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Let there be Joy

Are you having a hard time finding something to be joyful about?  I can understand why.  There is so much bitterness and hate being shown through the media today.  In reality, there is much more goodness being done, that we never see.  Seeds of violence and hate are being planted everyday.  It’s up to us if we are going to reap the harvest; or are we going to weed them out.  Our country’s  foundation is based on one Nation under God.  Our roots are strong, they have been growing for centuries.  Now, however, there are those that are taking their axes and are chopping away at our branches; one by one.  Not only is it taking place in our government, but it flows over into our families.

Why are we arguing about things that happened in the past that we had no control over.  Our nation today, is not perfect, but it has come a long way.  Our nation has gone through trial and error to make us better.  Right now, we are bringing the past into the present; therefore making us start over again.  One step forward, two steps back.  Let’s put the joy back into our nation and our families.  What can we do today, that would make our nation better.  Our government for one, can forget their differences and work together to solve the problems.  We did not elect them to fight among themselves.  And, all the powers out there that are trying to make a statement against each other need to look around and see what they need to do to make things better, not worse.

How about our families?  Do we have strife and hate among us.  What can we do about it?  Why not take a step back and look not only at the person that we are dealing with, but take a good look at ourselves.  Are we hurting inside from something they did and we want to hurt them back or get even.  We do not have to agree with them or even like them; but we do have to forgive them; not for them but for us to heal from the hurt and move on.

Let’s put the joy back into our nation and our families.  Let’s let the past go and move on.  We have a lot more going for us than against us.  We need to remember that and step forward selflessly into the future!

We Three’s  Shirley Perry

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.  Ephesians 4:31

 

 

 

 

 

Faith in the Face of the Winds

The physical knocked him into fear because his eyes saw something and his body felt that pressure of the atmosphere and he lost his focus and began to sink. Fear and Faith cannot exist in unison.

 

How we perceive things is often done through the lenses of the world. We look through the lens of experience and often the lens of emotion. We so often forget the heart and even more often forget the reality that God is so BIG and so MIGHTY and beyond our eyes is a world that is more vast than we can even imagine (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Over the last 4 years we have been on a roller coaster ride. We lost our baby before we ever got to hold her, before she ever breathed her first breath, before her eyes ever gazed into mine. That miscarriage was the hardest thing we have ever been through and every year on that day the world keeps turning and we plaster a smile on our faces and face the day knowing that our little one is with Jesus. After that we tried to adopt, you want to go on a wild ride, sign up to adopt through the system. The next 2.5 years was full of heartaches and pain, empty promises and lies, several possible placements, and two little boys that continue to hold our hearts as they tackle life each day without us.
We never got to adopt our legal risk boys that we were told were adoptable and it is a daily reminder that we are not promised tomorrow with our loved ones. June 2016 we closed our home (terminated our license that gave us the ability to foster and adopt) and began the process to heal from the hurt of yet another failed placement and the weeding of the roots of bitterness and anger that longed to take hold of our hearts and minds.
Perception is often limited to a small amount of information.
Our situation and what we have gone through hardened our hearts in one way and softened and refined them in a completely different way. I have a deep empathy and sorrow for the children who are in the system knowing that no matter what, their voices could be drowned out or ignored, that the trauma they have endured at the hands of adults will leave a lasting effect and wound that only God can heal.

1 Samuel 16:7 “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Our prayers changed last December, our hearts were still for adoption, and I asked God to bring the child or children He had for us to adopt to our doorstep. We still did not understand why any of the previous summer had to happen. We just decided to trust God with our future and our comfort and the loss of all our dreams of a family and find contentment in just being a family of 2. The phone rang in June 2017 about a possible private adoption of two wonderful little boys. Luke and I had become comfortable with being just the two of us with our pugs and truly felt contentment in seeking God through the call He placed on us to serve and teach others. We prayed and sought God’s will instead of our own selfish desires or seeking counsel from others. Fast forward to today and here we are walking through each step allowing God the room to do all that He pleases. We are trusting Him to move us forward and praying that our eyes stay focused on Him.

