Tuesday, August 30, 2011

thoughts from the shower

God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit.

Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You.

Psalm 51:10-13
Anyone else do their best thinking in the shower?  I know I do.  Sometimes I actually remember them once the water is turned off, too. :)
My latest thought was about cleaning the shower.  Let me back up a minute and tell you that on the days I clean the shower, I do it just before getting into it in the morning.  I've found that it's just easier this way...and I am the first to get to enjoy the fruit of my labor. 
So, this morning, while enjoying my sparkling clean shower, I was thinking back to the moment when I had my revelation about cleaning the bathroom in general.  It was while I was cleaning the shower floor.  I was on my hands and knees, thinking that I was tired of cleaning a dirty shower and it hit me.  Bam!  In order to not have to clean a dirty shower, I'd have to clean it while it was still (relatively) clean.  I had already found the tools that work best for the results I like in a shower (Magic Eraser for the bathroom being my favorite).  Now I had the rest of the equation.  Right tools + right timing = easier job.  I liked this thought...and still do.
The equation works in spiritual matters as well.  I have to stay on top of things and use the right "tools".  If I keep my relationship with God in order, there are fewer big messes to clean up.  Prayer, time in God's Word, faithfulness in obeying what I read/hear God telling me to do...they are the tools I need to keep heading in the right direction in life.  And, when life throws me a curveball, my heart is well tuned in to where I get my strength and courage to keep on going through the tough times. 
There is always room for improvement.  There are always things to learn.  There will be messes to clean up.  However, by cleaning the clean, there's alot less dirt to deal with along the way.
Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. If we say, "We have fellowship with Him," and walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, "We have no sin," we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, "We have not sinned," we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10

Sunday, August 28, 2011

L.E.N.S. Photo Challenge: {live} in the moment


Inshore fishing off the coast of Destin, Florida, yesterday afternoon. 

About 5 minutes later...

Biggest catch of the day!  (So big, we had to release him).
20+ lb. Redfish
So happy this one did not get away. :)

Credit goes to my husband, Scott, the photograper of this moment.

Enjoy other cool moments at Jen's blog...Home Is Where You Start From.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

teachable moments

Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we exhort you, brothers: warn those who are lazy, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient  with everyone. See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.  1 Thessalonians 5:12-15
Lots of thoughts have been going through my head the past couple of weeks.  Coming back from Alaska always has my mind doing somersaults over how God moved, the people met, the things done/seen.  Once home, then, there is family to catch up with and school to prepare for and other duties in need of my attention.  Nothing stressful, just thought provoking.
Several conversations that I've been a part of in the past couple of weeks have really began a journey for a longing to understand better what God desires of me in this paragraph of my life, in order to go into whatever comes next with an open heart and mind to what He asks of me then.  (I would say "chapter of my life" but I'm not beginning or ending any particular thing right now, so...)  God has used these conversations as teachable moments for me.
One such conversation was about how to bridge the gap between the older and younger women in the Chruch.  There is definitely a generational gap here that is not figurative in any way, shape, or form.  It's a real gap...and it's widening at a significant rate.  Many factors, not so many easy solutions. 
A couple of other conversations I've had recently were about educating children.  In one conversation, a gentleman was (and probably still is) having a difficult time understanding why a family would homeschool their children when they live directly across the street from a "perfectly good school".  In another conversation, a new friend and I were discussing where our children went to school.  I said in response to her saying they went to their local public school, that after meeting them this summer, I know God has great plans to use them as a witness for Him in their school.  She sounded so grateful to hear such encouragement as she replied to me that most people's response is negative and disbelieving that they would choose public school.
Another conversation that I wasn't a part of, but I overheard simply due to my location at the time, was between two people discussing how the helpers assigned to them were doing things.  The remark overheard was about how a task had been done from their perspective.  The help given took a great load off of the ones' in charge shoulders, but the only thing discussed was how they would have done it differently...more "correctly".
I thought back to these conversations Sunday morning as our lesson in Sunday School summed up how edifying is a better way than criticizing, even if you are having to confront someone about an issue.  I learned something in each of the conversations...maybe not something in that very moment, but certainly some things to consider when I'm faced in similar situations again.  A kinder word is much better received than one that is not. 
Every task can done differently by someone else.  From communication to education, it would be beneficial to consider the difference between "different" and "wrong".  Life is not all "One Way" streets.  Perhaps, before criticizing the performance of a task, a moment of edification and encouragement to the one(s) doing the task might be a better way to go.  A kind word first just might open the door for a smoother transition into a teachable moment.       
As I continue to go through life, one of my prayers is to always be teachable. 
Although difficult at times, God's teachable moments in my life are to make me more like Him.  He loves me that much.
I will never outlearn my God.  I will always need His direction, His guidance...His correction, His discipline.  He does these things because He loves me.  And, I can accept them and live through them because I know He does.  Love makes all the difference.    

