Thursday, November 6, 2014

Don't Forget to Look Up

Ever feel like the cares of the world are sitting on your shoulders? Sometimes you don't even realize it's happening until you are almost physically hunched over. You go along, nose to the grindstone day after day until you realize that you haven't looked up in quite a while. Looking up is one of God's greatest gifts of peace. The biggest stress reliever ever created. 

After getting a series of stressful emails demanding answers, I looked up from my busy, stressed out grindstone mentality yesterday and saw my 5 year old sitting right next to me, laughing. I actually had the privilege of watching unconfined joy spill out into the room. And, I had the added benefit of being able to do a momma nuzzle on her soft cheek. Wow! My eyes were opened to see what true riches are and how they are right at my fingertips on a daily basis if I just have the eyes to see them.

This time of year, God is painting beautiful scenes like this all along your drive. You don't have to look far to see all the natural beauty He made just for you. You just have to look up to notice it. And so I'll say it again, "Look up.". Your peace is right there.

I lift my eyes to the mountains- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-he who watches over you will not slumber. Psalm 12:1-3

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God"? 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. Isaiah 40:26-29

Please consider partnering with us in bringing curriculum to the children of Guatemala for the 2015 school year. Here is how you can help:

Go to our facebook page and click the donate button.

Also please pray for our family. Prayers are priceless!

Friday, October 31, 2014

You Are Enough

Forget feeling good about yourself, it's becoming increasingly difficult to feel even ok about yourself. Social media is in front of our faces constantly. You might get on FB to check on your distant family, but get hit by pictures of the latest fabulous party. The party that looks 100% prettier than the one you last threw. The party that many of your friends were invited to, but somehow you didn't make the cut. 
Then you click over to Pinterest to browse. And there, you can see the wedding pictures that were more beautifully & creatively posed than yours, the perfectly staged house that looks nothing like the crumb covered mess you are living in, and the children's crafts that make your child's last craft session look like someone from The Croods family made it. 
We have to fight against comparison stronger than ever before. We have to have God's anchor deep down in our hearts. So that when the strong blast of the waves hit us, we stay pointed up. 
Did you know that God made you exactly the way you were supposed to be? And you don't need a ton of self help books to make yourself into something else. All you need, is a healthy dose of daily sitting at His feet. Let him tell you that you are:

All beautiful, with no flaw in you. Songs of Solomon 4:7
Body and soul, you are marvelously made. Psalm 139:14 MSG
Written on the palms of His hands. Isaiah 49:16
Precious and honored in His sight and He loves you. Isaiah 43:4

And so many, many more. Let Him show you how to love the different ways He made you. Spend more time talking to Him about your life than you spend comparing yourself on social media. And  learn to embrace the place you find yourself in. This is your now. It's not tomorrow, it's not yesterday. It's now. Give all of your heart to God and then be who you are, love who you are right now. 

Please consider partnering with us in bringing curriculum to the children of Guatemala for the 2015 school year. Here is how you can help:

Go to our facebook page and click the donate button.

Also please pray for our family. Prayers are priceless!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Your Perfect Day

What would your perfect day look like? This question has been popping up over and over in my reading this week. I think I gave up on perfect days a loooong time ago. So when I first saw that question this week, I quickly dismissed it as a silly, unattainable quest. Life knocks us around quite a bit, hopes are dashed and we sort of give up. Eventually, we end up going with the flow, letting life push us downstream. We focus on the rough current. When we finally look up, years are gone. 

How ironic is it that I can, with conviction, tell a person living in trash that they should grab ahold of the hope that God has for them to get out of that place, but I am too scared to dream bigger for myself? That is weak.

We are only as strong, successful, and fulfilled to the degree with which we allow God to operate in our lives. If we don't open those places in our hearts and begin to dream with God, those dreams will never happen. It doesn't matter how farfetched and silly those dreams are compared to your current situation. With God, all things are possible to those that believe.

So, will you do it with me this week? Will you get out your journal and write some dreams down? Let's put some faith action into our lives. Let's dream big dreams with God!

