Church… it’s my family

I have gone to church my whole life.  Even in college when no one was “making” me.  It has been something that I have always done; sometimes out of obligation, other times out of need but mostly because of the joy it gives me.  There is something so sacred about joining with others in worship and prayer.  And the connections run deep.  Very deep.  There is nothing like the love of church family.

My parents church... the church that i grew up in

My parents church… the church that I grew up in.

I witnessed it during a long period of health problems in my father. As an active farmer at the time of his stroke, he had many duties and responsibilities with livestock and crops that could not go unattended.  His church family was truly a life saver in that many people stepped in and assumed responsibilities and did undesirable jobs to continue the running of the farm.  And when it was discovered that he would never be able to farm again, they were there dismantling equipment and a farrowing house (which was a really yucky job). They drained lagoons, and got things ready for auctions.   They were there with all their combines and grain wagons when it was time for harvest.   It was truly one of the  most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.  A group of men linked together by God’s love literally being Jesus’ hands.

 

I have experienced the love of church family in my own life.  When I got a phone call late at night from my mother 12 hours away and friends and family are quick to step in to take care of  my children and church responsibilities.  The love of friends sending care packages as I travel.  The love of friends at church gathering around me in prayer when I got the call from my mother with the test results and her telling me it is cancer.

My Church and my beloved church family

My Church and my beloved church family

I was gone from my church for weeks at a time due to my parents health and I found myself missing it.  I missed the fellowship, I missed the community, I missed being part of something that was bigger than myself.  And when I returned, I was inundated with questions of how my family was. Because they cared about me.

It is for that same reason that I bake bread or make a meal for someone that just had a baby, or surgery or had a death in the family.  Because there is joy in the giving; a blessing to share God’s love with others.  And I share it not just with my church family but for my neighbors and friends regardless of their beliefs.  Because it is not just about church, but also about sharing God’s love with whoever needs it.  And really, we all need it.

I encourage you, if you are not part of a church, please find one. The denomination or the sign on the front door doesn’t matter as much as the part that you are part of something that you were created to be a part of.  God designed us to gather together in worship; to be part of something that is a unified community.  To be part of something greater than ourselves.  Where one can gather together with others of like mind, like purpose and a common love for our God.  See for yourself, there is something better when we are all together.

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My Word of the Year

I’m a little late to be posting about my word of the year when it’s been all over blogland.  It’s not because I haven’t been thinking about it, rather it’s just been hard to find a word that sums up what I want or need this year.  None of them felt quite right.  I had considered dream, intentional, dare, believe, renew, focus and even outloud.  I didn’t want to casually pick a word, rather I wanted it to be meaningful and prayerful.

Well, this is it….  PURSUE.

It fits in so many ways.  Let me share a little…

My Dream Job – I need to build and grow my hobby from finding treasures and selling in the little space I rent to a whole new level.  I want Farm Girls at Heart to be a brand that becomes bigger than the little antique store I sell out of.  I want to sell more on etsy, I want to do shows in different states.  I want to step out and make my dream a reality.  In order to do that, I have to pursue my dream and not wait for success to find me, I have to pursue it.

Healthy Lifestyle – I am tired of ever changing 15 – 20 pounds that I am constantly losing and gaining.  I don’t want to focus on a size or weight goal.  I would rather focus on eating healthier and being intentional with the food I eat; and to move and exercise more.  Diets don’t work for me, but healthier eating will benefit everybody.

Righteousness – I want to pursue righteousness.  To dig into the word more and grow in my relationship with God.  I want read the Bible more and to continue to journal regularly.  I want to be a good example to my family.  The hardest thing in this one is the the tendency for me to talk negatively.  I am generally a positive person (I’m even criticized for it), but I can’t seem to help but to share my thoughts and feelings about things that happen or my opinions about them.  This may not seem bad, but then I hear my children parrot my previous conversations and I realize that is not a good thing…

Boldness – I want to pursue boldness in my Christian faith.  I have been a believer all my life.  I love God with all my heart and if you ask me, I would love to share my faith with you. Did you notice that I said “if you ask me”.   But for some reason, I can’t seem to step out of my comfort zone and initiate conversations about church and/or God.  I wait for people to ask me questions rather than asking them anything related to church or God.

