That to Which We Yoke Ourselves

OughtsI’ve been thinking lately about hoops–no not earrings–you know the kind through which circus animals jump?  Sometimes others lay out hoops for us.  And they expect us to fulfill our hoop-jumping duty or they drop us like a hot potato.

I know the drill.  I grew up with it.

And truthfully?  I became quite good at meeting people’s expectations.  I was a blue-ribbon, hoop jumper. But then…well, then I wasn’t.

I can’t say when exactly it began. One day, I decided that perhaps I didn’t WANT to jump through the hoops anymore.  There was a vein of rebellion there, as well.  Why do others get to say what I do with me?  For that matter, why does God get to say?

I thought that God, too, might drop me.  But He never did.  Not once.  And the yoke of God is one that makes my cares and burdens light, not heavy.  Oh what a Savior!

In that place, I discovered two things: 1) What God says to me is FOR me.  I learned this the hard way (and sometimes I still do). 2) What people say, even people who believe they have the power to say over my life, is valuable, but not always something to which I must adhere.

For instance, years ago I had a friend.  And this friend laid out expectations upon me of how I need to get in shape.  And that is fine and good–of some value, the Bible says.  But when I did not adhere to her method of getting fit, she dropped me. I have not heard from her in a long time. Her actions told the truth about our friendship.

And there are times, when I wonder…if I get fit and healthy, would she then be my friend again?  Would I want her to be? It hurts to lose a friend. But I always hope for restoration.

In another, and truly more raw part of me, situation, our family was expected to stay in one place and not move.  But we chose to move nine years ago–following God to Colorado.  And in so doing, I lost the right to be a daughter to my parents.  Our family tried everything. We visited. We called. We wrote.  But it was not enough.  It would never be enough. We chose to move.  It seems really silly, simple even.  But it is what happened.  And now, there is no relationship at all.

And there are times, when I wonder…if we move back to Texas, will they be my parents again? Would I want them to be? It hurts to be rejected. But I always hope for reconciliation and said so in my last contact with them. I got no reply, but I hope still.

These are two scenarios.  Both true.  Both accurate. And may I say this loud and clear? Both scenarios have brought me healing.  For I have yoked myself to One God–only One, who gets to say where I go, what I do and how I live.  And in so yoking myself to the Living Lord Jesus, I have found that I am healthier in body, mind, spirit and soul.

I share this today, because it is the message I feel like God wants YOU to know.  I have lived it.  Walk it out and find that it is so FREEING to be in a place, where God alone is the One, to whom you are listening. He is faithful with your heart and life. He holds your days in His loyal and loving hands.

You see, sometimes we enslave ourselves to people and let them have sway over our lives.  And in so doing, we begin to have out-workings that are wholly unhealthy. We may not even realize it.  I know I didn’t.

But when we become a bond-slave to Jesus, we tie ourselves to an anchor that holds, a healer, who mends, a savior, who saves.  He takes all my rebellion and sin, forgives me and places it as far as the east is from the west.  He places my feet in a spacious place.  And He gently leads me forward.

On those times, like today, when I look backward, I do so with forgiveness and love.  I do so with hope for the future, that I will walk in full-disclosure with all people–I am tied to One and One alone.  And He is the Only One, who gets to say…

I am no longer handing out my cup to others to ask I am good enough, because I did this or that.  God says I am good enough!  That is the truth to which I listen.  That is the place, where I stand secure.

In your life, what expectations are being laid out before you–that if you don’t live up to a standard set by another, you might lose them (a friend, parent or even marriage)? Is there a place of healing that needs to happen in your life?

Start with you.  Start now to find healing and forgiveness in God alone.

Perhaps you are like one friend of mine, who chose a sinful path that ended his marriage.  I remember the day I told him that Jesus had moved his sins as far as the east is from the west, that Jesus forgives him and he could find a right footing again.  He needed only to follow Jesus. Over the years, he has!  I carry a picture of his baptism to remind me that AS FAR as the EAST is from the WEST, so has God removed our sins.

And so shall we also forgive others. With God’s help.

And we tie ourselves to Christ Jesus…or if we cannot or are too weak and too hurt, we ask Him to do the tying. His rope holds!

It may never bring about restoration or reconciliation, though we pray for it and hope for it. It WILL bring PEACE to your souls and purpose in your daily walk. Start now.

