Influence

I am currently in the middle of one of the most fun activities!  For six weeks each year I get to have tons of  fun getting to know new families while reading and talking about great books. Thursday night during our dinner I was talking to one of our families and I got to listen to the sweetest story about influence. And to make it even sweeter, I am absolutely certain that the person they were talking about has no clue about her influence on this child; she was just being herself, making time in a crazy schedule to help some teachers out with their science curriculum.

The conversation began with my asking the girls which book they liked the best and why.  While the younger child pondered the question, the oldest immediately blurted out that The Rabbit and The Moon was her favorite and then she just kept going  . . . . . . she explained that this was her favorite book because she was going to be an astronaut one day and this story was about a rabbit who wanted to go to the moon and he went.  He had to keep looking for a way to get there but he didn’t give up and he finally made and even stayed there.

When I asked her why she wanted to be an astronaut this is what she told me (and I am trying to stay as true as possible to her exact words):   “This lady astronaut came to our school and told us all about space.   She was dressed in a blue astronaut suit and she brought this big bubble thing that we had to crawl into.  It was really dark and we had to crawl on our knees to get in but it is dark in space too and this nice lady had a flashlight to help us see.  When we got inside she showed us all kinds of stars and things that you can see in space and she had even made it herself so we could really see what space looked like.  It was cool!  I want to go up in space and explore the moon and stars and learn about all kinds of space stuff.  She was really nice and I want to be just like her.”

At that point her mom joined in the conversation and asked more questions about the big bubble thing (skylab) and said she would really like to see it herself.  From there we talked about finding books to learn more about space, apps for mom’s phone so they could study the stars [and there are great free apps out there for that], working hard in school and going to college.  Somewhere in the middle of that conversation her little sister also joined in on what she wanted to be when she grew up.

And it kept getting better for me -I then got to watch the faces of this family and hear their shared thoughts (Mom and girls) during our formal reading/conversation time.  The theme for the night was REACHING OUR DREAMS and they just could not contain their excitement; that “astronaut lady” had previously ignited this conversation for this family so our talk during dinner and the group conversation were just icing on the cake.  I left that evening knowing that for this family, the topic of dreams was definitely not finished; it was just beginning.  They brought new meaning to Henry David Thoreau’s statement, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”

No wonder I LOVE getting to be part of PrimeTime Family Reading !!!

Oh, and that “astronaut lady” – Thank you AMY for letting your light shine (Matthew 5:14)!!!!!

 

Thank you Heavenly Father for allowing us to be a part of the incredible work you are doing in this world.  Thank you for the sweet children, adults, and families we get to interact with each week and for the opportunities to be your hands and feet and heart.  Allowing us to influence destinies is a privilege and immeasurable gift for which we are so very thankful. Finally Father, I ask that you keep us true to the example of your Son, Jesus Christ so that we may be pleasing to you and life changing to the people we influence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lessons learned from our ARF babies

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So we got a new fur-baby this week . . . and he is such a sweetheart!  His path to us had a few curves in the road which thankfully included being rescued and fostered by ARF then adopted by a sweet new mama who was unable to keep him and now finally he has landed in our hearts.   He is 8 pounds of lovable, huggable energy and his “I’m having a bad hair day” look belies his own belief that he is The Boss. He is hilarious in his own right but when you couple him with the 4-legged 50 pounds of lovable muscle [Cali] that we already had (also an ARF baby) . . . well, you can only imagine.

He has mastered the doggy door, taken over guarding the house from all possible intruders (including the UPS guy), and thankfully not had a single accident in the house.  Maybe most importantly, he has wormed his way right into the heart of that 4-legged 50 pounds of muscle named Cali.

It is that last activity that led me to write this blog – you see, these two four-legged babies have reminded me of much that Jesus taught us; lessons that sound so simple yet somehow get to be downright daunting as we strive to walk them out (FYI – coming back to that word strive).   The ease with which these two fur-babies demonstrate Jesus’ teachings definitely puts me in my place and reminds me that I am oftentimes solely responsible for making my path so darned difficult.  It makes me wonder how different my life would be if I just decided to strive LESS and seek more simplicity.  What if I decided to . . .

