Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We have... Memory Loss

Think about your most prominent memory. Where were you? What time of year was it? Was it a good memory? A challenging experience? What type of details do you remember about it? 

Reminiscing can be a lot of fun. It might also be a little painful. Personally, my memories can be triggered by a location, sound, song, smell, person or experience. Some memories are so prominent that I literally get goosebumps-- it feels like I am traveling back in time, experiencing the specific event all over again. 

I don't want to brag, but I have a memory like a steel trap (much to my husbands occasional dismay: "How or WHY do you remember that, Sharita?!?)" I remember the most ridiculous things from kindergarten experiences, weird and random facts from some of my college classes and even  direct quotes of conversations I have had years ago. But even with this amazing memory, I still have memory loss... and often forget some of God's promises. 

Let's think about this for a second. We almost NEVER forget promises made by other people, especially when they don't come through for us. How many times (especially as children) do you remember saying "Heeeeyyyyy... YOU PROMISED?!?!" 

We don't forget the promises made by people in this world. But I always find myself saying "Whoops, sorry God... I forgot you already promised me that." God often says to me "Heeeyyyyy, Sharita... I PROMISED?!? Remember?"

Oh. Yeah. All those things I worry about or am uncertain about... yep. He already promised to help me out with it. God's multiple and never-failing promises can be found in His word.  His amazing promises are found in the Bible, in every book, every chapter. 

Concerned about your path? Check out Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 

Don't know if God is involved in your life and knows what He is doing? Look at Jeremiah 29:11. "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."  

Unsure if all things that come from God are legit? Take a peek at Romans 8:28-- "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

God never promised it would be easy. But He said he will never stop loving. Never leave. Never forsake. His love never fails. It never runs out. It endures forever.  "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever." (Psalm 136:1) He PROMISED us this!! 

I vividly remember when and where I was the moment I began remembering parts of His word. I was parked outside of the Schnucks grocery store in Jefferson City, Mo in the winter of 2009, around 10:30pm. I did NOT want to go to work that night at midnight. I had brought my Bible with me and needed a reminder from God about His promises because I was in the middle of what would eventually become my recovery testimony. (Check out No Bologna Testimony Part 2 for the full story.) I forgot that God was in control and had a plan. 

I grabbed my Bible, trusting God to give me the reminder I needed.  I didn't have the verses memorized, but from the last few months of spending time in the word, I had a general recollection of where to look in the Bible. I (guided by the hand of God) narrowed it down to a book... then chapter... then read through and BOOM. Found the verse. "Ohhhh... NOW I remember. Thanks for that promise, God."  Memory: restored. 

Spend time in the word. Relish His promises. Overcome that memory loss. You never have to say "HEY GOD, YOU PROMISED." Instead, He says to us, "Hey you... I promised! TRUST ME." He ALWAYS comes through. And boom. No. More. Memory loss. 

Remembering fondly, 

"O LORD, you are God! You have promised these good things to your servant." 1 Chronicles 17:26

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We have... Ego Issues

"I got this. I am smart. I'm in control. I am too legit to quit." 

"All that an a bag of potato chips... yep, that's me!" 

"A-double-you-E-S-O-M-E, I'm awesome, awesome... TOTALLY!" 

Hopefully I don't come across this way to the general public... not this ditzy (although I was a cheerleader for a few years of my life) OR this cocky. Two unlegit qualities, if I do say so myself. 

Yesterday we talked about power... something I struggle with. The daily submitting to the Lord, denying myself and taking up the cross can be a challenge for me. But today, we are talking about a different type of "symptom" of being a human. We have... Ego Issues. 

Now before you get your feathers all ruffled with me calling you (and myself) cocky, overconfident or stuck up, let me explain. I try to be humble in my earthly life. But humility is a fine line between being an egomaniac and self-depreciating. 

Hopefully (again, I emphasis HOPEFULLY) I come across as confident yet leading with a servant's heart based on humility when it comes to my peers. (You be the judge of that one.) I am sinner. I fall flat on my face regularly. I want to do it MYSELF with nobody's help. So I would guess that in God's eyes, I still have ego issues. 

It directly relates to the power challenge of yesterday... We determined that having a power shortage wasn't necessarily a BAD thing... but when I get hung up on trying to control things or take on the attitude that I AM awesome, awesome, TOTALLY, my ego issues surface from God's point of view. 

This isn't a depressing post, I promise. I still struggle with yearning for control and reveling in my gifts, talents and abilities... but see, that's the thing- they are GIFTS. I didn't create myself to have the ability to write, sing, minister, box or auctioneer (betcha never thought you would see those things all in the same sentence huh?) God loves you and me SO MUCH He gave us gifts and talents to share with others. HE made us awesome. 

We can be excited about that. But the key to rejoicing in those gifts and not stepping over the line of ego-crazed is to remember that He gave us those gifts so that we in turn would give them away. I ask daily for God to allow me to surrender completely to Him. Sometimes my ego gets in the way, but He loves me through it all. 

God's love is what makes us awesome. And THAT in itself is awesome, awesome... Totally. 

Humbly trying to check the ego at the door, 

"He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way." --Psalm 25:9

Monday, November 28, 2011

We have... A Power Shortage

The house was pitch black. Dad woke me for school, but I was less than excited to get out of bed... Our house was freezing! It was a the winter of my sophomore year of high school... and after experiencing an ice storm that produced over three inches of ice the previous week, we were going on day ten without power. Pitch black. Cold. Awesome. 