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Merry Christmas from Our Home to Yours

Christmas 2014- winter

This letter is from 2009, and much has changed since then (I will write about it soon), but for now, please read this and know…YOUR GOD HAS NOT CHANGED. He is moving right this second on your behalf.  With Love, Holly

Is all calm and bright on your front this year? Do you struggle with circular thoughts of concern that trouble you and threaten to overwhelm? Well stand up, friend.

Two years of Christmases have brought us trials 2007–job loss, 2008- pending bankruptcy. And they were hard circumstances. They were overwhelming to us. Today I praise God, not only that those floods have now passed and our current circumstances are calm, but because of those overwhelming trials. They have meant the world to our family. God used the allowance of these trials in our lives to REVEAL His glory in our family! I wouldn’t trade them for anything–hard as they were.

Sometimes, they still are hard. I just saw a friend at the store the other day and couldn’t bring myself to speak, only smile at her. You see, she was our bank teller. She knew me well. I walked in with countless deposits from The Siesta Fiesta Cookbook. She even bought one! And with the bankruptcy, we had to leave that bank. I so wanted to say to her how sorry I was, as we stood in line to check out. So, yes, it can still be hard on some days–days when I feel like a cheater.

But God reminds me that I am His and I can stand on His truth and hold my head up. I am still His own Beloved. So stand in this truth that God has been sharing with me…
“When the enemy shall come like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.” Isaiah 59:19 KJV

The Amplified version puts it this way: “So [as the result of the Messiah’s intervention] they shall [reverently] fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him and put him to flight [for He will come like a rushing stream which the breath of the Lord drives].”

And the enemy will most certainly come, my friend. On that day when Jesus was born, the enemy was on the march…King Herod tried to find baby Jesus and ended up killing all the boys two years old and under in Bethlehem and in its vicinity.

“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” Matthew 2:16 (NIV)

So if Jesus was in a school classroom in Bethlehem, there would be no boys his age in that room. There would be no boys within a two year range. Can you picture that? The enemy has no mercy. Let me say that again. The enemy has no mercy.

He will be relentless, coming like a flood. Sometimes, the onslaught is through our circumstances. Can you imagine the mothers of these young boys? They had dreams and hopes. And they had an enemy on the march.

Sometimes the onslaught is through people, who would like to cause us harm–be it intentionally or not. The enemy is intentional, though. He has a dark purpose. He has no mercy. He is on the war path.

So what do we do? Shall we hide under the covers and hope the flood will not come to us? No, we shall stand on the promise that God fulfilled in this baby we celebrate this week.
For God, my friends, He is rallying to the battle with His flag wildly waving in the wind of His ability. Here’s the fact–He wins. He wins in the battle. He wins in the war. He fights for us. As His promise is seen on the table of history, we have a Savior. And He is the one, who was born on our behalf–to hold back the flood of the enemy. He came to bring peace to your souls. He came to be mercy and strength–a weapon that the enemy cannot and will not win against.

Oh, it may appear that he is winning some days. But the revealed things are God’s. He will reveal victory from every single circumstance, person or event that you are facing, have faced and will face.

So when the enemy comes like a flood upon you, it may not be a silent night–it may not be calm and bright. But it will be Holy.

God shall raise His mighty arm to push back the flood. He shall be your peace. He is your peace. He will deliver you, my friend.

Merry Christmas to you and yours from the Smith Family!
With Love,
Holly, Chris, Noah, Kylie, Tabor and Sydney

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When I Say Thanks

Say ThanksWhen I say thanks, it isn’t automatic.  I have to be really intentional about it.

For thanks is not my first language.

Actually my first language is selfishness. It is humanity’s first language.  It is our default. It is MY default.

So if we begin to live a life of being thankful, of noticing and seeing and receiving anything with thanks, it is when we put down the expectations and recognize our utter dependency on others’ kindness.

And my Chris and I have been recipients of such kindnesses–undeserved, unexpected…but beautiful overflow.

For instance, this new suburban I mentioned? It was HELD for us.  It is the first vehicle we have purchased, since Chris’ wonderful Avalanche (that became broken bread to provide for us in time of need). We sold it.  And truthfully, it brought us pain EVERY TIME we thought about it or saw another Avalanche on the road.  We felt bereft and stolen from, but even so it was not what we deserved, no.  It wasn’t like that. We appreciated it.  And then Chris lost his job…and the truck paid for four months of expenses.