Here are some questions to write down and answer about your perfect day/perfect life:

1. What do I want to be about today?
2. What do I want to achieve, create or experience today?
3. What kind of character do I want to cultivate today?
4. What do I want to learn, give and grow today?
5. When challenges come, how would my highest self (God's nature in my) interact with the situation?
6. Where would I live if I could live anywhere on earth?
7. What would my house look like?
8. What time would I wake up?
9. What would I do first thing in the morning?
10. What would I eat for breakfast?
11. What would I do for the first half of my day?
12. Where would I eat lunch and who would I be with?
13. What would my friends be like and what would we talk about?
14. What would my life purpose be?
15. How many hours would I work?
16. What would my relationships be like?
17. What would family time look like?
18. How would I wind down at the end of the day?

Ok, you have your work cut out for you. Write these down, and begin to talk to God about them. Go!

Please consider partnering with us in bringing curriculum to the children of Guatemala for the 2015 school year. Here is how you can help:

Go to our facebook page and click the donate button.

Also please pray for our family. Prayers are priceless!

I pulled these questions from two places:
The Charged Life
The Unstoppable Family

Friday, October 17, 2014

Do Not Be Afraid

This is the community built around the dump. They have plenty of opportunities to live in fear. Fear of going hungry, fear of abandonment, fear of dying.

There is so much panic and fear being spewed out of the media machine right now. If we aren't worried about an ISIS attack, we are worried about the person next to us coughing. They might have enterovirus or, even worse, ebola. We attended a big football game in Dallas last weekend. It never crossed our minds to avoid that area. We also flew our family to Guatemala three weeks ago. Several people wondered if we had been scared to fly overseas. But focusing on fear was never a part of our trip planning. Is that because we are special or superhuman? Not at all. If we had the time, I could tell you all about my past full of anxiety and worry. I could go on and on about how it has tried to consume me in different seasons of my life. But, God has taught me to reject fear. Fear doesn't change my circumstances. It doesn't help me to control anything at all. All it does is use up my energy and creativity. It also makes me feel bound up and miserable, stealing all the joy from my day. Instead, I get to make a choice:
John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not LET your hearts be troubled and DO NOT BE afraid. 

Yay!! We get to decide not to let our hearts be troubled or afraid. We can't control what happens to us today. We can't even control whether or not our lungs take a breath or our hearts keep beating. But our Father takes care of all of that and much more. So, if he can keep our lungs working, our hearts beating, the stars placed in the sky, the planets orbiting and much more, then let's choose to rest in His care. And let's choose to not let our hearts be troubled or afraid. And that, my friends, is powerful!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Only God Can Label You

Poor Jason. This picture was from his Guatemala trip last week with our friend and board member, Scott. To get to our schools in the mountains, they had to climb aboard a small airplane, which had to land on a tiny strip of gravel covered runway. The police had to be called to move the drunks off the runway so they could land. After a big bounce and sliding sideways, they finally came to a stop. Needless to say, it was pretty stressful!

The people in this mountain area have been labeled: Rejects. A people taken from their home years ago and dropped off in the middle of a mountainous no-where, left to survive on their own. No wonder they have the highest suicide rate in the entire nation of Guatemala!

So their government has done a pretty good job of selling them their label as rejects. How have people tried to define you? Circumstances and life experiences work to make us feel less than what God intended. But the truth is, each of us is uniquely made by God. How do we keep our hearts and minds focused on the truth of our identity? What is the key that opens the prison door of false, negative labels that attempt to trap us and make us powerless? The key, already in your hands is this:

Colossians 3:1-4
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Set your heart and mind focused on the truth of God's love and let that be the ONLY thing that defines you.

Please consider partnering with us in bringing curriculum to the children of Guatemala for the 2015 school year. Here is how you can help:

Go to our facebook page and click the donate button.

Also please pray for our family. Prayers are priceless!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Update: Where We're Going

Would you want this mural painted on the walls of your child's school? Take a good look at what is happening in the picture. This mural was painted on the entire width of one of the schools we will be in next January. We can't fix the situations these kids are facing, but we can help them find the life-giving power and hope of Jesus. 

Dirty, broken pavement and barbed wire fences might be what the school kids see every day in the 6 schools we have been gifted for our pilot program. But, once a week, they will be taught to look beyond their circumstances. 

