Butterfly Sparks Designs

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Simple Things.

I have vivid memories of my childhood summers. Constantly at our neighborhood swimming pool from its opening hour until booted out by the teenage-angst-filled lifeguards at closing time, my olive skin became very dark. I would be stopped regularly by the nosy inquirer who wanted to know if I was Brazilian or from some other far-off exotic place. But no, I was merely a little southern small town girl. As I think about that memory, I find it comical. I was not an exotic foreign heir to fortune or fame. I was a simple girl from a simple town with simple taste. And I was the luckiest girl alive (and still am), because the values instilled in me by my parents were based upon recognizing the extraordinary in the simplest pleasures in life.

God has blessed me with the most incredible earthly father a girl could have. He oooohed and aaaahed when I twirled in my new dresses, he graciously pretended to eat elaborate imaginary platters of food I designed with little plastic “pegs”, and he never once forgot to leave me a beautiful heart full of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Every Saturday morning, we had breakfast together at Kay’s Drugstore…it was our date every week. And every single day (no exaggeration), I would wake up to a handwritten note from Dad wishing me a good day, affirming me, and telling me that he loved me “very, very, very, very much”.

My most treasured memories with Dad, though, are the ones framed around those Georgia midsummer days that were so humid you could barely breathe. He and I would sit out on our deck in the hot sun, and we would share an ice cold can of fruit cocktail. Two forks. We would sit and talk and laugh with the sweltering sun beating down on us as we took turns reaching into a fifty-cent can of ice cold fruit. At the end, one lone cherry always awaited…and Dad always gave it to me of course. We would stay and talk and talk and talk until the sun came down. Dad worked hard to support our family. But he and a silly can of fruit cocktail always had time for me. From my perspective, there was no finer cuisine. There was no X-box or Playstation or designer jeans or fancy trips or cameras or computers. There was just me and my Daddy, and an aluminum can of processed fruit between us. I was content, satisfied, and loved. I can’t tell you what I got for Christmas or my birthday every year, but I can tell you about my time with my Dad like it was yesterday. That, I remember. And that, I treasure.

If you look in my refrigerator today, you’ll notice a can of fruit cocktail on the top shelf. And if you know me well at all, then you know that there is always a can in my fridge. Always. Because I need to be reminded that there are opportunities every single day to find the extraordinary in the simplest of things.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Secret Place.

This past weekend I took some time alone. Sometimes I get so caught up in the busyness of life that I forget just to be still. And as I’ve chronicled my journey over the past week or so…a place where I don’t want to go…I have learned the value of surrendering to solitude. First, it meant turning off my TV and music. And I have been amazed at how uncomfortable I am in the silence. As I have embraced it, though, my pull toward spending time alone in deep reflection and prayer has become more and more intense. Scripture tells us in several places to go to the “secret place” to pray to the Father. I decided to find a secret place outside of my home this weekend. I did, and it was incredible.

I found a small, quiet cove off of the lake. It was a beautiful date with my Father. No one does romance like He does. He woos me like no other.

I thought about a long list of things and prayed about an even longer list of things. As I looked out on the water, I caught a glimpse of something beautiful. The water was perfectly still and smooth, like glass. The reflection in the water was perfect…a gorgeous blue sky…heaven. If the water had not been at rest, I could not have seen this incredible picture. In that moment, I realized that only when we are perfectly still … when we are at rest in Him … only then can we reflect heaven. Only then can we reflect Him.

There are so many times when God speaks to me through other people, and of course through serving others. And I am moved to incredible heart change during corporate worship at times. But nothing can replace the intimate time I spend alone with my God. He says things and shows me things in the silent solitude that I cannot hear or see in any other place.

God, the more I seek You, the more I find You. The more I find You, the more I love You. I want to sit at your feet and drink from the cup in Your Hand. I long to lay back against you and breathe, to feel Your heartbeat. This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand. I melt in your peace.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Words.

I’m a sappy card person. I love sending cards and writing notes and letters. I suppose that shows my age a bit, but many times an email simply won’t do. When I receive a handwritten note or card from someone, it lifts me up in a way that an email or text message will never be able to. I love to think about the way that the person’s sentiment to me flowed from the heart to the hand to the paper, and made its way to me. I just love that. And when those moments come when the love I feel for someone overflows, then my pen comes out. If you get a card, a note, or a letter from me, then it means that I love you. It means that I “overflowed” for you so I had to express it. It’s a gift that comes from a deeper place than anything that I would purchase for you. And it’s usually a little long, mushy, and well…maybe a little sappy. Because that’s just me.

