Friday, September 30, 2011

Behold the Beauty (Part 3)

Have I mentioned... He calls YOU beautiful? 

This was actually the title of a great speech given by one of our keynote speakers at the Women's retreat... Hollie shared a lot of great points, many of which you might find lurking in this post.

God created us in HIS image, specifically "Imago Dei." I doubt many of us would have the cajones to call God anything but beautiful, marvelous, worthy, beloved.... So why would we do that to ourselves if we are made BY Him, IN Him, as a reflection OF Him? 

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them...God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
--Genesis 1:26-27, 31.

When we tear ourselves to pieces, convincing ourselves that we aren't good enough, smart enough or straight up not beautiful enough, we aren't just dissing ourselves... We are knocking God's awesome creation! He made each of us different for a reason. Some people are tall, some short, some round, others thin, red/black/brown/blonde hair, big nose, little lips, each and every piece of us he made with a purpose. He didn't just put thought into our creation-- he put his LOVE in us. Into our hearts. Our inner selves. HE MADE US BEAUTIFUL!! 

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4

He calls YOU beautiful... He is your suitor, constantly wooing you, whispering sweet words into your heart. He adores you-- every single part of you, from the freckles to the "bad hair days" down to your slightly crooked little pinky toe. He revels in your beauty, even when we don't act very beautiful or are battling some ugly things in our hearts. He loves us unconditionally-- and that will never, ever change, no matter how you act, what you wear or how much make-up you have on.  He calls YOU beautiful-- because He loves you!

“‘You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared." Ezekiel 28:12-13

He thinks you are so beautiful and worthy that he gave His one and only son for you. Trust the Lord and understand that He knew what he was doing. You are the most beautiful one he ever laid eyes one-- He's crazy about you!! 

"All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you." --Song of Solomon 4:7

So my dear reader, as I close out this beauty-driven blog post series, I have a final plea for you. Next time you are bashing on yourself and have any kind of thought other beauty towards yourself, please remember: God calls you beautiful, from the moment that you stumble out of bed to the instant you lay your head on the pillow and everything in between. 

Please, call yourself beautiful. Say it outloud. Right now. "Thank you God, for making me so beautiful. I am blessed to be your masterpiece." He is beautiful and you were made in His image... even though sacrificing his beloved son on the cross was painful, ask Him about it... and He will tell you that it was SO worth it. He calls you beloved. Call yourself beloved. Call yourself beautiful.

Why? Because you ARE!

Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder-- and He is the supreme beholder!

Head over heels in LOVE with Him,

"Bravo, God, Bravo! Everyone join in the great shout: Encore! In awe before the beauty, in awe before the might." --Psalm 96:7 (MSG)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Behold the Beauty (Part 2)

My beautiful family... (Don't worry,
Dal, I think you are beautiful too,
this is just before your "time." Ha) 
Think of a time that some one has sincerely told you that you are beautiful. Maybe it was a spouse. Perhaps a best friend. Maybe even a stranger. Oh, and don't forget God (He always calls you beautiful!) How does that make you feel??

I don't know about you, but if someone tells me that, I get all fluttery and blushy warm all around my heart. It feels SO GOOD. It's OK to feel good about that-- embrace it, don't deny it and start picking yourself apart... YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!

Hopefully you were able to catch yesterday's post (otherwise you are probably thoroughly confused at this point. But hey, it does say "Part 2" at the top ;-) It's all about beholding our own beauty. Today we are taking it to an even deeper level.

As a music lover, I have noticed there are ton of songs out there about beauty. And I'm not talking about the superficial rap songs "tap that" kind of beauty (yeah, I said it.) I mean the true beauty-based songs... A few examples:

I am sure there are a bunch more songs that I couldn't think of right off the top of my head... So if there are so many great songs out there about being beautiful (inside AND out) then why is admitting and embracing our own beauty such an issue?

We all know that old adage that "beauty is only skin deep." Well I say PSHAW to that... I think that it does much deeper than that, and internal beauty can "seep" through, up and out, overflowing over your skin, all over you and everywhere around you. If you have a beautiful heart, I firmly believe your gorgeous factor shoots through the roof!! Don't believe me? Let me prove it.

Let's pretend that you are single and there are two individuals of the opposite gender across the room. One is the your DREAM... blonde hair, blue eyes, or maybe the tall/dark/handsome... whatever. The other one looks "average" or "normal" (whatever "normal" is...) So the DREAMY one approaches you... but turns out to be a big dumb jerkface, a heart consumed with self. Beauty factor drops out the bottom. Yuck. Not so pretty now, huh?

I think Mama Lex is most beautiful when she
is being silly... not that we do that often
But the "normal" (again, I scoff) person approaches you... and you find out that their heart is pure-- full of humble love, overflowing with awesomeness and they just so happen to be deeper than a summer rain puddle. BOOM. Beauty factor skyrockets. Get it?

Need another example? Ok, I will make it personal. I will admit that I was immediately physically attracted to the sandy-haired blue-eyed man that eventually became my husband... but I didn't swoon in the corner, overwhelmed by his beauty-- until we began to talk and get to know each other. Holy cow, he turned out to be a hottie!! Brandon's heart is gorgeous, so generous and full of the love of Christ. He is by far the most swoon-worthy man I have ever met (which is the way it should be.)

But it gets even better-- when I asked him was first attracted him to me, do you know what he said? My hips. MY HIPS! The one part of my body I despised the most! And just as it happened with me, he said that as he got to know me and realized "I had a brain" (his words, not mine) that I went from cute to beautiful. Why? Because he got to know my heart. And if you get to know your own heart, you will see that you too can be beautiful-- inside and out, "child-bearing hips" or not.

