Because I Love You

I was backing out of my driveway last Monday, headed to work, when the DJ on the Christian radio said, “Maybe God did some work in your life over the weekend, and if so, give us a call and share with us.”

“You have no idea, Radio Guy, ” I thought. “You. Have. No. Idea.”

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I’m not one to call into a radio show, but even if I was, I’m not sure what I would say about what happened at Refine Retreat. I wondered, “What on earth?!?” as I was headed to the retreat, and now, one week after returning home, I’m still kind of asking the question, “What on earth?!?”

I did figure out why I won a ticket to the retreat. Mainly because there’s no way I would have gone otherwise. I knew it was going to be a small retreat, but it was even smaller than I was expecting, just a couple dozen women. It was so not “my thing.” Turns out I wasn’t alone. The common theme in early conversations were the same. Everyone seemed to be saying, “I’m not sure why I’m here.”

And now, after the retreat, the feelings are the same also. No one is quite sure how to explain what happened at the retreat. I can think of many things to say, but they all sound like cheesy, Christian cliches, and there was nothing cheesy or cliche about the weekend.

“I can hardly describe what happened,” I told my husband, “yet my heart just feels so filled.”

I left for the retreat early on Friday morning. I quickly remembered how much I enjoy driving, which was a good thing since I had to cover 684 miles.

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Despite a drizzly rain most of the route, I had a great trip. We all ate a meal and then had our first session. Kris shared the story of how the retreat came to be, and how God orchestrated so many things. She also said she didn’t really have a “message” for the night. Only that God had given her the the words to “expect the unexpected.”

Well, that’s good,” I thought, “since I have no idea what to expect.”

She then shared the verse Malachi 3:10

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

The context of that passage is the Israelites were not presenting their best offerings to the Lord. They were bringing blemished sacrifices to the altar and not the best as God had commanded. God wants the first fruits. Kris asked something like, “What do you need to sacrifice?”

At the close of the session Kris prayed. I don’t claim to regularly hear God speak to me, but He did during that prayer.

“Why am I here?” I begged.

“Because I love you,” He responded.

“What? That’s it? I mean, you brought me 684 miles just to say you loved me?” I argued. “Wait, why am I arguing with you? I should be saying, ‘Wow! You brought me all this way, just to say you love me! How amazing!’”

“So,” I continued, “What do I need to sacrifice? What needs to go on the altar?”

He responded, “Nothing.”

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And that was it. Five words. Five words I will never forget.

God took me to Ohio to tell me, “I love you!” That’s it. There was nothing more on His agenda for the weekend. The great romancer put together an epic love story better than any viral wedding proposal video. He’s been doing it since the beginning, and He doesn’t stop. Ever.

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What On Earth Am I Doing?!?

“WHAT ON EARTH AM I DOING?!?”

I was alone in my car, but I spoke those words out loud. I’m not sure exactly who I was talking to, whether it was just myself or if I was talking to God. It was spring break of my sophomore year of college, and I was driving on partially ice-covered roads to a camp I had never been to. Oh,and I didn’t know anyone else who would be there.

The story kind of started a week or so before spring break. A friend of mine and I attended a summer job fair on campus. We were both hoping to work at camps that summer, so the job fair seemed like a good idea. I was looking for a Christian camp, and quite honestly, didn’t think I would find a good fit there. Sure enough, there were several church affiliated camps, but most of them seemed to focus on canoeing, horseback riding, archery and the like. I’m sure those are all nice camps, but I was looking for more.

We were almost through the booths in the room when we got to one last camp. The guy said, “Well, we’re about telling kids about Jesus, so if that is something you’d be interested in, feel free to take an application.”

I had intended on applying to a camp I had attended as a child. Another friend of mine had worked there and got me an application. The application process was pretty lengthy. The “We’re about telling kids about Jesus” guy’s camp had a much simpler process, so I filled out the form and put it in the mail right before spring break.

My roommate and I drove to Colorado Springs during the first part of spring break. We had a good old time laughing at tumbleweeds, seeing mountains and going skiing that trip. I don’t remember the exact timeline, but we returned to Iowa in time for me to receive a call from a staffer at Ingham, Okoboji and Riverside Bible Camps (the previously mentioned “tell kids about Jesus” camps). They were having a weekend retreat for middle school students that weekend and were short staffed. They had received my summer application and wondered if I’d like to come up to Okoboji to help out and see if it was something I’d really like to do for the summer. I said, “Sure!”

Then I said, “WHAT ON EARTH AM I DOING?” as I drove to the camp. It seems to go that way sometimes. I agree to do something and then wonder what I was thinking when I agreed to said commitment.

I don’t remember much about that weekend in Okoboji, other than feeling very out of place, yet strangely in the right place. I ended my time there interviewing with the camp director for a summer position. A few days after returning to college, I received a letter saying I was hired for the summer. There is a whole lot more to that story that I’d like to share sometime, but not today.