A couple of years ago, I saw a pile of words that I had written…words of love and encouragement to someone I loved deeply … tossed away in a trash can. That painful image was burned into my memory. And I didn’t write again for well over a year. I decided that I would never again make myself vulnerable in my words – not to anyone for any purpose. I had often been asked to write devotions for various meetings, and I stopped doing that. No journal entries, no more cards, notes, or letters to anyone. Every time I sat down to write, the image of the pile in his trash can flashed before my eyes. Opening myself to being vulnerable through words of love, confession, or encouragement was no longer an option for me.

Today, I burned some words. Lots of words. Pages of them. Words that proved deception and betrayal. Not my words, but tangible reminders of pain. The pain that God has been calling me to so that He can lead me to the doorway of hope. It had been ages since I’d read them, but for some reason, they followed me through two moves. They remained in a special box designated just for them. I held and guarded them for some reason…probably for many reasons. But they are no longer here. What I didn’t expect, however, is that the vision that I had been carrying for 2 years -- my words laying in the trash can -- was also in the flames. As the flames grew high and the heat intensified, it, too, burned away.

As He is always faithful to His promise, He will bring beauty from the ashes. Every single time.

Beautiful forgiveness.
Beautiful restoration.
Beautiful healing.

So check your mail. You might just be getting a letter from me very soon. I'm sorry it took so long.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Simple Truth.

A former coworker and good friend called me recently. She is a precious woman whom I have known for about 3 years. I had been on my new job for about three days when she came into my office, closed my door behind her and said, “I don’t know what it is that you have, but I want it.” Keep in mind that I barely even knew her name. We had been introduced on my first day, and that was the extent of our direct communication. Her cubicle sat outside of my office, and she told me that she had been observing how I handled myself in certain stressful business situations. At first, I must admit, this conversation felt a little creepy. But she was persistent as she sat there, continually asking me where I got my “sense of peace”.

So I told her. I explained to her the role that my faith plays in my life. I didn’t yank out my King James Bible and hammer her with it. I simply shared my story with her in a very real and honest way. I didn't present myself as perfect. I shared my junk and my struggles with her, too. As we talked, I learned that she was an atheist. But I also learned that she was hungry for truth.

I have been sharing the Gospel and answering her questions for all of those 3 years. We’ve talked for hours upon hours, and I’ve given her books and she’s read all of them…twice. She is so close. I mean, she is right there…hovering just on that line. You know the one...the one that separates us from needing "one more bit of evidence" to faith. That moment when, really, it all comes down to one single choice. The choice to believe.

There have been times that I have been so frustrated that she hasn’t responded. There have been times when I wanted to give up. There have been times when I felt as though I was failing God and her. There have been times when I wished God would pass this challenging task on to someone else. There have been many times when I have wept from my core over what this precious friend is missing out on. I love her. I want this for her so much that it physically hurts.

We have experienced a lot during the past 3 years. She was a dear friend to me as I endured one of the most difficult and painful experiences of my life 2 years ago. I have held her hand and prayed over her as she has endured a failing marriage. We have also laughed until our sides hurt. We have eaten way too much cake together and consumed more lattes than I can count. Her children call me “Aunt”. And I love her deeply.

Her call this week was to request a retreat with me…a time for the two of us to talk. So, we have a sleepover planned for next week. I am considering installing outside locks on my house just to keep her in until she responds. =) OK, maybe not.

So here we go again. More questions. The same questions she has had for three years. But maybe, just maybe, this time the Truth will conquer her heart. And I will share the Gospel with her again, answer the tough questions (as best I can), love on her, tell her what God has done in my life (and remind her that she’s been on a front row seat for much of it). I will do this as many times and for as long as it takes.

Because someone did it for me.

Bridgette is my best friend from college. Bridgette lived out her love for God in a way that I had never seen before. I met her during my sophomore year at Kennesaw State University . Bridgette didn’t know me as you all do, though. Bridgette knew me as a lost young girl, seeking validation and fulfillment in my own selfish desires and addictions. During the countless hours we spent together for all-night study sessions, enduring difficult classes together, and traveling across the globe for international debate team competitions, she took every opportunity to share the love of God with me. I wasn’t interested in any part of it back then.

Oddly, despite our different journeys spiritually, we were inseparable. I had tasted “religion,” and I had been badly burned and deeply scarred, so I had no interest in anything that resembled "religion". We had a weekly tradition to meet at IHOP for sharing and prayer on Thursday evenings. Somehow, she was the one person – the only one -- in my life then who could convince me to pray or even think about God. Even with her difficult schedule and many other demands on her life, she was faithful every week to make time for me. Those few minutes talking with her each week were the only time that I thought about or talked about God at all, and even then, my heart was skeptical. But Bridgette kept it simple. She merely told me her story … simple ways that God was moving in her life.

