Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Final Blessings in the Basics: God's Love--I'm So Glad God Doesn't Hate Me

“Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:26

I thought God hated me.  For over seventeen years, I lived in my own hell of self-loathing and unworthiness.  Somehow I didn't love myself, and I didn't feel that God loved me either.  Sometimes I wish someone would have saved me a lot of anguish, depression, and despair by helping me to see the good in myself...by helping me to love who I was and how God made me to be...by helping me understand that God's love for me was unconditional...by helping me see that God was loving and good and not just punishing and "out to get me"...and more importantly, by helping me understand what God's love was really all about!  

After 40 years, I finally "get" God's love!

But I now know that all of that was part of my own journey...a journey God used to help me understand His love!  You have your own journey too.  God wants to show you His love too!

Are you ready to receive it?

Over the past month, I felt the Lord calling me to write about being blessed in the basics---a breath, a smile, and even just plain being alive.  After battling with infertility, depression and fear and after almost losing my marriage, God has taught me to be grateful for even the most basic, simplest things in life.  And this week, I want to focus on God's love.

What a great week to focus on that, right?  I would love for you to take a minute to stop shopping...stop wrapping...stop baking...stop cleaning...stop preparing for Christmas--the gifts, the food, the cookies, the stockings, the decorations, the songs, the shows, the movies, and the traditions and start preparing for what God wants us to focus on this Christmas...His love!

Don't get me wrong, I love all the festivities and family fun that go along with this time of year, but I also know that they can be very distracting.  Warning!  Warning!  Cliché coming...cliché coming! 

They can all be very distracting from the "true meaning of Christmas." 

Seriously, though, this year in particular, after everything I've been through, I've really been in tuned to the very special reason why we celebrate Christmas!  It seems that every Christmas song makes me cry.  Like never before, I can't listen to Hark the Herald Angels Sing without becoming a blubbering mess.  Why?  Because my heart is so open, vulnerable, and truly ready to receive My King...to receive why He came to the earth as a baby...so humble...to receive why He lived in human form...to receive why He healed and encouraged and taught and prayed...to receive why He was and is the light of the world!  


Let me say it again...all along, My Father was just simply wanting to show me His love!  

It's like for the first time in my life, I get it!  I finally get it!  I finally understand the magnitude of God's love for me!  I finally understand that Christ was sent for me!  Not just for everyone else...not just for the perfect people...not just for those who don't make mistakes...not just for those who have lived a flawless life...not just for those who have it all together---Christ was sent for me. 

A sinner...a mistake-maker...flawed...and broken.  Me! 

Why?  Because He loves me!  God came because He loves me. 

Whew!  I'm so glad God doesn't hate me!  He never has...He never did...He never will.  He loves me so much.  He loves you too!   Do you know that?  Do you really know that? 

Let me share what I've learned about Christ's love to help you understand how much He loves you too...

His love for us is unconditional, unshakable, unmovable, undeniable...His love for us is full of grace, mercy, forgiveness...His love for us is beautiful, wonderful, good.  His love for us is wise, tender, tough.  His love for us is amazing, astounding, awe-inspiring! 

His love for us never changes, never waivers, NEVER ENDS!

There is nothing we can do, say, think, or feel that will stop Him from loving us!  His love endures forever! 

Through His perfect love, I am able to appreciate myself...I am able to have confidence in who I am...I am able to love myself more than I ever have before! 

I get it!  I finally get it!  Do you get it?

Father, thank You for helping me to finally understand that Your love endures forever.  Thank You for teaching me through my trials.  Thank You for helping me love who I am and for never giving up on showing me Your love.  Even when I didn't want to believe it or receive it...even when I wanted to deny it and turn away from it...even when I felt unwanted or unworthy, You never let me go.  You held me tight and held my hand through so many dark times in my life.   I am so overwhelmed right now with gratitude because I finally accept and receive Your beautiful love!  Thank you for shining Your loving light into the darkness of my life.  Help me to shine, Lord, and be even more grateful for You and Your love this Christmas season!  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

SHARE WITH ME!  Do you get God's love for you?

Monday, December 15, 2014

I Am the Face of Depression

"For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you." 
Psalm 86:5
Look closely.  This is the face of depression.  I hide it well...
It horrifies me to think that I almost ended my own life eight years ago.  Today, I want to celebrate being alive not because it's an exciting or eventful day...not because anything really special is going on...but simply because it's another day that I'm alive. 