Today I’m doing a re-enactment of that weekend in Okoboji. Instead this time it’s a weekend in Ohio. I’ve scheduled this little story to post while I’m driving to a retreat in Ohio. I’m pretty sure I’ll be saying, “WHAT ON EARTH AM I DOING?!?” at least once during the 684 mile drive.

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It all started last May when I read about a giveaway on a blog. I entered, of course, because blog giveaways are fun! I mean, I had never won anything on a blog giveaway, but you can’t win if you don’t enter, right? This giveaway had some lovely books, jewelry and artwork. The grand prize was a ticket to a retreat in Ohio. {Spoiler alert!} Kris Camealy was doing the giveaway in honor of a blog re-launch and to promote the retreat.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I got a message on Twitter from Kris asking if I had entered the giveaway and then telling me I had won the grand prize. I was all, “No way! I never win anything!” I mean, how totally exciting to win something!

I later received an email from Kris with more details. “There were nearly 3000 entries for this Giveaway, so consider yourself hand-picked by the Lord. :)” she said. “I don’t believe in coincidence.”

Cue the “WHAT ON EARTH?!?” thoughts.

I’ve said many times that I wish God would just send me an email or invent a God app. This is about as close as it gets. God used a giveaway app to pick me as the winner.

What is a person supposed to think when God sends them to a retreat in Ohio? I’m excited to see what He has going on, yet I’m a little bit wondering why He couldn’t do whatever He is doing closer to home. In the past, I’ve set my expectations way too high and then been disappointed a conference or experience wasn’t what I imagined.

I have to admit, my thoughts have included: why didn’t I just win some art or a book? Maybe the retreat will get cancelled. Maybe something will come up that will make my attendance impossible.

We’re (my family) in the middle of a busy, stressful season. Maybe God, in His ever-loving kindness, knew I was going to need a get-away. Maybe there is someone at the retreat I need to meet? Maybe there is a message I need to hear?

I started a 40-day Lent challenge to read through the New Testament. I’m hopelessly behind, but reading all four Gospels so close together makes certain things stand out. One thing I’ve noticed is how often Jesus escaped the crowds to spent time with his Father. My word of the year is small. Going to a retreat in Ohio seems anything but small. On the other hand, the essence of the word small is to simply take the next step. To reign in my focus from “everything” that’s “out there” and all the possibilities on God’s green earth, and to instead focus on what God has given me under my own roof. God has given me a ticket to a retreat, so I embrace the gift with excitement and anticipation!

 

What I Learned in March

I love Emily Freeman’s “What I Learned” monthly series. I keep meaning to post what I learned each month, but then the month escapes me. So, this will technically be things I learned in February and March. I’m sure you won’t mind.

1.  There is such a thing as alien abduction insurance. Some of it is for playing jokes. Some of it, apparently, is for real.

2.  I was late to the Downton Abbey game, so I watched the first three seasons over about eight weeks last winter. I learned this winter that the seasons are only eight episodes long. I was highly disappointed when the season was over so quickly, as I watched three times as many episodes in the same time frame last year.

3.  There are hundreds of faucets, dozens of light fixtures and, quite possibly, thousands of flooring options. We’ve have come to the conclusion that we know what we don’t like. What we do like changes quite dramatically when we see price tags. Funny how that works.

4.  Working towards a dream is exciting, exhausting, overwhelming, stressful, thrilling, and requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

5.  Working towards a dream also takes an enormous amount of patience. And I pass that lesson in patience along to you, as our dream pursuing is not yet ready to be announced on social media. (But you can make some guesses based on Number 3.)

6.  I still think of my parents as being how I remember them when I was a kid. But, now I’m that age, so they can’t be that age anymore. I used to think age 50 was old, until my parents turned 50. My dad had quintuple heart bypass surgery this month. (He’s recovering well, by the way!) It was fairly shocking when we found out he needed the surgery. Sometimes you “know” things but don’t really think about them much. This month, I learned my parents will not live on this earth forever. (And, yes, I know my parents will read this.)

7.  There is such a thing as quintuple heart bypass surgery. Wikipedia says “more than four is uncommon.”

8.  There is a Guinness Book of World Records category for Most Heart Bypass Operations. Shane from Canada had three separate surgeries and eleven bypasses. I hope my Dad doesn’t beat this record.

9.  There is also a Guinness Book of World Records category for “Longest Surving Quintuple Heart Bypass Patient.” Game on, Chris from Canada. (What’s up, Canada?)

10.  Minecraft is a strange game, but when you suggest playing along with your three kids, they will react as though you offered bags of candy.

11.  My kids can build entire homes on Minecraft in the time it takes me to build one wall.

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Posted at Emily Freeman’s “Let’s Share What We Learned in March.”