Think about some of your closest, bestest best friends... How would you describe them? Mine would be beautiful. I have always said that I didn't know how I was so lucky to get such gorgeous friends. Becky, Emily, Kally, my Mama and Lex all physically look different than one another, but as far as I am concerned, they are the most beautiful women who have ever walked the face of the earth. Why? Because I love them all, and I love them so deeply-- they all have beautiful hearts... Which again makes both their insides and outsides drop-dead gorgeous.
You know your friends are GORGEOUS if they can make
faces like this and because they have such amazing
hearts, it just makes them more beautiful!
You know what? God's love for you is so incredibly deep and wide, that he thinks YOU are the most beautiful thing in the world... We are all different, fearfully and wonderfully made, so we can't compare ourselves to others. If you have a heart that loves Christ, you can rest assured that he loves you inside and out... down to the last pimple, hang-nail and last fly-away hair on your head! Behold your internal AND external beauty. God does-- and he KNOWS you are beautiful!!

You are so beautiful to me (and God!)

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." --Psalm 139:14

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Behold the Beauty (Part 1)

Confession: I am not overly excited to write this blog post. But God isn't leaving me alone about it (surprised?) so I suppose it is time to put on my big girl panties and git-er-done.

I have been marinating on this post topic for a good 13ish days now-- probably longer if you count the days before I actually made it a "draft" on my blog notes. It's an important topic, but pretty touchy for most folks. Also, it tends to be ridiculously complicated. I have a sneaky feeling that this topic is going to require at least three separate posts. Ok, enough of the self pep talk. It's go time.  Let's talk about beauty.

When I say beauty, I am not talking about the Rocky Mountains or a tropical beach. Yes, those are God's wonderful and beautiful creations, but this post (and subsequent ones)  are specifically about a different type of beautiful creation. YOU. Yeah, you. Right there. Staring at the computer screen. Raising your eyebrows. Seriously. 

It's true. He told me so. 
As far as I am concerned, we have a distorted perception of what it means to be "beautiful" in this country. Today, we are going to cover some of those misconceptions and the complexity of this subject. Then hopefully (prayerfully?) we can discuss some of the "truths" associated with beholding beauty in future posts (especially from God's point of view.)

In the last month, I have had several different girls blatantly tell me that they didn't believe they were pretty. "I am not beautiful," said one. "I am uncomfortable in my own body," said another. "If only I could lose ____ pounds, then maybe I would look good."  When I heard this, I didn't know if I should burst into tears or shake them until their teeth rattled and say "WOMAN, ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!" What has happened that typical, HEALTHY, normal and beautiful women now consider themselves not to be beautiful? It simply breaks my heart.

Before I go any further, let me clarify something. I think there is a big, huge, twisted wad of tangled mess that involves beauty, health, vanity and insecurity. (See, I told you this was complicated!) I am not gonna to lie-- I still struggle with this kind of stuff. Generally speaking, I would like to say I am pretty. Not in a vain way, but in a normal way. I really like my nose, my eyes, my toes and my hair. But I am still insecure about some things, like my hips, although they are "growing" on me (in a good way.)

There is something you need to know about me. My self perception varies with time and mood. Yes, some days I get out of bed, look in the mirror and literally think "Lord Almighty... You are gonna have to help me with this today." Other days, I feel gorgeous--and will straight up verbalize the statement "I feel pretty!" Do you do that? You should. Because you ARE pretty. Say it as a thank you to God. It isn't vain to acknowledge that He made you beautiful... you can believe and embrace your beauty with a humble and grateful heart without sounding like a vain little heifer--I promise!

For the most part, my working out and eating right is a quest to be HEALTHY. Not to be more "beautiful" by small(er) pant sizes or lower numbers on the scale. There was a time about three years and 50lbs ago that I was anything but healthy. I was living in denial. I didn't feel beautiful primarily because I wasn't healthy. I was a glutton. And I paid for it.  But even now, I hear comments from folks who ARE healthy and naturally beautiful, yet act like they are a sister to the Cyclops-- scary and ugly. That is simply untrue!!

There are a lot of different ways that people measure "beauty." Some interchange it directly with health, which I think can be dangerous. Apparently somebody started a rumor that uber-skinny is the best place  to be beautiful and healthy (if you ever find the person that said that 6' 1" and 103 lbs is pretty, please send them my direction... a shanking is in order.) 

Have I mentioned....???
It terrifies and saddens me to see the girls who have such a distorted view of their body that they take "health" and what they deem as beauty so far to the other end of the spectrum that they develop an eating disorder that could literally kill them. They look so fragile, like if they sneeze they will crumble. What has happened that so many believe that skinny is the only way to be beautiful?? And we all know that it isn't external factors that makes us beautiful... but more on that tomorrow. 

I like my curves. I really do. I believe I am beautiful, right now, today, sitting in my chair in a t-shirt, messy ponytail and no make-up. Yes, I would require grooming before a job interview, date night, or hypothetical photo shoot. That said, I still want to be a little healthier-- maybe even to the point where I can legitimately run without wanting to take a nap (or throw up) afterwards.  (Sidenote: I remember the point in my life when I literally couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. I give God the glory for the transformation, bringing me to a healthier self!) But even through all that-- I never convinced myself I was "ugly." None of us are "ugly." It is perception. And we are children of God. Pretty little children!

Don't forget... 
When I was in the process of deciding my "healthy weight," I once referenced the Body Mass Index Score based on my height... Well, after I got done laughing hysterically, I concluded that I was either going to have to grow six inches or aim for a more attainable weight that I personally would be comfortable in. Don't get me wrong-- if you are a gal (or guy) that falls within your "healthy" BMI, that's AWESOME. But I want to reassure those who fall on "my" side of things that honey, you are STILL beautiful-- no matter what that number says.

Please folks... Hear me when I say it... I am begging you... KNOW that YOU are beautiful. Note that I didn't say perfect. Pretty sure Jesus was the only perfect person that ever walked the earth. And many wouldn't say that his beaten, bloody and broken body hanging on that cross as He took His last breath was his most "beautiful" moment. But it was-- it was the most beautiful picture of love we will ever see. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder... Behold your beauty, my friend... God made you beautiful!


