Joy in the journey!

Joy in the journey!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Free to be authentic and mask free!

As I walked into the cafe, I heard laughter. Focused on getting in and out with my juice I didn’t pay much attention. That is until I looked up and realized they were pointing and laughing at me! Uh oh...what did I have hanging out of my nose? Was there toilet paper on my shoe? Did my shoes not match....again? Was my zipper unzipped? What could be so funny? My first thought was get in the car and go somewhere else. But I was too far in the cafe, so I walked past them as fast as I could and stood in line for my juice. I could feel my heart racing all the way up to my nostrils thinking that something had to be wrong with me! Why were they pointing and laughing? All I wanted was a juice! As I stood there trying to figure it all out... my mind went back to a conversation I had with one of my daughters recently. It was about authenticity. It was about being real. It was about showing who we really are and not being afraid to shine for God in confidence. It’s about not caring what the world thinks, it’s about what God thinks. It’s about knowing who we are in Christ, and not walking in fear, but in confidence. It was about walking without a mask on so that others could see our authenticity. Authenticity?

What does that really even mean anyway?

I remember doing a study with my daughter and we looked up the word authenticity: This is what we found Authenticity: loyalty, faithfulness, sincerity, devotion, honesty, steadfastness, fidelity, safety, security. reliable, firm, unimpeachable, real, not copied or duplicated. Now that’s a pretty amazing word isn’t it? Wow! I want to be authentic!!!

We had such a special time that day and prayed that God would help us walk in authenticity! Not walking in fear, but in confidence of who we were! We even wrote out the definition and put it up to see.

Then all of the sudden, waiting for my juice...I realized how the enemy uses such trivial things to trip us up, to lose sight of the authenticity God wants us to walk in. The enemy is always there with a counterfeit lie to cause us confusion. Have you ever listened to those lies? “You are not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not thin enough, not spiritual enough, just not enough!” Oh I have! There are days I wake up and it’s roaring like a lion in my ears! But always behind those roars, is that still small voice of the Holy Spirit reminding me of my authenticity. Who I am in Him! Will I listen to the roars? Or will I listen to the still small voice?

I began to chuckle as I stood in funny was this!!!! I was listening to the roars that something was wrong with me, when I knew who I was....why fear? What would the authentic Lisa do? I would go out there, say hello to that table of laughing people, and be friendly! Seriously? Yep, that’s what I would do. Easier said than done right?

I proceeded to get my juice, and also bought some gluten free cookies on the way out. I was my authentic self by golly and I was on a mission! I went out the same door I came in and there they were, still at their table....the laughing ladies! Oh my. I walked over (yes, feeling my heartbeat in my nostrils still) and placed the cookies on the table. A look of surprise came over their faces, as I said “hello!” I asked them if they would like some cookies with their coffee, and they were delighted! Was this the same table of people? Yes, it was! I struck up a conversation with them and come to find out, they were there meeting about gluten free recipes, and food! NO WAY! They all get together every now and then to support each other. If you know my story, you know I have to eat gluten free because of celiacs disease, and so does my son. I had just said recently to a friend of mine....”I just need help! I don’t know how to be creative with all of this gluten free cooking!” And there before me were piles of recipes and friends to help me! I am so glad I did not miss this opportunity!

And for you who are wondering why they were laughing at me....I asked them that very question! You know what is funny? They were not laughing at me at all! They were telling funny stories and didn’t even know they had pointed or laughed! Really? I bought into the lie I was the brunt of their jokes? They thought it was so funny that I thought they were laughing at me! Wow! I was about to put on my mask and hide, feeling rejected. I am so thankful I threw the mask to the wind and grabbed the gluten free cookies instead! Thank you still small have never failed me!

I realize more than ever that God has His hand on me every second. He wants to answer my prayers! It is my choice, and my will that many time divert His will. It is my choice to listen to the lies, or listen to the truth. It is my choice to leave the mask at home, or take it with me. Better yet, not even own one!

Have you ever worn a real mask before? It is hot, it gets smelly in there after awhile, and it’s not comfortable. Kind of like wearing the mask of someone you really are not. It’s a smelly, uncomfortable process after awhile! One of my favorite quotes is from Rick Warren: “The most exhausting activity is pretending. Faking is fatiguing. Duplicity creates anxiety. Wearing a mask wears you out.”

