Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Red Envelope Day

* If you are looking for a more fun post, see below about last night's dinner.

On Sunday, a girl in class stood up to tell us about something called Red Envelope Day. I had not heard about it but am now participating. It is easy and I would love to see you take part in it too. This is very much not like me at all but when something pulls on your heart.....

In recent weeks, the president has signed executive orders releasing funds to pay for abortions, permission to fund human stem cell research, and federal funding for contraception. A guy named Brian Potter decided that a silent, peaceful protest would be beneficial. Today, millions of empty red envelopes from around the country are being sent to the White House with this written on the back: "This envelope represents one child who died in abortion. It is empty because that life was unable to offer anything to the world. Responsibility begins with conception." The goal is 50 million envelopes be sent and the estimate is that about 20,000 will be arriving each day.

I want to encourage you to take part in this. I know that red envelopes are hard to come by so if you go the the website (here), you can get more information about the project but can also send them online. For $1.10 an envelope, they will mail it in for you. How much more convenient can they make it for you?

If you decide to participate by handwriting and mailing an actual envelope, please make sure to include your return address. It is USPS policy to not deliver letters without a return address on them (I'm assuming security reasons).

Please consider helping out. If you choose not to, let's pray for this leader. Pray can do some pretty powerful things!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hobbits and Gollums and Food - Oh My!

Tonight I was going to meet a friend for dinner in the Montrose area. After getting off dreaded I-10, it was such a nice drive. I rode through all of the areas where I used to run. I forgot how pretty and unique that part of town is. Part of me would LOVE to live there. For now, just a quick drive through was perfect.

Lyndsey picked Ruggles Grill but when we got there, it was closed. We didn't have a Plan B in place but she remembered a little hole in the wall place she stopped by once. She led the way and we stopped in from of....."The Hobbit Cafe". Yes - I had dinner in a Lord of the Rings themed restaurant. Gollum was in the corner when you entered, maps and movie posters were on the walls, and Hobbit signs were everywhere. The outside looked a little "fairy-tale-ish" so that made it even more interesting. The staff was exactly like you would stereotypically predict. I thought it added to the charm. Honestly, I nearly couldn't control the waves of giggles that kept hitting me each time I looked around! However, as weird as it may sound, the food was really good! They had a wide variety of things and it was all fresh. Some of the dishes were as unique as the place but I was impressed. My dinner was good and everyone else's food looked/smelled really good too. I would go back and as embarrassing as it may be, I would recommend it too.

Here's to dinner with Frodo!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Our Sacred Pathways

On Monday night, I finished reading a book that could very well change the way I view people and their worship. The book is Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas. The premise of the book is that just as there are different personalities, there are different spiritual temperaments. Basically, people worship and are drawn closer to God in different ways. Thomas presents nine different pathways by introducing it, giving biblical examples of people with the same pathway, significant benefits, and warnings to avoid. Then, at the end of the section, he presents six questions to answer to help you find your specific pathway. It isn't a "calling to a denomination that fits you best". Thomas is a sticks fast to the validity of scripture and the need to be rooted in it. These temperaments are more personality driven.

One of the things that I found most interesting was actually identifying which pathway I am most compatible with. My top three pathways were very close: Enthusiast (Loving God with Mystery and Celebration), Intellectual (Loving God with the Mind), and the Contemplative (Loving God through Adoration). However, it was even more interesting to think on others during this book. As I read about each of the pathways, I thought about different people that fit in that temperament. It made me really appreciate them even more. Even though I may not understand that temperament because it is exactly the opposite of me (the Activist - Loving God through Confrontation), it made me see things from their point of view. It gave me a better understanding for how they tick and what motivates them. It opened my eyes to the way they best serve God. It made me thankful that there are people like them! It made me see my past dealings with brothers and sisters in Christ through different eyes as well. I can look over past relationships with various people and see where a misunderstanding of each other's pathways caused friction. What would it be like if we all appreciated the way that we serve and study best?

The other thing I considered is probably the most significant. I wasn't surprised at all about being labeled an Intellectual. I wasn't as surprised by the Enthusiast label as I was about it being the highest ranking. I was SHOCKED by the Contemplative label. I didn't even realize that was important for me. However, as I read, it made perfect sense but I just didn't even have a clue. I wonder how many people there are like that. I wonder if people don't realize how intimate their relationship with God really is/could be because they don't realize how their spirit relates to God. I wonder if some people have a more personal relationship with God than they know but they don't even recognize that they are doing it. I wonder how many people would benefit and grow from knowing how God has specifically made them to meet with Him. I wonder how many would appreciate a little light on their path. Definitely more to ponder.

Would you like to know more? You can read the book but if you would like a shorter version, let me know. I'd be happy to summarize for you via this blog. Thanks for your feedback!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

She Speaks Conference and Scholarship

If anything positive came out of the disastrous season of "The Bachelor", it would be that I was officially introduced to BooMama's blog. This woman is something else! I've never met her but she makes me laugh no matter what kind of day it has been. Her recaps of each episode were dead on and when I found she has a love for "The Office" as well, I was officially hooked. Into the favorites menu her blog went.

As part of my unwind a few days ago, I was checking in on several blogs and of course, I clicked over the BooMama. Something in her sidebar caught my eye and there was a button that looked like this:

I decided to check it out. Apparently, Proverbs 31 Ministries puts on an annual conference entitled She Speaks. This conference is geared towards helping women that feel led to lead in various women's ministries. They focus on five main areas: speaking, writing, women's ministry leaders, blogging, and next generation. In a nutshell, they hold sessions on everything anyone interested in serving women in these areas might need to know. Everything from preparation, presentation, booking, peer evaluations, design, do's and don'ts, and so much more! I sat and read through every detail that they gave with an excitement building within me. What an amazing opportunity to sit at the feet of those who have been there and done that with success! What amazed me even more is the Next Generation track that works with girls ages 12-17 who want to make an impact in their generation! What a blessing to these girls! As I looked at the dates and the cost involved in attending, I felt a little of my air being taken from me. The dates are fine but in trying to be a better steward of what God has given me, the cost plus additional airfare had me pulling in the reigns a bit. Something to think about for sure but not to go all in on yet.

One reason that this conference has grabbed my attention so significantly is that I really believe that God has been really working to get my attention in the past few months. In the past, this usually has meant that He has some work that needs to be done with me. This time is different though. I'm by no means finished being worked on but this seems to be the next step. Between the ladies retreat, Surprise Me, and the book Sacred Pathways (see tomorrow's post), God has been opening my eyes to a significant truth in two different ways. The overall theme of this year would have to be "It's Not About Dana!" For one thing, God has done some amazing things in my life and sometimes, we just need to step back and let others have the same experience of being woo-ed by God. The other thing is definitely the more significant. I have become convicted that whatever God had entrusted to us in this life serves two purposes: 1) to draw us to Him and 2) to use us to draw others to Him. God has been going before me every step of the way and now He wants to use this beauty that He made from ashes to bless others. Not for any talent or good that is in me because that is not the case. Instead, He wants others to see what life in Him looks like. I cannot tell you how worked up I get wanting people (specifically women) to know of the intimate, loving relationship we can have with God Himself! It chokes me up everytime I encounter it and I trip on myself trying to verbalize it! It is become more and more a passion for me and I have no doubt that God is giving me this for a reason. I'm not too sure how it will come to be but being open and communicating Him is definitely a part of it. Now I've unexpectedly run across this conference that is designed to equip women for this serving. To be able to be trained to prepare and share what God has put on my heart would simply be amazing! However, it might have to wait for another year.

