Friday, November 29

Trees of Righteousness...

I've been sitting here at my computer for a LONG TIME doing very monotonous work. I'm actually hoping that after I've posted this, some brilliant mind is going to tell me of a simpler way to do what I've been repeatedly doing.

My cell phone is CONSTANTLY telling me that I'm short on memory. When I back up to iTunes, it's clear that emails and texts are using up too much space. Deleting texts is typically pretty simple. However, I have close to 11,000 emails in my "all mail" folder in my phone. The only way I have found to get rid of these unnecessary messages is to go in to these folders in gmail and check EACH AND EVERY email that I don't want and TRASH. So, that's what I've been doing.

Now, picture with me how far back the dates go as I'm scrolling one by one through 11,000 emails. As I got closer to 2011, I began to get really nervous about names and messages that I'd see. Obviously, they were there. Thankfully, there wasn't even a hint of the sick feeling my stomach used to feel at the sight of these. I wasn't the least bit tempted to open, read, and get irritated, sad, whatever. Yay God!! Hallelujah!

But, I was scrolling over an email from a sweet friend and saw that the message line said "Trees of Righteousness." I was curious, so I opened it. The date on this email was September 26, 2011, and it was a forward of something written by Ann Graham Lotz...

That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
Isaiah 61:3, NKJV

"When I was growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, every Sunday afternoon, weather permitting, my parents, my siblings, and I would go hiking. Inevitably, our climbs would take us to the ridge where the trees were so enormous we could all hold hands and still not be able to encircle the trunks. When I asked my mother why the trees were so much larger on the ridge than anywhere else, she replied that it was because the winds were the strongest and the storms were the fiercest on the ridge. With nothing to shelter the trees from the full brunt of nature's wrath, they either broke and fell, or they became incredibly strong and resilient.
God plants you and me in our faith as tender saplings then grows us up into "trees of righteousness," using the elements of adversity to make us strong. And He leads us to endure, not just somehow, but triumphantly as we choose to praise Him, regardless of the storms swirling within us or the winds howling outside of us."

I'm struck by 2 things as I read this. First, how many times have I read or heard something and thought, "I need to send that to ________." I'm sure that I've had that feeling numerous times, and I'm positive I haven't followed through each and every time. This email came from a friend (thank you, Jenny) exactly one month after Scotty's confession. I'm guessing there were many times she didn't really know what to say to me. But, she read this message, thought of me and hit FORWARD. It was a simple gesture, but it meant the world. And, today it meant something to me again. 

Secondly, just reading these paragraphs that Ann wrote, I can literally feel "the storms swirling within... and the winds howling outside." Our lives are full of those moments! And, in them, we are reminded how FRAGILE we are. But, we can choose to cooperate with God. And, those storms that threaten to tear us apart and rip us to pieces can be the VERY thing that God uses to build us up and make us STRONG.... trees of righteousness. 

I'm thanking God right now that I'm currently NOT being hit by the full brunt of life's struggles. But, I'd be willing to bet that someone reading this IS. And, I'm reminded that it's TOUGH to be in the struggle of battle right in the middle of the holiday season. All of the world is happy, joyful, celebrating life, and you just want a minute of peace in the midst of turbulent pain. I know...!

Can I encourage you to hold on for dear life? Can I urge you to lean in to the Lord and ask Him to carry you each and every second? Can I suggest that you seek out someone who's been through a struggle of their own, open up in a real and honest way with them, and allow them to walk with you through this storm? I hope you will! Because, I can promise you that God WILL absolutely strengthen you. He will lovingly show you HIMSELF, but we HAVE to be looking. And,... it takes WORK to see when your world is spinning. But, if ever there was meaningful work, this is it! You can do it, and it will be so worth it. 

Oh... and iPhone geniuses.... send me kind, gentle emails explaining to me why I'm ignorant when it comes to technology and how I can clean up my phone in an easier way.

Saturday, November 23

Embracing Change.... FREEDOM

I've never been a fan of change....

I guess I'm realizing that no one really is. But, I'm so introverted (less now than ever before), so adjusting to "new" takes time. I adjust inwardly FIRST. Then, I begin the process of adjusting outwardly and in community. For this reason, I often got the label "snob" as a young person. It's been a life long journey towards accepting change as a way of life, and I feel certain that I've got the remainder of a lifetime to continue on that journey.

This life I've been given, though, has caused me to accept outside changes a little better. The past 2 years have included SO many of them for us. I won't list them all, because I've been writing about them throughout these two years. You know them all. I'm grateful for each change, because each one has helped me to see that change CAN be good. I'll miss out on the good if I'm resisting "new". Change can also be bad! In those times, though, I can still choose to FIND the good and make the most of those situations.

Now, those are all external forces/circumstances. Lately, I've been confronted with changes that can be made within. It's been an interesting "study" for me. I'm the new girl in a new town. A year ago, no one knew me. There were absolutely NO judgements about who I was. That may seem pretty obvious! But, it's worthy of a little examination. That simple idea has led me to realize that we begin VERY early deciding WHO we are and WHAT fits with that personality. It's like we're all wrapped neatly in a box with a tag labeling what kind of person we are. When people or opportunities are offered, we sift through like preschool children learning to classify.... this person fits with the kinds of people I generally associate with, this person does not, this opportunity is "perfect", this one is just not "me". Coming to a new town has given me the opportunity to redefine who I am.... or to determine that I won't settle in to one, single definition of me.

I've been seriously confronted by the magnitude of this idea. How much have I missed out on in life, because I decided what could and could not be achieved by ME.... the "sweet" friend, stay at home mom, teacher, wife, etc.? Have I been called to do certain things, given the opportunity to participate in God's goodness and refused, because I surely wasn't the person for THAT? Have I been paralyzed and inactive, because I was analyzing whether or not I was "called" to that adventure or not.

Let me just answer those questions for you.... YES! ABSOLUTELY!! MORE THAN ONCE OR TWICE!!!

And, here's what I've realized... I have only ONE calling! There's only ONE thing that fits into the plan God has for my life. Only ONE choice is right when I'm considering the path God has for me.

I'm called to lift up the name of my great God, to glorify Him with my life!

And, guess what! EVERYTHING in this world and this life can be used as a tool to do just that. There's no relationship, no job, no opportunity, no material thing, no circumstance, NOTHING that isn't meant to be used as the vehicle to drive myself and others closer to the Lord.

Therefore, when I place myself in a "box" and decide that (you fill in the blank) is not for me, because I'm just not that person or I don't have those gifts, I believe I'm voluntarily placing myself in a cell and locking the door. It's slavery! That's EXTREMELY sad, because....

It was for freedom that Christ set us frere; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery, Galatians 5:1

O.K., so those that I live in community with  now don't really know who I've been for 38 years. And, they aren't aware of how uncomfortable my life is right now! In every way, my lifestyle defies the safe, "normal" person I used to be. And, it's AWESOME!!!!

Owning my own business is not something that comes naturally to me! But, we moved away from the safe job that I had in Clinton. Financially, I need to help, but I wasn't willing to give up being wife and mother FIRST. So, my fear of stepping out of my comfort zone into the area of business was outweighed by what I wanted for my family. TOT has provided so many situations that have sent fear throughout. But, each one of those situations has created a growth opportunity and driven me to the throne of God... and brought me a little closer to leaving the cell and LIVING life.

Homeschooling our children (whoa!) isn't a plan that I've EVER had. But, Scotty and I desire a real focus on FAMILY healing and spiritual discipleship. To do that, we needed more than 15 minutes in the car going to and from school, 20 minutes in the car to ball practice, or 15 minutes at the table scarfing down food. So, my determination to fully heal our marriage and family outweighed the discomfort of losing "my" time and being dictated by their needs most of the day. And, the outcome has been confirmation and joy in our calling. This decision has played a key role in helping me to experience the schedule freedom that I assumed couldn't be found.

I KNOW that God calls and then He equips. He's proven it. But, I find that there are still areas of my life where I'm terrified to step out, take a chance, and do something different than I've ever done before. This became extremely clear to me when I was presented with an opportunity 3 weeks ago. (I'm NOT naming this opportunity here. It's becoming such a big part of my life that I'm sure one day I will. But, for now, I don't know exactly how to handle it without sounding like I'm trying to sell you something.)

Only three weeks in, this opportunity has allowed me to spend time with friends and build relationships. I've been provided with listening and reading material that has brought about more personal development than I've ever experienced. And, I am on the track to blessings that I never could have imagined. When presented with this opportunity, though, I was ready to say, "no thanks".... for only ONE reason. FEAR!

What will others think?

What if I fail?

What if this isn't what I'm SUPPOSED to do?

What if, what if, what if... FEAR, FEAR, FEAR!!!!


I'm calling it what it is, and I'm on a mission to rid this life of it. I have committed to remind myself every, single day that I have JUST ONE calling.... To make much of HIS great name in ALL that I do! The more I "put myself out there" in relationship, in business, in community, etc., the more opportunities I have to fulfill that calling. So, I'm going to STOP analyzing every opportunity. I'm going to step out into ANY & EVERY adventure with the sole purpose of working heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. (Colossians 3:23)

Honestly, why would I do anything differently? We all have this ONE life! In the grand scheme, it's so very short! Why would I lock myself up in the cell of others' approval on purpose? Why would I refuse the joy of failing my way into some pretty great successes? And, why would I forfeit living life fully, in every way, and teaching the lives that will go on after me to do the same! I'm not talking about only financial success here, people. I've realized that the ONLY way to teach my children to live life with abandon, to never back down, and to seek to make much of God in every situation is to actually LIVE THAT LIFE MYSELF!

Seriously.... teaching freedom from the cell would be a complete waste of time!