Birthdays, Buddies, and Books…Oh My!

March. Not quite over yet, but close.

March has been a month full of celebrating the birthdays of so many loved ones, still one left to go…cough, Courtnie Howard, cough, cough ūüôā ¬†March has also been full of a ton of quality time with loved ones. My mind has been blown, stretched, and enlightened through the 3 books that I devoured so far this month. I still have 5 days left, so I’m hoping¬†that I will be able to end the month reading 4 books ūüôā

In the midst of the busyness this month, God has been whispering through His spirit, His word, and His people a reality that has been simmering in the forefront of my mind.

*I am enough. I am free. God wants to be WITH me*

For as long as I can remember I have really tried to live a good story FOR God and ABOUT God. That is exhausting. It is consumed with feelings of pressure, not being enough, and feeling in bondage to the opinions and attitudes of others.

This month, time and time again, the truth that God just wants me to live my life WITH Him has been piercing my heart and mind. As that truth has been sizzling internally, a new level of freedom has been reached. A new level of peace has filled my mind and soul. A new level of identity and worth has been reached.

There has been another strong sense that has partnered with the above mentioned life giving truths, it is a sense of being wrecked for the ordinary. Interruptions by God leave us never the same again. Because of this, there is a nagging desire that will not leave me alone… I want with everything in me for¬†every single person to know the freedom, joy, strength, peace, and identity that Jesus has to offer by just being who He has created us to be.

I don’t know how this sits with you, BUT, I do know that if you could truly and fully wrap your mind and heart around this loving Jesus that just wants to live life WITH you, your faith walk will never be the same again. You can stop striving. You can just be. REST. The pressure is off.

In your marriage, be WITH Jesus and He will spill out. In your parenting, be WITH Jesus and He will spill out. In your work place, school, friendships, and/or your church be WITH Jesus and watch Him spill out.

We put so much pressure on ourselves and those around us to live FOR God and ABOUT Him, when in all reality, it naturally happens when we live WITH Him. So liberating!

I am so thankful for the birthdays, buddies, and books because through them all I have learned that I am enough. I am free. I don’t have to strive. I don’t have to stress. I just have to be.

 

 

It’s How We are Wired

On Sunday evening I was sitting in a friend’s living room surrounded by 11 of the finest women I have ever had the privilege of knowing. It was a time of hard laughter..like so hard, my “smoker’s laugh” took over my body. It was a time of openness; real, authentic, and vulnerable openness. It was a time of AMAZING food…AMAZING¬†variety and AMAZING¬†tasting.

I drove away that night with a FULL belly (I may or may not of had to undo my top button of my jeans) and an even fuller heart. The overwhelming sense of gratitude for my community has stuck with me over the last few days.

Last night we had our last meeting for this current women’s Bible study session at my church. ¬†As we went around the table there was a common theme of appreciation for the the women sitting around the table. For a lot of us, Tuesday night was a hi-light for our week and we were sad that it was our last meeting until May.

This morning I sat with 2 friends as we are going¬†through our church’s small group curriculum based on the book, Jesus Called – He wants His church Back. This week the topic was on the role of the church and its importance in our lives as Christians. There was a question that asked about our favorite part of the church and all 3 of us simultaneously said, “the people.”

It does not matter if you are introverted or if you are extroverted, you are wired by God to need people. For some of us, it may just be one person, for others, 10 people. Even Jesus had His people. No matter our predisposition, we need people around us. Not just any people; healthy, caring, wise, and safe people. Life is a journey with a lot of crazy turns and dips and we cannot go it alone. We can try, BUT we will not make it very far.

For me, personally, my community has carried me in times that I could not walk on my own. The prayers, coffees, cards, text messages, phone calls, and the shoulders to cry on have gotten me through my journey of infertility, failed adoptions, marriage troubles, financial droughts, parenting difficulties, and the ongoing daily battles.

My community hasn’t just been there for the hard stuff, they have been here for all of the good stuff too. Whether it was standing by our side in the court room as we adopted our boys, helping us pack up our old house and then unpacking it all in our new house, celebrating holidays, ¬†birthdays, and all the ongoing daily victories.

