Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crazy Ones

I have to admit... Chan's opening remarks in this section really spoke to me... because I could've said them myself!

"Sometimes I feel like when I make decisions that are remotely biblical, people who call themselves Christians are the first to criticize and say I'm crazy, that I'm taking the Bible too literally, or that I'm not thinking about my family's well being." p. 135

Chan's referring to what happened when he came home from his first trip to Africa. Upon his return, he felt very strongly that he was to sell his house and move into something smaller... thus allowing him to give away more. The response he received when sharing his decision with others (especially other Christians) was a little surprising. Instead of hearing words of encouragement and support, he was met with skepticism and judgment. Chan specifically wrote, "I do not remember a single person who encouraged me to explore it or supported the decision at the time." p. 136. Having that context, here's how he lays out the obsessed characteristic for this topic:

"Obsessed people are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo. A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don't always make sense in terms of success or wealth on this earth. As Martin Luther put it, 'There are two days on my calendar: this day and that day' (Luke 14:25-35; Matt. 7:13-23; 8:18-22; Rev 3:1-6)"p. 136-37.

I'm one of those people that read Crazy Love and felt God's confirmation that downsizing was the right thing for our family... but it should be noted that my husband and I were already contemplating the drastic change well before reading the book! Everything we read just further solidified what we already felt God was putting on our hearts. However, with the exception of very few, the idea was met with lots of resistance. Sometimes, I even heard things like: I hate it when people read this book and feel like they're suppose to sell everything they own and live a life of poverty! This was usually followed up with some comment about how that wasn't realistic or wasn't Chan's intent.

At the time, I would just bite my tongue... if not, I would have said something that I would have regretted! But, as far as Chan's intent, you don't have to read much further in the passage to understand his intent:

"If one person 'wastes' away his day by spending hours connecting with God, and the other person believes he is too busy or has better things to do than worship the Creator and Sustainer, who is the crazy one? If one person invests her or his resources in the poor- which according to Matthew 25, is giving to Jesus Himself- and the other extravagantly remodels a temporary dwelling that will not last beyond his few years left on earth, who is the crazy one?" p. 136.

In my opinion, this leaves little doubt as to what Chan's "intent" is here! He calls us out. He lays all the cards on the table and speaks to, in my opinion, one of the suffocating roots that is binding us from truly becoming followers of Christ... as is intended in the Bible. As I've mentioned before, right now I'm doing a really great Bible study, written by John MacArthur, that's taking me through the Book of Acts. I wanted to study the early church: how it was formed, what the early members did... specifically how they were called to live. And the one thing that has really stuck in my head is how everyone seemed to sell off all their possessions and throw all their money in a pot, so to speak. They weren't required to do so, but many made that choice. They lived sacrificially for one another. So, I guess my question to you... to myself... is this: Do we live sacrificially as part of our faith? Do we give out of our excess, our abundance? Or, do we give in such a way that our lives are altered? I'm not going to sit here and say that we should be doing "X" or "Y".... I think sacrificial giving looks different for each person. But, I will share what's on my heart... just because a dear friend recently put the thought in my head! Do we donate old worn out clothes because we want to clean out our closets (so we can buy new clothes for ourselves)... OR have you ever thought about hanging on to those old clothes and INSTEAD buying new clothes for those in need? Do we go to the store and buy name brand food for our families, but then donate generic brands to give to the local food pantry (and, please note that I'm not criticizing the act of buying generic food! If our goal is stretching the dollar in an effort to give more, then buying generic is the way to go...However, think about how much more we could give if we buy generic food for ourselves... stretching our dollars... and then buying more food (namebrand or generic!)to donate to a food pantry? I'm not saying one is right and one is wrong... and by all means, giving anything is better than giving nothing (though, I know some that would disagree with that last statement!) I just want you to think about your thought process when it comes to giving sacrifically.

