Isolation is the Wrong Direction

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Sonshine, bright light, happiness, joy, colorful, delight . . . . . these are words that come to mind when I think about FREEDOM!!!  These are the things that I want FLOODING MY HEART!!!!!  This is where I want to live, 24/7!!!!!!!

Here is what I know to be true in my life . . . . . when life gets hard, or I’m up against a huge challenge, I want to isolate instead of running towards Jesus and Christian community!!!  I want to go home, crawl into my bed, dive under the covers and be left ALONE!!!!!  I’m still trying to come up with a Scripture to justify this action!!!!!  I have yet to find one!!!

What I do find is that we are NOT meant to do life alone!!  We are NOT meant to battle the enemy single-handedly!!!  We are NOT meant to isolate!!!!!!!!!!

DISCLAIMER . . . . yes there is solitude!!!  This is key and critical in the life of the believer!!!!  But this is totally different than isolation!!!!!  It’s the attitude of the heart that matters!!!

Isolation . . . . hiding, ignoring life, keeping people away because they annoy us, usually accompanied by a pity-party attitude, or a desire to be sad, lonely, hopeless, scared and alone.  This is a place we seem to slip into either gradually or quickly.  We had no plan to get there and no plan to get out of there either!!  When one stays here they have a tendency to get sucked in deeper to isolation and being alone . . . totally alone.  This can be a very Godless place!!

Solitude . . . . planned time away with the goal of being quiet and alone with Jesus.  The reason is for spiritual direction, leading, enjoy His presence, grow closer to Him.  It’s a spiritual discipline that has an intentional starting and stopping time.  Solitude is intention and done with purpose, design and desire.  The outcome of time away is a deeper walk with Jesus and more resolve in the life we live.

DISCLAIMER #2 . . . . . there can be a mix of the two at times, but the heart is the judge of what the heart is truly doing.

Here is my point . . . . . I can fall easily into isolation and I don’t think I’m alone in this either!!  If I am alone too long I slip into isolation mode and things don’t go well for me at all and it’s never a good thing!!!  I get sad, mopey and defeated!!!!  I can fall way too quickly into a downward spiral and getting out can be super tough!!!!

But when I PLAN times of solitude these are some of the sweetest times with Jesus I have!!!!  They are planned out and within a set time frame.  They are times with Jesus when I walk away having GAINED SO MUCH!!!!!!  They strengthen me, gird me up, cement the ground I am standing on in Jesus, sharpen my vision on Him!!!!

OUR HEARTS KNOW THE DIFFERENCE!!!!!

Here is my bottom line for today . . . . . isolation is the WRONG DIRECTION FOR OUR HEARTS TO BE GOING!!!!!!!!!!  This is never what God has for us!!!!!!!!  When we start to withdraw from the world unplanned for long periods of time these is the risk that we are not going in the direction of the Light, the Son, and JOY!!!!!!!

So the question of the day is this . . . . . . What is God saying to your heart about ISOLATION and SOLITUDE?!?!?!?!?

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Just ONE WORD!

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I LOVE words!!!!  DSC_3058

I see God use them in so many BIG WAYS and small ways . . . . but He always used words!!!  Not just HIS WORD . . . . . but lots of other words too!!!

I have used words in various Unveiled activities, and whatever the word GOD ALWAYS SHOWS UP!!!!  Women pick words, I assign words, words are picked out of a jar . . . . whatever way I have used words in activities it’s always POWERFUL!!!!

I teach Middle School and a couple years ago I was sitting with some friends at work and I challenged us all to come up with “our word for the year” that we were going to have as our focus.  I’m not sure anyone grabbed onto this activity as strongly as I did, but it CHANGED MY YEAR!!!!

Everyone else came up with very professional words that were sure to change their school year!  I was hesitant, and almost embarrassed, as I shared my word. After 24 years of teaching I have travelled a lot of ground, been through a lot of changes and challenges, and was getting slightly weary in what I was doing.  So I stepped up to the line and shared the word God put on my heart for the year . . . . . . FUN!  Yep, my teaching year was going to be focused on FUN!!!!

Not sure what this meant, but I stepped out and stepped into my year with the focus of FUN!!!  It was an AMAZING YEAR!!!!!!!  Yes, lots of great math was done!!!  In fact, some of the BEST MATH TEACHING I HAD EVER DONE!!!!!!!  And all the while I was making sure we were having FUN while we were learning!!!!!!

