Monday, September 24, 2012

Skimming the Surface

As a child, I had 3 aunts and a grandmother that liked to go fishing. I would sometimes go with them and my favorite thing to do was watch the bugs that looked like they were "skating" on top of the pond water. They are called "skimmer bugs" and they are light enough to just skim the surface without going into the actual water. This week I was reading about the relationship that our Heavenly Father wants to have with us as His children. I think that for most of my life, my relationship with God was like those bugs skimming superficially along on the water. I wanted Him at arms length. Sure, I prayed. But most of my prayers were shallow ones....God, please help me on this test (even though I didn't study)....please let this boy love me (even though I don't love myself)...please protect my friends and family (don't have time to get them all in by name or specific need). Who did I think I was kidding by keeping my innermost desires and plans from Him? He KNOWS me. He knows me better than my family, my husband or my best friend. In Psalm 139 it says that "Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely". My Heavenly Father made me and created my inmost being. He knew me in my mother's womb. He is familiar with ALL of my ways. Wait....ALL of my ways?

Growing up, I saw God as punitive. I thought that if I was bad, he wouldn't love me and would punish me,  and if I was good, then He would love me and my life would work out exactly as I wanted it to. I am a people pleaser, so this concept came naturally to me. I tried to follow all of the rules. I attended church weekly, minded my parents, didn't drink or cuss (hard to believe, I know) and made all A's. Know what? I still didn't feel like God loved me, nor did I have a personal connection with Him. I felt like I was always disappointing Him and letting Him down. The missing key was a relationship. A real that goes down deep into my inmost being. God wants to hear about my day, the good and the bad. He wants me to talk to Him about hurts, triumphs, dreams, goals, failures...ALL of it. Think about the relationships you have with people. If all you do is talk to them about superficial things, your relationship with them will remain on the surface. All it took for my relationship with God to go deep was a seed that was planted in me by another person. I received a letter that said..."God loves you just the way you are. Nothing you can do will make God love you any more or any less." Whaaaat? I can't earn His love?? I am a little slow on the uptake sometimes, but seeing this statement in black and white gave me a truth to hold onto. God loves me. He always has, and always will. I am a daughter of the most high God. By holding onto His love and learning to receive love from others, our relationship continues to grow deeper and has taken root in all areas of my life.

Guess what happened as a side effect? I learned that I am not alone! Not only is God with me and for me, but He has some followers that love me too! I mean really love me. I've learned what agape love feels like and looks like. I've learned to let people know the real me and sometimes I am not easy to love. I've learned to form deeper relationships with my friends and family. I've learned that perfection is impossible for me, but He loves me anyway. Once we have our identity in Christ, we can share our story with other people and build relationships that draw people closer to Him. When I truly received His love for me, it changed me. I really am a new creation. I want to tell others about this unconditional love of the Father. I want to show people that they are worthy, accepted and loved. I recently read a book called "Blue Like Jazz" by Don Miller. This quote stood out to me..."I think the most important thing that happens in Christian spirituality is when a person falls in love with Jesus". I  have to wholeheartedly agree with a big grin on my face. No more skimming the surface...I'm going deep.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What are you full of?

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” C.S. Lewis

I love this quote. This earthly life is temporary. But while we are here, we are made to seek. But what are we seeking? Ultimately we all are seeking to be loved...and to be loved unconditionally by the One who made us. Agape love, selfless and spiritual...the kind of love demonstrated through Jesus and His life. It expects nothing in return. 

My dilemma is do I keep myself from getting filled with all of the stuff of the world? The stuff that my flesh wants me to be filled with? Or even stuff of the world that I don't necessarily want, but let get inside me anyway? I hear gossip about a friend....stuff it husband makes me mad...stuff it down...disappointed by family...stuff it down...hear a comment that someone doesn't like me...stuff it down. It doesn't take long to be filled with this junk! Now what? Once filled with this stuff I now feel...empty. Like there is a huge hole inside me. My favorite thing to fill it with has been food. Food not your thing? Maybe it is alcohol, anger, sex, exercise, drugs, work, ambition or shopping. The problem with putting something else on top of the junk means that the junk doesn't leave. The junk remains. Now how can we be filled with Him? With love? Is there room?

