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We Are Family

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes on a 1-word prompt without heavy editing, and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “hospitality.”

Once upon a time I took a spiritual gifts test which determined that I had the gifts of administration and hospitality. Being fairly young in my journey with Jesus, I didn’t completely know what that meant, but I did know that I was pretty organized and good at keeping things going, and that I liked to be with people.

Is that all there was to it?

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As the years have gone by, my home has become one in which people like to gather. It’s not huge, it’s not fancy, it’s not even all that clean (I had a friend describe it as clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy), but people are welcome and they know it.

Every Christmas we have a huge gathering of friends for Christmas dinner. At last count we were at 50-something, I think. I have people call and say, “We don’t have plans, can we come to your place?” Even when the number seems overwhelming, nobody is turned away. Most of us have moved far from our family of origin, so our friends have become that family to us.

Every time that I think about maybe scaling back and tightening our circle, I look around at the faces and there’s not a one I would consider losing. How do you purposefully cut off a hand or a foot?

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And so we continue setting tables on the back porch, thankful for the mild December weather in Florida, and rejoice in the bounty of our friendships.

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Measure Up

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes, without heavy editing, on a one-word prompt and see what we come up with. Today’s prompt is “measure.”

Luke 6:38 records Jesus saying, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

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If you use kind words, kind words will be returned (ideally).

If you give generously, you will receive generously.

If you love greatly, you will be greatly loved.

I have a sweet friend who just underwent a series of chemo treatments for breast cancer. And then she had surgery. All the while she gave glory to God for the growth she had seen in herself. She always had tons of friends making comments to her on her Facebook page whenever she would post about her cancer journey.

At one point she thanked everyone for their support and love and prayers. She couldn’t believe she had so many great friends and family. The support really helped her get through it.

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As I read that, I just had to comment that people loved her well because she loved well herself. She wasn’t grumpy or a back stabber or unkind in any way. She might have been amazed at the quality of her friends, but it was because they were a reflection of her, and she was a reflection of Jesus.

The measure which she used was the one used to measure back to her. And it was a beautiful thing to behold.

The golden rule is right: treat others the way you want to be treated. Not the way they treat you, no matter how good or bad. Just the way you want to be treated.

Do you want a large measure used for what you will receive? Then use that large measure in your dealings with other people.

It just makes sense.

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I Am My Sister’s Keeper

I have a group of 6 women friends with whom I share life on a daily basis.

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So sorry to be missing 1 friend in this picture. Back row from left: me, Marjorie, Julie; front: Alyson, Keturah, Crystal

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Alyson, Julie and me

We live near each other. We attend the same church. We all were involved in the same K-8 school for many years. We are raising our kids together, walking through troubled times and celebrations. Graduations, jobs, school successes. Two of them came and sat in the lobby of the hospital and prayed when my grandson was being born. Even our kids have become really good friends.

We’ve laughed and cried and raged and cheered. We pray earnestly and often. We share holidays together because most of our families are far off.

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Marjorie, Keturah and me

We have a Facebook messenger group where we are available whenever we need each other.

We were built for community, and we are all aware that what we have with each other is not normal. We have a bond that will transcend place if anyone would take the gigantic step of moving away.

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Kehau and Alyson (they’re sisters in law)

 

We know each other well.

As women, we thrive on the words we exchange. We don’t always have to do something together, but we know we are always there for one another. Because we all have families, getting together isn’t always easy, but those times are precious too.

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Crystal and Alyson

 

We call ourselves the “wonder women.” Our tribe. Our cadre. Our peeps. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and need to remind each other of that fact often. We can also do wonderful things as we make our requests known to the God of the universe who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or think. And we share the wonder of that great God.

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Keturah and me

 

We are unique in that we have such a group of soul sisters, but we certainly don’t want to be alone in that fact. Pray, ask God for such a group. It doesn’t have to be 7 like we have. Just 2 or 3 will be a blessing as long as you can share your hearts and be honest with each other.

Go, find your tribe.

 

This post is part of the Five-Minute Friday link up. Join the fun!

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The Power of Friendship

I told my daughter today that I needed to write. She said, “You should write about the power of friendship.”

IMG_0632That’s something she thinks about a lot, being just a couple of months shy of 15. This past year has been dominated by a group of friends she and her 18-year-old brother have that call themselves The Marathoners. It started as a small gathering from the youth group at church that got together weekly to watch movies (thus the name “Marathoners,” from movie marathons, not running marathons.)

