Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"OMG!"

One of the biggest challenges I've had in several years of youth ministry is getting teens to pray, especially out loud. Sometimes it's because they're shy or don't want to appear overly "spiritual" in front of their friends and peers. However, most of the time it's because they honestly don't know how. I am currently a leader in our church's youth group for teens in grades 9 to 12. We do our Bible teaching time together as a group but at the end of our meeting we separate so we can have some time to discuss things privately, things that girls & boys might not necessarily want to talk about around each other. Obviously I can't speak for the boys but I can tell you that the girls & I do have some pretty meaningful conversations, as well as prayer requests. Prayer still seems to be a bit of a challenge for them, which is why I try to explain it like this: prayer is simply speaking to God. That's it. No fancy shmancy, flowery, poetic wording necessary... just speaking the way you usually do, honestly, from your heart. In our little group, we used the term "OMG" as an example to how we can use everyday modern language to speak to God. "OMG...Oh My GOD"...something that has often been considered to be one of the most overused catch phrases of all time. But just like almost anything else, we can use it to bring glory to our Lord. I prefer to use it this way, oh my God, my personal Lord & Saviour, my best friend & confidant, the lover of my soul & keeper of my deepest secrets. OMG...my own little semi-secret code between my God and me...and my girls in my group, if they choose to use it. Some of my girls have been surprised to learn that I allow any kind of prayer they want to give. There is nothing too small for us to bring to the throne of God. In our group we pray about everything from Math tests to crushes and everything in between and beyond. Some of our requests are answered the way we hope. Sometimes we are answered in ways that we don't understand... at least, not yet. The main thing I am trying to share with my girls is that to have a relationship with God we need to keep communicating with Him. If a little acronym like "OMG" works to help bring the kids I minister to a little closer to Christ, then I think it's worth possibly making some legalistic folks that are more worried about semantics than reaching kids at their own level a little uncomfortable. Is He your God? If not, do you want Him to be? If He is, how is your relationship with Him? Is He a distant deity or the Lord of your life?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Called to Smallness

Last night at our ladies' Bible study we talked about (among other things) finding the true purpose in our lives. It seems to be a very popular subject. There are certainly a lot of books about it. Most of them are very well written, with a positive, uplifting message, obviously designed to make us excited about our lives, our devotion to God, etc. Don't get me wrong, I'm not putting these books down, I think they all have wonderful things to say, some even use scripture to help you to understand. But with the exception of a few, most of the books I've read have focused more on me finding my "true" potential, dreaming larger than life dreams, being called to do great things for God. In my opinion, this could be kind of dangerous. After all, we're not all called to be the next Billy Graham or Beth Moore...are we? I admit, it strokes my ego a bit when I read in a book that the author believes that I am so stinking wonderful that to be called to anything less than ultimate greatness would be an insult to God. And then my imagination takes flight....imagine me and my husband leading a world-famous megachurch, bringing thousands of millions of souls to Christ. And I'm sure that our other ministries, like our Sunday morning TV broadcasts and our bestselling Bible study books would have Satan shaking in fear and trepidation. But maybe, just maybe, I'm not called to anything quite as elaborate as that. Maybe I'm simply called to be a small light in my tiny sphere of influence. Maybe my personal mission field is to be the "neighborhood mom", making my house a center of activity for my kids and their friends. Maybe my main ministry is to run the church nursery so that tired moms can have a break and be refreshed by hearing the Word with the rest of  our church family. Maybe I'm called to homeschool so I can educate my children in Biblical values as well as their core school subjects. Maybe I'm called to be a housewife to help my husband with his responsibilities at work and at home, and to make myself open to ministry opportunities that wouldn't be available to me if I had a career outside of the home. Maybe I'm called to be a career woman that can bring the love and hope of Christ to my workplace. Maybe I'm called to smile at the old man in front of me in the checkout line at Weis because it might be the only human contact he gets that day. It is true, God does call some people to greatness. But isn't it possible that He calls some of us to smallness too? According to the Oxford Essential Dictionary, the definition of small (when it pertains to people) is this: "not great in importance, strength, or power."  That got me thinking. I don't consider myself to be great in importance, strength, or power. I'm a housewife, not a world famous theologian. But my God, the One who has called me to live the life that I do, is. Although my life may be considered to be small in the eyes of the world, it isn't in the eyes of my King and Creator. How could it be, this is the plan He made specifically for me. When I finally figured that out, it blew me away. Everytime I have tried to do my will rather than His, I have been plagued with doubt, fear, anger, anxiety, and all peace fled from me. Now I am content to rest in the Lord and operate within the gifts He has given me, to use for His purposes, not my own. What is that, you ask? :) Well, it seems to me that at this time in my life I am called to homeschool my children until graduation from high school. I am called to serve my family as a full time homemaker, making my family my primary focus and ministry before serving the outside body of Christ. I am called to teach and mentor the youth in my church. I am called to be an encouragement and to minister to all I can, in His name. I am called to do whatever He asks me to, whenever He asks me to do it, trusting Him to equip me with whatever I need to acheive the goals He sets for me. Whether we are called to greatness or smallness, we are called. All callings are important to the cause of Christ, none are unimportant, weak, or powerless. Our personal mission fields may differ, but the outcomes should be the same, bringing as many people to Christ as we can.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How God Used 7 Cows To Speak To Me

