The Illusion of Balance

So me and my homegirls are in a Bible Study by Angela Thomas called Stronger and it has been so good. I’m drawn to Angela’s style of teaching and her homework and I think it’s because of who she is mindful of when writing. She always writes/speaks with the woman in mind who doesn’t know Jesus, those who are new to the faith and those who have been in faith for a long time. That’s not always easy to do but she does it so very well and it’s the thing that keeps me coming back to her for Bible Studies with both new and old in the faith friends.

This week we looked at being like Christ and how we might think he lived a “balanced life” yet life all around Jesus was not balanced.

Angela says, “The ministry of Jesus was full of overwhelming crowds, inconsistent disciples, judgmental, ever-present Pharisees, loneliness, and temptation. But with all the demands of His day, Jesus lived with a consistent calm and wisdom. He led with his inner life. Arranging external order was not His ambition. Living in obedience to the Father was the aim of his whole life.

When a balanced life becomes our quest, we are missing the message of Scripture. The ambition of the Christian life is not balancing our things. The goal for the Christ follower is Christlikeness.”

Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

I felt like this lesson let me off the hook and gave me some breathing room with my busy life. I’m still evaluating what I might need to let go of in order to maintain an inner life that can remain calm and wise. When I take on too much stuff I get frazzled and frustrated with myself and others. It’s not that a perfect balance has to be found but making sure my Yes-es are out of obedience to God and not just flying through life taking on the next big project.

I love how studying God’s word meets us right where we are in life. His word really is alive and active. I won’t ever stop saying it because it’s so true. When we read God’s word to know him more we will see God use his word in our life. Things come to life. Light bulbs go off. Not all at once and not every time we sit down to read. But you just watch it……God will reveal himself to you as you open his word.

What is God teaching you right now? I’d love to hear in the comments. 

 

 

Letting Go of the Fear of Man

We were newlyweds living in a tiny apartment with hardly any money but living on top of the world. The church we were attending was feeling more and more like home yet this one Sunday morning we decided to stay in bed instead of going to church. This was completely uncharacteristic of us. Neither of us could remember a time of simply not going to church because we didn’t want to. It’s not that we were sick or anything. We just wanted to sleep in and not go. And we felt so very naughty for missing church.

That night we got ready to go to church so we wouldn’t get struck by lightening and I started feeling so guilty for not going that morning. Once we got to church I didn’t make eye contact with any of the pastors but on the way out of church we got cornered by one of the pastors. He shook our hand and before he could even say good- bye I spouted out an overly gushing explanation of why we missed church. I confessed everything to him as if he was on the other side of a black curtain and I was giving details of a freshly committed homicide. After backpedaling and explaining in effort to regain approval he held up his hand and said with such grace and kindness in his eyes, “It’s okay, no need to explain. We’re just really glad ya’ll are here tonight.”

I’ll never forget feeling so free and released of condemnation and judgement.

At this time in our lives we both struggled with legalism which roots itself in the fear of man. I cared mostly about what others thought of me rather than being awed by the staggering truth that God loves me lavishly and died for me in the midst of my sin.

It’s easy to fall into worrying about what others think of us. The thought of not measuring up can be an overwhelming thought. Satan continues to use this tactic to bring down Christ followers. Because if we can constantly worry about what others think of us then our focus becomes more and more on us than on Jesus. And the more self-concerned and consumed we become the further we drift from our true standard of comparison.

If we look to any person other than Jesus to be our standard of comparison we will continually fall short and live in exhaustion from trying to keep up and be accepted. But when we look to the one who has already declared us righteous because of His work on the cross we will experience amazing freedom. Freedom that releases the grip of having to strive for approval and perfectionism. It’s a freedom that isn’t shocked when we mess up. This freedom helps us extend grace to others when they make mistakes as well and it offers forgiveness. The understanding of God’s love and the letting go of the fear of man erases the need to wallow in shame and guilt because there is no condemnation for those of us in Christ Jesus.