Authenticity! That has become my new favorite word! There’s such freedom in being authentic! I want it to become a part of who I am. Oh the wonderful things that await when the mask is taken off! I hope you will walk with me in this process, and love who you are! God sure does! In fact He is up there dancing over you with singing at the very thought of you! (Zeph. 3:17) That just makes me want to dance a jig! A mask free jig! Care to join me?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Clara's Pot Roast

When Clara entered the room, you knew she was there. She had a raspy voice and profanities flew out everywhere. She was loud, and she was abrupt. She was the cleaning lady that worked for the apartment complex I was managing years ago. She was rough around the edges, but boy could she clean! Her hard life showed on her face. The abuse she had endured for years had taken its toll, and it was apparent, she would not let anyone hurt her. Her guard was always up. She worked tirelessly to raise her teenage son, and she was devoted to him. Her husband left her, and she was alone. Her life was her son. Everyone tried to steer clear of Clara, but I always had such a soft place in my heart for her. She would always end up in my office, challenging me about this so called “Jesus” I served. She loved to talk about how she would never become a Christian. She thought Christians were fake, mean, and full of deceit. I always prayed for Clara, everyday, and I always asked the Lord to show me how to lead her to Him...what could I say? His response to me was always....”don’t say anything Lisa....just love her.” She was a hard person to love on some days, but at the end of the day, she always ended up talking to me about her life. Some days her pain was so evident.

I will never forget when I got the phone call. On the other end of the line was a family member of Clara’s explaining to me that Clara’s son had just been killed in a car wreck. It was a horrific accident. My heart sank. In fact I remember sitting there for about an hour after I hung up the phone just staring at the wall, praying. What should I do? What could I do? What words could be said? I spent that sleepless night praying for Clara, and as I kept asking the Lord what to do, I so clearly heard in my heart....”make pot roast!” Yes, I know....comedy at a time like this? “Lord, seriously....what can I do?” And again, I heard....”Make pot roast!”. Hmmm, now this was a first for me in many areas. I had never heard the Lord tell me to make pot roast, and I had never even made pot roast!!! Really?

I got up early the next morning, and I went to the store and I bought 4 of the biggest pot roasts I could find with all the trimmings. This was going to be interesting to say the least! For a solid day, I made pot roast. I found my Grandma’s recipe, and I prayed over those pot roasts and dove in! If there ever was going to be an annointed pot roast this would be it!

Thinking that the Lord was going to give me some eloquent words for this family as I brought them pot roast, I approached the front door. Clara opened the door....just as I asked the Lord to give me the words, and as quickly as He said "pot roast", was as quickly as He said....”Lisa, don’t say a word.” Clara took the pot roasts from my arms, sat them down and grabbed me. She held me for what seemed like an eternity, and she cried from a part of her soul that I could tell had never been reached before. I also felt those cries shoot right up to heaven. Jesus loved Clara so much....Jesus had a plan for Clara, and pot roast would only be the seed planted to begin His mighty work.

My words were few to Clara that day....there were mostly just tears. A lot of tears. I did look over Clara’s shoulder and see a room full of people diving into the pot roast, and I saw the look on their faces. I felt so helpless to know what to do or say at such a heartbreaking time like this. So I just prayed. I prayed that God would work a miracle for this family. All I could do was plant a small seed. And boy did pot roast seem so small to me in light of such a huge tragedy.

Clara never came back to clean after her son died. In fact I didn’t even see Clara again after that day. I always prayed for Clara, and always wondered what happened to her. Would I ever know?

I was checking my emails one morning, and there was one that stood out to me. It was from “Pot Roast Clara”. What? Was this a virus? I laughed, but by the time I finished the laughs were tears streaming down my face. It was Clara! My cleaning lady Clara! But she was no longer a cleaning lady. She worked (are you ready for this?) at a church where she prepared meals for home bound people, and people who were ill in the church. Her specialty? Pot Roast! (Thus the name Pot Roast Clara!)

