Bloom Anyway

Recently, we have had an insane number of grasshoppers in our backyard. Green ones, brown ones, yellow ones. I’ve never seen so many.

As you walk through the grass, dozens of them spring up and out of the way. Every day, I have to knock them off of my potted plants where they are chewing up the leaves at an alarming rate. Luckily, my dog, Taco, thinks it is great fun to chase and catch them.

Despite the grasshoppers’ daily feasting on my sunflowers, those plants just keep growing taller and the bright yellow flowers keep doing what they were made to do – growing, opening up a few petals at a time, blooming, and giving me something pretty to enjoy when I sit out on my back porch. They don’t let the grasshoppers keep them down.

There are seasons that we go through in life where trouble seems to swoop down like a swarm of locusts. Wreaking havoc and destroying everything in its path. But even a single grasshopper can do a lot of damage to a plant; just as one problem can keep wearing away at you and your strength and stamina. Sometimes, you get to where you think you can’t handle it … where it feels almost like it is too much for you to bear. Those darn grasshoppers just … won’t … stop! Bloom anyway.

I recently read something (don’t know the author) that made a good point. “The enemy wouldn’t be attacking you if something very valuable wasn’t inside of you. Thieves don’t break into empty houses.” You are special. You have worth. And you are stronger than you think you are.

Life’s challenges may bug you and they may change you, but don’t let them defeat you. Keep getting up. Keep showing up. Keep looking up. Keep growing. So your petals may be a little off balance; so what. Focus on progress not perfection. Your life will continue to unfold and you will grow into an even more unique and beautiful version of you.

And even better news … God will be with you through it all.

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Isaiah 40:31

“So do not fear, for I am with you; … I will strengthen you and help you.” Isaiah 41:10

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” Isaiah 43:2


Bloom Anyway

Nothing Is Certain

Sometimes we have to just let go … and let God!

Worrying, over-thinking, stressing over the outcome of things that are beyond our control; struggling to stop the waves from crashing over us in one of life’s storms; attempting to slow down or speed up the ticking hands of time to savor or skip through our circumstances to avoid pain … all of these things are useless, frustrating, or impossible.

We can’t stop or control the various things that life throws at us. We can’t foresee what’s to come or how to best get through our current trials. But we can trust the One who knows, who understands, and who loves us. We can place our burdens at His feet, breathe deeply, and take advantage of the restorative gift of rest.

While nothing in this life is certain … God is. Rest in Him.

Answered Prayers

Like a lot of people, I have often asked others for prayers for a particular situation, but I can’t say that I have been very good about following up and letting people know that their prayers, or my own, have been answered. I privately thank God for what He has done, and I am truly grateful, but I don’t always publicly acknowledge or praise God for answered prayers. So, I wanted to take a minute to do that today.

On March 31st, I published a post “Seeking Prayers Today” as I had been stressing quite a bit over a work project. It was not something I felt equipped to do (even with years of editorial experience), as the client had very unrealistic expectations and requirements. While I recognized that situations like this can create an opportunity for God to shine through and pull off a miracle, it didn’t feel like this was one of those cases, as the actual work would still have to be done through me. I told God that I trusted Him no matter which way the situation went, but if he wanted to know my heart, I preferred that the project would simply go away. Within the next month, there were several delays, and then we were told that we would start at the beginning of May but the project would run through October (where originally they wanted everything done in a couple of months). I felt better about the additional time, but prayed that somehow it would still end up being cancelled (which is not very common once contracts have been signed) as it continued to feel very overwhelming and almost impossible to me.

At this point, I am pretty sure that several other vendors had already walked away from the project, but I knew that the company I am working for did not want to walk away from their commitment. They have a very strong work ethic and moral code, and I understood where they were coming from in remaining ready to press on. About a week before we were to begin, we heard from the client that they no longer had the resources necessary and were going to be unable to complete the whole project. At first, they wanted us to write one small portion of the project, which we would have been happy to do, but within a couple more weeks, the entire job was cancelled. Now, obviously, I can’t say all this happened because of me as I don’t have any pull or control in a situation like this … but God does … and he cares about the things that matter to us.