As we said goodbye in the IHOP parking lot on December 18, 1995, she hugged me more tightly than usual and said “God is going to do great things in you, you just have to let Him,” and she quoted Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” I had no belief at all that God could or would do anything with my wretched life, but it was evident that God had called her to great things. On her way home that evening, a drunk driver ran a stop sign and took her life. She died shortly after arriving at the hospital. Her last words were directions to her doctor to relay a message to the man who hit her…“tell him that God loves Him, and that he is forgiven.” Her final moments in death reflected her life’s legacy…investing in others. At her funeral, her mother showed us the inscription in her Bible. She had written on the front flap…“I want my life to bring lost hearts to You.” Oh, how God answered this prayer in my life and I am certain in the lives of so many others touched by her.

You see, Bridgette would not know the unexplainable impact that her bold, unwavering and unapologetic witness would bear on my life. She would not know that years later, the seeds she planted in my heart would come to harvest by my submitting my life to Christ. She would not have known the incredible impact that embracing God’s promise to us in Jeremiah 29:11 would have on my life. She did not know then that the legacy of God living in and loving through her would live through me for His glory. She did not know any of this. God had not given her a “written guarantee” that her efforts would be successful. But she invested in me anyway. Because she believed. And God knew what would be born in me and others she touched with her life.

Her last journal entry (the day before her death) read:
“I had my ups and downs and I fell a few times, but I did not give up. Don't give up, because God's reward is worth it all. I challenge you to listen, and see what God will do. Take a risk, chance it, trust in God. You will see what God can do with a willing heart."

Sometimes we make it harder than it is. We don't need a theology degree. Let’s just tell our story. For as long as it takes.

Tell them He loves them.
Tell them He died on the cross for you and them.
Tell them your story, how he made you new.
Tell them He’s the best thing that’s happened to you.

It’s really that simple.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

With Flowers In His Hand

Anyone who knows me probably knows that one of my favorite verses is Hosea 2:14-15:
Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. (NIV)
God lures us into the desert sometimes…deliberately, and with a purpose born completely out of His unwavering love for us. He speaks tender words of comfort to us there, and when we have found our rest in Him, He returns us to our vineyards. But here's the best part...he promises to make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. The Valley of Achor was once a place of judgment and destruction. But He promises to turn that land of pain into a doorway of hope, healing, and promise. I love this passage. I’ve been moved by this passage for several years now. But its meaning is engraved even more deeply in my heart during this particular season of my life.

God has been calling me into the desert. A place of deep and unresolved pain. Old pain and wounds that create a barrier to the "next level" of what He has for me. A place I don’t want to go. And I have been running hard, for months. For a while, I used the excuse “Well, I think that’s what He wants me to do, but I’m not sure, so I’ll keep praying about it.” That wasn't true...I knew what He was calling me to do, I just didn't like it. I have been hiding behind “praying about it”. (I’m not saying it’s not good to pray about things…but when we know what God is telling us to do and we use prayer as an excuse to delay obedience, that’s still just plain old disobedience). I have been hiding behind keeping myself “too busy”. I have been hiding behind a legitimate series of health issues. I have been using every excuse imaginable to avoid the grief and hurt in the place where He is calling me to go. I have been walking in blatant disobedience. And I’m worn out.

Over the past few days, I have had a recurring vision of Christ standing in the desert, waiting for me, with flowers in His hand, wooing me and luring me to the place of healing. Shielding the darkness of the pain with the beautiful brightness of His light. He stands calling out my name, whispering words of comfort and reassurance to me, and patiently waiting for me to trust Him enough to meet Him there.

I have been fearful about being transparent about this with others, for fear of what they would think of me…what would people think if they knew I really wasn’t as “together” as I appear to be? Would I still be enough? Would they still love me? The enemy wants us to isolate ourselves and believe we are alone, and somehow gradually I fell into that trap. There is one person in particular that I was especially concerned about revealing this to, but I knew that the time had come to be completely authentic and transparent. So over Thanksgiving, I first spoke it out to my family…who, can I just say, is the most amazing family anywhere? I am so blessed. I then shared it with a very close friend, who offered sweet prayers and encouragement.

But the last 24 hours have been so powerful and so packed with the presence and confirmation of God’s presence that my head is spinning and my heart is so full that I don’t know what to do with myself. Honestly, it’s a bit surreal and I’m still taking it all in. He has revealed so much to me about Himself. He has done this through His Word and as I sit quietly and listen for His voice on my heart. That would have been enough, but He is an abundant God. He is lovingly crafty enough to use a gathering of friends at a Christmas party last night to confirm His voice on my heart (and they had no idea!).

Also, only a handful of hours ago, with sweaty palms and a shaky voice, I finally opened myself up to the one person I was most concerned about. This person’s response was not at all what I expected…it was not critical, harsh, hesitant, or distant. It was gracious, compassionate, understanding, encouraging, merciful and loving. And when I returned home from church this morning, there was a special delivery waiting for me on my doorstep:





With flowers In His hand.