My husband and I are ready to make a drastic change. We are ready to sell our house and move into something significantly smaller... even as we prepare for baby #4. It's not because we don't appreciate where we live, or what we have. We have been incredibly blessed in our lives. But, as we grow in our faith, something interesting has happened. Any night of the week, either my husband or I will look around our house and comment on how much "stuff" we have (always in disgust)... things we don't need, things we don't use, things we don't want. We used to "collect" these things: nice furniture, dishes we NEVER use, figurines and small statues that fill the furniture we don't need. We used to rationalize having and purchasing these things because they "made our house a home." But, if we're honest, they don't. What makes our house a home is our family... when we place God at the center. The dynamics of our family have drastically changed these past weeks and with that comes the confirmation that everything else means nothing. All the other stuff keeps us from using our money and time to help those in need. Yes, of course, we have helped those in need and been able to have all the other stuff, too! But, that's not what this is about. It's about TRULY living our lives as Christ calls us to...OR just doing enough to satisfy ourselves (our conscience).

I want to leave you with one last comment from Chan: "Why is it that the story of someone who has actually done what Jesus commands resonates deeply with us, but we then assume we could never do anything so radical or intense? Or why do we call it radical when, to Jesus, it is simply the way it is? The way it should be?"


Spend some time thinking about how you give of yourself (your time and your money)? I'm not going to give you any more direction... I'm trusting that God will take care of that!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Friends of All

This characteristic is quite similar to the first one Chan mentioned. In fact, the only difference is that it specifically places a spotlight on those in need (and the potential corruption of riches)... and what we should be doing about it if we truly consider ourselves followers of Jesus.

"People who are obsessed with Jesus live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another. Obsessed people believe that Jesus talked about money and the poor so often because it was really important to Him (1 John 2:4-6; Matt. 16:24-26)." p. 135

Even though Chan doesn't mention it in this section, I can't help but think about Matthew 25:34-36:

"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me."

I have to admit that God's timing... His providence... is pretty amazing. After our Christmas Day outing, as mentioned before, my husband and I have been consumed with this topic. The fact that I'm getting a double dose of it this week is not a coincidence! On top of that, got a call today from a dear friend- by far the most influential mentor I've had in my faith journey. She had been reading the blog and wanted to discuss one of the topics... which dealt with homelessness. This conversation sent me on mission, of sorts... to see what Scripture says about our role in taking care of the homeless. But, in conjunction with that, also learning the difference between what He calls ALL of us to do as Christians, with what He calls each of us to do as individuals.

When talking to my husband about this, we specifically looked at Matt 25:35: "...I was a stranger and you took Me in." The obvious question here is whether or not this to be taken literally. I won't go into the debate here, but I will share the conclusion we came up with (and by all means, have the debate amongst yourselves... God might place a different conclusion on your heart!) It goes without saying that my husband always errs on the side of caution... it's an occupational hazard. On a daily basis, he sees examples of people taken advantage of, and in some cases, hurt and even killed, because of their generosity (or naivety). Now some people might read what I just wrote and say, "Well then, so be it. We will be martyrs for our faith." But first, I'd like to ask you to ponder something before you make any proclamations. Another Scripture that comes to mind in this situation is Luke 18:29-30:

“'Truly I tell you,' Jesus said to them, 'no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.'" (Luke 9:22-26 might even be a better example!)
Now, I know some people that read this Scripture with an interpretation that requires all of us, in one way or another, to sacrifice our families in order to retain our inheritance in the kingdom of Heaven. But, the problem I have with this is that when you step back and look at the totality of Scripture, this seems somewhat contradictory. There are countless Scriptures reiterating the importance of family, of protecting our children. When I began to dig a little deeper yesterday, it became evident that through dissection of the Scriptures... specifically the context in which each Scripture was written, that all of these pronouncements ring true... HOWEVER, it's in our application of these Scriptures that things start to get a little muddled.

Yes, family is important and we are to protect our children. BUT, if God calls us to do something that might upset the apple cart, if you will...then Luke 18:29-30 should be used as our guide. I can't help but think of Lisa Chan as I write this. Before leaving on their trip, she talked about the fear she felt when thinking about taking her children overseas, not knowing what to expect. Of one thing she was certain, God made it clear that her family was to go... so, she had to be willing to trust God's plan over her concerns (over her "plan).