Eight years ago, I had been trying to get pregnant for almost four years without success.  I felt hopeless.  Every negative word you can think of, I thought it about myself.  I felt worthless...useless.  I felt like a failure...a loser.  I thought I was dried up...an old hag.  
I thought that if I wasn't able to have a child my husband would leave me.  I thought if I wasn't able to have a child, my life wasn't worth living.  
I begged God to forgive me for whatever I did that was so horrible that He was with-holding a child from me.  I looked around at everyone else getting pregnant...getting pregnant...getting pregnant. 
That's it.  I must be so awful that I don't deserve this blessing.  Everyone else must be better than me.  I must have done something so terrible...so unforgivable...that God is going to punish me for the rest of my life.
During the week, I would escape to my job as a middle school science teacher.  I would get lost in loving and encouraging my students--or as I called them "my kids".  After all, I figured that they were probably going to be the only kids I was ever going to get.  I was Mrs. Leeb or as some students called me "Coach".  I was the fun, happy-all-the-time, nerdy science teacher who loved them and who was way too excited about the Periodic Table of Elements.  I felt so good about myself in my classroom.  I loved who I was in that science room. 
I'm sure my students would have been shocked to learn that I was depressed.  I'm sure they would have been shocked to learn that on the weekends, I wouldn't get out of bed.  I'm sure they would have been shocked to learn that I would drown my sorrows in alcohol.  I'm sure they would have been shocked to learn that I avoided close friendships, cried all the time, and basically couldn't function outside of my science room oasis. 
I used my work to escape the realities of my life. 
And the realities were that I was depressed--though I would never admit it.  The realities were that at the end of the day, as I walked out of my classroom...out of the school...out to my car, I would hang my head low.  When I saw my reflection in my car window, I would hate who I was again.  I would get a sick, sinking feeling in my stomach.  I was no longer cool and fun and happy...I was suddenly overwhelmed with despair, sadness, and darkness. 
In an instant, I was the loser again...the failure...the unworthy, old hag who couldn't even do something as simple as get pregnant. 
My husband and I had gone through all of the medical testing and there was nothing wrong...there was no reason for our infertility...there was nothing stopping us but me.  It was all my fault.  I was the reason that we were never going to be parents...that I would never be able to call myself a mom...that my husband would never be able to call himself a dad...that he would never be able to play baseball in the backyard with his son like his dad did with him.   
As I drove home that day, I was done.  I couldn't take it anymore.  I couldn't keep hating myself.  I couldn't keep disappointing my husband and my parents.  I couldn't keep making everyone feel uncomfortable around me because I was the only woman in all the world who couldn't get pregnant.  I couldn't keep answering the question "Are you a mom?" with a "No" anymore.  I couldn't keep finding out that one more woman was pregnant...by accident.  I couldn't keep pretending that I was ok. 
I was not ok.  I was in pain and I wanted the pain to end.  
As I pulled into my driveway and into my garage, I left the car running.  I thought...this will be peaceful.  I will just fall asleep and all my worries will be over. 
But something stopped me.  I couldn't do it.  I couldn't end my life.  I turned off the car.  I walked into the house, and I fell onto the couch and slept.  I slept and I slept and I slept. 
I wish I could say that after that day, everything was all better.  No, it wasn't.  I still thought of ways I could end my life many times, but that was the closest I ever got to actually doing it.
But I can say that after that day, I got help.  I realized how serious of a situation I was in.  I got counseling.  I began to slowly move forward.  God began to shine His light through that darkness.  God helped me to learn to love myself whether I was a mother or not.  He helped me to see that being a mom didn't define who I was in His eyes.   He helped me to understand that my life was precious.  I mattered to Him.  I was His Daughter no matter what. 
I wish I could say that I never struggled with depression again, but I can't.  What I can say is that God saved me that day, and I'm so grateful.  God saved me from the lies of satan...he saved me from myself. 
I actually began to enjoy my life again and accept myself for who I was in that moment...mother or not. 

Had I ended my life that day, I would have missed out on the rich blessings that God had for me during that dark time.  I would have missed out on the growth and the opportunity to learn more about His love.  I would have missed out on not one, not two, but three children that He had waiting for me when I didn't even realize it. 


But do you know that during that five year struggle of waiting for them, I never once admitted to being depressed?  I never once used that word to describe myself?   It wasn't until years later when I looked back on that time, that I actually confessed that I was depressed.  I actually remember saying that word for the first time and it felt weird. It was like I felt too much shame to say it out loud that I struggled with depression even though it was so obvious(honestly, even now, as I'm typing this, it feels strange to admit).  But once the word came out of my mouth, I felt a little more free...because I was finally speaking the truth.   


I was the face of depression.  I still am. 

