Putting it All in Place and Perspective

Putting it All in Place and PerspectiveLast Sunday we decided to stay home and have home church.  I felt a strong leading to do a family assessment, individually and as a whole, and with that came a couple of pieces of insight that I believe will help others, too.

We all have a nature that, when put in a passive mode, slips back into places that are like quick sand or even thick, muddy clay. Sometimes, we wake up and realize we are stuck or even worse, sinking!  So whether it is a new year or a new day, we need to take stock of where we are and make some steps in an active and intentional way.

First of all, we need to think about where we are, where we have been and where we are going.

Knowing that our times are in God’s hands, we may lazily think que sera sera and let things happen as they may.  But I believe that is not what God wants.  He has given us a life to steward and steward it well.

There are opportunities and life events that only God knows are coming our way, and He holds us accountable to trust Him in each and every one.  However, I believe we are a foolish lot, if we do not take time periodically to look at our lives with purpose and intent. (On the other side of this coin, we could look so introspectively and often that we actually miss life going on around us. Then we miss the point, I think.)

Second, we need perspective. Psalm 90 gives some insight here.

Moses writes, “You make mankind return to the dust, and say, ‘Return, O people!’ Yes, in your eyes a thousand years are like yesterday that quickly passes, or like one of the divisions of the nighttime. You bring their lives to an end and they ‘fall asleep.’ In the morning they are like the grass that sprouts up; in the morning it glistens and sprouts up; at evening time it withers and dries up.” (v. 3-6 NET)

Our time is short–so very short! So let’s make it count.

I like to think about it all in this way–ask yourself, “In ten years, will I be happy and satisfied that I chose to spend time, attention or money in this way?” Oh, now THAT is perspective.  And with that kind of perspective, we can put it all into its proper place.

Third, we need to know where to rank the importance of everything into which we are investing, giving it all its proper place.  Psalm 90 again gives us the words to the mission.

Moses adds, “May your servants see your work! May their sons see your majesty! May our sovereign God extend his favor to us! Make our endeavors successful! Yes, make them successful!” (v. 16-17 NET)

The NIV says it this way: “May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.”

As we release the desire to control our every moment into the hands of our faithful God, He gives us favor and shows us His ways, as He Himself establishes the work of our hands.  He puts it all into place.

For instance, we made the decision back in August to let our oldest son lay out of boy scouts for awhile.  He was getting tired of it, and we determined to let him make this call.  It is a hard balance sometimes as a parent to make them do something or let them make the decision–sometimes we need to let them make the decision, even if it is a bad one.  It allows them to fail in a safe environment, I think. So what did our son do during the past five months?  He did really well in his studies, grew in his spiritual life and in friendships and he played a lot of XBox. Yep. XBox.

So I asked him a question, knowing the answer, “Noah what are your goals before you finish high school?”  He replied that he’d like to make eagle scout, would like to have a 4.0 average in school for at least one semester and he’d like to try out for Lacrosse this spring (meaning he needs to work out at the gym more and practice the game). So I continued, “How have you spent your time lately and did it contribute to your goals?”  He answered, well I played too much XBox and wasted a lot of time.

At that point, I stopped him and apologized for allowing it to go this far.  I knew that he was wasting time, but I didn’t stop him.  I asked for his forgiveness.  As parents, we cannot be passive, but we need to keep our hands on the pulse of our children.  And I’m afraid we were passive in this.  At the same time, it was a valuable lesson for us all. So I do not regret it.  We all failed in a safe environment.  

For in ten years, Noah won’t be glad for the ranking he made in an online game.  It won’t matter at all!  However, it is okay to have some fun and time wasting hobbies, too.  But it needs to be put in its proper place.  We have now set up some good boundaries for the XBox, actually moving it to our room.  And for the next two months, he can play once a week for an hour.  We are encouraging him to set up reachable marks for each goal, and we will show him how to grow in the process.

