Monday, December 09, 2013

Shelves, Elves and Walking Wise Men

First let me say this is not a “hating on the Elf on the Shelf” post. There is a blog post I read recently that I think explains why we don't do it and if you would like to read that visit this blog

This post is about a new Christmas tradition I am putting into place in our home. I think the Elf on the Shelf is a really cute idea but I also think that between elves, Santa, presents, marketing and debt that you not only have to be incredibly deliberate for the real purpose of Christmas to be the focus but you have to be consistent. every. day. So, as I was trimming my home for Christmas and getting out my 2nd nativity (don’t judge, I may even have a third) I thought of a fun way to involve my 3 year old in the story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

I prepped our dining room table for the Nativity and put down the moss/straw stuff I use every year for the floor of the stable and put the donkey and the cow in place. Then I asked my daughter what she thought the shepherds were doing the month before Jesus was born and she said tending sheep. So, since they were near Bethlehem I put the shepherd and his sheep just a little ways away from the stable sitting on the dining room table.

Then I talked to her about the three Wise Men. I told her they were traveling from super far away to visit Jesus (yes, I know they probably got there when He was two but we will go with the creative license that has them included in the nativity scene). So we decided the bookshelf by the front door is the farthest place in our house where the Wise Men could begin their journey.

Next came Mary and Joseph. We talked about how they had to leave where they lived and go to Bethlehem because King Herod demanded it. Since they weren’t traveling the same distance as the
Wise Men they got to start their journey on our kitchen countertop.

As we were talking about the King Herod I saw the 3 Nutcracker soldiers in my Christmas d├ęcor. Seeing a chance to share even more of the story I pulled them out and borrowed one of her play castles and I setup Herod’s castle since the Wise Men will go to it on their way to worship Jesus.

Next we had to place the Angel that would be part of the Heavenly hosts that would announce the birth of the Savior. We chose the china cabinet because it was high up and would overlook “Bethlehem”. When I put the Angel up there it was next to a decorative cross and my daughter asked if the cross was up in Heaven too. I explained in many ways it was because when Jesus decided to come to Earth to save us He already knew He would have to die on the cross for our sins. (Sidenote: I am thinking about letting her color a picture of Jesus and putting it up in Heaven for right now too since that is where He was before He came to the Earth.)

Then she asked about Baby Jesus.

I explained that He wasn’t born yet and that Mary and Joseph would be traveling to Bethlehem and that right when they got there that Mary would give birth to Jesus. I said we would have to look for Him on Christmas morning and join the Angels, Wise men and shepherds celebrating that He was born. She got so excited and my heart leapt at the fact that on Christmas morning we would run into the dining room to find Jesus!

I did start to wonder if she was just mimicking my excitement or if she was really getting the idea but much to my surprise when I went into her room later in the afternoon she had taken her Fisher Price Nativity scene and put the different little people around her room. The she explained to me what they were doing and why she chose that spot for them, oh and that Aladdin is an honorary Wise Man.

I love that everyday we are going to move each part of the Christmas story closer to the stable. I feel like this gives our Christmas a grounding because each day we draw closer to the day Jesus coming to Earth we will be talking about it as a family.

I would love to hear any other Christmas traditions you have that help point the season back to Jesus! Please leave them in the comments and I will share them on my blog!

Here is my table... it looks so funny without the full Nativity but I even love that because I get a chance to share with people about what we are doing!

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Day He Said Yes

Today was a day of celebration, a day a year in the making. Today with my 3 year old in tow I sent my most prized possession to a ministry that I believe in with my heart and soul. This past year leading up to this moment has been crazy… and here is why.

Last November I was listening to one of my favorite preachers teach online and he began to share about his wife giving away her wedding ring in order to help people in need of clean water. This idea gripped my heart so I started googling for more information. I came across a ministry called With This Ring. As I read the story of the founder, Ali Eastburn, and how she felt God call her to give her wedding ring, her most prized possession in order to help those that are dying from a lack of clean drinking water I was stunned. I had never, in a million years, thought about giving up something so precious to me but once this idea was inside of me it wouldn’t let go. 

You see, God had been speaking to me through the Bible and showing me His heart and my responsibility for the poor and needy. The verses I was reading that day (Matt 25:31-46) even referenced helping someone who was in need. I knew there were water issues in the world but I had no idea the extent or death toll associated with it. Then I watched a video on their current initiative in India and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was supposed to give my diamond engagement ring to this ministry. I immediately emailed the ministry to learn about how to start the process. The next day I spoke to my husband about my call to give this radical gift and his quick and firm answer on the matter was “absolutely not”. I was heartbroken. Although I understood why he felt that way I knew I was supposed to give my ring. So, I had to write Ali back and explain the situation. She responded that she understood and then asked why I wanted to give in the first place. I wrote a pretty long email but all of my thoughts were summed up into two sentences. 