OK, you're probably wondering how in the world can God use a cow to speak to someone, much less 7 of them, but I swear to you, it happened just this morning. I have been struggling with my weight as long as I can remember but right now I'm at the heaviest (and unhealthiest) I've ever been in my life. At age 42, I realize that I don't have a lot of years left to get this under control so it's now or never. God has been speaking to me about my food addiction and how it's destroying me. I have used food as a crutch to comfort me and it's a habit I need to conquer. I have used every excuse there is to avoid exercising but the biggest one is the fact that I have a weak leg. Because of this I tend to fall down a lot and I have been afraid to fall, especially with no one else around, because I don't know how I'll get back up again and I'll inevitably be embarrassed. I decided last night to stop hiding and take some action to get this extra weight off of me. My daughter and I planned to go for a walk in our neighborhood early in the morning before breakfast. This is something I have wanted to do for awhile but was afraid to venture out for fear of the neighbors watching me, or falling on the road with no one but my daughter to help me....a thousand excuses, all of them seemed completely logical and understandable, but they were still excuses. As I attended our ladies' Bible study last night, I felt the Lord tugging on my heart, showing me that this was the main area of my life that I had not yet surrendered to Him, which was why it was so difficult for me  to handle. I was never meant to deal with this, or any other problem, on my own. I don't need to put myself through that for any reason. He will always walk through any situation with me, He will never leave my side. As I prayed last night, I gave my complete submission to the Lord, acknowledging that I haven't been following Him the way I had always thought I was. I have been holding back from pursuing Him the way I used to back when I was first saved over 20 years ago. I have felt unworthy and, to be completely honest, angry and resentful for the situations He has allowed in my life. I realize now what my "secret sin" is and I am finally ready to offer it to Him as a sacrifice. So, where do the 7 cows fit into this story? When I finished my prayer last night, I asked God to give me "a bit of fleece" to show me that He was really listening to me and that I was heading in the right direction. Everyone who knows me well knows that I am obsessed with cows. I don't know what it is about them, they just fascinate me and I find them completely adorable. A little bit up the road from my house is a cow pasture. Sometimes the cows are out, sometimes not. I asked God to help me stay motivated in my walk  this morning (both physically & spiritually) by allowing me to catch a glimpse of just one cow. It would be like a secret message from Him to me to let me know that He loved me and approved of the changes I am trying to make. This morning, as my daughter and I went on our walk, I noticed the birds singing, the coolness of the air on my face, and the quietness of the neighborhood at rest. I felt so at peace, feeling the Lord's presence as we walked down the road, and I told God it didn't even matter if there weren't any cows out, I knew He was with me and always would be. As we neared the end of the road, we walked to the pasture and there were 7 cows. There are not enough words to express what I felt in that moment and I know I will remember it for the rest of my life. It will always be a reminder to me that my Lord is a God of abundant love and mercy. He offers us much more than what we ask for and He always gives us exactly what we need exactly when we need it. I know that He will willingly walk with me through every situation in my life. He wants me. He pursues me. But He also desires to be pursued. He wants all of me, nothing held back, even the ugly, sinful parts of me, the broken pieces of my spirit, and He wants to recreate me into something beautiful to be used for His glory. I don't know what He has planned but I'm ready and willing to do whatever it is He asks of me. And the next time I see a cow or an image of a cow, I will always remember the new covenant He made with me this morning.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"All In"

