Sunday, December 22, 2013

O come let us adore Him

Every year the Christmas story is the same- a young virgin, confused husband and a tiny little baby born in a manger- no room in the inn.  This year my bible study mentor/teacher asked us to take a fresh look at the story about the birth of Jesus.  As we sung the contemporary Christmas hymns at church this morning, the lyrics to "Joy to the World" spoke deep to my heart. 

O come let us adore Him- this was the invitation extended to the shepherds that first Christmas night when the army of angels came to announce to these humble men that the Savior was born in the city of Bethlehem.  These men did not delay
but at once gathered their belongings and headed to see and adore this little baby called Christ the Lord. 


This same invitation is extended to us today- God wants us to come and adore His Son, Jesus Christ.

To adore means
  1. to worship or honor as a deity or as divine
  2. to regard with loving admiration and devotion 
  3. to be very fond of
God wants us to worship Him- the Ten Commandments clearly state that God wants us to worship Him and Him alone.  But I would like to suggest that God desires us to come to Him in loving admiration and devotion- I believed this is the type of adoration that the hymnist speaks of in the classic song "Joy to the World".  By approaching the wonder of Christmas with admiration and devotion, this might cause one to hear the good news the angels shared with the shepherds with fresh ears and a new heart.  This might cause one to hear and accept the good news of the gospel like the first time they ever heard the Christmas story.
  • What type of Christmas are you looking for? 
  • One filled with wonder, admiration, devotion? 
  • Do you long to come to God with the desire to adore Him? 
Take my bible study class challenge and ask God to give you fresh perspective on the birth of Christ- come like the shepherds came, anxious to see the newborn King.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dear God: All I Want for Christmas is...

This is the first year that my boys have questioned the validity of Santa Claus.  Matt (10) and Jake (8) started questioning the truth behind the big fat man in the red suit last weekend.  Matt said, "If I could just get him on video, then I can believe."  So I asked him, "You believe in God, right?  You can't see him."  Matt responded, "Of course, God is real."

Matt & Jake- Christmas 2008
But how many of us have uttered the same thing about God that Matt questioned about Santa-
  • If I could just see God, then I would believe.
  • If I could just hear God, then I would pray.
  • If I could just feel God, then I would have no doubts.
The disciples walked day by day for three years with Jesus and still had their doubts.  One of my favorite verses as a kid was John 20:29 "Then Jesus told him (Thomas), “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see."  Webster's Dictionary defines faith as "complete trust or confidence in someone or something."

This Christmas I am challenging myself to send God my Christmas list but this list won't consist of toys, gadgets and clothes.  This list doesn't have to be sent once a year in hopes that a few fun things are left under the tree on Christmas morning.  This list is not a wish list but a belief list- belief that I can ask in faith things of God.  That I can ask expecting God to hear and answer my prayers. 

I am writing an Ephesians 3:20 Belief List-  I have 3 big worries on my heart that I am giving to God this Christmas, letting Him carry them for me while believing that He is "able, through his mighty power at work within me, to accomplish infinitely more than I might ask or think." (Eph. 3:20)  These prayers are Big Hairy Audacious Prayers- prayers that need to be prayed in faith because everything around you tells you that there is no hope, no way, no answer. 

But with God, "nothing is impossible". (Luke 1:37)

Can I pray these prayers expectantly?  Can I believe without a doubt that God hears me when I call and wants to give me the desires of my heart?  But just like my boys' Christmas list which is long and expensive- leading to wishes not answered, you will not always get want you want.  Our lives are being used by God to draw others to Him so an unanswered prayer in my life might just be what draws someone into a relationship with God.  The ultimate gift- a relationship with Jesus!

What's on your Ephesians 3:20 Belief List this year?


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

God is faithful!

Psalm 100:5-  "For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."

Sometimes I can hear God clearly- other times I am wondering where He is.  Recently I have felt like I am on hold- not sure what He wants me to do or where He wants me to go.  Last night, I started reading 1 Corinthians and a verse just jumped off the page- it spoke about God's faithfulness.  Then this morning, two specific verses spoke again of God's faithfulness.  Ok- I'm listening....

So here are the words I felt God lay on my heart- hope they touch yours as well.

       God is good- He is faithful- these things are true.  Even when it is hard to see evidence of that, I need to hold on to this belief for dear life because the enemy wants me to believe otherwise.  God's faithfulness will continue forever.  He was faithful, He is faithful and He will be faithful- this is not something He chooses to be when He feels like it, it is part of His being- His character.

