Change, Faith, Fruit, Good Works, Growth, It's Up to Us, LIFE, Live It, Missions, Tansform, WALK

The Choice is Yours

New Podcast! (click here) Stand up for what is right, even if you stand alone!

I PRAY THAT EVERYONE HEARS THIS. Sadly, I will be canceling my Netflix subscription. They are the first major film industry to choose a side on the topic of abortion. As much as our family enjoys spending time watching our favorite TV shows, I cannot give money to a corporation that will turn around and spend it to support abortion.

This is where, as believers, our hearts and faith are really tested. Will we choose to stand up for what we believe in even if that means giving up something we enjoy? Will we choose self over helping others!!! The choice is yours.

Change, Faith, Fruit, Good Works, It's Up to Us, Kindness, Live It, Missions, WALK

My Heart is In Uganda

I have been home from my last trip to Uganda and attempting to get back to life as it once was for almost a year now. I continue to find myself staring off into space, traveling back in my mind to a place where I have never felt the presence of God more clearly. Even in the midst of holding children that were orphans, little ones whose eyes have seen things and ears that have heard things reserved only for our darkest fears. I watched them smile and laugh while in the depths of what most would consider a hopeless situation.

A moment that I will forever be in my heart occurred the first day we arrived at Beyond Uganda’s Children’s Home in Bugiri. We stepped off the bus to be flooded with smiling faces, singing and dancing; being welcomed with open arms and hearts. There were a number of children of all ages, some very outgoing and others that were shy and
reserved. All of them, at one time or another, needing and longing for love. Amidst all of the excitement, I look over and notice one of the younger children had been knocked down accidentally. I ran over to her and picked her up, straightened her dust covered dress and held her. Swaying back and forth with her head on my shoulder I softly
sang, “Jesus loves me this I know…”. With every breath, she hummed quietly but never spoke a word. Tears streamed down my face as my heart melted for this child whose name I didn’t even know. I developed a sincere kind of love for her that can only be described as God-given.

Baby Mary Sing

I later found out that her name is Mary, but they call her “Baby-Mary”. At that time, she was three years old.  She is from a tribe called the Karimojong. Unfortunately, members of this tribe regularly encounter prejudice, discrimination and a wide variety of abuse from neighboring tribes. Words could not be found to describe what the missionaries working with Beyond Uganda felt when they encountered Mary and her family for the first time. Mary was nine months old, laying on the dirt floor of a hut, so underdeveloped, with a swollen stomach from malnutrition and barely enough energy to even cry. She weighed less than ten pounds. Her head and face looked as though she was injured, and they learned that the mother had been intoxicated and somehow poured boiling water on her.

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The missionaries with Beyond Uganda had experienced the same God-given love for her that I did. They took immediate action and went to extreme measures to help Baby-Mary. There was still little hope that she would make it due to her condition. But our God is a mighty God. Thanks to Him and Beyond Uganda, Mary is now thriving at the Children’s Home in Bugiri; growing stronger every day and being given real hope for her future.

Mary Before and After

As the news headlines and social media inundate us daily with all the ways our world is suffering and falling apart, it is so easy to become overwhelmed and think there is no way anyone or anything can change it. We see organization after organization come and go with little to no evidence of success. So we begin to ignore it, put our head in the
sand and hope someone else will take care of it. Unless we choose not to! It takes all of us to become the change we long to see in this world.  To take a stand and be obedient to God and change the world.   Even if we have to do it one little girl at a time.

Baby-Mary’s story of hope is only one of SO many that I have experienced on mission trips to Uganda.  I witnessed and was blessed to experience miracles firsthand that genuinely change lives and people’s stories forever. It all begins in one place though…the only place it can. With love.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave
everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

You see, sincere, selfless love changes lives and can truly make a difference. This is the inexplicable love that Jesus Christ demonstrated to us.

I have left pieces of my heart in Uganda.  With Mary, with my sponsor child Winnie, and with all of the friends I have come to love.