Bringing this back around to today's characteristic... a somewhat superfluous route, Sorry!...I don't feel that God calls us, in all cases, to open our literal homes to the homeless. (For some of us, this might be the case though and I don't question that!) This is quite unrealistic and, as my husband is eager to point out, can go against our obligation to protect our family. However, this doesn't get us off the hook, so to speak! Matthew 25:35 still speaks of taking stranger in... "In where?" becomes the obvious question: under our wing, into our church, help them find a shelter, a resource center... maybe. I think that depends on you... more importantly, what God places on your heart. From another perspective, look at it this way. Scripture says that we all have spiritual gifts. I feel that mine is encouragement, maybe even teaching. But, I most definitely don't possess them all! In the same vein, we can't be all things to all people. God points each of us on different paths, weaving a tapestry that, when done correctly (meaning through His sovereignty) will envelop the homeless, the sick, the widows, the orphans, etc. We each have a different part to play!

I know today's characteristic dealt with the correlation between befriending the poor and our "love for money"... BUT, God placed something a little different on my heart. And quite honestly, I've beaten the "love of money" issue like a dead horse on this blog! You know where I stand on that.


Spend some time asking God what your part is in the "tapestry." Showing God's love to the poor is essential, but there are countless ways to do it. Don't feel you need to follow someones else's path... maybe He wants you to blaze your own trail!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Becoming a Risk Taker

This one always makes me laugh because my husband and I are the antithesis of risk takers. I have this theory that we're all created to take risks. If you disagree, spend some time with a youngster under the age of two. They are curious about everything and are seemingly fearless in their attempts to embark on new adventures. Of course, as their parents, it's our job to make sure they stay safe... but for an overwhelming majority of us (myself included) I think we overstep the role of "safety procurator." Instead of teaching them to use caution, we just advise them to steer clear, if you will. "Better safe than sorry!" is the ol' saying, right? Even as we become adults, we're still inundated with messages about "playing it safe": life insurance, car insurance, disability insurance. (Of course, there are monetary benefits from these examples... to large corporations. But, that's a whole other can of worms!) The point I'm trying to make here is that we are constantly reminded of all the bad things that "could" happen. As a result, the risks begin to outweigh the potential benefits in our minds... and this applies to a multitude of things in our lives.

So, here's the characteristic that Chan gives us to ponder:

"People who are obsessed with Jesus aren't consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else. Obsessed people care more about God's kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress." p. 133

Now, I think it's important to notice that Chan doesn't say we should ignore our personal safety and comfort... just that we shouldn't be consumed by it! The example he gives in the book was one that gave me pause. He talked about how we always pray for safety when we travel... that we get to and from our destination in one piece, essentially. BUT... what if that isn't God's plan? What if an "interruption" in our travel plans is part of God's plan... a plan that will bring Him glory... a plan that includes bringing countless others to Christ. You hear about it all the time! For example, just in the last few weeks, our church has had two funerals. As a result, we've had countless people show interest (not just in our church... but in Christ!)

But, this is the thought I want to leave you with today: Not every risk has to be about "life and death." What about taking a risk with your financial security? What about changing careers? What about changing your lifestyle? Remember, Chan talked not only about personal safety... but personal comfort! Are you willing to risk your comfort in an effort to become obsessed with Christ? I've written about it many times in this blog. There are countless things in our lives that we hold on to (that we find comfort in) that are inhibiting our growth as Christians. We forget that what God promises us will far exceed any transient comforts we experience on this Earth. It's when we trust Him with these things that we begin to experience the transforming power of His holy hand in our lives.

My family experienced this yesterday morning. Usually, our Christmas mornings are pretty much the same: early morning deluge of endless presents, a constant supply of food coming out of the kitchen, Christmas parade on tv and then laying around the house all day enjoying the spoils of "Santa." Well, this year we stepped out of our comfort zone. This year, we still woke up early and opened presents; however, there were significantly less... about 90% less! But, to our surprise, the kids didn't complain once! (It should be noted that we warned them ahead of time!) After opening presents, we headed out to deliver presents to the homeless. We wrapped scarves and mittens in ribbon and tucked in gift certificates to Dunkin Donuts. Then we went to the local soup kitchen to deliver the bundles. This experience, I dare say, has forever changed me and my husband. As we drove off yesterday, I wept. I could only think of the prayer: Break my heart with what breaks yours, Lord! My heart was definitely broken, but equally, I think my husband and I realized that we live in our "comfort zone" way too much, and that God is calling us to live outside that comfort zone. What does that look like? I don't know. But we're definitely talking about it and praying through it with other people at our church. We are so incredibly blessed to be surrounded with church leadership and members that humbly want to serve God and other people, in His name. But as I sit here and write this, I can't help but wonder what it would look like if we actually took risks in an effort to serve the homeless in our area. I'm not talking about going out once a year (or month, even) and serving food. I'm talking about getting out of our comfort zones and helping them, befriending them! And for the record, let me just say that before yesterday, the thought of this seemed a little unrealistic. But after meeting some of those men and talking to them, it became immediately apparent that there isn't much that separates "us" from "them."

