Contest winner…

Carol Costello, you have won the copy of Let.It.Go! Email me at stephkevinryan @hotmail.com with your address and I will send it your way! Thank you to all who commented! Can’t wait to do Bible Study with you all!

Let.It.Goooooooooo……

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I write this post as a self professed control freak. I not am overly controlling in every area of my life (or maybe I am just in denial, LOL). I let God intervene here and there. In fact, sometimes I let Him intervene in big ways. Ways that I don’t even want Him intervening. But for the most part, yep, I can be a freak of control.

How do I know this? Because I FREAK out when I am not in control. I like to have the remote and change the channel to what I believe is appropriate for our family to watch. I like to make sure the kids are wearing matching outfits. I like to be certain that they will act the way I want them to in public, and not burp or fart so loudly that it will disturb others. Because the truth is, my children like to “let it go” wherever and whenever and not in the way Karen Ehman is talking about in her book Let It Go.

Part of this, yes, is just wanting my children to have good manners – but a large part of it is me needing to be in control of their behavior so that I look like a good mom.

In Karen Ehman’s new book, she reminds us that mothers and wives are often wired to control. Part of it is out of good intentions. We think we know what is best for our children, so we want to do everything we can to control situations and ensure they make the right decisions.

I wouldn’t say control is a dominating issue in my life. But it is an issue, and one I would like to get better “control” over. I would like to be able to Let It Go more often. I don’t want to worry as much as I do about silly things, and even about big things.

If you are a fellow member of the controlling helicopter mom club, or even if you are not, I want to invite you to join me in studying Let It Go with Melissa Taylor’s Online Bible Studies. You can order the book here. You sign up for the study by clicking this link and filling out the information on the right hand side of the page. The study takes place right on Melissa Taylor’s blog and you can even sign up to have the blog posts and Bible Study assignments emailed to you.

And although the study is a HUGE treat, an even bigger treat is the optional Conference Call series you can purchase to go along with the study. And guess who is going to be a guest???

Candace Cameron!!!! DJ off of Full House!!!! I watched Full House growing up, and I always felt like DJ was my big sister! So getting to hear her live and all grown up has me over the moon! Plus there will be many other amazing conference call guests including author Karen Ehman! To sign up for the calls click here!

I can’t wait to join you on this amazing journey as we learn to Let It Go!!!!

Oh, and before I forget! Leave a comment below and subscribe to receive my blog via email and I will enter you in a drawing for a FREE copy of Let It Go! Do this by Thursday at midnight and I will announce the winner Friday right here on my blog!

Small steps, faithful beginings…

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Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Psalm 36:5

When I was sick, I wanted to get well. Not just eventually well, but well right now. The sickness was not a cancer, though it might as well have been. It ate away at my life like a gnawing bitter plague.

I couldn’t stand it. Although no plan entered my mind, I begged God to just take my breath. It was too painful to breathe. I needed rescue.

Why God? Why do you let me lay in the floor and weep bitterly? For life lost, and would it ever be found again? Couldn’t He just take the pain away so that I might grasp love?

And I felt bended – twisted and wrought like iron being shaped in the flame. Writhing with pain and singed from the burns.

My heart was broken.

Could Christ ever mend it again? Even if He chose to, was there enough of His faithfulness to stretch the sky my way? I just couldn’t grasp a rescue this deep and wide. A love that might save from these barren depths.

And yet loves saved. Even the very least of these. The parts of our hearts only mended in the middle of Him.

An overnight remedy was never found. Other than a year filled with my face pressed hard and fast against the wrinkled pages of my Bible.

But day by day, small steps of obedience lended themselves to growth. Wrapping me up like a warm blanket, obedience led me to find warmth in His love. To trust in His faithfulness.

Choosing life over death, praise over groans. Praises kept me safe until obedient steps brought me far enough to see the way home.

And I’m not home yet. Some days still ache with the fury of past pain, and I sense the need fresh for rescue. But I never need look past the faithful sky that is vast and wide enough to envelop me in His love. Deep, wide, soul-shaking love.