Change, Faith, Fruit, Good Works, Growth, It's Up to Us, Kindness, Live It, Tansform, WALK

Tis The Season – For a Change of Heart

I should probably preface this post by saying it is not at all strange for me to be thinking or daydreaming about all things Christmas, no matter what time of year it is. You see, I am a Christmasaholic. Even as I sit in my rocking chair on my front porch enjoying this beautiful 72 degree May evening in Kentucky; I can’t help but wish it was almost Christmas again.

My mind was repeating, the song “Pretty Paper” by Randy Travis. If you’ve ever heard it, I’m sure the unique voice of Mr. Travis is ringing through your ears with those familiar words. I slowly rock back and forth as I watch the sunset over the horses in the field, humming the holiday tune. But the rocking stopped, and I felt myself scowling as I paused on the following lyrics:

“Crowded street, busy feet, hustle by him
Downtown shoppers, Christmas is nigh
There he sits all alone on the sidewalk
Hoping that you won’t pass him by
Should you stop? Better not, much too busy
You’re in a hurry, my how time does fly
In the distance the ringing of laughter
And in the midst of the laughter, he cries….”

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My feelings of holiday spirit quickly shifted to ones of concern and sadness. How often have I been guilty of that very thing? How many times have I been too busy or distracted to notice someone I could help? I’m flooded with conviction as I think of this morning’s drive to work. It was pouring rain; I could hardly see through the windshield. Through the rapid swiping of the wipers I could see a man riding his bike in the same direction I was headed. A raincoat synched around his face and wearing a backpack; I am confident he was doing what he could to get to the school that’s a few miles down the road. The next thing I know, I am looking at him through my rearview mirror as I drive on. I could’ve stopped. I could’ve put his bike in the back of my SUV and got him out of the rain. Yes, I would’ve gotten drenched, and I had no way of knowing if he was a good person or not (you know, all the excuses I let justify me not doing the right thing). But isn’t that the point? Sacrificing for someone else?

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Ephesians 5:2

My heart aches at the thought that our world, or should I say, the people in it, can be described much more accurately by the lyrics of that Christmas song than by the example set by our savior.

Think about the last time someone did something nice for you that was a complete surprise. Those moments in life when people go the extra mile to encourage and lift us up really makes us feel special. Why do their actions have that effect on us? I’m sorry to say that they probably stand out because it’s so different from what we experience the rest of the time. Day in and day out, most of us are forced to deal with people who care more about themselves than they care about others.

We have allowed ourselves to become a people who are no longer willing to carry the burden for someone else. We make every excuse in the world to justify our behavior. “I’ve got my own problems; I can’t worry about them right now.” “Someone else will do it; I just don’t have time.” Or my favorite, “I just don’t feel called to do that.” So engulfed in the business and worldly things we have worked so hard for; we are suffocating from our toxic self-centeredness as we choke God out of every aspect of our lives and effortlessly make those in need around us invisible. Just look away, don’t make eye contact…the second you are out of sight, they are out of your mind.

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These quotes from Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love are spot on:
“God’s definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love.” – Chan isn’t referring to how we love our families and friends. And neither is God.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43

How are you doing in that area of life? How often do you find yourself showing love, compassion, and respect for those that aren’t your favorite people in the world? One of God’s greatest commandments is for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. To regard their needs and desires as highly as we regard our own. THAT is what God measures our lives by…are we imitating the life of our savior and putting the needs of others above our own?

“It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But, it is absolutely vital to grasp that he didn’t call you there so you could settle in and live your life in comfort and superficial peace.”

Chan is reminding us that God didn’t create you and me to merely exist and make our goal in life to get as much money as possible so we can be as comfortable as possible. He puts us where we are because He has something for each of us to do at that very moment. I passed that man on his bike and FAILED! God’s plan was still fulfilled. Someone did stop to help him. I drove right past an opportunity to serve and glorify God and be used by Him out of complete and utter selfishness. So He used someone else. That shouldn’t be a relief to anyone. I want to stand before a Holy God and hear Him say, “Well Done Daughter, Well done.” Not, “Is this all you did with the time I gave you.”

“Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people he has made?” – I don’t think Mr. Chan needs my help explaining this one at all, do you?

Change, Discouragement, Faith, Fruit, Good Works, Growth, It's Up to Us, Kindness, Live It, WALK

DON’T MISS IT

DON’T MISS IT!

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are surrounded by insurmountable opportunities.”  (unknown author)

Isn’t it just like us, humans, to overcomplicate things?  I have recently had a realization that is going to change the landscape of my everyday life.  God has already revealed His plan for my life. And yours!!  And yet I, like many believers, have spent so much time making “doing His Will” way more complicated than it actually is.

Over the last several years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of some incredible works.  I have participated in two mission trips to Uganda where I witnessed God’s glory in a way that forever changed my heart and how I see the world.  I have watched our church family here in Kentucky transform into a church determined to spread the gospel as far as it can reach.  After seeing so many miraculous and wondrous acts of God, I allowed myself to be convinced that that was the only way He could use me.  In the “Big Stuff.” You know, the important stuff like mission trips, and church planting, fostering children….so I sat and prayed, “God, show me your will!”  “Lord, I just want to do Your will, please reveal what you want me to do next.”  “God, I’m still here…waiting for you to tell me the next big thing….” (crickets, lots of ‘em).

He was listening, He always is.  He was just waiting for me too.  So, to give me a little nudge it the right direction, he sent my friend Akim from Uganda to shake some sense into me.  He came all the way to Kentucky in the middle of winter to visit the non-profit organization he works with here and in Uganda.  I grew very close to him on my trips there and was thrilled to have him come and speak at our church about mission work.   As we were standing around catching up, he asked how I was and what I had been up to the last several months.  I responded with something like, “Oh, just going to work and church and chasing my teenager around.  I have been praying for what God wants me to do next.  I am seriously considering quitting my job to go into full-time ministry.”  My tone must have been dripping with a bit of frustration. I could tell by the look he gave me when he asked, “Quit your job so you can what? Be in full-time ministry? Are you not in full-time ministry everywhere you go as a believer in Jesus Christ? Does He not have you right where He wants you in order to make the biggest impact at this very moment? Are you surrounded by more people that need to hear the gospel at your work or at your church?”  Oh, how I wish you could read that in his soothing Ugandan accent just as I can hear it in my mind.  I wonder if I looked like how I felt at that moment.  You know that feeling where you want to crawl in a hole and cover yourself up?  Even as I type this, I am shaking my head.  Praise the Lord for His patience with us and the gentle nudges He gives to remind us of His Word and promises.

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The Great Commission wasn’t meant for special occasions, huge church events, and mission trips.  We are called to be everyday missionaries on the lookout for the opportunities God places in front of us, big and small. Everyday missionaries are those who practice life on mission where God has placed them.  As followers of Jesus Christ, our lives have a mission. God has a purpose and plan for us. In fact, He wants to do more “in” us and “through” us than we can even imagine. But it is not about us—it’s about Him. EVERYTHING we do—our jobs, our parenting, our words, our actions, our life’s mission—should be done with the intention of bringing glory to His name.  Never missing the chance to shine a light in this dark and fallen world.

1 Corinthians 10:31— “… Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” (ESV)

We are everyday missionaries, and God has created each of us in a special way to take part in His plan. From high school students to retirees, from stay-at-home moms to CEO’s, we each have a part in the greatest story ever told. This is a story about an extraordinary love.  Too many people think that only “extraordinary” believers can be used for Christ.  God has called each of us to live a life on mission wherever we are – no matter our age, occupation, biblical knowledge, or busy schedule.

He’s asking us to see what He sees. Opportunities within our realities.

DON’T MISS IT!!

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 1 Peter 3:15

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Change, Faith, Fruit, Good Works, Growth, It's Up to Us, Live It, Tansform, WALK

Have You Seen My Seeds? What about yours?

I often get asked how I went from being an outright Atheist to a woman madly in love with Jesus Christ. I guess that does raise an eyebrow if you haven’t lived it out with me.