As Clara and I emailed and talked back and forth over the next few weeks I cannot tell you how my life changed. What I felt was such an insignificant seed planted that day, changed a life. God did the watering through others, through leaders, through events He orchestrated....and she came to Jesus in a way I cannot even describe. I asked her what changed her life? Her voice began to crack and she said....”It was the pot roast.” She went on to say that it was what was “not spoken” to her on that day that changed her entire thinking about Jesus.

She said “Lisa, you were the only one who came, you were the only one who made a meal, you were the only one who didn’t preach to us with big words. You were just there, and you loved us just the way we were, curse words and all. She went on to say that it was one day as she was eating a sandwich made out of the pot roast....she accepted the Lord into her heart. She said it was quiet, it was sweet, and it was real. And bless her heart, she said she never uttered a word of profanity after that roast beef sandwich!

At this point I am in one of those “ugly cries” know the kind you can’t breathe and stuff is running out your nose, eyes and isn’t pretty. Oh, but it felt so good! I remember those days when I felt Clara was unreachable.....but God didn’t!

That day changed my thinking. I realized that every seed I planted mattered. No seed was too small. I may not see the harvest, but God was busy watering the seed, and that seed would grow! Just because I may not see the harvest didn’t mean it wasn’t there!

I also learned that day that it wasn’t many times my words that would lead others to Him, it was what I didn’t say. It was what I lived. One of my favorite quotes is

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won't need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don't fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine.”

When I think about it, some of the times I have been touched the most have been when I have watched a person live out loud, and love out loud. Loving out loud may begin with the smallest seed....a hug, a smile, shared time....but what ends up is a miracle! The harvest! A symphony! And sometimes even a pot roast!

Happy seed planting!

Galatians 6:9

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

God, Betty Crocker, and Chili Powder?

As I sat there anxiously waiting, staring at my wonderful masterpiece in the oven to be finished, I was so excited! My first try at a new cake recipe (gluten free, sugar free) and I was feelin’ like chef Lisa with my huge oven mitts on. I just needed the hat! I was in between appointments, but I was craving something sweet! So as fast as I could, I was pouring the ingredients into the bowl, and determined I would have my cake within the hour.

I heard the buzzer ring, and you would have thought it was the finish line in a race. I sprinted! It was beautiful! I was so proud! I love to bake, but my skills as a gluten free pastry chef are severely lacking. The gluten free journey I am now walking through is a new one. But I am determined to make the best of it by golly!

The house was quiet, and I was all alone, which is rare these days. Just my dogs staring up at me sensing my “cake excitement!” As I sliced my first piece (yes, I knew there would be a second) I almost wanted to sing the hallelujah chorus! This was my first taste of anything sweet in 2 months. Can you tell? I took my first bite, knowing how amazing it would be.....and my mouth came to a screeching halt! It was HORRIBLE! What kind of recipe was this? I knew it could not have been my baking skills! Surely I was not that bad of a cook! I re-traced my steps, and all of the sudden (not wanting to admit that I am literally blind without my reading glasses) realized that instead of cinnamon, I put in chili powder. And are you ready for this.... I left out the sugar! (or stevia powder in this case since I can’t have sugar) There it was sitting in the measuring cup, and right in front of me (which I realized after I put on my glasses) I felt like such a dork! Seriously Lisa? Chili powder? Fail!

Totally bummed, I threw the cake in the sink and mumbled under my breath....”well this was a waste of time.” But you know what is so funny, under my mumbling breath I heard the Lord say “Maybe to you, but not to me.” “What Lord?” I say that often these amazement at what He is telling and teaching me. It was then that I began to see the lesson He was wanting to teach me from my cake disaster.

Many times in my impatience of “Hurry up Lord!”....I see that it’s like He’s baking a cake! Yep....being the visual person that I am, I saw cake! All the wonderful ingredients (gifts) in my life are delicately being put together. It’s measured perfectly, and it is not done hurriedly. (and He has 20/20 vision and no reading glasses!) He knows what it takes for a perfect recipe. He knows just how long it takes for the cake to bake.....but it has to bake. That means heat! Refinement! God has the ingredients together, and now the refinement. Some things are made beautiful by the heating process. In this case as He was showing me....He was working out the things in my life perfectly, some were in the oven.....the desert....the dry land.... the dark place (the oven!) But what comes out is a wonderful masterpiece! In that masterpiece come the answers, the healing, the miracles!