God revealed Himself by bringing to life the vision that He planted in my heart…the beautiful sight of Him standing in the desert, pursuing me, wooing me, and waiting, patiently, with flowers in His hand, for me to trust Him. And loving me in spite of my brokenness and baggage. Bringing beauty from ashes.

I’m ready to go to the desert now. I trust Him to heal me. The journey feels unsafe. But so, so worth it. Because on the other side of the Valley is a doorway leading to acres upon acres of hope. And I choose hope.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kingdom Coming by Shaun Groves

Check it out...Shaun Groves' song, Kingdom Coming...download it for free here:

http://www.shaungroves.com/freemusic/

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Release

God, I desperately want to let go of my fears and concern over those I love. I often find myself afraid for their health or their future, so much so that sometimes it consumes my thoughts. God, you know my heart, and that I don’t want to see those that I love hurt or suffer. Yet I know that you didn’t call me to protect those I love through fear, but by faith and prayer. So please, God, help me remember that as much as my heart overflows with love for my family and friends, that you love them far more than I do. Help me to rest in the fact that they belong to You and You alone. When difficult things happen to those I love, help me trust Your promise to work all things together for good for those who are Yours. I choose right now to trade my fear for faith in Your love and protection over their lives.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

She's alive!

Wow. It has been a ridiculous amount of time since my last post. Apparently I have at least five readers, because I have gotten five messages this week alone asking, "When are you going to blog again?" and "Are you alive?"

My move to Braselton went well and although I am still unpacking the last few boxes, I am essentially settled into my new home. Pictures are hung, furniture is in place, and the closets are organized...well, sort of. I love, love, love living up here, and it truly feels like home. It's been quite a whirlwind with completing schoolwork (2 theses this semester, ugh), packing and then unpacking, and unfortunately I've also been hit with some nasty health issues. Those, my friends, are the reasons that you have not heard from me in a while. It has been quite a ride.

So, let's just call this a fresh new blogging start. =) I hereby renew my vow to blog.

This is all I have for you five readers tonight, as I am exhausted. More tomorrow, I promise.

Good night, and may you feel God's arms wrapped tightly around you as you rest in His unyielding faithfulness.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Afternoon Buzz

It's 3:00. Do you know where your caffeine and sugar high is?

I found mine!


OK, let's hear it. Time to confess! How do you beat the mid-afternoon lull?


Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Big Move




I woke up today in a cold sweat. The big moving day is just around the corner. I'm super excited, but have tons and tons to do. My home is a sea of empty boxes that really should be full, taped up, and labeled by now. Hmmm. Wonder what I'll be doing this weekend!

Thanks to Kristi Crook for recruiting and coordinating a move team and trucks from The Vine for me. Unreal. I am blown away.

I'm also going to give a shout-out to some amazing godly men that have beautiful servant hearts.

First, men I have never met before came up to me on Sunday morning and said, "Are you Melissa? I'm on your move team!" How cool is that? And one of the staff members has donated trucks from his equipment rental company for us to use. Dang, I love my church. These precious men of God whom I have never met have volunteered their time to usher me in to the community.

Also, thanks to the Facilities guys at Crown who keep a steady stream of available empty boxes flowing into my office. I also had a love note waiting for me this morning in the form of four rolls of packing tape. Manna from Heaven. They totally rock.

And finally, I can't link you to them because they don't blog, but I have an awesome family and many other friends helping in so many other ways behind the scenes, loving on me and praying for me. It doesn't get any better than that!

Love you guys!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mustard, Drive-Thru Rage, and Chun King

OK, tonight it’s going to be a little lighthearted, because I’m tired and my hand is covered in mustard.

Yes, that’s right. My deliciously delicate and feminine Bath and Body Works Moisturizing Gloves, usually melded with my favorite equally deliciously delicate and feminine hand cream are, instead, joined with French’s Yellow Mustard. Why, you ask? (By the way, if you’re not asking “Why?” at this point, then I’d be a little concerned about you.) Well, I suffered a nasty burn yesterday on my right hand when attempting to pull a pan from my oven. I spoke to a Pharmacist who is probably still paying off her exorbitant student loans only so that she could tell me that “Burn creams won’t work, but lots of yellow mustard will.” The weird thing is, she’s right. And she's my hero! I’ve been drenched in yellow mustard for two days now. I smell like a hot dog at a baseball game, but my hand doesn’t hurt.