I stumbled out of bed and quickly pulled on my costume. Yes, I said costume. I was part of the one-act play "Anybody for Tea" and had to be dressed and ready to perform upon arrival at school. My character was an old quirky woman, so apparently I played the part well... I pulled on my fuzzy socks, grabbed some breakfast and ran out the door. 

Keep in mind I got dressed in the dark. I arrived at school and everyone started laughing-- fortunately not in a mean way, but more in an excited way. "Hey Sharita! You changed up your costume-- that looks great!" 

"What are they talking about?" I thought... I looked down at my feet to determine what they meant by costume change... I still had on my fuzzy socks, which was planned... but one was green. And one was blue. Yeah, I didn't exactly plan it like that-- but I played it off well. Here's to getting dressed in the dark. 

Different colored socks is just one "side effect" of a power shortage. Being cold, in the dark, and stubbed toes are among some of the others. Fortunately, we can have all the power we need... Through Christ. 

Quick side note: We are going to take some time this week to look at some of "symptoms" we have when it comes to being a human... and maybe some of those things we still struggle with as humans. I pray that as we walk through our struggles together that the Holy Spirit will move in our lives and provide us a cure. 

So today's "symptom" is that we all have a power shortage. Which is the way it should be. God has the ultimate and supreme power... we can invite that power into our lives. But in order to do so, we have to surrender our control. I don't know about you... but I REALLY struggle with this sometimes. I like to be in control. But God has given me a power shortage in my life so that I will need and rely on Him. All we have to do is to unclench our hands, fall on our knees and invite that power into our lives. 

God will flip the switch... and we will all be walking in the light... and no longer have a concern about wearing different colored fuzzy socks to school.  Praise the Lord! Maybe a power shortage isn't such a bad thing after all? 

He's my generator, 

"But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." --Exodus 9:16

Friday, November 25, 2011

Not-So-Black Friday

I am not a Black Friday shopper. If you are, that’s great. But if you do fall into that category of super-dedicated deal hunters, I am going to assume you are probably reading this at 2pm because you were up at 0300 ready to run and throw some punches for that new TV and needed a nap afterwards. Hope you were successful. My time sleeping this morning was much enjoyed :-) 

Today is my last day at home in Kansas with my family. Even though I am leaving tomorrow to head back to Georgia, my Friday is not-so-black… but it is very bright. Maybe even yellow brick road bright.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Kansas (and the surrounding areas.) Catching up with my family and various friends including Kally, Becky, Emily, Darla, Kyle, John, Ryan, Erin, Shawn, Kady, Whitney, Rodney has proven to make my time here very bright. God has blessed my time here!

As much as I love the Midwest and Kansas, I am looking forward to returning to Georgia. (There is a very handsome drill sergeant with the same last name waiting for me there!) I am excited to sleep in my own bed, run my own schedule (ish,) go into super-duper homework mode to finish my masters, get back to my church/work and of course, hug on my husband!

Sometimes life is all about perspective. I could certainly wallow and mope about leaving Kansas… but God has designed my life such that I have homes in multiple places, with people who love me wherever I go. My heart is excited and so warm at that thought!

While many of you might be checking things of your Christmas list or sleeping off your early morning Black Friday shenanigans, I am going to simply relax and revel in the awesomeness of God’s glory today. This time back in the Midwest has been blessed… I have gotten to see friends that I literally haven’t hung out with anywhere from 6 months to 2 years… I got to go coon hunting with my Dad and brother. I had the chance to hang out with my Mom while wae watched Tangled in the living room. 

I showed my family how to do yoga (or at least how to watch me do yoga.) I introduced baby dog Justus to “farm life.” I talked with God, worked out, spent time with family,  ate great food, recharged my heart and had the opportunity to lead my Dad to Christ (See Christ In A Cow Pasture for the full story.)  

Georgia is on my mind. My heart is refreshed. My stay has been bright. Yep… I would stay today is definitely a Not-So-Black Friday.

On the road again,

“The priest answered them, ‘Go in peace. Your journey has the Lord’s approval.’”  -- Judges 18:6

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Family Tradition

“Pass the green bean casserole.”

“White or dark meat?”

“Bahhaaahaa! Look at Dad… He’s snoring on the couch!!”

“Hey, who took a bite out of my pumpkin pie?!?”

“Let’s pray…”

In case you didn’t get the memo, it’s Thanksgiving. I know that folks have been blogging, talking and preparing for this festive holiday for days, ready to discuss of overeating, conversation, football, worship and in my family’s case, activities that involve shooting rifles and/or hunting.

Just like the quotes above, families throughout the world have a variety of traditions. Some do the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes route. Others order a pizza and watch football until their eyes go googly. Others are busy mapping out their Black Friday shopping domination strategy. Some gatherings have dozens of people present (high blood pressure anyone?) and others might just have a wife and husband with their new baby, or some due to circumstances or choice, fly solo.  My family here in Kansas has a few traditions as well…

We usually have the staple Thanksgiving foods listed above, but add things like cornbread stuffing (Grandma Neva’s recipe) and fried okra. We usually dine early afternoon and then our tryptophan-induced activities post-gorge include lounging, TV (maybe football… eh) and maybe even doing some target practice in the front yard. Then, after a light supper of leftovers (since we are typically still reeling from the afternoon feasting activities) we bundle up, strap on our headlamps and head to the trees for a round of coon hunting with our hounds. (But that’s whole ‘nother post…)

Regardless of your personal family traditions, there is one that we all can share together. If you are member in the family of Christ, we can worship Him for the sacrifice of The Son. No matter how you slice it, I firmly believe He is the reason we are here, with the ability to give thanks today.