A few days after it began rolling itself over in my mind, I checked in on BooMama again to get a good chuckle. To my surprise, there was a link to Lysa TerKeurst's blog. Lysa is a major part of Proverbs 31 Ministries and she announced a scholarship being offered for one woman to attend the conference 100% covered (minus airfare)! All you have to do is get the word out about the conference and share why you would like to attend. If I've learned any lesson besides that above, it is that the answer is always "No" if you don't ask or try. So here I am trying. :) I've looked at some of the other women attempting to earn the scholarship and there are some pretty amazing women out there. I have to doubt that whoever is chosen as the winner will be walking through a door God Himself has opened. What a blessed woman!

So if you are interested, check out the conference! There is something for everyone there that is looking for a way to reach out to women around her!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Got a Little Story for Ya.....

Today was exhausting. I'm not too sure why because it wasn't anything trying. My plan was to write a new post tonight and I was having to choose between two different things that I'm rolling around in my head. Then, tonight happened and it just has to take priority. God just pulled out the stops for me tonight! But before you can understand the beauty in the significance of it all, I have to back it up for you.

So Friday evening, I realize that I am short an onion that I need to make dinner. I jumped in the car and headed over to the closest grocery store. In the same shopping area, there is a Starbucks. It was a gorgeous evening and all of the outdoor tables were full of people just sitting and enjoying a drink with a friend/significant other. It has been quite a while since I've had the chance to sit with friends and just hang out over a social coffee (or in my case, tea). On that evening, that scene really pulled at my heart with GREAT longing. However, I went in to the store, got my onion, and had a quiet evening, putting it out of my mind.

The next evening, after dinner and games, Mom asked about the bible study I was planning on attending tonight. I said I didn't know much about it but had mixed emotions about it. Part of me was excited (it's bible study - it's what I LOVE) but that I was nervous as well. Walking into an established group in the middle of a study is not an easy thing to do. I mentioned that I didn't know what they were doing so I didn't know what to expect. Erin shoots out, "Yeah, like if they are doing something like Nehemiah." I commented that I would love that - being an Old Testament girl and all. We talked about it a little more and then moved before saying good night.

So to my story. Tonight comes and I am beat! I briefly think about skipping study but I know one girl there is expecting me so I get in the car and drive over. When I arrive, only one other girl is there so we start chatting. I caught myself and asked if she was leading the study. She was so I apologized for talking and not allowing her to review her notes for the evening. She was kind and said she felt as set as she was going to get. I asked what they were covering and guess what she said - Nehemiah! A laugh burst out of my mouth and then I told her what Erin randomly said. Once everyone was there, we got to it and discussed chapter 3 - the rebuilding of the gates. It was pretty interesting and I would have loved to go deeper. I'm pretty sure I'll revisit that one on my own pretty soon. Anyway, we finished up and were just sitting around visiting. The girl who led the study looked around and said, "Does anyone want to take this over to Starbucks?" I didn't show it but inside I was falling off the couch! I wanted to yell out, "OH! Pick me!" but I showed restraint. We did. Five of us drove the quarter mile up the road and most of us got drinks. Then we found a table outside and just sat and talked - nothing serious at all. Just visiting. Just like those people on Friday evening. Just like I wanted. And it was exactly what I needed!

Nehemiah and Starbucks. Sometimes God speaks directly to our hearts in a way that only He can!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Break Recap....

Spring Break 2009 is officially at an end. In less than 12 hours, it will be back to the grind stone for another three weeks before Easter break (but who's counting?). Erin asked me on Thursday it I'm ready for summer yet and initially I said no. However, this week has given me a peek into what it will be like. With no moving or job changes this summer, I don't know what I'll do with myself! Anyway..... Here is my recap of the week:

- Impact Garage Sale - made $27,000 for the Impact church! On a weekend of yucky weather, we are thankful!

- Shopping - I say that I'm in need of some new things when I know that is so superficial. I'll be honest though...it was fun. I could have done some damage but I exercised some self control. I'm pleased with what I got!

- Trip to Pleasanton - good visit! The only thing I would change is that I would get to see Darla. Next visit though.... Bonus, I got lots of time to visit with Erin while sitting on I-10 (a couple of times). The extra hour of our trip due to construction was not a highlight but we did get in more time together. Gotta look for that silver lining! Plus, I'm deluding myself to think that at five months Liz recognizes me. She's just so sweet and so big! She is my favorite little girl!

- Lunch with friends - I love long lunches with girlfriends! Especially if you haven't seen them in a few weeks. Good times!

- Spring! - officially Spring is here! I'm not too sure why but this is VERY exciting to me this year!

- No work! - I had about three projects I was going to work on this week for school. Didn't even start to look at any of them! I don't even feel guilty about it!

- Parents came into town - playing risk with the family and time to visit. Good times!

- Extended family photo shoot - I always enjoy time with the entire family. I think my favorite moment was when Malory stepped out of the car and saw all 22 of us standing there. She was warned but I guess seeing us all together was something else. There is always a thing or two that gets a laugh. Happened today. :) This may be vain but I really enjoy having my picture taken. They may not always turn out the best but it is fun. Watching others being photographed is fun too.

- Reading! - I finished one book and am almost finished with two more. I think the total is about 400 pages this week. It can't compete with Erin's 2,500 pages a few weeks ago but it is such a blessing to have the time to just enjoy books! Besides, I am a SLOW reader!

Overall, a good week. I'm rested and more ready to get back to it than I was a week ago. Hope you all had a great week!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thirty Days Later....

Last night, as I wrapped up the last post about my 30 days, I'll admit that I got pretty teary eyed. There was nothing magical about the month except that I was so much more aware of God's presence in my day. Things that didn't mean anything to anyone but me. While I know that He does not stop showing up because the 30 days are over, it almost felt like a loss. Come today, there He was - showing up where ever He pleased and surprising me. I'm not going to lie, it really made me feel good. Between Erin, traffic, and just getting home, He worked His way in there. I love it!

I took some time and re-read the past thirty days. It was so sweet! Looking at what I have seen and experienced was such a blessing. I looked for threads that wove themselves through the month. Here are just a few words that came to mind as I read: mercy, humility, compassion, community, and tangible representations of unseen concepts. Above all, people were a HUGE part of my days. It has convicted me of the need for each other and what that means. I don't think He is finished with that so I'm looking forward to what that means in days to come.

About four or five days into this, I talked to Erin about not posting the journal because of its length and depth. She encouraged me to do what would benefit the whole thing most. She is so wise. You can obviously tell what I decided to do. So I want to thank you for indulging me the past 30 days. I know the posts have been LONG (they could have been much longer) and pretty personal at times. I didn't put everything out there. Some of you have been privy to some additional struggles and joys that didn't make it to the public eye. Thanks for taking part in this in your own way.