But now I know how to put on the armor of God and not allow myself to "go there."  Now I know how to seek God's light, God's wisdom, God's truth, and God's love.  Now I know that there is no shame to admit that I struggle with depression.  I know I'm not the only one.  Maybe you're the face of depression too.
Let's put our fears of judgment aside.  Let's talk about it.  Let's not hide it.  Let's admit it.  Let's confess it.  Let's not be ashamed of it.  Let's find freedom from it! 
Let's stop pretending that depression doesn't exist! 
Depression affects more people than you think.  Depression is real.  Depression can cloud your brain and distract you from life.  Depression can rob you of your joy.  Depression can isolate you.  Depression can lie to you and cheat you out of God's plans for you.  Depression can make you lonely and afraid.  Depression can kill you.  I know...it almost killed me. 

And now you know why it's so important for me to celebrate being alive today and every day.  Now you know why each day is truly a gift to me.  Now you know why I never want to waste a day.  Now you know why I never want to take a day for granted.  Now you know why I'm so grateful to be alive today!!  
Father, thank You that You are good and forgiving and loving, and when I called upon You, You rescued me!  Help me to continue to seek You in every struggle in my life.  Take my thoughts captive and shout your truth into my ears and never again allow me to even think about suicide.  I need Your powerful presence when I feel lonely, confused, or depressed.  Help me to find joy and blessings in my day.  Remind me of your unconditional, ever-lasting love.  Every morning when I wake up, help me to feel truly blessed and truly grateful to be alive!  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

 To My brave reader--please share with me if you've ever struggled with depression by a simple "Yes" or "No" in the comments below.  Feel free to share more if you'd like.  If you do struggle, just know that you are not alone, God loves you, and there is hope!  There is no shame in getting help and talking about it!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Blessings in the Basics Week 2: A Smile--God's Light in this Dark World

"While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world."
John 9:5
Doesn't it annoy you when you walk passed someone and they don't even look up at you?  Or worse, you smile at them and they don't smile back?  Or worse, you smile at them and they actually scowl at you?   
Maybe it's just me.

Oh wait.  Maybe you're one of those people who doesn't look at me or who doesn't smile back or who scowls.  I hope not.   

This month, I felt the Lord calling me to examine the very basic things in life.  Last week, I focused on breathing--such a simple blessing that many of us rarely think about:  Thank God I Can BreatheThis week, I'd like to take a closer look at the smile. 
At only five weeks old, my son, Ben, showed me his first smile--full of gums and drool, but it was the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.  Below, I captured one of those precious smiles which is one of my favorite pictures.  I love it.  Every time I look at this picture, it makes me smile because I know that he's smiling at me making a fishy face at him.  Every time he smiled, he lit up the room!
My efforts to encourage him to smile for the camera continued. 
Every time I look at this next picture, I laugh because of the huge smile on Ben's face.  But what you don't know is that the reason he has such a huge smile on his face is because I'm jumping up and down making monkey noises...and well...basically acting like a monkey.  Apparently, I was pretty good at it.  At one point though, I was being so silly that Ben said, "What's mommy doing?"  (We moms will do anything to get that smile for the picture, right?) It worked though. His smile lit up that entire back yard during that photo shoot. 
And then I realized just how much a smile can light up the world!   
A smile is such a basic thing in life, but it's so precious, and it has such power behind it to change things...to lighten the mood...to bring calm...to slow anger...to bring peace...to bring laughter...to bring joy...to bring light...His Light. 
From the time we are only weeks old, we can smile.  It isn't something we're taught.  It isn't something we're forced to do (even if you see someone acting like a monkey, you decide if you want to smile or not).  It isn't something that comes from the world.  It's not a skill that we have to learn.  It's not something that we are either good at or not. 
It's something we are born with.  It's something we all have.  It's something we can all do.  It's something that God created.  It's something that is just a true joy within us just waiting to come out. 
Lately, I've realized that I need to allow the joy of the Lord to come out through my smile.  
I need to let God's true joy that has been inside of me since I was a baby shine through me.  I am God's light in this world, and I believe that my smile is a way of shining His light on everyone I see.  Something changes in me when I smile.  I always feel better when I smile, and I definitely feel better when someone smiles at me! 
Bottom line...I need to smile more!
What about you?  Do you need to smile more too? 
This week, I want to encourage you to smile more.  While you're out and about this holiday season, smile more.  While you're working, playing, decorating, shopping, wrapping gifts...smile more. 

And don't ever pass up the opportunity to smile at someone else.  It's so simple...it's so basic...but it can be so meaningful.  It can be such a blessing to someone. 
You never know who might need to see your smile...who might need to have their day brightened...who might need to feel God's love...who might need to see God's light in this dark world through such a simple thing as a smile!  
And please, if you walk passed me, look up.  When I smile at you, please smile back.  And please don't scowl at me...that really hurts my feelings. 