All of that is to show us how to look at it.  If our goal for the next six months is to raise support for a mission trip to India, we need to write out some steps we’d need to take in reaching that goal–shots, support, time off from work and even acquiring things we’d need for the trip.  That may mean calling the doctor, writing some letters, talking with our boss and saving for the supplies.  Once we break it down into do-able steps, we can reach the goal!

Also, if we are completely unhappy in our current work, then perhaps it is time to ask some hard questions…what do we love to do?  How can we go about changing course and making that our new occupation? What steps do we need to take to find a job–perhaps willingness to move or go back to college?

It is funny how we can fall into cultural habits and forget, it is the LORD who orders our times and establishes the work of our hands.  I believe sometimes we are building sand castles that will fall, and spending ourselves on those things–only to discover that there are lasting things we can build today.  We need only put it all into place and perspective.

Here is the homework I gave our family. Perhaps it will help you, too!

1) Write a family mission statement.  It helps you to look at it and see if what you are spending your time, talents and resources on is in its proper place.  If it is not, then say no.

2) Write a list of personal goals for the new year. We wrote in these categories: Physical, Mental, Spiritual, Life and Family. These goals are important to keep out all year long, so you can measure the progress and watch for opportunities to step out in faith and reach those goals.

3) Finally, write out a list of wishes and dreams. If money and time were no object, I would like to… and let yourself really be honest. You may be surprised at what you come up with!  It may truly change the course of your life.  So dream.

Ultimately, many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purposes that prevail.  So we ask Him to lead, and we follow.  It is that simple.

With Such Love,

Holly

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Haste the Day

Lately I have had a line from a song running through my mind.  And truly, it has been my prayer for all of us.

“And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight.”

This song began just a week ago when I was musing about how very swiftly this year has passed.  It is unreal…and has seemed unreal that it is already Christmas again!

This year has especially been hard for me to get in the spirit of Christmas. For what do you do in trying circumstances?

Do you smile and pretend it is nothing?

Do you begin to get still and let God heal you–mending your torn heart again?

Do you fight it?

For me, the first is impossible, the second, necessary and the third is really a choice of the will.

But how can your will get back up again after darts and life circumstances have weighed it down?

This week I have seen hatred  and injustice at work towards a friend. And it has made me so angry at the enemy. I had to make a hard call. This week we got hard news about one of our children. She is struggling to read. And we will have to make great sacrifices to get her the visual therapy she needs. We hope it will change everything for her. We may even start homeschooling. This week I wrote a final letter–an end to a long-standing situation. It was written with an open door, but I know deep down that it is unlikely these will ever walk through it. Sometimes mad won’t let up. Sometimes healing and restoration doesn’t come this side of Heaven.

Perhaps some of the more somber hymns are needed for those like me, who are so tired of the evil in this world that you can only pray for the Lord to haste the day!

Even with the hopeful refrain of it is well, it is well with my soul. He didn’t say it was well with his mind, body or spirit, but his SOUL.  And that is the only preparation needed for that day when the clouds are rolled back as a scroll. Everything else will be transformed and changed, as He is!

So this year, as I kneel at the manger of the baby King, I look with somber eyes. For his life on earth will be such a trial and end in a horrific death that will ultimately be a triumph! But that is not how it looked at the time.

People may have judged that he got his just due…for God must have been punishing him for a life lived as a sinner.  They had no idea that he was the spotless Lamb of God.

And as they may judge me and you today, we fling off the garment of injustice and wrath and wrap ourselves in the swaddling of the Savior, singing, “And Lord haste the day…”

The King is not only coming, He is returning to make all things right and new. He is coming this time for good.  Oh now THAT brings my heart joy!

Praise His Name!

The Savior has come to save us all!

Kneel with me, won’t you? Let’s let Him win in us today.

Holly

Here is a picture from my family this year. We are hosting two missionaries-from the Philippines and Germany, who serve as mentors in our local schools. What a blessing they are!