       God's love endures forever- enduring love has no end, enduring love is strong and steadfast.  It is the type of love that picks up you when you get knocked down- the type of love that never leaves you nor forsakes you.  It is a love based on God and not us- we can't earn or lose this love.  It is lavished on us by God through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. 

       God is good- life isn't always good, people aren't always good, circumstances can look bad but God is good.  Every good and perfect gift comes from above. Some of our hardest times are when we see God's goodness shine the brightest- might not be when we are in the thick of it but if we step back and look, we see glimpses of God's good Hand leading us through the circumstances He has allowed.

      1 Corinthians 1:9 says "God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus our Lord, is faithful".  God has called us into a relationship with Jesus who is our Lord.  God is faithful- whatever is happening in your life right now- remember that God is faithful.

Trust in Him with all your heart
Lean not on your own understanding
Acknowledge Him in all your ways
and He will make your path straight.
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

      God is able- God is faithful

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Appreciating the Long Run

Every marathoner has a love/hate relationship with the long run.  The long run is essential to your marathon training but can be the most dreaded workout of the week.  The long run can build your confidence or break your spirit. 

With school starting, I had to shift my long run to Mondays.  Since Glenn and I are both training for the NYC marathon in November, it is too much on the family schedule for both of us to do the long run on the weekend.  I am still at home with the boys so I have a lot more flexibility in my schedule.  So every Monday after dropping the boys off at school, I will be heading out for my long run.

Last week I went for a 14 mile run.  Here are a few key components to long run training:
  • First, your goal is to run each mile about 60-90 seconds slower than marathon pace.  The thought is that you are building your body to be able to withstand hours of running without pushing it too hard. 
  • Second, this is a great time to work on your nutrition for the marathon.  During a long run, your body burns lots of calories.  Replenishing your body with calories is essential to healthy training & successful race.  You can do this through water, gel/gummies and energy drinks. 
  • Lastly, the long run trains your brain to continue pushing even when you want to quit. 
Marathon running is both a physical and mental work-out. 

As I was running my 14 miles, I began to think about how the trials and struggles that we face in life are similar to the marathon "long" run.  Everyone of us faces trials whether small or large- our lives are not easy, breezy strolls through a beautiful serene meadow.  Most of the time it is a slow grinding pace that leaves us feeling like we want to quit and give up our race.  But that is when we need to remember the goal of the long run. 
  • First, stay slow and steady-  most of life is not a 100 yard dash.  When things are weighing you down and life is tripping you up, keep a slow but steady pace.  Just keep moving forward. 
  • Second, work on your life nutrition.  Hydrate and nourish your spirit in the Word of God daily.  His truth will give you the extra energy boost you need to make it through a day.  Keep coming back daily though- each day has its own set of troubles and challenges.  Come to God daily for your manna. 
  • Lastly, use God's Word to train your brain to keep pushing even when it's hard and you want to throw it the towel.  Turn your worry into worship by recalling scripture or singing a praise song or recalling God's goodness.  Don't be overcome with your circumstances- let God overcome your circumstances with His presence.  Life is hard but we can be "more than conquerors" through God's presence and power in our lives. 

So here's to you, Long Run...  thank you for
  • showing me that I can be strong even when it's hard,
  • reminding me that it is important to keep looking forward (I will trip & fall if I run backwards),
  • and teaching me that "I can do ALL things through Christ that gives me strength". (Ph. 4:13)

  • What your favorite thing about training for a marathon?
  • What is your favorite mantra that keeps you going even when you want to quit?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Busyness

We have been on the go since my last post.  Usually I am counting the days for school to start but this year I am enjoying the time I get to spend with my boys.  We didn't over commit on camps or sports this summer- we are really just spending time at home- sometimes just not doing much at all.

This has been a nice break from the craziness of school- the kids had challenging years in 2nd & 4th grade.  Homework and testing seemed to cause more stress which led to interesting afternoons before heading off to baseball, soccer, etc.  It seems like the more we push our kids, the less time we have to connect with our kids.  I have a bunch of friends who are taking the homeschooling plunge which seems like it could alleviate the amount of stress & activity.  But I wonder if we are just becoming "wired to do" that we don't know how to not schedule activities, play dates & camps to our lives.  What example are we setting to our kids if we never allow them to just be kids- playing, inventing, creating & relaxing- before they have to head off to a world of 24/7 emails, texts, and calls.  One that rarely sleeps and doesn't expect you to as well!

Enough about that...  here are some pictures of some fun things we have done in July.  We have had good times with friends and looking forward to spending time with family in the next few weeks.  August is just around the corner so watch out- summer will be gone before you know it.

