The Greatest Promotion of All

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My mom screamed when I told her, my father-in-law let out a “whooo-hooo-hooo” at the joyful news.  The information caused my nephew to say, “Awesome”, my mother-in-law praised the Lord repeatedly, and my brothers are still in disbelief.

When I told my mentor the news, I heard the excitement in his voice.  Unlike the happy squeal of excitement that I usually offer at the sound of good news, his voice had a masculine peace, slowly emphasizing each word as he expressed joy about what he had just heard.  It isn’t often that you can find a professional mentor who also offers great spiritual advice regarding personal matters.

The announcement of a new life brings about joyful responses from all who hear about it.  But it brings about even more advice – whether solicited or unsolicited.  People all of a sudden feel entitled to give you advice.  I must say, however, that my mentor had the best advice of all.

As he continued to slowly emphasize his joy for us after he heard that Byron and I are expecting a baby, he said that “motherhood is a promotion in the Kingdom of God.”  “Wow”, I thought!

We generally think of promotions in terms of professional settings only.  You have seamlessly run a program, handling problems that arise with good judgment and efficiency, and now your supervisor entrusts you with even more responsibility.  Now they want you to oversee more people and manage more money.  You know a company trusts you when they put you in charge of hundreds of millions of dollars.  No one in their right mind would allow someone they did not trust to manage that amount of money – ensuring that all funds go where they should when they should, ensuring that all dollars are accounted for and monitored correctly.

But a baby?!

You can never put a price on a life.  As this baby develops in me, I am constantly more aware of my responsibility to shape and mold the character of this child.  In some regards, managing money is easier.  Money cannot argue with you or develop its own opinion once it reaches a certain age.  But a child – you have to invest a lot of time in developing the character of a child; you have to spend time educating a child at home; and you certainly have to make time to teach your children to pray, love God, and live a life that is pleasing to Him.

So what makes anybody ready for a promotion like this?  I don’t know the answer that, but I do know that we should seek him every step of the way.

Psalm 127:3 – “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”

Psalm 75:6-7 – “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.  But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”

Lord, for all of those who are expecting.  Help us to be good parents.  Help us to train our child in ways that please you.  Show us how to teach our children to be compassionate, giving, and forgiving.  Let us invest the time necessary to develop healthy relationships with our children – the kind of relationships where our children feel that they can talk to us about anything.  And let there be LOTS of joy and laughter in our homes.  In Jesus name, Amen!

Trusting God with our Children

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Remember the days when your child’s tears could be fixed with a diaper change, a feeding, or a band-aid and a kiss?  Unfortunately, there comes a time when band-aids will no longer heal their wounds.

It’s one thing to go through a trial that stretches your faith beyond what you thought was possible, but it is quite a test to watch your child (or someone you love like he or she is your child) go through such difficulties, especially when there is nothing you can do to ease their pain.  How do you comfort them when a loved one dies, when a parent is struggling with an addiction, when someone has physically or emotionally harmed them, when justice for them hinges on a slow-moving judicial system, or when they themselves are battling with a terminal illness?  These are things that can make a parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle feel totally helpless.

I do not have children yet, but there are children in my life who I love like my own.  Currently, one of them is going through a difficult time, and my first reaction was to leap into rescue mode.  But, after you’ve encouraged them, after you’ve prayed for them, after you’ve made phone calls and sought medical or legal experts, there comes a time when the only thing you can do is trust God.  Yeah, I can trust God when it’s me, but when it’s one of my babies…it becomes downright painful.

Yesterday, the pastor preached about the Kingdom of God, and the peace therein when you truly let go and cast all your cares upon the Father, knowing that He already has every resource needed to address the circumstances in your life (or your child’s life).  Not only that, but He already knows HOW He’s going to resolve it.

As he spoke to the congregation, God spoke to me.  He said, remember how you told that child, “we’ve heard what’s on your heart, and I want you to know that we’re working on it.  Don’t you worry about this, let the adults handle it.  You’re a child, it’s our job to take care of you.  All we want you to do is focus on school, and leave all of this to us, okay.”?  God said, “I want you to take your own advice.  I have heard your prayers concerning that child, and I’m working on it, but I need you to trust me and be patient.  Don’t you worry about it, let me handle it.  You’re My child, it’s my job to take care of the things that concern you – including the things that concern the child(ren) that you love.  Do what you can, and leave the rest to me, okay.”  What an epiphany this was…and a relief.  While children look to us for the things they can’t handle, we can look to God for the things we can’t handle concerning them.  Yes, we’re the adults, but we don’t have to do it all alone – we have a Father that we can go to.

