Kitchen on Wheels

One especially crazy weekend I made fruit salad in the car.  I had overextended our family with too many commitments.  At this point in the weekend we were on our way to a family function.  My contribution was fruit salad.  With barely enough time to go to the store for the ingredients, I was going to be hard pressed to assemble the side dish before arriving at the party.  We were running late…as usual.  I knew everyone would be eating by the time we arrived.  It was bad enough that we would be late; I didn’t also want to be unprepared.

 

Fortunately, we had a 45 minute drive and I just happened to have a paring knife in the car.

 

(I’ll let that sink in for a moment.)

 

So, I proceeded to chop strawberries, kiwi and grapes while my husband drove.  (You may be saying,  “You didn’t make the fruit salad AND drive?”)  I am a multi-tasking, overachiever.  But I left the driving to my husband.

 

As he drove and I cut I had time to think.  I knew there must be some life lesson that needed to be realized. (I did tell you I’m an over-achiever, right?  I can’t just leave it alone without looking for the moral to the story.)  And, I’ve been a follower of Jesus long enough to know that He will use the silly, little stuff of life to make us more like Him.  I also knew that others who passed us on the highway must have either pitied me (fellow-mothers), thought I was losing it (women yet to be mothers), or didn’t even notice (men).  My husband was part of the last group. He barely made a comment about my traveling kitchen.  (This was one time when ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ was an unfortunate thing. It really would have come in handy.)  Maybe my wise husband was choosing to be discerning and not row into unpredictable waters.  I’m not always kind and patient when questioned while under pressure.

 

So, anyway…a lesson.  Somewhere.  I guess on the surface it’s obvious, right?  Don’t try to do too much.  Use some wisdom in scheduling.  We really don’t have to do everything.  Why do we make that our goal?  Our ridiculous, totally impractical goal.  Some days I just can’t get it through my brain that I am not a super-mom.  And, uh, you’re probably not either. (Hugs.) With all the love I can muster…you don’t have it all together.  Can we be honest with each other?  Live real?  It’s so hard.  I know.  We want to appear put-together,our lives in order.

 

We are not, have never been and will not ever be super-moms.  It’s a lie and only creates anxiety.  You may be able to keep all your plates spinning for a time, but not forever.  I’ve tried.  So let’s choose wisely.   Set priorities.  When given a choice let’s decide if it’s in line with our priorities.  Learn to say no.   We’re on the same page, right?  We agree that we don’t have it all together?  I do know someone who does.  God.

 

It’s very simple.  Well, simply said, but harder to do.  Choose real, vulnerable weakness, so God’s strength will be obvious.  And this is when the lesson gets below the surface.  And, as with any other area of our lives, this isn’t something we’ll do once and it will stick.  It will take work.  Day by day.  Moment by moment.  But what freedom and joy there can be if we just grab onto this idea!  To shed the idea that we need to have it all together.  A little closer to that abundant life.  Not only will we make our lives more bearable, but those around us will breath a little easier.  Let’s chose what has eternal value, not over-commit and allow ourselves some vulnerability.

 

Oh, and, remember…it’s not safe to use a knife in a moving vehicle.

 

 

Freedom

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It struck me again yesterday.  How we are free.  We enjoy freedom in this country.  But that freedom was by no means free.  It came with a great cost…which continues to demand payment.  Our original freedom was secured hundreds of years ago by forefathers and fighters.  They gave their very lives.  And, today there are those who are still fighting.  The fight may not look the same, but a fight it is.  There are countless men and women who sacrifice comfort, time with family, and yes, their lives.

I want to take the time to stop and remember what a great cost has been paid for me to be free.  I pray that I never take it for granted.  That I never think I am just owed freedom.  So many people in this world do not have claim to the kind of freedom we experience day in and day out.

Still, there is an even greater freedom that I don’t want to leave out.  One that is available to everyone.  That freedom?  It is free to us.  No person can do anything to earn this freedom. The freedom I’m talking about is found only in Jesus.  Sin separates us from God, but in him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)  “It’s important to keep in mind that salvation encompasses what God has done for us, not what we can do for Him. God has taken the initiative in His plan of redemption, reaching out to us through Christ.” (Focus on the Family)

Jesus.  He gave his life in exchange for our freedom.  That if we confess, repent and place our trust and faith in Him, we will be saved.  Free.  Free from being controlled by sin.  Free of eternal condemnation.  Free to live life eternally with God.