Extreme legalism responds to a young couple who missed church and cautions them at first chance with, “Now don’t go getting any ideas like it’s okay to start sleeping in on Sunday mornings.” Because if a legalist gives a grace filled response then the sleeping in couple could take that freedom and run with it. It could become a pattern. Legalism is fear based. Decisions, choices and statements are made out of fear of what could happen. And so we help God out by adding extra measures of protection. We set the standard even higher than God does and there’s a heavy emphasis on correction and taking pride in that correction. I see this in legalistic parents all the time. They brag about how they discipline their children and don’t let them by with an ounce of anything.

The other extreme of legalism is “anything goes” thinking. Accountability and holiness don’t matter because grace covers it all. And this is not a healthy place either. That’s taking advantage of God’s grace and using it as an excuse for our sin.

Looking for the perfect balance between extreme legalism and grace abuse isn’t the answer as much as we like to look for the perfect landing spot.

Loving Jesus and staying in awe of his redeeming forgiveness will free us from both legalism and grace abuse. When everything we do is filtered through the lens of Jesus’s love for us, in the midst of our mess, it helps us let go of concerns and worries of what people think. It also keeps us from doing anything we want to do because the love of Christ constrains us to do his will and not ours. His love inside of us propels us to desire community with other believers so the temptation to stay in bed and miss church is a non-factor. Yeah maybe there are some missed Sundays here and there but not a big deal because in our hearts we know we are designed for that connectedness and we show up because of that. As the love of Jesus invades our hearts the external things will land in right and good places.

Letting go of the fear of what others think of you is one of the greatest things you can let go of. Walk in that freedom without looking over your shoulder because Jesus paid a tremendous price for it.

3 Bible Study Tips

We’ve just started a new Spring Women’s Bible Study at our church and nothing makes me more excited than to see the courage of women in various stages of faith walking into Bible Study. So with women’s Bible Study on my mind let me share some things that help me in Bible Study. Maybe they will help you as well as you consider joining a Bible Study.

*Show up. That’s right, just come as you are. And don’t worry about the woman sitting next to you. You know what I mean, like how much Bible knowledge she has or doesn’t have. What she’s wearing and if she’ll notice how long it takes you to find a book of the Bible. Just put all that stuff out of your head. It doesn’t matter how much either of you know or don’t know. Just start where you are and trust God to move you deeper in your faith as you study his word. He’ll do it.

*Start with praying the I.O.U’s: Below you’ll see a graphic of the I.O.U’s I use before starting my daily Bible reading. I need God to help Instruct me, Open my eyes and give me Understanding. Praying these verses are powerful because we’re using God’s very own words to call on Him to help us understand his word.

*Don’t give up. Expect some opposition when you begin studying God’s word. Satan doesn’t want you there because he knows the power of God’s word. He knows it’s alive and active and has the power to change us. Don’t let him win this battle. Keep fighting for your faith. Your faith will never grow outside the word and spirit of God so having a group of women studying together is such a gift and helps with accountability.

What is your favorite Bible Study or a recent study you’ve done that you loved? I’d love to know.

We are doing Stronger by Angela Thomas and our other ladies group is going through Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God.

Mental Health and The Church – Part 3 of 3

The local church is one of my loves on this earth because I think it reflects God’s brilliant creativity and love for his people all mixed together in a moving and active place called the church. It’s such a gift to be a part of a healthy church.

This week I did quite a bit of writing about how the church has struggled to understand people within her walls that struggle with mental illness. I’m included in those of us who have misunderstood and have probably inadvertently hurt people along the way.

We talked about ways the church can help in previous posts. I’ve referred you to some good reads and now I want to delicately talk about something I see from a unique angle as being a pastor’s wife when it comes to mental health issues and the church.

I’m reading where often times church members with mental health issues feel betrayed by the church or have left the church because they feel they or their child was treated unfairly. They express feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness. They feel nobody understands how they feel or what they are going through. So they leave because “the church hurt me” or “the church just wasn’t there for me”.

Because of the stigma associated with mental health and the embarrassment that seems to be attached to it people don’t want to talk about their mental health issues. If they do share with one of their pastors almost always they ask you to keep it confidential. This places the gift of encouraging, praying with and visiting someone on one single person and that’s unattainable and not healthy. And there are many other people in the church who, if they also knew, would love to offer encouragement and support.