II Chronicles 20:15b – “Be not afraid nor dismayed…for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 

Anything we can’t handle automatically falls in His realm.  When children run into situations they can’t handle, they come to us.  We should do the same and go to our Father with things that we can’t handle – especially concerning our children.

I leave you with one of my favorite prayers, The Serenity Prayer:

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept (or trust You for) the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

God bless, and do be encouraged.

Oh, the Possibilities!

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Happy New Year All!

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve blogged.  I took a bit of time off to reflect on 2012 and see what God wants me to focus on in 2013.  Here are just a few things that I learned:

1. Trust God’s timetable.  I spent a lot of 2012 asking God why certain things had not occurred yet.  Now that He’s finally bringing some of those things to fruition, I totally see why – and I am SO glad that He waited.  So in 2013, I want to stop trying to make God’s timetable my timetable – as if this works anyway.

2. Obey immediately.  If you’re like me, you do what God says, but you don’t always do things when He says to do it.  Following God’s instructions a week after He asks me to do something (i.e. when it’s more convenient for me) is just as good as disobedience, and who knows what blessing I might miss or who may have been encouraged had I moved when God said move.

3. Tithe FIRST.  I am a faithful tither.  I believe in it, but I don’t always tithe first.  The Bible says to give God our firstfruits, meaning that we should tithe before we spend money on anything else, not a week or two later.  Near the end of 2012, I began tithing of my FIRSTfruits, and man did God pour out some unexpected blessings!  Think of it this way – would you rather God bless 100% of your finances or 50%?  If we tithe before we do anything else with our money, God can bless, extend, or multiply 100% of our paycheck.

After reviewing these lessons, I realized that maybe God didn’t respond when I wanted Him to, because I don’t always respond when He wants me to.  But when I put God first in my finances, my time, and my actions, it opens up many more doors.  As I have started implementing some of these things over the past few weeks, I have seen positive changes, and I am excited about what God has in store for 2013 when I wait for (and move in) His timing – oh, the possibilities!

Give Leadership Away

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Leadership can be an intricate dance, a delicate ebb and flow if you will.  There are times when you carry the weight of the team, and there are times when you need support from your team.  There are times when you speak on behalf of the team, and there are times when you let someone on your team with greater expertise speak.  There are times when you take the lead, and there are times when you motivate others to lead.  There are times when you possess the knowledge to achieve a task, but you must take a backseat so someone on your team can sharpen their skills.

While reading an article by an executive pastor who is responsible for developing and equipping dozens of ministry leaders, I paused at this one point: “You have to be able to lead leaders and also give leadership away so others can grow.”

Two years ago, my manager asked me to establish a working group to tackle one of our office’s most challenging issues.  My initial thought was, “Oh my gosh. You want ME to LEAD people and devise ways to tackle THIS HUGE issue! And how do you suggest I do this exactly?” But I said, “Sure, what’s your vision for the group?” After he left my cubicle I thought, “What the heck did I just sign up for?!”  As I prayed and asked God for strategies, He gave me step by step instructions as to how to go about this, and our working group not only became known throughout the bureau for our expertise on this subject while also collaborating with other government agencies to address this problem.  .  Through this project, I greatly developed my leadership ability and discovered that I was indeed capable of successfully tackling seemingly huge tasks. I especially learned that being a leader does not necessarily mean that you have to have all of the answers.  It is important to have brainstorming sessions that help you draw on the expertise and innovation of everyone in the group – this often  produces solutions that one person could never develop on his or her own.  But I never would have developed these leadership skills had my manager taken on this project himself instead of offering me this opportunity.

People not only need to see a leader doing, but they also need to have projects that allow them to develop professionally. People need to feel that they are making valuable contributions so that they have a personal stake in the success of an organization. Delegating responsibility not only helps your team develop their skills, but it also frees up leaders to handle other things so the group as a whole gets more accomplished.

Some people try to handle everything on their own, because they think that’s what a good leader does.  Not so.  Good leaders develop others.  Still, some people do everything themselves because they think others won’t do it as well as they can or because they are afraid to relinquish control.  If you feel as if you have to do everything yourself, you will end up with an underdeveloped team.

This principal transcends the four walls of the workplace. The same holds true for families. As parents, are you doing everything around the house, or are you training your toddlers to pick up their own toys?  As pastors, are you handling all of the church business yourself, or are you allowing ministers on your staff to lead certain ministries so they can develop their leadership skills?  As husbands, are you doing everything on your own, or are you tapping into the skills and abilities that your wife brings to the table?  If not, remember that two is better than one.  As wives, are you allowing your husband to help you when he offers, or are you shutting down his offers because you think you do it better, all the while being overwhelmed by your massive to-do list?