PS-- Stay tuned for tomorrow's continuation of this topic when we discuss more about beholding ourselves-- and others. Buckle up... We are gonna go deep.

"The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord." --Psalm 45:11

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tough as Nails

God sure is a sneaky (awesome) dude sometimes. 

You may be asking yourself what I mean. Well,  I had another moment from this weekend at CCC's Women's Retreat that involved God not only working overtime but also revealing some cool new "tools" in my ministry arsenal. Apparently, I can paint fingernails. Who knew, right? Not this girl. 

Here's what happened: We had about three hours of free time on Saturday afternoon from around 2:30-5:30pm. There were quite the variety of activities from which to choose: Yoga, nature walk, games, nap, chatting, etc. After contemplating my options, none really grabbed my attention. Instead I found myself asking God what He wanted Me to do with my free time. I thought "Maybe I should blog." Well, we didn't have internet. Scratch that idea. Suddenly, I remembered that I packed my hodgepodge fingernail polish collection that weekend, so decided I would do my nails. 

For some reason, I was inclined to take my eclectic variety of polish down to the big conference room and camp out on a table as opposed to staying in my room. (Why? I have no idea, other than God was nudging me to it.) 

Long story still long (again,) I ended up with two coats of polish on my nails before things went an unexpected direction. I struck up a conversation with Jennifer, who I didn't know really well at that point, but soon escalated to "Want me to paint your fingernails while we talk?" She agreed... And God went to work. In my random "kit" I had some detail brushes for doing designs. I had only done it to myself once with less than satisfactory results. For some reason Jennifer and I were feeling kinda feisty... so we stepped out of our comfort zone and attempted to paint a design on her ten cute "Rosy Future" pink nails. 
My first "victim" Jennifer... Feisty Rosy Future Nails... RAWR. 
Dear Shannon with her "Jesus Fish"
Thus, God revealed a new ministry to me-- nail design painting. By the time that our free time has wrapped up, I had about five sets of fingernails and three sets of toes added to my resume of design. See, I told you God was a funny dude. 

My boss Kelli even stepped out of
the box and went blue... With a design
I created... "I am the vine..."

The greatest part of that afternoon? No, it wasn't discovering this new random hidden talent (although since I was doing it for free, I did offer a money back guarantee) Rather it was the fellowship and conversations that were had. I knew that every lady at the retreat had a different story. Some were in a great season of life. Some were in a challenging season. But seasons aside, all of those fingernail owners were awesome women of faith and tough as nails. 

My new adorable friend Jamie:
"Oh my, ya'll... my husband
isn't gonna know
what to think!" 
Jesus had some experience with nails too... Except these were nails of love and sacrifice, ones that pierced his hands so that we could have a hope and future. God, funny dude that He is, can reveal some incredible messages in loving and touching ways, whether that be in a bottle of electric blue nail polish... or hanging from a cross on a hill far away. Today, I am thanking God for making His son "Tough as Nails." 

Thankful for our "Rosy Future," 

Bardie working some gorgeous nails!
"He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Colossians 2:14-15

Not gonna lie, Mary's might be my favorite-- I think I
accidentally painted the "Holy Spirit" onto her nails.
Gives a whole new meaning to the term "Spirit Fingers." 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Taste the Rainbow

At 2:58pm yesterday, I returned home from one of the most awesome, intense, transformational, profound, exhausting, replenishing, breathtaking experiences of my entire life. 

For about 48 hours from Friday afternoon to Sunday, I was hanging with the Holy Spirit and about 60 other women at Christ Community Church's Women's Retreat 2011. The theme was "Come Away..." And away we certainly went. 

God showed up in a huge way, especially for me. I could literally write a book (ok, well at least a 20 page report) about the profound revelations and transformation that God revealed in my heart this weekend. But today, I would like to share with you how God allowed me to "Taste the Rainbow." 

Can you see Him? Look closely.
 He was there! 
We arrived on Friday afternoon and in typical conference fashion, were scrambling around ironing out last-minute details (I was on the planning team.) As registration was winding down, Pam (the preacher's wife) gasped and said "Hey ya'll, LOOK." 

Outside the window, over the trees in the distance was a rainbow. Please note that it had not rained on us all day. I took note, thought it was cool and continued to scramble. Little did I know that a revelation was brewing (no, not the FINAL revelation... just A revelation.) 

I was set to close out the evening that night in prayer before we dismissed for free time or sleep time or whatever time. As that neared, I prayed that God would give me the words he wanted me to say. Suddenly, the revelation hit me. The rainbow. It is scriptural. As worship was winding down, I grabbed my phone, opened the Bible App YouVersion and searched "Rainbow." It appears in Genesis and Revelation (beginning and the end.) Specifically in Genesis 9:14-15 it says, "Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind." Hmmm, very interesting. Promises and convenant. Duly noted. 

Another verse appeared in Ezekiel 1:28-- "Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking." Also profound. The worship music wound down and it was time to pray in front of these 60 ladies. 

I briefly shared with the girls about the rainbow and the Scripture from Ezekiel. We had already experienced a profoundly moving night during the programming, and I mentioned that the rainbow was a physical sign of God's presence if anyone was doubting that he showed up that night. I began to pray. My heart was pounding and my knees were weak. Not from nerves, but I was pretty sure that the Holy Spirit was so overwhelming I was going to hit the floor (facedown) if he also hadn't been there to hold me up. 

I got done praying and I would love to share with you what I said. But I have NO IDEA. Everyone said it was really legit and moving, but the only thing I remember was saying that God invited us to come away (romantically speaking) and didn't greet us with roses or chocolates, but with a promise of his love in the sign of the rainbow (please take note: we will come back to this momentarily.)