Matthew 17:26-32
26When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
28Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

Peter cried out to Jesus for Jesus to call him out on the water to Him. Jesus does call Peter and Peter bursts forth over the boat and out onto the water. He doesn’t sink and He is focused on Jesus. Suddenly Peter sees the wind and becomes afraid. Peter had to take his eyes off Jesus in order to SEE the wind. I picture Peter standing firm on the water’s surface with eyes longingly gazing on Jesus until the wind pushes his body and this is the moment his eyes SEE the wind. The physical knocked him into fear because his eyes saw something and his body felt that pressure of the atmosphere and he lost his focus and began to sink. Fear and Faith cannot exist in unison.
The hardest part of this whole thing, in some respect, was choosing to focus on Jesus and the call and not allow the fears of the world to knock us off-balance. We have to trust God and allow His perception and His calling to be the only thoughts and desires that matter to us. We have to care more and worry only about how He sees us and if we are following Him. Others opinions and perceptions over our actions and lives do not matter. Let me say that one more time, “Others opinions over our/your actions and lives do not matter.” This is not a grace abuse free card, this is not an opportunity to push your agenda card or a seek the fleshly desire you think you need card. This is a seek God and His heart with all you’ve got card; if you do that your life, your mind, and your heart will be transformed and the race you are on will look different.
One of the strongest winds that blew us and continues to whirl is our friends and families’ opinions along with the thought that they could get hurt again. It was and is a burden on our hearts; thinking we could be the cause of more pain and wounds to our friends and families can be paralyzing. It was incredibly difficult to think that those who do not know the story or the circumstances that surrounded the closing of our home would view us or judge us with assumptions about our motives and our hearts. There is a deep anxiety that tries to take root that we have to come to our village and ask for support and help.
We do not know what the future holds for our family but we are firm in standing on the waves together with our eyes focused on Jesus because we know He holds our future.
There are so many questions we have been asked through this process. If you know Luke and I we are typically prepared for anything that is thrown at us and we always try to avoid conflict along with flying under the radar. Attention is not something we handle with comfort or ease.

James 1:27 ”Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

My heart tends to take root in the idea that it is NOT okay to ask for help. I should be able to handle anything emotionally, physically, or financially on my own. This thinking is wrong, God created us for relationship. We have a deep yearning for relationship with Him and we are told to love others. Part of loving others is taking part in their burdens…not just the emotional ones, not just the sin ones, not just the joyful ones. Following Jesus sometimes requires asking for help and then allowing the Church to be God’s hands and feet. This process has taught us that God uses all details, small and big, to refine and mold us to look more and more like His if we allow Him.
There is only one who knows our hearts, and I mean truly knows our hearts. He is MIGHTY, He is our PROTECTOR, He is SOVEREIGN, He is the heart we chase and seek! Go out and seek Him knowing that His attention and opinion is the only one that truly matters. Don’t let the winds throw you off-balance and distract you from where you should be looking and who you should be seeking!

Blessings!
Stacy

God of ALL

Early this morning I was spending time with God in prayer. My prayer turned from petition to praise and my head began to fill with things I am so thankful for. Something that I am so grateful for and continually give Him glory is the wildlife around my home. Watching nature always hits my heart with God’s Awww. Seeing creation is a reminder to me of our Lord, our Creator. We live in the country on the edge of a small community. We have three resident turkeys that wander the neighborhood, numerous road runners, sometimes deer, a large variety of birds etc, all created for His glory. Thinking on these blessings a scripture and poem came to mind.

“My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise His holy name forever and ever.”
Psalm 145:21

The poem I have always liked I found out today was actually written as a hymn and I have only ever known the first four lines.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

by Cecil F. Alexander

Later that morning, God gave me a blessing, a mother Bobcat and her two kittens showed up and played for a good while in our front yard. God, knowing my heart, gave me the most beautiful gift. Thank you! Thank you!

God loves us, He knows who we are because we are His creation in His image. He is gracious and compassionate. He shows us His love in many ways. God loves us so much that nothing is too big or too small for Him.

Here are the last four lines of the poem All Things Bright and Beautiful.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we may tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

May He surprise you today and bring you joy.
Blessings, Cindy

Excitement in the Calling

There is a particular excitement in the air. You know what I am talking about; that moment you feel God and He is so close and His wings cover you and hold you so tightly that your lungs want to burst out of your chest in excitement!

Tomorrow I get to sit down and speak. Exciting, right? I can hardly sit still at the thought of talking about Jesus! It’s funny, years ago I would have screamed and curled up in a corner crying at the very thought of talking in front of others; not because I was scared, but mostly because I truly felt unworthy, uninteresting, and OH… how I longed to be unnoticed.