At one point in my life, I was so full of junk that I didn't think I would ever get it out. But guess what? I did get rid of a lot of it and so can you. In order for me to do this, I had to talk about it. I had to trust someone. Over time, I had to trust more than one someone. I had to make myself vulnerable and I hate that. But you know what? What I WAS doing definitely wasn't working for me. I found people, accountability partners, that were willing to listen to me talk about anything I wanted and still love me. Are these people perfect? No. Do I still get hurt? Of course. But the benefits are so awesome. The junk moves out and makes it easier for Him to move in. And when He moves in...WOW. With His love in me I can love others so much easier. I can love myself more freely. I wish I could tell you that this is how I am all of the time, but I am made of flesh. What I can tell you is that being self aware and knowing what I am full of has made it easier for me to be filled with His love. I am better than I used to be. And THAT is a great place to be right now. 

What are YOU full of?

"Empty me of the selfishness inside, every vain ambition and the poison of my pride....and any foolish thing my heart holds to. Lord empty me of me so I can be filled with You." --Empty Me by Chris Sligh 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sabbath Moments and Pinterest Projects

This post is just for fun. I have been an "at home mom" or CEO of the Bass Family since the end of November. The cartoon at the left is how I have felt in the past about staying at home full time. Don't get me wrong, I may not post every single saying, picture, funny thing, outfit or bowel movement that my children have, but trust me, I love them more than life itself. Being a mother is truly THE most rewarding and hardest job you will ever have. I thought it was hard having one child...then two...finally three. We are outnumbered. They operate in a pack...with a pack mentality. Thankfully, they are all now in school during the day. What have I done with my time? Hello...have you ever heard of pinterest? My sweet friend April introduced me to it and I hit the ground running! I've made my own laundry detergent, fabric softener, cleaning products, made cute Valentine's, numerous recipes and honed my cookie making skills (somewhat). I also made Christmas gifts and a baby shower gift for a friend. Aside from pinterest, I think my name got added to every volunteer list in the state of Georgia, or at list the city of Cairo (I blame Shelley). I've been on field trips and painted faces at Field Day. I've spent my afternoons being a taxi for my kids and my weekends and holidays at home. I've also spent more time reading the Bible, praying, and listening to God's ultimate plan for my life. Being able to have a "Sabbath moment" almost every day has been life changing for me. Even baking and decorating cookies can be a Sabbath moment. It is very therapeutic to clear my mind and focus on something besides myself and my problems. I love to listen to praise and worship music while I work on my various projects. This time has helped me to learn what really is important. What my family's NEEDS are...the real needs, not the wants. Learning that God does and will provide. Even when situations seem hopeless, they are not! I may not have my ipad that I want or be able to take vacations. My kids don't get the newest toy or game right when they want it (been guilty of this in the past) or wear the latest fashion (they could care less, thank goodness!), but as my youngest says.."I have Jesus in my heart and that's the BESTEST THING EVER!!" True that, Ava.....true that. Here are a couple of my finished projects that I thought you might enjoy.

               This one is from a favorite Bible verse, Micah 6:8, it was a grandparent gift for Christmas.
I did this one as a gift for a friend who is naming her baby Faith. :)
                         These are cross cookies I made for Easter.
                          Pink cupcakes for baby Faith's celebration!
                          More Easter cookies!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!!

Let the good times roll!! Today is Fat Tuesday when we traditionally gorge ourselves in celebration of the start of the Lenten season tomorrow. What am I giving up for Lent? ALL SWEETS. This includes candy, cake, cookies, brownies, ice cream, pie, soda, sweet tea, etc. While this would not be difficult for some people, it will be EXTREMELY HARD for me. No, I don't eat cake as a meal (too often), but after I eat...what do I want? Something sweet. Late at night what do I want? Something sweet. In the afternoon when the kids are eating a snack, what do I want? You got it. Something sweet. And yes, people, I know that fruit is sweet and I am allowed to have that. IT IS NOT THE SAME. It is quite obvious to me at this point that I am addicted to sugar. My dear friend, Karen, said that I will only feel bad for about a week and then I will feel glorious! Well, she may not have used the word glorious, but that is how my mind interpreted it. Here's to feeling glorious and keeping the good times rolling during Lent!