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Alaska: phone views

sunrise @ Merrill Field

my ride to the village

village view of the sunrise over Anchorage

scenic view on drive to Matanuska Valley

inside Matanuska Glacier

view of glacier "beach"

glacier trekking rocks!

sunset over Mt. Susitna, "The Sleeping Lady"

the contented one

view of Anchorage from Blueberry Hill

Alaska: phone views 2

ear muff vendor...photo wearing them, now, $1

two of the nicest guys selling the biggest cookies around ANC

daytime high in ANC...98 in GA

defensive driving at its best

morning devotions for GraceWorks teams

I'm inspired by such creativity!

Moose Hug!

Ministry @ Gov't Hill Park

Crafts @ Kanchee Park

My girls @ Kanchee Park

Thursday, August 18, 2011

1st Day of School

We began our 2011-2012 school year yesterday morning.  It was a good day. 
I awoke to my alarm going off at 4:30 so I could get back into the routine of going to the Y in the mornings.  It was a good reminder of how much more I get done in the mornings when I go to the Y first thing.
I saw Scott off to work. 
The boys awoke in good moods and were more than pleasant getting up and moving.
School started in good measure and we had a very productive first day.
We enjoyed a swim at Nana's house after school..celebrating anything and everything poolside is always a great treat!
Worshipped at Church Wednesday evening...good time of fellowship with friends following the service.
My favorite moment of the day...
At bedtime, Alex came to me and gave me a big hug and said, "I had a great day with you today!  Love you so much...you ready for another great day tomorrow?"
Yes, my sweet Alex.  Many times over.
A good day indeed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

unexpected gift

A post written while in Alaska...suprise, shock, and amazement, I know. :)
Isn't it just awesome when God gives you something so cool and so totally out of the blue that you couldn't have planned anything better even if you had tried?  He has given me an opportunity to meet a group of Texans that have been a lot of fun (laugh until it hurts kind of fun), very encouraging, and just an overall blessing to me.  This week has had its ups and downs...for every awesome thing God is doing, satan wants to try and steal some of the thunder by distraction, frustration, or even separation.  Divide and conquer is a strategy that takes effort to run and/or stay away from.  I am praising my Jesus for providing me with His strength to endure the low points and thoroughly enjoy the high ones.
One conversation. One simple thing led to a most wonderful blessing.
It goes back to Sunday night/Monday morning.  I had just moved into Calvary around 6:30.  People were arriving and getting settled in that day, just as I was.  At a God designed moment, Vicky and I would meet in the dining hall.  We strike up a conversation over a computer issue, which would lead to another conversation, which would lead me to ride in the van with her and her group on the way to Native New Life on Monday evening.  That all led me to more conversations, us becoming friends, serving in the park together, a walk around the block with a friend...you get the picture.God is so good at what He does.  He brings people into our lives at just the perfect moment.  Sometimes for one to help the other, other times as a blessing to each person with needs that can be filled by the other.  Other times, I do believe, just because of the joy it will bring for everyone.
My Bear Creek friends are, in a word, awesome!  I saw how God used them to minister to the kids in Kanchee unlike any other team I've seen there before.  Not everything went according to plan, and, I know the first day was a bit overwhelming, but God helped them regroup and carry out His plan for those who came everyday to the park.  From the oldest to the youngest on that team, you could find them in conversations with the kids all over the place.  Whether play time or Bible time, they were the hands and feet of Jesus in Kanchee Park.  I enjoyed seeing them being used by God to minister to kids of all ages.In the evenings, we spent some time together moose hunting and going to the "beach".  Oh, my, did we ever laugh when we were together!  If we hadn't seen a moose on our trip to Kincaid Park, I was in jeopardy of losing my spot in the van. :)  No one was happier to see that moose than I was.  In fact, I spotted it and was so excited I couldn't say the word, "Moose!".  All I could do was point out the window and stammer. 
Yesterday (Friday) morning I was blessed with company in the kitchen while the girls were making cupcakes to take into the community later that day.  That evening at the park party, it was my privilege to get to share in their prayer time at the close of the evening in that park, for the people in that community, and share in their joys of the week and the sorrows of having to say goodbye.  Lives were changed this week.  Eyes were opened.  Hearts broken.  All for His glory.
This morning it was hard to see everyone load up in the vans and take off for Portage while I remained behind.  They asked who they could talk to and beg for me to get to come along with them.  We were a team...them and me.  What a gift to have during a week when I so longed to be out among the people, but dutifully stood by my tasks.  It has been such a long day.  I know what they were seeing for the first time.  I know the excitement of it all.  I longed to be sharing their firsts with them.  No one was happier to see them return than I was...even if it was only for a couple of hours before they were leaving and heading to the airport.
I heard the stories and saw some photos.  I saw the exhaustion on their faces.  It had been a good day.  Tears came to my eyes, though, as I was given a hug by one of my newest, closest friends and told, "It would have been so much better with you along."  Sweet, sweet words. 
As I helped them gather up their luggage and tote it out to the vans for departure, they surprised me with a gift they all chipped in on at one of the stops along the way.  It was a photo album, "Alaska Memories"...given with only one request.  The picture of all of us together had to go on the front cover.  With more tears, I promised to honor that request.
Hugs and much love to all my friends at Bear Creek Church in Texas...Vicky, Scotty & Brooke, Ronald & Denae, Jeff & Stacey, Hannah & Savannah!  I hope to make it to Texas soon!  I'll be looking for my name on the church roster of honorary members.  May God bless you all for the unexpected gift of your friendship!     