God created a unique story for each of us and no one, not a single person, who has lived or will ever live will has your own very unique story. Isn’t that incredible?

You are a one of a kind and God has written a special story with your life that no one will ever get to hold; only you! Let that sink in for a moment…..

I climbed on a plane back in July to come home after one of the most incredible weekends of my life and as I sat in that seat and watched the clouds surround our plane and roll by I wrote. I had been praying and asking God what He wanted for our group, The Box. I had been struggling and was beginning to feel the pressure of time as our kickoff was approaching. I was longing to talk about the Minor Prophets and tell the stories of The Old Testament. I love talking about The Old Testament and I longed to get lost in the study and research of the text. As I began to write at 20,000+ feet high, what poured out of my pencil was how God wanted me to see myself in Him! One thing I wrote that surprised me was, “I am a speaker!” This was huge, no this was GIANT! I knew He was calling me to speak and I know deep in my heart this is the calling He has for me. To actually speak this and write this after ten years was momentous for me. It was alive and I was completely on board with this idea that God could use me for this calling that I was completely unequipped to pursue.

The calling He has placed on your life, that special thing, is special! It has purpose and He will use it to glorify Himself.

God allowed me to get an art degree and He fills my paintbrush with paint that fills the canvas to glorify Him and He gave my feet the talent for soccer and now allows me to coach the sport I have loved since I could kick a ball; but there is something so special about that calling He places on your life. I’m not talking about what you are good at or where your talents are, I am talking about that thing He shows you that He longs for you to do for Him. It may be parenting or teaching; it could be caring for animals or those who are sick or in need of healing; or ti could be writing or simply serving others where you are at in this moment.

My excitement level to get to speak to others about Him is so on FIRE and it is truly one of the last things I ever wanted to do or even enjoyed. I am not a good speaker. I am the poster child for introverts and I am not enough when I stand before others but there is one who is and when He does, Oh man! Things happen!

I want to encourage you to embrace where God has placed you and talk to Him, confide in Him, worship Him. The story He is writing in your life is for Him and He will do amazing things through you and your weakness!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

God, a cup of coffee and me

At our Bible study, (The Box) my granddaughter gave out the numbers on the amount of time that the average person spends in the presence of God. It is staggering and I’ll let her pass that information on to you in a later blog. So many of you have a set time to spend with God; I admire that. Me, I grab a moment here and there, always planning to do better. Yesterday, was the perfect day. My husband, Gene, had taken the car to the garage to get it fixed, so I knew that I would have some quiet time to spend with God. I grabbed my Bible, my cup of coffee and went outside to sit in my porch swing and enjoy the view that God had placed there. I said the Lord’s Prayer and read some of the Psalm’s. I was giving Him praise, thanking Him for this beautiful day, and sipping my coffee when my phone rang. Yes, I had to look to see if it might be Gene calling. Instead, it was Richard, our son in Ohio, long distance, I had to take the call. We spent time catching up on what was going on with all the family when our call was interrupted, it was Gene. I hung up from Richard and took the call. “I’ve been trying to call you and when I couldn’t reach you, I called Cindy,” (our daughter), he said. “Sorry, I was on the phone with Richard and this is the first call that came through.” I got him the information that he needed and hung up. I was dialing Cindy when I heard a knock on the door. Sure enough, it was Cindy. “Dad called me; he couldn’t get a hold of you and he was worried.” “Sorry, I just got off of the phone and was going to call you.”

Cindy stayed and finished the window project that we had been working on. Then she left and told me she would be back in an hour to pick me up to go and look at a house. Ten minutes later, Gene pulled up with the garage man who took the car back. Since Gene had not eaten, I fixed him his favorite breakfast. I straightened the kitchen, put in some laundry and by that time it was time to go.

Cindy and I met with our friends, Donna and Murry, who had offered a fantastic deal to jump start the flipping of houses. By the time we got home, it was time to fix another meal.

Sound familiar? Life happens. My time with God was cut short and I know that He is anxiously waiting for me to call again, just as I was for my son’s call. I also know that He is with me always. I can talk to Him at any time, I don’t need an appointment. I can talk to Him in the shower, while making a bed, on the way to work, or when I retire for the night.