It was a GREAT YEAR!!!!  I had a BLAST . . . . and I hope my students did too!!!  I was a teacher CHANGED and TRANSFORMED!!!!

When it came time for a word for this school year I sensed God asking me to stick with FUN . . . . and so I have!!!  And it has been just that!!!!!

The POWER in ONE WORD!!!!!!!!!  WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So here I am at the start of 2015 and I am challenged by God to listen to His heart for my “Word of the Year” for this coming 2015.  The scary part is that when He asked me to pick a word I KNEW what the word was going to be!!  But it is SO BIG that it’s scary to me!!!!!!!!!!!!  I have been hesitant to share it with anyone . . . . but God seems to think that this blog is going to be the place to not only share my word, but my journey through 2015.  I hope you’re going to join me for the long-haul!!!!!

So . . . . . my word . . . . . BREAKTHROUGH!!!  It lingers in front of my heart like a giant marquee sign lit up at night.  This is what God is speaking over me for 2015.

Now . . . . . . WHAT ABOUT YOU?!?!?!?!?  What is YOUR WORD going to be?!?!?!?!?  If you’re brave enough, please share it with me, and let’s boldly jump into 2015 together, ready for a WILD RIDE WITH JESUS!!!!!!!!!!!  =  )  I would love for you to comment below what your word is and your thoughts about your word from Jesus!!!  Let’s hold each other up in prayer as we follow this WILD SAVIOR OF OURS WITH DEEP PASSION AND DEVOTION AND TRUST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Content at CHRISTmas?!?!?

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Manger picCHRISTmas is the season that strengthens my ability to look up and down, and keeps me from looking side to side too often!!  Let me explain . . . .

This is the season where the pull from retail is SO STRONG and they work SO HARD to make me feel like I’m missing out if I don’t have what they are selling!!  There are more advertisements, flyers, mailed items, e-mailed items, Facebook posts, etc. . . . all centered on one thing . . . . . . WE NEED MORE STUFF!!!!!!!  And this particular item is what we need!!!!!  With all this coming at me it creates a certain stress in my heart!!!!!

And yet on the flip side . . . . . . .

I love to wander around Target . . . . alone . . . . with an empty shopping cart.  It’s one of my GREATEST JOYS, and yet at the same time one of my husband’s GREATEST FEARS!!  But this time of year is my favorite because all of the CHRISTmas promotions are out and all the special packaging and ???????? are out.  I love to see what’s new and cute and fun.  It doesn’t all make my shopping cart, but I do enjoy just wandering around and looking at it all.

This always starts out as a good trip, but it can soon turn sour as I see all the stuff I don’t have and yet maybe I should have it?!?!?!  But I don’t have it, and I never knew it existed, but now for some strange reason I don’t just want it, I think I NEED IT!!!!!!!!  And what started out as a fun trip around my favorite store has turned my heart into a downward spiral because not only can I not afford to buy all the stuff I’m seeing, but I really don’t want all this stuff in my house!!!!!!!!

I have been talking with Jesus a lot about CONTENTMENT these days!!!  My heart gets all jumbled up as I look at what everyone else has around me!  At the ministry opportunities others are getting!  At the piles of gifts that others are giving and getting!  At all the CHRISTmas parties and activities swirling around me!  At the perfect children in all the CHRISTmas cards!  At the beautiful decorations that are decked on everyone’s halls!  I could go on and on and on at how my heart keeps comparing my world to everyone else!!!  And what is so hard is that with each comparison I COME UP LACKING!!!  Or so it seems to me!!

Comparison . . . . this is what kills me every time!!!!  When I look at those AROUND ME . . . . side to side . . . . it’s NEVER A GOOD THING!!!!!  All this breeds in my heart is DISCONTENTMENT!!!!!!!!

God doesn’t want us to be looking side to side!!!  He longs for us to LOOK UP . . . . . TO HIM . . . . . our SWEET and PRECIOUS PRINCE OF PEACE!!!!!!!!  That baby in the manger, the one we are celebrating this season . . . . if we keep our EYES ON HIM we will find all the peace and contentment that we long for!!!!!!!!!