4th of July 5K race

Waiting for the awards after the race
On July 4th we ran the 5K in Lutz.  Matt ran the 5K in 27:40 which was about 3 minutes faster than his time last year.  I ran it is 22:55 which gave me 2nd place in my age group.  Jake ran the 1 mile race with his friend, Will.  After the race, Jake got his picture taken on a tractor by a local newspaper.  His picture ran in the Lutz News the following week!

Fishing with Friends
A few days later we took 3 friends (all brothers) out fishing near Honeymoon Island.  We met up with 2 other boats off of 3 Rooker Island and spent the day swimming.  Great day to live in Florida.

Matt & Jake's first swim meet
Matt & Jake competed in their first swim meet this past weekend.  It was a mini-meet so the competition was at their level and everyone received a ribbon for participation.  This was their first meet and they did great- mostly they had lots of fun!  Glenn was fishing in a tournament in Stuart, FL with his dad and uncle.  They received 3rd place in the snapper division.  We got fresh cobia and snapper for dinner this week- YEAH!

Matt at Top 10 Camp
Matt is at our church's overnight camp for 4th-6th graders called Top 10 Camp.  It is a 3 day/2 night camp that runs at the church and the kids have a ton of fun. 

Hebrews 4:12
Lastly I had a great opportunity to speak about something near and dear to my heart, the Bible.  Our church (Van Dyke Church) has been in summer school this summer- a series called God 101.  Each week Pastor Matthew teaches on a different aspect of the Christian faith- this week's message was "What is the Bible? How Does it Reveal God?".  To go along with each weekly message, there is Extra Credit available online at  Each week there is a video that discuss the message's question and a study guide to go deeper with the topic.  I was asked to participate in the video for this week's message.  So if you would like to see my video discussion on the Bible, just go to and you will see me with my friend/mentor, Lynne.  Click on the video to watch the clip. 

Marathon training is going well- it's hot & humid. 

My new weapon- cute shoes!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Here we go.....

So, today it starts- that's right- training for the New York City Marathon.  Wait, didn't I already do that?  Yes I did but unfortunately we did not get to run it.  There were great issues at hand like Hurricane Sandy and all the damage & destruction she bought to town. 

  • April 2012- My husband and I were both accepted into the New York City marathon by the lottery system.  I believe it is a 1/9 chance of being picked so it was awesome that we both were selected the same year.
  • July to October 2012- We trained to run and finish the marathon with a respectable time but ultimately the goal was to finish and have fun.
  • November 2012- Hurricane Sandy hits the east coast causing havoc to the Northeast and canceling the NYC marathon.  It was the right decision- just made too late by Mayor Bloomberg and crew. 
  • After the first of the year, we find out that we can re-enter the marathon in either 2013, 2014 or 2015.  You can also take your money & run.  If it wasn't New York, if we hadn't both got in & if we weren't CRAZY then we would have shouted REFUND.  But we decided to go for it & use our entry for this year- we are officially running the 2013 NYC marathon.

Fast forward to today- July 1st, 2013.  We have officially started our training.  For the past few months we have just maintained and strengthened our existing running bases plus adopting some cross training.  Our goal for this year's marathon has also changed as well- I say this just as my husband says "This would be a nice little marathon if we weren't trying to run a sub 4 marathon."

That's our goal- to run a sub 4 hour marathon.  Our plan is to train efficiently and eat nutritionally plus mix in cross training like swimming, biking & yoga to ward off injuries.

Today's run was an easy 5 mile run which we were able to do together.  Since the boys are getting a little bit older, we might be able to run together close to home.  I am thankful that we can enjoy running together as a couple- it has been a way to stay connected outside the daily grind of household roles- husband/wife, mommy/daddy, housekeeper/bread-winner. 

So stay tuned- I am sure there will be much more to come. 
Long runs = Long talks with God
(gives me something to blog about)
Meanwhile, pray for us to be of strong body & mind and to run our race that has been marked out for us!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dunedin Triathlon- Part 2

Well, I did it!  Dunedin Triathlon 2013 was a success and lots of fun.  Of course, God showed up as a key player in this story.

On Saturday night I went to church with my son, Jake.  Matt was already at a friend's house for the evening and Jake was spending the night with another family.  I was dropping him off after church.  The music was great- very inspiring.  As the announcements were being made, I was flipping through my bulletin, catching up on the news of the church.  Then I saw it- a verse at the bottom of the page called "What's Happening".  The verse said...