  • Love, just love. When we arrived home with Tuc, Cali took one look thru the door and went bounding out to meet him.  We immediately got our guard up as Cali is BIG, STRONG, ENERGETIC.  This was Cali’s territory that Tuc had just stepped into.  Kary and I tried to get between the two dogs but neither would have that.  And while we were trying to keep Cali away from Tuc, Tuc just pushed straight through to get to Cali.  What didn’t happened next gave both of us a chance to breathe again and was possibly a bit anticlimactic but WHEW, thank goodness!  They seemed to simply be fascinated with one another; neither went on the offensive or got defensive.  Within a few minutes they were actually running around the yard like long lost BFFs.  Within an hour they had tuckered themselves out and were sleeping soundly side by side.  Hmmmm, why can’t we make loving each other that simple?   Why do we get so caught up with our own differences and go so quickly into preservation mode? Jesus himself was love.  He taught us in Matthew 22:36-40 that the greatest commandment in the Law was to first love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind and to then love your neighbor as yourself.  He did not tell us that “neighbor” only meant those people that looked like us, behaved like us, thought like us.  Jesus demonstrated that our “neighbor” was everyone we came in contact with or had influence with.  And then he gave us several examples of what this love should look like, gave us at least 11 more admonishments to love one another.  And then the ultimate demonstration – Jesus showed us how to do it! He sacrificed his own life for us.
  • Trust, just trust. Being ARF rescue dogs, both of our fur-babies have come from less than ideal beginnings.  Both were saved from trauma and very likely death yet both are filled with overflowing love and joy.  They exude energy and life; their past situations are definitely not getting in the way of their enjoying their current lives.  They already trust one another (to the point of the 8 pounder pulling toys out of the 50 pounder’s mouth) and both trust us completely.  Cali is scared of loud noises but her favorite strategy for dealing with those loud noises is to curl up beside one of her “people” for protection and when that isn’t possible, she simply removes herself to another spot to avoid the possible danger. We haven’t yet seen anything Tuc is scared of but he’s only been with us a few days.  Clearly, neither is frozen in fear of the future in spite of the fear that probably consumed much of their past.  Again, hmmmm, what is our go  to response to past pain or trauma? How easily do we allow difficult situations from our past to get in the way of our future?  Do we shrink back in fear because of past hurts or failures or do we walk confidently in the direction of our destinies?  How easily do we trust in others?  How much do we really trust our Heavenly Father?  These questions remind me of several powerful scriptures that I hold onto tightly yet in the heat of the moment, often forget to actually believe:
    • Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
    • Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.
    • Jeremiah 30:10 – “So do not be afraid, Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, Israel,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile.  Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid.”
  • Be, just be. As I finish typing this, both of these sweet babies are curled up sleeping beside my hubby.  Neither is concerned one whit about anything at all.  They are both completely comfortable letting someone else be responsible for everything going on in the world right now and neither is going to be overly concerned about what they missed when they wake up.  They know where they belong – here, right here.  They know who they belong to; they are ours and that is enough.  Cali went from being a no-name pup to answering to “Lucy” to finally landing on her Edenfield name “Cali” which is who she is.  Having also started as a nameless pup, Tuc went from learning to answer to “Whiskey” to “Kirby” and now he is learning to answer to who he is, “Tuc”.  Isn’t that name transition such a sweet illustration of our own stories? We who were once lost have been rescued from certain death and have been given a new life.  In this new life we have been adopted into a new family; we belong to a supernatural Heavenly Father who loved us enough to sacrifice his only Son to rescue us.  As part of this new family we too have been released to simply be who we were called to be; we get to cast our cares on Him and allow God to be God.  As the song by Blanca states in the lyrics, “Cause I know whose I am, I know who I am, I am sure, I am Yours.”  Isaiah 43:18-19 tells us “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

 

And with that, I challenge myself and YOU to take a deep breath, let go of the strife we are creating all by ourselves and consider what it looks like to walk in what God meant when he told us to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

 

Father,

Thank you for allowing us to continue growing in our faith and in our understanding of your goodness and your ways.  We are so very thankful and humbled to know that You knew us before we were even formed in our mothers’ womb.  You have designed each one of us and have placed a destiny within each one of us.  Thank you for never leaving nor forsaking us as we walk toward these God-given destinies.  We declare today that we will strive less, love more, and trust You to be our God so that we can be exactly who you designed us to be.  In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

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Gift Cards

Gift Cards – How do you spend yours? 

Do you:

  • Use them up quickly on whatever you can think of before you can lose them or forget about them?
  • Hoard them so you will have them for a future need (or want)?
  • Something else?

As a friend and I were discussing this over lunch last week I think I may have discovered a breach in my faith through, of all things, a gift card . .  .  You see, even though it should not bother me at all, I find myself irritated and flustered that some people around me (not mentioning names – lol) spend theirs immediately on stuff they may not even want just to hurry and get them used up so they won’t end up wasted.  See, to my critical eye that sounds like a poverty mentality and a real lack of faith – “use it up quickly before it is gone because it will disappear.”