I really do encourage you to give this a try. It's simple - ask God to do His thing throughout your day and keep your eyes open. It's personal and touches exactly where He needs to do some work. He has always been there but this opens your spiritual eyes. You don't have to post you experience but if you decided to take the plunge, shoot me an email. I'd love to hear what He's doing for you. It would be a joy and blessing in my life but not half as much as it will be for you.

As I close this thing out, I have to share a scripture (Ephesians 3:17 - 21) I found myself praying on Tuesday night. At the time, it was for a dear friend but now I pray it over you in hopes that you will see God and have your socks knocked off. With great love -

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day Thirty: Timing

This morning began by the reading of the end of Esau's journal, a prayer, and the sound of my family in my parents' living room. I "got dressed" and headed out to see Dad, Erin, and Liz. Mom joined us a little bit later. I forgot how nice it is to start the day in your PJs with those you love. Sweet surprise right off the bat.

Jackie came over for lunch. She is such a sweet friend. That is a weird thought. Your first boyfriend's mother is now your friend. At 16, I could have never guessed. My heart does love this woman! She came to meet Liz and share lunch with us. I was thinking about today being day thirty as we sat by each other and it felt like I was hit upside the head with.... "Dana! You finished the book today. You know it is time to pass this on and this is who gets it next!" Anytime you get your head hit, it's a surprise. I tucked that away for a better time, anxious to do the hand off.

A little bit later, Erin and I went to Caleb's shop. It was the place to be this afternoon! We got there and he had customers lined up at the counter. We looked around and then got to have time to visit. As we looked around, I was just amazed again at my friend. I remember when he was throwing around the idea of a shop and now, four years later, the shop is flourishing. He is a business owner and has more confidence because of it. Now don't get me wrong - I'm not surprised at his success. I'm surprised by the transformation of the past few years. Erin mentioned that she saw it too. God can do some amazing things when we are faithfully waiting on Him and letting Him do His thing. Caleb is such an example of that.

Fast forward a few hours and there I sit in the ladies class talking about Herodius and feeling like I have a huge bulls eye on my heart. I'm not sure if anyone else could see it but God and I could. That is all that matters. Surprise, God let the lessons fall in such a way that the one I needed to hear was on the night I was visiting. He is SO good! Immediately after class, I got in line to talk to Jackie. I'll admit that I was nervous about it. I can see why some people would not be as receptive to this 30-experiment as others. However, when someone's name is screamed into your head, you hand over the book. Usually it is hard for me to let someone take one of my books. It is like handing off a friend. This time was very easy though - very right. I handed off the book and am now anxious to see what happens for her. I know that God has some things up His sleeves when she decides to jump in. Here's prayers for you, girl! It's going to be good!

I'm tempted to write more about this being day 30 but for now, I will just enjoy where I've seen God today. Tomorrow, I'll do the recap. I don't think it will end today though. Tomorrow may be day 31, Friday will be day 32, and on, and on. We'll see.......

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Day Twenty Nine: Worked Up

What a day it has been! Erin and I hit the road about 10:30 this morning to make it to Pleasanton in time for Little Girl to eat at 2:00. I forgot how quickly the trip can go when you have someone to travel with! We visited the whole way about everything from books to parenting (well, I mainly listened on that point). It was very nice to have a few uninterrupted hours with my sister all to myself.

We got here and out came the grandparents. Mom and Dad came out too. Immediately there was one star in the house. I'll let you have one guess as to who it was but I'll give you a hint - it wasn't me. :) Liz got lots of love from lots of people who adore her.

At one point, I snuck off to visit with Caleb for a few minutes on the phone. He is such a blessing to me. Having a friend since you were seven can sure bring make you thankful! What a blessing! We have a really good time together. He can be honest with me and I know it is filled with love. I know there isn't a sour bone in this man's body. We know where the other is coming from. Besides Gregg, he is as close as it gets to a brother for me.

Then, about 6:45, I headed over to bible study. It went pretty well. I felt myself getting worked up at times but I tried to control it. For whatever reason, God sometimes just makes me get so wound up that I trip over the excitement. I never know how it comes across but I'm just thankful to be in a relationship with Him that makes that part of me come alive. Everytime it happens, I get surprised. It makes me really miss my Life Group. There is something precious about being intimately connected to those around you. Studying God and getting into each other's stuff can really bond people together. Especially when you get so worked up that you lose your words but they know what you are getting at.

I think that is my favorite thing about God. When He gets under your skin, you can't help but get worked up. I think that is something that I am really looking forward to in reading Sacred Pathways. I know it can be frustrating to not have others share your passion. However, I do believe that everyone does have a passion for God. We all get wound up and worked up about Him. We just do it in different ways and for different reasons. I think that knowing what gets people worked up about God would change the way that we see not only each other but even ourselves. What I get worked up about is different than what you get worked up about. What triggers my spirit to draw closer to God is different that what draws other hearts to God. This is where unity comes it. This is what God wants - all of us worked up about Him together but in deeply personal ways that He custom fit for us. This is one of our callings - a unified body that loves and embraces the individualism our creative God calls us to. Surprise, God wants us to be unified! Well duh......

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day Twenty Eight: Understanding People

One thing that I love about families is the inherited traits we receive while being a part of them. We could go into the whole nature vs. nurture thing but the fact is that we've got them. Family traits.... In the LaMore family, there are specific things that qualify you as being a member of the family. Some examples include the love of ice cream, good stewardship (financial, time, hospitality, etc), and at least an ounce of nerdiness in something. However, the biggest qualifier of being a LaMore is the love of books. My grandparents walls are literally lined with bookcases in every room and magazines/newspapers are readily available in multiple rooms. All four of the kids are the same way. We all knew that Gregg was officially initiated into the family when Grandpa handed him a small stack of books he thought Gregg would like. I'm not exaggerating at all. When there are three Barnes and Nobel gift cards up for grabs at the Christmas gift card swap and they are being fought over, you know you are in a reading family. I've inherited that gene too. I have a good stack of books on my shelf that needs to be read and I still buy more.

This afternoon, I was reading in my big red chair (my favorite place to sit) and I looked over at the arm of it. Stacked beside me were another three books that I am currently reading through besides the one in my hands. FOUR books at one time! Oh dear..... I have officially turned into my grandparents. In the brief moments that followed, I had an ah-ha (surprise) moment. Of the four that I am reading, I would recommend three of them to others. One of them, I would recommend to everyone. I am so excited about them that I can't wait to share them! I suddenly understand my Grandpa so much better. Every time he hands me a book, I tend to groan a little but what I have missed for all of these years is the excitement he had for that work. With the giving of the book, he tells you about all it. When you give it back, he wants to know all about what you thought about it. He wants to share that excitement. I'm such a doofus! I've missed sharing that joy for years! And now I'm the one trying to push it on those around me. I'm definitely my grandfather's granddaughter! Just a little glimpse into understanding him better.