So yeah, that was awesome. But it doesn't stop there. God, as usual, was an overachiever and was with us  all weekend in a big way. Long story still long, Hollie spoke the next morning about how God calls us beautiful. He loves us and romances us. Doesn't get made, doesn't condemn. He LOVES. Oh how he loves us! Hollie then gave us all personalized, individual love letters FROM God. (He used the hands of some of the women in church to write them, but there was NO DOUBT that they were done well in advance of the conference and were from HIM.) 

Well, I took my love letter and went outside under a shade tree for quiet processing time. Good thing I was sitting down, because one of the first sentences of my personal letter said "Some offer ROSES or CHOCOLATES or other earthly trinkets, I have gifts for you-- gifts of POWER and TRUTH. Gifts with ETERNAL VALUE and lifelong benefits." Holy roses and chocolates people!! Needless to say, my love letter also has a few salty teardrop marks. 

God was there. But the even better news is that God is HERE too. In my living room. Around your computer screen. In your car. At work. At home. At the gym. AND He love you. SO MUCH. More than any words can say or song convey. HE LOVES YOU!!! He longs to be with you, transform you, speak to you, love on you daily. Let Him. Receive His gifts. Come away with Him, open up your heart and let Him in... If you do, He too will let you TASTE THE RAINBOW! 

All for His Glory, 

"Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars." --Revelation 10:1

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Spirit Through Sprite

"This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!!" --Psalm 118:24

What an awesome Scripture to describe my heart today! I would say that today is the final day I will be talking about God's gifts, but let's be honest, I am not really driving this boat. He might tell me that I need to keep up with the giftiness that is His love. But for now, I would like to share with you why this day is shaping up to be an extra special gift. 

1. I had a great workout/run this morning. 4 miles, which is pretty good considering my legs are less than cooperative thanks to the crazy workout I had with my trainer on Wednesday.  Hurt so good, right? 

2. On the running note, I found a new running training plan that I am "officially" kicking off on Monday. Now that I have determined that it might actually someday be possible for me transition from a non-runner to pseudo-runner to legit-runner, this next three month training plan is to help me improve my 5K running time to under 30 min. (For all you runners out there, that doesn't seem like much, but for this girl who couldn't legitimately run an eighth of a mile 9 months ago, I say Hallelujah!!) So needless to say, I am pumping myself up for THAT intense training experience. GET SOME!

3. We are leaving for CCC Women's retreat in about 2 hrs from the time of this writing. I have been privileged to serve on planning team for women's ministry, so the final culmination to "Come Away" is going to be an amazing gift. Nothing like a two night slumber party to bring women together with God!

4. My old journal is 11 pages shy of being filled up. Which means I get start a new journal very soon. And as a writing geek, that makes my heart flutter. My new journal is SUH-WEET... PLUS I purchased a new black inky pen to go with it yesterday. Totally stoked. 

5. By the grace of God, I was able to  consciously choose prayer over panic this morning probably for one of the first times ever. Which was an AMAZING GIFT. Here's what happened: Justus and I got back from our run this morning around 8:00am. I had a text on my phone from a friend/fellow Drill Sgt wife saying that she had food poisoning, wondering if I could watch her kids for a while today. My immediate response was "Gah, I can't I have so much to do before leaving on retreat in a few hours." But after I sent her a text saying I couldn't take care of the kids but would bring her Sprite, God spoke to me and said "You can do both. I will make it happen." 

So I texted her back and said when I delivered the Sprite I would bring her two oldest kids ages 4 and 2 over to my house to babysit until I had to leave for retreat so she and her newborn could rest. My head was saying that I was crazy and fighting panic, but my heart told me that God had this and he would help me get everything done I needed to before departure (note: I had not packed at all for this retreat... and as part of the planning committee, I was bringing other "stuff" in addition to my own personal items.) 

I initially sent my beloved husband after some Sprite before he went to work this morning, but he called 10 minutes later and said he wouldn't be able to make it back in time before needing to go to work thanks to awesome on-post Friday morning traffic. "Ok God, it's just you and me." I sped groomed, got in the car to go get some Sprite for my friend-- and I found my heart praying to let traffic move smoothly and for God to enable me to get everything done I needed. Oh, and to keep me calm. Minor detail. 

Obviously, prayer over panic worked out wonderfully. Traffic was smooth, I delivered the Sprite, picked up the kids, finished grooming, packed in record time, started updating the Family Readiness Group roster and even had time to blog (hence this post!) This IS the day the Lord has made... And lemme tell you what folks, I am rejoicing and finding myself VERY glad in it!! So thankful that I found the Spirit... In a bottle of Sprite. 

With a carbonated, bubbly heart, 

"We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us." Colossians 1:9-10 (MSG)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Technically Speaking, It's a Gift

Social media is a HUGE deal right now. Ok, that was kind of an obvious statement-- but it  needed to be made for the purpose of this post. To prove my point, I would bet that most of you out there in cyber-land probably found out about this blog via Facebook or Twitter. (Thanks, internet.)

On that note, I can't really complain about social media. But if you listen to the way some folks talk, connecting digitally is more of a curse than it is a blessing. Honestly, I believe it all depends on how you use it... when the social media craze first began several years ago, a lot of people argued against it saying that it disconnects us from each other, making face to face interaction rare. I will admit that it is a great source of procrastination and does have it's negatives. But I also feel that God gave us social media as a gift in disguise. And as with most of His gifts, it all depends on how you use it.

I have found out that while some people choose to air their dirty laundry or share WAAAAYYYY too much info on Facebook or Twitter, it can also be a great way to reach out to other via witnessing, ministering and discipling. Heck, that's the basic purpose of this blog. There are people who read blogs, follow others on Twitter and be "Friends" on Facebook that may never meet face-to-face. But if social media allows just a single seed to be planted in someone's mind about the love Christ has for them, then I think it is so worth it. Thank God for the gift of technology. 