This week, let us take the time to assess the talents and abilities of those around us and inquire about their goals and desires, whether it’s an employee, an intern in your office, your spouse, or your kids.  Once you do this, review what is on your to-do list that others can help you with, especially if it’s something that will help them develop in a desired area.  As we lead, let’s also give leadership away for the benefit of others.

Unplugged

It’s amazing how there can be such peace in the middle of a storm, literally.  As Hurricane Sandy hit land, Byron and I flipped between CNN and The Weather Channel while simultaneously working from home, following online news sources, and texting friends and family along the east coast to ensure their safety.  We must have had every piece of technology we owned powered on at the time.

Suddenly, we heard a faint electric squeal just before everything went dark.  Luckily, we had charged our cell phones and other electronics before we lost power.  But there was one thing that still needed to be charged.  As I lit candles and unplugged certain appliances, I felt compelled to plug into my power source.

Although I had prayed for friends and loved ones and had what I considered to be “quiet time” earlier that day, there was something vastly different about reading God’s Word by candlelight while all else was completely and unmistakably still in our home.  Talk about peace in the middle of a storm.  I can’t remember the last time I felt such serenity.

Despite the horror-filled news reports we watched and read, I had total peace as I unplugged from the world and plugged into Christ.

When was the last time you proactively shut everything down around you, allowing everything in your home to be quiet and still, and plugged your spirit into a greater power source? Often times we hear our cell phone beeping with calls or text messages as we pray – and some of us answer the phone in the middle of prayer.  We even put God on pause to tweet about what we’re reading.  But how would we feel if God put us on pause as we poured out our concerns, fears, joys, and desires to Him?  How would we feel if God put us on hold to take a phone call?

I have decided that, at least once or twice a month, I am going to unplug.  I am going to power off all distractions, light some candles, and have an uninterrupted date with God.  Not only will God appreciate it, but those around me will appreciate the pleasant demeanor that spending time with God tends to produce.  My husband may also enjoy a reduced electric bill.😉

Please continue to keep those affected by Sandy in your prayers.  Many are still living with the reality of the storm – a reality that was anything but peaceful. 

Be blessed

Is He Able?

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There are some things that I am believing God for.  But If I look at the obstacles that could potentially hinder the requests that I placed before God, then those requests would seem impossible.

I cannot deny that God has a proven track record of doing the seemingly impossible in my life.  So you know what?  This time, I CHOOSE to magnify God’s ability to move every obstacle instead of magnifying the obstacles themselves.  I choose to amplify truth over fact: God’s truth over the world’s facts.

What are you trusting God for?  Healing, a job, salvation of a family member, protection of a loved one, financial stability?

“Believe ye that I am able to do this? ….According to your faith be it unto you.” – Matthew 9:28-29

In Matthew 9, two blind men followed Jesus and asked Him for their sight to be restored.  God responded with the question, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  As soon as they responded, “Yea, Lord”, their sight was restored.  In Matthew chapter 9, this isn’t the only miracle we see.  Jesus was originally on his way to raise a ruler’s daughter, all because the ruler BELIEVED that He could do it.  On His way to raise the ruler’s daughter, He healed the woman who had the issue of blood for twelve years, because SHE BELIEVED that if she simply touched Him she would be made whole.  By the end of the chapter, the ruler’s daughter was raised, the woman no longer had an issue of blood, and the men’s sight was restored.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20 (NIV)

If you believe in God’s Word and what He did for these individuals, then trust Him now.  If God has answered seemingly impossible requests for you in the past, then trust Him now.  The question is – is God ABLE to do what you’ve asked?  If your response is, “Yes,” then trust Him now.

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” – Ephesians 3:20

He IS indeed able.  To help us all remember this truth, allow me to share one of my favorite Darwin Hobbs songs with you. The chorus says:

God is able to do just what He said He would do.

He’s gonna fulfill every promise to you.

Don’t give up on God. ‘Cause He won’t give up on you.

He’s able!

Enjoy and be encouraged🙂

Aircrafts and New Seasons

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This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. – Joshua 1:8

As Byron and I traveled to North Carolina weekend before last, we had a very bumpy flight.  As with most flights, the takeoff was among the most exhilarating, yet bumpy part of our journey.  As soon as we turned the corner of the wide runway, the engines roared loudly as I watched the green trees race past my window faster and faster and we accelerated to approximately 148 mph, the speed needed for a 737 to lift off of the ground.  All the while the plane vibrated like a high-powered electric razor.  During takeoff, all passengers were set on following the directions of the flight attendants and the pilot.  We remained in our seats, seatbelts fastened, trays locked, and seats in upright position…that is, until we leveled off at 28,000 feet (approximately 6 miles above ground).  Once passengers became comfortable, some people began to unfasten their seatbelts although the fasten seatbelt light was still on, while others began using electronics before the appropriate time.

