My joys & struggles at balancing life and the many hats on my hat rack!

I Chron. 16:11

Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

In Pursuit...

  I love that God pursues us. Jesus left Heaven to come to earth for you and me, and I'd say, that's a pretty serious pursuit. But so often in my life I haven't really felt the pursuit?  Like those times when you feeeeel eyes on you... when you look down to see your pup staring at you from under the kitchen table, or your child has crept out of bed and is peering around the corner at you, or you walk into a restaurant and even without making eye contact, you feel every eye in the place on you. ((kinda creepy - haha))  You can know someone is watching you because you feel those moments. 

Have you ever felt God in that way, or just felt Him pursuing you at every available opportunity?? Here's what I've learned through some situations over the past couple of months. He is ALWAYS passionately pursuing us, we just often don't have our focus on Him enough to see, hear or feel His pursuit. When divorce happens or an unexpected death occurs or a diagnosis that changes your everyday life is given, or even just words spoken to us, who we are and who we're created to be often, begins to be questioned. Lately, without realizing it, I began to question who even am I and what am I supposed to be doing?? (PS - More on that...soon! In an upcoming blog ;) 

Post-it notes of scriptures, prayers and messages from family/friends have been such a blessing and certainly part of God's pursuit. But there is one song in particular, "You Say" by Lauren Daigle, that, for a span of 3 weeks, was literally been the first song that played every time I opened Pandora, it was the first suggested video when I opened YouTube and it played on the radio every single time I passed a particular location, no matter that time of day. It was a beautiful hug from God and as it played, I could hear Him say I'm here, these words are true, pursue Me as I pursue you! Be who God the Father says you are and don't let the thoughts the enemy puts in your head cause you to doubt who I say you are! 

I read something recently that has impacted me strongly - Lisa Harper said, "the veil between you and Christ becomes thinner as you walk through trials and lean hard into Him"; and I can attest to the truth of this statement! It's the passionate pursuit of us, His children that becomes tangible. It's His nature, His heart, the standard of His love for us, yet we're so often too busy. Too okay. Too set. Too focused on our own plans. Too all figured out, to see, hear and feel His pursuit!

Today, let down your barriers, allow yourself to see His pursuit of you! Knowing His love and pursuit in your head it vitally important in your everyday walk and talk as a Christ-follower, but getting to feel His love is life itself! 


Sunday, June 4, 2017

PURSUED THROUGH PAIN

If you're reading this then that means you didn't give up on this post because of the title. Haha, awesome!  There are probably many though that thought, ugh, what a bummer topic. Stick with me…please ;) 

My son loves to make me cringe by using the worst grammar, intentionally, but since it fits so well here, I'll say this in his words, "Pain ain't fun!" Three weeks ago, our family was in a car accident. The pain of recovery has been real. Throw in moving, and you have a recipe for slow recovery, sleepless nights & PAIN. For the first week and a half, the cracked & bruised ribs woke me up often each night and most nights I found myself pacing the floors, praying for daylight. Some times those "worst times" can become the "best times" if you're open to it, and that's my story here. I'd love to say I always take that approach, but then I wouldn't be being honest with you. 

About two weeks after the accident, as I walked around our dimly lit house, several hours before the kids would even begin stirring, I realized that I had been able to have some of the best moments with Jesus in those 4a - 5a hours. I began looking at my pain in a different 'Light'. Father God had been using my pain to pursue me in those early morning hours. In accepting His pursuit, my focus shifted from the reason of my waking, to the purpose that it could be used to fulfill. 

The first part of Romans 8:26 says, "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness". Pain brings weakness and an opportunity for help from our gift sent from Heaven, the Holy Spirit. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:19, "Perhaps you think we're saying these things just to defend ourselves. No, we tell you this as Christ's servants, and with God as our witness. Everything we do, dear friends, is to strengthen you". I know for certain, that if we allow it, EVERYTHING submitted to Christ can and will be used to strengthen us!

