Would you agree that there are some things in life that we choose and some things we do not? Things we would never choose, for instance Covid or Cancer or any other seemingly awful disease or situation. However, the Lord in his omniscience sometimes chooses to allow these seasons in our lives, for His purposes, ultimately.
Every response from us, however, is a choice. We can choose to accept the situation or not. We can choose to fight back, or not. We can choose to praise Him above all, or not. We can choose to heed His promptings, or not.
If you think about it, everything from the moment our feet hit the floor each morning till our head hits the pillow each evening, everything we say, think, and do are choices. We can choose to love people each day, we can choose how we respond to others, and on it goes. Every minute of our lives involves a choice in how we respond.
All this to say, we can choose to be obedient to the Lord’s calling, prompting, and commandments, or not. There have been two specific times (many more actually) but for this blog I am choosing to focus on two specific instances the Lord has called me to thus far in my life.
Another trip around the sun. A friend gifted me custom pints of ice cream and one of the labels displayed this saying: “Another year sweeter” Super cute, however I don’t know about that. 😉 As I look forward to my birthday each year, this one is hitting me a bit differently than previous years.
As I gazed over at the side table in our kitchen that holds several b-day cards received this week, some touching, some funny, all of them thoughtful, and looked at the material gifts that I had received each day this week as the Lord so graciously ordained. My thoughts turned to my dad (and the fact that he is now gone from this earth as of Jan 6th this year) and the thought that the absolute best gift I could receive (from the Lord) was seeing a bluebird on my birthday. I wept at the thought. As, I have yet to see one since dad’s death.
As I woke up this morning (quite melancholy, knowing that this day will not be unlike most others unfortunately) after a restless night of sleep and continued my day as always, feeding the pups, reading devotionals and praying, making coffee, walking the pups etc.…It does hit me that even though my dad, Lou did not recall that Oct 7th was my b-day for many years preceding his death, which was super hurtful the first year that happened, it hit me that no one loves you quite like your parents. And, when they are gone, nothing will ever be quite the same. There is a deep void in our heart and soul that realizes, no one will love you in the same way your parents did. That is my experience now (in this moment) and I realize that will not be everyone’s experience. I was blessed to have parents that loved me despite my flaws, which were truly my biggest cheerleaders in this temporary life on earth. And, when they are both gone from this earth, it changes things, and that truly did not hit me until this week leading up to my b-day.
We entered 2021 excited for what was to come. Things were looking up! We had a goal, a vision, and a purpose that gave us great joy. We had it all planned out. Our amazing graphic designer, Preston, had created the artwork. I had sourced just the right garments. Our trusty local printer printed onto the amazing garments. We had created giftable items for folks who might be looking for something more than apparel. We spent several months curating, sourcing, and working towards our goal of launching THE most amazing thing ever. We had a plan; (we have learned over 5 years to plan far ahead of the seasons.) We even had a pop-up planned at a trendy store. We were super excited to launch this powerful, hopefully life-giving movement. Everything was on target.
Then…during a benign Monday night in early January, we got a phone call. For anyone who has ever been a caregiver, you know that when you see the facility name and number pop up on your screen, your heart drops a little bit.
In mid-March, Kansas declared that schools would close for the rest of the school year. Other states soon made the same determination.
Very quickly we started hearing terms like “Shelter at Home” and “Social distancing.” “Quarantine” was a word seldom heard these days…until now when we hear it daily.
The words “Pandemic” and “Plague,” although foreign and strange to the younger generation, engender memories giving rise to fear in the minds and hearts of the oldest among us.
Businesses and churches closed,
The economy faltered,
Violence at home is increasing,
and Deaths from the virus are reported daily.
Many of us have only seen times like these in movies or read about them in books.
and Discouragement is on the rise, exacerbated by the news reports and accompanied by weather fluctuations from cold and wintry to mild and spring-like and back to wintry again.
And we are all wondering, "How long???"
Nothing is certain except that nothing is certain.
I always love it when I read those words “But God” in my Bible. Often they follow bad circumstances or evil, offering hope to a situation that would otherwise seem hopeless.
As I pushed forward and backward the seemingly heavy vacuum and saw the white pup hair that was being taken away little by little, I lost it. Literally had a breakdown right there in the living room. The room was quiet except for the hum of the vacuum. It did not matter that no one was around, I could not help but bawl uncontrollably thinking of our beloved Gidget and the fact that we had to put yet another dog down...
What do you do when you lose a beloved pet? Kelly Sue shares her and her husband's journey through their grieving process of losing their beloved dog, Gidget, and how Barkin Dogs Rescue found them not one, but two new pups to adopt and love!