It’s funny how just watching movies together can bond people so closely.

The group normally met at the home of a young husband and wife who were volunteer leaders with the group. We knew them fairly well, in fact I mentored the wife, getting together with her each week, so we felt comfortable with all the people involved.

Oh my, how this group loves each other. They formed a chat group and message each other numerous times during the day both to solidify plans and to share funny videos, songs, poetry, prayer, or whatever they desire. Many of them even camped together with a couple of the dads for one’s birthday in order to see a meteor shower.

While keeping tabs on the kinds of things they were sharing with each other, I also cautioned my kids to beware of becoming a clique and to be sure they were including FullSizeRender-3others, especially at youth group meetings where there could be those who felt left out. I told them there would be those who were envious of the kids in the “cool group.” They assured me, “Mom, we’re far from the ‘cool kids.'”

Maybe so, but the closeness and love the Marathoners show for each other would be obvious to those observing.

And then something catastrophic happened.

The young wife, whose secrets I had been aware of for quite some time, went public on Facebook that she and her husband were separating and the leadership of the church had told her that she was not allowed to have contact with any of the youth inside or outside of Wednesday night youth group.

FullSizeRenderTwo problems: #1 That statement wasn’t true

and #2 Without any context whatsoever, that announcement sent the Marathoners into a tailspin.

In a rush of texts and tears and frenzied phone calls, we pulled together the Marathoners and the leadership of the youth the very next day, knowing that we needed them to hear the truth of the matter and have a time to process it all together.

I will forever be grateful for the way the leaders handled that meeting, and for the maturity that my kids showed. As we processed together in the following days, my son showed a huge heart for these friends who meant so much to him. And my daughter, who had been very close to the young wife, cried over this situation more than any other in her life, but found solace in the group who leaned in and loved each other even more.

Just a couple of weeks later, both of my kids were asked to speak to upcoming middle school and high school students at a graduation event at church. My daughter, who hates being in front of people, bravely took the stage to address the rising 5th graders and spoke from her heart about how having the right friends and trusting the leaders of TheCity (the name of the youth group) were so very important for their middle school years. If it FullSizeRender 2weren’t for The Marathoners, she didn’t know how she would have survived struggles she had with long-time friends at school. They meant the world to her.

I can’t say that I have a lot of friends still from high school, and certainly not from junior high. Not only do I live on the other side of the country now, but that was almost 40 years ago. But those friendships I have maintained grew and blossomed in the soil of a solid youth group.

This summer, we’re enjoying having the group over to swim. It gets my 2 introvert cave dwellers out a lot more. I love hearing their laughter, watching their friendship and praying for them.

FullSizeRenderThe power of friendship. It can change everything. It’s what Jesus wants for us. Oneness with Him, and oneness with each other.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47 ESV).

Why I Write: A Blog Hop

hopscotchHopscotch was always a favorite game of mine when I was a kid. I can’t hop too much these days as years of bouncing babies trying to help them fall asleep has taken its toll on my knees. But there’s a new kind of hopping going on, and it’s called a Blog Hop. The purpose is to introduce you to other bloggers I think you might enjoy.

Fellow blogger, and someone I hope will be a new friend when she and her family move to Orlando soon, Julie Sanders included me in her Blog Hop last week. julie-sanders-2I’ve only met Julie once in person, in a ladies’ room during a conference we were both attending in Colorado of all places, but I’ve been impressed in her writing by her passions for life, God and her family.

Julie says about herself that she’s a “wife, mother, daughter, friend, and friend of Jesus.” She loves good food, a good book, and talking with good friends late into the night. She admits that she’s a huge fan of her husband and her three boys. Her house is filled with their music, Legos, books and artwork. You can get to know Julie through her blog Along The Way. It was cool for me to learn that Julie and a friend of mine from college know each other. It’s a small world, after all.

So, for this Blog Hop, each writer will answer 4 questions about their writing on their own blog in the near future. After I answer those questions, I will introduce you to these 3 other bloggers that I think you would enjoy. So, here goes.

1. What am I writing or working on?  At the moment, the only writing I’m doing is for my blogs; Compelled, which is what you’re reading right now, and then the one I just recently started, That Senior Year, chronicling my eldest’s journey through his last year of high school. Compelled is a mish mash of thoughts. Most of the time I use things I come across in everyday life to draw a spiritual parallel. Sometimes I talk about parenting; sometimes I talk about current events.

My tag line is “because some things just need to be said.” I’m not very controversial, but I do have strong feelings about some things, so I will talk about them sometimes. I have always wanted to write The Great American Novel, but I keep waiting for inspiration that hasn’t come. I take comfort whenever I read about a writer who wrote a best seller after they turned 60. I’ve still got time!

Actually, I’ve been pondering writing a book that I tentatively call “From Modesty to Marriage: A Former Virgin’s Guide to Being Physically Generous With Your Spouse.” Having grown up in a household where bodily functions were never talked about, and in a church where good girls were modest and nobody really understood what that meant, I entered marriage not understanding how to enjoy the physical relationship I had with my husband. We’re still working on it, and it’s been a battle, but I’m doing much better, thanks to counseling and the Lord. I would love to help other young women enter marriage a little more easily than I did.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? Because I’m a unique person, the perspective I bring to my writing is unique. Nobody has the children I have, nobody speaks with my same voice. Has anyone else ever written about how their hermit crabs taught them about life? I didn’t think so. I speak with a touch of humor, and I try to always be respectful. That in itself is different these days!

3. Why do I write what I do? I really want my writing to influence others. Will what I say make a difference in someone’s life today? It always makes my day when someone tells me that my blog post made them think or challenged them or even made them laugh. The most fun emails I get are the ones from wordpress that say someone “liked” my post or started following me. Yay! But even if no one was reading, my desire would be to glorify God in the process. Does He like what I write? Then that’s all I need.

4. How does my writing process work? The last post I wrote, “A Fork in the Road,” came about because I actually kept seeing literal forks in the road as I rode my bike. My husband often says to me, “You ought to write a blog post about that.” Sometimes, things just occur to me. In a few days, I plan on writing a post about things that make me say, “Wait, what?” Sometimes I’ll watch a movie or read a book and want to talk about it, as I did with “Parental Supervision” and the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series. I tend to write quickly without a lot of editing, but if I think something is going to garner a lot of criticism, I give it a lot of thought and prayer. Sometimes I send it to my husband to preview before I post it. His input is invaluable. So there you have it. That’s all about me. Now, I want you to meet 3 friends.

The first is Dena Yohe. Dena has been on a purpose-filled adventure with Christ for 41 years. She and her husband, Tom, married 36 Denayears, are the co-founders of Hope for Hurting Parents, birthed out of their own pain with one of their daughters who struggled with addiction, self-injury, suicidal attempts and mental illness. She calls herself an accidental writer as her pain became her passion. What began as a way of processing the most difficult experiences of her life through journaling, turned into daily emails and then a blog to offer encouragement, resources, and hope to parents on their journey from pain to peace. She loves being mom to 3 wonderful children (31, 27 and 25) and Mimi to two precious granddaughters. Check out her blog,  Hope For Hurting Parents, and her website of the same name.

Next up is my sweet friend Becca Ramirez.

beccaBecca, a born and raised Floridian, has just recently moved to Texas with her husband and their two daughters.  She is a lover of good food, board games, traveling, books, and words.  While always an avid “journaler,” Becca only recently began seeking opportunities to expand (and publish) her writing.  Her blog, Simply Living the Life, serves as an outlet for the roller coaster of thoughts that pummel through her mind.  Her desire is to write and speak in a greater capacity, reaching the hearts and minds of youth (particularly teenage/college-aged girls). Becca is a sweet, smiling friend whom we all miss very much since her move to Texas. I think you will enjoy her thoughts.

Last, but not least, I want you to meet Rachel Knox, an almost-18-year-old that I have known since she was a small girl with wild,Rachel curly hair. She and my son Justin are just 2 days apart in age. As Rachel is also going into her senior year of high school, it’s fun to hear and read her perspective on the process. Rachel was born and raised in Orlando as her parents are missionaries with Cru. From an early age, her creativity was a dominant trait which is evident through her love of dance, sewing and anything DIY.

After attending a small Christian school from kindergarten through middle school, she enrolled in public high school, what she calls “an utterly different environment than before.” In an attempt to keep friends and family afar updated on her journey through high school, Rachel created this blog, Imperfectly Living|Perfectly Loved, to highlight the ups, the downs and the lessons learned in her everyday life.