In other news, can we please talk about Drive-Thru etiquette? I have a recurring Drive-Thru experience that really tests my godliness. So let’s just call this my little accountability session for some serious Drive-Thru Road Rage that I’ve been nursing. This, friends, is why I cannot post a “Follow Me To The Vine” bumper sticker or a cute little silver fish on my car. I can’t handle that kind of accountability. Yes, I know, my spiritual maturity is astounding.

OK, here’s the scene. I’m approaching the Wendy’s Drive-Thru to obtain my favorite salad in the entire universe – a heavenly bed of baby greens topped with mandarin oranges, roasted almonds, Chinese crunchy noodles, and grilled chicken. The Sesame dressing…oh, the dressing. Good stuff. And all for under five bucks. I’m so low maintenance – no fancy dinners for me, no sir. Five bucks at Wendy’s for processed chicken and I’m happy. I mean really, why am I still single?

So, here’s the issue…I go to the trouble of driving all the way around the restaurant so that I can properly secure my place in line. It’s ethical, classy and good manners to do so, wouldn’t you agree? I’m sure Emily Post has something to say about this. But there’s always the jerk, er.....uh.....I mean the sister or brother in Christ that decides that he or she doesn’t need to drive around, but can merely enter through the “other” driveway and cut in line. What’s up with that? True story – a purple PT Cruiser (is that really even a car?) used all of the intimidation it could muster to cut in front of me. I’m fighting every urge I have not to make rude gestures (not lude, just rude) to convey that I will run her over in my tiny but scrappy Mazda M3, and holding back every urge to lecture her on the virtues of Drive-Thru etiquette, including the scriptural basis for driving around the building. I’m sure it’s in the Bible somewhere. The trouble is, I work and live in a very small town, so Little Miss PT Cruiser might just be a coworker, a neighbor, or worse, in my small group from church. So, I behave. Well, outwardly anyway. I don't know why this frustrates me so much. Does this bother anyone else, or do I need anger management therapy?

Back to the subject of Chinese noodles...once I released my Drive-Thru angst, I had the coolest flashback while opening the packet of crunchy Chinese noodles with my salad today. Do any of you remember Chun King Chow Mein?

Oh. My. Goodness.

My Mom is going to be miffed at my writing this, so instead of ending with a disclaimer, I will start with one. My Mom is an incredible cook – the best – and she has taught me so much that I, too, am a decent cook. But on some nights, of course, she didn’t “cook” something gourmet and from scratch. Sometimes … (gasp)… she opened a can. The highlight of the week was Chun King night. Chun King was in its own league and pigs-in-a-blanket or cube steak night didn't even come close to the mystique and awesomeness of Chun King night. Chun King was exciting and cool. It came in a cardboard box holding two cans -- one contained the crispy noodles, and the other can hid strange "un- American" vegetables cooked into soft, gummy submission, and a teeny bottle of something called "soy" sauce. Mom toasted the noodles, boiled the veggies and liquid, dumped the mess together, poured over the dark, mystery sauce and -- voila -- Chinese food! As a kid in Kennesaw, Georgia, a town that then only had one red light, it was the first Chinese food we ever had tasted. We were cultured. We were global.

Thanks, Mom. Chun King rocks. (Well, when you're a kid it does, anyway.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Faces

These little faces sure do make it hard to leave for work every day!




Friday, August 22, 2008

You've Got Mail

I got my first letter from Zipora today!

OK, so that's like the best thing I've ever gotten in the mail in my whole life!

Her counselor helped her fill out an activity and information sheet for me, including the names of her family members and her favorite things.

Her favorite subject in school is "singing is my best subject".
Her favorite food is "meat and rice".
Her favorite color is "bright yellow".
Her favorite game is "skipping the rope".
Her favorite Bible Story is "the time when God created the whole world".
Her favorite song is "Baby Jesus, I love you".

Her mother's name is Asayo, and she is 32 years old.

A personal note was also included, along with some drawings. Her counselor was very kind to create a "legend" for me by numbering the drawings and identifying them for me. Some of them were a bit hard to decipher. =)

Her dream for the future is "to become a teacher".

Her prayer request is that "I grow taller and study well".

And her sweet little signature is pictured here.



I'm feeling so blessed right now.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

It Is What It Is

I struggle with being content. I am in the midst of great moves of God in my life in every single area, and I am blessed beyond measure. Yet even still, I struggle with this thing called "enough". I was in prayer a few nights ago, in such a sweet place and connection with God. I mean the kind of prayer that takes us into the presence of God as if He were sitting next to us. I was staring straight into His face, and pleading with him to..."Make your grace enough for me...Make your grace enough for me..." I so earnestly longed for that place of contentment only found in the grace He offers so freely to someone so wretched. His response was not long or complicated. He simply pointed me to the word is.

In that moment, my God whispered a Scripture to me that is one that I know by heart and is one of my favorites. I've read it a hundred times. It's the Scripture for my blog! But this time, I read it differently than all of those times before.