“I want to donate my ring because Jesus is thirsty. I want to be able to say that I gave Jesus water with my best.”

What I didn’t know is that my “why” would connect Ali and me in a way neither of us imagined. She had been in a place where she was busy with ministry and all of the good things that come with it but in the “doing” of it all she had lost sight of the original heart that brought her there. My “why” brought her back to the place she was in when God told her to give her ring. She called me the next day and we setup a time to chat on the phone. We started talking and praying every Friday and although I knew I couldn’t give my ring without my husbands blessing, God had already firmly planted this ministry in my heart so I started volunteering for them by helping their office as I could. When Nathan found out I was volunteering he jokingly said “what, are you going to start a With This Ring Georgia?” and I told him if God wanted me to then absolutely… never imagining what was coming next.

Fast-forward to May of 2013, I had been volunteering for With This Ring for six months and even had an opportunity to fly to California to be a part of their yearly fundraising Gala. Ali, after lots of prayer and discussion with her Board, approached me about starting a With This Ring Regional Office in Georgia. This ministry had never had an office outside of the founding office in Yorba Linda, California but God was moving and they all felt like He was going to start this radical generosity movement in the South. I prayed about it and prayed about how to approach Nathan about it and guess what?! He was supportive! Nathan and I prayed and talked (a lot) about what it would look like for me to step away from my current job selling wholesale beef and to step out in faith to start this regional office. I accepted the job in June of 2013 and got to work learning how to share and start this regional office, strangely enough, with my big shiny engagement ring firmly planted on my finger. It felt difficult sometimes to share about this radical giving ministry having never had the opportunity to radically give myself but God even used this story to His glory.

Fast-forward again to October 2013. I am sitting at church with my sweet husband and he looks at me out of the blue and says “well, I have known for a while but I wanted you to know that it is okay for you to give your ring now.” I hadn’t pushed or prodded but just consistently and quietly prayed for this day. I cannot tell you the tidal wave of emotions that hit me all at once. My prayer for a year was for his heart to come to understand my “why” in wanting to give. The love that I felt for him in that moment was truly supernatural. To think that we were able to do this together, share this amazing possession that means the world to both of us in order to help someone who is literally dying from a lack of clean water connects us in a way that I cannot explain with words.

Eleven years ago I had the honor of saying Yes to become Nathan’s wife and now he has stepped out in faith and said Yes to giving our ring to help others. I believe with all of my heart that my ring’s story has come full circle. Lives will be changed because God is faithful and He calls us to step out in faith to Him. 

Today I am ringless in Christ and a Radical Giving Ambassador for With This Ring. I have the privilege of sharing about the transformation that happens in us when we open our hands and give God full control over our money, our treasures and our lives. I know without a doubt this is a decision I will never regret.

I love you Nathan Clackum. Thank you for being a rock in my life as God continues to shape me. 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Matthew 25:31-46

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bursting My Bubble

After hearing Ali Eastburn’s story about how God spoke to her about her ring (click here to read it) and that she had a dream that included a scene from Schindler’s List, I knew that I was going to have to watch the movie. I had avoided it due to the fact that I knew it would break my heart. Well, I watched it today. Even though I knew what it was about and the movie itself was exactly what I expected it to be, I am physically sick.

There were a few scenes from the movie that I cannot get out of my mind. The first one is when Schindler is trying to setup his first purchase of Jewish workers from the Nazi officer. Schindler asks him how much a life is worth and the man replies, “No, no, no you tell me. How much it is worth to you.” I have never thought about that. 

How much is a life actually worth to me?

Is it worth me being inconvenienced? Is it worth me giving up something that I want but don’t need? Is it worth me giving up something I need because someone else has a greater need? This question is already haunting me…. at what cost is a human life worth to me?

The second scene happens at the end of the movie when Schindler is leaving and the 1,100 people that he saved surround him, he starts to look at his possessions. As he lists all of the things he still owns and how many people he could have saved had he sold each item he begins to break down. It was at the end when he could do no more that his vision was finally completely clear. He understood that his possessions actually equaled human life. Will I only truly comprehend that once my chance to make a difference has passed?

Also, related to this movie, I cannot get out of my mind the stories I have heard about Christian churches that were along the route that the trains would take to the concentration camps and these churches rearranged their services so that when the trains came by they were singing hymns at the top of their lungs in order to drown out the screaming of the people heading towards death.

These church attenders were singing HYMNS to GOD while HIS people were being taken to their death.

I have to ask myself the same question. Is that what I do? Is that what our American Churches are doing? There are people dying everyday without knowing Jesus. There are more slaves NOW than at ANY other time in history. Armies are stealing children and forcing them to murder. They are mutilating, raping and killing entire villages of women and children. The rate that children are being trafficked is mind-blowing and the fact that every minute 4 children die from a dirty-water related disease is appalling. Yet, here we are building bigger churches, bigger programs, more expensive homes, higher lifestyles and buying nicer clothes. Everything has become all about me, me, me.