Why?  I’m not sure and that frustrates me.  I don’t ever want to seem pushy or make people feel obligated and that has kept me from reaching out to people. Often times, I fear being judged and that fear keeps me from stepping out.  That is one of the reasons this blog has never been posted on my Facebook or Instagram because I fear judgement or criticism from people. I would rather speak to a faceless crowd where people don’t know me personally.   I need boldness in this area too, that this blog can be another platform to share my faith.

Authentic Relationships – I want to pursue real relationships with women.  I want to build a small group of ladies where we can share our deeper feelings and hurts and desires without fear of judgement or criticism.  I need to be more open with sharing my home and time with others.

That’s my word of the year.  It has lofty goals and lots of avenues to be used this year.  I pray that this word will weave its way through my heart and life this year; that changes will be made and lives improved as a result.

Do you have a word of the year?  I’d love to hear about it!

A New Year, a New Beginning

Each year I think of goals and resolutions. I am just like everybody else and I make a list each year of what I want to accomplish.    I keep some of my resolutions and I forget about most of them.

Beginning image

Source: quotesonimages.com

I  think about my new goals for 2015 and I think about how exciting it is to have a “do over”; a chance where we can start fresh and have a new beginning.  That made me think about what a new beginning is all about.

When I reflect on 2014, I tend to see my failures and regrets.  I remember the the things that I didn’t do, the mistakes I made and the missed opportunities.  Reflection often brings shame and overshadows the many joys of the past year.  Because really,  2014 was a good year.  It was a year of healing, growth and redemption.   It was a year to be celebrated.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

The old has gone, the new has come.”  

2 Corinthians 5:17

Paul wrote these words.  He believed these words.  He experienced these words.  If I can think of any biblical character that experienced a new beginning, it is Paul.  Paul knew.  Paul knew the redemptive power of Christ’s love and sacrifice.  He felt the change from his past to his beginning.  Paul was able to overcome who he used to be to who God called him to be.  Paul didn’t let his past keep him from being used by God.  He didn’t let public opinion make him want to keep his story a secret.  He didn’t let shame and regret from past behavior keep him from God’s purpose.  Instead, he used his past to share the power of God’s forgiveness.

God used a man that used to kill Christians and changed his heart and gave him a new beginning that he became one of the most influential man in history.

Our past does not have to define our future.  Our shame does not have to continue to be carried; our fears do not have to hold us back.  Our regrets do not have to be larger than our intentions.  If we believe these lies (and that’s what they are); than we are not acknowledging the full redemptive power of God’s grace.  God is bigger than our past.  He IS our future; He IS our hope.    He IS our new beginning.  The consequences of our past may still be there, but so is God.  And God can use each one of us right where we are.  Even with the garbage that we have created with our choices.

What is holding you back this year?  I encourage you to keep the past from influencing your future.  Join me and let’s make 2015 a new beginning….

source: inspirably.com

source: inspirably.com

Send me…

“Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people?  Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am.  Send me.”

Isiah 6:8 NLT

A reminder that God's blessing rests in our home

A reminder that God’s blessing rests in our home

This Christmas season has been one of reflection for me. I am experiencing all sorts of emotions that are whirling within my head and heart and robbing me of the peace that this season should provide.  I started the month of December with a prayer that I would truly experience God’s great love for me in a new and meaningful way.  I believe that God has answered that prayer but along with it brought confusion and questions that are still unresolved.

I work in our Children’s Ministry department on Sunday mornings.  We have three age divisions and I wanted to teach the importance of giving to others during the Christmas Season in a way that all the children, regardless of their age would be able to participate and understand the concept.  The curriculum we are using emphasizes generosity and to help put generosity into action, I chose to partner with Innercity Church in Oklahoma City with their Christmas program called “Christmas in the Hood”.  To help with this project, we filled shoe boxes with all sorts of goodies including candy, school supplies, toothpaste and toothbrushes, socks, gloves, hats and toys.    My two sons went with me to the church to deliver 50 shoeboxes.

My trunk was completely full of shoeboxes!!