John 8:36  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

2 Corinthians 3:17  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

But, we can’t take for granted this freedom either:  Galatians 5:13-14 says,  You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

As an American who is a follower of Jesus I have so much for which to be thankful!  Freedom abounds.  Paid with a price, for me.  One way we can show our gratitude is to be generous with our lives.  We may never fight a war or serve our country, but we can serve each other in our own realm of influence.  And, as Christians we are part of the Church (big C) and given a commission to “Go!”.  Tell the good news.  Help.  Serve. Love.  Live out your freedom well.

5 Elements of a Successful Quiet Time

So, what does a ‘successful’ quiet time look like?  We’re not looking at outcome here. Not measuring results.   The question can be answered in as many ways as there are people on this earth.  You may have your own routine and the next person is entirely different.  You may read, pray, sing, write, listen, cry.  Bow, stand, sit, walk, lay down.  We all have our own style.

However, I would suggest that there are certain elements that should be involved in every quiet time, no matter your style.  But first, let’s define quiet time.  Simply put, it is a time of day set aside for just you and God…and I would stress the importance of it taking place first thing in the morning.  Many would argue that’s not necessary.  I disagree.  Giving our firsts is a theme in the life of a Jesus-follower.  Why not the first part of your day?  BUT, any time of day is better than not at all.
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Jesus set a good example of the essential parts of a daily quiet time.  Go figure.

1. Recognize your need for Him.  Often we see Jesus going to the Father with a heavy heart.  He went sorrowful, burdened, weary.  I don’t know about you, but I have plenty of all that to go around.  Take it with you when you meet with Him.  And leave it there.  Again.  And again.  And again.  This is also the time for thanksgiving and praise.  When we truly see our need for Him, we can’t help but be grateful!

2. Go to a desolate place.  The word desolate is used repeatedly, especially in reference to Jesus being alone.  In Matthew 14:13 says, “Now when Jesus heard this [of John’s death], he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.”  In this verse, the Greek word for desolate is érēmos – an uncultivated, unpopulated, deserted place; (figuratively) a barren, solitary place that also provides needed quiet (freedom from disturbance).  It’s so important to carve out some time that is in a desolate place.

Now, let’s make that real for our lives.  That will usually mean getting up early.  I know.  I strongly dislike that idea.  I don’t even like to say that phrase.  To get alone, without distractions and with a sole focus.  It is worth whatever effort it takes to make this happen.  Be creative.  Remember, your quiet time will morph over time. It’s ok to try something and realize it doesn’t work.  Try something else.

3. Be without sin.  Jesus was without sin.  We, as followers of Jesus, are forgiven and cleansed.  That does not give us a license to sin.  But, we still sin.  We still need to confess and repent when we sin.  Imagine a person with which you have a close relationship.  If you do something in opposition to that person, the relationship with that person will not be the same until you go and make things right.  It’s the same with our relationship with God.  When we sin against Him, we must go to Him and make things right.  Confess and repent…turning from our sin and realigning with Him.

4. The Word.  Jesus is the Word.  Big W.  The Word.  Praise God, we have the Word in the form of our Bibles (and the Holy Spirit).  This is where it may look a bit different from one person to the next.  We can read it or hear it.  Paper, screen or headphones.  It doesn’t matter.  Just get it in your heart and head EVERY DAY.

5. Obedient heart.  Jesus set the ultimate example in this.  He ‘emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:7-8)

For this last element of a successful quiet time, we need to say, “Yes, Lord.”  We’ve laid out our concerns, we’ve confessed, our sins and we’ve ingested the Word.  It’s action time.  At this point, some days it will be a joyous consent.  Other days it will be with clenched teeth.  Many days, through streams of tears.  Yet, the answer should still be yes.  Oh, friend.  Of course, there will be days when you can’t find your ‘yes’.  Weeks or sadly, even years, when we say ‘no’.   Like a toddler who just wants her own way.  And now.  But there is blessing in the yes.  Let us trust the One who knows all and is Love.