There is great potential in pain. The first thing that pain does is slow us down, right?? If you're like me you immediately say, where's the potential in that? Whether it is physical pain, which can literally slow you down, or emotional pain, many things in life fall behind or often just have to pause because of the pain we are experiencing. Unfortunately, I get so caught up in life and on more than one occasion, I have had to go through something to grab my attention to slow down. At times, even force me to slow down. Pain can do that. Pain has done that in my life. It can also help us be more reflective, more sensitive & more appreciative. I believe that those traits are vital to a thriving walk with Christ, yet are so often the first things we let go of when the busy and crazy takes over. Pain will cause you to appreciate things you so often have taken for granted. It will help you be sensitive to the needs & hurts of others but also to what God is doing around you. 

My physical pain from the wreck brought about all of these things, but there was another time in my life when my pain was emotional. Pain from stress, from uncertainty, from worry, from exhaustion…today, June 4th, marks 7 years since Mark's heart bypass surgery and heart attack less than 12 hours after surgery. It was a time of great pain for me. Not physical, but deeply emotional. I was 27 years old, married less than 4 years, a mommy for less than 2 years, a mommy to be again for only a couple of weeks, financially uncertain woman whose life went upside down and inside out in a matter of minutes. Through it all, God pursued me. He used the pain I was experiencing to reach deep into my soul. To change me & show me a love that I had not yet fully experienced. 
 

Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[a]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Romans 8:31-39(NLT)

Don't skip over verse 31!  See how it says "wonderful things"?  I've learned that the first step in being pursued is to take the approach that is positive, even when the situation would suggest otherwise. Not living in denial, that doesn't open you up to anything. Instead, look for good to come from your situation! Expect it, plan for it, hope for it, pray for it!!

Whether you're in the midst of a time of pain or can go back in the memories of past pain and remember the depth of it, let these verses from Romans open your heart to being pursued by a loving Father that loves you more than you'll ever fully understand. So much so that He wants to take your pain and turn it into something beautiful. Like those "become of tree after you die" ads…have you seen them? Honestly, I can't take their slogans and ads, they're just weird! But the concept is the same as the truth of God's purpose in our pain…ashes to beauty, sorrow to rejoicing, tears to joy, Death to Life!  If you want it, purpose and even new life can grow from your pain! 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

CHANGES AHEAD --->>>

CHANGE - it's inevitable in life, yet so many people struggle with it. We know it's coming, it's necessary and often brings good, yet we struggle to embrace or even accept it. I was thinking about Abraham this past week and how he must have felt when God asked him to pick up his things and just go... no plans, no maps, no details, just a simple, follow me. Wow!

My walk with Christ, particularly in ministry, has given me the opportunity to give up things that I love in this moment, for things, although unknown, that will exceed my expectations in the future. My family has come to this place once again. For those who have yet to hear, we will be relocating to N. Georgia at the beginning of June. (Actually Mark is already there). My heart literally breaks a little more each time I think about leaving Trinity Chapel! I see God before me and want nothing more than to follow as closely as possible, but there is sacrifice to be made in that following... I've found though, the sacrifice is always worth it! So for that reason, and many others, I can step back into a place of unknown. I can say goodbyes, cry tears & put that distance between those that I love and consider family at Trinity Chapel. I can hold hands & manuever through frustration in my sweet, Babes as they process this facet of ministry & walking with Christ. 

Let me share, briefly, how God brought us to this place of CHANGE -
In December, our family was facing some really challenging situations. On top of that, we over heard our little ones talking to friends and the gist of the conversation was that they weren't 100% sure where to put down their church roots, because Momma served in one location and Daddy, another (actually several others, but that's not important right now). The moment hit me hard. Like, stopped everything in my head. And although nothing changed at that point, it changed that way I prayed about our situation. Instead of praying for a job for Mark at a specific church, we began to simply pray for God to move in our current situation or to move us. Not an easy prayer to sincerely, pray. 

Then during my January fast, I had a beautiful moment with God where He asked me to stop surviving and to live. I literally responded out loud as I was driving, "BUT HOW?" He showed me that it had to start in my mind, then in my speech, then just continue to trust and look for what He would do. Some weeks later, Mark received a call about a job. That had been happening, rather often, so it was no shock, but we immediately felt God stir our hearts to not just shut it down. 