So a little over a week ago, Chris drove to Wal-mart and saw this vehicle.  We met with the owner and drove it to see what we thought.  It was a Saturday, so there was no financing it that day.  On Monday, we began to explore the options with our bank.  And even two years after bankruptcy, getting a loan is hard.  But God?  He really made it doable for us.  It shouldn’t have been. It took a week, but it happened.

The owner told us later that they had a few other calls for their vehicle, but they held it (A WHOLE WEEK!) for us, because they felt like it was ours!  Not only that, but they filled it up with gas.

We felt entrusted with a gift.  We said THANKS.  We meant it.

Another instance, two years ago we were able to refinance our home under the making housing affordable act–during bankruptcy. Of all those going through bankruptcy, few were able to use this.  The lady at the mortgage company told us so.  We made it under the wire.  But not only that. No.  Also, we had to make an extra house payment.  And we didn’t have it.

So a friend knocked on our door and handed me a check for what we needed.

I cried then and there–making him so uncomfortable.  We wanted to pay it all back and made it halfway through, then he said to accept the rest as a gift.  And because of this gift?  We have been able to recover financially faster.  So this thanksgiving, we are sending a gift to say thank you to him and his family.

Because we mean it.  Because we are grateful. Because we know that nothing we have comes from us…it is all a gift.

When I say thank you, I say thank you because I can.  I have the daily choice to bless others, to thank them.  And so I make it a priority to NOTICE…and then to thank.

You can , too! Make saying thanks a language you speak, fluently.

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November Currents

This month’s November Currents is bringing about some really neat things the Lord is doing–we are joining a new church and have already begun serving with the young adult class.  We showed up Thursday night and just connected with those, who God brought our way–college students, young marrieds and young adults, who have begun their first job and are far from home.  I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to walk in God’s calling.  It just feels right.

Also our original home group from our old church will ALL be joining us for Thanksgiving.  It is truly a miracle that we were able to invite and hear each one say YES!  I just know that God has us together for this special time and place–perhaps to say goodbye, even.  I just can’t wait to see what He’s doing for that day.  It is a set apart time with people, who have walked with us through almost 8 years of ups and downs.  Just such a privilege to call them friends.

Finally, I have a couple of new web design projects coming up along with my regular work.  And I have a short-term scoring opportunity for Pearson in December, which will greatly help us for Christmas money this year.  God is so good to see our now needs and meet them. I love His ways and am so very thankful.

Current Read: Amanda Cabot’s With Autumn’s Return and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien for the first time!

Current Playlist: Our Winter 2014 playlist is done, as of today.  I love putting together eclectic music that my whole family will love!  Here it is:

Do Life Big Jamie Grace
This Little Light of Mine Addison Road
Burn Bright Natalie Grant
I Won’t Forget Anthony Evans
When the Boys Light Up Newsboys
A Mighty Fortress Christy Nockels
Already Home Thousand Foot Krutch
Broken Lacrae and Kari Jobe
Center of It Chris August
Cornerstone Tim Neufield and Audrey Assad
Crazy Love Hawk Nelson
Can’t Shut Up Anthem Lights
I Need You, I Love You, I Want You Tenth Avenue North
Because He Lives Crowder with Bill Gaither
You’re Not Alone Owl City and Britt Nicole
God of My Everything Bebo Norman
Song to Sing Manic Drive
He Never Failed Me Yet The Choir of Montreal

Current Color(s):  Today I wore my favorite shade of green.  It is sort of a light, sprucey color.

Current Food: Chris just made our practice run for turkey this year–we worked together to make a nice spread of gravy, mashed potatoes, rolls and apple pie with vanilla bean ice cream.  It was delicious.  And the tryptophan is about to kick in any minute now for a nice winter’s sleep.  (I know it’s not really winter, yet.  But alas, Colorado did not get that memo!)

10155003_10152535155872087_7418820481685765299_nCurrent Favorite Favorite: Friday I drove to my favorite place to read my Bible and pray.  So I decided to see if anyone had prayer needs for which I could pray.  An unbelievable outpouring of need happened over the next hour.  And I was privileged to lay person after person and situation after situation before the Lord’s throne.

Current Addiction: The new Starbucks Praline Chestnut Latte– it is delicious

Current Wish List: I really need a haircut and color soon.  It’s been since the beginning of the summer.  And my hair is longer than it has ever been, I think. I could just go ahead with dreadlocks… :) Just kidding.
Current Need:  An organizer/calendar for the new year–does anyone have any suggestions for me?