I find myself over and over having to stop and correct my gaze!!  I need to stop looking side to side, but to tip my head back and look up to the Lover of my Soul!!!!!  It’s AMAZING!!!  When I do that all of the stuff of the side drifts away and I am engulfed in His HOLY STARE and I can’t get my eyes off of the one that brings such a change of heart to me!!!  I have to confess my jealousy, envy and wandering eyes off of Him . . . . . but He scoops me right back up in His arms for a wonderfully warm CHRISTmas cuddle and at that point NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!!!!!!!!!!!  For in the arms of the Prince of Peace I am the most content I will ever be!!!!

So as I continue to walk through this season I will continue to allow God to strengthen my ability to keep my eyes from looking side to side, but instead keep them focused LOOKING UP to the cross or LOOKING DOWN to the baby in the manger!!!!

Not Just for Kids Anymore

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While wandering through the store to get some more shampoo I came upon something so new and unusual to me . . . . . hmmmmmmm . . . . . . what fun could I have with those?!?!?!?

Here is the back-story . . . . .

I LOVE my husband!!  He is SO GOOD to me!!  He is a natural at serving and taking care of me!!  I LOVE IT!!!  But I am constantly aware of my need to do a better job of serving him and cheering him on!!  He would tell you I do a great job . . . . but I think he’s WAY TOO KIND!!!!!  This is an area I have to keep working at!!  I can get so busy in the rest of my world that it’s way too easy to forget that, after God, MY MAN IS MY NUMBER ONE PRIORITY!!!!

So often I find that the demands of work and ministry appear more pressing than taking care of my husband.  My sweet man will understand if I don’t make dinner tonight, but work won’t be so forgiving if I don’t have a chance to get all my obligations completed, and on time!!

How CRAZY is that?!?!?!?

Because I want Paul to know that he is the LOVE OF MY LIFE and my HEART’S DESIRE I am always looking for new and fun ways to tell him so!!  I think I hit the JACKPOT TODAY!!!!!

I found a package of BATHTUB CRAYONS!!!!!  Now I know there are probably a zillion moms out there that know all about these things . . . . but they are new to me!!!!  We were not blessed with children, so the tools of the trade are amazing to me!!!  This being one of them!!!  For around $4 I figured this was worth the risk!!!  I was SO EXCITED!!!!  I could hardly wait to get home and start writing on our shower walls!!!!! pic O

Although . . . . . as I’m typing this I”m hoping that this is what you’re supposed to do with them!!!!  Well . . . . it’s what I did with them!!!  I hope I didn’t ruin our shower!!!!!!!!

I have included some of the pics that I put in our shower for him to find early tomorrow morning!!  I pic Lwant him to know, without a doubt, that I am his NUMBER ONE FAN!!!!!  I am his biggest cheerleader and there is NO ONE on this planet that shakes their pom-poms better than I do for my man!!!

So my question for you is this . . . . . Who are the men in your world that YOU are CALLED to encourage?!?!?!?

Married women, yours is easy . . . . it’s the man you arpic Ne married to!!  For better or worse . . . . in sickness and in health . . . . till death do you part!!

Single women . . . . . who are the men in your world that you can encourage and remind them WHO THEY ARE?!?!?!?!  It could be a brother, co-worker, neighbor, friend  . . . . . ask God who this might be!!!pic P

Ladies . . . . . we have the opportunity to bring LIFE or death to the men in our world . . . . . today may you CHOOSE LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jesus on the Zipline

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I have to go back to our Disney visit again.  You would think we were there for a couple weeks, but we were truly there for ONE DAY!!!  We just packed in so much, and it was such a HUGE EXPERIENCE that I can’t help but share pieces and parts with you!!  Again!!

Once we finally arrived at the Magic Kingdom we walked through the gate, around the train station and made our way to Main Street.  Once we turned to look down main street there IT was.  You couldn’t miss IT!  At the far end of the street, over some flowers and such, IT stood in such majesty and splendor!!!  I just stood in my tracks and started Disney Castleat IT!

Cinderella’s Castle

OH MY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Set aside any ill-will you may have to Disney, and imagine seeing in person this castle you have only seen in pictures, movies or on TV.  It was so over-whelming to my heart!!!  WOW!!!!!!

Later on that night was stayed for the fireworks that began with Tinkerbell careening down a zipline from the top of the Castle!  She was lit up so you could watch her on her travel.  It was so fun!!