How many lives could God change through us? How many people could we help? The opportunities are endless... we just have to be willing to place the benefits over the risks.


Think about ways you can get out of your comfort zone. If nothing comes to mind, spend some time asking God to help you come up with some ideas. I'm sure He has plenty. But, remember, this is only the first part! Ideas mean nothing until they are put into action!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lovers (of EVERYONE!)

Of the 13 characteristics Chan presents for being obsessed with Christ, this one is BY FAR the hardest for me... and it's probably the hardest for most people. (You'd think he could have, at least, started with something a little easier to swallow!) But, when everything is said and done, this characteristic is undoubtedly the MOST important!

"People who are obsessed with Jesus give freely and openly, without censure. Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back."

Easier said than done, in my humble opinion! What I find so interesting, is that we are presented with two specific "scenarios" in this section... two types of people that are seemingly difficult to love. In the first scenario, Chan looks at Luke 6:32-36:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Is anyone else feeling a little conviction right about now? Well, just in case you're not, let's look at what Chan adds, in an effort to "help" us examine our own lives.

"We are commanded to love our enemies and to do good by them. Who are your enemies? Or in terms we can connect with better, who are the people you avoid or who avoid you? Who are the people who have hurt you or hurt your friend or hurt your kids? Are you willing to do good to those people? To reach out to them?" (emphasis added)

In the passage above, I emphasized the part that I REALLY struggle with. I'm pretty "old school" in my philosophy. I was brought up believing "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." But, for me, I have to take it a step further... and those that know me, understand why. I have a very difficult time holding my tongue. I speak my mind. Period. In an effort to "keep the peace" I avoid those that really tick me off, so to speak. So... you might be wondering: "How's that workin' for ya?" Well, truth be told, it works pretty well with "keeping the peace" outwardly... but it definitely doesn't keep the peace in my heart. In fact, it's just the opposite. The more I avoid, the more incredulous I become. There's one case in particular where I've become so incredibly bitter and resentful that the mere thought of this person makes my blood boil... not exactly what God intended, huh? I don't talk to her on the phone and I'm cordial in person, but, oh my, how this woman gets under my skin... to the point that it literally effects my blood pressure! Can anyone relate?

In the other scenario, Chan references Luke 14:12-14:

"Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

This pretty much cuts directly to the chase. Last night, my husband and I sat on the couch talking about how this Scripture fits into our lives. (It should be noted that we don't have a lot of dinner parties... maybe 5 since we've moved into our house over 5 years ago!) But, the point being made here is that when we look around to the people we surround ourselves with, those we chose to spend out time with... whom do we see? People like us... the same socio-economical background? Or, are we befriending those that have less... those that could never return the kindness and generosity that we are capable of bestowing upon them?

There's a lot to ponder here. I wish I could pass along some words of wisdom to help or encourage you, but alas, I find myself needing those words of wisdom and encouragement myself! But, of this I am quite certain: God has the power to change our hearts. We can try with all our might to "will ourselves" to change... (I'm not sure about you, but for me, that never works out the way I want it!) It might work for a while, but I always find it exhausting. The reason, plain and simple, is that it's an act. In these situations, my heart was never changed, I was just putting on a good show, in an effort to keep the peace... to afford myself the luxury of patting myself on the back after an exhausting visit. But, at the end of the day, my heart still holds resentment, bitterness, anger and hostility. Only God can delivering me from the grips of those things. I've been holding on to those things for years... and the longer I hold on to them, the stronger they grip my heart. The ONLY thing capable of prying loose those strongholds is His gentle hand!