I will never forget the excitement I had going into a meeting with one of my professors, Dr. J back in grad school. I had the idea of launching a Christian clothing business from way back when and he had a side business that helped start-ups. I came prepared with all my notes, my hand-drawn ideas scribbled into a notebook from years ago and a prototype of a zip-up hoodie that had embroidered crosses and verses stitched all over it. I was so excited! See, Dr. J, now this is what I’m talking about! See this cool hoodie??!! It’s a nicer, higher-end product that I really think people would buy! He, of course, has far more knowledge than I and he is asking questions and pondering it all…thankfully not anything like “Shark Tank”; I would never have survived that type of questioning. He was genuinely being a kind fella and hearing me out. At the end of our meeting (as I am walking out) he asked me to write a “Theology of a Hoodie.” K…. hmmm….ok. That’s it? What on earth does he mean, I thought? I also thought, are you kidding me dude, you know full well how many books and papers we must write in graduate school and now you are asking me to (for fun) write a theology of a hoodie?!
Well, here it is almost 8 years later. (BTW I still do not know exactly what he was asking for, however, I have a far better understanding of hoodies after creating and selling them for almost 3 years now). “Theology” means a theological theory or system” I am going with just the theory or system; my guess is that was what he was asking for?
So, here is my brief explanation of how the system works, at least in my case.
Don’t ya love it when someone visibly looks shocked (not fake-shocked for like a tip or something), but, really stunned when you casually mention that you are about to turn 50?! ME TOO!! Hey, I’ll take fake-shocked sometimes. As I ponder this new year, the running thread at the forefront in my mind is about turning 50 in October. Can I lose 20-30 lbs. in that time frame? Is that even possible? Does that mean completely giving up sweets and bread? Will my legs ever look like they did in my 30’s? What can I do to my face/neck/hands to get ahead of this aging thing?
Then I swing to other side and think, really, why does it even matter? Why does it matter if some stranger thinks you are younger than you are? Like you are cheating the system somehow, like you got better genes (jeans?) than someone else? I mean, does it truly matter?!
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Ten years ago, today on 8/8/08, I became Mrs. Robinson. Yes, cue the quips from the movie and you can thank me later for planting the song seed in your noggin just now. This is significant to my husband and I, this 10-year mark, because it has not been a bed of roses, there were many thorns along the way.
The thorn of infertility is perhaps the most hurtful one. As I write this, I wonder why does this still trigger me now? Maybe I suppress or ignore this thorn day-to-day and as I sit down to stop and reflect on our first decade together, this deep hurt comes to the surface.
The thorn of quickly realizing that marriage is not the idyllic life I remembered seeing on TV shows growing up, such as “Leave it to Beaver” or “The Brady Bunch.” Moving to a big city, living with a man for the first time and starting grad school all within the week after getting married was daunting to say the least.
I once heard the saying, “Marriage is not meant to make us happy, but to make us holy.” I mentioned that to a friend once and she said, “Well, that’s not very romantic.” No, it’s not. However, I think there is much truth to the statement.
Ultimately though, be like Jesus Christ. These amazing men (Bob Goff/Bob Affeldt/Rod Janzen/Doc Fuder) mentioned in the title are strong examples of living in a such a way to give God the glory, to share the love of Christ to whomever the Lord places in their path in an authentic, organic, and winsome way. I am pretty sure their attitudes and lifestyles did not happen overnight, they are human after all. I am guessing that as they got older and deeper into their walk with Christ, things slowly began to change for them. Hearts softened. Desires changed. They learned as they went how to love others in a more Christ-like way as the years went by. I, too, am learning this. I hope. By God’s grace I am learning to ask more questions, be curious, not engage in arguments for arguments sake; that does no one any good! Listen more than speak. Be present; this I am learning from my dad. His dementia has progressed to the point of not being able to converse about current events or anything of substance. So, I have learned that just sitting outside with him watching the birds and the people come and go from the nearby parking lot is fulfilling for him. And, it is for me too. I cherish these times. Presence…patience…. silence…. just being there for someone shows them love. Time is our most precious commodity these days isn’t it?! I have also learned of late that my “agenda” for the day might not be God’s agenda. He may have other plans, and I need to be ok with that! We are in the process of moving and my list is loooong! Much to do, very little time in which to do it. However, just last week I was delayed twice in one day by two instances that were (annoying at first, lets be honest here) and then once I realized my purpose/God’s plan, I was completely at peace and truly filled with joy! The interactions with the people in those instances ended up being much more fulfilling than checking line items #8 and #9 off my “to-do” list.
What prompted this blog was a recent Ann Voskamp blog (highly recommend reading the guest post by Bob Goff) that I read which prompted me to begin reading Bob Goff’s two books: Love Does, and Everybody Always. Both inspiring books filled with stories of how we can love others well. We are commanded to do this by the way, to love God wholeheartedly and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39) Bob Goff explains how we do this in a simple, engaging, sometimes humorous way. Simple, yet, difficult. Simple, yet sometimes messy. Simple, yet, life-changing for both you and whomever you are showing love to.
