Don’t Miss the Boat

One of my favorite traditions at Christmas is going to the Enchanted Forest with my mom. This year, my kids wanted to do the scavenger hunt, so they spent half an hour running around looking for obscure objects like 3 red scarves and a blueprint. The Enchanted Forest doesn’t play around! Ellie and James were having a tough time finding some of the things on the list, so mom and I jumped in on the nightmare fun. I was assigned “toy boat.” Earlier I had spent ten minutes looking for firetrucks that ended up being tiny toys hidden on shelves, so I just knew the toy boat would be hidden in that section as well.  As I scanned the other toys, I didn’t see one. My mom came over and said, “Natalie, do you not see that boat?!!!” I looked to the left and saw this.

boat

A BIG, TOY BOAT! My mom and I laughed so hard we cried! I was so sure it would be a small one that I completely missed the big one right in my face. I missed something so obvious because it was not what I expected.

How often do we miss what God is doing in our lives because we have a preconceived notion of what it will look like? God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). If that’s true, why do we try to keep Him in a box, expecting Him to work only in ways that we think He should?

The best example in Scripture of this is Jesus Christ Himself. The Jewish people had been anxiously waiting for God to send their Messiah, but they had their own idea of what he would be. They expected a magnificent, stately, political king. But Jesus “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53: 2). Jesus didn’t fit their mold of an earthly King and yet He was (and is) the King of all Kings. So many of them missed the promised One, because He didn’t line up with their expectations.

As we go into 2018, many of us will set goals and resolutions. And these aren’t bad. But if we are only focused on our own ideas of how things should work out or how this year should go, we may miss out. This year leave room for God to have His way, for Him to do some new things. Ask him to open your eyes to what is right in front you, to the unexpected ways He is working.

Don’t miss the boat 🙂

Natalie

Lessons from Standby

“Andy, I forgot my driver’s license.” This is not the sentence you want to say when you have just pulled up at the airport for your early morning flight. We were on our way to Kansas City for my dad’s graduation, and I had just thought to myself, “Wow, we are actually early! I can send some emails, get my Starbucks. This is great!” Apparently, I packed everything except the one thing that you must have to board the plane. After rushing all the way back to our house and then back to the airport, we missed our original flight to Atlanta that would take us to Kansas City. Let’s just say those moments were not my best.

As I cried at the ticket counter and listened to the options, it became apparent that our journey to Kansas City was not going to be easy. After hearing all of the possible scenarios, our best option was to get on standby for the next flight to Atlanta, and then wait on standby for the next flight to Kansas City. Well, that scared me to death. Even though there were a ton of seats available on the plane, I could not think of anything worse than being stuck in Atlanta!

HOME ALONE mom use this

At the end of the day, we made it to Kansas City. There were a couple of close calls, and a reenactment of the Home Alone scene as we sprinted through the Atlanta airport with Ellie and James, but we made it to the graduation celebration.  And you and I both know that God made it happen.

The whole time this was going on, I couldn’t help but see the parallel to the Christian life. Once we missed that original flight, we didn’t have control. We were on standby the rest of the way. And we had to take tiny steps of faith to get to our destination. Often, the Lord calls us to do something that is scary or uncomfortable. We may be OK with it, but the real problem comes in when we can’t see the step after that. We can’t see where or when He’s booked our next ticket, and so we don’t even get on the original flight. Because, what if we have to hang out in the Atlanta airport for the rest of our lives????

One of the most unbelievable examples of faith in the Old Testament is Abraham. His whole life was like a giant leap of faith! And although he had his moments, for the most part he trusted the Lord. In Genesis 12, God revealed himself to Abram aka Abraham and called him to leave his family and everything he knew. Taking God at his word, Abram obeyed. Verse 1 always jumps out at me,

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you…”

God didn’t fill in the destination on Abraham’s ticket! He literally told him to pack up and go, forcing Abraham to rely completely on the Lord. Sometimes we may think that it was easier for Abraham to obey because the Lord gave him these amazing promises in the next few verse (2-3). But I’m not sure that’s true. We have hundreds of promises in Scripture that apply to us, and yet we still have trouble stepping out in faith when we next steps aren’t laid out.

When Andy and I were at the original ticket counter trying to figure out what to do, the Delta employee could tell I was about to have an anxiety attack. She was so great and  was confident that we would make that connecting flight. As she was making the arrangements, she looked at me and said, “Just think of it as an adventure.” Y’all the Christian life is an adventure!!! And the LORD has all of our flights booked 😊

Natalie

 

A Perfectionist at Christmas

LIVING MAGAZINE PICTURE

So, last week I had a post drafted and ready to go. It was about how we are stressed during the holidays, but it never changes. I had been thinking on past years and how so much can stem from over-committing, and refusing to say no. The whole post was about how we need to say no more, stand up for ourselves, quit trying to people please, and focus on the One who really matters. And just for the record… I think it was a pretty good post!