Spend some time in prayer asking Him to reveal any "enemies" you might have... to prick your heart when it comes to those you are avoiding. Maybe you've avoided them so often that you've completely forgotten about them! Also ask Him to open your heart to the possibility and desire to befriend those that are less fortunate... if you're not already doing so. See what God reveals in the days ahead... and don't be surprised if he puts a new face in your path!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What Does It Look Like to Be Obsessed... With Christ?

Chapter 8 begins with a definition for the word obsessed:

Obsessed: to have the mind excessively preoccupied with a single emotion or topic

As I reread this the other day, it made me think of things that I've actually been obsessed with in my life... and none of them were exactly "healthy." There were the TV shows that I scheduled all my activities around, the songs I played over and over again... just so I could learn the lyrics, the key lime pie that I made my husband go out and get at all hours of the night when I was pregnant with our first child (now I make him get Honeycrisp apples- We have 10 pounds in the fridge right now, which I'll devour by in the next three days!) For others, it might be their favorite sports team or celebrity; maybe they obsess about going to the gym or on how they look. I have little doubt that the list of all the things we could obsess over is seemingly endless. But, what about Jesus? By my own omission, I must admit that when I think of someone "obsessed" with Jesus... like many others in the "secular world"... my mind conjures up things like "Jesus Freak" or something far worse. When I spent some time thinking "why", the only thing I could really come up with is the fact that "obsessed" holds a negative connotation in my mind...even when I associate it with Jesus... so, I think, by default, I immediately think of those people that constantly TALK about knowing and loving Jesus... but their talk doesn't match their walk, so to speak.

So, where does this leave me? Well, honestly, a little befuddled as I start reading Chapter 8 again. In the next 13 blog entries, I will dissect each of Chan's characteristics for being "obsessed" with Jesus... what it looks like (and what it doesn't look like)... trying to keep in mind that these are the characteristics we are to embody as followers of Christ. This week, I just started a 12 week study of Acts... the story of the early church. Yesterday, I spent two hours pouring over Chapters 1 and 2, fascinated by what I read... almost like reading something so familiar, yet remembering it as being so different. I don't think this is a coincidence! As I learn about the journeys of the Apostles, those that were truly obsessed with the message of Christ, it will, no doubt, help me focus on my own "obsession" with the Savior... I hope!
Today, I planned on having you read an update from Lisa Chan about how things are going on their trip overseas. So, I was really surprised to find that the most updated blog entry was from Francis. I was even more surprised to read what he wrote! It speaks to what I wrote about, a little. But, in God's awesome way, it spoke to me directly, answering a VERY specific prayer that my husband and I have been praying the last few days. I'm constantly amazed at how God works... better yet, how God draws closer to me as I draw closer to Him. You hear it preached at church all the time, but, to be honest, I've become a little numb to it... desensitized, if you will. I hear pastors talk about it, but I've always wondered what it actually looks like, feels like... not from a minister's point of view or someone that has walked in faith for a while... but for someone like me, that questions the possibility. It's really cool to experience this closeness in a tangible way! For the first time, I dare say ever, I feel that God is close, not abstract... that He is leading me in a direction... still not sure where He has me headed... but, then again, for the first time, I don't really care!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What Are You Doing With Your Talents?

As we finish up the last part of Chapter 7, we'll be taking a look at Matthew 25, the parable of the talents. In the story, a man is leaving on a long journey and entrusts his possessions to his servants according to their abilities. He gives the first servant five talents. The second servant is given two talents and the third is given one talent. As for the first two servants, they take what is given to them and go to work, so to speak... doubling what was given to them. The third servant, however, takes his talent and buries it in the grown for "safe" keeping. Upon the master's return, he congratulates the first and second servants for what they have done. For you see, the master entrusted his servants with those talents as a test... to see if they could be entrusted with more. The master, as a reward to his "good and faithful" servants, puts them in charge of many things. The third servant, however, upon sharing with his master that he placed his talent in the ground, is told that he is "evil and lazy." The servant's excuse for his actions were based on what he considered to be his master's dishonesty and cruelty. Regardless, the master cast the third servant out into darkness, giving his one talent to the first servant. With that, the master replied, "for the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." Matthew 25:29.