I have a suspicion that if one person shared his/her story of depression, of suicidal thoughts, of fear and anxiety that others would soon follow that have had similar issues. Another wonderful aspect of one person sharing their struggle with others is that you now have a collective group of people sharing the gift of bearing their burden. Instead of one person in the church praying you now have a group of people praying, encouraging, reaching out, etc. To feel loved on by a group of people is a beautiful thing.

But if the church doesn’t know the church can’t offer support and encouragement in the full capacity that it could if more people knew. And people in the church need to know how to respond and encourage with grace. Sometime we get scared and run the other way. Jesus never did this so if he’s our leader we need to see how he embraced people where they were with great love while speaking truth.

If you are sitting in a church service, ladies event, mens breakfast, small group, etc. and someone shares with you or your group that they are struggling with depression or that they are bipolar and in a funk right now please please please recognize that this is a huge risk they just took in sharing this information.

It’s a gift that they shared this with you. Treasure it carefully and respond with grace. Thank them for sharing that information. By all means don’t distance yourself from him/her. Send a note later in the week. Pray for them. If you notice they drop out of church for an extended period of time call them up. No, you didn’t ask to be invited into their problems but God just divinely allowed you to be welcomed in. He will help you take that next step. This is what church looks like.

Maybe a referral to a counseling agency is a needed next step. Don’t know of one? Ask your church if they have a resource information sheet of counselors and helps in the area. If they don’t then call around. Sometimes people don’t even have the strength and mental capacity to do the research. Do it for them. Give them options. You can’t make the call for them but you can do some leg work on their behalf.

Someone who has shared something deeply personal to their church doesn’t need a sermon preached at them. They need love. They need a listening ear. They need follow up. They need scripture read to them because they can’t even muster the strength to focus on one verse but they can listen to it. I did this with a godly lady struggling with deep depression. She loves God’s word and is an avid student of God’s word. In her deep pit of depression and overwhelming anxiety she wanted scripture read to her. To my knowledge she hasn’t shared about that time of deep depression with people in her church and we never talk about “that time” either. I can understand this I guess. Who wants to go back and remember their darkest days and talk about it. But so often we’re told in scripture to “remember the right hand of God” and “remember the ways of the Lord”. I don’t know about you but the times I see the right hand of God the most are the times I’m at my weakest. So as I remember the how God intervened, comforted and helped I’m also brought back to a dark place of great need and weakness. As hard as it might be maybe we’d do good to talk more about those days. It’s likely we’ll see God right there in the middle of it even if at the time it didn’t feel like it.

The thing I’m struggling with is when people blame the church for hurting them when what actually hurt was the truth being shared with them. A healthy church is constantly sharing truth with each other. Sometimes it’s through the preaching of Gods word on Sunday mornings and other times it’s in small groups in the week. Sometimes it comes in the form of corrective discipline, as Proverbs puts it, which is the way to life (Proverbs 6:23). This could involve someone with mental illness but it doesn’t have to be.

It’s wise to evaluate a church’s part in helping or hurting families with mental illness. We need a correct starting point in looking at these issues. But I also feel the need to say that there are many times that the church is doing it right but the blame is still placed on the church for failing these families.

For instance, Mama bear comes out when little Johnny is temporarily suspended or asked to leave the youth group for not abiding by basic ground rules. If Johnny was raging and beat someone up I’m sorry but there’s natural consequences that still need to take place even if you have a mental illness. Hopefully these times are dealt with grace and love and walking with the family through it. But I don’t think there should be blame placed on the church for enforcing ground rules even when someone with a mental illness can’t or won’t abide by those ground rules. Situations like this can actually go well resulting in restoration and the person re-entering. But it doesn’t always go that way.

I see gaps and misunderstandings on both sides of the mental health issue but mostly I’m encouraged that we are talking about these things. I believe Rick and Kay Warren have had a huge impact on the church in relation to mental health issues. They lost their son to suicide in 2013 and she now shares their story and it has opened up others to share their story.

May we keep striving in our learning and growing in these things.