It's been almost a year since I started this blog. I've made so many changes in my life since then. I've also gone through changes that weren't by choice. Learning to accept life on life's terms can be hard...and sometimes not fun. But you know what? I'm getting better. I had the pleasure of hearing a sermon on this topic given by Bishop James King. When someone asks you how you are, what do you normally say? "Fine". I can't tell you how many times I've told someone that I am "fine" and have really wanted to break down and cry my eyes out. Since then I have consciously tried NOT to use the word "fine". I struggled with what to say instead. Now I know I can honestly say "I'm getting better". There are always days when I feel horrible, but those are not the norm anymore. I AM getting better. I am a better person because of yesterday. I have a stronger relationship with God, my husband, family and friends. I know what boundaries are. Do I have scars? Yes. But my scars are getting better too. Everyday the One who made me heals those scars a little bit more. Each day comes with new mercies. Each day I am offered a little more grace. Not only do I get to experience these things, so do all of the people around me. Me getting better involves me offering more mercy, grace and love with each day.

The Bishop also talked about "faith nerves". He said that when we step out in faith, try and accomplish things and then our attempt results in failure, our "faith nerves" can become damaged. This can cause us to settle or to become afraid to try again. Truly great people learn how to persevere regardless of their circumstances. I would like to say that my "faith nerves" are undamaged, but they are not. But I do know this....they're getting better.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I am so in Love With...

Remember my "New Year's Resolutions"? 1.Do no harm, good and 3.stay in love with God. How do we stay in love with Him? There have been times in my life when I thought that God chose not to love me because of my sins and the direction my life was going. Like a petulant child, I would put space between us and give Him the silent treatment. Now that I am a more mature Christian (He ain't done with me yet) I know that He loves me no matter what challenges or choices I face in this life. I no longer think that He is punishing me. When Jesus died on the cross, my debt was paid. His grace is sufficient for me.

But how DO we stay in love with Him? John Wesley laid out these ordinances...public worship of God, the Lord's Supper (communion), private and family prayer, searching the Scriptures, Bible study and fasting as being essential to living a faithful life. Trust me, I haven't always done these things. There were a few years when I barely darkened the door of a church. I thought that God didn't care about me, so why bother? But guess who created the space between us? I did. God didn't move and thankfully He is a God of second chances. I've also NEVER read the Bible cover to cover. Sure, I've read the New Testament and parts of the Old Testament, but not from Genesis to Revelation. My church has started "The Bible in 90 Days" Bible study as of this week. It's exciting to me to read it and be able to discuss it with my husband at home and also in a group setting at church. The book of Genesis has enough juicy details to provide a soap opera a few years of material. Who knew? Ninety days from now I hope to be able to blog about the entirety of my experience and be able to tell the blog world that "I HAVE READ THE WHOLE BIBLE"!

Ok, sooooo...go to church, take communion, pray, read and study the Bible and fasting. Fasting? The only fasting I do is yearly at Lent (which is coming up, by the way). I have had a great experience with Lent and it really has helped me to focus more on Him and His presence in my life. I guess the reason that I don't fast more is because I didn't think I needed to. I am wrong. I think that if I practiced the spiritual discipline of fasting more often, I wouldn't think it was okay to make MY own decisions or plans instead of listening and waiting for what He has for me. In other words, fasting could help empty me of me and fill me with Him. I often pray for humility and that people would look at me and see Him shining through. Fasting helps me to focus my thoughts on Him to help me get through the next day, hour or minute of fasting. And relying on Him keeps my faith strong AND my love for Him growing. And THAT's where I want to love with the One who made me, who gave me life everlasting and whose love is constant all of the time.

"Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually." --Psalm 105:4 

If anyone is interested in following along and reading the Bible with us, you can click on this link for the reading schedule. We would love to have you!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fear, Faith and a Mustard Seed

Everybody has something that they are afraid of...heights, clowns, spiders. I am one of those people who is not too fond of heights. I had a very unpleasant experience as a young child stopped on the very top of a ferris wheel with one of my cousins who will remain nameless. To this day, I haven't gotten back on a ferris wheel. I wasn't scared because I was stuck or because the machine was broken or I was falling, I was scared because these things MIGHT happen. Fast forward several decades and the list of fears has grown. Fear of failure, rejection, loss, not being good enough, the future. Fear of change, of letting go of things that are comfortable to me.