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Listening In

There is hustle and bustle, hurry and scurry, spending and upending, anxiety, worry and uncertainty…as we turn the calendar page.

December 1December 1st coming so soon after Thanksgiving makes for a shorter time of preparations for Christmas, especially if you are like most of us–Living life reactively.

We take pride in it actually…Living life off the cuff.  And sometimes, it turns out pretty good. Sometimes not.  Sometimes, it is AMAZING! So we keep on living life at the speed of sound and reacting to the next thing.

In fact, I believe some of us are fueled by the energy that comes with having to react ALL OF A SUDDEN in adrenaline-land. No wonder we are all needing to find a way to de-stress–reading books about it, taking blood pressure meds and exercising for those good endorphins.

We think we should run like the computer I am using right now…clear the cache, watch for viruses, multi-tasking and responsive windows ALL shouting at us for the next thing that needs to be done–and that at a super computer pace. We think we have some kind of upgrade that has remade us into a body needing little rest.  So we go without stopping…  Until we have to stop when everything around us starts to fall apart.

I read a post this morning that I so identified with.  Melanie was talking about getting her Christmas boxes down and then completely shutting down over the next part–sitting and staring at it.  Yes, that is how I feel about this time of year. Everything is screaming “to-do!” “to-do!” And all I want to do is hide in a corner and whisper to myself, “Just do the next thing, Holly.”

So I skid to a halt at all the to-do’s…another mountain of laundry, if you will. There I begin to pray for discernment.

For in my heart, I long to make special memories with my family, to point them to the Savior, to savor the times together and to feel the warmth of loving relationships. I see it, just like a magazine-perfect picture, but it really isn’t going to happen the way I picture it. For we live on THIS SIDE of Heaven.  And on THIS SIDE, we need to stop and listen in to the sounds of Heaven.  Our spiritual GPS is the Holy Spirit, who shows us the way to go, even the HOW of it.  We need only get still and listen in.

Just today I was telling my Chris, if only we could all live with spiritual eyes to see, we might understand more of the BIG picture. For instance, Mary and Joseph didn’t see the WHOLE of their story. There was no running ticker of Twitter to hashtag the whole thing.  Even the picture we see in scriptures is only a part of it.  In a mirror dimly, we see the stories and how they blend into the Savior’s birth story. In a mirror dimly…

Yet, even then, Joseph had dreams to warn him of the threats to his family.  And he listened in.  He heeded! It saved his life and that of his wife and son.

Mary, too, treasured it all up in her heart; she watched and listened and held close each part of the glorious story of her son, her son, who would save the whole world.

But we read these stories and assume they grasped it all-that they understood. They didn’t.

But one thing they DID do, they listened.  God led them–each one!  And the murderous threats were only that, they were threats that were thwarted.  GOD stands guard for those He calls His own.

He is still standing guard for us. He is still whispering, leading, showing, and protecting.  There is still a bigger picture going on.

We are trying to make perfect happen here on earth.  And it won’t happen, as long as the prince of the earth, Satan, is unbound. One day, he will be bound.  One day, it will be perfect.

Until that day, we are to listen and to heed–Let go of our pictures of perfect Christmases and let God infuse His plans and purposes over the whole messy place. Let Him lead this Christmas.  Let Him rule and reign, as only He can.

With a heart of love for each of you!

Holly

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Pepperoncini Beef

Pepperoncini BeefThis recipe is simple and WONDERFUL.  My friend Audra shared it with me and we have it at least once a  month.

3 lb. roast

2 pkgs. Good Seasons Italian Dressing

1 jar (16 oz.) pepperoncini peppers plus the juice from the jar.

It is so easy!  Just put the roast in the crock pot.  Scatter the contents of the Italian dressing on top.  Then pour pepperoncini peppers and juice over the top.  Cook on low for 8 hours, until the beef comes apart with a fork.