Granted, the downside of this was that we lost a large contract and the money that would have come in from it eventually. However, I feel it was a major plus in that the company I work for was able to save face and not walk out like other vendors had; the editors (me especially) felt a great sense of relief as this “monster job” was slain; and the time we would have spent on this crazy project was opened up for us to be able to take on better jobs with more realistic expectations and time frames. [Since then, I have added a prayer to my prayer board (more on that later) to deal with the aftermath, and new projects are beginning to come in.]
Composure prayer

So, thank you God particularly for this answered prayer! And thank you for the other prayers you have answered recently as well – like Bart’s new job, which he is really enjoying and we feel will offer him success as well as an opportunity to make a difference for others [he sold his first house today!]; and my sister’s health, which is finally better [at least for now … it’s always something with her 😉 ]; and so many other things you have come through for us on.

Book

Read this!

I have so much more to share with you, my readers, on prayer, including the new prayer board I made, but if I try to write about it all now, I will never get this post published. So, I’m going to end with some words from The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, and promise to share more with you later.

“God is infinitely bigger than your biggest problem or biggest dream. … There is nothing God cannot do. Yet many of us pray as if our problems are bigger than God.”

“100% of the prayers [we] don’t pray won’t get answered.”

“Our most powerful prayers are hyperlinked to the promises of God [in Scripture].”

“Scripture is God’s way of initiating a conversation; prayer is our response.”

“The Bible is a promise book and a prayer book. … Reading is the way you get through the Bible; prayer is the way you get the Bible through you.”

If you have not yet read this book – I highly recommend it. In fact, I borrowed it from my sister-in-law and took tons of notes, but I plan to get my own copy sometime. If you want to change/strengthen your prayer life, you really should check it out.

Meanwhile, pray BIG, worry small, and TRUST GOD.

My Conversation with God

Today, I want to share with you a partial guest post by my husband, Bart. Having experienced various times in our lives when money has been tight, we have struggled with the concept of tithing (regularly, generously, and biblically). We have often been so concerned with meeting our own needs that we have clung too tightly to what was in our hands rather than trusting God and releasing what we had in order to open up our hands to receive greater blessings.

In fact, I remember having a conversation with my aunt once about what I thought of giving 10% to the church. I told her I felt like the money I donated or gave to various places or causes added up to 10% and it didn’t matter if it went specifically to a church. Giving was giving, right?

Our church has recently been sharing “generosity talks” at each service through members of the church. These personal stories have been very encouraging and motivating. Giving is up and so are personal accounts of blessings received. Following is Bart’s story, which he emailed to Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Plano, last month after sharing it with me:

My Conversation with God

I just had a conversation with God. Well, let me back up and give you some background.
Over the last couple of months, when I have woken up early in the morning, before the sun, I have begun praying. Now, I know praying is a good thing. But one of the things I got from reading the Left Behind series (for the third time) is that praying should also be about listening.
This morning, before I woke up, I was dreaming about taking a test in school or somewhere. Someone walked into the room and called my name. I woke up instantly. I was wide awake. I started my usual prayers, thanking God for my beautiful wife and then just stopped. Hey, why don’t I try listening this morning and see if God talks to me.
In church this past Sunday, there was “another presentation” about giving to the church.  What stood out to me about that presentation was the phrase: “90% of God’s math will go further than 100% of mine.”
Church Note
Being that I can’t just clear my head and think of nothing, I was smiling to myself, feeling pretty proud that my wife and I had recently been having conversations about giving to God. We had decided that we would give 10% of our earnings, but rather than tithing it all to the church, we wanted to have some control over where our money went. We felt like we would give more joyfully if we got to choose who we were giving to. So, we thought we’d give some to the church but the majority of our tithe would go to other missions of our choice like E3 and to people we knew personally who have been called to missions. I smiled as I thought about the different people we had been helping over the years go on missions throughout the world. And then I felt and literally heard, “How many of those has your tithe funded completely? Ask Jack [pastor of Prestonwood] how many my church has funded completely.” He was standing in my bedroom looking at me. My smile was gone. Our tithe is nowhere near enough to fund anything completely. “Give my church the 10% and I will bless you so that you will be able to continue giving to the other missions.”
I hear you God. I hear you.
I was so excited, I rolled over to wake my wife and share with her my conversation with God. She was sleeping peacefully though, so I thought that might not actually be the best way to start the morning. So, I decided that I should type up my conversation and share it with you, Jack (especially since God called you by name). God used your sermon, and the recent focus of the church on giving, to reach out and shake me out of my need to control my tithing. I will be obedient to God … joyfully.
God Bless,
Bart Fuller

Chris Kouba, the pastor of our church, wrote back about 15 minutes later:

Bart,
This is such a great email. Thank you for sharing. We continue to hear similar feedback from people who have been challenged by the generosity talks and hearing about their personal journey of obedience and blessing as a result of giving. I pray God shows you so much more of himself as you take this step of obedience and release control over your tithe. In my personal experience, I have found that God always supplies what I intended to give and supplies even more to give above and beyond what I originally intended. The key is being willing to trust him for everything instead of trying to do only enough. Thanks for sharing and if I can help you in anyway in the days ahead, please let me know. 