As I sat there pondering all I was experiencing and all I knew to be TRUE I found myself contemplating the Kingdom that I am MOST LONGING FOR!!!!  If there is all this hype for Cinderella’s Castle, can you imagine what Heaven will be like?!?!?!  Will there be a tram, a monorail, a journey just to get to the place where you get to see GOD’S CASTLE?!?!?!?!?  How AMAZING and MAGNIFICENT will that be?!?!?!?!?!

And will there be fireworks?  Or something better?  And I don’t mean to be irreverent nor disrespectful, but I wonder if Jesus will go zipping down the zipline for all to see and cheer!!!!  And if He does, I’m hoping He lets us go with Him, one by one!!  Could you imagine being on a zipline going over Heaven with Jesus leading the way?!?!?!?

I love to let my Holy Imagination out to play every now and then!!  Not to downplay the holiness and reverence of God, but I think He has some playful in Him as well!!!  And if He gave me this imagination I want to be able to use it when I think of Him as well!!

So what do YOU think Heaven will be like?  Maybe it’s a futile mind game, wasted mental gymnastics . . . . . but I know that when I anticipate a date with my husband, or a long awaited trip, it’s the anticipation that I enjoy as well!!!

So are you ANTICIPATING the Holy Kingdom?!?!?  Have  you wondered about your heavenly body?  Your heavenly garments that Revelation talks about?  And how are you getting yourself READY to meet YOUR KING?!?!?!?!?!?

Arrival at Disney

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Yesterday my handsome man and I spent the entire day at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World in Florida. Today, although I’ve never even tasted alcohol in my life, this is what I imagine a hangover to feel like!! I pulled myself out of bed and I thought to myself, “That Mouse is INTOXICATING!!!”

Then I smiled and thought about how I want everyday of my life to be like yesterday, but for JESUS.

Then I thought of this verse, with my own paraphrase:

Ephesians 5:18
Do not get drunk on the Mouse, which leads to worldliness. Instead be filled with the Spirit!!!

My husband had not been to The Magic Kingdom before, and I hadn’t been there in YEARS – over 35 of them!! So for both of this it was pretty much a first time experience – and an experience it was!!!!

We found out 24 hours prior to going to the Mouse House that we were going. I had heard it was a possibility, but said nothing to Paul. I hadn’t heard so assumed we weren’t going, but over breakfast, the morning of our flight, the email came that we were lavishly and graciously given tickets. I didn’t want to tell Paul, but the tears streaming down my face as I read my email gave it all away. I couldn’t even tell him, I could only hand him my phone and let him read it for himself. He just stared at me. Shocked! Stunned! Overwhelmed! We had talked for years about how we would love to do this, and now in 24 hours we would be there! We had 24 hours to anticipate our arrival to The Magic Kingdom and plan our day!

Nothing could prepare us for the next morning!!!!

I love the MAGIC of Disney, and the excitement of arriving was unlike anything I have ever experienced!!! Everywhere you go in the park it’s all about the MAGIC. Being a follower of Jesus I stay away from that word, but since Disney uses it to reference itself, so will I, because it stands in contrast to Jesus and the WONDER Of Him!!!!

We drove into the parking area.

We took the Tram to the ticket booths.

We took the monorail to the park.

With each step the anticipation just mounted!!!!!!! I was coming out of my skin!!! I couldn’t wait to get there!!!! If you know me well it will not surprise you that there were tears of excitement at many steps of this journey!!!

But it wasn’t just me!!!

There were THOUSANDS of people like me FLOODING the Disney parks with us!!! Ready for their piece of the Disney magic!!!!!

I want my anticipation of seeing JESUS face to face to PALE IN COMPARISON with what I had yesterday!!! But as we are making our way to our destination I thought many times about what will it be like when we make our way to GOD’S KINGDOM?!?!?!? What will the transportation be like?!? What will be the disposition of my fellow travelers?!?! Who will be the first person we talk with?!?!

At Disney, the first person we talked with was the ticket agent. She was KIND, CARING AND SO VERY HELPFUL!!!! She asked if we’d ever been there and when Paul said no we were given 1st Time pins. So now everyone in the park knew we were rookies!! What I thought would be a detriment turned out to be a BONUS!!!! Now everyone we came in contact with knew we were newbies and helped us!! It was an amazing time!!!! There is SO MUCH MORE to my Disney story – I will come back to it later!!!!

