announced an adult missions trip to Guatemala this summer and I knew God was handing me an opportunity to serve beyond what feels comfortable. I will be excited to share with you every step of this journey.

But I do believe that to serve we don't need to be called to a mission field. I'm reminded of a quote I shared in a post on my prior blog.

"We are not all called to mission fields far away. We are not all called to pastor a church or lead a women's Bible study. However there is one thing we are all called to do as God's people: we're all called to stop, to be aware of the hurting around us, and to have compassion. We are called to share our bread with the poor." - Julianna Morlet

As Jeff wrote, we only need to look out the window.

Lori L. Stalteri (Creative Commons)

So my challenge to myself will be to build a platform here that delivers a message of how God calls us to love and serve others. And when we respond to His call, our lives will be changed. Friends, let's be the hands and feet of Jesus.  

"Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now." - Saint Teresa of Avila

With all that being said, I still believe there is a place within my platform to share how He is continually changing my heart. For me to build a platform on the foundation of love, the strength of that foundation depends on how I view myself. If I struggle with loving who I am, how can I truly love another person? But thanks to God's unfailing love, I am learning to love myself and what He's teaching me needs to be shared.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Power of Community

In an impromptu conversation with a new friend she shared about a time in her life when she truly felt she was in a place where everyone wrapped their arms around her with a loving embrace. We both expressed how we were finding that same kind of love at our church.

The warmth of this new friend gave me comfort in sharing with her at a deeper level. I shared how I previously avoided friendships. Her sincerity in wanting to understand why gave me the courage to continue to share my heart. I found peace in saying out loud the thoughts that haunted me for so long. "I never felt good enough or worthy of friendships and believed I had nothing to bring to a friendship."

Her response was one I will never forget. Without hesitation she said the words, "Today is the day to let go of that lie!"

Oh how I loved this new friend of mine. It was more about how she said the words than the words itself. I felt her loving embrace of truly caring enough to want to take that lie away from me. We hugged and went on our way, but I smiled over the new friendship God had placed in my life.

When Kristen of Chasing Blue Skies shared that this week's prompt was to write about a surprise friendship, I thought about my new friend. I then discovered the surprise friendship God gave me was not just this new friend, but the friendships of Living Hope Church (LHC). Through LHC, He taught me the power of belonging to a community and to no longer fear new friendships but embrace them.

From the very first day I dared to step out of my comfort zone and walk through the doors of LHC, God has been giving me new friendships. I'm blessed by these friendships, but I've also accepted that I too have a special gift to bring to these friendships. Friends, we all have a special gift according to the grace given to us in Christ (Romans 12:6). Your gift is needed in this world!

God created us to need Him, but He also created us to need each other. Without each other life becomes very lonely. I've lived in that loneliness so I know how true that is.

My eyes were opened to the power of community this past week as God awakened new friendships.

--A Friday evening with my small group. A group of individuals who I now do life with and can no longer imagine a time without them.

--An early morning over coffee with a woman from church who loves to make cards for our troops so I donated old crafting supplies to her. Our morning together was so much more than passing along old supplies.

--Dinner with another couple from LHC who welcomed us into their home and we simply had a wonderful evening of getting to know each other better.

--And again, this new friend who truly cared why I was so previously afraid of friendships.

As written in Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

I could feel the presence of Jesus as I embraced these friendships.

While I've experienced hurt and rejection from friendships and choose escaping as a way to cope, I have discovered that when we open our heart to God He will heal us. And we can't be afraid to share how we've been hurt. Lelia Chealey writes in a recent post, There she sat"Awareness brings opportunity to share the greatness of God. Be willing to be real with others and share your story and watch what God does with it."

Lelia goes on to share verse 6 from Philemon where Paul wrote, "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith."

My prayer is that you don't hesitate to share your faith. Be real and share how God has transformed you. God may be waiting to use your story to bring a new friendship into your life.

Many blessings to you my dear friends!


Linking with Kristen

Sunday, February 17, 2013

An Answered Prayer

I was going to take a new approach in my writing and share my thoughts with you on the word BREATHE. (This does not replace my one word, Embrace.) I've seen several writers provide a "prompt" word for you to write about and you then come back and "link-up" with others. And this particular word keeps appearing throughout my days and I finally caught on that God was trying to send me a message.

As I was thinking of this word BREATHE, I was reminded of a difficult season in my life and how God used the brokenness of my family and created something beautiful. He not only answered a prayer, but He answered it in a rather unexpected way.

Let me first share that I'm a wife and a mother to two adult boys. My husband and I aren't quite empty nesters yet as our younger son is still living at home while attending college. But as our children approached adulthood I have to admit I was afraid of how this would change our marriage. When so much of your marriage is focused on raising your kids and all of the sudden they are grown and don't require every ounce of your attention how do you replace that time?

I realize many look forward to this new freedom, but it scared me.

As is the case with any marriage (because none of us have a perfect marriage), my husband and I have had our share of ups and downs. Some of the downs were significant and came close to ending our marriage. When I look back I realize it was easier to devote all my attention to my children rather than trying to improve my relationship with my husband.