If you haven’t read my testimony, please feel free to read my very first entry “Introductions are In Order.” That keeps this from being extremely lengthy. To summarize: for most of my life, all but the last 10 years, I was an atheist. A very angry, volatile, broken atheist who loved nothing more than arguing the fact that there could not be, and was no God.

As I look back over those years trying to piece together the events that unfolded to ultimately lead me here, the incidents that come to mind first (and most vividly) are the handful of genuine Christians that God strategically placed in my life. I say genuine because their church attendance and program schedule had nothing to do with the impact they had. It was their everyday lives. Their relationships and interactions; the way they spoke, treated others, and most of all, the way they reacted to adverse situations in their lives. They were unapologetic about their faith but very humble in approaching a person as abrasive as myself with a topic they knew I wasn’t fond of. But they did it anyway. And all though I brushed off what they were saying at the time, they planted seeds. When they would share their faith with me, it was as if they were digging back the packed in soil of my mind and placing a precious seed of hope. As I would watch them go about their days, really living out their faith, those seeds were being watered and nurtured. When I would hug them or try to comfort them during a hard time, I would always be amazed at their hope. I’m not talking about optimism here. I’m talking about real, unshakable hope built from faith. That type of witness and testimony of the God they worshiped was like pouring miracle grow on those seeds.

Everything we experience in life begins as a seed. Our relationships, marriages, businesses, churches, the choices we make, and most importantly, our spiritual growth. But NONE of those things can happen until the seed has been planted. What God can do with a seed planted in faith is something we, as humans, can’t fathom. That’s why it’s called faith. But we have a part to play. The planting of those seeds has been left up to us my friends. A good portion of the time, we won’t even know we’ve sown a seed (or seeds). We can trust that if we are living as followers of Christ are called to live, and acting on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to step out and step up for the glory of His Kingdom, seeds are being planted…and God does the rest.

Out of our gratitude for His grace, we should be compelled to live this out; to walk our talk and let what we hear in the pew on Sunday morning meet the pavement on Monday. We should gladly take uncharted paths, letting go, surrendering, trusting, and knowing that we don’t have to do the heavy lifting. Living out our faith is much like working in a garden. No matter how hard I work in my garden, my efforts alone don’t force plants to grow. I do my part by carefully planting, watering, fertilizing, and pruning — and then I wait and trust that God will do His part to cause the growth. Take a leap of faith, live it out, and then sit back and watch God do His thing.

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‘It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. ‘ 1 Corinthians 3:7

Have you ever really thought about the part you play? If you are a believer, if you proclaim to be a follower of Christ, you have officially been drafted. His Word makes that clear. God has uniquely equipped you, through your life experiences and circumstances, with your very own batch of specially formulated seeds. Only you can fulfill the duty of sowing those seeds because of God’s specific plan for you at this very moment in time.

‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ Ephesians 2:10

‘Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood— may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.’ Hebrews 13:20-21

If it had not been for those bold, Christian men and women that God purposefully placed in my life at just the right time, doing their part and being obedient, those seeds might have never been planted. Praise God for those who are unafraid, unashamed, and are more concerned with God’s opinion about them than the world’s.

I’ll end with this question for you, and myself, to mull over…. Is there evidence of fruit in your life that is the result of seeds being planted?

‘Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.’ Colossians 1:10

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. ‘ John 15:1-5

‘You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.” John 15:16

Change, Good Works, Grace, It's Up to Us, Kindness, Live It, WALK

Kindness Doesn’t Cost a Thing, yet it’s the Richest Gift You can Give.

I am always amazed at how God uses difficult situations in our lives to offer us an opportunity to stop and take a good look around and within.  Generally, in those moments, it’s much easier to become self-focused; worrying only about what we are going through and ways to overcome it.  But the more I listen to God’s Word in my life, the clearer it becomes that, that is not how He intends for us (believers) to respond.