Through prayer {and a lot of tears} we began to see clouds of questions, concerns, struggles & probably even some doubt begin to rapidly clear from right in front of us and knew God was at work. As saddened as we feel at saying goodbye & making a transition from Trinity, we couldn't be at peace any more than we are, that we are walking with God and into His perfect plan at this point in our lives. 

To our Trinity Chapel family: THANK YOU for loving us! For allowing me to love & teach your children & grandchildren. What an honor it's been. Although it was far shorter than I ever would have dreamed, our hearts have been deeply knit with so many of yours. We're family & will always be connected because of our Father in Heaven. 

To all of our Friends & Family: We ask for your prayers! The next few weeks will be busy as I pass the baton at work, manage all the end of year busyness with the kids school & pack up our house. Pray for Mark as he establishes himself in a new role & new city without myself & our kiddos. Lastly, pray for our sweethearts - the little Whitakers - as I call them. There's a level of understanding that they have not reached in their walk with God, plus moving away from friends seems so final & big, so our days are a rollercoaster of emotions! We trust, & know with confidence, that God has gone before us! We just continually seek God's wisdom in walking out the steps He's laid out & the purposes He's placed in our lives!

Monday, March 13, 2017

#theunwelcomemonday

Today was the day after daylight savings began. My 2nd least favorite day of the year...my first being YESTERDAY, the start of daylight savings time! Ha! For all my friends in ministry, I know you feel me on this...I mean, why can't it start in the middle of Friday night?! Right???? (Really, just keeping one time all year, would get my vote, but I haven't found the voting booth for that option!)

So this morning, my daughter begrudgingly complied to my request to wake up, get up out of bed and slip her little arms and legs into the clothes I was putting her into...a real, live, 45 pound, baby doll. 😏  As I stepped out of the bathroom, I thought she was finally exiting dreamland and starting to get excited about her day. No more than 90 seconds later when I walked back in, she was practically drooling on the bathroom floor. I snapped a cute pic and thought I'd post something witty on IG about the time change and my little Sweet! I put my post together, trying every single filter, then going back to the one I almost always use, threw in a couple of hashtags and then did a quick proof and realized my last hashtag had to go. 

What was it?? #theunwelcomemonday Although, more than true, I had this little nudge inside me... you know the kind. I thought, what a terrible way to start my day - unwelcome. Such a harsh word, yet so often we treat days, situations, things, and yes, even people as unwelcome. Before we even give it /them a chance! 

What situation or person do you see as unwelcome? I know that if we change our perspective, the results we get will change too. About a week ago I read something that I immediately jotted down & placed on my desk. "Expectation is a form of faith" (Steven Furtick). If 'unwelcome' is what I plan for and expect, then that's all I'll get. 

I changed my outlook this morning, which didn't change all my situations or challenges - we were still pushing that school bell, daring it to ring before the kids got in the door; I still have a pile of laundry that needed to be taken care of over the weekend, yet here it stares at me at 11pm on Monday night; my list of to-do's didn't melt away, nor did other challenges I faced today; but my expectation of what God would do this day changed how I went about my day. 

If this is something you struggle with, I hope you can, like me, begin making imperfect progress in this area. Begin intentionally welcoming a day, a struggle, a person... and see what God will do!


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Watch Out!

Laundry & Netflix. Any Mommas (or Dads) out there ever make use of that combo? Well that was me last weekend! An ever-growing mountain of laundry and the final message in a series by Steven Furtick called "Death to Selfie" consumed most of my Friday morning. I posted something I got from that message on SM, and it said this, "Your tears today can water the seed of your harvest tomorrow. #trustGod

You know so often, we either become consumed by our troubling or difficult situation or we go all "macho man" on it and push it away because we just don't want to have to deal with it. But it's okay to have tears; it's okay to have rain in our lives... Last night, Trenton had a football game and as I sat in the pouring rain, waiting to see my little guy run out on that field for a final play, my initial thoughts softened and changed. It was just rain, something we need. Nothing about that rain hurt me or altered my life physically, {although an umbrella would have been ideal} in fact it will bring good to the things around me...similarly, tears, can bring good, if we allow them. Instead of drowning in your tears or shutting them down completely, allow your heart to feel the entirety of a situation and through God's loving arms, gentle guidance or even strength to carry you, water some things in your life that He will use in your future! 