On the wall in my kitchen, I have two huge posters. I ran across them on the internet about a year ago and finally purchased them for display a couple of months ago. They are "Faithbook" posters that have "profiles" for God and Jesus. Not only does it make me laugh, but it is a great way to sneak attack witness to folks that might come over and peer at our wall. This adaptation of social media uses humor based on biblical principles to provide a "modern" twist for the tech-savvy folks of the 21st century.

I make it a personal policy not to post dramatic or negative stuff on Facebook or Twitter... Yes, yucky things happen in my life, I feel frustrated about a variety of things each day (sometimes every 20 seconds) but instead of posting something diva-drama-driven, I try to post something Christ-driven. I can ask for prayers, hope for God to inspire me to share something positive, or (here's the shocker) remain quiet until the Enemy no longer desires ownership of my Facebook status. 

Personally, I am thankful for the technical gift  that is technology and social media. I firmly believe all things in moderation, so there is no need to be addicted to FB... But if God presents a chance for me to share the gospel on Facebook, Twitter or a Blog post, I am going to make it happen to the best of my ability. Has God called you to share something Christ-driven? Post it... reach out... embrace technology and social media in a positive way... Because "technically" speaking, it's a gift!  

Likes, Comments and Re-Tweet galore, 

"Souls are saved by truthful witness and betrayed by the spread of lies." --Proverbs 14:25

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Simple Gift... That means so much!

We have been talking about gifts lately. 

Gifts can come in many, many forms from that engagement ring promising a lifetime of commitment to that forced smile when we open up a "fashionable" sweater from Grandma. God's gifts also come in many shapes, sizes and colors... 

I ran across the following a few weeks ago when working on a project for church and was reminded of it today. The Lord loved us enough to create laughter and allow us to feel joy in our heart. (That's a gift) He has also given us GRACE. (There's another one) Sometimes he combines them. (My favorite gift! )

How to Get Into Heaven 

A woman dies and meets St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. Peter says to the woman, "Here's how it works. You need to have one hundred points to get into heaven. You tell me about all the good things you've done. They are all worth a certain number of points. If your total is 100 or more, you can come in." 

"Well," says the woman. "I was happily married to the same man for 52 years. I never looked at another man. I was attentive and loved him dearly." 

"That's great," says St. Peter. "That'll be two points." 

"Hmmm," says the woman. "This is going to be harder than I thought. Well, I attended church regularly, volunteered my time and tithed faithfully." 

"Wonderful," says St. Peter, "That's worth another point." 

"One point!" says the woman. "Okay, okay. I was involved with a woman’s prison ministry for twenty-five years. I went into the prison, at least monthly, and shared Jesus with them." 

"Wow!" says St. Peter. "That's another two points!" 

"Only two points!" says the woman. "At this rate, it'll be only by the grace of God that'll I'll ever get into this place."

"Bingo!" says St. Peter. "That's 100 points! Come on in."

Praise God for the gift of His grace... because just like this example above, we can't earn our way into heaven-- but he has given us that nonrefundable present. It seems like such a simple gift with no fancy wrapping paper or ribbon, but instead by the body of Christ.  That alone means so much! 

No Receipt Needed, 

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." --Ephesians 2:8-9

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Excited & Can't Hide It

 When was the last time you were excited? 

I am not talking about the "Oooo Monday is over" kind of excitement or "Yay a new season of my favorite show starts tonight." I mean the "brain-churning, stomach-fluttering, pulse-pounding, heart-gonna-burst-outta-my-chest, can't-wait-to-tell-my-boss/spouse/family/friend about it" kind of excitement. I love that feeling. WHOOT!

Some of you out there might be saying <scoff> "Sharita, nothing profoundly exciting ever happens to me." But before you get stuck on that thought, let me clarify something. The type of excitement I am addressing isn't "I won the lottery" or "WE ARE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD" excitement. Instead it includes the little things in life that help us get through each day. It could be a new opportunity, a new project that capitalizes on using your strengths, a favorite meal, someone telling you that your ministering really helped them, a short upcoming vacation, reunion with family etc. 

I have had a few moments that so far today. One is a new project for work writing some speechy-workshoppy curriculum (I know, I am nerd), another was finding out that I might get to take a mini anniversary vacay with my beloved and the final one includes a potential future ministry opportunity next summer. Tell you what-- my brain was definitely churning and heart pounding as I drove home today. 

While these small things add excitement to my life, I can't help but think of a greater promise that we can all be excited about all the time... Our future glory. Yes, I admit it thinking about heaven and glorious things of the future are kind of challenging to grasp in the busyness of life. But just as I mentioned a couple of days ago in my "Lifted by Being Gifted" post, many of these little things that God gives us in life are reminders of His love... all of which will someday be reflected via our future glory we will experience. 

The reality of being an adult/big kid seems to distract us from being excited, especially when it comes to getting and staying excited for Christ. Remember when you were a little kid and there were events that you were SO EXCITED you could barely sleep? Maybe it was Christmas Eve... Or a birthday... For me, it was the night before we left for the Missouri State Fair. I also remember from my freshman year of high school being so excited to "skip" class the next day to decorate for homecoming as a member of student council. I long to rediscover that level of awesome excitement from my "youth" and reapply it to my love of Christ. 

Are you excited for Christ? In what ways can you show it? What small things in live via gifts from God get you pumped up. Do you accept the challenge to find new ways to get excited for Him? 

After all of the awesome things he has put into my life, I have to admit that I am excited for Christ... and as you might have noticed on this blog, I just can't hide it!

Excited for Future Glory, 

"He quivers with excitement, and at the trumpet blast races off at a gallop. At the sound of the trumpet he neighs mightily, smelling the excitement of battle from a long way off, catching the rolling thunder of the war cries." --Job 39:24-25

Monday, September 19, 2011

Embrace your Inner Brahma

Being unique is awesome.