Hmmm. This put things into a whole new perspective. I knew these things in my heart, but today it just hit home. In fact His whole journey for me these past two years have been a journey of realizations. Things I was taught, knew, and learned my entire life have begun to become a part of who I am. I was living them, not just learning them. Instead of hearing about God’s baking abilities, I was watching Him bake...and it was my life he was baking! I have to I sat there reflecting on all of this I thought about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace. (3rd chapter of Daniel) What a devotion to God they had! God really did spectacular things in that oven! Wow! Now that’s an oven story!

Yes Lord, I guess you did have something to teach me today after all. I will leave the baking to you! Off goes the oven mitt, and my ideas of being the gluten free Betty Crocker. I know God blows Betty Crocker out of the water anyway, and I know the cake He is baking will be unique, and complete in every way. It will be topped with a frosting of miracles, and healing, and it will be delightful! It is my job to give Him the chef’s hat, and leave the baking to him. After all who wants chili powder in a cake!

I think I’ll go to whole foods and get a fruit smoothie! Bon Appetit!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

To have a pity party, or not have a pity party...that is the question!

As my eyes began to open from a restless sleep....I could tell this one would be tough. My mind was telling my body to “move!” “Get up!” but it wouldn’t budge. For those of you who struggle with an autoimmune issue such as spondyloarthritis....or any kind of arthritis for that know what I am talking about. Mornings can be tough. The mind is ready to go.....the body, quite a different story. And it can be different everyday.

So as I was lying there I thought to myself....this is a grand opportunity for a pity party! Balloons and all! Then there it was....that precious still small voice of the Holy Spirit behind the wailing pity party horns, calling me. Yep, there it was.....sweetly whispering to me to replace those party horns for something much better. He told me to start thanking Him. Be grateful! It was not just an “attitudinal change” He was calling me into, but a “gratitudinal change.” Are you kidding me Lord? My joints are swollen, my body is screaming with pain....I am discouraged!....HOW? “Just listen Lisa....start’ll see.” I would put Him to the test! So I started praising through the pain. If I told you it was easy I would be lying. My pillow was soaked with tears, but I began my journey to praise no matter what. I began to realize as I sat there crying, praying and thanking... that being grateful was the beginning of something so much deeper. He wanted me to live in the fullness of my relationship with Him, not hindered and hamstrung and holding Him at arm’s length, but experiencing Him richly....feeling at home in His presence. It was then that I realized He did not want me to be destroyed by the inevitable downturns of life, with no answer for the darts of unfair, unpleasant circumstances...a walking bull’s eye, just waiting for the next arrow to be shot in my direction. He wanted me to find the God given reserve to stand strong in the midst of confusing, condemning onslaughts of opposition and pain. He wanted my head up, lifted by the empowering Spirit of God within me, even when everything else within me was calling me for a day in bed with the lights out and the blinds drawn and pity party horns blaring. He was calling me to “gratitudinal change”....and He wanted me to be a person who’s known and marked by gratitude. I could not do it in my own strength. But I could do it through His strength. He took me from my weakest point, and began to work. I just had to let go, let Him, and start thanking.

You know what I realized? At first...thanking God in the pain was difficult....but as I released and kept on thanking....I felt it began to lift. I felt a change in perspective. I went from seeing things through my pity party colored glasses to seeing them through gratitude colored glasses. I saw the pain and problems that usually buried me take a back seat. Those problems took their rightful place BEHIND twenty other blessings that were bigger than those problems would ever be. A recurring issue that once brought out a whole range of pent up emotions was now producing a new excuse to praise God with greater fervor than ever. I knew He was more than trustworthy. Gratitude was changing things.

You know what else I have learned through this journey today? God loves me....His promises are sure, and my heavenly destiny is settled forever through Jesus. But some of His work in me and through me can only come through the valley of shadow and suffering. Was I going to be resistant to it? Or was I going to be clay in His hands knowing He is intent on shaping my life for something far bigger than my own comfort, convenience and pleasure. I could surrender, or go kicking and screaming...pity party and all.