My trunk was completely full of shoeboxes!!

As I was driving to Innercity church and driving in the neighborhood it was easy to notice that this is an old part of the city that is long neglected.  I drove past run down businesses with bars on the windows, abandoned buildings, neglected houses that are not taken care of, and children roaming the streets.  It was not a safe area and it made me a little nervous. As i approached the church, it also showed the same wear and tear.  It was an original brick structure with lots of buildings added on to it or adjoining it.  We parked and went in and met with the people to deliver the shoe boxes.  The inside of the building was a stark contrast to the old exterior.  The inside was clean, well taken care of and warm and inviting.  We unloaded the shoe boxes with the help of 4 men.  The four men were of various ages and ethnicity and their faces were a reflection of a life of hard work, poor choices and most importantly the joy of Jesus.

I was only there for less than 10 minutes, but that experience haunted me for the remainder of the week.  As I was driving away, I felt very aware of the difference of myself living the gospel contrasted with these church members living the gospel.  While neither is better than the other, it opened my eyes to what else I could or should be doing.

My sharing Jesus is based on teaching  children about God in a small rural town.  I help with the Women’s Ministry, I serve as a youth sponsor in our Youth Department.  Our family helps feed the homeless and needy at the City Rescue Mission.  Several times during the year, the kids and I load up and drive up and down the streets of downtown Oklahoma City and pass out bottles of water and crackers or granola bars to the homeless people on the streets.  It’s one of our favorite things to do (except for one of the kids – they are a little scared by it all).  We give to missions and pick tags off the Angel tree.  I enjoy each of these things and believe that they have great value and meaning to the people that I am reaching but it still doesn’t feel right.  It doesn’t feel like enough,

What Christmas is all about...

What Christmas is all about…

Innercity Church’s Christianity is being the  hands of feet of Jesus every day to the needy.  To the people that don’t have enough food, they may not have a loving family or a warm house or a clean bed.  It seems wrong for me to go home to  my spacious, warm house that has plenty of food and lots of love to share.   My emphasis is getting great presents for my kids and family members and buying cute decorations for the house.  My Christmas seems so shiny and bright while the needy is so painful and raw.  It seems so selfish….

So I am struggling with where I fit into this picture of being Jesus’ hands and feet and knowing what else he wants me to do. My heart says “Yes, Lord. Send Me.  Here I am…. Use me”.  But I don’t know what that looks like other than what I’ve been doing.  So I’ll keep doing those ministry things and wait for more opportunities to share the love of Jesus.  I don’t ever want to get comfortable with where I am at and what I am doing.  So use me Lord, even if it’s messy or uncomfortable.

Jesus is the reason for the season!

Jesus is the reason for the season!

All in a days work…

I have grown up knowing what hard work is.  While I hated working on the farm when I was younger; I learned the reward of working hard.  The pride that comes from seeing a job completed.  The sweat that comes from working on hot summer days.  The feeling of accomplishment seeing something evolve from nothing.

The beginning of the hard work.  All these trusses have to be lifted onto the framed walls.  Lots of help is needed with this...

The beginning of the hard work. All these trusses have to be lifted onto the framed walls. Lots of help is needed with this…

My children were able to experience this same reward over a weekend of adding onto our tiny lake house.  We had outgrown our small lake house years ago.  When we built the lake house over 10 years ago, our intention was to add on while the children were still small.  That never happened.  Life seemed to get in the way and finances didn’t seem to allow that luxury.  So we continued to cram into the small 750 square foot house.  It didn’t seem so hard when the children were small, but with preteen/teenage kids and 2 dogs, and often guests, it seemed more challenging over the years.

Monkeying around after a hard days work.

Monkeying around after a hard days work.

It was exciting to see the involvement of my children in the building phase.  They were able to learn new skills, to use new tools, to work hard and sweat on a hot summer day.  They were able to take instruction and help build things with their own hands.  To take piles of lumber and watch it being transformed into a building.

Watch out!  He's learning how to use the nail gun!

Watch out! He’s learning how to use the nail gun!

I loved watching my father-in-law teach my daughter how to measure the correct spacing for the studs to go into the walls.  It was neat to see my sons use the nail gun and feel the power it brings.