I know, I know...I haven't blogged since October. Oops! :) But, to be completely honest, I just wasn't feeling like writing so I skipped it. I was in a spiritually dry place for a few months but now I've found a refreshing little oasis and it was with me all along, although I didn't acknowledge it. Or, should I say, Him? Yeah, definitely Him. I have been a Christian for many years, saved by grace. At first I was excited, really on fire for the Lord, a Jesus Freak, crazy about my new relationship with Christ, eager to share the amazing truth with anyone and everyone who came across my path. Then my fire dwindled down to barely a flicker, not because I no longer loved God, but because I was drained of all desire to share my faith. I'm sure I was quite obnoxious to quite a few people following my conversion, but my heart was in right place, even if my words and actions were clumsy. Then, after many years of obstacles comparable to mentally bashing your head against a brick wall, I simply gave up. I couldn't take the rejection, the strange looks I'd get when I'd try to share Christ with someone, especially people who had known me during my high school and college days, when I was....ummmm...well, let's just say I was involved in some very self-destructive behavior and leave it at that. What kind of joke was this, they'd ask me...you, a Christian? I guess I can't blame them, since my antics at that time were questionable. So, like a balloon with a slooooooow leak, I deflated. I wasn't willing to risk anything anymore and I became backslidden for a few years, until my oldest son (who is now 17) was 4 years old. Then my husband & I were back in the God business, even moving 90 miles away from home for my husband to get his Bible degree. Oh, we were "all in"....couldn't wait to move onto campus, having prayer meetings in the school chapel, hosting Bible studies in our shoebox sized apartment (with 3 kids at the time) and singing Kumbiyah with our Christian neighbors...Then we woke up and faced reality. Because of my perception of the events going on in my life, I felt misplaced and abandoned. Once my husband graduated from Bible college and we got our first full time church, I took a deep breath and plunged in again. Surely this was what God had in store for us, right? I was "all in" again, ready to make a difference, ready for someone to notice what an incredibly holy pastor's wife I was (yes, I'm being sarcastic here). Then my pride took a big hit when my husband had to give up his position. So much for a life in ministry. What were we going to do now? After all, it wasn't just my husband who was serving our church, I was too. I had my own position as a teacher, among other things. When his ministry ended, mine did too. Not only did he lose his identity as a pastor, I lost mine as a pastor's wife, and the perks that went with it. I had been a pastor's wife for 8 years. Now who was I going to be? Fast forward a couple of years....we are now serving as "civilians" at another church with a new church family who has been completely lovely to us. My husband and I serve together as a team once more with the high school kids. And I LOVE it! God has shown me that my true identity is not wrapped in what position I or my husband have in any church , nor is it in being a mother, wife, teacher, homeschooling homemaker, or any of my other roles here on this earth. My identity comes from who I am in my Lord, doing what is His will for my life, not my own. Sometimes it's really cool & He allows me to do something that I actually want  to do. Sometimes He asks me to do something that absolutely terrifies me and I have choose to either be obedient and get out of my comfort zone, or disobey and miss out on blessings and opportunities that would've been gained had I simply done what was asked of me. I'm still struggling a bit, but now I can say, truthfully, that I'm FINALLY ready to say, "Yes, Lord, I am ready to do whatever it is You want me to do." Don't get me wrong, I'm quaking in my boots as I'm whispering the words, but it's a step in the right direction. Can you be "all in" and still deal with fear and doubt? I'm not sure but it'll be interesting to find out.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wow, it's been awhile, hasn't it?

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile. I've just been crazy busy, with the ending of the summer & all its' glorious activities. Now, today is the official first day of the 2011-2012 homeschool year for the kids at Kenny Christian Academy. We've gone over what our goals are for the year, what our schedule will be like, what will be expected of us, etc. So far, so good, but we haven't ended the day yet! ;) In all seriousness, I have learned today that my attitude greatly affects my kids attitude toward homeschooling. If I'm all cranky & miserable it makes sense that they will be too. (Bad attitudes are contagious, aren't they?) So, my major goal for the year, in addition to teaching the kids & helping them actually retain what they're learning, is to have a good attitude every morning. If I'm cranky, I'm gonna "fake it till I make it" and lean on the Lord for understanding, wisdom and patience. Are you a homeschooler? If so, have you started teaching yet this year? What are your goals, for your kids & for yourself?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sometimes our dreams can change...