You might have already picked up on the fact that I personally am a little, um, "different" than most. Ok, maybe even weird. Perhaps odd is a good word? How about eclectic? I don't know a whole lot of small-town southeast Kansas girls who graduated with an animal science degree that now work at a church only after becoming a certified auctioneer and graduating citizen's police academy just because. RANDOM.   I  say this to point out that while yes, my personality is sometimes a little bizarre, it really makes for a good time (not to mention some great conversation pieces.)

It really is disheartening when folks assume that because someone or something is different, it is BAD. Bad and different are not interchangeable vocabulary words. I think it is a healthy habit to embrace things that are different-- whether it is a food, a location, a person, or in my family's case, an animal.

Check out those ears!
My Mama has always like Brahma cattle. You know the ones-- the bovine with the big ol' hump and floppy ears that are most well known for their buckin' bull spirit at rodeos. A few years ago, my little brother Dal needed a 4-H project. Long story short: 5L Brahmans was born.

Over the past few years, Dal has grown his herd to six pure bred Brahmas and five crossbreds. He has shown them at the local county fairs and done relatively well-- but only after people got over the shock of seeing something so different.

It is safe to say that Dal's quest to raise a rather unique breed of bovine has created some opportunities for ridicule. People question the quality. People ponder the motive. People sometimes poke fun or mutter comments. Kind of sounds like peoples reaction to Jesus huh?

Jesus was unique in such a remarkable way. Jesus never sinned (obviously different than all of mankind.) He loved those who persecuted Him. He led with love. He easily forgave others who repented. He hung out with the "unpopular crowd." He laid down His life for you and me. Oh, and let's not forget He was the son of God.

One of the newest additions to
the herd:
Purebred Brahma
"Cinnamon Stix"
Christ felt the effects of being different in the most profound way possible-- hanging on a cross as the last breath left Him. Even in his final hours, he held fast to his unique sacrifice and mission. He didn't back down when threatened. He didn't run away or conform to the crowd. Instead, he paved the way into eternity... for big ol' sinners like you and me. And we can't forget that once we accepted Christ into our heart-- we became NEW different. "The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person." (1 Samuel 10:6)

Are you embracing your uniqueness today? Or trying to hide it and being like everyone else? Are you like that 13 year old owner of a small herd of Brahma cattle in Southeast Kansas, cherishing the traits/opportunities God gave you? Are you open to new things and embracing others who might be "different" as well?

Christ was different-- and he was definitely a good kind of different. Let's be like Him... Embrace your inner Brahma... Be different. It's not only a good thing-- but it's a God thing!

Different Brahma with no drama,

"...But my dove, my perfect one, is unique, the only daughter of her mother..." Song of Solomon 6:9

My Darling Little Bro... Selling "Brownie" a Crossbred Brahma at the fair  in July 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Song in My Heart

Music rocks my world. Literally. 

I have always liked listening to music and discovered in the 5th grade that  that I could sing ok-ish.  (much to my surprise as well as our elementary/middle school choir.) My first ever solo performance was the "Somewhere Out There" from The American Tail: Fieval Goes West. 

I have since broadened my musical tastes to include more than animated classics. (But don't get me wrong-- a great Disney Soundtrack still gets my heart pumping.) I have been known to sing anywhere, almost unconsiously. Placed that I have gotten busted singing out loud: Shower, kitchen, car (at the stop light, windows down,) processing floor of the turkey plant, sleeping porch @ Clovia house, farrowing house in the hog barn, K-state campus, banquets, contests, church, multiple offices that I have worked in-- the list goes on. 

Regardless of where/when/how I was singing, humming, grooving, I truly believe that music is a great gift from God as a way to worship. One of the songs from my youth that I remember listening to on a little yellow cassette tape was "Jesus put a song in my heart." It goes... a lil something... like this.... 

I tried to sing my song on my own
But then I found out I was singing alone
Then Jesus sang with me
We sang in harmony
Now I’m singing His song
Ooh I’m singing His song

Chorus 2X 
Jesus put the song in my heart
He turned my life around
He gave me a treasure, the heart of a servant
Jesus put the song in my heart, a joyful melody
That sings of His wonderful love

2X (3X for the end)
He gave me His love
He sang me His song
And He put a song in my heart 

I’m going to live my life differently
By serving the Lord and not serving me
Helping to meet your needs
Following Jesus’ leads
Ooh I’m singing His song
Yes I’m singing His song

The worship portion at our church today (Christ Community Church) was AMAZING. Yes, it reminded me of my LOVE for music, but also reminded me that it is a gift from God to worship/sing like that... Plus we sang "Jesus Paid it All." Now ladies and gentlemen, THAT is a song that makes me want to either squawk at the top of my lungs with excitement or drop to my knees and burst into tears (for the sake of the congregation and by the Grace of God, I managed not to do either) But just thinking about "Jesus paid it all... all to him I owe... Sin had left a Crimson stain... He washed it white as snow" gives me goosebumps and raises my blood pressure with joy! 

Music can uplift, inspire, convict and put things into perspective. I don't know about you-- but I am beyond thankful that Jesus put a song in my heart... by turning my life around... with the heart of a servant.  I pray that Jesus has given you that song as well-- let's rejoice! 

Music to my ears, 

"I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." 
--Psalm 104:33

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Squeaky Clean & Lemony fresh

My house is *currently* clean.  Please excuse me for one moment as I do a happy dance. 

Ok, I'm back. I don't really like to clean. Seriously, ask prior roommates (Kally Hood-Smith, specifically) and they will back me up on this one.  I mean, I will TRY to keep a slight handle on the clutter and do dishes often enough to avoid growing anything fuzzy in my sink, but as far as deep cleaning, I really need an outside reason to make it happen. Thanks to being brought up by my wonderful mama, my motivation is found when "company is coming." 