One generation of knowledge being passed to another...

One generation of knowledge being passed to another…

I enjoyed watching our family work together to accomplish our goal.  And most importantly, I loved watching the ownership they have of the new space.  They helped make it and it has become more important to them because they were a part of it.

 

Getting closer to being finished for the day!

Getting closer to being finished for the day!

They were able to experience the splinters, the sweat rolling down their faces and the sawdust sticking to their arms.  The unity that they experienced working with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins on a shared project. They knew what it felt like at the end of the day to be tired and exhausted but also to look out and see the building take shape. To feel the pride that comes with working hard.

 

 

Taking a much needed break...

Taking a much needed break…

The thing that most importantly stands out to me is that when you work together, you are building more than just the project that you are working on;  You are building character, strength and integrity along with it.  The building is just a representation of those character strengths that are being formed during the process.  And that,my friend, is all in a days work.

 

Climbing is so much fun for them!

This little baby came in sooo handy!  I could write an advertisement on how much I liked this saw & stand!

This little baby came in sooo handy! I could write an advertisement on how much I liked this saw & stand!

Farm Girl at heart…

Farm girl at heart…

 

 

I was raised as a farm girl and there will always be a bit of a farm girl that lives in me.  I love what the farm life taught me.  It was a simpler time; life was easier and the pace was slower.  We worked hard on the farm and with a dad that had 4 daughters and no sons, we were expected to help at an early age.

 

Here are a few reflections of the simpler life that I miss:

  • Eating each meal around the family table.  This is where life happened and where we connected each day
  • Hanging clothes on the line and the clean fresh smell they had (except when the wind was from the west, than it was not so good… we lived on a hog farm.  You can imagine the alternative smell.  😦
  • Riding your bicycle on country roads and being gone for hours.  Yes, hours!!!  And we were safe!!
  • Growing and canning/freezing ALL your fruits and vegetables.  I appreciate this much more as an adult; not so much as a kid that had to help.
  • Saving plastic bags.  ALL plastic bags.  Why buy Ziplock when you can recycle bread and hamburger bags?
  • Washing your hair every Saturday night before you went to church on Sunday morning.
  • Making homemade cookies and cakes.  To this day, my mother has never bought store bought cookies or cakes.  I never had a store bought birthday cake until I got married.
  • Homemade pizza.  Again, it was ALWAYS homemade.
  • Knowing without a doubt that on Sunday morning and night you would always be in church.
  • Life revolving around the parents and not us children.
  • Only 5 channels on the TV and it was only reserved for a few shows.  Instead of watching TV, we were so creative and adventurous in our play.
  • Clothes that my  mother made by hand; I don’t know how she found the time!
  • Dressing up when we went out to eat; it was considered a “special” occasion.
  • Fresh eggs that we gathered every day
  • Feeling safe and secure each day knowing that all was well in my little world.

I have such good memories of my childhood.  Memories of being loved and being a part of something bigger than me.  Sadly, many of these memories have not been passed down to my children.  I buy store bought pizza more often than home made, hanging up laundry on the line is much more time consuming than what I want to spend doing it, and  I would never let my children be gone for hours at a time without knowing where they were or what they were doing.  While the times may have changed and not all the things may be the same, the one thing that remains is the the love and security that our home provides.  And out of all those memories, that is the one that seems to be the most important.

So take a moment and enjoy the simpler things of life!

 

By the way…

The above necklace is a favorite of mine and can be purchased from Beki at The Rusted Chain which you can find at http://www.therustedchain.com

 

 

When fear is bigger than you…

Have you ever felt paralyzed by fear?  I have.   I remember feeling so overwhelmed with the hows and whys and all the unknown questions that I had no answers to.  Feelings of  failure and inadequacy that were so much bigger than me; almost bigger than my faith.  Almost… It was so much bigger than me that it almost took my breath away; that it was felt all throughout my body.  I felt like I was at the brink of tears so many times while going through the everyday motions of life.  Feeling so unbalanced;  just. on. the. edge.

