Transition, Transition, Transition

Today’s Coffee of Choice: Post Alley Dark Roast blend from Seattle’s Best Coffee (to give a strong push to my day and to help me get back to a regular blogging routine)

Today’s Scripture: He would speak the word to them with many parables like these, as they were able to understand. And He did not speak to them without a parable. Privately, however, He would explain everything to His own disciples. – Mark 4:33-34

It’s been a crazy season of transition for yours truly. My family and I are now located in a different part of the States. Boxes are still being unpacked after almost a year in a new home. Stress levels have been tested in the midst of a hectic summer. A new school district, a different job market, and a different routine are prevalent in our lives. It has been through this season that one thing has remained constant to me: The faithfulness of God in the midst of seasons of change.

I’ve been thinking, once again, about a term I was introduced to in college at a Cru leadership conference: Agape love. Honestly, in the season of stress I’ve found myself in, I’ve been shocked at the lack of faithfulness that can sometimes exist within a Christian church culture attempting to ooze answers to the general public. However, I think I am just relearning what it takes to be truly committed to following the example of Christ. I’m also rediscovering what His agape love for me is all about and learning to depend on him alone in the midst of life’s challenges.

For those of us who are Christians in more ways than church attendance and verbal affirmations, the friendship and love demonstrated to us by Christ’s life is vital to our personal growth. In a world where any excuse is found to demolish what real love and commitment should look like, it is essential to cling to the principles taught by Christ before His death and resurrection. I think that’s why, in the midst of major upheaval, I find myself reading through the Gospel of Mark once again. Mark has a succinct way of presenting the facts of Christ’s teachings. His writing also has a direct way of transitioning between events and parables… something I’m enjoying in the midst of a season where indirectness and foggy ideals have threatened to steal whatever joy the stress of the move has not touched yet.

The changes the disciples and Christ experienced in their own lives are highlighted throughout the book of Mark by simple descriptions and basic explanations that reflect the agape love Christ had for his closest followers. Today’s highlighted Scripture from Mark 4 references the immense care Christ took with those who stuck by him throughout the transitions of his own life. He taught with a method all of us love: Storytelling. He also took the time to explain the various metaphors and often complicated imagery contained in some of his parables to those who traveled with him. I believe he does the same with us in the midst of seasons where we are uprooted and planted elsewhere. In my case, he continues to use everyday lessons and parables to display his agape love and faithfulness despite the confusing examples I’m often presented with by those claiming to be his followers.

It is my prayer that, if you are in a season of change, you rediscover the faithfulness and care Christ has for you. Please comment below if you would like me to pray for you. Blessings!

Wholly Committed… Even When it Means Total Destruction

Today’s Hot Drink of Choice: Orange Passionfruit Jasmine Green Tea (because it’s a hot drink my husband will sip right along with me)

Today’s Scripture: “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” – Hebrews 11:9-10

Tents today look much different from Noah’s time.

New York Skyline

Sometimes I wonder what the heroes of the Christian faith would do if they were plopped right down in the middle of one of today’s larger cities. I think they would be overwhelmed, but I don’t think they would be phased. Noah floated around for days on the most horrific natural disaster ever recorded. He put his faith in God and found dry land. Despite the destruction, he was, as those of us with an athletic background say, “all in.” Moses interceded on behalf of his family in front of the most powerful man in the world at the time. He put his faith in God for deliverance and watched amazing events take place, including an entire sea parting before his eyes so he could reach safe ground. David stepped up to challenge something that struck fear into everyone else around him. He put his faith in God and brought down a giant of a man with one small stone.

I don’t think our Bible heroes would be phased by a little steel. When difficult terrain has already been faced and victory already won, faith does not easily give way to fear when the next challenge occurs.

The picture above was taken on a recent trip to New York City I made with my husband of almost ten years. Both of us will tell you our relationship is founded on very strong faith. We started out the “right” way and did everything by the Christian book, if you will. When we got married, we put our individual pasts on God’s altar and vowed to love each other as God loved us while we moved forward together. In fact, one of the most tangible demonstrations I have of God’s grace comes from my husband’s acceptance of me despite my past. As often happens with many marriages, however, trial came our way. Huge obstacles presented themselves. Our foundation was rocked. Some things crumbled. In fact, in 2007, our marriage was almost destroyed completely. But God reached in and reconstructed what was damaged.