Lord, thank You for the gift of a smile.  Thank you for using the smiles you have given my children to bring joy to my life and to remind me that You created our smiles for Your purpose...to bring Your light into this world.  Help me to use my smile to bring joy to those around me.  Help me to be Your light.  Help me to put down my phone, stop looking for bargains at the store, and start looking at each precious face that passes me by.  Help me to change the world, one smile at a time!  In Jesus' name.  Amen.   


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blessings in the Basics Week 1: Thank God I Can Breathe

"The Spirit of God has made me,
And the breath of the Almighty gives me life." 
Job 33:4
Her first breath took her straight out of my arms and into the nursery and then to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  My little Abigail entered this world struggling to breathe. 
I was blue when I was born.  I was taken out of my mother's arms so the doctors could find my breath. 

His last breath was at the age of 67 after a battle with esophageal cancer.  Just recently, I lost my "Uncle" Dick, a very close friend to my parents--so close that I called him my uncle even though he wasn't.   
My mom recalls hearing her mother wheeze and struggle with her every breath as she walked up the stairs.  My grandma lost her battle to breathe at the young age of 49 from emphysema. 
Lately, I've been very aware of the miracle of breath.    
This month, I felt the Lord calling me to go back to the basics.  I needed to take my focus away from what the world wants me to see during this Christmas season--what I don't have, what I can't afford, and if I'm honest, what I really don't need. 
He's calling me to examine my life more closely to see the blessings in the very basic things starting with the breath of life.  
I don't always understand why some people's breaths in life are cut short or are difficult or are struggles.  Obviously I know some breaths end from their own choices...but some don't.  And those are the last breaths that I don't understand.  I don't know if I ever will or if I'm even supposed to. 
All I can do is know that God is good...have faith that He is always there to comfort us...and appreciate every breath He gives us.  
All I can do is know that my grandma and my Uncle Dick are with Jesus in Heaven and are no longer struggling to breathe anymore!
All I can do is thank God that my baby girl is now an incredibly healthy three year old who can breathe and run and jump and dance and talk and giggle and smell flowers! 
All I can do is thank God that when I check on her at night and put my hand on her back, I feel it rise and fall as she breathes in and out.  In her warm, quiet room, I am so grateful for her breath.

All I can do is thank God for giving me His breath of life when I was a baby and continuing to give me breath every day...every hour...every minute...every second. 
All I can do is thank God that His Breath gives us life. 
And when I look at life from that perspective---valuing every breath---nothing else really matters.  No gift that I give or get...no bargain that I find...no deal on Amazon Prime that I buy...no cookie that I bake...no tree that I decorate...nothing.  Nothing else seems all that important anymore.   
I can breathe!  Thank you God!  As you breathe in and out today, I pray that you will thank God too. 
Are you ready to be thankful for even the most basic things in life?  Are you ready to thank God for something so simple yet so life-giving as your breath?
Father, thank you for giving me Your Breath of life!  Thank you for shifting my focus from the views of the world...buying things....getting more stuff...to being grateful for the basic things in life.  Thank you for opening my eyes to see that something as simple as breathing in and out is such a miracle...such a gift...such a blessing.  I am so grateful that You healed my daughter, and I'm so grateful for every breath she takes in this world.  I'm so grateful for every breath I take too.  Never let me take it for granted, and always help me to use each breath You give me to serve You in this world.  In Jesus' name. Amen.
Don't miss a blog this month about "Blessings in the Basics".  Just enter your email address on this blog page.  Thank you!

Monday, November 24, 2014

I'm Grateful for Duct Tape

"Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Ephesians 5:20

I'm so grateful for my relationship with God, my husband, my 3 healthy children, my supportive family, my encouraging friends, my opportunity for ministry...

A warm home, a hot shower, nutritious food, a comfortable bed and duct tape. 

Yes, I'm grateful for duct tape. 

My husband's car is a piece of junk.  It was once a pretty sweet car bought when we had 2 incomes and were going through infertility and thought..."If we can't have kids, let's buy a car we couldn't have if we had kids." 
Now?  It's loud, rumbly, dirty and among the other many, many, many things wrong with it, this past summer, a shattered back window was added to the list.  We refuse to get it fixed because, sure enough, we would drop all this money to replace the back window and the car would immediately die.  So we are determined to drive this car until it won't drive any longer.  It's kind of a fun experiment...how long will this car actually go?
Never-mind the fact that it reminds us of the car from Planes, Trains and Automobiles. 

Never-mind the fact that it also reminds us of the car in Tommy Boy. 

Never-mind the fact that the back window is now plastic and duct tape!

It really makes us laugh.  Even though it's frustrating...even though it's not at all ideal...
Shouldn't we be grateful that he has a car in the first place? 