If you are lonely today, I am sorry. It is a lame and a sad feeling. There are some days with even the community that I have, I still feel lonely. In those times, I find that Jesus is calling me to Himself. There is definitely a void in all of us that only Jesus can fill and when we try to fill it with stuff or people, we will feel very lonely.

The lonely feeling I am addressing here is the loneliness that comes from the lacking of a community.

Life is busy. Especially with really young ones that are stealing our sleep. What I hear is that the busyness doesn’t stop, it just gets worse. It goes from sleepless night fatigue to running around like the family taxi to school, games, and activities fatigue. Community doesn’t usually drop in our laps. It is something that we have to pursue and be intentional about. It is extending invites for dinner or playdates. It is signing up for your local Bible study or mom’s groups. It is making attending church on the weekends a priority.

It can be so scary to step out. Especially into a room of women when you don’t know anyone there. If we can always just keep in the back of our minds that we are ALL just tender daughters of the King that are the subtotal of all of the relationships we have ever had in our lives. We all have hurts and insecurities that we are operating out of, but if we could treat each individual we come in contact with the way we want to be treated, God-honoring community would easily flow. We all need…Grace for each other. Love for each other. Gentleness for each other. Acceptance for each other. Understanding for each other. Forgiveness for each other. Authenticity and vulnerability with each other.

Find your people. Whether it is one or 10. Step out and do what it takes to find them. We were not made to do life alone. We NEED each other. Get past the awkward first interaction and build the relationship. You won’t be sorry and like I always say, it will be worth it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

37

I am sitting here on the eve of my 37th birthday, reading Love Lives Here, listening to my Spotify playlist with 28 of my favorite worship songs, reflecting on the last  year, and dreaming about the next.

I can currently hear Dubs in the backyard talking in¬†the only volume that he knows how and Molly in her in crib alternating from talking gibberish to pounding her bottle on the wall. Between Spotify and 2/3 of the kids, I thought that it would make a good soundtrack for a post ūüôā

I’m feeling somber. I’m feeling blessed. I’m feeling excited. I’m feeling reflective.

September 23, 2016 changed my life forever. You can read about it here. So, ¬†just under 6 months ago I encountered God in a way that has altered the course of my life. Because of that encounter, there is excitement for the next year. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT excited about the whole turning another year older aspect, especially since it now puts me in the “late 30’s” category. With my slow metabolism, unwanted grey hairs, and weird placed wrinkles I have never felt more alive.

In this next year, I want to love like I’ve never loved before. I want to be more gentle and kind with with my words to those around me. I want to be more present in the lives of Jason and the kids. I want to focus more on their eyes and less on my phone screen. I want to value the cuddles, laughs, and play time more than the completed “to do” list. ¬†I want to be more aware of the needs around me with an open wallet, ¬†ready ear, hand, smile, or hug. I want to be a contributing¬†tribe member. ¬†The circle of women that the Lord has given me are gifts that I don’t want to ever take for granted.¬†¬†I don’t want them to ever feel alone or neglected. I want to be ready to babysit for them, bring them a coffee or a meal, pray over them, speak truth over them, encourage them, and point them to Jesus.

For the year 2017, ¬†Jesus gave me the word “joy”. This is my quarterly check in and I can honestly say that I have seen time and time again in the last 3 months, the power choosing joy in any and every circumstance. It isn’t easy. It can sometimes be the hardest response on the planet. But EVERY single time, WORTH IT! ¬†Perspective shifts, awareness of God’s presence is enlightened, gratitude spills out, and most importantly, God is glorified. So, I will continue the year wholeheartedly choosing joy!

I think time of reflections and dreaming are important . It shouldn’t just be on January 1st of the new year or our birthdays. It needs to be ongoing. It needs to be on the forefront of our minds. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to become stagnant. I want to be a world changer and history maker for God! ¬†In my mind, making an impact for Jesus while I am¬†here on earth is such an exciting and life-giving purpose!

I believe the only way to do this is by being intentional. Choosing to guard my eyes, heart, and mind. Picking up the Bible and asking God for passion for His word. Making it a priority to actively invest in my church. Being in a small group. Surrounding myself with people of the like mind. Refusing to settle and always looking for ways to jump out of the boat towards Jesus, no matter the cost.

It’s not always comfortable. It’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s stupid¬†scary. But I know that it is preparation for what is to come. It is being ready for when God asks me to do something freakishly scary and saying “yes!”without hesitation.