Most Americans can still vividly remember where they were when planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Centers. Our country bounced back, however. The result is more powerful than the prior buildings. In the picture above, the Freedom Tower (the building with the tall spire) is hard to miss. It is the most complete of the construction projects built to replace the two buildings destroyed in the attacks on American on 9/11 of 2001. It towers above the rest of the New York City landscape. To me, the Freedom Tower is also a direct representation of what has happened in my marriage.

At this time, details of the destruction are the wrong place to focus in either case. What is important, however, is what has been rebuilt in its place. The monument in memory of those who lost their lives in the 2001 attacks is powerful and poignant. The same is true in a different way in my marriage. Personally, I was called to stick around despite my own heartache, remember God’s promises, pursue healing, and watch the new creation (overseen by the Master Architect) happen. I’d be lying if I said everything was perfect today. It’s not. It is, however, stronger and more beautiful than it was before. I was reminded of that even earlier today in a conversation with a friend.

Yes, my trust in God, marriage, and my husband were rocked because of the events that occurred some years ago. No, I didn’t handle everything absent of fear. I did, however, listen to the deeper level of commitment God called me to as a result of weathering a huge terror attack on my marriage. It’s a committment of putting God and his plans first instead of operating out of hurt or distrust. It’s an awareness of my surroundings and confidence in God’s deliverance when the going gets crazy. It’s shrugging off the temptation to glance backwards and instead gaze forward to the gorgeous landscape He’s already allowed to spring up in front of me. It’s remaining wholly committed despite what some have suggested as an alternative. It’s praying for my husband when I feel like retreating into the hole left by the devastation. It’s looking up when I feel like I might get dragged down again. Freedom Tower

My committment in my marriage is all of these things and more, and to me it’s a living, breathing picture of Christ and the church because of the heartache, because of the pain, and because of the new creation that’s happened.

What about you? What is one area you have persevered in and seen something unexpected and beautiful emerge? Please share. I’m here to pray for and encourage you. Thanks, as always, for reading.




Leadership, Short and Sweet

Today’s Coffee of Choice: Homemade Coconut Mocha Latte with Hershey’s Kisses melted in

Today’s Scripture: Protect them by Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one. Taken from Jesus’s prayer in John 17:11 and my current personal prayer of unity for the Christian leaders in my life

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Coffee Talks on Leadership I’ve been posting lately. Today, I’d like to highlight several quotes on leadership based on my Five Cs of Leadership post and the books I’ve been reading. I’ll attempt to be short and sweet. Speaking of sweetness, I’ll also be giving away some chocolate from a fabulous place called Mid’s in honor of the upcoming Valentine’s Day. Comment on this post before midnight on 2/10/13 for a chance to win! Now, get ready to chew on some quotes!

A leader strives to possess solid character.
“Instead of bossing others around, boss your heart around by reminding it to remember who God is– and how good He is at being God. Remember that more than simply serving Him, God wants you to seek Him.” – Renee Swope in A Confident Heart

A leader is committed to service.
“The true leader serves. Serves people. Serves their best interests, and in so doing will not always be popular, may not always impress. But because true leaders are motivated by loving concern rather than a desire for personal glory, they are willing to pay the price.” – Eugene B. Habecker; quoted from The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell

A leader communicates well.
“The spoken word is one of the triumphs of man….” – Charles Wallace in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A leader demonstrates competence.
“Never, ever, ever, ever quit.” – Sigmund Brouwer; quoted from 112 Christian Authors and Publishing Professionals Share Their Best Advice for Novelists compiled by C.J. Darlington

A leader models courage.
“Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the willingness to act in the face of fear.” – Nicole Braddock Bromley in Hush

Coffee and a Reading Wrap: What I’m Reading and Why

Today’s Coffee of Choice: Seattle’s Best Café Moulu, Level 2, Black

Today’s Scripture: And in view of this, we always pray for you that our God will consider you worthy of His calling, and will, by His power, fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (I do pray for you!)