But for whatever reason, I didn’t have confirmation from Him to post it. May sound weird to some, but I believe the Lord gives me words to say.  Anything that I write that is of worth is from Him; anything that is dung (as KJV Paul would say) is all Natalie. And I didn’t have a peace to post it.. Now I know why.

Since then, I have been going about my business and I have noticed something. Several times, and I mean SEVERAL, I have had this urge to plan numerous things. Keep in mind, that I am on my way to Kansas City at 5:00 am tomorrow for my dad’s graduation ceremony for his Doctorate of Ministry (woo hoo! Yay dad!!!) So, in reality, I have two weekends before Christmas. And yet, I have literally been a group text away from hosting three different events. I keep trying to cram in things in the days left before Christmas, when in reality, it would leave me feeling stressed, over committed, and maxed out.

What’s my point?  It’s me. I don’t need to say no to other people. I need to say no to myself. I am the one who overbooks. I am the one who compares everything to Martha Stewart. I set the bar so high, that even an Olympian couldn’t clear it.  I want my Christmas to be perfect, and perfection to me means performance.  I can’t blame anyone else for that. The perfectionist rears her head at Christmas more than any other time. In the end, I am the one who misses out, because I miss out on my God.

What’s so sweet, is that the Lord pointed out my issue. Have you ever experienced Him showing you your sin or faults?  The Creator of the world bothered to show me that I am actually the one who is causing my holiday stress. Such a small thing in life but to me it was a BIG thing. He cared to listen to me, and to show me where I was falling short. The Lord is the best therapist I could ever have. Ha!! I love Him so much. He is my delight. He is my joy. And I hope He is yours too.

Natalie

Psalm 37:4

Dear Andy

2007.  It was the week before Thanksgiving. I was 24 years old, living at my parents’ house, convinced that I would never end up with anyone and would die a lonely old maid. (Always the optimist, right?!)  That night, I was getting ready to go out, and I received a text from one of my best friends. “You have a date with destiny” it read. And the rest, is history…

Christmas ornament.jpg

That was ten years ago, and today we are celebrating nine years of marriage!! We must have been crazy!!! Dating for six months, and then married six months later. For us, it really was love at first sight.

Andy do you remember the list I gave you on our wedding day? My senior year in high school I wrote down the top ten things I wanted in a spouse. As I read through them last night, I wanted to remind you of the number one thing on my list as we celebrate our anniversary. It was true nine years ago and it’s still just as true today.

First and foremost he must be a strong Christian man. He will love God first and me second.  Although he is not perfect, his life will testify to his close relationship with Christ.

I wrote those words on November 28, 2001 as a 17 year old girl. Little did I know that God, in his sovereignty, had a boy chosen a boy for me from Kansas who would be the love of my life. 16 years later, I am praising the LORD that he gave me the desire of my heart. He gave me a man who loves him, and seeks him above all else. Even me.

Right before I met you, I was on the dating hamster wheel. Literally. Going on date after date with great guys by everyone’s standards, but in my gut I knew none of them were for me. Then I met you. And you started talking with me right off the bat about how much you loved Jesus. You even started singing along to K-Love in your car!! (Which really geeked me out if I’m being honest ha!)  I thought, OK there is something different about him. And it didn’t hurt that you were so handsome, athletic, smart, kind, and that you absolutely adored me. 😊

You loved the Lord. Like really loved Him. And you didn’t care who knew. And because you love the Lord, you have loved me well, through the good and the bad.

I love you so much, and I am so blessed to have you as my husband. Happy Anniversary!

Natalie

Happy Thanksgiving

TOM 2

Meet Tom. Tom is our little friend who reminds us to be grateful. Each day in November we try to write something we are thankful for on his feather. I was reading them last night and most of them were what you would expect: family, friends, Moses (our dog), church, our house, and a couple of great ones from my 5-year-old like rental cars (?) and sea creatures.  When I came to the one where I had written “Jesus” I stopped. If I am being honest, the day I wrote that, I jotted down His name to check the box. The Name above all Names was just another item on the list. I am forever thankful for Him, but already as the holiday season starts to speed up He is getting lost in the shuffle.

Thinking about that now, I feel a deep sense of conviction. Because the only reason I have all of those other things is because of the Lord. James 1:17 says,

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…

Without His grace in my life and the salvation made possible through His Son, who knows where I would be?  But often I go through the motions, thanking Him because it’s the “right” thing to do, and I know I should write his name down on that feather.