Philippians 2:12-15a Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence

but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent…

Quiet time will not look the same for all of us.  We are each created unique by our loving Father.  Just like our own children and the time we spend with them.  The style of the time will vary, but we still need that quality and quantity time with our kids.  So the Father wants quality and quantity time with us, His kids.  Quantity time…every day, more than once a day, if needed.  (I need it.)  Quality time…recognizing our need for Him, getting alone with Him, confessing our sins to Him, taking in Him by the Word and saying “yes” to Him.

Early to Rise?

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.  Mark 1:35

 

If Jesus, Savior and Creator, needed to have a ‘quiet time’, how much more do we, rescued and redeemed sinners, need to do the same?  It would stand to reason, that maybe we need it even more, being that we are imperfect.  Yet Jesus, in so doing, was not only setting an example for us in his perfectness, but it was also a good indication that he really was fully man.  He needed that time away with the Father to pray before ministering that day.  To align with God’s will, to be strengthened, encouraged…just loved on by the Father.

Jesus gave his all to everyone around him.  Do you give a lot of yourself to those around you?  If you’re a mom, the answer is a resounding ‘yes!’.  We so need that time at the start of each day to pray…to submit to God’s will, to draw on His strength and to just be loved on by our Father.

But, oh, I struggle with this!  For so long now I’ve known I should make this a priority.  This rising early and getting alone with God. You see, I am in the Word everyday.  That is a must.  Even if it is done while the kids are running laps around you asking endless questions.  Make. It. A. Priority.  I cannot stress enough the importance of reading or  hearing His Word every day. But to rise very early in the morning, get alone, and pray?  That.  That is taking it to the next level.  I mean, really praying.  On your face, crying out to the Lord.  Sitting silent, listening.  A supernatural conversation with I Am!

What are we missing out on by neglecting this practice?  I can only imagine.  Heart healing, peace that passes understanding, a passion to reach the lost.  The list goes on and on.   I’m not saying we won’t ever have those things if we’re not praying early in the morning.  But, how much more will we know and experience Him if we are being consistent in drawing near?  What a change that would make in our witness if we are putting Him first in our day.  The constant, repetitive, faithful setting aside time to just know Him.  Being filled up in His presence so for the rest of the day we have something worthwhile to give.  Praying for what weighs on our hearts.  Prayer is a powerful thing.  Both together, the pouring out and letting Him fill.  Taking the time to be still and listen.  Repenting, praising, honoring, submitting.

The pastor this weekend, stressed the importance of seeking His face as opposed to seeking His hand.  Not just what God can do (His hand) for us, but to KNOW (face) Him.  You’ve heard of the quantity vs. quality debate for relationships?  Well, I think most people would agree that we need both.  Quality, yes, but we are imperfect people.  We have bad days.  We still sin and need to repent daily.  Quiet times are not always going to go the way you want.  There will be interruptions and we may feel we’re not hearing from Him.  Yet, if we can also focus on quantity…that day after day after day of seeking and being still and pouring out our hearts.  That is what will help us know Him better.  We’ll have some great quality days that make us walk with a bounce in our step and a renewed purpose, but those days and days of quantity will slowly build a solid foundation of maturity in our relationship with Him.

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So, what does this early morning time look like?  I need a plan and a goal.  That sounds so unspiritual, but isn’t part of our walk about discipline?  What can you do to add this to your life?  What about sleep, you ask.  I know.  That’s been my hold up.  I like sleep.  I am not happy about getting out of bed in the morning, but this time with Him is more important than sleep. So, to think it through… I am pretty sure at this point in my life I need 7 hours of sleep each night.  For me that means I need to go to bed no later than 11:30 pm and get up at 6:30 am. (Ugh.)  That would give me 30-45 minutes before the rest of the house is ready for breakfast.  I would include prayer, reading the Word, worship music, journaling and more prayer.  You could sit in your car, in the bathroom, go for a walk.  Think it through.  Join me in making this a priority. This is more of what it means to lean on Him, right?  To recognize our need for Him.  Every. Day.  What does your quiet time look like?  Have you been able to establish a habit of rising early, getting alone with the Father and praying?  Please share!