What does it look like to you? Is it, staying in and fighting for a marriage that feels loveless. Having integrity at your job. Standing up for what is right when you are surrounded by the loud disapproving voices of your peers. Choosing to be your child’s parent instead of their friend. ¬†Getting out of a relationship that is toxic, be it plutonic or romantic. ¬†Let’s put down the bottles, burgers, and/or ¬†Benjamins and pick up the only lasting and fulfilling option: Jesus!

He will always be enough. He is faithful to always be your hope, strength, and peace.

 

Jesus Has Deep Pockets

It has been a week.

A week of frustration, anger, exhaustion, and worry. It has also been a week of whispering Jesus’ name even when I can’t utter anything else. A week of, once again, seeing the power of choosing joy and of choosing to look for God’s perspective.

It has been a week of fighting to be the best momma possible to Weiland one minute and then failing in a bad way the next. Doing my best to raise a little disciple to know and follow Jesus, but then alternating throughout the day from raising my voice to a complete scream to choosing my phone and all that it has to offer.

It has been a week of little sleep. Both babies are teething and or fighting horrible colds. My guess is a little bit of both. Either way they are both extremely clingy and fussy without appetites, fighting naps, and waking up at night.

It has been a week of WAY more money going out than coming in. Unplanned and unbudgeted surprises leaving me feeling more financially vulnerable than I prefer to feel.

Yesterday morning I woke up to the knowledge that someone had hacked our checking account number and stole $1,000.  I spent the first hour of my day on the phone with the bank, finding out that because it was our actual account number and not our debit card, I have to go through and change all of our bills to the new checking account number. Wait 7-10 days to get new checks and new debit cards.

That was my tipping point.

At about 10:30, out of desperation, I loaded up the fussy babies and my fussy self and left for a change of scenery.

I didn’t know where to go, I just new that I needed some time with Jesus. So I drove. I put on Pandora, because it gives room for the spirit to supernaturally meet me. (Just let me have this belief ūüôā )

I was driving along highway 111, crying out to Jesus telling Him that I was desperate for time with Him and His word. He whispered, “I am the word and I am here”. Comfort came, He sees me in the midst of fussy babies. He sees that it is impossible for me to sit and read the Bible, and He reminded me that He is the word! (John 1:1) I started saying verses out loud that I have memorized talking about His faithfulness and goodness. (Once again, reminded of the importance of memorizing scripture! )

Then Pandora….

An instrumental song came on and I got lost in it. I saw Jesus and me. I saw myself punching His chest and crying. He was just holding my upper arms and letting me beat His chest and cry. I eventually got tired and just went limp in His arms while sobbing. He held me. SO tightly and SO lovingly. He then pulled me away and looked me in the eyes and gently wiped away my tears. With the kindest smile, pulled me away and asked me to look into His pocket. I looked and it was SO deep. It was like Mary Poppin’s purse. I saw laughter, I saw goodness, I saw money, and I saw amazing memories to be made. He then looked at me and said, “I’ve got you. I will provide for you. Good things are coming. My pockets are so deep with blessings that you cannot even begin to fathom.” Dang!

I drove thru a fast food place I would rather not mention, okay, okay.. McDonald’s… and got the babies and I some lunch and drove home. By the time we got home the babies were ready for their naps. I laid them down and opened the Bible to the first designated verse from the reading plan that I am doing and it was John 1:1-3… God is the word.

I don’t know what your week looks like. Maybe it is awesome, maybe it is meh, and maybe it just flat out sucks. All I know is that Jesus is walking through our seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, and years with us. He is in the midst. He sees us. He loves us. He has good stuff in store for us!

Maybe you too need to be reminded of God’s deep pockets. His blessings that never end. His goodness that never ends. His love that never ends.

Take a few minutes and ask Jesus for a sneak peak into His pocket for you and watch Him meet you so intimately and perfectly like He is always capable of doing!

Sometimes I act like a 18 Month Old

It was about 16 years ago. I was babysitting my niece and she was thirsty. Being the brainiac that I am, I put orange juice WITH  pulp into a bottle. Now that I am a mom and 16 years wiser I would not give a baby orange juice that could potentially be too acidic. But more than anything, I would definitely use a strainer if I were to give a baby orange juice in a bottle.