As we approach this holiday season, let’s be different. Let’s ask God to help us stop pushing Him aside. Let’s ask him to soften our hearts so that we remember that everything we have, even our very lives, are from Him.  Let’s remember that the whole point of this season is because God himself came down as a man to save us when we were dead in our sins. That’s something to be thankful about.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Natalie

Not Ashamed

not ashamed

Sunday our sweet daughter Ellie was baptized. If you asked her why, she will tell you in her precious 7-year-old voice that she loves Jesus, and He lives in her, and she wanted the whole world to know. Our church gave everyone who was baptized a shirt that said “Not ashamed.” Precious Ellie doesn’t understand that there would be a reason to be ashamed of professing that Christ is her Savior. But in the world we live in, there is.

Back in the days of the early church, the apostles faced severe persecution. They were scorned, mocked, beaten, even killed for preaching the Gospel and proudly proclaiming they were followers of Christ. I came across this verse earlier this week, and it stopped me in my tracks. In Acts 5, the apostles have just left the Sanhedrin, the governing body of the Jewish people, the scary bullies for lack of a better word who held all the religious power and authority. They were not happy Jesus’ name was being preached. Even more so they were FURIOUS that it was spreading like wild fire. After they arrested the apostles and ordered them not to speak anymore about Jesus, they were ready to kill them all. But the apostles were let off with a flogging. You would think maybe they would be a little down trodden, beaten down, ashamed. No… Acts 5:41-42 (NIV) says,

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

They were not ashamed of Jesus; in fact they counted it worth to suffer for Him and rejoice. What’s up with that? They had eternal perspective. When we look at the world through the lens of advancing the Kingdom, any persecution or hardship in the name of Jesus is worth it. In fact, it is an honor to suffer dishonor for Christ.

Right this very moment, there are those who are suffering as these apostles did, who are even giving their lives for Christ. For those of us not facing this kind of persecution, there may be times when it gets a little uncomfortable to live out our faith, a tad bit embarrassing to stand up for what we believe as Christians in this western culture, maybe even among our friends, family members, or co-workers. Will we be ashamed? Or will we remember that it is a privilege and walk away rejoicing because we bore His Name unashamed?

Natalie

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of salvation for everyone who believes… Romans 1:16

 

 

The Depressed Soul

My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Psalm 6:3 (NIV).

It spreads like a cancer, robbing us of our health, lying to us, until we feel like all is hopeless. The light turns to darkness, as this thief in the night sneaks into our minds. Suddenly, we look into the mirror and don’t recognize who we have become. Depression is serious, deadly; but it is nothing new.

It is no respecter of person. The greatest human king in Israel’s history, the man after God’s own heart, suffered from severe depression and wrote about it. Flip through the Psalms, and you can read David’s prayers to the Lord while he was struggling. Psalms 6, 22, 31, 38, 69, 109, 142, and 143 will get you started.

I remember after my son was born, I was so desperate to feel hope. I asked the Lord why He was allowing this to happen to me. What had I done to deserve it? Why couldn’t I be happy like everyone else. The Bible I used from that time is so worn that the binding has broken off. The Psalms are marked with highlighter and underlines and dates from when I couldn’t function. Psalm 40 is one I can almost recite from memory. Over and over, as months turned to years, I asked God, “How long? When will you come? When will I be lifted out of this pit? Will I ever be able to sing a new song? In fact, I don’t want a new song, Lord give me the old song!!!  Let me be like I was before.”

Psalm 40

I waited patiently on the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry, He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)

But that’s not what the Lord does. He gives us a new song. I am not the same. I don’t recognize the girl I was before my depression. She hummed a song to the Lord, maybe said some words here or there. She loved Him, but she didn’t realize she needed Him to breathe. Now I can sing and shout about His grace and mercy in my life.  My song is new, because He delivered me from the deepest pit, out of a darkness I did not know existed. When you have been knocked down so low, you can’t help but marvel when He lifts you back up and allows you to stand on Him.

For those in the pit, right now, He is there! David wrote in Psalm 34, “the Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” He is near and will save you, even if you cannot believe it now. It’s true because His Word tells us. Cling to Him in whatever way you can, and you will know Him in a way like never before. And when all is said and done, He will give you the most beautiful new song to sing. When He has lifted you up, many will look at you and say, “Wow… what happened to her? How in the world is she still standing?” And you can tell them it’s because of the Lord your God. Wait for Him. His mercies are new every morning.

Natalie

Psalm 30:11-12