Chris Kouba, Lead Pastor North Campus

In the past, I am sad to say, we have often given out of what was left rather than from our “first fruits.” Since Bart and I talked about his conversation with God, we have decided that we will be giving 10% of our checks as soon as they arrive, before we even pay a single bill. It has not even been a month since Bart’s encounter and our change of heart accompanied by a change in action, yet we are already experiencing blessings and a hope for a more fulfilling future.

I pray the same blessing on all of you.


“…return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord … You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. … Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Malachi 3:7, 8, 10 (New Living Translation)

Evening Sky

20 Minutes a Day …

Twenty minutes may not really seem like a lot of time to accomplish something important, but, if you think about it, what kinds of things do you or can you accomplish in 20- to 30-minute chunks of time throughout your day?

You could:

  • fold a load of laundry
  • watch a recorded episode of a TV show
  • straighten up your desk/file some paperwork
  • read an online article or a chapter of a book
  • scroll through Facebook/Instagram posts
  • make a phone call to a family member or friend
  • check/respond to emails
  • take a walk to clear your head
  • empty the dishwasher
  • play with the dogs
  • stretch or exercise
  • plan a meal/find a new recipe
  • build an intimate relationship with God

Wait! What was that last point? Build a relationship with God? In 20 minutes? That’s not on my “to do” list.

No? Well, perhaps it should be. We all have the same amount of time allotted to us each and every day. And yet, so often the days just seem to slip away from us. Things we never intended or planned for steal our days away, minute by minute. We find ourselves wishing we had more time, but, more likely, what we really want is more peace, more joy, more connectedness … more real-life moments that matter.

Many of us use the lack of time as an excuse for not accomplishing certain things in our days or in our lives. In her blog post on things to do with 30 minutes or less, Courtney Carver shares:

… the real excuse, even if we are really busy, isn’t lack of time. It’s lack of priority. …

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Author Laura Vanderkam says, “Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.”

2016-09-11-22-53-472016-09-11-22-54-45Two weeks ago, I chose to take time away from my work (which I spend a lot of time doing) to attend a Women’s Ministry Kick-off Dinner with my sister-in-law, Jena, and my niece-in-law, Brittany. It was a dinner put on by their church to introduce their upcoming Bible studies for the fall, and I was thrilled to hear that Debbie Stuart (who used to be the Director of Women’s Ministry at a church I attended in the past) was going to be the guest speaker that evening. Debbie is currently Director of Ministry Initiatives at Hope for the Heart.

Well, as usual, Debbie did not disappoint. I had done a study with Debbie in the past and though I knew she was good, I had forgotten just how good of a speaker and connector she was. She shares personal stories (funny as well as heart-wrenching) and Scripture in such a way as to touch the lives of those around her and to infuse in them a desire to know and serve the Lord as she does.

I have to be honest here. Even though my thoughts are not biblical, I envy her heart for Jesus. I want what she has. Not her life or the things she has accomplished or acquired in her lifetime … but I want a relationship with God where I seek Him and hear from Him daily, and He is obviously at work in my life the way He is in hers. Debbie reminded us:

The truth is: It is absolutely essential to spend time with the Lord. No excuses. You will not know Him, His will or His way apart from His Word, the Bible.

So simple, and yet so true. The thi2016-09-17-09-19-39ng is – I have been reading the Bible lately. I do this from time to time but not on a regular, daily basis, and not always in a way that I feel I am getting much out of it. In fact, sometimes I don’t really feel like I understand what I read (although when I take the time to use my MacArthur Bible Commentary and/or compare passages to those in The Message [which is very reader friendly], it does help).