Now I on the other hand do NOT have that problem and am very proud to say that I do NOT believe in that manner of use at all.  And incidentally, that seems a wee bit disrespectful of the giver of the card, right? [Yeh, no self-righteousness there at all, right.  Ugh, Is it that obvious that I am already tripping over the logs in MY own eyes (Matthew 7:3-5, Luke 6:42-43)?  Well, no worries – I am about to point out another one or two to be worked on.]  Being the self-proclaimed expert at handling gift cards, I am much more responsible.  As a matter of fact, the lunch date that brought this whole issue to light (along with two other lunches and movie tickets) was paid for with gift cards from Christmas of 2014.  See . . . I am much more responsible in my gift-card decision making process than that unnamed individual mentioned above (lol). I do NOT rush to spend mine; as a matter of fact, I hold on to mine just in case I might need it at some future time.  [Hmmmmm . . . does that make me a hoarder, and a self-righteous one at that?  Do you hear poverty mentality reverberating through the air waves??]

Now the wheels of my brain began turning and it made me dig into the whole faith vs. poverty issue.  Why was I hoarding these cards instead of using them up?  Was I scared of not having them when I would need them?  Was I really that worried that I wouldn’t be able to go see a movie that I wanted to see (and would that be the end of the world)?  Was I really worried that I might have to fix a salad at home rather than driving out of town to have someone else prepare my salad?  Was I really worried about future provision?  Wasn’t this thought process prudence on my part? Wasn’t I demonstrating responsibility in their use?  Was I overly concerned with figuring out the best way to use my gift cards?  Where was the fun of a gift card if this much thought had to go into its use?????  And finally, was this what the giver intended when he/she gave the card to me in the first place?

Let’s be honest; the people that gave me the gift cards did so because they cared for me and gave them simply as a demonstration of their care; worry about my future provision did not enter their minds nor were they worried about how much responsibility I would demonstrate in the use of the cards.   The cards were gifts – as simple and sweet as that.  I, on the other hand, chose to make them complicated and turn them into something they were not – responsibility, control, provision, guilt, self-righteousness, etc.  I chose to take something sweet and simple and create a monster.

What if, rather than being critical of how that unnamed individual chose to spend his gift cards or hoarding mine I had chosen to treasure them as a sweet gift from people who care for me?  I am betting they would have been used up sooner but appreciated more.  I am betting that the time it took to think through not using them could have been used much more productively and enjoyably.

And then the final round of questions invaded my thoughts . . .  and hurt my feelings even more than that first round. .  .  how am I responding when my Heavenly Father as the author of every good thing (James 1:7) pours out gifts and blessings upon me?  Do I use them up flippantly?  Do I hoard them and keep them from being the true joy they were intended to be?  Or do I treasure them as a good gift from a loving Father?  OUCH!!!!

Now . . .  your turn.  How do you use your gift cards?  What mental gymnastics do you perform as you make those choices?  Do your mental processes speak in any way of your faith?  Is there anything you can learn about yourself as you think through something as simple as a gift card?  I can’t wait to hear your stories  . . . .

 Father, Thank you for Your goodness and grace.  Thank you for loving us and allowing us to discover and grow from Your lessons hidden in the ordinary moments in life.  I choose today to walk in faith and not fear.  I choose today to rest in Your ability to meet my needs and not in my own abilities.  And finally, today I choose to spend my time focusing on You rather than in comparing myself to others or creating needless mountains from things that were intended to be sweet demonstrations of Your love.  I declare today that I am Yours and that I am held securely in Your hand at all times.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

I couldn’t stand it any longer …

When I began this blog I promised myself that I would not post more than once a week but I am finding myself already making an exception as I reread the comments left by some precious faith-filled ladies whose insights I value dearly. Their wisdom, honesty and vulnerability shine brightly.  Their advice can definitely help all of us get started off on the right foot  this year. They remind me of the wisdom of some things King Solomon had to say:

Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

Proverbs 19:20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.

Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Thank you ladies for responding to this first blog; to the countless others of you who took time to stop by and read along, thank you joining us!!!  I am even more excited now 😍!   I look forward to collaborating with all of you as we move on to other topics and go deeper into understanding and growing our faith.

C.S Lewis once said, “the next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”  Thank you all for being part of that circle ❤️‼️

Father, Thank you for the incredible gift of dear friends to share life with.  Your goodness and grace consume us.  We love and praise you!  In name of your Holy Son, Jesus Christ, amen.