Message in the bulletin

What??  I KNOW you can do anything and no one can stop You.  Just what I needed to hear going into Sunday's triathlon especially the swim portion.  I read it a few times, closed my bulletin- started to focus on the sermon but I just kept flipping back to reread the verse.  Never before have I seen a verse in the bulletin.  To verify this I found 2 older bulletins in my bible- yep, no verse.  I wanted to grab the girl's bulletin next to me and look to see if she had the verse as well.  It felt like a message from God- don't worry, You Got It!

The next morning after not much sleep, we left the house at 5 am to pick up my friend Susie.  We arrived at Honeymoon Island with plenty of time to check into transition.  I wrote Job 42:2 and Philippians 4:13 on hands as reminders of God's presence. 

Found on Missional Women Facebook page

After getting set up in transition, we headed to the beach to check out the water conditions.  It was low tide- a very low tide- so low that athletes were able to stand in the deepest part of the course.  It seemed to be chest high on even the smallest people- I am short at 5'2".  So this would not be a challenging swim at all- I don't think you could even call it a swim.  Oh, well- it would be a nice way to ease myself back into open water swimming, right?

My wave was wave 5, Glenn was wave 6 and Susie was wave 7.  I told Glenn to catch up to me and I could just grab on and ride in with him.  My husband is a strong swimmer- he thinks it is funny how stressed I get about the swim. 

So my wave went off at about 7:50 am and it was an interesting swim.  I walked to the first buoy and decide to swim across the course then walk out of the water.  Because of the swallow conditions, it became much easier to swim a little then dolphin dive then swim a little more.  By doing this I was passing a lot of swimmers.  I continued to dolphin my way to shore, standing up to run only when it made sense.  The run from water to transition was a little long but on nice hard sand. 

I left the transition area with my bike to ride a 12 mile course.  The course was two 6 mile loops so when I entered the course the elite athletes were starting their 2nd loop.  It was a little dicey at times with people passing quickly on my left.  I was able to get a good pace going and began feeling confident to pass people as well.  I stuck with a group of women for the first loop and was able to increase my pace, leaving them behind during the 2nd loop.  Glenn passed me during the second loop which I figured would eventually happen.  I was very happy with my biking- I didn't get passed as much by other women as I have in the past.  I don't have a pedometer on my bike yet so I wasn't able to know my average pace.

With the bike portion over, I racked my bike and laced up my running shoes.  I left transition feeling like I had enough left to run a good pace.  After finding my running legs, I settled into a decent pace- spotting other women in my age range (in triathlons they mark the back of your leg with your age)- I set out to pass as much as I could.  I kept looking for Glenn because I knew he was somewhere ahead of me.  Unfortunately the course wasn't marked so I wasn't sure when to pick up my pace- at the last water station I decided to pick it up.  I crossed the finish line, completing the last time I race in my thirties (I am turning 40 this July).  After crossing the line, Glenn comes up behind me and taps me on the shoulder.  He was behind me the whole time- even though he finished the bike ahead of me- I left transition before he did.  We joke about how he takes a long time in transition- at his St Anthony's Race, he took 5 minutes in transition from bike to run because he was looking for his gum.  After finishing the tri, we went to cheer on other competitors and look for Susie. 

Glenn (finish time)- 1:07, Jenny (finish time)- 1:10

So can I get over my love/hate relationship with triathlons? 
  • I LOVE the opportunity to challenge myself to work hard at 3 different sports but be disciplined enough to compete well at each one. 
  • I LOVE the run and bike- I think I could tolerate the swim with more training and less anxiety.
  • I LIKE the atmosphere of the triathlons- you see all types of people who are challenging themselves to complete a race that requires discipline and technique. 
  • My husband told me to stop my complaining and suck it up. 
So Yes, I will compete again- I have another triathlon scheduled for August with a couple of friends.  It is another sprint which is manageable training especially since my husband and I are starting our marathon training in July for the NYC marathon. 

Susie and I are ready to our next tri!

But as Pastor Matthew reminded me on Saturday night that "for physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for ALL things, holding promises for both the present life and the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:7-9)  So though God has blessed me with the body to run, bike and swim (slowly), I need to remember that the most important way to spend my time is on my spiritual training.  This training leads to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control which can be beneficial to those around me.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Dunedin Triathlon- Part 1

This Sunday I am competing in a sprint triathlon in Dunedin, Florida.  I haven't competed in a tri since Labor Day weekend 2011.  I am a little nervous to get back out there.
 I am still not sure if I really like tris!

1st triathlon in Orlando 2010
School ended today which meant a week of school activities and hair appointments- on top of that Tropical Storm Andrea decided to make this week a wash-out.  Needless to say I have not gotten to train as much as I would like to going into Sunday's race.  It's just a sprint so I know physically I can do all 3 and probably all 3 parts consecutively.  I just don't know if I am mentally in it. 