We have enjoyed this on top of homemade mashed potatoes. Nobody makes them better than this!  Also we have enjoyed them on hoagie rolls cut in half and toasted with a slice of provolone.

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Writing Over Here Today About How God Hears Us

I felt like this was a post I would have written for either A Martha Heart or Crown Laid Down, but I wanted to make sure YOU read it, too.  It is just that vital for our moments and days.  Please come along with me here, as I tell about Worn Out.

Here is how I begin it…

God “gets” my sense of humor.  He talks my language, if you will.

He gets yours and speaks yours, too!  He is, after all, the Author of all languages.

So the other day, when I was driving–it happened to be this particularly bad day–I stopped in the middle of the road.  And what did I see?  A giant tumbleweed had stopped in the middle of the road.  It wasn’t blowing across the road, as usual.  It was stopped.

So my interpretation? God wanted me to make sure I saw a sign of His love on that particularly bad day. He knows how I think and how I associate. For many years, I have associated tumbleweeds and  geese honking as a sign of His love and care.  He also knows WHY I associate that…once in Texas I heard a fellow share about how he heard the geese fly over and saw tumbleweeds bouncing across the road.  Now I did not say this aloud, but I thought, OH, I would love to experience that, too!! Maybe someday…

A couple of years after that, we moved to Colorado and have faced plenty of difficult days, but I see and hear geese AND I see tumbleweeds all the time.  You should hear me exclaim–OH, I LOVE IT!!  It is for me a God-Wink.  And I am reminded of HOW MUCH He loves me and how He HEARS me, even the cries of my heart–even the little thoughts that aren’t really weighty, but He hears and He responds to them.

Oh the kindness of my God astounds me sometimes.  He knows.

Read the rest of the story here. You won’t want to miss it. For it has great implications in ALL of our lives.

I will be back next week to share something fresh here, too.  Just wanted to make sure you got this love letter from God today–how He bends low to show us just that.

Love to you all!
Holly

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Falling At His Feet

Falling at His FeetIt is interesting how God weaves our moments.  If we could somehow grasp how integral He truly is in our everyday happenings, we would not be able to take it in.  For He is working to meet with us, to shape us, to dust us off and to show us the way to take. But are we really listening?  Do we notice His activity in the mundane, as well as the obvious ways? Do we trust Him?

When we begin to practice trusting God, sometimes we lay ourselves really “out there” with no net to catch us.  And sometimes, yes, we do make decisions that we thought we heard correctly, but we missed it.  And that is OKAY.  You read that, but you don’t really believe it. Most of us want to get it right every time and not make mistakes and fall.  May I interject here? The greatest events in my life have spring from GIANT mistakes on my part.  From those mistakes I learned to be humble and about grace.

I learned that it is OKAY TO FALL and to FAIL.  It is especially OKAY when it becomes the means to a new road, one we might never have ventured upon before.

And that is the story of my life.

For the past several months, I have been busy. Distracted.  Doing good things, great things even.  And failing. Failing miserably.  In the midst of that, I got restless.  While helping our family by working up to 53 hours a week and coming out on the other side of our financial journey, I lost a sense of purpose and truly felt pummeled by the different voices speaking at me every day. I began to struggle hearing God’s still small voice.

On Sunday, the LORD began a conversation that I knew I needed to heed.  I came to His feet and began to hear specific steps I needed to take to get back to where God wants me.