Current Triumph: Just in a really good place right now with the daily schedule–keeping in balance my family and work responsibilities, as well as taking time out for friends.  Even exercise!  Chris and I have been going early in the mornings, which suits me better time-wise (but oh, it is hard to get out of a toasty bed into the cold, cold temps!)

Current Annoyance:  Kids interrupting when Chris or I talk.  It is beginning to get under our skin. We try to gently say, wait your turn.  But I admit, sometimes, we get aggravated.  We have not arrived, yet and are still learning good ideas for parenting our crew.

10408079_10152522427407087_4432956226038809704_nCurrent Blessing(s):  From last month’s wish list I wrote, “We need a new vehicle soon. Our suburban is not long with us.”  THE LORD DID IT!!!  We have a new (old) suburban.  I love it, love it, love it!!  It is maroon, has heated seats (Thank You, Jesus!) and a six disk cd player with Bose speakers.  I am a happy, happy girl!
Current Outfit:  my zoo giraffe t-shirt and yoga pants
Current Excitement: We have some fun plans coming up for the holidays.  They haven’t all been worked out, yet.  But I am excited, just thinking about them!
Current Project(s): Knitting open-handed gloves for the girls for Christmas
Current plans for the day:  It’s the end of the day!  So bed is next.  But tomorrow I am finishing editing a book (at this point of the book anyway) for a godly man, who will be bringing such a wonderful word of freedom to other men.  I cannot wait to share it with everyone!

 

That’s all for this month, friends!  Share yours in the comments, if you decide to play along.
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Following the Bread Crumbs

Well now we have shared our story up to about June of this year. You can read it all here: One, Two, Three, and Four, in case you missed some of the story.  And I know this opens up a LOT of questions for you.  It does for us, too.  So we understand.

But ONE thing I do know, God never begins a journey for us without us telling others about it–anyone, who will listen.

Not because it is about us, no.  It is actually more for the hearer than the doer in almost every single case.  So this story?  It really is about you.  It is about listening to God’s prompts in your own life. It is about following Him, where he leads–yes, even if the weather is not your favorite. or the pay is not as good, or there will be trials, or you are leaving your whole family or if you actually end up with some sadness from loss on the other end of a journey.  I know.  We know.  We have lived it and seen. 

But the rewards?  They are beyond your imagination. These nine years in Colorado have brought us gifts of love, sacrifice, birth, adoption into many families, abundant care, laughter, joy.

…I remember that first week we lived here.  It was October, and the weather had turned cold.  Our belongings had not arrived, yet–and they wouldn’t for two more weeks (for the company we chose, poorly, took our stuff to Dallas, unloaded it, reloaded SOME of it (yes, we were missing things) and then took it to Tennessee on its way to Colorado (yes, I know it is not on the way!)). In that first week, we were given $11,000 in cash. Really.  We were given coats for the kids from a neighbor, who knew that we Texans had NO idea what we were getting into with Colorado weather. We were given friendship and tender care.  It was amazing.  It was a balm, as I needed that tender care, for I had some un-write-able hurts from the move.  And time does not heal wounds, no.  But God does.  Oh He is so kind.

God has something specific for YOU to do on the pavement today.  It matters.  You were created for it!

Back to our now story. My heart is that you will follow God, no matter what.  For what He gives cannot be taken.  The love He shows is enough to cover the pain of loss…and sometimes He shows it through people, who don’t know you, but love you like they do.

We have a place here in Colorado.  We could stay and live it out all our days.  We are comfortable here.  We LOVE it.  In fact, I have wanted to do this, so I guess today is as good as any, here is a picture mosaic of some of what we have seen here.  You need to know this, we are living every day here in Colorado like it is our last here–savoring, soaking up the days, being intentional to see things, experience them and love the ones here, right now.

ColoradoMosaic

(This is the way we should always live, wherever we are! Don’t you think?)

But we have heard God say go.  And we believe it.

I began the story with my experience.  And over time ALL of our family has come to believe it is true.  They have all discovered it on their own.

Noah came in to where I was working in August, and I mentioned something about college.  And with the biggest DUH sound in his voice, he said, “I’m going to A&M.”  I said, “Oh, you have come to that decision now, have you?”  And he said, again as if I was so very slow, “Mom, I have always wanted to go to A&M.”  Alright then. I see.