According to the Inter-American Development Bank, barely 40 percent of Hispanic children graduate from secondary schools. International comparisons show Latin America at the bottom of the education barrel scoring on par with Sub-Sahara Africa.

Here is the hope we bring: In Bolivia, our curriculum has
Increased graduation rates by 45%
Reduced dropout rates by 37%
High school graduates advancing to any other type of education increased from 10% to 60%!!
Reduced teen pregnancy rates, gang participation, violence, reduced drug and alcohol abuse
Improved grades

Please consider partnering with us in bringing curriculum to the children of Guatemala for the 2015 school year. Here is how you can help:

Go to our facebook page and click the donate button.

Also please pray for our family. Prayers are priceless!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sow Your Seeds

"Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.....I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well." Teddy Roosevelt

Has anyone else ever noticed the numb complacency that wants to settle over our lives like a heavy blanket? As soon as we sit back and get comfortable, it creeps in. We forget what it felt like to truly come alive. It becomes easier to shut our eyes and our ears to the hurting community all around us. And we let entertainment fill our days and lull us to sleep until we are contained like sleeping giants. 

What is it that we should be doing? 
Ephesians 4:7-13 MSG:

He climbed the high mountain, He captured the enemy and seized the booty, He handed it all out in gifts to the people......
Gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor-teacher to train Christ's followers in skilled servant work in the body of Christ.

God has given us ALL gifts, treasures. He took the extravagant treasures back from the enemy and gave them to us. They were woven in to the very fabric of our being at the moment of our creation. These gifts are the seeds we are meant to sow during our short time on earth. They are our potential to change our world, the potential to send ripples of change that will never stop until the end of time. But, the enemy prowls around like a hungry lion, seeking whom he may devour. Looking for potential seeds to gobble up before they are sown. He knows exactly what those gift seeds are worth and he knows their power. After all, he had them in his possession for quite some time. 

I feel myself put on the mantle of who I was created to be when I  make the choice to use those gifts for God. I offer myself to God for the front lines of the battle for changing lives. When I am hooked up to God's voice and operating in the spiritual gifts he has given me, it is uncomfortable, painful and scary. But it wakes my warrior spirit up and I become fully alive. A fearsome thing for the enemy to behold.

So, this is the wake up call. Wake up sleeping giant! Rise up. Sow those seeds! Realize that you (yes YOU!) have the very gifts, placed in you by God, that this world is desperate for. Don't you know who you are?
You are:
The answer to someone's prayer
More than a Conquerer
An Overcomer
Salt and Light
Firmly Rooted
Greatly Loved
Full of Power, Love and a Sound Mind

Yes, these things are for you and your family. But they are also for the greater good around you.     

Now, get out there and    Change     Your     World!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Finish the Puzzle

Have you ever started a 1,000 piece puzzle? It is overwhelming. You dump out all the tiny pieces and your first thought is "this is too much." You almost want to scoop all those itty pieces back into the box, close the lid, and stick it on a shelf in the closet. That's how it feels when we focus on the hurting people around us. Whether we are overseas, or in our own neighborhoods, we bump into too much need. It can be so overwhelming that we just shut down and shut it all out. But, what if you shift your perspective?

Instead of focusing on helping someone get all 1,000 pieces together (who has time for that?), what if you took time to see what they really need? Perhaps they just lost their lid. You know, the lid with the completed puzzle picture on it? Maybe they just need you to take them to God's Word to remind them of the completed picture. Another might just need you to help them get the edge pieces together-- to give them a starting place. For others, you might have the privilege of putting the final piece in as they take off into God's life for them. 

What I'm saying is, just take it one person at a time. You don't have to be their savior. Jesus already filled that role. You just have to get involved. Getting involved might look like this:

Or this:

Or this:

It might mean a meal, a hug, an encouraging text reminding them of who they are in Christ, being silly and laughing with them, and on and on. Love takes many forms. Involvement takes many forms. Do what you can. Don't shut it out. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Struggles On the Way

Scars and struggles on the way. But with joy our hearts can say. Yes our hearts can say.....