A MAJOR part of that is a yearlong sabbatical from social media. It began today.  The LORD showed me how to set it up and how to tell about it, even how to streamline friends and family to communicate with me during this time.  And some may have missed it, but I pray that God will show me how to keep in contact over this year.  I pointed them to my email address and to my old blog, Crown Laid Down, which I dusted off and began journalling there about the journey on which God is taking me–I welcome you to join me there, too. I gave out my cell phone to my sisters at The M.O.M. Inititative, a group of women, who greatly love the LORD and want to spur us on to mentor others and to be mentored–oh HOW I LOVE their mission! So I participate with them in it. I talked with my dear sister, Trish, about A Martha Heart and where God is leading us.  We still feel like we should continue here and are praying to seek God’s leading at every turn.  I really LOVE the purpose of A Martha Heart–get to Jesus’ feet and He will show you how to do all the whats of life.  That is so needed in our day!  I shared with my friend and boss, for whom I have the greatest respect and love, Sheila Wray Gregoire.  She has watched me spin over the past several months and has prayed me through to today.  I know it is the sown seed of prayer she planted that brought me to HEAR the LORD and to HEED Him.

Another portion of the “discussion” with God was something He often does for me.  It is like a slideshow–snapshot upon snapshot of my life, where He began to show me myself at various times. Maybe that sounds odd to you.  I don’t even know how to explain it.  Though I have shared this process with you before when I went to see The Passion of the Christ.  The scenes I saw were these–painting in my back hallway with the windows open in our home built in 1854.  I could hear the sounds of children playing and the wonderful church bells playing hymns at noon time. I saw myself scrapbooking and reading.  I saw times when I enjoyed my friends and sought them out. (As an aside, you need to know I have HATED talking on the phone for years now…not really knowing why, but I believe it is because I have been inundated with news from Facebook and twitter.  I have lost the joy of “finding out” from the person in real life. Rather I read about it on Facebook and maybe even rejoice, but it is quickly lost.  I miss the revealing of happy and sad news face-to-face or even on the phone.  Maybe I will love the phone again…maybe.) I saw times with my children, unhindered by a smart phone, where I listened intently to them and showed them caring by making space for their stories.  I saw time with my Chris, where we just sat and talked for hours about life and dreamed.  I also saw myself journalling.  Remember I have a whole trunk of journals and Bible Studies?  I used to be more of a seeker.  Now?  Well now I am just plain tired.

I was trying to do a thousand things for the glory of God and failing at most of them.  In a shallow sense, I was like glaze instead of thick frosting.  And I want that back!  The frosting is my favorite part, afterall!  So I followed God on Sunday and began to seek His way for this.  I hope to be here more often, too.  Making room is amazing in that a lot of the things we WANT to do, we actually DO!

Come sit at Jesus’ feet with me, friend.  Come find a better way.

Love to you all!

Holly fall sig

 

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Roxanne’s Very Good Chicken Recipe

Roxanne's Incredible Chicken1 Whole Chicken

3-4 fresh sprigs Rosemary

1/2 Lemon

1/2 Onion,

1/2 Stick Butter

1/8 t. Freshly Ground Cracked Pepper

1/4 t. Kosher Salt

 

Rinse whole chicken in cool water.  Stuff cavity with  fresh rosemary sprigs, 1/2 lemon, 1/2 onion, and 1/2 stick butter. Then sprinkle cracked pepper and kosher salt on outside of bird. Place breast side down in a deep dish, oven safe dish or pan.

Cook 1-1/2 hrs. at 350 degrees uncovered.

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Pleading for the Storm

PleadingI am typically not a fan of storms, so you can imagine my surprise when I was excited to hear thunder a few weeks ago. It’s been hot and dry in my little corner of Texas. Our yard is barren for the most part. The little grass that is left is brown and crunches when you walk on it. Dust fills the air with almost any type of movement. We need the rain, and on that particular day, I was willing to endure the storm to have it.

Honest to goodness, as I sat there I couldn’t help think how, here lately, that has been the state of my spiritual life more often than not. My insides feel dry and crunchy. I feel like every movement just stirs up more dirt the enemy uses to pollute and obscure the air around me. Don’t get me wrong there have been pop-up showers that have wetted the ground, but the deep down nourishing rain had escaped me. The landscape of my emotions, of my heart, felt barren.

Have you been there? Desperate for the drought you feel like you’re in to be over? Desperate for the rain of His presence to come at you like a torrent? Willing to endure the storm, maybe even pleading for it, so you can be drenched in the Living Water?