 

Only One can Satisfy

“If our trust is placed in human beings, we will end up despairing of everyone.” (My Utmost for His Highest, 7/30).

 

It is taking me a long time to learn this one.

 

My expectation of others is so high that I always find fault.  It doesn’t always appear that way at first…that the problem lies with me.  We’re so quick to find fault outside of ourselves.  Seeing what’s not there in a spouse, parent, friend, child.  Only noticing what they are lacking and how that causes me to lack.  Too much trust is placed in the unsuspecting hands of another.  Trusting them that they will fill our needs, desires.  Often unspoken even.  That’s a tall order.  To expect someone else to fill that kind of void.  Those unsuspecting hands are also imperfect.  What human being can wholly meet needs and desires, even when trying with all their might?  None.  Yet, we continue to expect it.  We get lonely, feel hurt, lose hope when what is not even nearly realistic does not happen.

 

“There is only one Being who can completely satisfy to the absolute depth of the hurting human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.” (My Utmost for His Highest, 7/30)

 

We have the solution to our longing for completeness, being known by another.  It is Jesus.  I am reading this book by Ted Dekker called A.D. 33.  It is such a well-written book.  He so beautifully captures the character of Christ as he interacts with others in this fictional, based on real events, novel.  The tears flow free as Mary, sister of Lazarus, retells her meeting Jesus on His way to her home after Lazarus died.

 

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This is the part that caught my heart.

Jesus is completely perfect and able to meet all of our needs.  He is aware of our needs…even knows better than we do.  Best of all, He wants to meet our needs.  He is not too tired or busy.  Only He can completely satisfy our hearts.  Ah, but we forget.  I do anyway.  Let us not forget to go to Him for those needs, before and after we get disappointed with those around us.  It doesn’t matter.  He just wants us to come.  Lay our burdens at His feet.  Allow ourselves to be know intimately by Him.  Weep with Him.  Be filled.  I want to keep leaning on the everlasting arms of Jesus.  Lean with me!

 

death, birth and everything in between

Morph, by definition is a gradual process of transformation. All of life seems to be like that. Always adjusting to a new normal. Continue reading

why ilene…why i lean

to lean:

1 a : to incline, deviate, or bend from a vertical position
   b : to cast one’s weight to one side for support
2    : to rely for support or inspiration
3    : to incline in opinion, taste, or desire
Why I lean.  I lean.  I can’t do this life alone.  Sometimes dealing with the day to day of relationships does me in.  Relationships are tough!  I lean on Him.  He is my strength.  He is my hope.  Who is He?  He is God, Jesus, Creator, Sustainer, Father…I could go on and on.  He goes by many names and  He remains the same.  I lean on Him.  I talk to Him.  (Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.  I Peter 5:7, NLT).  I tell Him all my woes and worries.  He hears.  He has kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book (Psalm 56:8, MSG).   In this I hope.  I lean.
Why Ilene?  I am writing this blog anonymously.  I needed a psuedo-name.  Really I just decided to choose a name that starts with the letter ‘I’.  Ilene means ‘light’.
Why anonymous?  I want to write without reserve.  Be honest.  Share my heart.  Share my life.  And in doing so I hope to shed light on the reality of life’s difficulties while pointing others to my source of strength and hope.  Call me shy or maybe even insecure.  Relationships are tough!  Did I say that already?  I am mom to several and wife to one, sister to 3, daughter to more than originally intended.  I love my loved ones but how they push me to my limits.  Just today I told Him, “I can’t do this!  Not today.”  Feelings of wanting to escape.  Days are many my husband is careless with words and tone that wound.  It’s dealing with these relationships that pushed me to seek an outlet…I love to write.  Oh, but I love them!  Protecting them proves me fierce.  It’s sheltering them from judgement by others that  caused me to decide on staying anonymous.  It’s being honest and open with others (because you’re facing tough relationships too, right?) that made me decide on a public outlet.  A safe place to vent and focus on Him.
Will you journey with me as I lean?
Love,
Ilene