“So, I thank you God for spending this time with me while I am writing this blog. I ask You to bless the ones reading it and their families. I ask that we always feel Your presence. Amen.”

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Servant Hearted Leadership Following the Leader of Leaders

School is sprinting full force straight at us and parents, teachers, and administrators face, with great anticipation, the huge job ahead of them.  A job that truly is not seen in the now.  Our job is touching, reaching, and changing the future. There are moments in the classroom that change the world for kids. There are moments that will give hope and grace to kids who have never known hope or grace. There are moments where those same kids will feel like they are heard and they matter and that might possibly be the first time they have ever felt that way.  There are moments that allow a future to unfold in a way that child never dreamed it possibly could.

So how do we as adults, educators and parents, change the future?

In 1 Kings 3 we see Solomon entering his kingship. His throne has been established and he has gone up to Gibeon to make a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. While he is there, during the night in a dream, God comes to Solomon and says, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you (verse 5).”

This is the moment of a lifetime, Solomon could ask for anything! Fame, fortune, long life, he can have it all and God has given him the chance to think of the thing he most longs for and values.

What would you ask for? Where would your heart be?

Solomon answers so graciously in verse 6, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.”

He knew he had nothing to do with achieving the throne. He accepts that God is allowing him the chance and honor to ask for anything his heart desires and his heart is already aligned in the right direction making his request all the more humble in verses 8 and 9, “Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

Solomon’s concern is servant centered. He understands the throne is from God and the people belong to God and furthermore he is extremely aware that he is not equip to serve them as their leader.

Teachers are working tirelessly to prepare to walk into classrooms full of students. As we get ready to step through that threshold on the first day and meet those anxious, excited, eager faces our prayer should be like Solomon’s, “God, thank you for this honor!  These kids are yours and this job is yours.  I did not get here on my own. Please give me a discerning heart to serve these kids so that I always point them to you and they see you!”

True leadership is surrendered; it is submitted to the King of Kings. Solomon understood this concept. He knew he was part of David’s legacy.

You will lead someone and in that leading you have a true honest responsibility. How will you carry out that responsibility? How will you serve? Where is your heart?

Leadership carried out responsibly involves following someone. King David followed God and longed to have a heart like him and passed that legacy onto his son Solomon.

Growing up my mom always told me to choose carefully who I followed by looking at who was leading them. There are so many wonderful people who have poured into me over the last 34 years and two very special heroes.   I would like to point out one in particular whose display of a servant heart changed my life. When I met him I was a starry-eyed immature wanna-be teacher. He met me with a smile and a kindness I hadn’t seen many times and he tried to prepare me for the job and journey I was fixing to step head first into. His job was simply to make me a teacher and my job was to soak up every last thing I could over a very short twelve week span. I had no idea that God would completely turn over my life and my heart in twelve weeks.

Leadership is all about the heart; a servant heart. What I learned over those twelve weeks was all about the heart. He showed me a kindness and love for teaching and for others in a new way that I  had not seen before.  I learned how to be patient, how to serve students, and how to speak in front of others without fear because God would be with me.  His heart for God was always evident, every moment of every day.  I watched him show every student and adult Christ through his actions and words as he served. He truly served others where they were at always meeting them at their hearts.  At the end of the twelve weeks my heart was broken knowing I would not get to see that type of Christ centered service day in and day out.  His eyes, his focus, were always on the cross.

My friend, my mentor, my hero understands what having a heart like God looks like and he serves others endlessly showing them Jesus by serving them and meeting them where they are at.

Solomon was trying to be a chaser of God’s heart like his father, David. He understood that he needed that heart and drive to be a good leader. He asked God for wisdom; a discerning heart that would allow him to lead and serve the people of Israel.  He was following God.  He was a leader following the Leader of leaders.

Leadership is tough. It is a burden that we all carry and only few can handle. You will lead someone; point them in the right direction by chasing with all your being after Jesus.  Servanthood will change the future and create a hope in our youth.  Show them Jesus through serving and loving them with a heart for God.  If you do this you will have someone follow you and it will change their lives…it quite possibly will save their lives.

Fearless Flight

We live in a world of uncertainty. There is always something or someone knocking on our hearts telling us we are not enough, we are alone, we are forgotten. We are constantly sold the lie that we are replaceable and our imperfections could knock us out of God’s plan.