A car that takes him to his many jobs that allows me to stay at home with our kids?  A car that takes him from point A to point B?  A car that, although is so ugly, somehow still works?  Yes!

The bible says to give thanks always and for everything.  Not just for the things that are perfect or beautiful or wonderful or fully functioning or exactly the way we want them to be. 

That's just not realistic.  That's just not real life. 

We are called to give thanks always and for everything and that's why I'm thankful today for our crappy car.  And that's why I'm grateful...for duct tape!

What unexpected thing in your life are you grateful for?

Father, help me to truly give thanks always.  Help me to truly give thanks for everything.  It's so easy to focus on what I don't have, so help me to focus on what I do have.  Lord, fix my eyes on You and help me to see the blessings You have given me.  Help me to be grateful for the big things, but also for those little things that I sometimes miss.  And as I celebrate Thanksgiving this week, help me to give thanks to You for everything in my life...including duct tape!  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

No, I'm NOT a Grandma!

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away,
our inner self is being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 4:16

For the last time...NO! I'm NOT a grandma...now turn that music down and sit up straight!

Seriously though, is it possible that I look older than I think I do? 

Apparently, it is!   Because just today, I was shopping with my 2 little ones at Goodwill (the only place I shop), and a worker says to me:  "Oh, your grandkids are so cute."  I politely said, "Thank you, but these are my kids." 

I walked away angry.  I walked away totally offended.  Instead of focusing on the compliment about my kids (I mean, grandkids) being cute, I walked away feeling so upset at the fact that this lady actually thought I could be a grandma!!! 

How insulting!  How horrifying!  How....wait a minute...who is that old lady over there? 
Oh wait a minute, that is me.  That's my reflection in the mirror.  Really?  Is that what I look like?  Oh maybe she does have a point.  I do look old today.  Wait a minute...mathematically I guess it is absolutely possible for me to be a grandma.  So she's actually not too far off. 

So, why does this comment offend me so much? 

I don't know.  I really need to work on this, because it's not the first time someone has mistaken me for a grandma and unfortunately, it seems that it's not going to be the last. 

Either way, I want to embrace this whole aging thing, and like the bible says, whether I like to admit it or not, my outer self is in fact wasting away, but what God is doing with me on the inside is amazing.  Every day I get older means that every day, my inner self is being renewed...remodeled...restored and ready to serve Him in this world. 

Would I go back to my younger self again? 

Well...for my youthful face, non-stretched out tummy, non-wrinkly skin, non-gray hair...I'll admit, it's tempting.  I do love that young girl...only 26 years old in this picture...newly married...no kids...looking ahead at what life is going to bring her.  She has no clue what's to come.  Part of me envies her.  Most of me does not.  

I know what's on the inside of that young girl...so insecure...so unsure of God's love for her...so unclear and unfocused on her purpose in life...and so many doubts and fears about her worthiness. 

So, no...I would not go back again.  (Other than to tell her not be so insecure about her body because it only goes downhill from there especially after the wear and tear of carrying 3 kids!)  I would also thank her.  She is the reason why I am the person I am today.  She is the reason I have so many stories and testimonies about God's unconditional love.  She is the reason I am strong and courageous and more confident and less selfish.  She is the reason that I know who I am.  She is the reason that I have grown to be this woman who can stand before you and exclaim that God loves me...flaws, wrinkles and all!  

God loves this grandma! 

Just for fun and to help us all laugh about getting older, I thought of 4 ways to know that you're getting old.


1.  The host of the Tonight Show is younger than you are!

2.  You have actually said, "Turn that music down!"  or thought "I wish they would turn down that music!"

3.  The actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West is younger than you are!  (Seriously, she was only 37 when she played that role!!!)

4.  You would rather stay in and watch a Lifetime movie than go out any day of the week and twice on Sunday!

Add yours in the comments below! 

Father, thank You for the aging process.  Thank you that even though our bodies get older, You renew us.  You are constantly working on us and helping us to become all that You have created us to be.  Thank You that with each day that comes, we are wiser...we are more mature...we are more ready to do all that You ask us to do.  Thank You for our past.  Thank You for the journey that we've been on.  Thank You that through every struggle...through every challenge, we have grown and have become more secure in who we are and in how much You love us!  Be with us as we continue down our path in life even if we do look like a grandma.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

To my Readers:  This post is not a plea for everyone to tell me that I don't look like a grandma!  Nor is it a plea for people to tell me how young I look.  Nor is it meant to offend anyone who is a grandma (especially those that are my age--I know several.)  It really is just about embracing aging and that's all.  :-)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sometimes I'm Not Proud to Be an American