He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you..." (2 Cor 12:9)

Wow. I don't have to pray that He would make His grace enough for me. He cannot make His grace any more sufficient than He has already made it. All I have to do is get up and believe it, and I will, every single time and without fail find it to be true.

So may we remember that God's promises are. Period. They are ours to claim without question or hope that He will deliver. Because He always does.

I think I will lay my head on my pillow tonight...full of "enough".

Singalong

Phil Wickham is offering Singalong, his first live album for free, via download from his blog. If you are not familiar with him, then it is time for you to meet him! He is a wonderful, gifted, humble Christian singer who has a really cool way of ushering us into the presence of God through his music. Check it out...

http://philwickham.com/blog/

He will be in Georgia (Powder Springs) on October 14th. So if you can't find me on the 14th, you know where I'll be. =)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Zipora Iyabo


I would like to introduce you to Zipora Iyabo. Isn’t she beautiful? Zipora lives in Uganda, and I am sponsoring her through Compassion International. When I went to the site to choose a child from Uganda, as soon as I saw her, I knew she was the one. After I completed the application for sponsorship, Compassion sent me a file with more details about her (LOTS of details). I chose Compassion because they are not an organization to which you simply send a check and only receive generic communication and information back. Compassion is in the village, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and runs child development centers that provide the children with education, Christian teaching and activities. I can get specific information about how she is doing, how to pray for her, and what is going on in her life. This is why I chose Compassion –they really work hard to facilitate building a relationship between sponsor and child.

So, a little about Zipora…

She is five years old, with her sixth birthday coming up on September 25th. Her favorite thing to do is to play her drum and sing. She also enjoys playing with other musical instruments. Her counselor says that she is quite the “teacher”… she loves to teach others – even the adults! =)

You are probably aware that although Uganda’s government has since stabilized, up until a few years ago there were remaining tribal wars. Just as things were starting to settle down, Zipora’s mother’s village was attacked by a rival tribe. As a result, her mother was raped and became pregnant. Zipora’s mother also has AIDS. Zipora tests negative for the AIDS virus; however, she is at great risk because of the rampant nature of the virus in this country. (AIDS has orphaned tens of thousands of children in this part of Africa.) Because of her pregnancy, Zipora’s mother was shunned from her family and was forced to move to another village. Her mother is raising her, alone, with no family support, in extreme poverty – beyond anything we can imagine. Her mother (I don’t know her name yet) works when she can as a peasant farmer and laborer in the village, earning approximately $6.00 per month. Zipora and her mother live in a “hut” made of mud-bricks which is often washed away during their rainy season.

Would you please join me in praying for this precious girl? I’ve shared with many of you that I have felt an unshaking pull toward Uganda in the past five or six months, but I’ve been putting it on the “back burner”. Finally, last month I stopped running, and God led me to Compassion where I found Zipora. And, about a week ago I received an email from one of my professors at Liberty who is gathering a team of 15 people to travel to Africa next year for a short-term mission assignment – specifically to Uganda. Go figure. If that works out, then Compassion would arrange a meeting for me and Zipora while I am there. How cool would that be?

Please pray that our relationship would further enforce what she is learning through the amazing counselors at Compassion -- that she matters to God, and no matter what her circumstances may be, that she has a purpose specifically and uniquely designed by Him for her.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On Holy Ground


This is a picture of my drive home from church this past Sunday. The weather was not pretty!

Most of you know that I’m seeking a new church home. On Sunday morning, I attended a service at a small church plant up in North Gwinnett County, which meets in an elementary school. During an extended time of prayer while the pianist played a beautiful rendering of “Holy Ground”, I bowed my head to pray, when I caught sight of the floor, only to notice that the pattern of the “tile” was distinctly similar to the lunchroom during my early grade school years. The reality of the “rustic” setting in which I was worshipping gave me pause. I silently sang the words to the song playing in the background…

“Let us praise Jesus now…
for we are standing in His presence on Holy Ground…”

These words reminded me that no matter where we are – whether it be a large sanctuary or arena with impressive staging and sound, a school cafeteria, a grocery store, our workplace, or a remote area of an impoverished nation – as long as we are locking our eyes and hearts on Him, as long as we are seeking His presence, as long as we are lifting praise to Him, then His presence is with us... and thus, we are on Holy Ground. It matters not what is around us. It is not a steeple or pulpit or stage or sound system or projector or fancy lighting that makes a place of worship. It is the heart of each and every person there. It is the absolute abandonment of ourselves in worship to Him. It is us, merely standing in His presence. It was a humbling reminder.