I chose surrender! I took my pity party hat off, shut the party horns down, and chose today to make gratitude my default setting. And you know worked. Not only was my day blessed with His presence, but my body was too. And my faith was renewed to know that He was my healer and would take care of it all, even on the days when my body was telling me otherwise. Again, I knew He was on this amazing journey with me.....and He would not let me down. I love my gratitude colored glasses. I pray you get some too! They beat pity party glasses any day!

I challenge you to make gratitude your default setting today, and see what happens!

See you in your new glasses!

Friday, May 6, 2011

God's heart for single Mom's....Happy Mother's Day.

It happened as I was cleaning the house today. A vivid memory I had not thought about in years. But today for some reason it came out of nowhere. There I was, in the 3rd row of the sanctuary at church, I was holding my baby boy, and my 2 year old daughter was sitting to my side. It was Mother’s day. I was wiping the tears away as fast as they they came. I tried to hide them, but it was impossible. It was overwhelming. How would I do it? How could I raise these children by myself? It was our first Mother’s Day together with my babies, alone. How could this happen? How was I left to do this by myself? It was the first time it really hit me. I was on this journey now with just Jesus, and my babies. And it was also at that time that my life changed forever. My relationship with Jesus went to a whole new level. He was the lover of my soul, my husband, my maker, my friend.....He was my everything. And by His grace He walked me through one of the most difficult times of my life.....being a single mom.

Today as I was cleaning, thinking about Mother’s Day, my heart felt such a burden...a burden to pray for those single Mom’s out there who are single for whatever reason, yet are giving their all to raise their children. I remember that time..... I remember that feeling of lonliness....the feeling that you just couldn’t do it another day. I remember wondering if God had forgotten where I lived, how did this happen to me? My self esteem was shattered. How would He put the pieces back together again? Could He? Would He? Would my children be ok? Did God forget those deep desires of my heart to be a wife AND mom? Mother’s Day....took on a whole new meaning for me.

As I was praying and cleaning and wondering why Jesus was taking me down this journey today, it was then that I looked at the picture on the desk......there it was... the joys of my life. My 4 kids, 3 dogs, and my wonderful husband. My favorite picture daily reminding me of the miracle God performed. Not only did Got not forget the deepest desires of my heart, He brought those dreams into fruition far greater than I ever dreamed. I held that picture to my heart today, and the tears started flowing. I thought about the past 10 years with a husband I utterly adore, and 4 children who all love Jesus passionately who are the joys of my life, and I realize once again.....just how amazing God’s grace truly is. He gave me the deepest desires of my heart. He saw those tears and heard the cries of my heart that Sunday morning years ago. He knew the journey would be amazing. He held my hand and He walked me through every step.

There is hope! There is restoration! There is grace! There are miracles! My heart this Mother’s Day is with all of you single Mother’s out there who are weary, who are overwhelmed, who are wanting to give up, who are lonely, and feeling forgotten. Oh friend, Jesus wants to take you to a whole new place. This journey that seems to be an endless, thankless one is indeed a journey straight to His heart. He utterly adores you! He sees every tear you have cried, He hears the cries of your heart. He hears! I pray this Mother’s day you are engulfed in the arms of the lover of your soul... Jesus. I felt those arms in ways that carried me through the darkest of days. I also want you to know I am praying for you. I want to encourage you! Hang on to those dreams you have. Hold on tight! He will bring them to pass in your life in ways you cannot even imagine. (Eph 3:20)

Mother’s are very dear to the Lord.....precious indeed. My prayer is that this Mother’s day you get a glimpse of the treasure you truly are! May this Mother’s day mark the beginning of your miracle journey! I promise, you will look back on this journey, and you will smile at the miracles God walked you through. Get ready! The best is yet to come!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A life lesson.....from my dogs.

I have learned so much from my dogs. Yeh I know...sounds funny huh? For all you dog lovers out there, you know what I mean. I wasn’t always as much of a dog person as I am today. My dogs are a joy to my heart. When my kids left the nest, we filled them with dogs! My wonderful husband is so accomodating and so supportive of my love for my dogs, and has become just as attached to them as I have.

Today I took them all on a walk in the beautiful sunshine. It is my prayer time and my alone time with God. I always ask God to teach me something each find hidden treasures even in the midst of trials that come. (And there seem to have been many hurdles this year.) I guess that is why there have been many lessons. I treasure those lessons. But today it was a simple lesson. It was about friendship. It was about how I love my family, and my husband. And who would have thought I would have learned it from my dogs?

