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!

 

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.

Being OK with Me in this Culture

Being OK with Me.We want to Be OK with Me. We know we are sometimes, but maybe not as much as we’d like.

We know God loves us and designed us exactly how we are, yet we tend to forget or even not like how He designed us.

What gets us down? What distracts us from the truth? Why are we covered in grime?

There are many things, really, so we’ll be looking at them in the coming days. We’ll expose the dirt and start to brush it aside.

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We live in a culture that exalts the big names, the money, the stars. We can’t get enough of the fame and fortune.

Trends come and go like the flip of a switch. Technology is outdated before you purchase it.

“Reality” shows are staged. Stylists remodel a room on a home improvement show, and what took weeks or months to accomplish is presented in 22 minutes.

The person with the loudest voice is heard. The one with the most money gets her way.

Extreme is it. If you don’t go all out, you aren’t really living.

Our culture is in direct contrast to the Kingdom of God, where the last will be first and the meek receive a reward.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.  Matthew 5:5, The Message

Jesus ignored the pleas to pursue political power. He knew his role was different. He talked to women and children and lepers and the outsiders. He died for us so that we could truly live.

He has harsh words for those who put on a show, concerning themselves with their image or status. “Everything they do is for people to see …” Matthew 23:5

“Blessed is the one … who delights in the law of Lord … He is like a tree planted by streams of water …” Psalm 1

Trees do not grow in 22 minutes. Sure, you could film one growing and package it into a nice little TV show, but Oak trees don’t grow overnight.

(And because of the Internet, you can watch some trees grow in just a couple minutes. It’s absolutely fascinating how long it takes just for the acorn to break open in the first video. The second video shows a larger tree over 5 years. At first, it hardly looks like a tree. At times it looks completely dead, but it’s just dormant for a season.)

The only extreme living Jesus talked about was to deny ourselves and follow Him.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Luke 9:23-25

But, how can we deny ourselves and be OK with ourselves at the same time? The Message gives insight:

Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” Luke 9:23-25 The Message

Don’t chase this world or our culture of fame, fortune and quick fixes. Don’t even chase God. Just dwell in Him. Delight in Him. Let God define how life is supposed to look and how you are supposed to be.

31 Days: Being OK with Me

Being OK with Me.

I linked up at The Nesting Place for the annual 31 Days series. I attempted two 31 Days series, which was a very unrealistic goal. I’ve turned this into an on-going series I will contribute to for several months. Thank you for your grace.

Being OK with Me. (The introduction.)

A Disclaimer

Scrubbing the Deck

A Quote

A Theme Song

Being OK in this Culture

One More Time

I reinstated the Magnificence Monday posts and then failed to post. You knew that would happen, right? 😉 Let’s try again. 

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Twice in my college years, my roommate, Jessica, and I drove to Colorado, once during Christmas break and once during spring break. We went skiing both times, if I remember correctly. I’ve never been a spectacular skier, and I prefer the slow trails, for sure.

Organizing old pictures is on my to-do list. Somewhere I have a picture of me and Jessica at the top of a ski lift at Monarch. Someone was taking pictures for souvenirs. We were dressed in our ski gear with some tropical props, cause, you know, it’s not very tropical at the top of a mountain.

The top of the mountain is the Continental Divide. It was a cloudy day, so we were up in the clouds most of the day. At the end of our day, I remember we decided to go up the ski lift one more time. I will never forget what I saw. The clouds had lifted and the sun was starting to set. I did not have a camera, but I’m sure it would not have captured the true beauty of mountain peaks as far as my eyes could see.

The fascinating thing about the internet is that someone else took a picture at the top of the same mountain. You can see it here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/75328858@N04/6831043481/

The picture doesn’t quite measure up to what I remember seeing, but take a moment to view the colors and see the peaks in the far distance of the picture. Then, imagine standing there and seeing it with your own two eyes. It was stunning, to say the least.

Nature cries out to the glory of God.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, 

or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; 

or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, 

or let the fish in the sea inform you.

Which of all these does not know 

that the hand of the Lord has done this?

In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10

Take a look out your window. Maybe there aren’t any mountains, but you can still see the glory of God revealed in nature.

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This post is part of Magnificence Mondays. Do you have something marvelous to share? A story, a picture, or anything that comes to mind. Write a post or comment below! And more importantly, notice and remember.

Starfish

It’s been a while since I’ve written about the magnificence of God. Not because I haven’t been noticing. Mostly because I haven’t made the time to write it down. Sometimes lately I’ve felt like I’m noticing so much that I’ll never have the time to write it all down. Maybe most if it is meant to be written on my heart and not on the internet.

I did want to share a little tidbit that caught my attention on a recent Sunday. My Kindergarten daughter was working on some “homework” for her class’ study of the ocean. She was to find one fact about an ocean inhabitant and color a picture. She chose a starfish, which we learned is properly named a Sea Star, as it’s not really a fish at all.

We Googled “starfish” and found some facts. Then, we clicked on the little Google Images link on the side of the page.

I recommend you do the same thing. Click right here and head over to Google Images. Scroll through the pictures and be amazed at the creativity of God!

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This post is part of Magnificence Mondays. Do you have something marvelous to share? A story, a picture, or anything that comes to mind. Write a post or comment below! And more importantly, notice and remember.