As you are going about your day, running errands, carpooling kiddos, etc...what happens in your heart and mind when you see a homeless person (loaded down with perhaps a backpack maybe using a shopping cart) crossing the street? Or, someone holding up a sign asking for food or money on a street corner? Do you pretend you don’t see them and look away? Do you think to yourself, “Well, they could get work if they really wanted to?” Do you long to give them something but you stop yourself thinking things like, “They will just use the money to buy drugs or alcohol” Or, “I would stop, but I am super busy and don’t have time right now?” I am guessing that all of us have had these thoughts (and many more) that run through our minds at times like these, for we all have our own lens and theologies regarding people in need. May I plant one little seed the next time you come across a person in need? I pray that you remember that we are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). I pray that you would look upon these folks as human beings that are worthy of your time, your eye contact, your resources (clothing/food), your love. When we come to the end of this fleeting dash of life and we are in the presence of the Creator of this world and everything in it, when all the nations are gathered before Him (Matt. 25:32) and He says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:35-36; 40)
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Every design in our Grace Thru Faith store has a story! We find inspiration every day in the people we meet, places we've lived and teams we love. When we can share the love of Jesus with our shirts, we feel like we've hit gold! We hope you'll enjoy reading a bit more about how these shirts come to be.
"The zeal is real!" A direct quote by the vivacious, intense and zealous woman, Elizabeth Tatham, who exclaimed this in our office last year while she was explaining how intentional her, and her family, are about sharing the gospel with others. I wrote about Liz last month and will continue to share her connections to the missionaries we support when you make a purchase with us!
We chose a true red color (Red because Liz is also a National Spokeswoman/Survivor at Go Red for Women), super comfy, soft and longer length t-shirt for our Zeal is Real shirt. Romans 12:11 (NIV) says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord”. What a great reminder to us all that we need to be mindful of our countenance (demeanor) in life so that we can point others to Jesus Christ in a winsome and salty way!
Ahhh…a new year. A fresh start. A clean slate. A blank slate.
Have you chosen a word for the year yet? Nope? Same here. I am finding that choosing a word even if it seems as if the Lord has guided me to it just does not seem to work with me. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the rebellious side of me as well as not being able to focus in on one word for a whole stinkin’ year!
Starting a new workout or eating program? Nope? Me either. Never seems to work in the long run. I am still living in the tension of wanting to physically look younger (in my face/hair/hands) and dealing with a belly that appears as if I am preggers. Oddly enough, however, I recently have taken the attitude that I really don’t care. As long as my stretchy pants from Chico’s and Eddie Bauer fit, who really cares?! Drink the wine (not to excess Eph 5:18), eat the dessert, whatever you want to do as long as you do it unto the Lord (1 Cor 10:31) People will remember not how you physically looked (if you had an extra 20 lbs. etc.) but how you treated them. Did you treat them with kindness and respect? Did you actively listen to them without interrupting? (Still working on this one, the first one also!) Did you build them up or put them down? (1 Thess. 5:11)
Now, I do not find it wrong to want to improve yourself in any way. I just find that mere resolutions do not work for very long.
As I think back to the sweet season when I gave my life to Christ and was on fire to share, grow, and learn the Bible, I recall a vivid memory of being lovingly corrected by our oh-so-wise Bible study leader, Terry. Please allow me to brag a bit on this amazing woman who so graciously gave much of her time to leading women’s discipleship courses (each one 36 weeks!), back-to-back. When there were no more “formal” studies at the church to teach, she graciously opened her lovely home weekly to continue to teach us the truths of God’s Word.
Terry is steadfast, warm, quick-witted, intelligent, hilarious and fun, I could go on and on. Anyway, I was young in the faith and had immersed myself so deeply in the Bible, I thought I had a pretty good handle on at least the basics of the faith. I can only imagine how many times I may had jubilantly exclaimed, “Everyone is a child of God!” I don’t know, maybe it did only happen once, even though I recall deeply believing this to be true. Maybe I heard a pastor preach it along the way, or learned it from another well-meaning Christ-follower, I cannot recall.
It has occurred to me lately that eventually either our bodies will fail us or our minds will. At least, this has been my recent experience.
My earthly biological father has been dealt the dementia card. My earthly “second” father’s body failed him, yet he retained his remarkable brain up to the end of his earthly existence. We laid my second father to rest a few days ago.
The greatest gift he ever gave me was the recognition (that as I was slowly losing my biological father and anticipating a future as an only child without any living parents), of the gift of belonging.
You know, we all have our own seasons when we wonder how the heck can we keep going on like this?! Where we get to that place of saying that something's just got to give! Something. Anything. And then we realize that when we have nothing to give, we have God, the Ultimate Giver of all.
We will be disappointed.
By our friends. (Even best friends.)
By our family. (Spouse included.)
By friends or family who have zero interest in our endeavors. (Super hurtful because we are passionate about what we put our hands to!)
By the hand life dealt us. (God is Sovereign.)
By the size of our waistbands. (Darn those irresistible tacos!)
By an ice storm that failed to deliver. (Sounds odd unless you happened to be in certain areas of Kansas City recently.)
My point is that without a doubt people will disappoint us. In ways, we couldn’t even imagine.
It’s how we deal with the disappointments that set us apart.