I’m thankful for my faith. And that, my darling family of Christ, is a family tradition we can all share.

Thankful for Jesus,

"These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng." -Psalm 42:4

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Christ in a Cow Pasture

Bless the Lord, O my soul! My Dad came to Christ yesterday… In the middle of a cow pasture!

As I write this, I am still in awe of how the Holy Spirit works… He really does show up anywhere, anytime, even in the cab of a work truck in the middle of a cow pasture in southeast Kansas. Ever since I completed an evangelism class for my masters program, I have had a new outlook about sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I realized it was something that I could do—and that I didn’t have to do much, other than have the courage to bring up the subject and allow the Holy Spirit to move.

Praise the Lord for such a wonderful earthly father
AND heavenly father! 
A little background on my Dad… He has always been very supportive of my Christian walk, from the time I was saved and baptized at age 11 to present day. I had a feeling he was potentially open to the idea of salvation through Christ, but no one had ever asked him that question. Side Fact: Did you know that 95% of Christians remain silent about their faith and never evangelize another person their entire life? Until yesterday, I was essentially part of that statistic.

Anyways, after my evangelism class, I started to pray for those friends and family (and even acquaintances) that I thought didn’t know Christ.  My Dad was on that list. I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me, encouraging me to bring up the topic over my time at home in November… Yesterday I went to work with my Dad, riding in the truck, opening gates, helping check cattle. The whole time, I prayed for an opportunity to bring it up.

I could almost feel a mini-battle going on my heart between the Holy Spirit to tell my Dad about Jesus, that we are sinners, He loved us so much He died for us and we have hope versus the Enemy trying to induce nerves and talk me out of it.

Finally, as we bounced across a pasture and put out a hay bale for yet another herd of cattle… I finally just told Satan to shut his mouth. I blurted out… “Dad… I have a question for you.”

I would love to give you play-by-play of our conversation… but I have no idea what I said (primarily because it wasn’t MY voice but the Holy Spirit doing the work.) I do remember it involved statements surrounding The Cross, Jesus’ love for us, forgiveness, sin, hope and how to pray to ask Him to come into Dad’s heart. After I stated whatever I said, I remembered one of the best tips from my class… “THOU SHALT KEEP THY MOUTH SHUT.” (Ok, it wasn’t exactly in those words, but you get my point.)

I knew I had to keep my mouth shut and allow the Holy Spirit to do the work. I sat. Silently prayed. And sat. Prayed. Watched. And sat. The truck rumbled. My Dad’s eyes started to water… Then the Holy Spirit broke through and Dad began to sob. I somehow managed to keep it together, mainly because I knew I had to help him through a prayer to ask for forgiveness and invited Jesus into his life.

I got out of the truck and went around to the driver’s side door. I opened the door, Dad got out and right there in the middle of that cold, muddy cow pasture, we got down on our knees and prayed for Jesus to enter his heart.

Holy Cow. (Literally.)  Talk about "pastoring" in a pasture! 

That was the first time I had led anyone to Christ. And now we can all be assured that no matter what happens tomorrow, next year or 20 years from now, someday we will all be reunited and I will be able to dance with my Dad (and Jesus!) in heaven!

Dancing with my Daddy on the day of my
We are all called to “Go and make disciples throughout the world.” It’s the Great Commission, which is another word for command. It’s not the “Great Suggestion” to do if you feel bold… If you are unsure about how to go about sharing your faith, check out William Fay’s book “Share Jesus Without Fear.” It helped me to rely on the Holy Spirit… And my Dad has a hope and future in Jesus Christ because of it! PRAISE THE LORD!

Keep your eyes open. Pray, pray, pray. Trust the Holy Spirit to help you to share the gospel with others… You never know when you will have a chance to change another person’s eternal fate. It can happen anytime, anyplace… someone might even find Christ in a cow pasture. 

Soli Deo Gloria,

PS: Please pray for my Dad, a new baby Christian born again yesterday, that he may be discipled and grow as he lives in the footsteps of Jesus! 

"But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation." --Psalm 13:5

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Kind of GPS

The tires are humming on the highway. The radio on just enough to provide some background noise but soft enough to avoid drowning out the conversation going on between the driver and passenger.

“When do I turn?”

“Um, let me look. I feel like it is coming up.”

“Come ON, babe, its rush hour… I need to know if I need to exit anytime soon. Can I get over?”

“NO, don’t merge you are blocked in… This paper map is terrible. Our GPS says it is coming up soon.  What exit number is this?”



The next thing you hear in the car is the driver shouting words not appropriate for a Christian blog, which barely masks the dreaded sound of the GPS uttering the words “Recalculating... recalculating… please make a legal U-turn at the next available intersection.” 

Aren’t you glad we aren’t supposed to create (and drive) our own path in life alone? I know that if I were driving the “bus” that is my life, I would be shouting at the GPS constantly, lost in a shady part of town, bumping into other vehicles and maybe even broken down on the side of the road. So glad that God is my kind of GPS.