“A nation without God's guidance is a nation without order. Happy are those who keep God's law!”
Proverbs 29:18
I'm sorry to admit this, but sometimes I'm not proud to be an
Don't get me wrong.  I am grateful to live here.  I am.  And I am even more grateful for the service men and women that we honored during Veteran's Day who fought to protect our country.  I'm in awe of them as well as the men and women who continue to step up to serve our country today. 
But sometimes I find myself wondering what those amazingly selfless, brave, and courageous men and women are fighting for!
We live in a country who is poisoning our food with pesticides, with artificial colors and dyes, with artificial flavors, with preservatives, with aspartame and who knows what else!
We live in a country who is adding antibiotics and hormones to our food and who is allowing animals to be mistreated and abused so we can eat all we can eat. 
We live in a country where the drug companies want us to self-diagnose to the point where no one cares about the root of our symptoms.  They only care about giving us a drug to mask them.  Then they give us another drug to mask the side effects. 
We live in a country where we allow our kids to play violent video games and watch violent movies and then wonder why they become young men who are desensitized and kill others without blinking.   
We live in a country where we always have to have more and we are never content with what we have.  
We live in a country who doesn't care enough for our veterans when they return home. 
My head starts spinning! 
We live in a country where kids bully...where education standards are low...where healthcare is ridiculous...where unemployment is high...where people are selfish...where everyone is in debt...where no one seems happy...where no one seems healthy...where church isn't attended...where money is more important than anything else... where our freedoms come above our moral obligation to teach right from wrong...
And I could go on...
And just when I think I can't stand it anymore and I feel so frustrated and discouraged about the country we live in...I see our flag waving in the breeze at my son's school.  And I stop.
"God bless our country" the kids and I always say.  Then we talk about how our country is free and what that means.  How we all can get an education...even girls.  How we can all can go to church and worship God wherever and whenever we want.  How so many brave men and women fight to protect us so we don't have to be afraid walking to and from school every day. 
And just when I think God feels so absent from our country, I see a brother reaching out to help his sister whose husband has cancer...I attend an event for an organization who helps battered women and children...I see a father working 2 jobs for their family...I see a mother pumping milk for another mother to give her child breast milk...I see young kids praying over a friend at church...I learn of a man bringing socks to homeless people...I see my child's teacher pouring love into her students and his principal who cares enough about each student to memorize all their names...and I hear the school kids reciting our Pledge of Allegiance during the morning announcements.  As I hear the words "One nation, under God," I cry.
And I realized...God is here. 
Even though there is so much negativity among us, God is with us.  God is in us and works through us.  God is in even the smallest kindness that we do.  God is in even the quietest words that we say.  Even though all the bad seems to drowned it out, there really is so much good in our country when I take the time to look for it...when I take the time to see what God is doing. 
When I see the good, I feel grateful for our country.  I feel grateful that we are free.  Grateful that we are free to love and serve others. 
And I feel proud.  Proud to be an American.  Proud to serve alongside fellow Americans who give so much of themselves for so little...to our families...to our kids...to our schools...to our churches...to our patients...to our friends...to our students...to our neighbors and even to strangers...and to our country.
So, moving forward today, I don't want to focus on the bad.  I want to focus on the good.  I want to do what I can to be a loving parent, a dedicated wife, and a serving citizen.  I can only do the best that I can each day and pray about the rest.  So instead of feeling overwhelmed or hopeless, I can just give to God the things about our country that I don't like...don't understand...or can't control.  
I have to intentionally start praying for our country right now.  Will you please join me? 
Father, I lift our country up to you.  Lord, protect our service men and women who bravely fight for our freedom...who give so much of themselves...even their own lives for us.  Lord, I want our Veterans to be proud of the country they are fighting for and feel that their efforts, lives, and sacrifices are worth it.  Remove the bitterness and negativity that I feel about our country sometimes.  Help me to see the good...the love...the giving...the sacrifices...going on all around me.  Help me to appreciate more than ever the freedom that we have to love You, serve You and love others.   Help me to be proud to be an American!
I pray for wisdom and guidance for our leaders, drug companies and food industry.  I pray over the parents in our country as well as our precious children.  Lord, shine Your light into our country and on all those who call it home.  I pray for more of You in our homes and our schools and our communities.  We need You in our country. We need Your hope...Your love...Your joy!  We need You in our lives.  In Jesus' name. Amen. 
Please take a minute to listen to "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood.  I cry every time.  Such a great reminder of how precious our freedom really is!
Help me to continue to see the good in our country!  Please share what you love about our country or leave your prayers for our country in the comments. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

31 Day Writing Challenge Wrap Up-Reflecting Back Over the Last 31 Days

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him
and He will direct your paths." 
Proverbs 3: 5-6
31 Day Writing Challenge Wrap Up

I originally said "No" to doing this 31 Day Writing Challenge.  When a dear friend sent me information about it, I immediately said I didn't have time to do it.  I didn't have anything to write about, and I certainly didn't have anything that I could write about for 31 days! "No, No, No!" 