Chasing Squirrels????

 

Sooooo, I am trying my hand at blogging and I am asking you to help me.  I want to invite you to join me as we take our faith to a deeper level; let’s explore God in our everyday lives together.

Questions, you have questions???  Well, don’t worry – I still have plenty of questions, too.  Just being painfully honest here – I can’t answer all of your questions yet but I can certainly get some of the most important ones answered, beginning with . . .

  • Chasing Squirrels – what does that mean?  Those of you that know me probably don’t even have to ask this question as you know that having a conversation with me often entails chasing lots of thoughts and shifting topics frequently.  Oftentimes, these thoughts appear out of the blue and seem to dart to and fro much like squirrels playing in the trees.  Some of the most rewarding learning experiences I have ever had  occurred during these types of conversations with people that I can trust, those who allow me to be me.  That’s what I want this site to be about – allowing each of us to be ourselves as we explore how God is working in our lives, to take our faith deeper together.
  • So what is she expecting from me?  Honestly, I cannot do this alone nor do I want to as I really do not feel that this is just about me; this is for all of us.  So, I need your active engagement :).  I am asking you to read the post(s) – think about how the post(s) relates to your own life – respond as you feel led – and finally, enjoy learning from one another as others also respond.  [NOTE – the Leave a Reply section is not the ideal response format but it will  do for a few more days until I can get the Forum app uploaded and working]
  • How do I know that I can trust the site?  This is a question that has drawn me into quite a bit of prayer and I think I have the perfect answer here.  WE (you and I) are going to agree right this very moment to be RESPECTFUL of everyone who leaves a comment whether we agree with their perspectives or opinions or not.  We are going to agree to be HONOR the CONFIDENTIALITY of all persons beyond ourselves.  We agree to HONOR the CONFIDENTIALITY of all information shared on this site that may be perceived as private in nature.  And finally, we are also going to agree to have GOOD COMMON SENSE when it comes to what we have to say – we are not about speaking out of emotion but from our spirits and our minds.
  • What else?  The MOST important thing – PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE pray and think through everything you encounter on this site – seeking Godly wisdom and insight (allow God to show His heart and His will through us).
                                         Blessings,
                                     Brenda

a new thing . . .

I am trying something new this year. . . NO resolutions!

Typically, I am ready with my list of resolutions on January 1 but sadly most are broken before February 1 rolls around.  This year, I am moving in a new direction; instead of this self-defeating pattern of making and breaking resolutions, I have decided to create something new – I am challenging myself to corral all of the squirrels in my head to create a blog – and I am challenging YOU to join me.  Let’s corral all of those wild squirrels within each of us into one site where we can explore our faith together.

See, I truly believe that God is all about doing a new thing in this new year and I don’t want to miss one bit of it.  I want to create a space where we can be real about our lives and the goodness of our Heavenly Father. I firmly believe that He has much to teach and share with us that we can only learn when we choose to listen and look for Him in our everyday lives.  I firmly believe that He is inviting each of us on this wild adventure called 2016.

 

Are you ready?  Come on, let’s make this journey together………

Let me begin by admitting that 2015 was filled with  blessings galore but it also contained some of the most difficult events of my life. 2015 forced me to admit that I had less control over my life than I could ever have imagined.  It also taught me that I was not nearly as important as perhaps I thought I was. Bottom line, 2015 helped me to finally get to the end of me.  That was hard – and it hurt and it left me quite often feeling lost and unsure of who I was.  But when I could finally see me for me, I discovered that I could see my Heavenly Father for who He was.  He allowed me to find Him in the emotion, turmoil, and sometimes painful quiet of not knowing who I was.  It was there in that quiet with Him that I discovered how valuable I was, not because of who I was or what I did or even what others thought of me but because of who He was and is.  I guess you can say that by getting over myself I began discovering myself. Whew- that feels good to finally admit!

Now, YOUR turn – what did you learn in 2015 that will change your 2016?  PLEASE use the leave a reply section below to share what you learned.  I can’t wait to hear all of the wisdom gained by each of you.  Let’s pool it all together and use it as a springboard into a ridiculously amazing new year 🎊🎉💫

Father, thank you for your unending goodness toward us. Thank you for understanding that we truly are works in progress and  loving us even when we don’t deserve it outside of your saving grace.  Thank you for never forsaking us nor leaving us to fend for ourselves even when we act as if we don’t need you  and try to be you.  You truly are a Good, Good Father!  We declare today that 2016 will be the year that our relationship with you draws us into a closeness that we could never have imagined.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen