Monday, November 30, 2015

TEN WAYS YOU CAN GIVE {EVERYDAY}

 
Today is GIVING TUESDAY, in case you didn't hear! It's a day (The Tuesday after Thanksgiving & the ever notorious Black Friday (in which humanity tends to show her greed in full force)) that people are supposed to band together and give to causes across the globe. It really is a beautiful thing.....at the same time, I happen to think that deep and lasting change happens from giving more frequently than once a year. Giving more than finances. It also seems to happen way closer to home. It begins in our own hearts. In the way we live our lives. 

Here are ten practical ways that YOU can give EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

ONE.
ENCOURAGE SOMEONE TODAY. Tell someone you care about how and why you value them. Compliment a stranger. Write a note to a coworker, boss, friend, or family member and tell them what they mean to you. Don't be critical. Find the good and call it out in people. Remind someone that they are worth loving.

TWO.
SERVE SOMEONE TODAY. Open a door for someone. Bake some cookies for a friend or neighbor. Do your teenager's laundry...even though it's their job. Scrape the ice off of someone else's window. Cut the neighbor's grass (mine does this and it BLESSES me big time!!). Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food pantry. Just DO something for someone else.

THREE.
SMILE AT SOMEONE. This should be self-explanatory....but in the event it's not...I'll explain it. Your mouth does this really cool thing when you lift your cheeks and pull them back. It's called a smile. It can brighten up the darkest of days. You never know how this simple gesture can make a difference in someone's day. Make smiling your favorite.   

FOUR.
SAVE MONEY YOU WERE GOING TO SPEND & GIVE IT TO SOMEONE ELSE. Skip a latte, a fast food run, another pair of shoes that you don't need. Give that money to someone in need. There are many amazing organizations out there doing good DAILY. There are people in your own life that need a helping hand. So, save what you would spend on something you don't need & spend it on something LASTING. 

FIVE.
LISTEN TO SOMEONE. Having someone take the time to know WHO you are, and to CARE about what is going on in your world is one of the greatest gifts. To know that you are worth someone's time in this ultra busy world is a treasure. Be a listener.

SIX.
APOLOGIZE TO SOMEONE. Let's face it...sometimes we can be REAL idiots. So, my guess is that you've messed up at least once today. I know I for sure have. So, make it right on your end. Apologize and ask for forgiveness. Then, don't do it again. (And if you fail at that, too...well, you'll be thankful for #7)

SEVEN.
FORGIVE SOMEONE. Maybe even yourself. In this world there WILL be trials. In this life we WILL mess up. Sometimes big time. People will hurt us. We will hurt people. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. 

EIGHT.
MOVE FOR SOMEONE. Offer the better seat to someone else. Don't ignore the guy with his blinker on trying to get in your lane. Let someone behind you go in front of you in line. Change your plans to be there for someone in need. Rearrange your day to be a blessing to someone else. 

 NINE.
THINK ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE. Think of others before yourself. Think before you speak. Think of how your actions & decisions will affect those around you. Think about how your words will impact the heart of the person you're talking to OR about.

TEN.
BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.

Be kind. Be loving. Be thoughtful. Be humble. Be loyal. Be forgiving. Be merciful. Be honest. This world is full of heartache....be someone that seeks to be a DIFFERENCE-MAKER. Change and be THE change. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

FOR MY JOEY {AS YOU PREPARE TO STEP OUT}


Two more work days until we step into the "great unknown". I know that God has called us to this new season of full-time missions, and I have great confidence that we are smack dab in the middle of what He has for us. You have been an absolute gift to so many youth (and so many families) over the last 15 years. I have no doubt that you have impacted lives more substantially than you could even begin to imagine. The past 5 years, at First Free, have been so beautiful that it's hard to imagine why God would ask us to walk into something new...except for that He must have something even more incredible in store. You KNOW that I will follow you wherever you feel led.... I have the deepest possible confidence that you are seeking Jesus with your whole heart. Because of that, I have zero doubt that you are going EXACTLY where He would have you (and us) go.

I imagine that as you lead our family into the "great unknown" that you must be nervous. That you must feel inadequate. That you must wonder if you made the right decision to walk away from something so familiar, so comforting, so secure. I want to assure you that you are going the RIGHT way. As I was grabbing last minute birthday gifts for Aiyana, I was praying for you. I was asking God to show me how I could encourage you. I was drawn to the cologne department. 

Here is what was revealed to me in the best smelling section of TJ MAXX. 

 



Do you see the box? It's a bit busted up. You may feel that you aren't good enough. That you aren't capable. That you aren't the guy. The TRUTH is...God has got bigger, and more beautiful, plans for your life than you could EVER imagine. I firmly believe that as He is working out the brokenness in your life, that He is also creating in YOU a fresh impact. You are a man of many capabilities and a man of increasing integrity. In this FRESH season He will use you to IMPACT people that HE has prepared in advance for you to impact. I pray that as you open this box and see the bottle inside that you would realize that the things God is working out in you aren't deeper than He is able to go to to fix. The impact that HE has for your life isn't wider than He is able to stretch his arms to accomplish...through your submitting and stepping out to follow Him. Through your faithfulness.

PHILIPPIANS 1:3-6
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."



The water He is asking you to step into may seem like it's ICE cold. It might be terrifying. It might be daunting. It might be too vast, and too dark from the shore. You might think that as you DIVE into the great wide open that you'll fail. Truth is, HE is waiting out there for you. He is in the SAME boat as you. 

Remember this? (click it) DON'T FORGET WHO'S IN YOUR BOAT

 
You may being feeling exhausted from the giving, serving and pouring out that is part of your DNA. You may even feel you don't know how much more you have to give. In this season I pray that you would find DEEP ENERGY that can ONLY come from remaining attached to the VINE. As you abide in Jesus and remain in HIM, you will be rejuvenated from deep inside of you. You will bear more fruit than you can even begin to comprehend.


JOHN 15:5-8
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."


My sincere hope for you (in this new adventure & throughout your lifetime) is that you would tap into the EXTREME POWER you have through CHRIST in ways that you have never tapped in before. I know that as you seek first HIS kingdom, EVERYTHING else will be added. 

EPHESIANS 1: 18-23
" I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms,  far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church,  which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.


JOEY....YOU, my LOVE, are part of the VICTORY LEAGUE. God has given you a unique skill-set, a level of gifting that I've yet to see matched, faithfulness that is inspiring, and a wife & family that is behind you in every single solitary situation we will face. I will always be your biggest fan. I will always be cheering for you to be the best you possible. I will always pray for you. I will always believe in you. We will fail each other many times in our lifetime....but I can promise you this...my love and support for you will ALWAYS remain. 

I am beyond excited for this new season. (A bit nervous, too.) I know that the uncertainty can cause us to stumble and fear.....but I also know that with Jesus in the center of our family we will SOAR on wings of eagles. We will run and not grow weary. We will walk and not grow faint. The LORD will be our hope & strength. 
 
 
ISAIAH 40:28-32
Do you not know?  Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.



I pray that each time you spray or lather on one of these scents... that you would be reminded of these truths. I hope that as you smell it on you throughout your day... that you would think upon the mighty love that God has for you, and that you would be ENCOURAGED in each step you take. I love you TONS of BILLIONS of INFINITIES. 

Sami {forever in your corner}

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

YOU ARE A LEMON {Let me explain.}


 **(This is for a friend.....but...I hope it encourages you, too.)**

As I was driving home from the grocery store today, I was praying for you because I felt you needed to be encouraged. My prayers started with "What would you have me to tell him?" I heard over and over... "Lemon.Lemon.Lemon" Really? I mean....LEMON? "That's what you want me to tell him? That he's a LEMON? Seriously." As I continued praying and asking more I began to discover why.

For ages lemons have gotten a BAD wrap. If you buy a car that turns out to have problem after problem...it's "a lemon". More likely than not you've considered a "lemon" to mean something that doesn't live up to it's expectations, or even a disappointing purchase. "Lemon" can also be speaking of something or someone that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.  Heck, it could even be a less than fabulous situation in your life. If something crappy is happening people will say "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  

So, when I heard that I was supposed to tell you that you are a lemon...I thought "Great. You want me to tell him he's broken?" Well, yes. I guess so. But, it's so much more than that. 

Lemons are known for their TOUGH outer skin. Most people open up a lemon and use the juice. It's our human nature to neglect the work it takes to get to what we want. To get to what is deeper. Sometimes the zest is needed, but often times people skip the essence and go straight for the goods. This is not the case with your loving Father. He wants to use it ALL. 

Your skin is tough. From the outside people would think that things don't phase you. They'd think you don't struggle and that you are secure in your own skin. They think your world is perfect and that you must not ever REALLY doubt. You must not waiver. You must always be courageous. They're wrong, and it's okay. God is working on you. Just like a cook grates off the peel of a lemon to add zest for unique seasoning in a dish, HE is grating off your flesh because HE has a UNIQUE plan and purpose for you in HIS kingdom. And, because He loves you deep, far and wide. You see, inside of the lemon is where the extra good stuff is. Once the peel is grated off, the juice is revealed. The REAL fruit. The TRUEST fruit. And even deeper than the peel...the flesh...the juice..is the seed. The seeds replanted spring forth a NEW life. This is what God has for you. As He reveals to you the toughness in your skin (that you've really put there to protect the beautiful fruit inside), and as you submit it to Him HE will bring about new life in your midst. In your own life and in the lives of those you get to touch. 

Lemons have purpose, and plenty of it.

Lemons preserve fruit. Now, we all know that it is not YOUR job to preserve the fruit of any man or woman...that is the job of the HOLY SPIRIT alone. With that said, you have been gifted in a way that you can deliver HIS truth and HIS heart to cause lasting fruit in a life that is submitted. 

Lemons have purpose, and plenty of it. 

Lemon mixed with baking soda and rubbed on dry, scaly skin can exfoliate and expose smooth, refined skin. Many times the people you get to speak into are hard. They are calloused. They are hurt and they are in much need of loving truth. The same God that seeks to reveal the truest fruit inside of you is in turn using you to lead others to the same place of a flesh- removing, fruit-producing abundant life.

Lemons have purpose, and plenty of it.

Lemons remove tough stains on marble. Marble is porous and easily stained and damaged. The stains can be hard to remove. If you cut a lemon in half, dip the exposed flesh into some table salt, and rub it vigorously on the stain it will likely remove it. Marble is exquisite. It's high end.  Many of the people you encounter think that their value is in what they accomplish or possess here on earth. Because of this, they might try to clean up their outside. They might be religious and seriously lacking a real relationship with Jesus. YOU have been given the platform to equip the salt around you, and to create an atmosphere where people are empowered & encouraged to allow God to remove stains they have tried far too long to hide. 

Lemons have purpose, and plenty of it. 

Did you know that the juice of a lemon mixed with water can make soggy lettuce crisp again? You have people around you that have gone flat. They have surrendered to defeat and lost their purpose. Maybe you think you have to. There are times when many people fitting that mold overwhelm and defeat you. Let the water of the WORD and SPIRIT cleanse and call OUT in you COURAGE. HOPE. PEACE. FAITH.  

Lemons have purpose, and plenty of it. 

Lemons remove stagnant & foul smelling odors. They can freshen up even the stinkiest of rooms. The key is that you have to open them up. God wants to create in you an open and vulnerable heart so that what He has placed IN you can be fostered, empowered and spread. The Holy Spirit in YOU has the POWER to awaken and refresh abundantly as you submit. 

Lemons have purpose, and plenty of it.

Lemon juice sprayed around a perimeter can keep insects & pests at bay. It can flat out make them turn the other way. There are many things that will come to try to eat up the harvest, steal fruit and cause pain, doubt, fear & chaos. Prayer is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. Start pacing again. Start circling. Start believing for BIGGER than you things. You can do a lot in your own strength. God wants you to partner with HIM in BIGGER BOLDER things than you can even believe will happen.  You have seen God do mighty works and even still it can be in your nature to doubt. Surround yourself with people that are praying. People that are believing. People that are ENCOURAGING you to be all you can be. People that will CALL out Christ in you. People that will help you to EXPOSE your flesh, and love you as you work it out.  People that will empower you to be EVERYTHING that GOD has for you to be. Find lemons around you to build a perimeter that will keep the insects at bay.





Lemons have purpose, and plenty of it. 


Yesterday is done. It's a new day. A fresh season. Be thankful for the grating and the squeezing. It is full of beautiful purpose.









PRAYERS FOR MY CHILDREN (& YOURS)


I pray that you live to your FULL potential. That you would GO where you feel led. That you would SHINE BRIGHT in a dark and hurting world. I pray that you would EMBRACE your calling and that you would give your FULL HEART to everything you do. My hope is that you would LEAD others to SHINE and that you would be a BLESSING beyond anything you could IMAGINE. I pray that you would CARE more about PEOPLE than pleasures, more about OTHERS than obstacles, more about GIVING than getting. I pray that you would be BOLD in FAITH and that your HOPE would be found in HEAVEN and not here. I pray that you would cause CHANGE wherever your feet step. I pray that you would GIVE as if your earthly life depended on it. Because it does. A giving life is something you will NEVER regret.  I pray that you would LOVE bigger each day, and that each day you feel even more loved than you did the day before. I pray that as you walk in COURAGE that you would be blown away by all that you are able to accomplish. I pray that you would have humble GRATITUDE for EVERYTHING in your life. The good, the bad, the dirty, the ugly. I pray that you would BE exactly who YOU were CREATED to BE. My hope for you is that who YOU are wouldn't be based on who anyone else is. That you would be your TRUEST you and that in being YOU, you would cause a RIPPLE EFFECT for GENERATIONS to come. I pray that you would MOVE bigger mountains than I ever do or ever dream to. I pray that you would walk this life in FAITHFULNESS...because, that is your most HONEST IMPACT. I pray that DAILY you would discover more and more about your PURPOSE and that you would walk CONFIDENTLY in it. My truest hope and deepest prayer is that as you CONQUER this life.....that you would know that in EVERY fear, EVERY failure, EVERY victory, EVERY hope, EVERY dream, EVERY heartbreak and in EVERY ounce of JOY that JESUS has been and FOREVER will be there. I pray that you would seek HIM with your WHOLE heart, with your WHOLE mind, with your EVERY breath and with EVERYTHING that is in you. I pray that on your DARKEST of days you will find IN YOU faith even as small as a mustard seed and that you will pray humbly to the God that created you. I pray that you will KNOW THAT YOU KNOW THAT YOU KNOW that you are purchased and PRIZED. I pray that the truth of that never rests anything less than HEAVY on your heart and that you will live a life worth living because of it. 


 I love you, precious ones. Tons of billions of infinities. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

BEAUTIFUL CHAOTIC

 
beau·ti·ful
ˈbyo͞odəfəl/
adjective
adjective: beautiful
  1. pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically.
    "beautiful poetry"
    synonyms:attractive, pretty, handsome, good-looking, alluring, prepossessing; More
    ravishing, gorgeous, stunning, arresting, glamorous, bewitching, beguiling;
    informaldivine, drop-dead gorgeous, easy on the eye, killer, cute, foxy;
    formalbeauteous;
    archaiccomely, fair
    "beautiful fashion models"
    antonyms:ugly
    • of a very high standard; excellent.
      "the house had been left in beautiful order"



cha·ot·ic
kāˈädik/
adjective
adjective: chaotic
  1. in a state of complete confusion and disorder.
    "a chaotic jumble of spools, tapes, and books"
    synonyms:disorderly, disordered, in disorder, in chaos, in disarray, disorganized, topsy-turvy, in pandemonium, in turmoil, in an uproar; More
    in a muddle, in a mess, messy, in a shambles;
    "the whole town was chaotic"
    • Physics
      of or relating to systems that exhibit chaos.