Small steps to seek Him…where will obedience…faithfulness…take us today…

He is the One who breaks the mold…

It’s nice when things make sense. It puts our minds at ease and we feel good. But there are a lot of things in life that don’t make sense. I didn’t understand why I was raped, or why I had to struggle with depression, why I got our finances in a mess, or why I made the majority of mistakes that I have. If I desired an explanation that made sense for these things, well the explanation would be that I am one really messed up person. Which is true…in a way. I have made and will continue to make a great deal of mistakes, but Jesus loves me and will continue to love me to wholeness. I am a daughter of the King perfected in Him.

But compare a perfected princess with the wreckage I have left behind and well…there we are again…in our minds it just doesn’t make sense…
We can be quick to dismiss our identity as loved by God, as a daughter of the King, as His bride – because, well really, it doesn’t make much sense. It causes all sorts of cognitive dissonance in our brains, and we are left uncertain of what we should and can actually choose to believe.

Our nature is to take circumstances and fit them into our mold. But many of us have a pretty tainted mold. A mold that may have been formed in childhood. Maybe our parents abandoned us, or someone hurt us really bad, and our mold says we are unworthy. Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – well it doesn’t fit the unworthy mold…

Maybe our mold says we are unloveable. That we are only objects used for sex, or that we have to earn our love, or obtain perfection to be loved. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That doesn’t fit our mold…

And so we continue to struggle with believing His truth. Trying to fit His vast, deep, wide, unfathomable awesomeness into the tainted mold we formed somewhere along the way…never understanding why it doesn’t fit.

Well, I’m here to tell you sweet sister, that it may be time to break the mold. And you must ask yourself if you really want it to break?

Because many times molds are comfortable for us. And sometimes the true unconditionality of His love will push your emotions beyond your comfort level. Love can be difficult to accept, especially if you have never known such love before. But He wants us to know Him in the fullness of His love. He wants to be our everything. He desires that we might know His love even so that we may share with others…so maybe the person down the line will see Him too.

What would happen if you chose to beleive His love is bigger than your mold? That the proclamations of His Word are truth. That His truth speaks louder than the negative things you say about yourself…or the things others have and will say…

He is the One who breaks the mold…

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Four pink shiny boots for 20 beautiful little girl toes…

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“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.” James 1:27

I couldn’t have planned it better if I tried. Two adorable little girls come trotting gleefully into our office. Faces red from the early morning chill. Just making their way in from out of town and ready to start school.

I can’t help but notice ten tiny pink toes popping out from sandals. It’s January. My own daughter is the type that would demand the wearing of sandals in the middle of winter. But I don’t think this is the case. Something about this little girl tells me warm shoes would be quite welcome on her tiny toes.

I gather sizes so we can get shoes from Mission Amarillo and begin to send the children on their way, but my coworker reminds me that we might have some shoes in storage. I am doubtful, but she checks the inventory and their sizes just happen to be in stock. Rather meanderingly, I trot back to storage. Usually the shoes we have stuffed away are rather homely and nothing befitting of two adorable girls. But I look anyways. Tucked back far in an old brown box are two brand new pairs of shiny pink boots. Adorable boots. I check the sizes and remarkably they are just the right size.

I have no words to describe the emotions I felt as these two sweet deserving girls proudly slipped on beautiful pink girly boots. Their grandmother exclaims, “What a blessing!” And I reply, “Yes, it’s almost as of those boots were meant for them.”

It’s easy to think that God doesn’t really care about our everyday needs. There is so much hurt in the world. I have no answers to why horrible things happen to good people, and how God chooses what He will provide where and when. What I do know is that He is good and He is always present.

I don’t recall ever coming across these boots before, although I am sure someone donated them at some point. However, I do know that they were there exactly when we needed them.

The Lord wasn’t going to let His children walk out our door without meeting their immediate need.

The Bible tells us to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. A world that walks past hurt and need without blinking an eye. Not because they don’t care, but often because it’s awkward or feels weird. Or at times, we are selfish (yes, I too am very guilty) and don’t want to discomfort our normal.

But what a gift it is when God allows us to be a small part of His plan. His plan to care for and serve even the tiniest little shivering toes.