Mental Health and The Church – Part 1

Mental Health and The Church – Part 2

** Leave a comment if you’d like to enter to win the book Mental Health and The Church. Come back by Thursday, March 8th to see if your name was drawn  and be sure to leave me your mailing address please. **

 

Mental Health and The Church – Part 2 of 3

Stephen Grcevich, MD is a Christian child and adolescent psychiatrist who describes what he calls a huge disconnect in the two worlds he lives in each week: work and church. What’s the disconnect? He puts it this way, “The families I meet through my work are far less likely than other families in our community to be actively involved in a local church. This reality is a tragic departure from Jesus’ plan for his church. The families I see in my practice need to hear the gospel message proclaimed just as much as my family does. They need good teaching, service opportunities, and small group community just as much as my family does.”

For those of us not touched by mental illness you may be thinking, “So what’s the big deal? Nobody is keeping these families out of church. They can attend like anyone else.”

I’m learning that a statement like that reveals a lack of understanding of mental health issues. I will be the first to say that I don’t understand a lot but I’m trying to. Most of my very limited understanding has come from hearing people’s stories and reading books like Stephen Grcevich’s, Mental Health and The Church.

There is a stigma attached to Mental Illness and thankfully there are people like Dr. Grcevich who are trying to help dismantle that stigma especially within the church because the church is often the first place people with mental health issues turn to.

This book has helped me see where I personally am buying into the stigma attached to mental illness in different ways. For example, the fact that the tagline of Dr. Grcevich’s book says, “A ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions.” bothered me to a degree because our son has ADD. I had no idea that was considered a “mental illness”. I don’t like the sound of that. And it’s because when I think of “mental illness” it conjures up this crass visual in my head: a person in a white straight jacket, rocking back and forth and banging their head against a wall. Or the kids that shoot other kids in schools. That’s an incredibly ridiculous and inacurate over-generalization of what all mental illness looks like. That kind of ignorant thinking distances and isolates people. And I don’t want to do that because everyone deserves to know and feel the love of Jesus through his people.

We tend to look at people with physical disabilities with much more compassion and understanding than those with mental illness disabilities. For instance, when a child in a wheelchair with a physical disability is disruptive in a church service by making loud noises it’s considered okay whereas if a child with ADHD has a sudden outburst or is tapping the pew in front of them it’s not okay. Because often times people think that the child with the physical disablity doesn’t have a choice but the kid with ADHD does. He/she can control himself or his parents should discipline him/her more often. I personally think the disconnect here comes because we can’t “see” mental illnesses and therefore are quick to make faulty assumptions.

Mental Health and The Church has opened my eyes to having a greater compassion and understanding of those who come to church with a mental illness or who don’t come to church because of their mental illness. The depth of anxiety some people experience at the thought of having to shake someone’s hand or meet a new person is very real. I had no idea people struggled with this. Some people are completely stressed about getting lost especially if it’s a mega church because they can’t remember directions well. Others are afraid you will hug them or make them speak in a small group environment and this causes intense anxiety. Some kids have serious sensory issues and are truly sensitive to certain sounds, lights, textures, etc. Others simply can pull themselves out of bed to get ready for church because of the weight of depression.

If our reaction to these things is “Seriously? They just need to get over it” then we could be a contributing factor to the reason people with mental illness leaving the church or stay but feel isolated and misunderstood.

When mental illness doesn’t touch us personally it can be very hard to understand. And that’s why education and awareness is important in helping us to understand.

I will never forget being in a church with a family whose young child had a serious aversion to balloons and the song “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” So much so the child would have a full blown melt down with his hands desperately clutching his ears to stop hearing the song. In my lack of grace and understanding I always felt it was a “picky child issue” and perhaps a parenting issue and that it could be controlled. The child was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and looking back it all makes sense. At the time I’m afraid I was quite judgmental and insensitive in my thoughts. I regret that so much. This child still struggles to find his place in the church and I’m afraid it’s partly because of people like me.

So how do we as a church help people with mental illness?

I believe it starts with an attitude of the heart and recognizing that mental illness is a very real thing. Mental illness is not a choice and it’s not always a result of sin (outside the fact that our entire world is touched by sin and everything is tainted because of original sin). The church historically has addressed mental illness by saying it’s all a result of sin. And the way you cure mental illness is by either getting saved or having more faith and praying harder. Case closed.