So the book that I mentioned earlier - plug time. I started reading Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas today. I've had it for a while but I felt an urgency to read it today. In a nutshell, it is a book about the nine ways that different people experience worship and express love to God. Thomas states that the purpose of the book is to help us better understand how we worship. While I am looking forward to that part of it, I am reading it for a completely different reason. I'm really interested to see exactly how people do experience God - their pathways to worship. I have grown to believe that many differences that church bodies struggle with are not so much about doctrinal difference but differences of expression. These are things like expressive worship verses ritual worship, contemplating verses serving, etc. My goal in reading this book is to be able to look at a brother or sister and understand where they are coming from. I may not understand why they want to do what they do in worship. Instead of getting frustrated with them, I hope to be able to hear their heart crying out to love God in the way they were made to worship. I want to understand people better. To see their hearts. If anyone is interested, I'll tell more about the different pathways when I finish the book. All I've read so far is the first part and, surprise, I've already learned a lot - surprise!! I can see where I've messed up or dropped the ball in various relationships because I didn't understand someone's pathway.

I have so much to learn.....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day Twenty Seven: Tears, Laughter, and Awe

It was another Lord's Day, gray and cold. Part of me wished it was a Saturday because it was the perfect lounging weather. But it wasn't so up and at it. It is Sunday so there is a higher purpose for my day. I flipped on KSBJ to listen to Enter His Gates and get ready for worship. Israel was on and that was a nice little surprise. I do love his heart!

Following class, I was standing by the stairway next to the welcome center looking for a friend from Life Group. I didn't see her or her husband but I did see another man in our group. I could write a whole post on the amount of respect and love I have for this man and his wife (oh wait - I already did). We were chit chatting about this and that when I noticed that his eyes were red and a bit wet. I dead eyed him and did the, "No really, how are you?" thing. He told me that he just made someone mad in class. When I commented that I couldn't image that, he said hit a little too close to home for someone and this was the first time in a while he had upset someone. He didn't go into detail and that is fine because it was none of my business. All I could do was give him a hug. My heart ached for him because his heart beats for others. Seeing him appear to be shaken by the morning's class shook me. I think anyone would be surprised to see someone they admire shaken. And a man, nonetheless! What is it about a man with tears? It cuts your heart every time!

Fast forward to this evening....Life Group was small tonight. Between the Garage Sale and illness, our numbers were down. We discussed I John 1:1 - 2:14. Towards the end, we were talking about what it means when John comments that we can make Christ out to be a liar. My friend's husband tried to stifle some laughter but it just didn't work. He then proceeded to lead me (and I think all of us) to another surprise: using The Office to explain a biblical concept. That's right folks, Michael and the gang made it to Life Group tonight! He called to mind the Christmas episode of this season when Michael kidnaps Meredith and tries to force her into rehab for her alcoholism. They informed Michael that they couldn't keep her against her will and she was yelling, "No! No! No!" My friend pointed out that by denying the obvious, Meredith was making Michael out to be a liar. When we deny the obvious need for Christ in our life (or continue to deliberately sin), we make Christ out to be a liar. Christ died for our need so to say we don't need Him or His death, we make Him out to be a liar. His response at the end was, "I know, bad analogy but I just had to get it out." I just had to laugh!

Also at life group tonight, a lady came with her two children. She has been through a lot in the past two years. After moving his family to Texas from a very northern state, her husband repeatedly was caught in affairs and despite her desire/efforts to work on the marriage, they eventually divorced. She was telling us at dinner that her ex is getting remarried this weekend. The way that she talked about him and his fiance was AMAZING! After he repeatedly ripped her heart out and stomped on it, she talked about how happy she was for them. She adores his new wife-to-be and is praying for a smooth transition for her kids. She told us about her long process of forgiveness. She is incredible! She has every reason to hate him. After all, he did leave her after already moving on. Yet, she has found peace and now is an advocate for him before our Father. This was only the second or third time I have met her but I am already thankful for her presence in our group! Surprise - forgiveness in its purest form was eating pizza and salad with me!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Day Twenty Six: Home

The first day of Spring Break found me at the Impact Garage Sale early this morning. This is a multi-church garage sale in which all money raised go to the Impact church. They work with the inner city and Spanish speaking population near downtown Houston. It was drizzly and COLD! When I left my apartment, it was 41 degrees. I think it got colder as the morning went on because by the time we left at noon, we could see our breath and my toes were numb. Someone was merciful though and put up huge sheets of plastic to block large amounts of wind for us. As I stood there and tried to stay warm, I kept thinking about many of the people that Impact works with - those who live in these conditions day and night with no reprieve. I felt like a jerk every time I complained about being cold. I have it SO easy! As I was thinking about what a wuss I am, I met a member of the Impact church who was there to help work. Surprise #1. Such a sweetheart! I was put in my place quickly. Because of the weather, the crowds were small so hopefully, things picked up this afternoon and tomorrow brings more people. Holly and I were on duty in clothes for the morning and Lyndsey met us there about ten. Between those girls and some VERY funny items of clothing, the morning went by quickly.

After we left, Lyndsey and I headed to Harris County Steakhouse for some breakfast at lunchtime. Between my being out of town a few weekends and her work schedule, we haven't seen each other in about a month. It was really good to have lunch and visit. I know that not many people understand my desire to stay at a church where there isn't a peer group for me but Lyndsey feels the exact same way I do. We talked about our thankfulness for the church and our frustrations with it as well. We caught up with the goings on in each others lives. I think my favorite part was towards the end. Lyndsey was the person who suggested the Surprise Me book to me. I told her I am on day 26 and her eyes about popped out of her head. I somehow forgot the tell her I was doing this. She asked how it was going and what I was learning. It was SO wonderful to talk about it with her. She understands the significance and depth of its simplicity. When I talked about the threads I'm seeing woven throughout the days, she just smiled and nodded. Then I asked her what she learned when she went through it and as she shared, I just smiled and nodded. I love how shared experiences in God form bonds. Surprise #2.

After we said goodbye, I made my way to Barnes and Nobel to get a book I found online last night. It is called Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson. The subtitle is "a conversation in spiritual theology". I'm really excited about it but needless to say it is NOT going to be a light read. I actually wanted to get another book of his but this is the first in the series. It is always good to start on book one. Since it is me, I spent an hour in B&N to buy one book. I carried around about five others but my inner financial steward helped me put the rest back. Those of you who know me will agree with this - Surprise #3. I added them to my list of books to buy in the future instead. Dave would be proud....

It was such a wonderful day! All day, I found my heart feeling at home. I remember Erin once saying that she didn't feel connected to Texas. I'm the opposite. I love to travel and could live else where but Texas is my home. I am happy where I am right now but my soul yearns for the hill country of Texas. As soon as I leave the city, I feel my body and soul just relax. Sitting in a barbecue place with old school country and the smell of brisket in the background just settles this girl's spirit. Now make no mistake, I am by no means a country girl. I wouldn't know what to do on a farm or ranch but being around it just soothes me. Add to that atmosphere, I was with a friend. Being in good company with someone of kindred experience just settles a heart. Every day I am more firmly convinced that we were created for community and relationship. I don't know how hermits do it. People (specifically friends) are home to me. Then a follow up visit to a bookstore, heaven on earth!!! I know that this home is temporary but God has blessed me immensely with a good place for the time being.