I’d like to think that had I been living in Germany at the time of the Holocaust that I would have tried to do something about it, no matter the cost. I’d like to think that if an atrocity of that magnitude was being committed and I knew about it that I would fight for a change and come to the aid of those being hurt. But I think the way I live my life points to a harsh truth.

An atrocity is happening now… 

and although I have done a little to try and help I haven’t really inconvenienced myself or given up something incredibly significant in order to make a change. When will my vision be clear as to the battle that is raging and the role I am to play? Will it be after it is too late?

The atrocities happening now may not be as organized or directly aimed as the Holocaust was but let me tell you, there are still millions of people dying while I live my life in my happy, middle class bubble.

What will I say to God when He asks me how I spent my life? What will I say to Him when He asks me how I used the gifts and talents He gave me? What will I say to Him when He asks me how I used the blessings He provided me?

May God grow in me a heart that is so tuned in to His love and justice for the fatherless, the widowed, the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and imprisoned that I cannot rest.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Five Dolla - Holla!

You have to say the title with some pizzazz or else it just sounds silly.

Back when I waited tables in college if a customer left us a $5 tip we would call it a Five Dollar "Holler."  It was always a nice treat because waiting tables can be tough.  But that isn't what this post is about.  Instead it is about my current adventure with God.

If you have been on my blog before you know that God has me in a place of less.  Simplifying.  Saying no to myself.  I will admit it has been a tough road to walk some days.  However, I have been more content in the last year than I can remember being in all of my life.

Enter the Five Dolla - Holla.  You wouldn't know this, because I have been too busy to write about it, but I have accepted a new job!  I am now the Radical Giving Ambassador for With This Ring!  I promise a post on how God has orchestrated this whole thing soon.  So, with this new job comes lots of new experiences, including being out and about among people, ladies groups and churches in order to share about what WTR is all about.  In case you didn't know the job I left in order to pursue this one was selling beef as a stay at home mom.  My daily uniform was generally sweatpants and a comfy shirt - for the last 3 years.  If I had to give a farm tour that was still easy because I would throw on a pair of jeans, boots and my farm shirt.  Ta-da!  Now, I have to represent a ministry I believe in and that requires a whole new look.  

Right at the time that I accepted this new position God impressed on me that He didn't want me spending more than $5 for any item of clothing until He released me from this season.  What the what?!  Here is my incredibly mature reaction...

Um, God since You know everything, I am pretty sure You know I do not have any appropriate clothing to represent this awesome new ministry You brought me to.  This is all Your idea.  $5.  Really? 

Apparently He meant business because I have not felt a release from the $5 limit yet (and this started in May).

However, as always He has taught me a lesson I will not soon forget.  Taking me to a place where I had to stop looking to myself to provide and instead look to Him I have been blessed and found more at my new local mall, a.k.a. the Goodwill Store, than I thought possible.  To remind myself I thought I would post a picture of it all together.  Most of these items I got for right at $5 but a few were even less - SPECIFICALLY my new favorite pair of Banana Republic jeans that I paid $3.48 for and my Fossil purse that I got for $2!  Holla!  (Side note: I really do not care about labels but it just goes to show that His provision is so much more than just bottom of the barrel.)

What is the moral of this story?  As I was reading the Word I came across it loud and clear (stick with me here... it will be worth it!)

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 

27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  Luke 12: 22-23 & 27-34

As we are faithful to do the things that He asks of us, whether it is giving up something we really want (or even need) or limiting ourselves on our purchases, we get to see the hand of God more clearly in our daily life.  In turn He is honored and HIS glory (not ours) is the goal.  It is in our daily choices that we reveal our hearts and where our treasure actually lies. I am once again reminded that THIS WORLD IS NOT IT for us.  We have so much more to look forward to.

Do I hope that one day I get to purchase clothing that costs more than $5?  Sure, but I can tell you this - the first few weeks of this season when I had to walk away from a great pair of jeans that were only $12 and I thought about them for 2 days made me realize that even with all of the changes that God has brought me through that stuff still had a hold on me.  So until the love of stuff is fully uprooted and a desire for His plans and goals for me, no matter the cost, is clearly rooted in my heart, I will stay at the $5 level.  I really believe it isn't what we own that is a problem, it is what owns us.

That reminds me of this quote from Andre Gide,

"Complete possession is proved only by giving.  All you are unable to give possesses you."  

So at the end of this post I have to ask you... is there anything that possesses you?  If, as you think and pray, you come across something offer it to God.  He may not ask it of you, but if He does, I promise you that you will be more content without it than without obedience to Him.