The inability to snap out of mental health illness is not because of a lack of faith. When we tell people to pray harder and read more Bible verses to rid themselves of depression and other mental illness related issues we are actually hurting people. Of course we want to encourage people to stay in God’s word, to pray and to seek God’s help. God can heal mental illness and we should encourage all people with these truths. But God doesn’t always heal. Look at Paul’s thorn in the flesh. He asked three times that it be removed and God didn’t do it. Why?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” II Cor. 12:9-10

There are often cases of mental illness where medication is necessary. A psychiatrist’s intervention is needed. And we need to let people know that this is okay. It’s not a spiritual cop out to get mental health help.

If you are not touched by mental illness be thankful by the grace of God you are not. But don’t just wash your hands of it since it doesn’t impact you. As a believer in Christ it actually does impact you. Here’s why: statistics show that 8-12 percent of teens experience anxiety disorders and 18.1 percent of adults experienced an anxiety disorder during 2015. Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death in the US among people ages fifteen to thirty-four?

This means that if you’re in a church of 300 people there could be up to 54 people scattered among your congregation that are silently or openly struggling with a mental illness. So this impacts all Christ followers because we are to bear one another’s burdens.

I’m learning how much of mental illness is a snowball effect. It effects family members and they are a separate group of people needing ministering to as well.

How can we practically minister to the person struggling to walk through our church doors that is plagued by mental illness?

In the book Mental Health and The Church there are some great suggestions to consider incorporating in your church. Some are simple ideas like offering a walk through to a family who has a child with separation anxiety. To see exactly where their classroom is in advance can be helpful. Many other practical ideas are offered to help ease problematic areas for children/teens dealing with mental illness.

Other suggestions are to openly discuss mental health concerns from the pulpit and for church members to share their own mental health stories. Post articles on your church’s social media outlet that talk about mental health help issues. When one person shares it often frees others up to share. Building partnerships with the professional mental health community and having a list of available resources for counseling, doctors, etc. was encouraged.

In this post I’ve talked about areas where the church can grow in understanding mental health issues. But there’s another side to things and that’s where it relates to the individual dealing with mental illness or the family of the one dealing with mental illness. What is their responsibility in all this when it relates to finding their place in the church and not leaving the church mad or hurt because they weren’t treated with sensitivity. I want to talk about that in our next post as well as list some helpful resources for families that are touched by mental illness.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for the book “Mental Health and The Church” next Thursday. Come back to see if you won and be sure to contact me with your mailing address.

 Mental Health and The Church – Part 1

 

 

 

 

Mental Health and The Church – Part 1 of 3

The church across North America has struggled to minister effectively with children, teens, and adults with common mental health conditions and their families. One reason for the lack of ministry is the absence of a widely accepted model for mental health outreach and inclusion.

In Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions, Dr. Stephen Grcevich presents a simple and flexible model for mental health inclusion ministry for implementation by churches of all sizes, denominations, and organizational styles. The model is based upon recognition of seven barriers to church attendance and assimilation resulting from mental illness: stigma, anxiety, self-control, differences in social communication and sensory processing, social isolation and past experiences of church. Seven broad inclusion strategies are presented for helping persons of all ages with common mental health conditions and their families to fully participate in all of the ministries offered by the local church. The book is also designed to be a useful resource for parents, grandparents and spouses interested in promoting the spiritual growth of loved ones with mental illness.

About Dr. Stephen Grcevich

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Dr. Stephen Grcevich (MD, Northeast Ohio Medical University) serves as the founder and President of Key Ministry. He  is a child and adolescent psychiatrist who combines over 25 years of knowledge gained through clinical practice and teaching with extensive research experience evaluating medications prescribed to children and teens for ADHD, anxiety, and depression. Dr. Grcevich has been a presenter at over 35 national and international medical conferences and is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). He regularly blogs at Church4EveryChild and frequently speaks at national and international ministry conferences on mental health and spiritual development.

In this series, Mental Health and The Church I will be giving away a copy of Dr. Grcevich’s book. Just leave a comment on this post (or part 2) and a name will be drawn on March 8th. Be sure to check back and message me your address if you’re the winner of the book so I can mail it out to you.