For one thing I really do not enjoy the swim-  I am trying.  But I am not a good swimmer- I am slow & slow.  Mostly I am over thinking the whole thing- I started going to a Master's Swim class at Cheval AC.  This has been great- I have met some great people and have swam more yards in one class than I would on my own.  It's just I don't enjoy it.  But I also don't want to give up, just because it is hard- I just had this conversation with my 4th grader about not quitting when a task is challenging.  Also I have this problem called "perfectionism" and I really struggle with not being able to do something well. 

The other 2 disciplines of the triathlon I really enjoy.  I like my road bike and think my spin classes have helped me become stronger on my bike.  I am still a little cautious when I ride but I hope to beat my bike times from my last triathlon.  Running is my bread & butter so I hope I can come off the bike with strong, fast legs.  My run times have been falling in the last year- I think it is due to my cross training plus changing my gait from a heel to a mid-foot strike.  This has allowed me to remain healthier longer which has played a part in being able to run each mile a little faster. 

Mostly I want to swim smoothly, bike safely & run fast!  I'll let you know....
I like this slogan!
Any good tri advice for a wanna-be tri-er?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ok, God- I'm listening

I truly believe that God has a sense of humor.  Or I am just so dense sometimes I need to hear something multiple times for it to sink in. 

As I thought about what to write this week, I flipped through my prayer journal.  A common theme began to emerge- not sure if I am ready for it but I know God is!

So here's a peek at some of my journal entries for this week:

"The Christian life is one of spiritual courage and determination lived out in our flesh." Oswald Chambers

I want to seek you and your ways first then act on those ways.  My life is worth nothing if I am not focused on you and giving you the glory.
  • Seek first God's kingdom
  • Boast in nothing but God
  • Circumcision of the heart is what God is after (true repentance, sanctification)
I don't want to be bored or busy just to be busy- I want to be faithful.

"Be aware of anything that stops the offering up of prayer."  Oswald Chambers
  • Asking self- What areas in my life block my prayer life?
  • Help me, God, to be ready to live a Romans 12:1-2 life.
Romans 12:1-2 "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

5/26/13     Sermon Message from Todd Leet
Todd spoke about the crippled woman in Luke 13:10-17 who had been bent over for 18 years.  He shared a personal story about how fear had been crippling him for years and one day Jesus released him- he was no longer "bounded".  You can listen to the message by going to

Ok, God- I'm listening.  You desire for me to seek you first always.  To be willing to daily sacrifice my will and schedule to You so that I can grow closer to You and give You glory.  You want me to break up anything in my life that is hindering my relationship with You and others.  You want nothing to tied up our prayer life- I need to keep the channel clear though a repentant spirit and uncluttered heart & mind. 

Did I get it?  Is that all?  Just kidding- on my own there is no way that I could even come close to checking anything off that list.  But with your help and guiding spirit, I know I can move closer to being the woman you have created me to be- even if it's just a baby step. 

"Be serious in your commitment to God, and gladly leave everything else alone.  Literally put God first in your life."  Oswald Chambers


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Proud to be his Mom!

This weekend not only marked the celebration of Mother's Day but the start of Little League baseball play-offs.  My son, Matt, plays for Lutz Little League (Minor A).  This season he was on the Yankees.  His team finished the season in 6th place and was selected to play the 3rd place team- the Red Sox.  The first play-off games were to take place on Saturday, May 9th and Matt's game was scheduled for 2:30 pm. 

The game started out well for both teams.  Each team scoring runs in the first few innings- the defense was working together and the pitchers were throwing strikes.  Matt usually positions are first base, center field, and pitcher.  By the final inning, the Yankees were leading the Red Sox 17-9. 

The Yankees took the field in the bottom of the 6th- needing to hold this generous lead.  Coach Erick called Matt to pitch for the final inning.  The adrenaline was pumping, the fans were plenty and the game had taken a few hours.  The Red Sox were hoping to come back in their final bat. 

Photo by Maria Ortiz

Needless to say, Matt did not start out pitching well- he allowed the first 3 batters on base.  With 9 runs needed to win, Matt continued to persevere on the mound.  With the help of his team, 1 out was needed to win.  Quickly the Red Sox's scored 5 runs to tighten the Yankee's lead to 3.  With potential runs on the bases, Matt went to face his good friend, Ty.  On a pass ball, Matt charged from the mound to tag out the stealing runner who slide into his side as he was trying to block the plate.  The player was safe and Matt was down on the ground due to injury.  After being tended to by multiple coaches, Matt gingerly went back on the mound to continue pitching.  He threw a few pitches to warm-up and Ty got back in the box.  A few pitches later, Ty hit a line drive back to Matt which he caught to win the game.  Yankees win 17-15. 