God had another answer in mind..."Yes!" 

Oh man!

God said, "Yes, you are going to do this.  You will write about fear, and here are your topics."  He gave me each topic that I was to write about and the order I was supposed to write them.  I quickly wrote them all down.  I've learned to follow Him and obey Him...period!  So I guess I'm doing this writing challenge then, God?

Yes, you are!

Every day, I would look at the topic and start writing.  Some days, the personal story that I was going to write about quickly came to my mind.  Some days, it didn't.  Some days I was excited to write about my topic.  Some days, I wasn't. 

The interesting part is that on those days where I felt unenthused...on those days where I felt uninspired...on those days where I wanted to change the topic because I felt it was too repetitive or it felt way too personal...those were the days where someone would send me a message saying "I really needed to hear that today." or "Your post really spoke to me today." or "What you wrote really made an impact on me." 

Ok, God.  I will continue to trust You on this writing journey. 

So, I stuck faithfully with His list only making minor changes here and there...with God's permission, of course!  God knew what I needed to write about each day, and so I trusted Him completely to speak to me as well as use me to speak to others.    

Throughout this process, I cried...I laughed...I felt moments of panic...I felt moments of great joy...I felt moments of fear...I felt moments of more panic...I felt moments of frustration and discouragement...I felt moments of elation and encouragement...

And you don't know how many times I thought "I can't believe people are going to be reading this." 

Many people asked me "How did you have time to write?"  I didn't!!  I had to make the time.  I stayed up late...I got up early...I wrote all throughout the day too.  I ignored huge piles of laundry...I ate standing up...I put off cleaning the dishes...I threw together last minute meals...I turned away from messes that needed to be cleaned up...I didn't watch TV (although my kids did--A LOT!)...I lowered my standards for everything in my life...I wore the same clothes twice (ok, maybe three times).  

Writing became a part of my daily life...part of my routine.
I wrote and I got three kids dressed, fed, and out the door.
I wrote and I ate breakfast.
I wrote and I read books.

I wrote and I played magic tricks and football and Uno and baby dolls.
I wrote and I ate lunch.
I wrote and I watched my youngest son take his first steps.

I wrote and I had play dates.
I wrote and I went to church.
I wrote and I taught Sunday School.
I wrote and I spoke at a moms group.
I wrote and I celebrated my youngest son's 1st birthday.

I wrote and I went to a Fishing Derby.
I wrote and I coordinated a Moms Night Out.
I wrote and I had a Praying Moms Group.
I wrote and I went on a family hike.

I wrote and I ate dinner.
I wrote and I invaded the kids' movie night candy drawer.
I wrote and I got three kids bathed, read to, had special time with, and tucked into bed.
I wrote and I enjoyed a date night with my husband.

I wrote and I went to bed.
Then I would wake up and write again.  

Let me tell you, it was one crazy month!

Writing became intertwined with every part of my daily life.  Life kept going and I kept writing.  It was constantly in the back of my mind.  I was either thinking about what I had written or what I was going to write about all the time.  It was truly exhausting! 

Am I glad it's over?  Yes.  Am I sad it's over?  Yes!  But mostly, I'm just grateful.  I'm so grateful for this journey.  I'm so grateful for this experience.  I'm so grateful for my obedience to God.  I'm so grateful for all of the encouragement and blessings I received from all of you.  I'm so grateful that God shined His Light into all of my fears and through my stories, He was able to shine His light into your lives and fears as well.

Let's keep shining His Light within the darkness of ourselves so that we can be a brighter Light for Him in this world!

Blessings to you all!
Christine Leeb

Father, I give all of my fears to You!  Fear is a struggle that I have to face each day.  I break the power of those fears with Your precious word.  Help me to remind myself when fears creep into my mind that You haven't give me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control. 
Thank you for using my blogs for Your bigger purpose.  Thank you for helping me conquer my fears through faith in You.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to encourage others and share Your love with others through this journey.  I pray that You will continue to show everyone Your love and fill everyone with Your faith.   God, I pray that You will shine Your light into the fears that we all have and give us all bold confidence to walk forward trusting You with our lives.  Fill us all with Your faith instead of fear.  Let fear be conquered in Jesus' name!  Amen.