**Branda Wargo was the winner that will receive a free copy of Tears to Joy by Natalie Flake Ford.

 

How to Pray for our Children’s Future Spouse

I’ll never forget our son when he was quite young talking about marrying a girl he was sweet on at the time. Of course I was having a full blown conniption fit over the conversation and started peppering him with questions like how he would pay for bills (chore money) and where would he live. I’ll never forget hearing his cute little voice coming back with, “We’ll live here of course. In my room.” It was a no brainer in his mind.

I figured right then it was high time I start praying for that boy and his love life because he was only in elementary school having this conversation. But this just paved the way for a good conversation on the “leave and cleave” aspect of marriage and how his room will be turned into an ART room the second the door hits his little fanny when he leaves. Kidding.

If you’ve been a regular reader of LIABOW then you know I love my Mom’s in Prayer group and reference it often in this space. My MIP group takes the month of February every year to pray for our kids’ future spouses. It has grown to be one of my favorite months of the MIP year because we find ourselves praying in unique ways for our children and their future mates or potential singleness.

Some ways we have prayed for our children and their spouses:

  • To grow up in a home where Christ is honored and loved
  • If not in a Christ-centered home that God would provide godly influences around them
  • Salvation of our children and their future spouse
  • Protection against pornography for our kids’ future spouses
  • A loving Mother and Father that is instilling godly principles
  • To remain pure through dating and engagement
  • God’s help in releasing our children into healthy dating relationships and marriage
  • To be patient in waiting for the right person God has for them
  • Future Son-in-laws to be hard working providers
  • Daughter-in-laws to love and respect their future spouses

If we still have kids at home in school it’s just hard to imagine them with a potential spouse but most likely it’s going to happen and what if……what if we had been praying for our future daughter-in-law or son-in-law years in advance. What difference might that make? I don’t know but I trust that God is hearing my prayers and I won’t stop now.

Give one of the greatest gift you could give your child and future in-laws in 2018 – the gift of prayer.

 

On Kissing Santa’s Armpit…

Our teenage son is getting to write an essay every time he gets a not-s0-great report from the Orthodontist ie: not wearing his rubber bands. He’s also getting the opportunity to save his money to start paying for any Ortho visits that don’t produce a good report.

What I love about Mitchell is his easy going disposition even when facing opposition. His humor keeps us going around here. Today I’m sharing with you Mitchell’s response, with his permission, to two of his recent essays on why wearing his rubber bands and brushing his teeth are important.

“Yesterday I went to the orthodontist. They told me to wear my rubber bands more. I need to find a way to remember to wear them more. One good way to remember them would be to tell myself repeatedly in the morning and after I eat to put them in. Another way to remember them would be to put them around my pinky finger after I take them out, so that the blood circulation will be cut out, ad once i realize how numb my fingers are, and how close they are to falling off, I’ll be like wanting to put them back in that instant. I could also write a note on my hand. Or I could write a sticky note and put it on my computer. If I had a phone (which I don’t yet) I could just set a reminding notification that will scare me into wearing them. I would rather kiss santa’s armpit than to get crooked teeth. M m I ain’t doing it.”

Would rather kiss Santa’s armpit? Really? I’m not even sure it’s worth that dude!

And another one he wrote the other day….. (I’m not sure how many essays it will take)

“…I also got a new color of bands. It used to be green, but now I got blue. If I brush more (which I’m doing just fine on right now) I will also get to keep the color of my teeth. They are a vibrant white right now, I do not want them to turn yellow. I would also have to pay for half of my appointments. (good heavens) I would rather wear four rows of these rubber bands than to get yellow spots on my teeth. Nooooooooooooooooo way!!!!!!!! I ain’t doing it.”

I think some of his inspirational quotes are coming from this hilarious chick that we can’t seem to get enough of right now. We laugh so hard at her videos. Oh muh-word I love her so much.

If you have any tricks of the trade on braces, bands and brushing let us know – Mitchell would be so appreciative.

 

God’s provision in unlikely places

My week had been messed with in all kinds of crazy ways and as I sat in my red chair praying to God for a stranger I’d just met I found myself praying for her provision. That he would give her exactly what she needed that day and the days to come.