After the celebration of our victory, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.  As I watched Matt battle on the mound for his team, I was proud of his determination to not allow the circumstances of the game to change his attitude.  He kept his head in the game and was able to shake off the runs that were adding up against him.  Even though it was not one of his best pitching efforts, I was very proud of the maturity I witnessed in my son as he focused on the task at hand.  He never wavered even when he was injured- he got right back out there to finish the job his coach had asked him to do.

It was nerve racking to watch the last half inning take place that Saturday.  I knew Matt wasn't pitching his best- I kept looking at his coach in the dug-out, sending subliminal messages to "take him out".  Little did I know that he was it- Matt was the final pitcher for the Yankees.  If we won, we were set to play the following day and needed to hold off a couple of pitchers.  Thankfully Matt was able to finish up the inning and secure the win for his team.

Unfortunately, the Yankees went on to play on Sunday losing 28-22 to the Dodgers. 

Matt has always been competitive and driven to win which at times has been caused tears and bad sportsmanship on his part.  My husband and I have persevered in our parenting, always encouraging and expecting our children to do their best including having a good attitude.  At times we were both utterly embarrassed at the behaviors that Matt exhibited in the dug-out or on the field due to disappointment in his own success at the plate or on the field. 

Photo by Maria Ortiz

BUT.... God is good- though much prayer (on my part) and car ride home talks (on my husband's part), Matt has matured emotionally on the baseball field.  He was able to gain control over his emotions and play with determination and drive- keeping his cool even in the hardest times.

If you have a child who struggles with his or her emotions especially in any competitive arena, let me encourage you to
  • continue to talk to your child about how you expect them to act on or off the field,
  • hold your child accountable for their behavior, and
  • pray for strength and help for yourself and your child.
The baseball field is one place that children begin to experience life and its challenges.  If we teach our children to compete with integrity, good sportsmanship and humility, these character traits will follow them into adulthood and training them to compete in life.

Photo by Maria Ortiz

Proud to be your mom, Matt!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Faith Builders

Have you ever been in the presence of a faith builder?  My definition of a faith builder is someone who shares their life with you in a way that builds your faith.  Each time a faith builder shares their experiences with you- another block of faith is built in your life.  These people usually have amazing stories of struggles and hardships but always seem to be able to point to God's grace and blessings.

This morning I had the pleasure to be in the presence of many faith builders- a group of multi-generational women of God who choose to come Wednesday mornings to Van Dyke Church for bible study.  Today we wrapped up our second year of bible study with a time of fellowship, food, communion and sharing.  I am blessed to organize women's bible study at our church which has been extremely rewarding.  Going into this morning's final session, I was unsure about all the logistics but was praying for God to show up BIG.  And He did!

The morning started with a service in the chapel that included a remembrance of the studies we completed.  We started the year with James by Beth Moore and finished up with The Amazing Collection: The Pentateuch.  Pastor Matthew joined us for communion which also was a time of remembrance of the price Jesus paid for us on the cross.  We concluded chapel time with a spontaneous singing of "Jesus Loves Me" lead by Pastor Matthew, hand motions and all.

After the chapel time, we headed upstairs for a time of fellowship & food.  A little before 11:00 am, I opened the floor for sharing- I had encouraged the women the weeks before to be praying about what God would have them to share to the entire group.  Going into the share time, I knew I had 3 women that were ready to share.  30 minutes later, over 10 women had openly shared their hearts with the entire group- there was not a dry eye in the room.  I knew God had gone before me- preparing the hearts of each women that had transparently shared their story of faith to a group of 50 women. This is not easy to do so I am so thankful for each woman who obediently stepped up to share what God had laid on their hearts. You were all faith builders today- building bricks of faith in each of our lives. 

When women from different generations and backgrounds can come together and encourage one another through prayer, service and fellowship, then the gospel is being lived out.  Today I got a glimpse to the kingdom of heaven (minus the sad tears & sorrows)- a place where self is put aside for the greater good and masks can be removed so that healing can begin. 