This Matt Redman song has been running through my head today. This last week has been a struggle. Ever feel like the enemy has put a nice, big target on your back? Suddenly you are under fire from all sides? We thought we were handling the pressure of family life, work life, and mission work life ok. In fact, I recently had a friend ask me how I was fitting it all in: Skype calls, U.S. non-profit business meetings, Guatemala non-profit business emails, interviews, buying plane tickets, booking hotels, cooking, housework, and homeschooling. I flippantly said that God was just working it all out and we were flying above it all. Then suddenly, this weekend, we are yelling at each other in the car. Fighting about this business issue and that business decision.

So now, we are both offended and in heavy silence mode. But I decide to be the bigger person and offer him a piece of gum from my purse. He likes gum. He asks for it ALL the time. But he sticks his nose in the air and declares that he doesn't want any gum....... until 4 minutes later when he has now decided in his own, good time that he wants me to dig for gum. Well, no sir buddy. You had your chance. I am no longer being the bigger person. I am now in full stubborn toddler mode. Driving 70 mph down the highway, my husband is trying to grab my purse out of my lap for the gum I refuse to give him while I'm holding onto it like an old lady on the subway and strongly considering throwing all the gum out the window and onto the turnpike so he can't ever have any again. Stop laughing. It's not funny to me yet.

I guess my point is that when you're stepping out in faith, it turns into a painful growing process. I don't know why that should surprise us. It makes sense that to be able to handle big things, we need to have a very strong character. And we know what the Bible says about how to go about getting one of those. 

James 1:3 
because you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
Romans 5:3-5 
We glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I really want perseverance, character, and hope. So, I will continue to trust God as he lets us be squeezed. Because I never know what is in that heart of mine until it is squeezed. And once I see the gunk, it's easy to ask God to wipe it off and build me up in that area. You are faithful, God, you are faithful.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Your First Rollercoaster

I remember my oldest's first roller coaster experience. We were at Disney World and she was 4. As we stood in line for Goofy's Barnstormer kiddie coaster, she became fearful. The closer we got, the bigger the drops and loops appeared. By the time it was our turn, she was in full-fledged panic, her arms wrapped tightly around us. We finally took a step to the side and said, "If you will stop fighting this and just get on that ride, I promise you will have the time of your life". 

Looking into our eyes, she let go. As the roller coaster climbed that first drop, she was still apprehensive. She thought she wanted off the ride. But then something happened. As we sailed down and into a loop, she stopped gripping the handrail and put her arms into the air. "Wheeee!" She was having a blast. As soon as the ride ended, she was begging to go again and again and again. In the end, we had to tear her away from Goofy's Barnstormer!

Two years later, my husband's job was telling us to move an hour and 45 minutes from the town we had always lived. We had a 9-month-old, a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old. My grandma had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It didn't make sense to move away from family support, family babysitters and a grandma who needed me to be there for visits. You would have thought I was a 4 year old. I cried, I yelled, I threatened, I bargained with God for days. I listed often all the reasons God was messing up by allowing the move to happen. One night, God spoke quietly to my heart. He said, "Lisa, you are just like your daughter and that kiddie coaster. You are wrapping your arms and legs around your present and refusing to move forward to go on the ride. But if you will trust Me, I promise, it will be the best ride of your life." And with that, I looked into His eyes and I let go. 

And He was so right. Four years later and we LOVE where we are: a better house, a great church, wonderful friends and support. We have grown as a couple and as a family. The job is better and the income is great. Why was I fighting so hard to avoid this?? It's easy now to see why He had us move. But I couldn't see it at the time. It felt like blind trust back then. 

So, people have asked me how we are going to make this Guatemala curriculum work. It doesn't make sense. Are we going to live there? Is my husband quitting his great job? How are we going to raise the $500,000 we need? How can we even consider leaving our comfortable home? What about the girls? And on and on. Believe me, I have had those same questions. But when I start to freak out and my arms and legs want to wrap around my present, I remember my last ride with God. And I look into His eyes again. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Warriors and Battlefield Scars

What does a warrior look like? Is it someone who is perfect? Someone who finds life easy, always doing the right thing, always having the right answer? Is it the toughest of the tough? Never been wounded because they're too strong for that?
I think that deep in everyone's heart is the desire to be a warrior. To have a life of adventure. To make a difference in the world. 