If you were to turn the pages of my prayer journal back you’d read where I was crying out to God to provide our own specific needs. A washing machine that blew up, a mouth guard, a big car repair, leaking toilet and…..well, you live on this earth so you know all about unexpected expenses and how when it rains it pours sometimes. We just weren’t sure how the month would play out as far as being able to meet our budget. It wasn’t looking promising at all.

But this particular day my focus was on this woman I couldn’t get out of my head and heart. I made an umbrella prayer for her in my journal and decided I would do a deep clean in my kitchen starting with the cabinets. The ones we call the black hole for a reason.

As I was pulling stuff out and organizing something white caught my eye in the waaaay back. It was a bank envelope. As I opened the envelope and started counting out the cash I realized what it was. We had lost an envelope with $575 cash over a year and a half ago. It was money we had stashed away little by little and it was in a drawer and had fallen back into the cabinet below. To be found on a day when I wasn’t sure how our own needs were going to be met but was praying for God to meet a stranger’s needs.

Overwhelmed with God’s perfectly timed provision I sat there and cried.

Then I called Randy and tried to act all nonchalant and said, “Can you meet me for lunch? I have to tell you something in person.”

We meet up for lunch and I hand him the envelope to open. Immediately he knew what it was. And his deep sigh of relief about blew me into the next booth over….which takes a lot of gusto.

I needed to talk some things out with him though. I told him about praying for the woman I had met and for God to provide her needs. I also told him about a struggle I’d had the week before that in giving to a special cause that we really didn’t have the money to give to and I didn’t want to give to. I argued with God about it. Told him we didn’t have the money and our own kids were going to get  jipped so other kids could have something (which was dramatic and not true anyways). I felt like God spoke to me saying, “And that’s okay, Melody. It’s okay to give when you don’t have it yourself. It’s okay when someone else has something you or your kids don’t have.” He settled my heart and I knew it was the right thing for us to do.

So I told Randy – I don’t want to think I had anything to do with this money being found and with an unexpected check that came to us that same day from a speaking engagement. But I can’t help but see a correlation when we give something that is hard to give or pray on someone else’s behalf for something we need it ourselves how God ends up providing in the most unusual and unexpected ways. He’s always so faithful to do this for us. And yet it surprises me every time. I don’t know what to do with it all. I know it’s all from God’s hand and nothing short of his grace. But is it wrong for me to think there’s a connection between praying for and giving to others when it’s a true sacrifice and seeing God’s provision for us? Not like we’re the ones who brought this provision on but somehow the giving, the praying for someone else touched God’s heart maybe?

Randy listend and said, “I don’t think you’re wrong. I hear what you’re saying and it’s okay to recognize when God responds to us and how he responds. It’s the right thing to give him praise for that.”

So it’s out of a full heart that I post these things. It’s out of heart that is learning how to navigate need yet giving generously and the right response to God’s provision. Not saying we get it right even half the time. We don’t. But we desire to honor God with our money and in our giving.

Lord, thank you for being our Provider. You’re so good to us.

Cultivate what Matters – Lara Casey

Hey ya’ll – are you super excited that a brand stinking new-never-been-here-before year is right around the corner? I am. I love me a New Year and New Beginnings – probably because I mess up so bad and it’s a great fresh start for me every single year. Whoo-hoo!!

I wanted to post about this planner because I simply love it. I’ve spent the last few weeks evaluating and making plans for 2018 with help from this little treasure of a book. It has helped me uncover a plan based on what is close to my heart. I’m so glad to have discovered Lara Casey and some of her resources. She’s a Christ follower and a busy, working Mom so she understands the importance and the difficulty of cultivating time for what matters. She offers some great tutorials and has other products that are really neat too. In fact my Bible Study group is looking at her Write the Word journals as a supplemental option for us this year. Her stuff is too good not to share.

 

So do you have a way you get organized for a New Year? Or a tradition in setting goals and resolutions? I’ve love to hear.  I guess nowadays the big thing is your “word of the year” which I find harder than listing resolutions because I love bullet points that don’t have to come to an end. One word is flat out hard for me to do because I’m a rather wordy person. I can’t even text anything less than a paragraph which is not cool. So yeah I’m still working on my word of the year.