Sometimes our dreams can change. That makes sense, doesn't it? After all, the life I lived at age 20 is very different than the life I'm living at age 42. I have different opinions and thoughts and feelings because of the experiences I have had over the years. My dreams before marriage and children were very much about me,  how I could make my mark on the world. I never could quite figure out what it was exactly that I wanted to do with my life, although I knew there were a few options. I had always been told by my teachers that I was a good writer, especially with fiction. Then I realized I had a knack with kids, so I decided to study Early Childhood Education in college. I kept failing Math, so I ended up dropping out of school and entered the workforce, first as a daycare teacher, then as a group home counselor. I really liked that job, until I became a mother. Then my priorities and dreams started to change. I would literally cry every time I had to leave my son and go to work. It felt so unnatural to be away from him. I would tell myself that it was ridiculous to feel this way. I was a modern woman, right? I could have it all...career, marriage, kids...all on my own terms. But I felt overwhelmed and empty. I felt like I was doing something wrong, really wrong. When I found out that I was expecting twin girls (by now my oldest son was 4), I knew in my heart of hearts I wanted to be a full time stay-at-home mom. My husband was very supportive of this and actually wanted that himself, so I left my job. That was in 1999. I have been a stay-at-home mom ever since, also homeschooling my children. Looking back at the dreams I used to have, it seems as if they were for a completely different person. I guess they are. I still get the occasional fantasy about being a world famous novelist or having my own daycare center or wonder what it would be like to get back into group home work again. But not only is that no longer my dream for myself, I sense it is not God's dream for me either. By being home full time and homeschooling my kids, I have been able to educate and nurture them in a way I wouldn't be able to otherwise. My oldest son has Asberger's Syndrome. When he was diagnosed, the psychologist we worked with said that he probably wouldn't have learned nearly as much if he had been in a traditional school setting. I may never draw a salary, but I do work. In addition to caring for my family in a full time capacity as a homemaker and homeschooling, I am also involved in a few of the ministries of my church. I am helping my husband expand our older teen group and I have just taken on the duties as the church librarian. The desires of my youth have been replaced by the dreams my heavenly Father seems to have for me, and they fill me in ways I never would have imagined before. Instead of feeling useless as a housewife, I now feel empowered as my husband's helpmeet. Instead of feeling like I should rack my brain trying to figure out how to bring money into the house to supplement my husband's income, I am learning to become a good steward of what the Lord provides for us. It seems that at this particular time in my life, God wants my focus to be on Him, my family, and our ministries. Maybe someday He will have something else He'd like to add to that, but I am confident in what He wants for me right now. If I never publish a story or a book, if I never earn another penny, it doesn't matter. Right now I am living God's will for my life, in obedience to Him. My life is full of possibilities. Yes, I will always be a bit of a dreamer, but my dreams these days are radically different from what they used to be. I want to serve my God the way He wants me to serve Him. I want to be open to His leading and fulfill His purpose, not my own. I still have my selfish moments and times that I get the "I'm-only-a- housewife-and-nothing-but-a drain-on-my-husband-and-society" blues, but then God always does something that shows me I'm doing something right...a spontaneous hug....sharing a song or a joke....an unexpected call from my husband just to say "I love you"...and the feeling of peace and contentment that the greatest of all my dreams has come true.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Zone Cleaning?????

In all the years I've spent as a full time homemaker, I have not yet mastered the housework part. I have to admit that cleaning the bathrooms just doesn't list as one of my top priorities when I'm homeschooling 4 kids! But I do recognize that it still needs to be done, along with all the other exciting household tasks (ie: dusting, laundry, etc.) and I need to get organized & stay organized! I have been drawn to the many different cleaning/organizational gurus out there, like Flylady, but I haven't been completely sold on the idea of Zone Cleaning. Now I see the benefits of having a workable plan in place to help me get done what needs to get done. I have a teeny weeny attention span when it comes to doing things that I'm really not crazy about doing, so staying motivated to clean & organize my house can be, ummmmm...shall we say, challenging? I've decided to give Zone Cleaning a try, but with a definite Theresa Kennyish special twist: I'm going to make it into a game. Yep, that's right, I'm just a big kid, and I need to make it fun (or at least tolerable) to hold my attention. So, here's my plan. I'm going to divide up the house into zones (thus the zones for Zone Cleaning...see, I'm getting the hang of it already! LOL), but, sorry Flylady, no "dressed to the shoes" for this girl, it's barefoot all the way, baby! After all, I'm in my home, I want to be comfortable (I'm sure you can picture the whiny tone in my voice, sorry!). So, after I have my zones labeled, I'll decide which zone gets to be lucky Zone #1 (could it be the kitchen? Bathrooms?) and make a schedule. To do this I'll be using index cards, which I will place on my kitchen bulletin board to remind myself what zone I'm working in. I've decided that Zone #1 will be the master bedroom, so that will be the card I'm working off of. Now, the rule is that I'll need to work on at least one task in the "featured zone" in addition to my daily cleaning tasks (ie: cooking, laundry, etc.) and must complete the current zone before working on the next zone. Hmmmmmm....sounds complicated, which just might keep me interested. Do you ever find yourself tricking yourself into doing tasks that you just don't feel like doing? What kinds of things work for you? What kinds of things don't? Well, even if I don't end up sticking this Zone Cleaning thing out, it should make for an interesting experiment! Join me on the amazing adventure of cleaning & organizing my home...if you dare! *insert maniacal laughter HERE*