So today I salute faith builders:
  • Thank you for your stories- they have encouraged me to continue my own journey of faith.
  • Thank you for your transparency- thank you for being vulnerable and real.
  • Thank you for the privilege of praying for you.
Are you a faith builder?  Who can you encourage today with your stories of faith? 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hard Lessons to Learn

Today I took my boys to their first official stroke class for swim team.  My oldest son, Matt, was able to keep up fairly well with the class even without fins.  Unfortunately my youngest, Jake, was a little over his head.  For about 30 minutes, I had to watch him try his best but his best just wasn't enough to handle the lesson.  Since we just signed up the day before neither boy had fins- this caused them to trail behind the group for most of the class.  Not a bad lesson for my "over-confident at times" Matt but for Jake, who could benefit from stealing a little confidence from his brother, he ended with hidden tears. 

As their mother (that's me!) I know that a little hard work is good- everything won't be easy, sometimes we won't like what we have to do.  Lessons learned like this when we are young make it much easier to digest life as we get older.  BUT how much I HATED watching Jake go through this struggle.

Oh, how much more did God hate to discipline Moses after his disobedience at the waters of Meribah (Numbers 20).  I am sure God sat by watching the whole scene transpire, hoping that Moses would not strike the rock, though knowing the whole time that He would.

I wonder what God's tone was like when He said "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them." (Numbers 20:12) 

Was He angry?  Was He stern-faced & finger-pointing?

Or was He sad, disappointed for Moses as much as with Moses?

The scripture doesn't give us tone and inflection but I do know the heart & character of God- I bet He was disappointed that He had to discipline Moses for this disobedient act.  He loved Moses, called Him His friend but God also trust Moses with LOTSLuke 12:48 says "From everyone who has been given much, much more will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." 

Scripture also says "my son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." (Proverbs 3:11-12) Just like we discipline our children when they are disobedient, God disciplines His children as well.  Discipline is a symbol of love though the one receiving it doesn't always see it as such.  This is one way that God demonstrates His love for us- sometimes we need that "love pat" to get us back on track.  Hebrews 12:10-11 says "our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." 

Moses' disobedience halted his journey into the Promised Land.  God had a younger man in mind for the job- Moses' young apprentice, Joshua.  God did show Moses the Promised Land from a private seat atop of Mount Nebo.  On the mountain top, God sat beside his sweet friend and showed all the land that would belong to the nation of Israel.  I wonder if He pointed out Jericho and said "they are going to have to march around that city 7 times then I'm gonna knock those walls down" or showed Moses the city of Jerusalem and said "someday the wilderness tabernacle will be a glorious temple in that city".  Only God and Moses knows what was talked about that day but I have to think that they shared precious moments recalling the many times that Moses had been faithful and trusted God. 

As for my story, we will go back to stroke class WITH FINS- thanks, Angela!  There might be more tears and frustration but hard work builds character.  Also I don't want them to end up swimming like their momma- someday they might want to compete in triathlons and I would hate for them to struggle with swimming like I do. 

Three tris completed- swam the first on my back, the second with back & breast, and the third with mostly free!


Monday, April 1, 2013

Want Rest?

In my bible study, we are overviewing the Book of Numbers for the next 2 weeks.  The DVD from "The Amazing Collection" on Numbers zeroed in on 2 key points: 
  • Belief brings rest.
  • Lack of trust brings unrest.
The Israelites came out of Egypt promised by God to entered a "land filled with milk and honey".  For one year they were provided daily manna & quail for food and cloud & fire for direction from God.  Though their needs were met daily, they still struggled with worry, discontentment and lack of trust. 

Sound familiar? 

I would bet that you too struggle with these issues on a daily basis.  Though we do not have as many tangible reminders of God's daily presence and provision, we do have the Holy Spirit which indwells each person who believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  The Bible also provides daily guidance and nourishment for us. 
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the (woman) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16-17

As godly women we need to stop worrying about everything and trying to control all things. Our lack of trust in our heavenly Father only produces a spirit of fear, anxiousness and unbelief.  We are limiting our own entry into our Promised Land when we don't "be still" and let God be God. 

Recently I have been going through a trial in my life.  For the first time I truly chose to "be still" and let God get me through it.  And He did- God showed up in the chaos and confusion in ways I didn't think was possible.  As I was finishing up week 2 of this trial, I felt very weary and tired- my spiritual tank was drying up.  I also was finding less time to sit quietly with God- distractions, obligations, noise- all filled my space, edging out the peace of God.  I became so angry with myself- I felt so close to a spiritual victory but so tired from the journey I had already traveled. 

I thought about my experiences with running and training for a marathon- the race only really brings at mile 20.  By mile 20, the excitement has worn off, the tiredness has set in and the mental capacity to keep going has almost run out.  BUT the key is to keep moving forward- to not stop- continue to push through the last 6.2 miles and reach the finish line. 