What is fear? The Bible says that fear is a lack of faith (Mark 4:40). Do I not have faith? I consider myself a faithful person, wife, friend. I have faith in God. What I lack sometimes is faith in what God can and IS doing for me in my life. When things aren't going like I think they should, I worry. I doubt. I shed tears. I get angry. I get discouraged. Guess what? I am not in control. I like to be, but I'm not. In my quest to live a more disciplined life, I have made a lot of positive changes along the way. I've lost some weight, learned to like exercise, become more organized, but I've realized I haven't let go of all of my fears. Why do I want to lose weight? I want to feel better and be healthy. I want to honor God with the body He has given me. I want to walk into a store and not have to look for an XL. But I also have a shallow desire to be attractive/pretty. I don't want people to tell me I have a pretty face. When I hear that it screams "but she has an ugly body"! After 39 years, I have become comfortable with the way I look now. I have also become comfortable with food as my comforter. Even though I want to lose weight, it scares me sometimes. I am still scared of things that MIGHT happen. How will people perceive me and how will I react to them?  My insides must change for the better along with my outside.

Thinking about faith and fear made me think of a song I learned this fall. I don't know the name of it, but here are the lyrics...."Well there's nothing that I need that He won't provide and there's nothing that I need that He won't supply. Cause I believe, yes I believe. I will say to the mountain move. I will say to the mountain get out of my way. Cause I believe, yes I believe." This song led me to think about Matthew 17:20 which says, "Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there', and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you." Do you know how big a mustard seed is? I had to squint to see it in the picture at the top of the blog. It is smaller than the BBs and the air rifle pellets that I sweep up off of my floor. It's smaller than legos, squinkies, or any Barbie parts lying around my house. It might be so small that you don't know that it is there. Now I know my mustard seed is there. I'm holding on to that thought throughout this journey. It won't be easy, but it WILL be worth it!

2 Timothy 1:7 God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self control.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

First Do No Harm...

 I wanted to write a bit more about my new resolutions, specifically #1. Do No Harm. This shouldn't be hard....after all, I am a nurse and in my professional life this is also one of the main concepts of care. It is not hard to "do no harm" to people, that is what I am already doing...right? Keep reading.

There I was having dinner with some of my friends and they began talking about someone we all knew. Has this ever happened to you? I KNOW I'm not the only one. It could be a friend, family member, or simply someone in the community that you all know. This person could have even wronged one of you, or ALL of you. They may not pay their bills, tithe to the church, they let their children run wild or they are just really annoyingly perfect. Is it okay to gossip about this person or this situation? You're not doing harm because the person isn't hearing what you are saying, right? WRONG. If I set out to purposefully "Do No Harm" then the climate I live in must change. I cannot "play around with" the facts of the situation to make myself look good. I cannot gossip about the conflict or speak about those involved in a harmful or disparaging manner (Yes, this rule also applies to FaceBook). If people disagree with me and my ideas and I wish to do no harm, I can't belittle them or make them feel less than me. Going further, I must honor them as a child of God. Suddenly, it isn't sounding so easy to "Do No Harm". When I disarm myself, I am able to consider the fact that God loves each of us equally, and that we all have some common ground with each other.

So why don't I all practice this principle in all of my affairs? Because according to Reuben P. Job, it requires me to have a radical trust in God's presence, power, wisdom and guidance and a radical obedience to God's leadership. Do I have these 2 Do I want these 2 things...YES! It is hard not to let "me" get in the way of HIS plans. Sometimes I think that my way is the best way, the best plan or the best opinion. Whether it is or isn't doesn't matter. How I act and conduct my affairs and treat others is what matters. It is scary to give up my own power and plans for His. The world might see me as weak, inconsequential or unimportant. What is He going to ask me to give up? Something or someone I love? Will He ask too much? It is so easy for me to judge others but overlook my own shortcomings. Why IS that? Listen to this quote from William C. Creasy, "A person who honestly examines his own behavior would never judge other people harshly." Double ouch. I'm ready to get radical...with trusting God, obeying God and following God. I'm ready to really SEE others as Jesus sees them. After all, we are all recipients of lavish, unmerited and unending love and mercy. I'm going to intentionally act like one, will you help me?

 "Be and example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

Fitness Friday update...The only category that has really "changed" this week is that I exercised FOUR times last week and am making a conscious effort to eat healthier. Back on the wagon!!