Isn’t this a lot like life?

When we enter into new seasons of our lives (i.e. new jobs, new school years, moving to a new place), we seek God passionately and listen for His instructions intently.  However, once we feel comfortable in our new position and our surroundings become familiar, we’re not as quick to listen to our Pilot’s instructions.  All of a sudden we go from spending an hour on our knees in prayer to praying briefly in the shower.  We go from studying God’s Word early in the morning to perusing our Bibles on the subway.

Interestingly, as soon as we experienced turbulence on our flight (which, I must admit, was some of the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced), people began buckling their seatbelts again and listening attentively to the pilot’s voice.  Often times, God will allow unexpected turbulence in our lives simply to get our attention and compel us to seek Him for direction.

As Joshua began leading the Israelites into Canaan after Moses’ death, God told Him to meditate on the book of the law day and night.  In other words, don’t just read the Bible sporadically, but do it consistently and faithfully, as God said in Joshua 1:8.

As we continue in our new seasons, let us not become so comfortable and complacent that we cease to be diligent about seeking direction from our Pilot daily.  For it’s in His direction that we will arrive safely at our appointed destination and have “good success.”

May God continue to bless you in this new season.

A Mobile Altar for a Season of Transition (Part II)

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In my previous post, I discussed the importance of having a mobile altar when going to unfamiliar places or transitioning into new seasons of your life.  This week, I’d like to focus on the importance of prayer even when transitioning back into familiar situations.

“And he went on his journeys from the south even to Beth-el, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Beth-el and Hai; unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.” – Genesis 13:3-4

Here we see that, although Abraham was going back to the place where was before, he still made it a point to pray.  All through chapters 12 and 13 of Genesis, we see the importance that Abraham places on prayer.  He makes it a point to acknowledge God’s hand in his life, spend time with God, seek God for direction, or simply talk to Him.

Little did Abraham know that he was not about to walk into the normal life that he left; rather, he was about to walk into a family dispute.  Abraham, being covered in prayer, received an exceedingly favorable outcome.  Meanwhile, his nephew Lot didn’t even bother to consult God before making such a major decision on behalf of his family.  Although the land looked plentiful and plush, we all know the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.  I wonder if Lot would have had a slightly better outcome had he taken the time to seek God’s direction before making his decision.

As I prepared to return home to the United States after spending a month in China, I intentionally prayed for my transition back into my “normal life.”  I had been away from work for a month, and I knew I would have to catch up on cases and sift through more than a thousand emails (1450 emails to be exact); my stomach would have to readjust to American cuisine (this was accompanied by several doctors visits); my body would suffer from jet-lag (for a week after my return I found myself sleeping as soon as I got home from working and waking up at 3:00a.m. to eat dinner); and my husband and I would have to incorporate each other into our daily routines again.  When couples are apart, they get into routines that work for them, then – once they reunite – these schedules have to be adjusted to accommodate the other.  It sort of reminded me of our first month being married, and having to figure out what worked for us as a couple.

It is always important to pray for a smooth transition back home:  one, because we never know what may await us upon our return; two, because your “normal” may no longer be what it once was.

While readjusting to American life and culture, I couldn’t help but think about our soldiers who return home from war.  They have lived in war-zones over an extended period of time, and have become accustomed to always being on guard.  Not to mention the horrific visions of war and death that some of our soldiers have to live with after returning to civilian life.  With this in mind, I encourage all of us to not only pray for our soldiers at war, but also pray for our soldiers who are returning home from war and the family members who must be patient with their reintegration process, especially individuals who return with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If you are returning home after having been away for an extended period of time, pray for a smooth transition back home.  Pray that your body will quickly adjust to the time difference, pray that your stomach will adjust back to American cuisine with no issues, pray for an easy reunification with your family, pray that you are not overwhelmed when you return to work, etc.  If you know someone else who is returning from overseas, pray for their transition back home, especially if it is a soldier.

Let’s purpose to have a mobile and consistent altar.

A Mobile Altar for a Season of Transition

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Dear Readers,

Sorry it has taken me so long to write.  This has, indeed, been a season of transition.  This time last month, I was still in China, preparing to return to the United States.  Upon my return, I prepared for a Christian writer’s conference (www.shespeaksconference.com), which was fabulous!  Afterwards, I had three weeks left in my last position as an American Citizens Services Specialist helping U.S. citizens overseas, and today I begin my new assignment in the Office of International Religious Freedom.