That message changed some perspectives in my life for the better, but I realized that there's another application of that statement, and it has to do with our children. In parenting we often want to take the tears out of life for our kids. Always, yelling watch out or trying to prevent every bike fall, friend disagreement, disciplinary action and on and on. I'm guilty and I've begun making the change to not remove all the tears. 

This morning, *Disclaimer: my Whitaker crew (big & little) isn't into mornings AT ALL...but I  really want a peaceful, smooth start to each day. Talk about THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!*  while getting ready for school, Kamdyn disobeyed. I even reminded her of the consequence (having her mouth washed out with soap) to continuing to choose that action ... aka in Parent Speak: please don't make me follow through or have to change this consequence. She did it anyway. I've been guilty of making excuses and "having" to change the consequence (i.e. we'll be late). Not today. I let go of my fear of starting her day off in tears and stuck to the action/consequence.

Now before you start throwing rotten tomatoes or begin thinking my mom skills have been flushed down the toilet, hear my heart. I love my kids with a fierce love. A love that will fight for them to no ends. A love that wants the very best for them and will be their advocate and protector without hesitation. Tim Elmore has a great study on parenting and he made a statement that has sunk deep into my heart... "We've done a better job of protecting than preparing". Wow. So true. How often have I tried to protect my kids from tears that could actually be watering a harvest in their life in the future?? 

Those tears brought about a lesson that will help her today, tomorrow and on into the future. They weren't the tears of simply not getting her way, they were actual tears of a consequence to her own action that she chose. Obviously, we have different parenting styles and that's okay. God knew the temperament of our children and He matched them up perfectly with our personalities and life experiences. You may discipline differently, but the truth is still the same. If you prepare your children, even if it means bringing out the tears, they will be more protected from whatever may come at them. Don't protect from the tears, prepare them so that if/when the tears come, they can water seeds in the future of your child's life or your own life!

  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A True Hero

What makes a person a hero? The official definition is: a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities; a person who is greatly admired; the chief male character in a story, play, movie, etc. Because of movies, novels & media, I think we often think of a hero as someone with a super power or the perfect life...you know, physically fit, prepared for anything, with money in hand & time to "meet the need"... they just easily do what needs to be done and are seen as a hero that did what was impossible for us commoners. ;) Reality, as we all really know, is that heroes rarely fit that sensationalized definition, but are humble, gracious men and women that care more about others than themselves. 

One of my main heroes as a child was Mother Teresa. Her life of selflessness, captured my heart. Just this week I came across a book about her life that it's time to reread, then I saw this quote - you may have seen it too. "If you want to change the world, go home and love your family." How simple, yet profound. Mother Teresa, embodied true, Godly love. At 8 years old, her father died. At 12, she knew God's hand was on her life and ministry was her life calling. At 18 she left home to study and prepare herself for what she knew was God's plan for her life - she never saw her mother or sister again. That's love. That's a genuine, deep love for God. To forsake your own desires, for a plan that will take you to unknown places with unknown people...This life will give you more than you could ever dream of, yet often in ways we may not have chosen. In my opinion, that's where the greatest heroes begin, with a reckless, abandon to God. 

Mother Teresa had a grasp on real love that many never come to understand. She reached and still affects more people than I will probably ever even meet. She understood love. Love is sacrificing. Love is quiet. Love is humble. Love is gentle. Love is giving of yourself, not giving stuff. She didn't face these challenges like we do today, but it's not a FB post, an opinion or a petition. The root of all those things, is ourself - our wishes, what we want to see happen, what we feel is best. Love is about others. Love is about doing. Love is more in the mundane, everyday life than the lights of life or likes of FB. 