Monday, August 15, 2011

L.E.N.S photo challenge: summer delight

blue sky...bright sunshine...beautiful flowers

Share the delightfulness of your summer @ Home Is Where You Start From.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Yes & Amen

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 
1 Corinthians 1:20-22

Thursday, August 11, 2011

only for a moment

"But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage." Ezra 9:8

Isn't it just like God to give me a life lesson to remind me that He loves me and understands me.  His love is evident by the good things He gives to us...even if it is only for a moment. 
He is God...and He is good.
No matter what.
While over in the village, Kim's friend, Al, was so kind enough to take us fishing over at the river.  Kim caught an estimated 40 lb King Salmon last week...I was so excited for her and for us again as we were going to get to go fishing to try and catch another one.
If you enjoying fishing, you know that there are days that you catch fish every other time you cast your line...and then there are days you don't ever get a bite.  Or, at most, it takes a lot of patience to finally accidentally hit one on the head with the bait and he gets hooked totally by accident. :)
The fish weren't biting.  At all. 
I could see the salmon in the river...at one time there were at least 7 or 8 within a small ring of distance in the middle of the river by where we stood on its edge.  I could see the bait go between their heads and tails and they never flinched.  Oh, once in awhile they'd swish their tails or nose after the bait for a second, but they just left it alone.
Finally, I felt something on my line...it was a small trout.  The hook had gone through his eye, so I really do think that it was a total fluke that I caught him.  But his bad luck was a happy dance occasion for me.  I was fishing in Alaska and I caught something. 
Seemingly, but not really, hours later, I was casting out for the hundredth time and in a flash, I saw movement in the water and almost instantly felt the familiar tug on the line.  This was no small trout.  A few seconds after the war with the salmon began, he jumped and out from the water came a rainbow of red.  That moment I will not soon forget.  How graceful and how beautiful he looked cannot be put into words.
Now, I've grown up fishing.  I've even been deep sea fishing a few times and thoroughly enjoyed the tug of war with the fish below who happen to want to munch on your bait.  Adrenaline runs high when reeling in a fish.  Arms can tire out rather quickly.  There are circumstances that are out of my control that will affect the outcome of what happens with the fish.  Knowing these things were not enough to prepare me for the fight this fish had in him.
It didn't take long for me to realize this was unlike any other fish I've encountered.  He was stronger and had an endurance level above and beyond what I was expecting.  Al estimated him to be another 40 pounder based of his size.  It was exhilarating and exhausting all in one.  He'd swim one direction, let me reel him in a little, then take off for deeper water again in the opposite direction.  I wanted help.  I didn't think I could take another minute of arm wrestling this monster.  I was gently reminded it was my fight...my dream of catching the big one coming true...my battle to win...my fish story.  I dug in deeper and continued to reel in a line that seemed to never get shorter.
He and I were in battle for around 7 minutes (there's a video to prove it)...
and then...
the line snapped.
As quickly as it began, it ended. 
No notice.  No happy ending.  Gone.
My heart sank, but I was still smiling.  For a few minutes I was in a daze, wondering if that really just happened...wondering how that could have just happened.  I dropped down on the rock I had used to help brace myself against the fish's powerful pull and gazed out over the river where I knew there was a salmon with my hook still in its mouth...and a little smug smile on his face. 
A new fight surfaced.  This time within me...against my own self.  I had a choice to make.  Right here, right now, I could choose to be down and out and let the loss affect the rest of my day and that of my friends, too.  Or, I could appreciate the moment for what it had been and accept the fact that my day (and my life) will go on just as well without that fish coming to shore. 
I began thinking about how frustrating it had been to see all of those salmon just sitting there ignoring the bait for so long.  How I had simply prayed for one to take the bait...just once.  Slowly it sank in that my prayer had been answered.  One had taken the bait...hook, line, and sinker.  He would have taken me in, too, had I let him. :) 
I was able to experience something new.  It was exciting.  It brought me joy.  I had caught a King Salmon.  He indeed was caught.  He just wasn't coming to shore.  He would have been released after any photo opp had passed anyway.  Did it really matter in the end that he never flopped around at my feet?  Oh, it would have been nice to have a photo to go along with my story, but it's still my fish story with or without one.