My sister Kathleen and brother-in-law are currently en route  to spend a few precious days with us. So a large portion of my Friday was dedicated to cleaning this house plus or minus, top to bottom. About a month ago, my beloved parents-in-laws came down, which resulted in a cleaning frenzy so extensive that my husband lovingly yelled down the stairs from his own personal bathroom: "Sharita, sweetheart... WHY does my bathroom smell like FLOWERS?!?" (I am submitting my name for "Wife of the Year" for tackling THAT man zone of ickyness.) 

Floral fragrances aside, I don't necessarily clean for those people coming... Honestly, they could all care less if there is a spot on the mirror in the bathroom or the carpet hasn't been vacuumed in two months. I do it for the feeling of relaxation... I can focus on their company and take pride in this house God has blessed us with. 

Just like that awesome fresh feeling after a clean rain to replenish the air, a hot shower to wash away the sweat from a workout, or a florally-smelling bathroom... God has done the same for us with the sacrifice of His son. 

One of my favorite songs to sing while I am cleaning is "Nothing but the Blood" by Matt Redman. Check out the chorus lyrics: 
What can wash away our sins?
What can make us whole again?
Nothing but the blood
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can wash us pure as snow?
Welcomed as the friends of God
Nothing but Your blood
Nothing but Your blood King Jesus

God loved us SO MUCH that he didn't just volunteer to clean our house, do our dishes, send rain or give us a bath. He sent his His beloved Son to DIE for us via a painful death on the cross so that we might have a hope for a future with Him. I can barely wrap my head around that. 

The blood of Jesus is the ONLY thing that wash away our sin.  Let's rejoice in that clean, fresh feeling today. His blood has made us make us squeaky-clean and lemony-fresh in a way that we could have never achieve on our own! 

Cleaned by His Grace, 
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin." --Psalm 51:1-2

Friday, September 16, 2011

Lifted by being Gifted

So you might have noticed yesterday that we talked a bit about looking for Goodness of God everywhere... Today, I wanted to keep this simple (it is Friday after all, let's be honest) and share with you a few of the A-MAZ-ING gifts God has given me. They lifted my heart as I typed them-- I prayerfully hope that as you read them, you too are lifted by being gifted.

*Drinking wine on the front porch on a cool evening
*Early morning walk-jogs
*Nutella sandwiches with a glass of milk
*Waking up early feeling rested
*Sleeping late and not feeling guilty
*Hitting the final "Submit" button after completing a large project
*Laughing til it hurts
*Dessert (chocolate involved) with zero guilt
*Comfy pants
*Deep conversations with a close friend
*Puppy cuddles & high fives
*Sweat from an awesome workout
*Fresh bed sheets
*Standing on a tall hill looking down
*Fancy coffee on a cold morning
*The smell of a library
*Eating pasta... in Italy.
*Fitting into new, smaller sized clothes
*Blingy, feisty shoes... that are comfortable
*Catching a fish
*Cuddling on the couch
*Really inky pens
*Starting a cute new journal
*Purchasing large quantities of bargain books
*Reaching your destination
*Fuzzy socks
*Feeling extra cool when strapping on barefoot/minimalist shoes
*Baby calves
*Good smelling candles
*Paying off a debt
*Brightly colored fingernails
*Mama's homemade salsa
*Shiny, dangly earrings
*Fresh baked banana bread
*Christmas decorations
*Wearing a flower behind your ear
*Bubble baths
*Waking up in the middle of the night praying
*Hot fresh popcorn with a cold soda
*The nerves, excitement and relief when getting off a plane in a foreign country
*Warm rainstorms
*The smell of the farm: dirt, straw, cows
*Missouri State Fair
*Movie marathons
*Being completely surprised
*Feeling extra close to God

This isn't my complete list-- it grows almost daily. Do you have a "Lifted by being Gifted" list? If not, consider starting one today. Not only will it make your heart lighter and tingly when you read back over it, but it helps us to remember that God loves us so much that he exerted extra effort to give us these seemingly small but oh-so-significantly impacting gifts. Plus, it gives us a reason to smile-- and who doesn't need more of THAT? 

I would love to hear about some of your "gifts" in your life... feel free to comment below!

Not returning THESE gifts, 
"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" --2 Corinthians 9:15

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Back to School Bonus

Our dog Sweet Justus loves elementary school days.

I am not talking about MY school days-- because for me, working on my masters online, everyday is a school day-- and I don't have to go anywhere. (Praise Jesus!) But Justus loves little kid school days. Brandon and I obviously don't have kids of our own yet, but  there are passels (flocks? gaggles?) of small little school children all throughout our neighborhood. Fortunately for our lil baby dog, we usually time our morning walk-jogs just right for the kids to be waiting at the multiple bus stops to head to school.

There are two primary reasons why Justus loves these early morning school-day walks:

Reason #1: He gets excessive attention from small children screaming in a shrill voice across the street "OOOOOOHHHHHH LOOK AT THE PUPPY!! I LOVE YOUR DOG!!" followed by their mothers awkward look and under-the-breath-comment about Justus' ears. (It doesn't matter to the dog... He likes attention regardless of present sarcasm)

Reason #2: The children throughout our housing complex seem to follow the pattern of children-esque habits... They are messy eaters. Justus always seems to find some "special treat" dropped on the ground from either a lunch, an afterschool snack, and sometimes an entire portable breakfast. (Today he snarfed down three pretzels before I noticed what he was doing.)

So what can we learn from this little dogs intense focus for food and attention? Just like Justus is searching for acknowledgement and the occasional on-the-ground- pretzel, we should be searching daily to find those God-given gifts of Goodness. Unfortunately for us, our nose/eyes/ears are slightly less attuned to the awesome gifts around us... especially when you are huffing and puffing on mile 3 with your iPod in.

