Friday, July 22, 2016

Looking for Lovely...

"...for me understanding that sometimes the only beauty in anything, especially tragedy, is that Jesus is still on the throne."   Looking for Lovely; Collecting the Moments that Matter by Annie F. Downs
Go ahead. I'll wait right here will you read that quote again and find the lovely in that truth.

I know. Right?! Doesn't this just stop you in your tracks and want to yell "YES!!!" so loudly you think the author hears you?!

In light of junk going on in this world we live in today, both locally and globally, I found comfort in those words. People killing people. People shooting people. People stealing people. People just being people. It can make a person ask all kinds of questions and wonder what in the world is happening - adopting a more negative than positive attitude in general.

 By the way, this is just one of many quotes I highlighted in my Kindle. Less than half way through the book I was wondering why I didn't just purchase a paper copy.

I read Looking for Lovely slowly. Partially because of time constraints and partially because I just needed her words to soothe something in me. Annie doesn't offer fixes. Just her story. Sure, at the end of most of the chapters is some "action" suggestions. But, Annie doesn't push. Annie just tells her struggles and brokenness while her honesty and humor peek through. She looks for lovely in the messy situations and encourages the reader to do the same.

There are so many more quotes I could say and bring forth more gushing but I'll just leave you with this....

GO!. Go purchase this book today!

Be sure to check out her Looking For Lovely Bible Study and more!

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Struggle is Real

This life is hard. Said Captain Obvious.

Last week we attended an awesome church conference. Yes, it was hot. It was sticky-humid. We walked 3,000 miles (just kidding...maybe) and we 'lived' on the fourth floor (read 4 flights of steps) in a freshman dorm with a hard (read rock) bed and little sleep for six days. It was like God was testing us. (I smile as I type this because it wasn't all that bad...except for the rock hard bed and little sleep but more on that later...)

This was the first conference for this network whose goal is to equip churches. The theme for the week was Dare Greatly. Each session had it's own mini-theme; Land, Start, Heal, Repent, Go, Host, Love, and Live. It was a week full of insight and learning from great speakers who I truly believe God spoke through.

And, just as in life, we were all pumped and excited until the shootings (LA, MN and TX) happened. Isn't that just like this thing we call life? We walk along in our own bubble until the bubble pops and we feel as though life just slapped us, not gently, but hard. Tears and crying out to God happened in that auditorium as we learned of the shootings. One of the worship leaders felt a very personal connection and her struggle was real and honest. I wondered what I, a person from a small, quiet town who has never experienced the hatred, could do, say, or... insert many question marks here. All I could think of doing is making a bee-line walk to her after the session. I just held her, told her how sorry I was (over and over again) as she cried.

You see, I just see her. A beautiful woman. I don't see the color difference in our skin tone. I just see her. Yes, I see the difference in our backgrounds - just as I would anyone who is not from my neck of the woods, so to speak. Please forgive me if I have trouble understanding the struggle. This may sound so unbelievable naive. And, perhaps it is. Perhaps that is why I find it so hard to understand. I know, know, know, without a shadow of a doubt there is still racism, prejudice, bigotry and hatred. And, I am sorry. Truly sorry.

I know that I know that I know, God isn't happy with this either. God made us in his image. Yet we are killing each other...HIS own image. Think about that and let it sink in.

Honestly, I'm struggling with what God would have me do as I'm a fixer-type of person. Yet, I'm a true introvert and, forgive me, Lord, a people-pleaser who is trying to recover from that dreaded thought process. So I struggle between comfort-zone and getting out there and having my eyes opened wide. Yet, my struggle to know how to proceed is inward and unseen in comparison to what is happening with the struggle of others in the world. Yes, this life is hard.

Update: this is an excellent, and I mean excellent, post written by a person whose heart is bravely and honestly seen in her words. Take a moment and check it out. 

And, just so you know, I did enjoy the conference even with all the junk going on outside of our conference bubble. Sitting around large round tables during meals proved to be one of the highlights. The first meal of the official start of the conference had a couple sitting down with us. We became fast friends and hope to one day visit them. Other meals found us and others laughing and sometimes discussing deep issues. It was a wonderful time of hearing about their lives in their communities.

Of course it wouldn't be my life if I didn't embarrass myself at least once. Hubs played in the worship band (with wonderful-hearted people). The band members practiced very early in the morning so I would meet him in the cafeteria lobby in the mornings after practice. An elevator was pointed out to us on the second day (after we lugged everything up the hot, four flights of stairs - not that I'm complaining at all). Since the elevator was closer to the cafeteria, I decided to ride it down for breakfast. As I was leaving our dorm room another couple, whom I had seen a few days earlier at the sessions, walked out of their room. We made conversation as we walked to the elevator and to the cafeteria. It was small talk, of course. It started out with an innocent question. "How did you sleep?"

Let's just say my nervous talk got me in trouble again. I complained (not hiding that fact) about not getting a lot of sleep because of my bad back and hips on a rock hard bed. The lovely couple felt my pain. They are newlyweds. Newlyweds sleeping on twin beds. Oh, did I forget to mention the rooms had three twin beds? Okay, now you're caught up to speed. ☺ We talked of where we were from and then departed as they went inside to eat and I waited on hubs.

The first session started soon after breakfast. When the host introduced the speaker for the morning I do believe my jaw hit the floor as I was hitting my husband telling him I embarrassed myself in front of THE SPEAKER!!! A speaker talking about hospitality. My mind tried to rewind the elevator conversation. OH THE HORROR!!

After her WONDERFUL talk, I waited until she was alone and went over to her. I said, "If I would have known you were the speaker, I would have talked about Holy things instead of complaining about my bed and my hips hurting!" Well, that turned into the joke of the week and was our conversation starter each and every time we saw those lovely newlyweds!

The worship songs were wonderful. So many songs are permanently embedded in my brain. One of the songs touched many deeply. I hope you take time to listen and allow Him to have it all.