There are things that could have made this day better but I'm not too sure what they could have been. Surprises and blessings abound in the corners of my earthly home!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Day Twenty Five: From the Car to the Living Room

My day started off with a light rain outside my window and a fresh cold front sitting at my door. So I did what anyone in their right mind would do - slept in for an extra hour. I dragged myself out of bed about 6:30, got ready, and made my way to work. I have to admit that my Friday morning drive to work is my favorite. All of the energy corridor pretty much works a four day week so that means that on Friday morning, traffic is significantly lighter. I can stop, pick up breakfast, and make it to work in less time than when I just get in the car and go straight there on any other day of the week. Yes, Friday morning traffic is so much better! I always forget about it and get a nice little surprise to end my week.

I found a professional development that I would like to attend. I'm not sure if it will be accepted but we'll see in a few weeks. It has some pretty big implications if I get a yes. More than likely, I'll be adding a HUGE responsibility to my load at work if it happens. I'm starting to second guess the proposal..... Maybe I'll email my boss tomorrow with my concerns.....

The weather made us cancel our Spring Fling today. Usually on the Friday before Spring Break, our wonderful PTO takes the kids outside for an hour so we get that time to plan/work. Not on a cold, wet day. Instead, we had a long indoor recess. It is always fun to listen in on kids playing. You sure learn a lot! Today, I learned that if you are mean to a friend, that makes the devil happy and you will go "down there" when you die. It's true! Just ask my six year old! In her words, "If you don't believe me, ask God. He always tells the truth!" :) Then the switch got flipped. That same little girl was the ring leader in excluding a little girl that wants nothing more to be included and just doesn't know how. I have to admit that the longer I teach, the more convinced I am that little girls are the meanest, most manipulative people on earth. I don't know where it comes from but God bless the parents that fight that battle for us everyday! Surprise - girls are mean! I know....that's not really news to anyone but it still surprises me every time my girls go after each other. How can something so sweet have such ugly sides too? I just don't get it..... I'm just eternally thankful that God makes all things beautiful in their time.

This evening has been quite tough. As I am taking part in Lent, I have really taken on a lot. I have chosen to give up something that is proving to be embarrassingly difficult for me. Somehow, I have noticed a habit of biting off more than I can chew. I don't know what withdrawl is like but this has got to be some of it. It is taking every ounce of self control I have not to just give in. I am more than surprised by how hard this has been. I am SHOCKED! Maybe that means it really is something that I needed to give up. Prayers for "stick-with-it-ness" are greatly appreciated!

My brain is tired and so are my eyes. I'm sure I'll look over this tomorrow and realize how little sense I am making. Oh well - Tomorrow morning is going to come quickly, full of things to do. Have a good night and sweet dreams!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day Twenty Four: Gifts!

Today started like just about any other day. Get up, get ready, get to work.... However, this wasn't just any other day. My principal called a meeting and informed us of some very good news. Title 1 schools get a lot of our money from federal programs. In his words, sometimes the money is there and sometimes the money is not. We found out today that right now, the money is there. Surprise!!! We have a budget of several thousand dollars for capital items (large ticket technology), a few thousand for professional development, and a few thousand for manipulatives and supplies. The kicker is that we only have until March 26 to use them and we are not in school from March 14 - 23. He also announced that money is on a first come, first serve basis. Basically, get it fast or don't get any at all. Needless to say, we (my team) have been searching high and low for workshops and materials we can use. Seriously, I don't know how many more websites my eyes can take in. We are all brain dead but we keep telling ourselves, "We are spending someone else's money on us!" It is such a blessing!!! I'm calling it the mad dash spend of Spring 2009.

As we were scouring catalogues this afternoon and "shopping" online, a thought hit me. This is grace in a tangible form. We have done nothing to deserve this money and we are getting about $30,000 just because of where we work and who we work for. We did not apply for it and we did not seek it out. It is a free gift to us. The best part is that even though we are the ones getting to spend the money and make the purchases, we are not the ones truly being blessed by this grant. Our students will benefit more than we could do for them on our own.

Same thing with God. He has showered us with SO many gifts that we not only didn't seek out but did not even think to ask for! Just because He loves us, there it is. All we have to do is reach out and take it. And once we've done that, the gifts just keep on coming! The Holy Spirit does some mighty powerful things in our lives. We just reap the benefits and watch as He does His thing to bless those around us through us. That's the point, isn't it? To allow ourselves to be used to bless others? To allow ourselves to be used to serve others? Most of the time, it is from something bigger than ourselves. Bigger than our nature. Out of a love and compassion for them, we allowed to be used to pass along grace. What a big job! I am thankful that we serve an even bigger King!

So I find myself asking, where am I spreading the grace?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day Twenty Three: Biggest Loser?

God was gracious today and let me sleep until my alarm clock went off. It was nice. Some days, the bed is just too comfortable to get out of and other days, I'm ready to jump up. Today it was too comfortable. Oh well....

At work we are doing a biggest loser competition. I've got about fifteen pounds I need to shed so why not? This morning was weigh in and for the third straight week in row, I'm at the same weight. I'll be honest and admit that I haven't exactly been busting it to make any of that really happen. I have gotten better with my eating but that is about it. When the nurse recorded my weight, I just sighed and stepped off the scale. She responded, "At least you didn't gain so you don't have to pay in." Yeah, I know. It is just discouraging to not be moving at all.

It got me to thinking about our lives and how easy is it to just stay where we are. Not really requiring much of you but at the end of the day, you're discouraged. We are called to so much more than than where we are right now. I know God doesn't want us to just stay as we are. He has so much more in store for us and not only in the life to come. He wants us to have life NOW. I'll admit that as much work as I have seen God do in the past few years, there are parts of my life He would probably like to see me light a fire under. I could go into it but that gets pretty personal. Sorry - even for this open book, I'd like to reserve that one. I'm sure you understand.

So..... along with getting my rear in gear with our biggest loser contest, I'm taking the advice Mom gave me a week ago tonight and making a few other changes. It felt inspired and has stuck with me for a week. Last night was our last session of bible study until September. It was so good but it's time to dig in with another group. I've already talked to a girl at a church with a pretty active singles group. The "young professional" ladies are having a bible study every other Tuesday night and I'll be attending that after Spring Break. I thought it might be a good way to meet some new people and stay in the Word. So I'm thinking God is going to bless that one in more than one way. We'll see though....His ways are higher than ours!

On a side note, there has been something going on at work in the past few weeks that I have neglected to mention. Oops! At work, I have been asked to help out with curriculum on the district level for two different subject areas this summer! This is right up my alley! I'm pumped and feel pretty honored. Truth be told, it really makes me feel like this is exactly where I need to be. It's very strange to feel like you are right where you should be but are longing for something more, something deeper (yikes - another blog for another day). Anyway...it's just two days over the summer so that means some big work leading up to it. It's a bit overwhelming because our district has 32 elementary schools that will be effected by what we do this summer. That is a bit overwhelming to think about but I'm so excited! I definitely don't feel like a loser here! :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day Twenty Two: Compassion and Mercy

It happened again - God's Surprise was in the waking up. Not that I woke up but that it happened at 4:45 this morning! Yep - wide awake with no intention of going back to sleep despite my desperate pleas. So I gave up and immediately thought of Samuel being called by God in the middle of the night. Then my mind flipped to Solomon being called in the middle of the night. I just said, "Ok God. Your servant is listening." I've been listening all day.....