I hope you have the time to go check out these 4 writers that you’ve been introduced to here. I think you’ll like them as much as I do!

 

What Modern Technology Does For Prayers

I have had the privilege more in the past couple of years, it seems, to pray for people I don’t know. I’m not just talking about general prayers for all the unsaved people in Asia or Africa, or all the people who were affected by the latest hurricane, tornado, earthquake, etc. I’m talking about specific prayers for individuals who have names and stories, but whom I’ve never met.

One of these people is a man named Greg. He and his wife are on staff, as we are, with Cru. I’ve never met them, but their story caught my attention. Nearly two years ago, Greg was the recipient of a new heart. I began praying for him after reading his story on our Campus Crusade for Christ women’s resource web page. Now, I receive email updates whenever there is something to report. Two years later, he’s had a couple of setbacks with his transplant, but he and his wife–and I who have been praying for him–are praising God for his new lease on life.

Another person I pray for is Anna, the adult daughter of a friend of mine. Ten months ago, Anna had her 7th baby. What they thought was going to be a routine delivery ended up being a nearly life-ending tragedy for Anna. I prayed often throughout the days for Anna and her family, that God would spare her. He saw fit to do so when every doctor attending her thought there was no chance. I rejoice with her family at her survival. She still struggles with repercussions, so  I still pray for her as her mom sends updates.

Then, just recently, I prayed for another friend of a friend whose newborn son was born without a trachea. My heart ached for this family who should have been celebrating the birth of their twin sons, but instead held vigil over their one who had little hope of survival. And though this baby outlived all expectations, God took him home just a few short months after his birth.

Currently, I am praying for the 13-year-old daughter of another family I don’t know personally, but they work at Cru headquarters, and we have mutual friends. When this young girl woke up from a routine endoscopy, she couldn’t remember anything; her mind was a total blank. What a weird and scary circumstance. I pray for her everyday, and I am thankful for daily updates that give me specifics.

What all these scenarios have in common, beside the fact that they involve committed followers of Jesus, is that I heard about these needs either via email, Facebook or an internet website. People literally all over the world could be praying for these people within minutes of a posting, whereas previous to these electronic avenues, that would not have been so immediately possible.

Take my sister’s little dog, Luna, for instance. My niece posted on Facebook that Luna had gotten lost a good distance from her home in Kirkland,Washington, and would we please pray for her? Immediately we started praying. We checked for updates and prayed every day. Finally, nearly a week later, I got a text from my niece: Luna has been found! Literally the minute Luna jumped into my sister’s arms, I knew about and could rejoice with her, tears blurring my eyes. And I hadn’t even met this dog. But she is important to my sister and her family, thus she is to me.

Is God different now that there’s an internet? No. But we have always known that prayer changes things. The ability to rally the troops all over the world to petition God for the needs of His saints is powerful. It’s a privilege to pray for these needs, and I’m thankful for the technology that allows me to know about these needs.

Thankful today for:

619. windows open all day

620. a profusion of pink roses

621. the Raiders on TV in Orlando, win or lose

622. companies that stand by their products

623. technology

Clean Living

20120413-193628.jpgThis is my friend Carlton. He lives near where we’re working this week, so David and I visited him when we had some free time this afternoon. He turned 99 in February. He was married for 55 years until his wife died in 1994. He has followed Jesus for 35 years.

He worked as an accountant.
He never went to college.
He’s made a quilt.
He writes poetry.

He was diagnosed years ago with macular degeneration, but after praying with his pastor and others, Carlton experienced healing. He woke up one morning and said, “I can see! I can see!”

Carlton and his wife had three children. One son died at 14 days, another in his 40s from a brain tumor. He has a daughter and two granddaughters. He and his wife basically raised one of them.

Four years ago, that granddaughter asked Carlton to pay the interest on a loan, which was $250 a month. He couldn’t do it. It was too much for him financially. That granddaughter hasn’t talked to him since.

He says he forgave her. But she holds onto the grudge.

Carlton is a sweet, generous, humble servant of Jesus. This granddaughter has broken his heart.

Carlton prays for our family everyday. God has given him 99 years and a clear mind. Some might attribute his longevity to clean living: he would attribute it to a clean heart.

Thankful today for:
191. A short drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
192. God’s Spirit moving around the world
193. My friend Carlton