Over the last week or so, I have had the unfortunate experience of having multiple kidney stones.  Several of which were too big to pass, leading to a surgical procedure to place a stent in my left ureter.  And yes, it IS as painful and uncomfortable as it sounds.  Even though I was dealing with pain and the stress of trying to make last minute plans and arrangements because penciling in a surgical procedure wasn’t on my radar, I could see God’s sovereign hand all around me. Even though it was a “last minute” procedure, everything fell right into place. Each nurse and medical professional that I came in contact with seemed to genuinely be happy.  They were very kind and accommodating.  One of the nurses even liked the snow as much as I do.  That might sound odd, but around “these parts” in Kentucky, most people don’t like the snow.  But there is a small niche of us crazies that actually pray for it.  We had a good laugh about it as they wheeled me down to the operating room.  What better way to get someone prepared for what can be a terrifying situation?  I drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face and laughter still lingering in my heart.

As I woke up in recovery, I can remember opening my eyes, and the first thing I could hear the staff discussing was the opportunities for foster care and adoption.  Again, I instantly began smiling.  My husband and I have recently started the process of fostering, and it was as if God was using that moment to give me confirmation.  Still being a bit groggy from the anesthesia, I’m not at all positive what I said, but I do know that I interjected myself into the conversation.  They smiled and happily allowed me to join in.  Possibly just for entertainment purposes, nevertheless, it was very kind of them.

Once I had spent the necessary amount of time in recovery, they wheeled me up to my room where my parents were waiting for me.  At that moment, my new nurse walked in.  As she was introducing herself and starting to take my vitals, I can remember looking up at her and wondering why she looked sad.  She was never rude or cross in any way, but my mother and I could tell something just wasn’t right.  She seemed very busy and was struggling to juggle everything.  It also appeared as though she might not mesh very well with the other staff members.  It was apparent that she was the outcast and the sadness was from being lonely.  She was always surrounded by people but still felt alone.

I went out of my way to smile and talk to her.  I told her what a good job she was doing and to take her time.  I told her to go finish up whatever it was that she needed to and not to worry about me.  I wasn’t going anywhere.  She cracked the first smile I had seen from her and sighed a breath of relief.  As she would walk in and out of my room, bringing me things to sign or asking me questions, it appeared that she walked a little taller and was even beginning to laugh a little.  She thanked my mother and me for our patience and instantly tried to make us understand why she was struggling.  We again encouraged her and let her know that she has a tough job and is doing the best she can, and that’s all that matters.

God blessed me with so many compassionate people as I was going through that procedure.  Maybe He sent my mom and me there to be a blessing to that nurse.  All I know is when we left, and she wheeled me out to the truck, she hugged me and had a smile on her face.  Even if that smile only lasted a few minutes, I am thankful that God chose to use my situation to put it there.

Could I have been inpatient because I was in pain and wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible? Yep.  Could we have treated her like everyone else had been treating her, perpetuating her misery just because we were too worried about ourselves to notice? Yep.  Do people do that to her, and others, EVERY single day because we live in a society that is so consumed with self that we aren’t even able to see the pain and heartache of those around us? YEP!

We often ask how things have gotten this bad or why everything and everyone seems broken.  We live in a world that simply doesn’t show or receive enough kindness.

We go about our days with our headphones in, and instead of being aware of those around us, we often choose to exist in our own little world. Sometimes we’re just not conscious of our surroundings, but often we are entirely aware but make the conscious decision to stay introverted and ignore the fact that there are people besides ourselves on this planet.

People who are hurting.  People who may be doing just fine. People who may need a kind gesture or smile.

Despite the needs of others, we often choose to be stingy with our acts. Why are we acting as though kindness is costing us time or money?

So, to sum up these ramblings… compliment someone’s shoes if they stand out to you. Share your umbrella with the person without one. Strike up a quick, cheerful conversation with the cashier who probably feels invisible a good part of time unless someone is irritated. Reach out to those in need. It may not seem like much, but these little compliments, gestures, and conversations could go a long way in making someone’s day and changing the world.  Who else is going to do it? BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THIS WORLD!

”Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

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