Be encouraged. The storm will come. Mine did, but that is another post. I will tell you, in the midst of the storm, when God’s presence rained down, this barren land yielded fruit only Christ could have planted & harvested.

Keep looking to The Lord. Keep pleading for the rain. Time after time, while it appears nothing is coming, you keep looking. Our God is faithful to those who seek Him.

When you see that cloud forming (1 Kings 18:41-46), gird up your loins and be ready, for only those things we have secured to Christ will not wash away.

And we should praise Him for that.

Rhonda summer

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Grateful

GratefulLord, this morning the open window and shivering aspens in the breeze remind me of your Presence. And I’m grateful.  Not only for what I feel, but for what I DON’T feel. And it is refreshing.

I don’t feel angry anymore or hurt or resentful–a broken stronghold given to me by your hand, Lord Jesus. Further down this road, I find my heart full of joy and peace. It all came about when I FULLY released everything to You.  I never realized that my holding onto something so precious and broken was in effect an act of pride. Once I released it–Yes, even with the undue judgments that are bound to be made–I found complete peace. Amazing, unrelenting peace in my soul.  Though an orphan, I have been ADOPTED.  And it is good. I am good.

I don’t feel desperate or helpless. The financial strain of the past seven years has been hard on my health…literally hard on my heart. Bankruptcy, short-falls, debt and near foreclosure have left their scar on my body.  I truly thought there was NO WAY we could ever move on from that place of desert and need. But I believe there was a time allotted for us–not to punish us, but to teach us–and that time has now come to an end.  So unbelievable to see how God ushered in a NEW DAY.  We went from owing a thousand extra every month to actually saving that much–and potentially more in the future.  How in the world can this be?  Only GOD.  Only by His way of dividing the loaves and the fishes.  That’s my God.

I don’t feel alone or needy, trying to please others for their friendship. I am comfortable in my own skin and learning to enjoy the ebbs and flows of friendship.  It is really an accomplishment.  I don’t think it was always this way, either.  Somewhere, deep down, I remember the confident one, who could take a stand.  It is an inner struggle–speaking the truth lovingly and at the same time stepping back in graciousness, to allow some to move on.  It is not in unkindness, but giving others margin to grow in His light–and trusting that if God brings them back ’round, I may walk with them once more.  Such a release of control it takes to allow God to control the stream of life…not as if I ever could, but oh how I thought somehow I did–what a foolish thought!  That confidence that used to come naturally, as a young person, now comes supernaturally, as God is now my Source and my Supply. I can now dance, freely, knowing that I am hidden not in my own skin necessarily, but in Christ’s.  He is the parameter of my ability and strength to love others without exception and completely.

Friends?  Sometimes this love can happen from afar.  Give yourselves the permission to do so–and to stop trying to control the waterways.  God controls.  We release.  We love.  We live!  God directs.  It is the freely and lightly of God!

So for all these don’ts and more, I am finding my place of grateful has become my home.  To live is Christ.  To die is gain.  How can you find your place of gratefulness today?  Find it in the arms of Jesus Christ.  He has held me, collected my tears, bore my sorrows, provided shelter in the unrelentingly heat-filled days.  He is my place, where I sing beneath the shelter of His wings…freely and unabashedly.

Now to Him, who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the Presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. Jude 1:24-5

Friends, if you’re stuck today, please email me or comment below and I will pray for you, knowing that He doesn’t fill halfway, but completely and over-flowingly.  Jesus can help you today, this moment even.

With Gratefulness in His Name,

Holly Summer

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Mexican Dessert

Mexican Dessert

1 1/2 c. water
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
12 flour tortillas
2 cans peaches

Roll 3-4 peaches into each tortilla and place seam-side down on a baking dish. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, boil 1 1/2 c. water, 2 c. sugar and butter for 5 minutes. Pour over the tortillas. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

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