I remember it had been about 30 minutes and she was still sucking away but the bottle was still just as full as it was when I first gave it to her. I took the bottle, well…wrestled the bottle out of her tight little grip, to examine as to why none of the juice was coming out. In the meantime she is screaming and then eventually flailing on the floor in a massive tantrum. I unscrewed the top and saw that the nipple was completely full of pulp. So, I cleaned it out and then used a strainer to put the juice in her bottle. I remember as I was cleaning it out, I muttered under my breath, “Hold on! I am just trying to make it better so that all of it will come out!”

Immediately, Jesus spoke to my heart, “These are the tantrums I’ve seen you throw when you don’t understand, the timing is off, or you want something that I may not be giving to you at the time that you want it.”

WOA! It was such a significant interaction with Jesus that it has stuck with me throughout the last 16 years.

The times that I cried,  begged, and threw a tantrum when the fertility treatments didn’t work only to find out that he was hand – picking out the most incredible little Shafer kids for me. Or that time that my dream college was way out of budget so I felt like I had to “settle” and I ended up meeting my husband where I attended! The times when I was the last of my single friends and I threw tantrums that my husband wasn’t in my life yet, only to find out that the man I eventually married was everything I had ever hoped or prayed for and for the first time ever I wasn’t settling. Or the time that I was in escrow on a house and it fell out and I threw a tantrum because “I really wanted that house!”, only to be able to buy the house a year later for $67,000 less. Or what about that time that I was so overwhelmed with anxiety and depression because we couldn’t find church to hire us for over a year and a half and it turned out that during this time of waiting,  God was healing my marriage and bringing us to a place where we would be hired by the most incredible church family that I have ever been a part of! Or one last example tantrum out of THOUSANDS, that time I lost my marbles when the adoption didn’t go through, only to find out that Jesus had created my Marty the month we lost Bella.

What about you? What are you throwing a tantrum about right now? Getting pregnant? A new job? A house? A spouse? A failed adoption? Finances? A new car? A move? A promotion?

It isn’t wrong to mourn or cry out of disappointment of how life is looking currently, but if we let the tantrums steal our joy and trust in Jesus than we miss out on so many blessings that are available in the midst of the storm or waiting period.

Jesus wants to take the good stuff we are praying for or pining after and exchange it for THE BEST. He wants to lavish on us in ways that we cannot ever fathom or imagine! He is a good daddy with good gifts!

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The Deposit

 

Yesterday I was doing laundry and I had to wait for Marty to wake up from his nap before I could put away his and Weiland’s clothes in their room. He finally woke up and so I went to go and get him but he didn’t want out of his crib yet. This week he has been a bit clingy with me so since I had my phone in my back pocket playing music,  I left my phone in the room so that he knew I would be coming right back. As I was walking back down the hallway to grab the clothes to put them away in the room Jesus so predictably gently whispered to me that like I left my phone as a guarantee that I would be back for Marty, He left His spirit here with us as a guarantee that He would be back for us. I smile came across my face. The comfort in knowing that God’s spirit was left because of His love for us warmed me all up.

His spirit wasn’t only left as a deposit of His return but also left as our companion and help today. All access pass to the power and goodness of God.

In 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, it says, “Now it is God who establishes both us and you in Christ. He anointed us, placed His seal on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a pledge of what is to come.”

I love this verse, yes, ultimately heaven is what is to come. But what about today!? How exciting that He has amazing and incredible things in store for us NOW!? Heaven on earth is available. Power. Forgiveness. Love. Joy. Peace. Strength. Miracles. All for the taking. He has anointed us and brought freedom upon us to embrace His goodness and then in turn share His goodness with those around us!

I know for me this brings me so much comfort, confidence, and freedom. I know that in my own strength I can not have the patience, grace, and love that my kids and husband deserve, but because of the spirit in me, Jesus can be where I lack.

With the help of the spirit let us embrace and lavish grace, love, forgiveness, and acceptance on ourselves. Let us allow Him to be all that He is capable of being in our lives.

Allow Him to embrace you today. Allow Him to speak love and life over you today. Walk out your anointing and the power of the spirit and watch miracles happen in you and all around you.

Heaven on Earth.