So... how does this parable relate to our faith in Christ? Well, my interpretation is this: When we use the talents bestowed upon us, in faithful service, the result is increased responsibilities in His kingdom. On the flip side, wasting our talents... or better yet, not sharing our talents with others, leads to condemnation. Yet, what I find so incredibly striking is the suggestions that not using our talents can result in us being cast out of the kingdom of heaven, a loss of stewardship, eternal weeping by our Savior. Is it really that black and white?

The other night, my husband was reading chapter 5 for his small group... the "dreaded" chapter 5! He put the book down and looked at me, about to say something... and then he stopped. I couln't help but laugh, because I knew exactly what he was going to say. After a little prompting, his comment went something like this: If we are to take the Bible as a LITERAL instruction book for life, then we're in big trouble! (He's was at the part about selling everything you own, picking up the cross and following Jesus!) I told him it's important to remember that we aren't perfect (which is where the grace of God comes in!)... HOWEVER, we also can't get caught in the trap of using God's grace as an excuse for making bad decisions.

We live in a society that wants quick fixes. People are more interested in taking a diet pill with horrible side effects or undergoing elective surgery (which, consequently, give pretty fast results), instead for making lifestyle changes that are difficult and take time, in an effort to get the same result. I've talked to several people who've done exactly this, and every one of them admitted they were tired of struggling with their lack of will-power. They just wanted something to get them to the end result they wanted... no matter what road they had to take to get there! So, how does this relate to the parable of talents, you might be asking? Hang in there for a minute! Some of us have been conditioned to hold on to what we have... to cling to it even... for fear of losing it, or fear of it being taken away. The thought of letting it go, in hopes that it will become something more isn't something we're interested in... it's a gamble we aren't willing to take. I can think of three things right now in my life that fit into this exact analogy! What if... I let it go and it doesn't come back (figuratively speaking!)? The obvious answer is that whatever it is... it wasn't part of God's plan... but that doesn't make it any easier to let go of. I know the end result that I'm looking for. I want to live my life as Christ calls me to live it. There isn't a quick fix for that. There's only one way to get there. The process can be arduous, painful... the pruning process isn't exacly fun, trust me! But, what we learn on the journey is life changing... and that's what we must remember: This is a journey that is dependent on Christ's power to change our hearts. We can't do this alone. If He wants you, or me, to literally sell everything we own and follow Him, then He will change our hearts in a way that will align "our plan" with His. I don't believe for one minute that this is a prerequiste for being a follower of Christ. But, I do believe that we are to take what He has entrusted us with... our talents... and use them for the betterment of His kingdom. I have no doubt that if we serve Him in this way, we will be entusted with more... He will reveal to us more of His will for our lives. He will change our hearts, making them more like His!


We're heading into Chapter 8! Take a look at the video.

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Time For An Update!

Well, I'm officially back "online" again. As I mentioned in the last post, I spent the past 3 weeks "unplugged" in an effort to reconnect with my family... and it was most definitely worth it. The past 3 weeks have been such an amazing blessing. We took a road trip to Florida, by way of North Carolina for a Thanksgiving stop at Grandma's house. After that, we took our yearly pilgrimage to Florida. Usually this trip is filled to the brim with activities from sun up to sun down, but this year we did things a little different (in an effort to save both money and our sanity!). But, what I did get to do was spend a lot of quiet time with God...reading, studying, listening to music, talking about Him with my husband. One of the main purposes of this trip was for me and my husband to make a very important decision: Are we willing to COMPLETELY follow Christ? It sounds rather simple... but when you know, for a fact, that some of the things in your life don't line up with truly following Him, it can get a little uncomfortable. And truth be told, we can spend the next decade talking about being followers of Christ and what it looks like....OR we can work on becoming followers of Christ.

On the ride home from Florida, I began thinking about this blog and how God has used it to help me on this journey. And then I realized that with everything that I've written, I've never really taken the opportunity to share with you what He has done in my life. So before I pick up on the rest of Crazy Love, I want to give you a little glimpse into the past 6 months of my life. And here's a little warning: It's not pretty at times... but I'm not someone willing to shy away from my own inadequacies. In fact, it's really the opposite. I try to acknowledge them, give them over to Him and allow Him to change the "not-so-pretty" circumstances (on behaviors) into something that brings Him glory.