Note:  Foreign Service Officers (i.e. diplomats) rotate positions every 2-3 years.  These are generally positions at different U.S. embassies and consulates overseas, but it just so happens that I have two back-to-back domestic assignments.  As such, if anyone understands transition, it is diplomats, because we are constantly moving, changing both locations and jobs. 

It recently dawned on me that this is a season of transition for most people.  Not only are many diplomats moving and starting new jobs during the “summer transfer season”, but many children are starting a new school year, many young adults are starting college, and some recent graduates are beginning their lives in the professional world, which can also be a major transition as they begin learning how to manage relationships with supervisors and colleagues.

During these seasons of transition, it is critical that we ask God for wisdom and direction, because we are embarking on new territory.

Abraham was excellent at this!  In Genesis 12 and 13, we see Abraham consulting God throughout every transition.

 “…and into the land of Canaan they came.  And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh.  And the Canaanite was then in the land.  And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.  And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord.  And Abraham journeyed, going on still toward the south.”  – Genesis 12:5b-9

Throughout this entire transition from location to location, Abraham made it a point to build an alter and seek the Lord through prayer.  As we transition into new jobs, new schools, and new cities or even countries, are we including God in our decision-making?  Are we asking Him to lead us and help us make the right choices, or are we going into this new season thinking that we know it all?  Are we asking him to give us discernment about the friends we choose in school?  Parents, aunts, and uncles, are we praying that our young ones don’t hang out with the wrong crowds this year?  Are we praying that God would give us favor with our new supervisors and co-workers?  Most importantly, are we praying that God would help us live out our faith in this new season so that Christ’s love would shine through us for His glory?

As many of us transition this month, let us keep a mobile altar, praying always to our Father for direction, for “we have not passed this way before” (Joshua 3:3-4, NKJV).

“I as a child of God have to exercise the right of a child, the right of being always face to face with my Father.” – Oswald Chambers

Stay tuned for more about transition and lessons I have learned over the past month.   I look forward to sharing these experiences with you.

Foreign Appliances

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I am 31 years old.  I should know how to use an oven, right?  Not so said the brown cow.

There is something very different about using appliances in foreign countries – 1) there are no English instructions, 2) the buttons are either in another language or they have pictures that may not mean what you think they mean.

Prime example, a few nights ago, while in China, I decided to reheat my quesadillas in the oven.  I mean, who wants soggy quesadillas from a microwave?  In order to achieve the crispness that I desired, I made an effort to use the wonderful stainless steel oven in my furnished apartment…and the evening became an adventure from this point on.

First came the task of converting Celsius to Fahrenheit.  I had this down to a science after living in Guangzhou for two years, but after two years of being back in the United States, I – of course – forgot these conversions.  Thanks to Google, this was an easy task.

Second was the task of figuring out what the buttons on the stove mean.  There were four buttons and two knobs.  The buttons consisted of what looked like a clock, a timer in the shape of a diamond, and – my favorite – a stop and play button (similar to what you would find on a DVD remote control).  So, intuitively, I hit ‘play,’ thinking, maybe this will start the oven.  And voila!  All of the red lights began to light up.  I further discovered that the left knob controlled the pictures that indicate how you want the heat to circulate inside of the oven (at least that’s what I think those pictures mean).  The right knob, on the other hand, allowed you to choose how long you wanted the oven to remain on…again, I think.

my kitchen in Chengdu

stop and play buttons on the oven

After only two minutes of having my quesadillas in the oven, I smelled something burning.  I immediately rushed to the kitchen and opened the oven door to find smoke and quesadillas that were slightly burned.  “How did that happen in two minutes,” I thought to myself.  Anyway, I couldn’t figure out how to turn the thing off.  I soon learned that the “stop” button does not make the oven stop.  I still heard the fan in the back of the oven running and –five minutes later – the oven was still hot.

I proceeded to call the front desk to request help with this contraption.  The maintenance guy showed fiddled with the buttons just like I did, then said, ‘Bu zhidao’, which means ‘I don’t know’ in Mandarin.  He soon used his walky-talky to loudly call for help and walked out without saying goodbye or whether or not he was coming back.  Three minutes later, another guy came.  By this time, the fan in the back of the oven had stopped.  He too fiddled with the buttons and turned to me and said, ‘It’s off.’  Well by golly it certainly wasn’t off a moment ago.  I thanked him for coming and kept checking the oven periodically to make sure it was off…. And it was.

This is just one of the many anecdotes I will continue to share from my time in Chengdu.  Thankfully, I am back in the United States, with MY oven – with familiar buttons. *smiley face*  Yes, I really am smiling at the thought.