Our golden retriever, Gracie-Anne is her own adjective. If I ever figure it out, I’ll let you know. Her energy is endless. She’s a gift giver. She never comes empty handed....(or mouthed) She is a child at heart and quite frankly I don’t think she will ever grow up. Her excitement is genuine and to the core. (Or should I say over-excitement!) She has her quirks, like eating anything....and I mean ANYTHING in sight. How many trips to the vet have we taken with her? Too many to count. But her innocence and sweet heart make those trips worth it. She just gets so excited that she swallows the gifts she brings you! Now that’s excitement!

Then there’s my Holly, our lab. My sweet Holly who was trained to be a service dog, but bless her heart, her hips didn’t want to cooperate so she stayed with me. She is a service dog at heart. It is written in her face and expressed through her tail that can whip a hole in a wall at one swipe! And those of you who know Holly are knodding their heads. I have never met a sweeter soul than Holly. She is always there. No matter where I am....she is there. If I start to trip and fall, she is there in front of me bracing to catch my fall. If I drop something, she picks it up mid air and gives it back to me. As I struggled in my health this year.....Holly knew. It was written all over her face, and her closeness grew even closer. She has even licked tears from my face. Holly would die for me. In fact one day on our morning run, we were faced with 2 dogs who got loose and were on the attack....straight for us. They were pit bulls who were on their way to the pound and got loose. They were fighting dogs (which made me sad) I found out later, and had dug themselves out from the fenced area. Well you can imagine what I was feeling as I saw these 2 salivating dogs coming straight at us! I saw my life flash before my eyes....and I just froze. I knew I had no way out of this one. But Holly braced herself in front of me like a cement wall protecting me, no growling, no moving.....just protecting. I will never ever forget the look on her face. It was like she knew what was about to happen, but she had peace. She knew it would be ok. And in one of my previous blogs you will see what happened next. God protected....and Holly was my angel that day. It was a miracle. Holly is steadfast, unconditionally loving, and immovable in her love. In fact I would go as far to say she is one of the most passionate dogs I have ever seen.

And then there is Mavis. Oh Mavis. Mavis Pearl is our newest addition and she is bulldog to the core. I am watching her personality unfold daily and she is a hoot! But what bull dog isn’t? Mavis has a sense of humor that makes you laugh until you collapse. Just watching her walk is fun! Training Mavis is not like training a golden or a lab. She has learned so much already, but is not treat motivated. (Motivation is not her strength) She trains by affection! She’d much rather have a “YES! and a hug, than a treat. In fact the treat will stay on the floor and she will be looking up at me with that wrinkled smushed in face as if to say....”oh just say YES, and good girl please!!” Since she is too fat to snuggle, she gets as close to me as she can and vibrates. (her way of breathing) She is a stubborn girl at times, and loves to eat my shoes. My new high heeled shoes I bought for Easter are now flats with missing bows. Oh well, I can’t walk in heels anyway. She’s her own personality. She knows no personal boundaries and gets right in your face. Holly and Gracie don’t like her lack of personal space boundaries, and have called her on it often. She’s learning.

So as I walked this morning with the 3 of them, thinking about their individual traits, I thought to myself.....what kind of a friend am I? What traits do I have and share with others? What kind of a Mom and wife am I? Am I giver, a kid at heart? Do I love unconditionally and have passion? Am I stubborn and relentless? Am I steadfast and always there to show God’s love? Am I a protector and peacemaker? Do I have boundaries? It made me reflect on the kind of person I am and the kind of person I want to be. I have so far to go, but know God is constantly on this journey with me refining me. Just as a little puppy can be trained to become a service dog one day and change lives....God is constantly training and refining me and completeing what He has begun. Some days are not as fun as others, but the lessons learned are lifechanging. I want to become more like Him everyday. It’s a journey. A journey He will take straight to His heart. He will never leave or forsake me on this journey. He loves me when I fall, He loves me when I succeed. He loves me....period.

Isn’t that just the neatest thing ever? Yep, it was a great walk with my 3 buddies this morning. I learned a lot from them today....I am thankful. It’s going to be a great day!

Phillipians 1:6: For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.