20-minutes-a-dayThe night Debbie spoke, she brought with her a book she co-wrote titled, 20 Minutes a Day for the Rest of Your Life. She explains it this way:

This resource is an excellent guide to studying God’s word for practical application. It teaches various Bible study techniques, dynamics and methods to learning how to apply God’s Word to everyday life. It’s not enough to ask, “What does the Bible say, we must discover what does it say TO ME!” It’s not enough to know what the Bible means, we must know what it means TO ME! It is my prayer that you will develop a deeper walk with the Lord and come to know Him better by spending time in His Word.

If you know what you need to do, but you don’t know exactly how to go about doing it, this book might be the guide for you. You can purchase this helpful resource for $6 (plus $2 shipping). They are currently available through this eBay link. Proceeds go to support Prison Ministry for women!

I started using my book the very next day, a2016-09-14-13-09-06fter the dinner. The first method demonstrates studying and praying through the Psalms. Each “session” ends with you asking God for a verse for the day that you can carry with you or post where you will see it and can meditate on it. I put mine up on a little clothesline in my study area.

The following Sunday, I just knew I was on the right track when, in church, the preacher had chosen to focus his time in the pulpit on teaching us all on “How to Meditate on God’s Word.” He used Psalm 1 and walked us all through some methods to 1) Read God’s Word; 2) Study God’s Word (observe, interpret, apply); and 3) Memorize God’s Word. One of the main points I got out of his sermon was the importance of having a plan to follow. There are a lot of books and online sources available to help you set one up; two he suggested were youversion.com (a bible app) and esvbible.org.

Last week, I started a Bible study using Beth Moore’s book James: Mercy Triumphs. The five days of homework each week will definitely give me more than 20 minutes a day in the Bible. But I will continue to use my 20 Minutes a Day … book for the other days of the week so that I can become familiar with the other methods of study and eventually determine what works best for me.

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While doing one night’s homework on James, I came across Beth’s discussions on Galatians 2:8: For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my (Paul’s) ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. Beth said:

God only knows how many effective ministries have disintegrated into irrelevance over addiction to comparison. We talk as those who believe God is omnipotent and omnipresent, but we often act as if He can only work through one person, one method, or one kind of ministry at a time. …

There’s a big, needy world out there, and God’s way of reaching it is to enlist every one of us to do our parts in love and humility, variety and diversity.

So, there is no need for me to compare myself to others or focus on what I lack. God will use me … and you … wherever we are in life and to the extent that we make ourselves available to Him. Even if it is only 20 minutes a day.

Be strong in the Lord my friends. And be faithful.

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“ … it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes
and showers righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12

“… those who seek Him, find Him.” see Proverbs 8:17

Praying for You

Today, I wanted to take a moment to lift up my family members and friends (and even those of you who I don’t know who happen to be reading this) who are going through some tough times right now. I have shared stories with some of you over the past few weeks or heard about your troubles recently, and my heart aches for many of you while it breaks for still others. But I wanted you to know that, despite how you feel at this moment, you are not alone. You’ve got me … and you’ve got God on your side (even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes).

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Consider this:

Pearls are the outcome of struggle. They are rare and priceless, unique and treasured. They are a product of irritation and are created as defense against something that is hard, something that doesn’t belong.

A pearl is a product of suffering. It is a healed wound.

And it takes perseverance and grit to produce anything.

Life is filled with struggle. But it’s not wasted hardship and trials. Our struggle is irritating and annoying, sometimes it’s heartbreaking and horrible, but it’s producing something good within us.

Kristen Welch, For When You Struggle

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Whatever it is you are going through, it is possible that this situation is refining you, and you will come through it stronger, happier, more determined, more faithful, and a better version of YOU.

Lord, I lift up my personal concerns as well as the various troubles many I know are experiencing and I turn them over to you: financial issues; job concerns; health problems; troubled relationships; infidelity; addiction; the loss of loved ones; feelings of depression, anxiety, emptiness, and loneliness; unfulfilled dreams; and so many other issues of this world. Help us to put aside our tears and our fears, our worrying and obsessing, so that we may draw closer to you, and trust in your divine intervention on our behalf. Heavenly Father, I pray for many individuals today specifically CC, BC, AF, TA, AL, VC, RL, AS, BF, GK, EC, JS, BW, JL, TL, EW, KC, LR, KS. I pray that you will heal them, comfort them, help them, and lead them along the right path, and give them hope for a better future. Lord, you are our strength and our shield. My heart trusts in you, and I am helped. (Ps 28:7) In Jesus’ name, I pray for all of you. Amen. 

02042016_CrystalStine_AllThingsArePossible