I mentioned Mission Amarillo earlier in this post…they are an amazing organization. I like to call them “shoes on the spot”. I ask them for shoes and it seems as if they are instantly in my hands. I would love for you to visit their website and read more about what they do. During the 2011-2012 school year they put shoes on the feet of 1700 children. Would you consider donating to them? There is a donate button on their webpage and it is super easy to use.

And after you do, may your King reply…”Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

That’s not just sweat you see dripping from my head – overcoming the awkward depression…

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It’s been a while since I have visited the pit of depression. But a few years back, I dwelt there, ate there, slept there, and made it my home. I wanted desperately to get out. In fact, I was taking positive steps to get out, like counseling and exercise.

I remember a few weeks where counseling was ultra tough. We had gotten into the icky parts. The places I didn’t want to go. Thankfully, the gym was my escape. Be it yoga class or the elliptical, the physical movement helped ease my emotional pain.

It happened several times. I would get on the elliptical, turn on some worship music, the words and thoughts would hit me just right, and before you know it I was bawling. Pouring tears on the elliptical machine. I didn’t want people to see or hear my awkward breathy sniffles, but I know they did. I tried to suck them in so I wouldn’t be known as that weird girl who emotes regularly on the exercise machines. I mean who’s workout really brings them to tears, other than tears of writhing pain caused by boot camp – but that’s another blog post! I thought I was weird, it felt really weird. I figured I may as well invest in a home gym if I was doomed to life as an emotional tear filled basket case. However, within a few week as I worked through my issues and emotions, the tears on the elliptical passed and I began to feel like a human again.

I share this story with you first of all because looking back on it, it’s kind of funny to me. Second of all, because if you are in a terrible feeling place, a place where the tears don’t stop, and the emotions seem to burry you like a puppy lost under the blankets, I want you to know there is hope. It gets better. And one day you may actually look back on this time in your life and find a few things you can laugh about.

I spent about 2 years stuck in depression, but I realize some of you may have spent much longer. That stubborn cloud over your heart doesn’t want to lift. May I encourage you today not to lose heart. 2 Corninthians 4:16 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

Outwardly we look at the world, we look at our flesh, we look at all our problems, and how every single person we know has likely failed us in one way or another – and it is easy to lose heart. But we don’t have to rely on the outwardly – the flesh. We have an inwardly – a spirit – that is constantly being renewed by and with faith.

Depression, sadness, trauma and turmoil are all hard on our flesh – and let’s face it – they are hard on our soul. But we are not bound to an earthly perspective. Our faith lets us view circumstances from a greater perspective. Our spirit, despite our flesh, is able to be renewed by and in Him day by day. And every day we have a choice to focus on and seek renewal or to focus on the wasting away of the flesh and world around us.

I am not saying you can choose yourself out of depression – sometimes we desperately wish we could – and yet we can’t. What  am saying is that we can make choices to seek renewal by praying, seeking His Word (even if that means sleeping on the open pages of our Bible), getting out of the house when we don’t feel like it, exercising even when we may have a good ole blubbery cry on the machine, and talking to other people even when we think no one will understand. This is how we choose renewal – day by day. Your body may waste away, but your spirit doesn’t have to.

Maybe it is time to challenge yourself. What choices can you make today to seek the Lord and the renewal that He offers….

Don’t let your sin run naked, cover up with grace…

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I don’t really like to be naked. In fact the only person I know who does is my 7 year old daughter. Fraught with sensory issues she prefers her skin to be free!!!! Although the older she gets we have to tame her desires and ask her to cover up with a blanket. Sometimes I want to call her Eve because she reminds me of that unashamed beginning in the garden. Where naked in public wasn’t weird and wouldn’t get you put in jail.

As I embarked on a highly theological text today, I was reminded of my own humanity, and how much theology runs far above the limits of my head. But I was fascinated by the explanation of a verse from Genesis.

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21

It had never really occurred to me that this was the first sacrifice. The first time blood had to be shed to cover up shame and sin. Animal blood, but blood none the less. A sacrifice was made so that the nakedness could be covered. Made by the Lord God. The God who loves us.

It never ceases to amaze me, this entry of sin into humanity. Not that we would succumb to temptation and sin, that doesn’t surprise me at all. But that God had a plan in place to cover us from day one is pretty awesome.