The same applies in our own struggles and trials- even though the journey ahead looks impossible and the will to go on seems bleak.  If you don't keep moving forward, believing and trusting in God as you go, you will miss out on your own finish line- your own Promised Land victory. 

Remember, belief brings rest!

Isaiah 26:3-4 "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal."



Thursday, March 21, 2013

Am I "ALL" in?

Proverbs 3:5,6 says "Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight."

As I meditated on this verse today, I was struck square in the face by the word "ALL".  It clearly states that we are expected to trust God with ALL our heart and acknowledge Him in ALL our ways.  Webster defines the word "ALL" as "the full or whole amount of", "entirely, purely, consumed".  So if we substitute one of these definitions in this verse, it reads

"Trust in the Lord with the full or whole amount of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in the full or whole amount of your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight". 

Just like the song by Janis Joplin says we should give God "every little piece of our heart".  But how many of us truly do this?  True surrender is a heart sold out to God- can you say that every piece of your heart belongs to your heavenly Father? 

I'll be honest...  I know there are parts of my heart that do not belong to God.  I long to give it all to Him but I struggle with letting go and fully surrendering it all.  What I do know though is that when I choose to trust Him and not lean on my own understanding that my faith builds and my heart can't help to draw closer to God.

A few Sundays ago, I was at the alter on my knees, begging for God to take away an upcoming trial.  I was honest with Him- I did not want to do it- I needed Him to take it away- I wanted no part of it.  The reality was that I was going to endure the trial- it would have been an act of God for it to be removed.  After praying, I was able to stand up from that alter with a renewed assurance and peace that I could do it- that He would be with me, allowing me to endure the trial.  In the midst of the trial, I have walked this very verse- trusting God to see me through and not allowing my own feelings to dictate my heart.  As I acknowledge God through the trial, He has paved a straight path filled with peace, patience, joy and even love. 

So what about your heart?  How much of it does God occupy?  Are you still holding tight to pieces of your heart- scared to trust and follow God? 

Relax your grip, hold out your hand- God loves you so much that He will take care of "every little piece of your heart".


Monday, March 11, 2013

Honoring through Holiness

As we study the book of Leviticus this week, I am challenging myself to answer some tough questions.  The Leviticus DVD from The Amazing Collection proposed some interesting questions.  Instead of focusing on the "weirdness" of Leviticus, I have been pondering the theme of this interesting book- Holiness.

  • What is holiness & what does it look like?
  • How do I begin to be holy in a "not so holy world"?
  • Am I pursuing holiness or happiness in my daily life?
  • Is it even possible to be set apart to God so that I can be used by God?
Not easy questions but then again, is this a topic that we want easy answers.  Becoming holy or sanctified (which is a Christianese terms for "cleaning up your act") should not be a process that we take lightly.  As we set ourselves apart from the things of the world so that we can honor God, we become more like Christ- this is a lifelong process.

In the world of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, we are constantly bombarded with information about how people want to be perceived, opinions that have and photos of experiences they graciously share. 

So if God looked at your life by checking out your Pinterest page, what would He see posted on your cork board?
  • Would love, joy, patience, peace be evident?  Would goodness, kindness, gentleness be  apparent in your life?  Would you have banner for self-control and faithfulness?
  • How about the way you use your time?  Would your daily activities reflect God's priorities or yours? 
  • What about your talents and treasure?  Do you use your God-given talents to honor God?  Where are you spending your treasure?
  • How is your tongue?  Do you honor God with your words or are you quick to fall back into old habits and patterns?
My car has three magnet bumper stickers on the back- a runner girl, a cross with the words Faith, and a elementary school logo.  Each one of those stickers represent the priorities in my life but if the bumper stickers weren't there, how would people describe me based on my daily life?

I believe that God ultimately is looking at our heart- that is where holiness needs to start.  Matthew 6:21 says "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also".  If I partner with God to clean up my heart then my life should naturally reflect holiness. 

This is important because God uses our light to draw others to Him- so we need to be careful on how we live and act because you might be the only Bible that someone ever reads.  2 Corinthians 2:14-16 says "but thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life."  Not everyone we come in contact with will think we "smell" good- our love for Jesus will turn some people off but for the ones who think we smell sweet- we are offering an eternal opportunity for them to know Christ now and forever.

I challenge you to ask yourself some of these same questions and ask God to show you what needs cleaning up in your life.  God never wants to leave us where He found us- He wants to move us forward to a life that reflects His goodness, joy, patience, peace, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control and most of all.... love.