As I was getting ready for the day, I was thinking about something and I thought, "That isn't lost on me." I've noticed myself saying that a lot lately. I guess counting your blessings makes you realize how many you have. When you realize you don't deserve any of them, you don't take them for granted!

I would say that God pretty clearly answered a couple of prayers that I've been praying lately. This week I've been praying II Corinthians 1:3-4 which says: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. Insert sigh here! In an exhausting, weary world, comfort is something we all need. In a state of troubled spirit, compassion is an ache. I'm so thankful that I have a Father who grants compassion and comfort of heart! Not only does He offer it but He equips us with it. Talk about a task set before us....He covered me today!

Those prayers came in handy during recess/lunch today when a student decided to throw all kinds of things around the room. I'm not talking pencils and spit wads either. I'm talking a lunch card, a yard stick covered in clothes pins, and almost a chair. God's comfort and compassion talked the chair back on the ground instead of it being hurled into the chalkboard. Thank you, Father, for that one!

Through it all, God is weaving a thread of mercy for me. Honestly, I've always struggled with understanding mercy. I can define it for you perfectly but truly getting it? Not until probably Sunday. Grace I understand a little bit better. Mercy? Not so much. It wasn't until I was praying the scripture above that I hit my knees and was humbled by His compassion and mercy. I am SO thankful that God withholds judgements that I too quickly make or hold on to. I am floored that He would look into my human heart and not be disgusted by it. I am infinitely thankful that God is my judge and I am not. What a mess I would be in! His mercies are truly new every morning!

Now, I'm about to give in to the comfort of my bed in eager anticipation of tomorrow's mercies. 4:45 just hit me......

Monday, March 09, 2009

Day Twenty One: Flotsam and Jetsam

One thing that I have enjoyed about reading Surprise Me is that it isn't a "how to" book or even one of deep spiritual weavings. It is just a guy's daily journal of where he saw God throughout His day. In the everyday, predictable routines or the moments that really seemed to stand out, its all there. I think my favorite thing about it is that in reading the journal, I find a LOT of my same thoughts on his pages. For example, guilt for wanting at least one "knock your socks off" surprise instead of just being satisfied with what has been given. Or looking back over a day and not really being able to pen point exactly what it was. Or being taken aback by how tangible He seemed to be one day. Or to be mid-writing and BAM, there it comes out of left field. (Side note, if anyone decides to take this on, I HIGHLY recommend journaling about it daily - blog or privately. Most of the time, you don't even realize what God did throughout the day until you sit down to digest it.) It just continues to amaze me that even though we are all so different, we are innately similar.

Here's another thing about these 30 days. You spend all day on your toes looking for how God is going to surprise you. Since you are looking for it all day, your mind is on Him all day long. I have grown to think that is the point of it all. When you are living in anticipation of God, knowing that He really is in every moment of every day, you will be amazed at what you will see. Everywhere you look is a lesson to be learned or an ah-ha to be had or just or awareness of Him. The majority of it depends on you. How much do you want to see God? How much effort do you put into getting into the richness of Him? How much credit do we give Him when life takes certain turns?

Example: I have a little girl that I adore in my class. Today we both wore yellow shirts and black pants. We took a matchy-matchy picture that I wish I could post on here in the worst way. (Darn privacy laws! It's really too cute for words!) Immediately, I was surrounded by all 12 of my girls wanting to know what I am wearing tomorrow so we can all match and take pictures. It's quite humbling to know that all of those little eyes are watching you wanting to be just like you. You really hope you aren't doing anything to permanently scar them. And not just my 12 girls but my 5 boys as well. I lay a hand on each one as they walk in my room each morning and pray blessings on them and grace on me. It makes we think about verses talking about being transformed into His likeness and I feel the weight of that with every glance of those 34 eyes. I have such a long way to go! Now who would think to see God in a matchy-matchy picture? I wouldn't if I hadn't been looking for it.

Or that it was a GORGEOUS day today and we had a wonderful recess. The flowers are starting to bloom and God is bringing the earth back to life again. The air is crisp and the kids got along. What a Creator we have! Glory be!

Or that yesterday I went to check Erin's blog and her random daily scripture was exactly the one I needed to be praying and didn't have the words for.

And that's not even the tip of the iceberg. So let me just encourage you to keep your eyes open. There is presence with you all the time if we just open our spiritual eyes to see Him.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Day Twenty: Laughing

As many of you know, I tend to be a more serious person. I know - shock. Lately though, there seems to be an increase of intensity within me. Not necessarily bad intense but just lots to think about and consider. Most have been huge blessings. They just make my brain tired from trying to process it all. Today has been no exception until....

On the way to life group tonight, I decided to call Mom for our daily chat. Towards the end of our conversation, I asked about one of her co-workers. She was relaying a story to me and I started to laugh. Not really a belly laugh but a pretty decent giggle. The story wasn't that funny but for whatever reason, out it came. It felt SO good - like bubbles floating up through my chest and out my mouth! I tried to remember when the last time was that I just laughed. Sadly, I cannot remember. Not that things are bad, just serious. Within a split second (and while still listening to Mom, of course), it seemed as if God whispered, "There it is! I made that sound and you've been holding it in. Relax and just let it go!" So I did. After we hung up, I just sat in my car and laughed for a good two or three minutes. No reason other than it was just time. I went in feeling really good.

I think that is a prayer I need to lift up. Lord, let me relax and see more humor around me. Help me to let it go and give me the gift of laughter!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Day Nineteen: People

Last night, I decided that while I was around the house, I would listen to an audiobook. I have to say that audiobooks are quite possibly one of the best inventions EVER! So I was browsing through iTunes and on their front audiobook page was a section for Oscar nominees. My eye was caught by Q&A by Vikas Swarup(or Slumdog Millionaire). I have heard rave reviews of the movie and we all know that the book is always better. So I downloaded it - all six hours and some minutes. It was about 7:30 last night when that purchase was made. I finished it right before lunch today. It was AMAZING! There was a little language and sections of it were slightly difficult to "read" but I would recommend it to any adult in a heartbeat! The narrator did all of the voices/accents very well, the story was just about flawless, and it really did make you feel every emotion under the sun. Beautiful book! In case you don't know, it is about an 18 year old Indian waiter who wins 1 billion rubbles by answering all 12 questions in a quiz show correctly. He is arrested and falsely accused of cheating. The novel is flashbacks to his life showing how he honestly knew the answers. I really cannot rave about this book enough!!!

As I listened to the story of Ram Mohammad Thomas (his name is explained), I got to thinking about how different people are and yet, so much the same. How are we the same and how are we different? I can't help but think that at the core of humanity, we are all alike. We have the same needs (physical and emotional). But then I got to thinking about how different we all are based upon our culture and upbringing. As I listened to the story set in India, I felt a more than a world away. It seems so vastly different! While we are innately the same, we have completely different lives! My mind is still whirling in it!