As Nancy continued to play the song, the brewing storm outside became more intense, and quickly! Just moments after we entered into prayer under the serenade of this hymn, fierce claps of thunder and piercing lightning came from the sky. The storm was here, and it was brutal. I am normally a little skittish in thunderstorms. I get a little uneasy and when at home, I will close all curtains and blinds until the storm passes, just to ease my mind. But sitting there, in that elementary school cafeteria, I stared outside right in the face of the rain and lightning, and fought back every urge I had to stand up and belt out the words to the song at the top of my lungs. (It was my first visit, after all!) But in that moment, I had a powerful sense of the victory that He has given us over the storms in our lives. What an awesome picture of the almighty power, faithfulness, love, and protection of our God.

Psalm 91:1: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sweet Virginia


I miss my Mama today. I've been thinking about her a lot lately, missing our talks and especially her hugs that were so tight you couldn't breathe! To feel close to her, I pulled her Bible off of my bookshelf last night and ran my fingers over the pages she read every day, yellowed with decades gone by and filled with her written notes and thoughts. On the front flap, in her sweet handwriting, she wrote "I want God to be the center of my life."

As for our Mama, I doubt she's missing us one bit. She's rejoicing in heaven and sitting before the very God she served with her life. And she's probably making lots of biscuits. And decking all of heaven out with her beautiful yo-yo afghans and pillows.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Ready, Set, Jump!

When I was in elementary and middle school, I was not a big fan of Phys Ed class. I hated it. I was a prissy little girl, concerned with my clothes and my hair. I hated to sweat. And for those of you who know me, you know that those things have not changed very much. (OK, so my brief stint in mountain biking several years ago was fun, but it didn’t last. I was, however, the only biker on the trail with riding gear that ALWAYS coordinated with the color of my bike, and lips perfectly lined with kiss-me-red lipstick. I fell. A lot. But if I was going to fall, at least I looked darn good doing it.)

Anyway, despite my disdain for Phys Ed class, and my utter lack of athletic prowess, there was one activity that I loved. The Standing Broad Jump. The fact that I can say that I enjoyed anything related to track and field events makes me laugh out loud. But as a kid, I loved this. For those of you who may not remember, this was a game where you would stand at a line, just behind a sand pit. Our teacher would shout the cue…”Ready, set, jump!” And from a standing position, you would jump into the pit, and the length of the jump was measured. The farthest jump was marked by a yellow flag in the sand. The person who jumped the farthest, with both feet landing together and not falling backwards, was the winner.

I am not sure why I loved this little event so much. Perhaps it was because it wasn’t a contact sport. Or maybe it was because I didn’t have to run and get all sweaty. I loved that it wasn’t “Dodgeball” day, when I literally feared for my life. I’m not sure what the lure of a pit of sand and a yellow flag held for me. But there was just something about standing still and summoning all of the strength I could muster from standing firmly planted on solid ground to propel myself as far as I could into the “sandbox”, not knowing where or how far forward I might land. I jumped with all of my strength, as high as I could. I remember Mrs. Stafford, my P.E. teacher, suggesting to us that we look at the yellow flag from the longest jumper and focus on a mark past it. I would fix my eyes on the asphalt waiting on the other side of the sand and would mentally charge myself to jump as close to it as possible.

Tonight, as I write this, I feel like a child again, standing at that chalk jump line. Just as I stood on the asphalt at the line as a child, I now stand firm on the solid ground that comes from knowing that the course of my life is in the center of God’s will. But He is now asking me to jump, yet again. All I can see from my perspective is a desert of sand ahead of me. But what a gift it is to jump from that standing position. He is the solid ground from which I will propel. But I must admit, it’s still a little scary. There is a weird mix of adrenaline, excitement, anticipation, and curiosity about what is next...and when. I know that at the perfect moment, He will call me to bend my knees, push off, and fly across the desert, that Great Divide, to the very spot that He has already marked for me with the flags of His promises and faithfulness. I can rest in knowing that He will ensure that both of my feet hit the ground and that I don’t fall backwards.

I have to remind myself that I must place my security in who God is, and not in the circumstances swirling around in my life. Sometimes it is hard, because the circumstances seem to be the reality of life. But the true reality is not in the circumstances…the true, unwavering reality is in our great God who sees the entire picture and is always working on our behalf.

One of my favorite verses is Hosea 2:14: So now I am going to draw her back to me. I will lead her into the desert. There I will speak tenderly to her. . . when she rests in me, I will give her back her vineyards.

This verse reminds me that He calls us to see the invisible, to commit to the impossible, and to do the outrageous. He never calls us to do what we can — only to do what He can through us. He calls us to rest and to live in His faithfulness, and only then can He return us to the vineyards of His fruitfulness in us. God will lure us into the desert sometimes —circumstances beyond us—and He asks us to endure the desert with no other thought than that His great heart will sustain us. And may we remember that the desert is all about discovering the faithfulness of God.