I have been reminded to enjoy the moments. 
Hold onto them while they are mine. 
Make the most of them as they happen. 
Be willing to let them go when the time comes.      
Sometimes, it's just not meant to be for a lifetime, but only for a moment. 
These moments add up and become a part of my story...my life.    

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

the ministry of friendship

"And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God."  1 Samuel 23:16

Sometimes things don't work out as one first plans, but this doesn't always turn out in a bad way.  For instance, my arriving in ANC on the 20th was intended to be a family vacation until the 24th.  I arrived alone due to certain circumstances that aren't bad, just ones that kept the fam back home in GA instead of on a plane with me to The Last Frontier this year.
Turns out, these days have not been lost.  I'm blessed beyond measure to have had a few days to visit and venture out with friends, while seeing new places in Alaska, too.  Experiencing things I will never forget.
Turning lemons into lemonade, so to speak.
While these are days filled with fun and exploration, there's been ministry occuring.  One that happens between friends...friends that have a common spirit.  Answers to prayers that I've prayed ever since knowing I would be coming alone are indeed coming my way.  I didn't want to be here and not be a good steward of my time.  With prayerful consideration of my options, I believe that my ministry for the first few days was one of friendship.  The story of David and Jonathan's friendship shows us many examples of how there can be ministry in friendship...you can read my thoughts on this here and here
Flying over Thursday morning to a remote Native village where a friend of mine has lived now for several months brought full circle the circumstances under which Kim and I met last year while we were both staff for GraceWorks, a mission organization that takes the Gospel message to where the people are in Anchorage.  Kim moved to Anchorage last fall after GraceWorks was over to begin a women's ministry.  God then opened doors for her to eventually move to the remote village a short flight out of Anchorage.   I have so enjoyed hearing and reading about Kim's time in Alaska over the past year.  A time of ministry...of healing...of finding oneself again.  Her friendship has been a blessing to me over the past year and I was thrilled to be going to visit her in her home in the village.
As we talked and caught up on life's adventures while together, it was as if we've known each other a long time.  Hopefully, I encouraged her as much as I was inspired and encouraged by her.  I firmly believe it's a God thing that we met.  He allowed our paths to cross at a certain moment in time for His glory.
To have a friend who understands the crazy awesomeness of God revealed in Alaska...to me, this is priceless.

Written 7.23.11 in Alaska