Six months ago, life was pretty good for us. My husband had willingly made a career change (which meant substantially less money, but more time with the family... and less stress!) I was also in the process of "kicking off" the non-profit that we just started, which included training for a marathon as part of a fundraiser. Summer was in the up-swing, so homeschooling was almost a distant memory. Everything seemed right with the world, until I started feeling a little sick. My first thought was that I wasn't fueling my body properly for all the running I was doing. But, on a routine trip to the doctor's office for one of my kids, I asked for a pregnancy test... ONLY because I wanted to ease my mind and rule the impossibility out of existence. However, the seemingly impossible became an unbelievable reality. In that one moment, my life literally flashed before my eyes... at least, the life I thought I was going to have. What happened next is really a blur, but of this I am certain: This was NOT part of my plan.

The next few weeks were probably the most critical, when it comes to my faith. My emotions were all over the place... but none of them included joy. Inevitable questions began to arise: How are we going to afford another baby? How are we going to find balance with four kids... because we were already struggling with three? And for me, the one question I didn't want to face was where this left the non-profit... something I have spent hundreds of hours on and more money than we could afford. Then... in my darkest moments... there were the questions I angrily threw at His feet: How could you allow this? What more do you want from me? Haven't I given and sacrificed enough? (Like I said, it wasn't pretty! But, it's honest.)

Looking back on it now, I see those moments for what they were: I was hitting rock bottom. I am a consummate multi-tasker....juggler. The problem, however, was that God (and by default, my faith) was just something else I was juggling... when in actuality, it should have been the foundation I was firmly planting my feet upon. When describing this to my friends, I always say that God just decided to throw in another ball for me to juggle... knowing good and well that this one final ball (aka, our fourth child), would cause me to drop all the balls... making me, for the first time, take a look at my life... where I was going, what I was doing... and more importantly, who I was following.

During this time, God placed a Scripture on my heart that I have held so tightly to the past 6 months: "Be still, and know that I am God." Psalms 46:10. It seems pretty simple, but for someone like me... it's almost impossible! I did my best with it for the remainder of the summer, but in the fall, it's almost impossible to "be still." Slowly things began to pick up and by November, once again, I didn't know if I was coming or going. So, these past few weeks were a drastic attempt of escaping my life... a life that I've created... in earnest hope of hearing God's voice... learning what He wants my life to be.

So... Did I "hear" from God? Yes... not audibly... but He lovingly bestowed one confirmation after another as to what direction my family needs to take. I stopped asking Him to reveal "the big picture" to me... even though it would be nice to know where my husband will be working next year, how I'm going to handle four children, if I'll be homeschooling on top of everything else... and what will happen to the non-profit! Instead, I began focusing my request on what He wants me to be focusing on right now, one day at a time. His answer: my family. My husband and I have decided that we need to completely focus on family for the next 4 weeks. This means no extra curricular activities for the kids, dinner as a family every night, no computer while the kids are up. Instead, our nights are filled with books, puzzles, games and endless talent shows. When talking to someone about this the other day, their response was that my expectations weren't realistic... but the only expectation I have is to reconnect with my family. In the past few weeks, God made it very clear that my priorities are reflected by where I spend my time. But, more importantly, as much as I want to develop a ministry outside the walls of my home, I cannot forget the HUGE ministry that resides within it. Yes, balance is important... but when, as a Christian, you're trying to balance God along with everything else (instead of building your foundation on Him), that elusive "balance" is unattainable... believe me, I've tried!

I've learned a lot these past few months... about myself, my faith, my family. When I reflect back on where I was 6 months ago, I often tell people that I was standing on a precipice, a jagged cliff. I had a choice to make: I could trust God and His plan for me, or I could become angry, bitter, resentful, fearful. I chose the former and God, as always, has been truly faithful. In the midst of chaos and a barrage of unanswered questions, I have this consuming peace. More than that, I'm so incredibly excited to meet the newest member of our family... because it was the gift of our son that has allowed me to fully embrace God's rightful place in my life and His plan for me... whatever that may be!