As promised a few weeks ago, I’m going to be focusing more on updating you on what I’m reading. There are so many amazing resources and stories out there, and it is my hope you will be encouraged to check out some that I share. If so, let me know! I also love to give books away, so keep an eye on my Monday posts for that to happen in the future. Here are some thoughts on what I’m reading for you to chew on:

2 Thessalonians
I’m studying through Paul’s letters in Scripture right now. The reason for this is twofold: 1. I love Paul’s example as a leader; 2. I love how he used the written word to encourage and equip those he visited. This week I’m working through 2 Thessalonians while digging into the history behind Paul’s visits to Thessalonica, the people he traveled with, and the reasons behind his visits. Scripture is the number one source of encouragement and instruction for me, and, if you can’t say the same, I encourage you to try it out and discover its appeal.

A Confident Heart by Renee Swope
I have been studying through A Confident Heart for awhile now and am also leading a small group through it. Look for it to be a part of what I’m reading for a couple months in the future because of this. Renee Swope offers relevant truths and engaging anecdotes for today’s woman within its pages, and the book is especially helpful for anyone who has struggled with self-confidence or is looking for more confidence as a leader.

112 Christian Authors and Publishing Professionals Share Their Best Advice for Novelists by C.J. Darlington
I will always be reading some kind of book on writing. This year I’m striving to become a better writer, and books on writing and the writing industry are an important part of my learning process. This particular book is a wonderful compilation of many recognizable names from the Christian industry. I am so encouraged by the advice it offers and will be quoting from it on my Facebook page this week!

Beyond the Reflection’s Edge by Bryan Davis
There will always be a fiction book in the mix of what I’m reading. This particular book jumped out at me in Ollie’s one day. (Ollie’s is a dangerous place for this book lover!) What grabbed me initially was the cover, which had music notes all over it. Any book with a music theme will draw me in. When I picked it up and read a random excerpt, I immediately saw it’s a novel like the kind I aspire to write: fiction with Christian and speculative elements. So far, I’m enjoying the creative ideas behind the plot. To read more about this book, click the title above to jump to Goodreads.

Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo
I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read this book until now. I’ve had it on my bookshelf for awhile, but I didn’t buy into the initial craze of it because I had so many other books to read and I wanted the opinions around me to die down before I dove in. Recently, my husband and I have been reading powerful testimonies (whether in book or blog/vlog form) of the reality of Heaven. We are doing so to help encourage our faith. I love when he initiates plans like this because we can come together and talk about what we’ve read or seen. This effort to strengthen our faith with these types of powerful testimonies led me to finally pick up this book. I’m looking forward to finishing it soon.

Blogroll Highlights

As always, I’m reading through the blogs I highlight on my blogroll. Here are some good ones from this past week to check out:
1. Following Jesus: Our Light Through the Storm, Laurie Coombs
2. How To Develop More Discipline, Michael Hyatt
3. Don’t Feed Your Discontent, Rachelle Gardner
4. Compel Women’s Conference, Renee Swope
5. Four Pink Shiny Boots for 20 Beautiful Little Girl Toes, Stephanie Clayton

Choosing Hope, Part 2: A Call to Pray

Today’s Coffee of Choice: Dunkin’ Donuts Medium Roast with Peppermint Mocha Creamer

Today’s Scripture: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

What do we do when we are at the end of ourselves? Where can we turn when all else seems to fail? What can we do when we can’t be physically present in the lives of those who are hurting? One way we can choose hope is to join others in prayer. On this, the one week anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, please join Lysa TerKeurst, President of Proverbs 31 Ministries and New York Times bestselling author of Made to Crave and Unglued, over on her blog to pray for all who have been affected by the tragedy.

Christmas Giveaway Update

On Wednesday I posted a giveaway at the bottom of my blog. Here’s a reminder:

Christmas Giveaway 2012

If you comment on that post or on today’s post, you will be entered for a chance to win. If, by some sad turn of events (I know it’s a busy time of year), I don’t receive any comments by midnight tonight, I will choose one winner at random from my list of blog followers. May God bless you all, and may you choose hope in everything you do!