 

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My Word for 2014

It’s nearly the end of March, so it’s about time I wrote about my word for 2014. I remember standing in my bathroom in late December, brushing my teeth while scanning Twitter on my iPod. Multitasking at its finest. I saw someone post about their #OneWord and immediately thought, “Ugh! I haven’t even thought about a word for next year!”

It had been a hectic month. On top of the Christmas crazy, I had started a new part-time job. I was busy trying to figure out the new normal in my life. In the past I started thinking about my word in October. This time there had been zero thought process.

“Oh well,” I thought to myself, “I guess I won’t have a word this year.”

And then, as if God was saying, “Pssst … I have something for you,” a word popped into my head: small.

I feel like I should whisper this word — not how I felt like whispering the word dance a few years ago — but the whole purpose of this word isn’t flashy or newsworthy.

There have been many times over recent years where I have felt too small, as though I am not doing enough or having a big enough impact or tackling a big assignment from God. Each time, God reminds me that what this world values is not what He values.

Jesus entered the world as a baby. Small.

He resisted the crowds’ call for Him to become a political figure or powerful leader. Small.

He spoke of His Father being like a shepherd who leaves the flock of 99 to search for the one lost sheep. Small.

Like normal, once you pick a word, it shows up everywhere. Tsh Oxenreider wrote a post called “Small is the New Big.” Lisa-Jo Baker picked it as her word for Five-Minute Friday a few weeks ago. (And now that I’ve finally posted this, I need to go read all 252 posts. :) )

I’m not sure where this word will lead, but when a word pops into your head while you are brushing your teeth, you take notice. Here we go, small.

It’s Not a Performance

A flier came home from school last winter announcing a theater performance opportunity for kids, and I immediately thought of our daughter, Morgan.

Many people don’t know this side of our middle daughter, but she has been turning things into stages for her whole life. The couch, the built-in bench in our dining room and an overturned Rubbermaid tote have all been used for performances over the years.

When I asked her if she would like to try out for the Missoula Children’s Theater performance of The Secret Garden, she said, “YES!!!”

I stayed for the first few minutes of the audition. There were more than 80 children and only about 50 parts. During the first tryout exercise, the quiet Morgan most people know showed up. As I left the auditorium, I was already mentally preparing my “mom speech.” You know, the one telling her how proud I was of her for trying something new and stepping out of her comfort zone. How I was excited she has a passion for theater and she can learn from the experience and try again another time.

After the audition, Morgan came running toward me, and it was immediately apparent I wasn’t going to need my speech. She had gotten a part as a flower in the garden with other first grade students, and she was very excited!

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There were several rehearsals that same week and two performances the following Saturday. All of the kids did great, but I was particularly proud of Morgan, of course. I was very proud of her for doing something she loves, for stepping out of her comfort zone to try something new, and for doing a great job.

As I stood in the theater after the performance, I realized I mostly was just proud because she’s mine. I love her not for what she does or for how hard she tries or for how well she performs. I love her because she’s my girl!

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Some proud mom tears were filling my eyes when it seemed like God interrupted my thoughts, right there in the theater. He reminded me that His love is kind of like the love I have for my children, only it’s so much better — beyond what I can even fathom!

He loves you not for what you do or how hard you try or how well you perform. God loves you because you are His. (1 John 3:1.) You are His child!

My pastor has been teaching from Galatians, and he has used the phrase, “The Gospel is a promise, not a performance.” You probably know that, but if you are like me, you forget from time to time. It’s easy to start operating in performance mode, checking things off a religious to-do list.

Yes, we show our love for God through obedience to His commands (1 John 5:3), but His love for us is not dependent on how well we obey. In fact, the Bible tells us in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”

One of my favorite passages of scripture is Romans 8:38-39 which tells us nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing. Let us remember that. God has lavished His love on us! We do not — cannot even — perform to receive His love.

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Linking up over with Jennifer Dukes Lee, who lives in the opposite corner of Iowa as I do, and her #TellHisStory weekly link up.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from the Random Reporter! I’m starting the new year with a new look here on the blog. I love the spacious feel of this new design.

I also updated some of my Being OK with Me series to reflect that it will be on-going this year. I will finish what I started, but it would be more fitting if it was kind of random, don’t you think?

I also have a word for the year, and I’ll share that sometime, too. Although, I might have to whisper it, and not in the same way I whispered Dance.

I’m still writing over at The Journey, so join me there if you are looking to make some small changes to your health this year.

 

31 Days of Eating Paleo

I’ve been writing elsewhere this month, and I wanted to pass along an update about that. I finished my Eating Paleo for 31 Days yesterday, and I’ve written about it over at The Journey. You can read the series here.

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I promise to eventually finish the 31 Days of Being OK with Me series here, but I can’t promise when it will happen.

Thanks for reading here in my randomness! :)