As a person that has prayed my whole life, it was almost that I didn’t have the words to pray for myself.  The heaviness of worry was crushing my spirit.  It was at those moments, when I couldn’t move past the worry and fear, that I asked others to pray for me.  Few knew the reason for the worry, but all knew that they don’t have to know, that God knows and that is enough.  I soooo believe in the power of prayer.

Sitting on my porch drinking coffee days later (one of my favorite places to be!), the worry settled in.  It was like an unwanted shadow that pervaded my thoughts and emotions.   As I was sitting there and reflecting on all the questions that I had without answers, fighting the worry and fear, I felt God’s presence.  It was in this moment, that I felt peace.  True peace; one that didn’t provide answers but rather a whisper of assurance that said, “I got this LaDonna.  You don’t have to carry these burdens because I am.  The journey will still be hard but the end will be okay”.

Can you say life-changing??   The complete peace that I felt is beyond description.  It has carried me through so many ups and downs and sleepless nights.  The journey has been hard and it probably still will be, but in the back of my mind and in my heart, I know that in the end it will be alright.   And that is enough for me.

I still don’t have the hows or whys answered, but I know that His whisper was exactly what I needed to help me on this journey.  Because in the end… it will be alright.

When fear is bigger than you…

Oops!!!

I am in charge of our church’s Easter Egg hunt this year.  And we are doing it up in a BIG way; like 10,000 eggs.  We are a small church with approximately 100 people; so this is a huge outreach for us.  Well,  I am thinking that I am all organized and on my way to accomplishing all the things that need to be done this week.  My mistake.

I head to our local Walmart to pick up the 8,000 eggs that I had pre-ordered.  I had to wait a while for someone to load them up on a pallet for me and bring them to the front of the store for me to take to my car.  They finally arrive and I take a look at the cart and they were REAL eggs.  8,000 real eggs that  you could eat. I wasn’t sure if I should cry or throw up.  Fortunately, I did neither.

Seriously??  I needed 8,000 eggs to stuff with candy and toys in two days and I have nothing!  How did this happen?   Who would need 8,000 real eggs?  Where did I go wrong with communicating that I needed 8,000 eggs for a Easter Egg hunt?  After establishing with the store manager who ordered them that it was wrong and they would graciously take care of it; I head to the Easter section to try to begin the process of finding 8,000 PLASTIC Easter eggs on the shelf.

Several of the cashiers at the registers and the customers checking out were talking about the lady who ordered 8,000 eggs accidentally.  It became a walk of shame. Just a little bit embarrassing!

I loaded  my cart with the eggs I could find and checked out at the fartherest check-out line from the Customer Service desk and left as quickly as I could.  That was kind of hard because as soon as I left the store, the wind blew some of the packages of eggs out of my cart and as soon as I would pick up some, more blew out.  Darn that Oklahoma wind!  I finally made it to my car, loaded it up and left with my tail tucked between my legs.   It will be a while before I go back to that Walmart!  But, I’m sure they will have some eggs in the diary department that will be on sale in a few days.  I’ll have to send the husband….