Until then – here is my prayer for all of us!!!

Dear Sweet Savior, let our excitement and anticipation of seeing You, and being with You, be DOUBLE of what I had yesterday for a silly mouse!!! You are SO MUCH MORE!!!!! May every action and reaction of our lives show that!!!!!!!

Watch Out for the Impending Black Shadow!!!

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My heart is SO TENDER in this season!  I just love Thanksgiving for two reasons –Thanksgiving

1)  I have such fond memories of going to my Aunt’s house in Dearborn and going to the Thanksgiving Day parade!  As a child this was such a WONDER for me!!  Even as I type this my heart can’t help but smile as I think about sitting on the curb with my little hands wrapped tightly around a cup of hot cocoa, the only thing that was keeping me warm on that freezing cold morning! To get a good seat we had to arrive early and sit on the cold concrete and wait.  I didn’t mind!  I loved the atmosphere created in those moments, the anticipation of the parade and the ultimate coming of Santa at the end!  As a child was there anything better?!?!?!  I DON”T THINK SO!!!!!

As an adult I mourn the changing of this tradition, but there are new ones in it’s place.  Once again this year I will run the Turkey Trot in downtown Grand Rapids, but this year I will run with not only my man and my Aunt, but most all of my nieces and nephews are joining in on the fun as well!!!  For these people I call family I am SO GRATEFUL FOR!!!!

Which brings me to the second reason why I LOVE Thanksgiving . . . .

2)  I believe that for a followers of Jesus this is such a HUGE CELEBRATION!!!!!!!!!!  We have more reason than ANYONE to be thankful!!  But it’s more than that . . . . . we are the only ones that know WHO TO BE THANKFUL TO!!!!!!!!!!!  I teach my Middle School students to be thankful . . . . but to whom are they thankful?  There is this vagueness about having a thankful heart for all they have!  But for me . . . . . I know to WHOM I AM THANKFUL!!!!!  This is the day I set aside to CELEBRATE MY THANKFUL HEART TO GOD!!!!!!!!!!!  No, this is not the only day I’m thankful . . . . but the focus of this day is the thankfulness I have towards Jesus for all He’s done for me . . . . to the Father for the unbelievable LOVE that He lavishes me with and to the Holy Spirit for His unending presence in my life!!!!!!!!!!!

But where there is a focus on God . . . . evil is so close!!!!  I am watching as our enemy is slowly and methodically ruining Thanksgiving . . . . . he is stealing the focus, killing the priority on a thankful heart and destroying the precious time that families have set aside to be thankful and celebrate all that God has done for them!!!  Instead this precious holiday is being overtaken by the dark shadow of consumerism and the Body of Christ is getting sucked into it as well!!!!  The Big Black Shadow of Black Friday shopping has now oozed into Thanksgiving Day and all the dinner plans are now set around when the stores open and people want to get a jump on their Black Friday shopping!!!

ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So what can YOU DO to make Thanksgiving special?!?!?!?!  How can your Thanksgiving me special for you, your heart and Jesus?!?!?!?  There are so many awesome things to do to make Thanksgiving special . . . . check out Google and find some new traditions for you and your family that will usher in thankful hearts to your celebration and the rest of your year!!!  Be a trend-setter!!!!  Don’t hold back . . . . . Jesus didn’t hold back for you!!!!!

So as we get closer to one of my favorite holidays, and you still have time to make some purposeful decisions about the day, I  want to CHALLENGE . . . . . ENCOURAGE . . . . . . and CHEER YOU ON to keep Thanksgiving HOLY and SET APART in your heart, your life, your family and as much of your world as you can!!!!!!!  As followers of our sweet and precious Jesus I want us to stand up to the world and let them know that we still VALUE Thanksgiving!!!  That we are a THANKFUL PEOPLE and we are going to THANK OUR GOD FOR ALL HE’S DONE FOR US!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Let’s enjoy this day set aside to THANK HIM . . . . . and you can get your shopping rush on Friday!!!  There will still be plenty leftover . . . . Jesus will take care of YOU when YOU PUT HIM FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!

Today I am thanking God for YOU!!!!  Thanks for stopping by and letting me share what God has on my heart!!!!  Much love to you . . . . HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!!!!   =  )