God is the ultimate craftsman. There are so many things that are incredible gifts from God, but our society and flesh drives us forward in such a quick speed we sometimes forget. I know I can't meander every day, taking a slow romantical stroll through the neighborhood with my pup... but there ARE days where I can stop, take a deep breath, tune out the distractions and thank God for the glorious gifts that he has placed in our lives. Ahhhhhhhh... "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." --Psalm 27:13

So are we looking for God's goodness everywhere? Or are we blinded by the urgent/important (or unimportant) stuff in front of us?  How can we reduce those distractions? What small amazing things are present in your life today that is a gift from God waiting to be unwrapped?

Unwrapping His Good Gifts Today,

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." -- 2 Peter 1:3

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Yard Sale Toys

While I don't have any little children of my own yet, I like to babysit other drill sergeant wives' on occasion. This has worked out pretty well for the last few months since I have been in Georgia, but I began to realize that these little ones were getting bored when they came over to our place, primarily because we didn't have any toys. And let's be honest, you can only watch Tangled so many times.

I am not a yard-saler. But, for the sake of my sanity, the children I babysit and my adult personal household goods that were quickly becoming makeshift "toys," I ventured out, husband in hand, to tackle Fort Benning's post-wide yardsale last Saturday. Our mission: attain legit, economical toys... That if they were destroyed, it wouldn't be the end of the world.

It turns out that the awesome loot I brought home was certainly that-- awesome. I was unhumbly proud of myself. JACKPOT! The great part is, I got to try out my new toys on a pair of beautiful little girls on Monday. Even better, those toys, since they weren't expensive, were made to be broken. Between these little girls and my puppy (who had never experienced kid toys before) we accomplished that goal. I was totally ok with it and counted the few broken toys as a success.
Now, I didn't buy the toys specifically to be broken or chewed up (by two-year-olds or puppies), but I certainly didn't panic when I realized one of the small dolls is now missing feet. It actually kind of made me laugh to think about how hard I had search for toys to make sure they weren't broken when I purchased them at the yard sale... but in the end, it really didn't matter.

God doesn't "buy" things like I did at the yard sale... Jesus purchased us broken to start with in hope of paying a HUGE price (his life) to put us back together. How awesome is that?!? That is a remarkable kind of love right there.  "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood." Acts 20:28

Let me say it again: God paid an incredibly high price via the life of His SON. For what? For broken, sinful folks like me and you. It says in 1 Corinthians 7:23 "You were bought at a price."  God's love for us is much unlike my digging through bins, sorting through tables looking for "whole" items at a cheap, cheap price.

This whole experience made me realize three things:
1) Don't buy cheap toys with the intent of them lasting long enough to meet grandchildren if you have yet to procreate.
2) God loves us more than we can ever comprehend.
3) God isn't a dude upstairs searching for perfect cheap yard sale toys. He loves that we are broken and desires to put us back together, no matter what it costs.

Take some time today to thank Him for loving us as the broken yard sale toys that we are: marked up, ripped clothes, missing appendages, victims of an impromptu haircut that leaves us looking less than desirable due to our sin.  Remember that he thinks we are beautiful and has literally paid it all for us.

Bought, Paid for, no refunds,

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Takin' Me Swimming

As I was praying about what to write today, my tired mind was spinning... Or at least fogging over. Honestly, it has been a crazy day, a lot on my heart and in my head (don't worry, it's mainly all good things... apparently ministry is taxing work! Who knew, right?) 

Anyway, God reminded me of a prayer that I wrote for myself in my journal during Prayer week about a month ago (it's only been a month? Feels like ten years!) I was compelled to open my heart and share it with the world.

Before I do, I need to set a bit of context: The foundational Scripture of our church at Christ Community is Ezekiel 47:9-- "So where the river flows, everything will live." It seemed pretty appropriate to bring back to my heart and share with you today. 

Other Scriptures that we were charged to meditate on before this prayer came to me included Ezekiel 47:6-9, Jeremiah 2:10-13 and Isaiah 30:15-17. 

Dear God, 

PLEASE come in and change my heart. I know you are doing some incredible work in me and I pray that it continues, even if I sin through my worry, doubt, fear, lack of faith and tiredness as you do it. Help me to rest, not be expounding all of my energy to fight the enemy all by myself. Lord God, I can't do this without you... I know that the Holy Spirit gives us the weapons of warfare we need. 

Lord, take me deeper. Take my floaties off and let me stop exhausting myself from treading water. Help me to know I don't need the floaties if I am floating down the river clinging to The Cross.  Take away my fears. I lay them at your feet. Help me to SEE when I look. I want to flow with you to help bring life to the desert places. 

I am so sorry for all of the times I have forsaken you and pursued things of this world. Help my faith drive my feelings and emotions, not the other way around. 

THANK YOU for your continuous love. Thank you for being gracious, especially when I don't deserve it. Thank you for always being with me, even when my eyes are closed and I am running the other way fleeing from you. THANK YOU for showing me boundless compassion. Thank you for being just. Thank you for being our source, our one and only source of life. 

Lord Father, fill me with your spirit, so I can live holistically and be a stronger witness for you as a wife, friend, patriot, intern, daughter and sibling. Thank you for always listening AND hearing as I continually ask, seek and knock when I am in the river. I love you and I praise you. 

In your precious, Holy Son's name. 


God has been taking me in deeper and deeper into the river since moving to Georgia, day by day, moment by moment.  Even now as I read over this prayer, I can see every aspect of how he is putting this prayer answer into action.  All that is swirling around me in a cloud of excitement/opportunity/glory is an answer to this prayer. Praise Jesus for takin' me swimming in the deep!  I don't even have to hold my nose!

Are you ready to swim? Pray for Him to bring you deep into the river... Leave your floaties on the bank, take up the cross and follow Him! 

Floating down the River, 

"Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?” -- Ezekiel 47:6-9