He didn’t have to care enough to allow a sacrifice to cover Adam and Eve. He didn’t have to care enough to allow His son to die as sacrifice for us. But He loved us, so He did.

Our sins are covered by His blood so that we can be set free. Sure, it would be nice if we were perfect and didn’t need covering. But we aren’t. So God made a way to let us in. To set us free. So that we have the freedom of covered nakedness. We don’t have to hide ashamed. We are allowed to be who we are because He covers up the shame. Just like my daughter wraps herself in a blanket. We can wrap ourselves in the blanket of His love. Unashamed and cloaked in forgiveness.

Now I’m not suggesting that any of us take up the habits of my daughter. That would be awkward wouldn’t it? Or that we just keep on sinning because we are covered by grace.

What I am suggesting is that when we do sin, we allow His grace to cover in a way that releases shame yet turns away from sin in repentance. Just because we sinned doesn’t mean we have to hide. His forgiveness freed us from the need to hide and allows us to share the message of forgiveness with others. No need to hide or run away. His sacrifice covers, and that is all the covering we will ever need.

Holy guacamole…

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There is little you can talk about Biblically that makes me cringe. But talk about tithing, get near financial matters, and I want to hide under the table. Tithing is difficult for me.

For years we didn’t tithe. We left a twenty in the offering plate now and then, and called it good. Not because we didn’t want to tithe, but because we were in over our heads with bills.

Our finances were a mess and not because of my husband. I spent too much money without asking him, repeatedly. It was only a few years ago, when I surrendered my spending habits to The Lord and to my husband, that we actually began coming out of the red.

At that time I was called to begin tithing. Inspired by a sermon, I wrote a check for not just part of the tithe, but the whole tithe. I tested God. I expected provision, but we went under that month. I didn’t understand. God was supposed to provide! So why didn’t he?

I believe it is because I refused to sacrifice. I continued to spend money frivolously on whatever I wanted, all the while writing the tithe check. I didn’t want tithing to require sacrifice. I wanted money to fall from the sky. And when it didn’t, I was upset.

After that, I refused to tithe again. I tested God, and in my mind, He had failed me. I probably would have never tithed again had it not been for the wisdom of my husband.

He decided we needed to be on a strict cash budget, and that this budget would include a tithe. I despised the idea of it, but knew it was necessary. And with the sacrifice of my spending habits, the tithe was-and is there.

This past two weeks we didn’t tithe. It was Christmas, we were out if town, and the cash budget went out the window. But Friday we start anew. I must admit, I am tempted to take that cash and spend it on a clothes! I love clothes. But I won’t. Because that is wrong. Way wrong. Instead, God’s getting the Holy guacamole on Friday. All of it. So I’m not tempted to convince my husband that we need it for something else.

Part of learning sacrifice is continued and increased obedience with my finances. This is tough for me! But here you go Lord, after all it’s your guacamole anyways. Help me to be faithful with it.

Sacrifice of praise!!!

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“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.” Hebrews 13:15

It’s New Years Eve! Yippee! Today is day 4 of thirty days of sacrifice and I am so excited to offer up praise! I love that something as simple as praise can be sacrifice!

So here are a few praises and things I am thankful for in 2012…

My husband. He’s so cute and sweet. A few years ago I didn’t know if we would make it. But God helped us overcome, and we are happier than ever. And that’s something to be thankful for!!!

Two sweet adorable children that leave me smiling and laughing every day. My lego master and ballerina. Perfect just as God made them.

A sweet couple who mentored our family back to wholeness and continues to bless us dearly.

My family and friends. They are amazing, both near and far. I cant imagine life without them!

My sweetest ministry partner MelTay. I love you dearly sister.

A home that is cozy, lovely, safe, and warm.

A stable job I love.

A car to drive and clothes to wear.

Buzzy bear, Bob, and Snow – my favorite furry friends 🙂

All my Facebook and bloggy brothers and sisters…you bless me each and every day!

And my bestest friend of all, my Savior, sweet Jesus. He is everything to me. Thank you Lord for another year to serve you. Please help me learn to sacrifice that I might know you more.

How about you? What are you thankful for? I would love to hear! Happy 2013 from our family to yours!