The Danger of Facebook

This can be very addictive

The source of the green-eyed monster

I added a new friend on Facebook; a friend from my past that I hadn’t connected with in a while. I looked through her pictures and albums, taking my time to see her life portrayed in pictures. While looking at her life in review, I got bit by the monster. You know the one… the big ugly one with green eyes that brings misery with it to anyone it bites.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I like my friend. She is perfect in every way. Let me tell you all the ways…. she is absolutely gorgeous, thin with perfect hair. Her kids could be models for The Gap or Hollister. She lives in a beautiful house; money isn’t a struggle and they take wonderful vacations to exotic places like Hawaii and Mexico. She is a stay at home mom who has the ability to do it all and to do it effortlessly. Oh, and did I say that she’s thin and beautiful? (Yes, it bears repeating…)
While I am happy with her accomplishments; her successes brought out all my inadequacies. Ten minutes ago I was quite content with my life. Now I see all the things that I don’t have that she does. I don’t like this feeling. The monster not only brought jealousy with it but a whole host of other sins with it: discontentment, greed, envy, and unhappiness. Catching a glimpse of my reflection in the computer screen, I’m troubled by the look in my eyes and the frown on my face.
I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I do. I struggle with these feelings all afternoon and confess my guilt to my husband who assures me that I am just as wonderful (while chuckling!). Later that night, God checks my heart… He makes me pause and reflect on my life. And while I wrestle with this little episode of jealousy, I know that it is wrong; it is wrong of me to be unhappy with where I am at in my life. I, too, have successes and accomplishments. While they may not be as glamorous or as beautiful as hers, they are worthwhile nonetheless. God opened my eyes to see that when I make the blessings in my life seem insignificant or less than someone else’s; that it really robs God of the good things that He has done for me.
I have great health, financial security, great kids and a loving and faithful husband. I have dear friends, a wonderful church family, a great small-town community and my faith that gets me through my daily journey. What more could I truly want? To want anything more than what I already have seems greedy and vain. I may not have exactly what she has, but I have all that I could want (okay, except the thin and perfect hair part!) in this lifetime.
After this little jealousy episode, I see that I’m struggling with some of the same things my 17-year-old daughter struggles with. She also, wants what so many of the other kids have. She is so convinced that everybody else has nicer clothes, better shoes, etc. I find it ironic that I tell her those things don’t matter when sometimes they do. We both want to fit in and be accepted by everybody else and that what other people think of us really matters more than it should.
I am reminded of my MANY blessings and I cannot help but have renewed joy, peace and increased faith … And most of all, I can be content with what I have while also being happy for the blessings that my friend has.

 

A New Coat of Paint

I was on my home one day from a busy day of shopping and driving through the country. It was a road that I travel frequently and it was a gray and gloomy day. As I was going around a corner and down a small hill, I noticed an old barn set back from the road a bit. Now, if you know me, you will know that I love seeing old barns and farmhouses alongside the road. I love seeing what they represent; the hard work and kinship that the family farm requires. In Iowa, where I grew up, the beauty of the landscape with the picturesque barns, silos and farmhouses are a spiritual beauty to me. Especially with the rolling hills surrounded by rows of corn with their stalks pointing high in the air and their shiny leaves waving in the breeze. I always feel so close to God and it is one of the most beautiful sceneries to me.

This old barn that I noticed was old and worn. No remains of paint were on the building; the wood was dark from years of being neglected from the elements. Boards were missing from the roof and also the sides of the walls. You could see through the entire structure. The most obvious fault was that it was leaning very noticeably to the west. It leaned so far that it looked like it could topple over at any moment while looking so forlorn and so dilapidated. It made me sad that a barn was in such disrepair that it no longer served any purpose. It was an eyesore that was on the brink of collapse. It looked as if one board moved or fell, that the whole structure would fall to the ground.

The analogy was instant to me. That old dilapidated barn is me. I am worn out and exhausted; I feel like I am falling apart. I feel that I am out of balance that if one thing in my life shifts, that I will fall apart with it as well. Between church, school, shuttling my kids around, helping my husband with the guttering business, keeping up with the constant data entry and keeping my house clean at least to the point of where I am not embarrassed if someone comes by. Add upcoming church and family obligations to that list and I am feeling overloaded and overwhelmed. And if I ‘m feeling this way, I am probably not too pretty to look at just like that old barn.

But that barn has not fallen. It has been that way for years. It’s always been there for as long as I have lived in Oklahoma (going on 20 years). It has weathered storms and the elements for years and yet it still stands even though it looks like it can’t remain standing for much longer. I am still that barn. I am tired but I keep going. My strength comes from God and the endurance that He has given me. I have weathered the daily hustle and bustle of life and I remain intact. I have not fallen, I have not collapsed, and I am still standing.

Maybe it’s time to slow down, relax about the clean house, don’t get so intense about meeting my weekly work deadline, and enjoy the time spent with my husband while I work alongside him. I need to take the time to be new and improved; to be present in my kids’ lives; to slow down and enjoy life. Maybe all I need to do is slap a new coat of paint on myself and not just stand and survive but to stand and thrive.

Does a pedicure with freshly painted toenails count as a new coat of paint? I think it does!

This could use a fresh coat of paint.

This could use a new coat of paint.