My husband and our oldest son also had a difficult relationship. They are two very alike individuals which made for many battles. I think our youngest son was doing his best to simply go unnoticed midst the chaos.

There was a season of desperation in our home. Something needed to change. Peace was needed in our hearts and with each other. We each had a longing for wanting to be loved unconditionally and without that feeling we were dying inside.

Many times it takes hitting rock bottom before we turn to God for help.

I was not a follower of Christ during this time so I can't even say my prayer was a formal prayer, but I do know in my desperation there was a prayer on in my heart.

Oh how God then answered my prayer.

If you would have approached me several years ago and asked how I would feel about being a military family, I would have responded quite adamantly that a military family we would never be. I have always had full respect for those that choose to serve our country, but it was not an option for my family.

God had a very different plan for us.

I soon found myself watching my husband become a Soldier at the age of 42 and shortly after watching our oldest son become a Sailor. Out of the blue we were a military family.

You may wonder how becoming a military family answer my prayer. My only response is that God used this to draw us closer to Him. As we navigated this new lifestyle we discovered how much we needed Him, and how much we needed each other.

God gave to my husband and I in so many ways. But more than anything He taught us how healing can be found when we give. My husband gives in his service to our country. I dedicate my time to supporting those that serve, their families and remembering those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

While I was afraid of this next stage of our marriage, God used that fear to build our faith in Him. During the time my husband was away completing his training with the Army we both found our way back to church...we found Christ. In Him we have learned that we are loved unconditionally and how His perfect love cast out fear. I no longer fear how my husband and I will fill our time without a focus on our children, but I treasure every moment we have together.

As for our children... it began with God bringing peace to the hearts of my husband and I. Through Him we were made new and that transformation has strengthened our relationship with our children and taught us how to simply love them. Peace now resides in all our hearts and our home.

What does the word BREATHE have to do with my story? Well...changes lie ahead for my husband and I with his first deployment scheduled for later this year. God has been whispering to me to simply breathe and trust Him.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11


Linking with Kristen

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Joyous Noise

I believe there is power in sharing our stories. Not only will we find peace in discovering we are not alone, but you never know whose life your story will touch in a significant way. As I wrote in my post, Lovely Blogs I Follow, "Your story may provide the encouragement someone so desperately needs."

So I'm dreaming big and continuing to step out of my comfort zone as a writer. I'm actually calling myself a writer which is quite the giant step for me.

I sense that many writers share a similar passion of simply needing to break through both the noise and the silence. The noise of the world and our mind can leave us utterly exhausted. It silences our hearts, as trying to add to it all seems pointless. We live in a culture that says, "Get over it." So we get over it by remaining silent.

Then something changed...

Turn your ear
To Heaven and hear
The noise inside
The sound of angels' awe
The sound of angels' songs
And all this for a King
We could join and sing
'All to Christ our King!'
-O Praise Him (All This for A King), by David Crowder Band

I listen to the words of this song by David Crowder Band play on the radio and discover those of us writing to glorify God are doing so because there was a day when we turned our ear to heaven and instead of the noise of the world we heard the sound of angels. Our life changed. We were made new.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

The old me would have never called myself a writer, but God had a different plan. He gently led me to find healing by writing. It can be hard to put my thoughts into written form, but even harder for me to express them out loud. A good portion of my adult life was spent silencing my thoughts and avoiding any sense of community. Living this way was dark and oh so lonely. This is never where God wants us to be.

When I took that first step across the line I had drawn between myself and everyone else and surrendered to God, a new life was found. "When you give up everything to God's control, God takes what you give Him, He cleans it up, and He turns it around. He adds new meaning , new purpose, new significance and new vitality to your life, and He gives it back to you in a whole new way." - Life's Healing Choices, by John Baker.

He gave back to me in a way I would have never imagined.

God led me to this world of writers...this blogging community. And here I've found so many that are daring to no longer remain silent. Not only are they sharing their hearts, but they have hearts for encouraging others. There is such beauty in every word written. We find freedom in writing and sharing our deepest thoughts. We embrace the concept that words matter; our words matter. Our words matter because we are glorifying God. Together we join and sing a joyous noise!

God has asked me to write. With complete trust in Him I will keep on writing. Because whatever God asks us to do, He will keep on helping us to grow until his task within us is finally finished on the day when Jesus Christ returns. (Philippians 1:6)

Friends, it begins with looking up. Look up and hear the sound of angels. Let God have a presence in your life. All you need is a little faith. "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed...nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20

"O Praise Him. He is Holy"

Saturday, February 9, 2013

When Writing Is Hard

Recently I participated in a free webinar with Mary DeMuth and Thomas Umstattd. The seminar was titled, Master Social Media Joyfully. Lots of fabulous information was shared during this seminar, but one phrase used that stood out most, "Write words that can change lives."

Photo credit: Jain Basil Aliyas (Creative Commons)

I was participating on this webinar the day after publishing a post that had very few page views. Let's just say there was a battle going on in my mind over whether what I shared was worth reading. Did I write words that could change lives? Could my words ever change lives? As my mind filled with doubts, a part of me simply wanted to call it quits. This writing stuff is too hard!

