Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Conviction, Confession, Calling

For the past month, our pastor has been preaching a series about discipleship and what it truly means to be a "disciple of Christ" rather than just a "Christian." It's been convicting, challenging, and more ways than one. 

Let me back up a little bit before I get into the nitty gritty of my post.

A couple of weeks ago, it hit me while in the service that I allow too many distractions into my life. When I got home, I promptly deleted the facebook app off of my phone because I constantly waste precious time on it...time I can't ever get back. I did load it back on my phone mostly for the notifications I receive regarding my Thirty-One Gifts business but when I notice that I start wasting time just scrolling through, I put the phone down and try to focus my attention on other much more important things around me. 

It was that same day that in the middle of some personal bible study, God revealed something quite shocking to my heart - - - I have pride. I am, in fact, a prideful person. Talk about a blow to the gut! I had never realized that about myself but as he peeled away the layers, so to speak, it became more and more clear how prideful I am. I realized that I actually enjoy the spotlight. I like to have the attention on me more so than I should and I like to be noticed. And sometimes, I compare myself to others in order to feel better about myself spiritually. That is not an easy thing for me to confess. In that moment of recognition and conviction, He also spoke quite clearly to my heart: "I cannot and will not give you more responsibility for My kingdom until it is 110% about Me and you seek only MY glory and not your own." 


You'd think that would be enough...but in the same night, He spoke even more to me. I was reading through Luke 5 on the Bible app on my phone and the words of Jesus in verse 4 jumped right out at me: "Launch out into the deep." I knew when I read those words that God obviously meant something by them so later on, I opened up my actual Bible with physical pages so that I could read through the context again and underline those words but when I opened to that page, those exact words were already CIRCLED. Now, I don't circle stuff very often in my Bible and I certainly don't remember circling those words but I knew without a doubt that God meant something extremely important by them FOR ME. As I prayed through those words and what they might mean for me, Hillsong's 'Oceans' started playing on my Pandora station. Coincidence? Ha! For those of you unfamiliar with the song, I think the following lyrics should suffice: "Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, that my faith would be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior." 

All I knew was that I am meant to go deeper. God wants me to go deeper. But what those deep waters were, I really didn't know. I've been praying through it and discussing the possibilities of the meaning with my hubby. 

Last week I spent time in Columbus, Ohio for our Thirty-One Gifts National Conference - - - which was amazing. It spoke to my heart on so many levels, not just about how to better my business but also about how to better myself as a wife and mother and friend. It spoke to my whole person. I felt God speak to my heart about what that "deep" might be. As I pray through it and receive more information through research, I will reveal what that calling might be. But, I want to confess something first...that takes me back to the whole "disciple of Christ" topic. 

I want to first preface this part of my post with my belief that alcohol in and of itself is not wrong or sinful. The bible speaks against being drunk and commands that we remain "sober-minded." But for myself personally, I have had the conviction that I should not drink - period. This past week, I went against that conviction. And perhaps I should have felt the tug of the Spirit the first night when I had sangria at the hotel or the 3rd night when I ordered sangria at an Italian restaurant...but it wasn't until Friday night when we "celebrated" the end of a fabulous conference by going to a bar that the Spirit really got me. I ordered my very first martini and I danced with the absolutely fabulous and fun girls I was there with but something inside me kept whispering that I did not belong there in that place. I kept trying to push the voice down but that precious voice of the Spirit got louder and louder the longer I was there that by the time I finally left (12:30am) I was wracked with guilt. I didn't feel well and it had NOTHING to do with the alcohol and I knew it. It was guilt. Because honestly, what business did I have there? 

Here's where I'm going with this and I don't want anyone to take this the wrong way because I am really just writing about how I felt about myself. This is all about my convictions that are of course God-given but...not everyone else is there and I am not anyone else's judge. So please, please, please do not take this like I'm pointing any fingers at anyone because I'm pointing all 10 of them at ME! But as a DISCIPLE of Christ, I am called to be set apart. I am called to look different from the world and as I have already confessed through tears a few times to my mother and husband and bible study group, I did not look any different Friday night. No one in that bar could see any difference between me and them. I am supposed to be light wherever I go and I was not light at all in that dark place. The question I kept playing over and over to myself was this: "How can I, as a woman of God, ever justify being in a place like that acting just like everyone else?" And Lord knows that is the last place I would want Him to find me when He's ready to call His people home. We sang the song, "I Exalt Thee" on Sunday morning and with tear-stained cheeks I begged God to forgive my actions that in no way exalted Him Friday evening. You know what He said to me? "Child, you were forgiven before you ever stepped inside." The grace and mercy of my God is astounding and I don't deserve it. 