I have to stop this train of thought right here and derail. Sorry. As I was typing, this randomly popped in my mind. For a while now, I have been thinking about sponsoring a child through Compassion. It is a very legitimate Christian organization that allows people to sponsor a child by providing financial support for meeting their daily needs, schooling, and a Christian influence in their lives. They work with children in impoverished countries. I first heard of this organization in the fall of 2002 when reading a biography about Rich Mullins. Since then, they have been popping up at random and unexpected times. Including this one. I didn't expect this writing to go here but like He often does during this time of reflection - Surprise! I just wanted to share the blessings I received after ready an amazing book. Now.....

You'll have to excuse me. Sorry this doesn't make any sense at all. I would go back and make it cohesive but apparently I have something I need to go pray about right now. Keep posted - This surprise may only be beginning....

Day Eighteen: Slug

Back in January, Matt was transitioning between sermon series and gave a one lesson messgae. It wasn't one of the most overwhelmingly phenominal sermon ever given but it has stuck with me. Holy Spirit talking to me, I guess. He called it Always Keep Growing and focused on Proverbs 24. It is about not being a sluggard. It focused on our spiritual growth but for me, it talked about the daily things of life - the laundry, cooking, housekeeping, keeping up with people, etc. As he talked about the laziness of people, I felt some pretty intense shame. It has followed me for a few months so within the past week or two, I've finally decided enough is enough. Here's the deal:

I am a neat, orderly person. I'm not a neat freak or germaphobe. I do like to be able to know where things are and LOVE the idea of people just dropping by. As of late, I have really let my housekeeping go. I'm not living in filth but if anyone did just drop by, I would be SO embarrassed. There are stacks everywhere, things are not put away, and all because I have gotten pretty lazy. I am tired at the end of the day and instead of just doing a little every day, I give in and just do nothing. The 30 minutes a day it would take to get this place in shape is given over to that book I'm reading, that show that is coming on, or looking that thing up online. After all, it is just me that lives here, right!? One more day won't hurt! It's not that bad! Then a week or two goes by and I find myself thankful that people don't just drop by anymore (which really is sad but that's another post for another day). So now I look around me and fully feel like a slug. Have you ever seen a slug? NOT cute! I don't know anyone who looks at a slug and longs to be around it (unless you are a very little boy).

I have even noticed this at work. I am tired and just leave without taking the few minutes to get things in order. Then, the next morning, I have to take care to yesterday's "stuff" as well as today's. It snowballs into an overwhelming mess. I've got work under control now and it is WONDERFUL! I can leave earlier, find things quicker, the kids are even responding better to it, and I feel less crazy in my room.

As I thought about this, my surprise "ah-ha" hit me. The status of our surroundings reflect the status of our internal being. The more useless and blah I feel, the more disorderly things around me get. Then the more chaotic things around me get, the more out of control and slug-like I feel.
I know, this isn't earth shattering stuff but sometime you just need are REALLY good reminder!
So I have made myself a resolution to get myself back in order - for myself and others.

For myself, I can see but for others? I've been thinking on hospitality lately. I think God's got something up His sleeve. I've actually been feeling the clausterphobia of an apartment for the first time in my life. I can't host lifegroup, have a jewelry part for my cousin, invite people over for games, or even have more than about three friends over for dinner because I don't have room for it. Just inviting the five members of my family over for dinner can get cramped. I am thankful for the space I have but feel stiffled in serving/being hospitible in my home. Add to the room issue the mess issue and I'm just really wanting to get it in gear!

Alright, God, this weekend we work the ground work on this one. Time to step it up and stop being a slug!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Day Seventeen: Shooting Straight

I have this little girl in my class. She is smart, everyone wants to be her friend, she is eager to help anyone at anytime, and she is annoying me to death. Not expecting that one were you? Me either. Along with all of those good qualities, she has the worst attitude I have ever seen in a six year old. If she isn't the first at whatever, she literally throws herself on the ground and pouts. If she is talking and I ask her to move her clip, she argues. If she bosses everyone around her and is asked to stop, she "growls" and stomps away. On the occasion that I need to mark her folder, she slams it on my desk and stomps off. Let me tell you, these are NOT enduring qualities to this teacher. Apparently it isn't enduring to anyone because guess who is now getting the most tattles and making the most kids cry? The next step is for all the kids to not want to sit/work/play with her. Believe me, I've seen it happen. Kids are smart - if you are mean, we'll boycott you. Then it becomes us against you. Think social Lord of the Flies with six year olds. It can get ugly and give you a headache! We have talked about appropriate ways to respond when we are upset. We have discussed who the teacher in the room is. We have practiced how to use our words instead of growling. The are pretty much bandaids on a gashing wound.

So yesterday, I tried a new tactic. I pulled her out in the hall and said the following, "You know that I love you. You are smart and have lots of friends. However, you have the worst attitude in the class and it makes all of those good things about you stink." She looked like I sucker punched her and maybe I had. She sure wasn't expecting that first thing in the morning. I told her exactly what was bad about her attitude and how it made everyone around her feel. I told her she was starting to show signs of being a bully. The eye rolling, sighing, and growling started. I immediately stopped and called her on it. I told her very specifically what her consequences are from here on out for those responses. I also gave her the new job in our class of the caboose (walks at the end of the line to turn off the lights and close the door). She hates it and tries to get out of it everytime. Her classmates don't let her forget and she growls and stomps her feet to the end of the line. What she doesn't know is that I'm keeping her at that job until she can show me she can do it with a good attitude. I'm going to tell her that I can't give her another job until she shows me she can do this one correctly. And she is one of my go-to girls so this is really going to hurt her. Oh well....it will be good for her in the end. At the end of our talk, I reaffirmed the things that are good about her and that I love her. That seems to be the proverbial spoonful of sugar. We hugged and went in the room.

Ever since we had that talk, things have been a little smoother. I think the shooting straight thing really helped her know exactly where I was coming from. It makes me think about the bigger picture. How many of our relationship issues are because we don't shoot straight? I know that I don't like to hurt feelings so I don't tell people how it is when things aren't going well. I'll put a bandaid on it for a quick fix but avoid saying exactly what I'm thinking/feeling for fear of damaging the relationship. With my little girl, being that honest (in a loving way) is appearing to really made the difference. There isn't as much damage as I thought and we seem to be doing better. And I've never known God to beat around the bush with anything or anyone. It is risky for someone who is non-confrontational - uncomfortable at the least. I know I appreciate honesty if done in love. So that is the surprise of the day - quit buying bandaids and learn to shoot straight! Yikes!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Day Sixteen: Prayer

The day started a bit like normal - read, "Surprise Me", get ready, hit the classroom door (and to-do list) with avengance. Then the speaker came on and Dr. J announced the prayer meeting would begin in four minutes in the library. Rats! (I know- terrible response.) So here's the background on that one.

Last fall, several of us decided that we would like to do a bible study since our regular one was not being held for the semester. After some ho-humming and looking at many different authors/studies, we decided on Beth's Daniel study. Basically, someone had the DVD set so we didn't have to spend any money. Free is always good. We sent out the email, got the workbooks, and showed up for our first session. There were seven women and Dr. J. Bless his heart! He attended several sessions before the duties of being a principal called him out for good. But he did it! Weeks of attending a study for women. Out of his comfort zone but he shared that he was blessed by it. What a trooper!