Now, I'm not going to define what your adventure or you making a difference looks like because there is such a wide range for that. But I do want to talk about a couple of characteristics of warriors.

Scars. We all have them. Life knocks us around and no one escapes without some kind of battle scar. The good news is, scars mean a wound has healed. They are proof that we didn't die, we weren't defeated or completely crushed beyond repair. So, what do we do with those scars? Do we pick at them for the rest of our lives? Reliving over and over the pain that we experienced and the injustice of it all? Do we hide them in shame? Do we lie about them? Do we give up and sink into depression because of the way they got there?
Jesus has scars. Let that sink in. He wears the deepest scars of any human being. So how does he handle his scars? He shows them to a hurting and broken world.  He uses them to build our faith. He uses them to testify to God's power to overcome anything and everything. And warriors do the same. We boldly and unashamedly show our scars to a hurting and broken world. And we use them to build up others' faith. We testify to God's power to bring anyone through the battle, a victorious champion. Stronger than before we went in. We overcome the enemy by the word of our testimony (our scars) and the word of Jesus's testimony (the blood of the lamb).

That's it. The big one. Warriors love like no one else. They love while everyone hates. The kind of love that is excruciating. If someone hits them on the cheek, they offer the other cheek. They love when there is nothing given in return. They love the unlovable. If someone asks them to go one mile, they go two. If someone asks for their coat, they give them their clothes as well. It takes a strong warrior to love like that. Jesus said that anyone can love the easy way. But we are called to a deeper kind of God love. The kind of love that makes no sense and changes the world. The kind of love that looks like the picture above. And the kind that looks like this.

"I want you to do the death crawl."
"What you want me to go to the thirty yard line?"
"I think you to go to the fifty."
"I can do it if no one's on my back."
"I think you can do it with Jeremy on your back. But I want your best."
"Alright." he shrugs.

"Ok." "You’re going to give me your best?" 
"Your best." the coach says more firmly
"I’m going to give you my best." he finally says with true conviction.
"Okay, but I want you to do it blindfolded."

"Because I don’t want you giving up when you can go farther." 

The boy starts out at the one yard line. The coach is standing above him, talking confidently. 

Facing The Giants
Brock on the one yard line with Jeremy on his back
"Show me good effort." 
"A little bit left."
"That a way Brock."
"There you go."
"It’s a good start." 
"A little bit left." 

Brock stops and takes a rest.

"Don't give up on me Brock."
"I'm not coach. I'm just resting."

Brock starts back up.
The coaches encouragement grows louder.
"Your very best."
"Don't quit on me."
"There you go."
"Don't quit until you've got nothing left."
"That's it."
"That's it."

Brock's pace slows.

"It hurts. It hurts. He’s heavy. I’m almost out of strength."
The coach drops to his knees and begins to crawl next to him. Now he is screaming his encouragement in his ear and crawling along beside him. 

coaching giving encouragment
Dont you quit on me Brock

"It burns!" Brock says his struggle growing.
Coach screams louder. "Let it burn!"

"It’s all heart!"
"My arms are burning!" He's slowing more now.
"You promised me your best!""Your best!"
"It’s too hard!"
"It’s not too hard!"

"You give me your best!"
"Don’t quit! No!"
"Keep Going!"
"Don’t Quit!"
"Don’t Quit!"

"Give me more!"
"Give me your best!"
"Don’t Quit!"
"Don’t Quit!"
"Brock Kelly you don’t quit on me!"

"You keep Going!"
"Ten more steps!"

"Ten More!"
"Ten More!"
"I can’t do it!"
"You can! Just five more!"

"Five More!"
"Don’t Quit!"

"Two More!"
"One More!"

Brock collapses to the ground. The coach falls to the ground in front of him.
"I can’t make it to the sixty. I don’t have anymore." Brock whispers his face buried into the turf. The coach removes his blindfold.

"Look up Brock. You're in the end zone."
"Brock you are the most influential man on this team. If you walk around defeated so will they. You just carried a hundred and forty pound man across the field. And you have been gifted with the ability of leadership. Don’t waste it." 

At the end of my life, let it be said of me, "She held nothing back, she left nothing on the table, she loved extravagantly.".