To the Readers:  Seriously...thank you!  I truly appreciate those of you who took the time to share a kind word and words of encouragement.  This was such an exhausting month, but when you took the time to read and comment on my blogs, it really made me smile and gave me that extra boost I needed to keep writing.  I will keep writing because I've learned that God can really speak through me in my writing, but I'm taking a break for a while, as I'm sure you can understand.  :-)  I really need to give my family my undivided attention.  I will wait to see what God has for me next.  In the meantime, keep shining!

Start from the beginning of this 31 Day Writing Challenge:  31 Fears to Conquer Through Faith  http://christineleeb.blogspot.com/2014/10/31-fears-to-conquer-through-faith.html


Friday, October 31, 2014

This is Me: Completely and Totally Exposed...

"Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant."
Galatians 1:10

This post was originally part of the 31 Day Writing Challenge:  31 Fears to Conquer Through Faith--DAY 31:  Fear of Being Vulnerable

This is me.  No make-up on.  No forced smile.  No flat-ironed or hot-rolled hair.  No clothes.  No matching accessories.  Nothing.


Just me.

Naked.  Exposed.  Vulnerable.  

I'm imperfect.  I've made mistakes.  I continue to make mistakes.  I've hurt others.  I've hurt myself.  I've hurt God.  I've disappointed others.  I've disappointed myself.  I've disappointed God.   

Much of my life, I've learned to put on a happy face...to sweep things under the rug...to pretend like everything was ok.  Not out of being fake, but simply out of not wanting to burden others with my problems...or not wanting to face my own struggles...or not wanting to be judged because of my weaknesses...or not wanting to be vulnerable.  It felt uncomfortable. 

And so I didn't share what was really going on in my life.   It was lonely, and yet my silence gave me a false sense of security and power.  I just plain did not want to appear weak.  I did not want to be vulnerable.
Well, I think...I think I might have gotten over the fear of being vulnerable now! 
“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”   Criss Jami

Throughout this 31 Day Writing Challenge, I've been very open and honest.  I've revealed very, very personal information about my life...my struggles...my insecurities...my doubts...my weaknesses...my worries...and, of course all of my fears.  I've shared about my fears of:
Being Alone
Being Less
Not Being Good Enough
Making Mistakes
Being Left Out
Being Judged
Broken Trust
Saying "No"
Saying "Yes"
Being Disappointed
Being Disappointing
My Weaknesses
Not Being Liked
Hurting Someone
Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone
Being a Bad Mom
Being a Bad Wife
The Unknown
Being Vulnerable

Honestly, I'm exhausted.  I feel very raw, naked, and exposed to the core.  In my mind, the goal in writing these blogs was to simply free myself from these fears.  That was my vision, at least.

I had no idea what God's vision was.  

His goal...His purpose was so much more than that.  Yes, He absolutely wanted to free me from these fears, but He also wanted to teach me about strength and that true strength doesn't come from pretending to have it all together or never making mistakes or being perfect all the time.  True strength comes from sharing my imperfections, admitting my weakness, and exposing the dark areas of my inner self.   

John 1: 4-5 says "Life itself is in Him, and this life gives Light to everyone.  The Light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it." 

God wanted to use my stories...use my vulnerability......use my fears to take me from a place of weakness to a place of strength...to take me from a place of darkness to a place of light.   His Light! 

Because God's Light shined in me, there was healing.  Because I have accepted His Light, I can truly surrender to His unconditional love, His undeniable mercy, His unbelievable forgiveness, and His unending grace. 

I have learned to love myself...be confident in who I am...accept the way that God created me...and feel worthy and deserving of God's goodness.  I have learned to love myself to the core...flaws and all. 

His Light shines in me and now it can shine through me.  By releasing my fears of being vulnerable and following God's lead by being so transparent, God was able to shine His Light through me onto you.  

He was able to use my stories to bless you, encourage you and inspire you on your own path in life.  God's plan for us is so much bigger than we ever realize, but we have to surrender to Him and be willing to be vulnerable.

Are you ready to release your fears of being vulnerable to Him?  Are you ready to accept the freedom that comes with being more open and honest about your life?
Lord, today, I give my fear of being vulnerable to You.  Keeping everything inside of me is toxic.  There is freedom to be gained in the truth.  There is strength to be gained in being vulnerable.  Give me the courage to shout off the rooftops about all that You've done in my life.  Take away my fears of being rejected or judged or pleasing people and help me to focus only on pleasing You and Your mission for my life.  Lord, shine Your light into my fears of being vulnerable and help me to walk forward boldly and confidently knowing that through faith in You, You give me Light and the strength I need to shine within as well as shine to the world.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Start from the beginning of this journey of 31 Fears to Conquer Through Faith:  http://christineleeb.blogspot.com/2014/10/31-fears-to-conquer-through-faith.html