Fast forward to Monday. I was listening to the radio and they announced something that was being done is Washington that day that shocked and bothered me. I immediately email the family and two co-workers. I thought about adding Dr. J to the email but decided against it. There is a difference between knowing someone's stance on political issues and someone's stance on abortion. So I decided against it. One of my co-workers forwarded it on to him anyway. Her response was, "Dana, we're Catholic. Of course he is pro-life!" Yeah, I played it safe though. Within minutes of her sending him the email, he sent out a campus wide email sharing that there would be a patriotic rosary held on Wednesday morning in the library to pray over our country and the decisions being made.

Now, I'm one of those people that thinks if someone puts themselves out there for you, you should reciprocate in some way. So Dr. J came to a women's Bible Study. Awkward for him. So, I decided to go to the rosary he was going to lead. Awkward for me.

As I finished passing out papers, I seriously considered skipping the rosary. I would go if Jill were here. I can pray on my own here in the room. I'm not Catholic. Bottom line, this is important to someone I respect a lot, he put himself out there for us last fall, cooperate praying is always a good thing. Ok.....I'll go.

There were six of us (his daughter came of her own accord - talk about a proud daddy!). I've never been to a rosary. In a nutshell, it was uncomfortable but a blessing in its own way. I could not bring myself to say the "Hail Mary"s. I still can't get myself around that one. However, there were some very cool things about this specific rosary. We prayed over each branch of the government - national to local - by name. We prayed over specific leaders by name. We prayed over the people and governments of each state - by name. As we prayed, I visualized people whose faces and hearts I know. Some were people I haven't thought about in years. But on this morning, we were praying over them. For states/branches I did not know anyone in, I just visualized that state. It was pretty powerful!

I think that we get wrapped up in general prayer sometimes (praying for the country and it's leaders) and we forget the power of praying for specific people and the decisions they are making. I wonder how much of an injustice that is for them as well as for us? Hmmm....

So I attended my first rosary at school (lead by my principal....if that is lost on anyone, let me just tell you, that blessing is NOT lost on me). Yes, it was difficult and I really didn't get aspects of it. Don't think I will. Don't really know if I'll ever attend another one. However, God sure did talk to me about the good that can come out of it. And He blessed the time spent in prayer too. It was a very peaceful day. Again, getting outside myself and pouring into Him first thing in the morning. Sure does remind me that the day really should start with Him.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Day Fifteen: The Prodigal

In order to understand today's post, there is something about myself that I have to admit. I'm not sure if I am the only one like this or not. Part of me hopes not but for the spiritual well being/attitude of everyone else, I hope I am. OK.....confession time.....there are certain passages that, when they are used in a lesson, I feel myself tend to check out. I am very embarrassed to admit this but its true. So, of course, God used a passage that I "check out" on to get my attention tonight.

This evening at bible study, the lesson revolved around the Prodigal Son. I will admit that this is one of the the passages that makes me check out. Not because I have anything against it but because it is SO familiar to me. However, God used it tonight to speak such a sweet message to us all. The theme of the lesson was "When we realize, as heiresses of God, that we've squandered so much of our Father's property...." It spent some time addressing some things that, THANKFULLY, have not applied to my past but what followed was the sweetest, most hopeful "Come to Jesus" lesson I have ever heard. To me, it was almost like a warm, familiar blanket straight from the dryer - fresh and clean but full of the familiar that makes it your favorite. As the lesson went on, God flooded my mind with people and images of Him running to. Not only in my life but in the lives of those around me. He reminded me of His goodness and patience as He waited for His children to come home to Him because that is where we belong. Through the remembrances of those around me, I was gently reminded that some lessons, activities, moments are not about me. Sometimes they are for the benefit of others and we are just privileged to watch God do His thing. What a blessing!

The lesson was full of great points but one stood out more than others (like one usually does). In the past few weeks, I have had Galatians 1:10 on my mind. It says, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." It's had me really thinking about why I do (and don't do) things. I'm not 100% sure where this is taking me yet but I'm getting an idea. Anyway - as we talked about that lovely older brother, this verse popped into my mind again. I'm telling you, it is following me everywhere.

So today's surprises - 1) a fresh word from a familiar passage and 2) being mentally stalked by a verse. I'd say it was a good one!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Day Fourteen: Thankful

Today, God has just really helped me to see many things that I am thankful for. Most of it I am a bit surprised by but overall, it makes perfect sense. So if you can bear another list, here are the things I am thankful for today:

1. God's plan prevailing over my own in all things!
2. Mom praying for my husband while I quit fighting and let God handle it. For me, its like Aaron and Hur holding up Moses's arms during battle when Moses couldn't do it himself (Exodus 17). I know she isn't the only one holding up these weary arms and I am thankful for each one of you! One day, when we meet him, I'll be blessed beyond measure to show him how many people prayed over him. I am humbled and choked up just thinking about it!
3. Being organized and with it really does help your productivity and time management!
4. Reality is so much better than anything man can force or make up!
5. Dinner was actually planned and timed perfectly. For me, that is very rare!
6. Having friends and family I can share my "What!?" moments with at 7:15 in the morning (via email).
7. God is in control even when people do things I cannot understand.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Day Thirteen: The Little Things

Erin commented that she has been reading my daily journal but often hasn't known what to comment about because all of this has been very personal/serious/deep/whatever adjective you want to insert here. I agree and think it is part of the reason I've been tired lately. Don't get me wrong...I have loved it and am SO thankful for each and every surprise I've been blessed with. I just know that feeling of "brain overload". You know.....so much is in there that your head might explode. I can tell it is coming. Apparently God can too because He decided to give me a break from the serious surprises. I am please to share that this was just a light, fun day filled with little surprises that only I can really appreciate! :) So here is a list of some of the ways that God was good to me today:

1. I have discovered that I really enjoy cooking - especially for other people. I spent about an hour today looking up new recipes, anticipating when I'll get to make them, and who it will be for. Seriously, if I cook for you, you can bet that I thought about you the entire time I was making it. There was also most likely some prayer over you as it was being prepared as well. It is becoming a love language for me.

2. I was able to get all of my errands completed in about two hours today rather than the three or four I was anticipating. And I didn't forget anything!

3. I ran into someone that I met on the retreat last weekend on the way out the door at church this morning. Doesn't sound like a big deal but I thought I had missed her. It was like seeing a long lost friend. She's going to be someone important....I can tell.

4. I broke down and finally bought the Hello Love album and a new album by Barenaked Ladies (BNL) from iTunes. I already love them both for such different reasons. Chris Tomlin helps me worship and BNL makes me laugh. Two great things to do on this day!

5. Erin got her WAY adorable new layout so I got the steal her temporary one that I happen to think is fabulous!

6. I had the kids during Life Group tonight and they were SO good! We talked about the Fruit of the Spirit using a lesson I found online. They were so precious. I do love those boys and girls!

7. It is time for my next memory verse and I chose Psalm 40:5 - Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

What can I say......It was a great day overflowing with the little joys that make an ordinary day a blessing!