With all of that said, it's a great thing I'm reading Steve Furtick's "Crash the Chatterbox" right now because it would be very easy for the enemy to use my guilt to keep me from the calling that God has for me. But I am not going to listen to the lies of the enemy - - - I'm shutting that inner chatterbox down and I will use this experience as a catalyst for what He has planned. 

So, with all that said, I am using my convictions to confess and to move forward with my calling. 

Here's to launching out into the deep...


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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Foster Parenting: From the Outside Looking In

I am not a foster parent.

That's how I feel I need to start out this post because I need to be clear about the fact that I haven't the slightest idea how they feel and what they go through. But I am really good friends with some foster parents. And it has me looking at those who choose this particular ministry in a whole new light. 

I've been sort of like the creepy stalker friend who has been around from almost the start of the process and watched this foster thing unfold from the sidelines, praying and cheering on my two precious friends.

I've never really been exposed much to the foster system. I've known people who have fostered in the past. For some, it actually turned into adoption. For others, it turned into having a piece of their heart removed from them or having to make the difficult decision to let someone else take the reigns. I cannot imagine the emotional roller coaster these special people are sent on when they take the leap into the unknown and decide to become foster parents. 

Who knows whether God will ever call us to become foster parents. I pray that if He does, then we will follow. For now, He has called us to "take care of the orphaned" by coming alongside those that do to be there for them in the dark hours, and believe me, there are some pitch black dark hours in this ministry. He has called us to "take care of the orphaned" by loving on those kids and showing them the light of Christ. He has called us to "take care of the orphaned" by praying fervently for the kids and their new parents (as well as the ones now considered unfit by the system), to bring meals when things get tough, and to lend an ear for the weary mom (or dad) who is trying to figure out what works.

The system is certainly flawed. That is a fact. Ask these fostering friends of mine and they will be first in line to tell you. But you know what's not flawed? The love of Jesus. That kind of love is perfect and whole and liberating. I have been blessed to be in the front row of what some might call a crazy circus, to see that love poured out on hurting kids. I've seen the sacrifice of Abraham, the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon, the wrestling of Jacob, the strength of David, and the obedience of Daniel all rolled into a few amazing stories of foster parenting. 

In my past writing, I've used the word "foster" as synonymous with "encourage" or "cultivate" and so it made me consult the dictionary to see what exactly its definition was. I decided to check out the famed Oxford English Dictionary and this is the definition (in verb form) that I found: 

"To supply with food or nourishment; to nourish, feed, support."

I looked at this definition for a while and ya know, it just doesn't do the action of fostering justice. Sure, part of their jobs is to provide food and clothing and a place to sleep. But it's so much more than that. It's not just the task of fostering kids - it's more what they foster in the kids that matters.

They foster spiritual growth - teaching these children about who God is and what He can do.
They foster peace - teaching them how to handle their emotions in a controlled way.
They foster patience - in the kids' lives as well as their own and the lives of their homegrown kids as well.
They foster gratitude - showing them how to be grateful in all situations and for all things.
They foster joy - because to have joy in the midst of this depraved world is necessary.
They foster trust - in their broken world, no one has been there - it's a building process - and it might be a long one, but it must be done.
They foster hope - so many of these kids lost hope a long time ago - foster parents can help find it again.
Most importantly, they foster love - the love of the only One Who gives them the strength to carry on - Christ. Without love, these precious people could not do what they do each and every day for kids that have been entrusted to them. 

It strikes me that God calls on people in so many different ways. I really believe that if God sincerely calls you to foster (or adopt), then you must really have a heart like His. It's one thing for Him to entrust our own children to us, but to choose you to entrust someone else's child to your love and care is a call like no other. 

So to foster parents everywhere, you are seen. 
In my eyes, you are warriors. You are champions. You are conquerors. You are heroes. Don't give up the good fight. You have people cheering for you. And more importantly, you have a God that called you to this battle to fight for His children. Don't give up. Don't back down. You've got this! Well, HE'S got this!

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