How can you and I be heroes? We can love our families. We can put them first. We can choose to love the life we're living. We can be the greatest expression of God's love, when we teach our families how to love God by the way we live our lives. I REALLY hate cliches, but this one absolutely fits and it's that "talk is cheap". Go change your world by putting your family first, loving them, not just by talk and certainly not by giving them stuff, or running your kids all over so they can be a part of every event and activity...to the ball field, music lessons, dance, study club, etc...all that is good. My son plays football and we're headed to a game an hour away this afternoon - nothing wrong with that.  The point though is this, love has to be the starting point and the ending point of it all, and providing those things doesn't translate into love. Love is a sacrifice. A sacrifice of you, connecting with your spouse, your children. It's desiring to be a hero to your family and your family only, and often times, you then become a hero to many others around you!

"If you want to change the world, go home and love your family" - Mother Teresa

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Is that a tattoo?

Tattoos... lots of folks have them. I mean lots! I have seen the cute, the cool & the interesting ones and then there are those "others"......you've seen them too. The ones that make you look at the person and just say, "why" or "bless your heart". The thing about them, is that they're ALL permanent. Not a huge shocker, I know? Ha! Seriously though, I was reading a few facts about tattoos as I was thinking through this blog and I read some things that actually are a little mind-blowing - 1. To get a tattoo, the skin is pierced between 50 and 3,000 times a minute by a tattoo machine.  2. Modern ink may contain pigments from ground plastics, such as Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which creates extremely vivid tattooing with clearer, longer-lasting lines  3. Early tattoo methods included using chisels, rakes, or picks. Soot-covered thread was also used. The thread would be sewn through the skin. [From www.facts.randomhistory.com]

You may feel differently, but I'm not loving any of those facts. A tattoo is way too permanent for me. I'm left AND right-brained and sometimes it really messes me up...for instance, today, I may be a total science nerd - reading medical journals for fun and watching documentaries on surgical procedure, googling hyperplasia or pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (yep, it's a real thing)
 and such. But tomorrow, I may be feeling my artistic side and baking, painting or creating something completely abstract. So, aside from not really being a fan of self-inflicted pain, and my nerd side being totally bugged out about the risks (hello, plastic, meet my insides...ahhh!) I'd never be able to decide on a design! ;)

There is another way that we can tattoo ourselves that doesn't require a needle, tube, motor & foot pedal or chisels, picks or soot-covered thread (BLEH!)...it's a tattoo that permanently changes the way we see ourselves. It's almost always self-applied, invisible to others, but the effects of it can be seen by all. It's actually just a bruise, but we see it as a tattoo. It's a little word called, failure. 

Failure, like a tattoo, doesn't have to be taboo, ugly or awful. Yet, so many people view their failures as [permanent] tattoos that never go away; they put a mark on their life that no one can remove without scars & pain. Yet, Isaiah 61:3 says, "To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory." That tells me that failure is NEVER a tattoo!  Bruises can be nasty, slow you down, incite a barrage of questions that will force you to talk about what happened, but as you protect the area for a time, yet keep moving, healing takes place. The bruise becomes a distant memory. 

Failures can be the same. If we choose to see them as bruises instead of tattoos, we learn and grow from those experiences. God's mercy is able to freely work in our lives and we keep moving forward, rather that get stuck in the permanency of the tattoo of failure. Psalm 130:7 says - "O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is unfailing love. His redemption overflows." Redemption gives every failure the potential for greatness. Not all failures will set us on the path of immeasurable success, but the correct view and actions on our part in response to our failures will always bring successful growth in our lives. 

My husband's group, Higher Ground, just released an album and I couldn't help but think about the lyrics in one of the songs. It's titled, "Made For Greatness" and the line that stood out says, "failure is not in the fabric of our lives". We are human, our nature is tainted with sin, we aren't perfect, therefore there will be decisions made, words spoken, thoughts appearing that won't line up with who we should be in Christ. Those can quickly, turn into failures, huge ones. We're fallen people, we are born with a sinful nature. BUT, God made us for greatness and we are not meant to remain in our failure. Admit whatever failure you may have made and allow God to bring you back to a place of greatness in Him!

That subject line though...haha!