The kind of GPS I’m talking about is a “Godly Path-directing Service.” God has it figured out. Thankfully. And while his GPS methods don’t always seem the most “direct” route or even the smoothest, He always, always, ALWAYS gets us to where we need to be… usually in better condition than when we left.

I was having a conversation with the Agricultural Education teacher/FFA Advisor at my old High School the other day. As Erin and I were chatting about our backgrounds, we couldn’t help but stand there in that ag class and essentially revel at the craziness that has been our path to where we are now. But now, where we are... it ALL... MAKES... SENSE. Good work, Lord. 

My “GPS” experience has been what I like to call “squiggly.” I had all of these grand plans of driving my own “bus” in life…Graduate high school, get bachelor’s degree at K-state,  go to vet school, work with people, work for a corporation, retire there and make lots of money, work for a non-profit organization, stay single for as long as possible while enjoying dating around, meet future husband upon college graduation, dominate the world by doing my own thing, become an army wife, remain satisfied with bachelor’s degree, go back to school to get master’s degree, live in a foreign country, move to Georgia, work on post at Fort Benning full time, be called into ministry… Arrived. Current Destination.

Confused? Probably. Now do you understand what I mean by a “squiggly” path. I personally think it is almost FUNNY how ridiculous I was thinking I had a plan figured out. Apparently, I didn’t check my map or refer to the correct GPS. And it is AWESOME that God scratched through my plans, threw in a few U-turns, breakdowns, and speed bumps all the while directing a new path and creating the perfect map for my life. I have learned that I don’t have to fear the word “recalculating” because God IS my map. He never let’s me miss my exit or turn. Rejoice that we have our own “Godly Path-Directing Service.”  He is MY kind of GPS!

Always ask Him for directions,

“Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths…” –Psalm 25:4

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Taste Test: Bitter to sweet

It was the summer before my 5th grade year. We had just moved to southeast Kansas a couple months ago. It was blazing hot July in our little trailer house that we had just "planted" in the middle of a bean field. (Literally.) I was bored. Which made me hungry. Which made me curious. 

I decided that Mom had to have something interesting to snack on in our pantry or cabinet. I was a short kid (still am at 5' 2") so I enlisted the help of a kitchen chair. I scooted it across the floor and parked it in front of the pantry. I climbed up and peered onto the top shelf... JACKPOT. 

I had discovered something I was not expecting to find... a Country Crock Butter container. I picked it up and shook. It was heavy. I climbed down, excited to see what was hidden in this precious yet odd storage device. I popped open the lid and... 

"Well poo," I thought to myself. I peered into the container to find a grainy white crystal-like substance. "Now why would Mom store sugar hidden on the top shelf in a butter container?" I wondered. My 10 year old mind deduced that it had to be SPECIAL sugar. Being the curious (and hungry) kid I was, I shoved my face in the bowl, stuck out my tongue with anticipation, ready for sweet, sugary goodness to flood my taste buds. 

"Phhhhhsssssssssssssfffffffffffffffttttttttttttt!" I spat out my "treasure" so fast that I swirled backwards and nearly tripped over the kitchen chair. "GAH! WHAT IS THAT STUFF?!?!" 

I found out later that it was not, in fact, some special magical sugar that my Mom was hiding... it was picking salt. 

Talk about a curiosity fail, huh? Apparently there was a REASON why it was hidden... so people wouldn't mistake it for sugar. It was not only a surprise, but it was nasty-- very bitter. (Don't believe me? Try it. I dare you.) 

Sixteen years later, I have learned my lesson not to stick my tongue into an unlabeled Country Crock butter container (not to mention that I have improved my etiquette skills... gross!) However, I have also noticed that I still sometimes approach life situations the same way I did with that pickling salt. 

There are a lot of things in life that can really frustrate a person. I personally try to chill out and lean on Christ when I can... but hey, I am still a sinner. Sometimes I really struggle with bitterness. Let me explain. 

When something (or someone) upsets me, occasionally instead of being slow to anger and quick to forgive, I treat the situation like the pickling salt. I go after it, convinced that my zeal or focus on the other person (or thing) will make me feel sweet inside and satisfy a "need" through revenge or vengeance. "I will show them," I think. 

But here's the thing. I am always surprised when my hope of something sugary turns out to be a nasty, bitter experience that I wasn't expecting. Instead of solving the issue and addressing it right away, I tend to take things into my own hands and allow the negative thoughts to churn in my heart (Thanks a lot, Satan. What a jerk. SIGH.) 

After awhile, I realize there is ZERO, zippo, nada sweetness in my frustration. It tastes bitter. And bitterness does nothing to the other thing/person... I read a quote once that I have since internalized to help me release the bitterness and frustration I might be inclined to harbor: "Being bitter is like drinking a bottle of poison and waiting for the other person (or thing) to die." 

Christ is at work on my heart.  He is making me see things in a different light and telling me to HOLD UP before sticking my tongue into the figurative "butter container" that is that tough situation in my life.  He helps me to step back and think about the consequences of my actions and what it is going to do to ME internally. I don't like the taste of pickling salt on my tongue... and I REALLY don't like the hurting, self-induced feeling of bitterness in my heart. 

Are you harboring any deep bitterness against anyone (or anything) in your life? Do you continue to stick your tongue into the pickling salt with negative results every time? Let go of the anger, resentment and bitterness. It isn't hurting anyone but yourself. Allow the love of Christ to teach you how to turn FIRST to HIM in those situations of trial  and frustration for a bit of a "taste test..." and He will turn that taste from bitter to sweet! 

A new kind of bitter-sweet,

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." 
--Ephesians 4:31-32

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Best is Yet to Come

So yeah. Yesterday was my birthday. (It was awesome, by the way. Thanks to everyone who shared the love with me!) 

But as I welcomed this new year of my life, I spent some time reflecting, where I have been, where I am now, where I am going. God has directed my path, and I couldn't help but think of one of my favorite poems. You might have heard of it: It's called "The Dash" by Linda Ellis. I have read it and/or watched it many times, but every time it still gives me goosebumps. 

To get the true impact of this fantastic poem, check out the following video link:  

Awesome huh? I will give you a moment to collect yourself. 

I have also heard a few different versions of the following story, which is great perspective shifter when it comes to living our lives with all we have for Christ. 

A woman was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given three months to live. She asked her Pastor to come to her home to discuss her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at her funeral, and what scriptures she wanted read, and which outfit she wanted to be buried in. Then she said, “One more thing… I want to be buried with a fork in my hand.” The pastor was surprised.

The woman explained, “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably say to everyone, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite time of the dinner, because I knew something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep dish apple pie – something wonderful. So, I want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and wonder, “What’s with the fork?” Then, I want you to tell them, “Keep your fork, because the best is yet to come.”

The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he bid the woman goodbye. He realized she had a better grasp of heaven than he did, and knew something better was coming. At the funeral, when people asked him why she was holding a fork, the pastor told them of the conversation he had with the woman before she died. He said he could not stop thinking about the fork, and knew they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right. 
“Keep Your Fork. The best is yet to come.”

This post isn't meant to be a Debbie Downer. For me, it's uplifting and exciting! Life is short and that's ok! We will someday get to be WITH HIM!! God gives us a limited time on this earth to fulfill His purpose. Live for Him. He won't let you down and will empower you to make the most of your DASH. And make sure you keep your fork... Because the best IS yet to come. 

Doing the Dash with a fork in my hand, 

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath." Psalm 39:4-5

Thursday, November 17, 2011

You can't out-give THAT!

It was November 17, 1985. The blistering cold north wind whipped through the trees in a small northwest Kansas County. A redheaded Kansas rancher lovingly helped his petite yet round little wife to the truck.  Their life changing moment was creeping closer with each passing second.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that was the day I was born. I would say that it changed my life, but to be more accurate, it BEGAN my life. Several hours after arriving at Phillips County Hospital and some pretty intense tugs of the forceps later, I made my entrance in the world.  (Don’t believe me about the forceps part? I still have the bald spot on the right side of my head to prove it. Don’t worry. The doctor said it would grow back in a few weeks. 26 years later, I’m still waiting…)

Anyway… I don’t tell you the story of my birthday to dig up showers of birthday wishes and glory. (Although, if anyone is so inclined, I enjoy things that involve chocolate, books, God and shiny stuff. Kidding.) But I share this with you because 26 years later, I am very thankful for my time on this earth.  And believe it or not, it’s not about me receiving birthday stuff… but this is about giving. (Hang tight—I’m getting there.)

I wasn’t really "supposed" to be here. My parents tried for two years to have a baby and had given up. Then, surprise! Wish granted. Shortly after they announced the excitement of their first baby, Mama was put on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy because it was such a high-risk pregnancy. Nature sure is complicated, huh?

But as it turns out, God had a plan—and His plan was to give my parents a 7 lbs, 14 oz little girl named Sharita Gwen Lacey. And he had plans for this little girl… most of which have really taken off (in somewhat of a crazy manner) this last year.

God is a giver. He gave me life.  Hence, He is a giver of life. He has given me friends and family who loves me. He has given me a husband who constantly supports me and puts up with what deem “the emotional roller-coaster that is being a woman.” He has gifted me to write and minister to others. God continues to give and provide for us daily: financially, emotionally, spiritually. It BLOWS MY MIND. Seriously.

I think there is a reason that it is called “giving birth.” It’s a painful experience (so I’ve heard) and yet daddies and mommies throughout the world continue to create families to experience the joy of giving life to another. Awesome parents (like mine) give their heart to raise their little girl (or boy) to be a potentially successful and happy adult. Then, if it is in God’s plan, they eventually give that baby-now adult over to someone to love and cherish, just as Christ loved the church.

And just maybe that baby just might grow into a woman who, on her 26th birthday, is a writer, army wife, leader, lover of life and minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. I wonder if they knew THAT was going to be the result of their efforts as they cleaned up my messes and dealt with my childish (not to mention outrageous teenage) antics?

My walk with Christ has taught me to give until it hurts. I have also learned that you can’t out-give God. He has proven time and time again that each time I give ANYTHING, he “pays” it back to me ten-fold. I have experienced that on about four different occasions in the last week. Each time He so generously gives to me, it brings me to my knees.

Moms everywhere literally give until it hurts when it comes to bringing a child into this world. Dads give until it hurts when they watch their daughter walk down the aisle into the arms of her new husband. And God gave until it hurt, in the form of His son… on the cross.

Today, on my 26th birthday, I am filled with gratitude for the people who have given so much to me throughout my life. I am so grateful to worship a God who gave his son for ME. And for YOU. Talk about giving until it hurts. And we definitely can’t out-give THAT. 

To give is to receive,

“We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds.” --Psalm 75:1

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Go Towards the Light

I don’t know about you, but a Mexican restaurant in a small Kansas town sure sets the stage for a great day. 

Ok, I will admit it—it wasn’t the actual restaurant that made yesterday so remarkable. But it was the company. I was blessed with the opportunity to dine (hence the reference to the Mexican restaurant) and chat with a long time family friend (and essentially mother/coach/cheerleader to all members of our community) named Susie. 

Honestly, I didn’t really know how much I missed great conversations until chatting with Susie… for FIVE HOURS. That’s right, people. We talked for five straight hours. Topics of conversation included: marriage, army, her kids, family, traveling, God, ministry… need I continue? You name it, we probably talked about it. 

Bottom line, it was awesome—my heart is so full and rejuvenated! WHAAWHOO! Susie just happens to be a pastor’s wife here in good ol’ Colony, Kansas, so our conversations about God and my call to ministry were very affirming. As I sit here and write, I just revel in His goodness and glory! 

As we talked about everything under the sun, Susie shared with me a remarkable quote that I would like to share with you: 

“When you are in the Dark, don’t question the decisions you made in the Light.” 

Wow. It really spoke to me, because I have experienced that first hand. When I am down in the figurative trenches or the “bowels” of the earth that is when The Enemy attacks the hardest. He knows that the most effect way to attack me is to plant tiny seeds of doubt in my brain about the decisions I made IN THE LIGHT that were very clearly ordained by God. 

You might have noticed in past blog posts that I have struggled a bit with my call to ministry as well my call as an army wife. Those two things aren’t easy when they are separate entities… but when they are joined together, The Enemy seems to have a heyday messing my faith and tries to draw me away from the light. But fortunately, I believe in a God who can strengthen me to conquer ANYTHING. Can I get an Amen?!? 

These past few days at home have been an intense (yet refreshing) time of reflection for me, primarily because I have finally been able to share my call to ministry with my friends/family face to face. God is using this opportunity to strengthen my heart and renew my spirit… Especially through the uplifting conversations with friends/mentors like Susie. 

My time with Susie concluded as we stood in her kitchen five hours later. Her quote about not questioning decisions made in the light resonated in my brain. We had laughed (ok, guffawed!), joked, cried, prayed, and reflected together. I looked at her and said “Who would have thought four or five or even one year ago, we would be standing here now, talking about God, theology, Scripture and my call to ministry?!” 

Darling Susie looked right back at me with twinkling eyes and said, “I did.” 

If that’s not an earthly confirmation of my calling, I don’t know what is. Our whole conversation today was uplifting—or as I “typo-ed” earlier, “uplighting!” Susie is the first of many friends that I plan to meet and share my spiritual journey with during my time here in Kansas. She has encouraged me to hold fast to my faith and to resist the Enemy’s attempts at allowing me to question (in the dark) any decisions that God has helped me make in the light… In fact, this is a time where we can go TOWARDS the light… because in that light we find hope in Jesus Christ. 

Flippin’ the Switch, 

“…For it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” –Ephesians 5:14 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Spirit of Discovery

I’m not gonna lie… Sometimes I miss being a little kid.

Ok, I will admit—I am still clinging to some of my childish ways, like getting really excited to go out for ice cream (although now I prefer frozen yogurt) or enjoying a good Disney movie (most recent favorite: Tangled.) But as I returned home to Kansas for a visit, my little dog Justus reminded me of childhood aspect that we should all hold onto.

This was Justus’ first road trip out of state… we covered six states during our 15 hour drive. After conquering about 12 hours of our journey the first day, we stopped in Springfield, Missouri. I had planned ahead a booked a pet-friendly hotel so I didn’t have to deal with the stresses of smuggling a tiny dog into my room and keeping him quiet. When we arrived to our room, I turned Justus loose… and watched.

He went bonkers. Not “destroy-everything-in-sight” bonkers, but more like “oh-my-goodness-I’m-out-of-the-car-and-experiencing-something-new!” bonkers. He was leaping and rolling and running and sniff, sniff, sniffing, leaving no corner of the room untouched. Justus was so overwhelmed and excited for all of the new discoveries!

The same thing happened when we arrived at my parent’s house the following day (and the pattern continues as I write.) He has sniffed out (and rolled in) a variety of new things, which included meeting 14 chickens, looking at roosters through a crack in the trailer door, trying to be a tough dog by intimidating our small herd of cattle, and running like a wild farm dog with our three cattle dogs and the red-bone coon dog puppy Cletus. (Note: I did NOT pick that dog’s name. Ha.)

Justus has a spirit of discovery. Children have a similar spirit of discovery, which starts the moment they are born. Little by little, babies discover new things: How their hands work, that mommy makes funny faces, how to walk, what the word NO means, the list goes on and on… This whole reflection made me think: Do I still have a spirit of discovery?

Even as we grow up and mature, physically and spiritually, we can hold onto our precious spirit of discovery. God desires us to seek Him out—the more we do, the more we can discover about Him. My master’s degree studies have aided me in discovering new little tidbits about God and Christianity. Almost every time I open the Bible, I discover something new, primarily because God reveals it to me.  Little discoveries are lurking around every corner!

Holding onto the spirit of discovery doesn’t automatically happen. We have to intentionally seek out new experiences, whether it is meeting someone new, doing a new Bible study or traveling to a new location. Do you still have a spirit of discovery? What makes your heart excited? Go after it! Discover!

I personally look forward to the new discovery opportunities that God allows me to experience every day. With prayer and a willing heart, we can all hold onto that child-like faith and spirit of discovery!

Loving life’s surprises, 

“Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they’re bursting with health.” –Proverbs 4:22 (MSG) 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Home Sweet Home

The highway stretched out before me… I look to my left, and there is a pasture full of cows with their new fall calves. On my right, a paddock with a few head of horses lounging in the Kansas mid-morning sun. I crack my car window just a smidge. I take a deep breath as the air rushes in, tousling my hair. I turn to my faithful baby dog traveling companion in the passenger seat, smile and say “Justus… we are almost HOME!” 

He just looks back at me, half quizzically, half exasperated, shooting me a glance that says “LET ME OUT OF THIS CAR… NOW.” See, we had been driving approximately 15 hours over a two-day span from Fort Benning, Georgia to Southeast Kansas. I hadn’t been home in over six months… but we were almost there!! 

The last couple of days here in Kansas have been great. Being away from home that long really makes me appreciate all of the little things that make home HOME. Little things like listening to my teenaged brother (who, might I add, is ginormously tall, skinny and awkward now—hello puberty!) bicker with my Dad about appropriate doing of the farm chores. Or laughing hysterically at Justus as he meets a variety of new creatures, from the small pack of dogs that my parents own (three cow dogs, two coon dogs), to chickens, cattle and horses. Not to mention all the new smells that this puppy has never experienced before. Can you say sensory overload? 

We can’t forget the thrill of going to our local Wal-Mart to get groceries, which resulted in a mini reunion/social experience involving conversations with two of my high school classmates, three parents of schoolmates, one of my brother’s teachers and one of our dear neighbors. Small world in Anderson County, Kansas. And believe it or not, I’ve missed it. 

There are so many things that I now appreciate about being HOME, from gravel roads to coyotes howling to the November moon rising over the trees. But as I was reflecting on the rejuvenating experience that is a little quality home-time, I started to think about God… And how if this is great, how AWESOME is our final home gonna be?!? 

Sometimes it’s hard to grasp the magnitude of being home with Jesus. We can only imagine what it is going to be like. But all I know is that if I get such a thrill from making Tutti Frutti jelly with Mama in the kitchen and lounging with a non-school book in comfy pants with my family in the living room, then heaven is going to ROCK. 

When I first started this blog, one of the reasons (in addition to the biblical premise) that I called it “More Precious than Rubies” was that I was born and raised in Kansas. For Halloween, I was Dorothy, Brandon was the Scarecrow and Justus was Toto from the Wizard of Oz. And I was so excited for this trip HOME that I might have possibly kinda sorta packed my ruby slippers. Now that is “precious.” 

We can all enjoy the time that we have on this earth, wherever God calls us to go from Kansas to Georgia to who-knows-where. But we can also look forward to eternity with Him! How remarkable is THAT?!?! Home with my friends/family is blessed… Home in Georgia with my beloved Brandon and puppy is wonderful… But someday, reunited, resting at HOME in Heaven? Now THAT is gonna be HOME SWEET HOME! 

There’s no place like home, 

“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” --2 Corinthians 5:8 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day Every day

Today's post is very simple. I didn't write this to simply jump on the bandwagon. It's Veteran's day... but for me, as a military spouse (and many of you spouses, parents, daughters, sons, aunts, uncles, friends, grandparent) EVERYDAY is Veteran's Day. 

My beloved has been in the army for nearly eight years. I've been in the picture about three of those (ish.)  It is rewarding. It is frustrating. It is cool. It is ever-changing. It is uncertain.  Big picture speaking, our veterans are an incredible blessing. 

A couple of days ago, I was trying to explain to a very deep-thinking politically-minded friend of mine the purpose behind some of the actions of our military... it isn't just political decisions or picking fights over petroleum. For many soldiers, especially my husband Brandon, it is much deeper than that. 

April 7. 2010... right of the
 planecoming home
from Iraq for leave...
He proposed. I said yes.
Honestly, I will never understand the full extent of what it means to fight for our country. Sure, we spouses deal with a lot when it comes to deployments, early mornings, late nights, changed schedules, holidays/special occasions missed etc. But I will never be able to grasp the feeling of honor, passion and nobility that comes with the job to which my husband is so dedicated. 

He trains when he is wet, tired, hungry, hot, cold, lonely, sick. Even more, he trains others under those conditions as well. Just so we can experience political freedom and safety that so many of us (myself included) take for granted. 

I have never been deployed. I haven't lived in a desert for more than a year on three separate occasions. I haven't been separated from my family for an extensive time period in a foreign country playing musical time zones. I have never missed funerals or weddings of family members due to being engaged in combat on foreign soil. I have never watched a battle buddy lose his life. I have never had to call my spouse to say that duty calls again and I won't be home yet. 

Brandon has. He fights for our country... yet at the same time he still fights for our marriage. All because his eyes never stray from looking up, focusing on Christ. I am thankful for MY veteran. 

August 5, 2010. He returned home from his third
tour in Iraq. This time, he came back to a fiance. 
It simply overwhelms me to think of the sacrifices that my husband and his battle buddies make daily. In our (almost) three year relationship, we have yet to spend a full Veteran's day together. Freedom knows no holiday. He's hard at work today, training "baby soldiers" in basic training as we speak and I am en route to Kansas to visit family. 

I feel remarkably blessed to have a chance to love and support such a wonderful man, and have a man who loves and supports ME! While I have slept alone more nights than I can count, cried more than I would like to admit, consumed more chocolate (and wine) than I should have, yelled at God more often (and louder) than necessary, it's all been worth it. Because I have also cried tears of joy, had so many reunion butterflies in my stomach I though I would float away, and understand at a deep level the value of our time together.  

Through it all, God's love for me has never changed. And neither has Brandon's... It's only grown stronger. 

Today, I am thankful that I have the freedom to write this, to say what I want. I have more freedoms than I honestly know what to do with. For the most part, I can do what I want, when I want to do it.  All because of the countless sacrifices that people (soldiers and wives/families alike) have made defending our great nation. As the saying goes: "All gave some, some gave all." 

October 2, 2010... It's official. 
Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you: Jesus Christ and the American Soldier. Once died for your soul, the other died for your freedom. 

11-11-11 isn't the only day that I am thankful for veterans. For me, as an army spouse and Christian, I am thankful for soldiers AND Jesus... because for me, everyday is Veteran's Day. 

American by birth, Christian by the Grace of God,

"And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Hebrews 10:10
April 1, 2011. My beloved adds "Drill Sergeant" to his
Army Resume as he graduates Drill School at Fort Jackson, SC.
We moved to Georgia in May... and here we are! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Family to be Valued

Today, Baby Dog Sweet Justus and I leave Georgia and begin our long driving trek home to Kansas. Our red-phase visit really brings sweet excitement to mind about reuniting with my family. 

It's been over six months since I have gotten to see my parents, brother and friends from back home. Ideally Brandon would with us, but the demands of the army have dibs on him first. Thus, Justus and I are going to Kansas to enjoy the presence of friends and family for a couple of weeks, just the two of us. Can you say excited?!?

I could extensively elaborate on how awesome my family/friends are... like how my parents have set such an incredible example in their 32.5 year marriage, or my little bro's hilarious comments and love of agriculture, or little sister's work ethic and nurturing heart. Instead, I am going to present a challenge to you.

Take some time to seriously think and consider the gift that God has given you in family... and remember, family doesn't have to be blood, it can be anyone who has made a difference in your life.

The various forms of thanks, thanksgiving, thankfulness etc occur about 144 times in the New International version of the Bible. So obviously, it's kind of a big deal. Today, I am incredibly thankful for my biological family, as well as my friends and "married-into" family.

I am also remarkably thankful for being in the family of God. I am His daughter! He has given me brothers and sisters in Christ to walk with. He is never disappointed in me, never failing.

That, dear reader, is what I call a family to be valued.

A heart of thankfulness,

"How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?" 1 Thessalonians 3:9

Aren't we a precious group? Such an awesome
family to be valued! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dream Team

Confession: I didn't intend for this week's blogposts to turn into a stream of thankfulness focused stuff. But hey, it's where the Spirit has lead... and I am not gonna question it. 

You saw yesterday my extensive list of "Thanksvember." Apparently, that experience has reignited an attitude of gratitude within my heart. 

At the time of this posting, we are nearing the end of our Christ Community Church Staff Retreat. God showed up and met us here. And he's made it awesome. For that, I am thankful. 

Honestly, I don't really have a "right" to be here, since I'm not exactly on the payroll and my joining the staff involved me begging Kelli to put me to work and let me serve (ok, maybe it was a little more complicated than that, but I digress.)

Anywho, the wonderful staff members here at CCC officially adopted me into their staff family and invited for me to attend this three-day retreat. While I have enjoyed interacting with the remarkable leaders of this church, it is equally impressive and empowering to watch us all work together.

This group never loses focus on God. Every decision, idea, "spirit storming session" (it's like brainstorming, only more with the heart/spirit) is focused on the glory of God. We pray a lot, especially as ideas develop. It is so rewarding to sit back and watch our church vision develop into something even deeper and god-glorifying with each passing moment. 

So today, I am specifically thankful that I am a part of this team... but even more so, I'm thankful that God had allowed me to be on HIS team. He picked me. He has picked you too. And he doesn't pick us last (no awkward moments there!) He knows we are GOOD and lovely, and gives us the tools and coaching we need to succeed both as individuals as well as members of a team within Christ. 

Even when we mess up, God doesn't permanently "bench" us... He might call us to "sit one out" but typically that involves an opportunity to hush-up and listen. Take just a small, short second to sit back and think about being on God's team. What does it represent to you? It it leadership focused? What "position" are you playing? Are you practicing daily to serve on His team by spending time with the ultimate coach? 

God's blessings are raining down on me right now... I simply want to fall on my knees and thank Him for the sweet (and yet challenging) season that He has bestowed upon me. Today, it is specifically in the form of being a member of such a strong and remarkable team here at Christ Community Church. But even more so... I thank Him for giving me a chance (through Christ) to be apart of His incredible, ever-loving, constantly-growing DREAM TEAM. 

The kick is up and it is GOOD, 

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken." 
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12