But will he miss his senior year here with his friends?  I don’t have an answer for that.  We just don’t know.  I feel like (and this is totally my gut and not based on any fact) it will be next August.  But I do not know.  Nor does Chris.  We both rely on the leading of God.  And for now, we are following the bread crumbs to this point in the journey.

Kylie is nervous and excited. She loves Texas, too!

Tabor and Sydney are both ready to go now.  They have the heart of a child to go and be adventurous…and to believe God for BIG things.

For Chris, he still has an important job to do here.

He is still working, though his company has gone through some MAJOR changes and upheavals in the past few weeks. We don’t know how long Chris will be needed, but we plan on staying, as long as he is needed…and God knows that. And I believe that what Chris brings to the table for this company may very well be the life of the company.  Does that sound prideful?  I only mean that like Joseph, God’s blessing abides upon Chris, and God’s wisdom is in Chris.  So he is a valuable resource for them.  Perhaps, it was for such a time as this that Chris was brought in and hired there six and a half years ago. I pray daily for God to bless Chris and bless his company.  And He is and has.

On the practical side, A&M is doing a push to have 25,000 engineers by 2025, and they are planning on growing their program.  They are planning also to hire folks, who have been in industry (like Chris has been for 19 years now).  These are just facts.  Chris has applied for a job, beginning next fall, but all we have heard so far is that they have received it.  There are some additional steps for Chris to take, and he is in-process with those.

Then we wait. And while we wait, we live the life we have been given today.  We live on purpose, like it counts.

And I will be honest with you, sometimes we have waited LONG in these journeys–to the point of us looking completely foolish. Just ask our Sunday school class from Texas, when we were coming here.  It seemed to go on a long time. I have a written version of it somewhere, perhaps I will post it sometime.  It was to the point, where people thought we were crazy.  Ask them.  (Feel free to leave a comment, if you remember thinking this, friends.  We would love that!)  It will likely get to the point, where people begin asking (like a woman due any day to give birth), when are you leaving and haven’t you left, yet?

So that may happen again.

But God is the God of time and timing, so I trust His timing and care over us in the in-between time.

We have moved churches, which was a hard, but prayerful, decision we made back in August.  We know we are to work with young marrieds and college students, so we wanted to find a place where we could NOW serve.  And so we are, beginning this week–joining Woodmen Valley Chapel and serving with their young adults.  It is never easy to leave a place and people, whom you love and who are like family to us.  But God has been readying us to go, and this is our readying process right now, even when it would be easier to stay and not make any waves.  We want to walk in it and not just talk about it, but mostly we want to walk lovingly (and I believe we have).

We have obstacles.  You may or may not know this, but we went through the hardest season back a few years ago–and it included Chris losing his job (the one that brought us here) and then bankruptcy.  The job loss meant four months of hard times, selling Chris’ vehicle and basically using that to pay bills. But we also saw the most wonderful provision and care in that time and the time to follow! Even after the new job, it eventually led to bankruptcy.  You can read more of our story here.  So bankruptcy may be a huge obstacle.  We own our home…and we do not know if we could own another.  Also financially, we are recovering still…in a better place, for sure and certain, but the idea of coming up with even the cost of moving and readying a house to sell?  Well, that is daunting for us.  Please pray that we will have exactly what we need.  And no more.  Just enough.

We have some EXCITEMENT, too!  Finally, one of the greatest parts of this new venture is to take a dream Chris has of serving with his friend Greg in India.  Greg had posed some engineering/design obstacles to Chris in October 2012.  Chris then felt led to go to India and see what the obstacles were and perhaps come up with ideas to help.  Well, now Chris is thinking of framing a class to do just that–to take a trip to India (and perhaps other places) and have the students come up with some designs to help them in practical ways.  This is part of the mission and calling on Chris’ life.  He has a gift of making things work and designing them–it is totally God-given.  And I believe that part of our journey will be missional in this way–to help the nations and to be a light in dark places.  We are here to give others a leg up, and I pray Chris can frame a class to do just that.  Who knows if one (or many) of those students might have such a vision to see something no one else has ever seen and to make it?  It is going to happen.  I just know it. It is the heart of an inventor, which comes straight from the Inventor, the Author and Finisher of our Faith.

So we run His race, following the bread crumbs home.

Will you run, too?

I think the story is in-process…and I will share more, as we can and as we know.  Stay tuned!

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