Two days were spent chasing after these thoughts. Exhaustion took over and tears fell down my cheeks.

A dear friend came to my rescue and informed me that in these moments we need to take our thoughts captive and stop letting our mind run away with them. She provided an image of us chasing after our thoughts in different directions which was quite an accurate picture, and made me smile!

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." - 2 Corinthians 10:5

Oh how I need to embrace this verse!

One of my posts in the works is about my hate for numbers and how I let them control my life. Numbers have been my way of determining my worth, whether it is the numbers on a scale or the number of page views to each post. But God is always at work and He will use our weaknesses for growth. Instead of giving up and calling it quits with this whole writing thing, there was a gentle nudge from Him asking me to remember why I write.

Why do I write? I find healing when I write, but the primary reason is to share His love (my God-sized Dream). If what I share only touches the life of one person my "why" is still being fulfilled.

I was catching up on blogs I follow and several seemed to be written directly towards me. Andrea Levendusky writes in her recent post on Allume, "Sometimes having a blog isn't about the numbers or how much traffic you can generate from a tweet at 2:15 p.m. Sometimes it's much bigger, much better, much more meaningful than a stat or comment." Read post here.

The words written by Andrea came on a day when I needed to hear them most. My "why" is that just maybe the words I write are written on a day when someone (maybe you!) out there really needed them. If my "why" is to grow in numbers then I'm writing for the wrong reasons.

Here is something we need to remember: When God calls us to something, He doesn't immediately make us great at what He called us to do. It requires work, and it requires faith in His timing. It certainly won't always be easy. You will have days similar to mine when you just want to give up. He does asks us to be obedient. And in that obedience he will do something "much bigger, much better" than you good ever imagine.

"And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling." - 2 Corinthians 7:15

I greatly desire to please God. When I'm at those pearly gates, I want to hear those words, "Well done my good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:23). So calling it quits on writing is not something I'm going to do, but I do realize I can always be working to be a better writer. You and God are worthy of words that are capable of changing lives.

Here is some very useful information shared by Mary DeMuth during the Master Social Media Joyfully webinar that I'm focusing on:

"Anatomy of a Good Blog Post" Source:
1) Awesome Titles
2) Tweet this option
3) Vulnerable story
4) Pinnable image
5) Key words that rock
6) Ask the reader a question

This particular post may not contain all six of these, but I'm working on it!

As for this pinnable image...I really wish I was able to provide my own images to my posts, but this is not a strength of mine. By chance do I have any followers that would like to collaborate with me on providing images? I'm still laughing at my attempts to use Someone please help me!

Wishing you all a day filled with love, love and more love!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Our God is Able

The book My One Word says, "Remember, you may be the only Bible that others read." They had this posted on their Facebook page recently and added to those words, "Share your WORD, share your story, shine His light."

I'd like to share with you what God is doing with my word, EMBRACE, and I truly hope what I share shines His light.

When recently spending time with a new Bible discipleship group, discussion started on God's calling for each of us. The woman hosting the group shared how our calling isn't only about where God is leading us, but who He has called us to be right now.

So I find myself asking Him, "Who are you calling me to be today?" God responds saying,
"Embrace who you are as a wife.
Embrace who you are as a mother.
Embrace who you are as a daughter.
Embrace who you are as a sister.
Embrace who you are as a friend."

He remind me that the lies that have filled my head telling me I'm not a good enough wife, mother, daughter, sister or friend are not His truth. When I've been weak in these areas, my approach has been to turn my back on those I love. God whispers, "Embrace My love for you. Let My truth fill you. When you feel weak, let Me be your strength."

The words from my Executive Pastor are still prominently on my mind, "Embrace ALL scripture."

"For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession." - Deuteronomy 7:6

He has chosen me out of all the people on this earth as His treasured possession to be a wife to my husband, mother to two amazing young men, daughter to two loving parents, sister to four brother and five sisters, and a friend to many. 

Oh how I want to embrace who God created me to be in all these areas of my life.

My story has been that of a broken girl who for most of her life has believed she was not good enough. I now humbly admit I need God's help. I need God's loving embrace.

These next eight weeks our church is doing a study on Life's Healing Choices. The study will focus on The Beatitudes. I loved the piece of scripture our Pastor shared with us in his first sermon of this series, "We saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the deat." 2 Corinthians 1:9 (LB)

I am powerless. I'm putting everything into the hands of God. "God, heal me. Lead me to a life of peace, love and happiness."

Through these eight weeks I will continue to share how God is using my word to heal and transform me. I will step out of my comfort zone and share from the deeper places of my heart. Every word I share will reflect how true healing can only be found by giving God our everything.

God is giving me a new story: a story of being His treasured possession.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

If you feel weak today, know that God will meet you there. As HILLSONG UNITED sings in their song, "God is Able"...

"God Is Able
He Will Never Fail
He Is Almighty God

Greater Than All We Seek
Greater Than All We Ask
He Has Done Great Things"

My dear friends, embrace these words from John 7:38, "Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

He will do great and glorious things beyond anything you can image!