Ready... Set... Jump!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

You're getting on my nerves.

I promised to be vulnerable in this blog.

So this is officially my first confession.

Since only about 2 people know about this blog as of today, chances are if you are reading this, then I love you and love having you in my life. However, you should know that it’s probably also true that I have been frustrated or annoyed with you lately. You've really been getting on my nerves. But it’s not just you – it’s everyone. And you haven't done anything to justify my feelings. It's not you -- it's me. It's my junk.

I have been struggling lately with a general sense of frustration with people in general. There’s something sort of hard about my heart lately. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin, because this is an unusual state of mind (and heart) for me. I generally walk around with a “warm fuzziness” about people. I mean, sure, I get annoyed like everyone does at times, but generally, I’m an open and affectionate “I love you” sort of person. Usually, my heart feels especially at home when I’m encouraging or counseling someone. I usually want to know people on a heart level, to see them from the inside out, and to build intimate connections. Yet for some reason, lately, I don’t feel that gooey “love” thing about people in general like I usually do.

And that is simply not acceptable. So I have been wrestling with this for a few weeks now, laying my nasty, ugly self before God and praying that He would search my heart, and change it. And He’s revealed some stuff about why this shift has taken place in my heart. Ouch. I’ll save that for another post.

But for now, I thought I’d share what happened today:

In my Bible Study and prayer time late last night and this morning, I was reading from the book of Romans. I covered up the study notes on the bottom of the pages so that I could read them and listen to the Holy Spirit speak through the verses to me instead of reading them academically.

I landed in Chapter 5, verse 10 and was totally paralyzed. I have read this chapter many times. And I have quoted Romans 5:8 more times than I can count -- to myself and also many times to encourage others. We know it by heart, right? "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us..."

I have always approached this chapter from the idea of reconciliation and justification. God has reconciled us to Him and we are justified in Him. I get that. But this time, I found new life in these verses when I got to verse 10: "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son..."

I never really caught hold of the word "enemy" until last night.

Read it again. “… when we were God’s enemies…”

I was God's enemy.

We were God's enemies.

Here I am, having trouble operating from a place of love for people -- not even enemies (I don’t think I have any enemies), but just people in general, perhaps because their habits, mannerisms, response (or lack of), or behavioral traits get on my nerves.

We were/I was God's enemy. Not just like someone who got on his nerves a little bit or had a slightly annoying quirk -- but his ENEMY!

But still, He chose to redeem us. He chose to save us. And He loved his enemies so much that He sent His Son to die for us.

Here's what really got me: He chose to see His enemy in Himself and not in our sin, and then He gave us Jesus.

Before He gave me Jesus, He first looked at me and saw me in Himself.

And that's what I want to do...

To see others in Himself...No matter where they are...Through His eyes and not my own...And give them Jesus.

And I can't give or show Jesus to them until I see them in and through Him.

I love how God defines Himself by doing every single thing that He has called us to do.

He gets it when I pray and struggle with this sometimes. And He allows no excuses.

He had enemies – me. I was His enemy. And He chose to love me. And to save me. And if He can do this for His enemy, then certainly I can love the people whom I encounter. After all, He created me (and us) to do just that.

Thanks, God, for showing me You understand, and for reminding me what is possible when I fix my heart on You, and not on myself.


In The Beginning...

For a while now, I have had this annoying recurring thought: “Hey, I could blog about this.”

I read lots of blogs. I think I'm addicted. So why not cross over to the other side?

This first post is awkward. It sort of feels like a weird blind date.

Blind Date: Should I tell him about my two yippy dogs and my cooky mother yet?*
First Blog: Should I get vulnerable about how God is breaking and transforming me?

Blind Date: Will he ever call me again?
First Blog: Will they ever read this again?

Blind Date: What if we don't have anything in common?
First Blog: Will the person reading this relate to what I'm writing?

Blind Date: What will I wear?
First Blog: Is my layout catchy enough?

[gulp]

I'm trying not to be nervous and to remember to take deep breaths. Hyperventilating on the first date is just not cute.

My goal for this blog is simply to share random thoughts about God, ministry, and life in general. I promise to be real and honest about God and the work He is doing in my life -- the whole journey, and not just the pretty parts. I'll get vulnerable and share some ugly stuff, too. Overall, I want to focus on God's grace in my life. That's why I chose the name "In Fields of Grace". My prayer is that both you and I will be encouraged by it.

Thanks for reading!

*My mother is not cooky. OK, well, maybe a little. But she is hilarious, wise, and she has instilled godly values in me that have shaped the woman I am becoming. I am proud to call her my "Momma"! I love you, Mom!