I am deathly afraid of heights; bring you to your knees afraid; your eyes pooling with glassy drops of water spilling over down your cheeks afraid. I struggle to hold back the panic of an outright full blown anxiety attack just thinking about getting on board a plane let alone flying high above the solid ground.

Sometimes God has a sense of humor and He calls us to face our fears because ultimately we need to see Him in a more intimate way. We need to lay ourselves down and allow a deep trust in Him to grow and thrive. A year ago the Holy Spirit showed my heart that She Speaks 2017 had a spot for We Three and that we were to go. In order to go, I had to get onto a plane, not just one plane but two planes just to get there.

That meant that I had to sit and grasp the arms of my plane seat and feel the pain of my body thrust into the sky and the tingle of my skin as we moved faster and faster; I had to feel my heart catch in my chest as we rose higher and higher not just once but twice before walking into the conference. I felt the Holy Spirit ask me to trust Him and to let go of this fear.

Fast forward a year later and here we were crawling on that first plane. God provided three of the kindest individuals who poured into our hearts through eyes of comfort on that first flight. The couple brought such a sense of peace along with them and the third was a passionate stewardess who spoke of angels and the presence of God as we soared through the clouds. The second plane was much easier after that and we cruised into North Carolina. We made it! We made it to She Speaks 2017 and we sat in the spot God had saved for us.

I learned three very important things:

  • Flying is okay! I actually kind of enjoy feeling completely out of control and allowing my trust in God to take over in a new and completely unexpected way. I’m 33 and my God is bigger than any plane on this earth and He is with me and He goes before me!

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

  • Women are absolutely amazing!  I am such an introvert and so different and one on one is hard for me and it can sometimes be paralyzing. At She Speaks something incredible happens when you get 800+ women whose hearts are in desperate crisis of chasing God that it fills the atmosphere with a pure excitement, worship, and love for God that is truly safe and completely contagious. You see His presence and unconditional heart in the face of each woman and you hear His whispers through their stories and encouragement that gives all glory to Him. It was something I have never experienced before and will not soon forget.

 

  • God has a plan for you and He is in control… He is in control… one more time… He is in control. We each have a story and a wiring unique for the story God is writing and using to spread His gospel. He has not forgotten you and you are not replaceable!

Psalm 139:1-18, “You have searched me, Lord,     and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise;     you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down;     you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue     you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before,     and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,     too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?     Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there;     if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn,     if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me,     your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me    and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;     the night will shine like the day,     for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;     you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;     your works are wonderful,     I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you     when I was made in the secret place,     when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;     all the days ordained for me were written in your book     before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!     How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them,    they would outnumber the grains of sand—     when I awake, I am still with you.

All of these were mind-blowing and eye-opening and sitting here looking back on the days passed I find myself wanting to encourage women to accept who they are in Him and to see Him in your wiring and His fingerprints on the story He has written that is unique to you.

I’m different and the truth is…

My wiring is okay. My need to see God in an intimate way through creativity and my camera lens is okay.

I had overlooked this photo. I think because God knew that after the amazing spiritual weekend at She Speaks I would be looking out into my great big world and the battle would grow stronger. I have a choice between confusion and fear or hope and trust. I am staring a new journey in the face and it can be overwhelming if I don’t choose to trust and believe God. My speaker wings are brand new much like this little guy and they need to be tested and tried without fear of the future.  My wings need to fly with the hope and truth of God all around them.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Sitting in the trees that day watching this duckling look out into the great big world he was learning to navigate, I could see God everywhere. I could feel His heartbeat through the eyes of the camera lens. I always feel safe as I stand behind the camera because I see Him. I see His fingerprints. I long to capture a brief moment in time where His beauty and His glory shines. This duckling in his moment of stillness, I can’t help but think, he chose to trust and hope in the wings God gave Him as he learned to spread them wide and allow the goodness of our Father to surround and breathe new life into him.

The story He has written in your life is amazing! Every hurt and joy, pain and grace, every mountain and every valley all of them are unique to you and He will use it! I want to encourage you to raise your wings and fly into your wiring and trust that God did not make a mistake and then chase after Him listening for His voice and His prompting as you seek to further and glorify His Kingdom.

You are not an accident and you are not replaceable and your wings, new or old, still have a lot of flying left to do!

Spread your wings and let God breathe new life into them as you learn to fly!

Blessings,

Stacy