Faith Spilling Over… Into Everyday Life


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How I Almost Lost My Kids in a Circumcision Parade

How I almost Lost my kidsWhen neighbors invited us to their son’s circumcision celebration, we had no idea what to expect. We’d only lived in Turkey 4 months. When we arrived, cars were lining up at the curb with doors open. Kids were piling in, thrilled to participate in a parade to celebrate Necat’s big day. A drum boomed and a clarinet screeched. My 5 year old boy, Andres, immediately jumped into the big red convertible where Necat sat, accompanied by the drummer and horn player.

A neighbor coaxed 3 year old Camille out of my arms and into the convertible.

“Can’t I go with my kids?” I asked.

“There’s not enough room,” she explained. “Don’t worry. They’ll be fine. It’s always the kids’ favorite part of the celebration.”

Horns honking, drum and clarinet playing, the procession took off, and my kids disappeared while I stood at the curb watching…

I’m honored to be guest posting for my friend Katie Reid today. Follow this link to read the rest of the story and find out what a Circumcision Parade has to do with trusting God. While you’re there, have a look at Katie’s beautiful site. She’s a kindred spirit who uses her photography, singing, and writing to point others to Jesus.

I love linking with these communities: Arabah Joy’s #GraceandTruth and Susan B. Mead’s #DancewithJesus.

Join me Tuesday, August 4th for a new blog series:

publicity finding god


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How to Thrive in the Face of Challenge

how to thrive in the midst of challenge

When I met my Salvadoran husband, I had one problem: I’d already fallen in love. With a country.  I’d lived in Istanbul two years and hoped to return. When Jose asked me to marry him, I thought long and hard. Did I love him enough to give up my dream of living in Turkey?

I decided I did. When we married, I was sure I’d spend the rest of my life in El Salvador, eating mangos and learning to love rain.

God had other plans.

I still remember the day we landed in Izmir with 17 suitcases and 2 preschoolers. My husband handled the suitcases; I kept the kids in tow. We moved into a spanking new apartment with dark pistachio green walls (which I did not love.) We unpacked those suitcases and set up house.

Every day we made new discoveries: Turkish coffee, Turkish delight, and Turkish music blaring on the mini-buses we hopped on to get around. We heard the call to prayer, explored open air markets bursting with produce, and learned to love eggplant. We scouted out the surrounding area: beaches, Greek ruins, and olive trees. Olive trees everywhere.

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We loved the people most of all. Friendly neighbors who knocked on the door with plates of cake or stuffed grape leaves. New friends with hospitality we could NEVER outdo. And tea. That went along with the people. We drank lots of tea with our new friends.

I thought God brought me to Turkey to share His love, but He also had other plans.

I thought He would work through me, but He wanted to do a greater work in me.

I’d come to teach others, I didn’t know what God was going to teach me.

I didn’t know how hard it would be. I didn’t know that this country, for all its beauty, can suck the life out of you because it’s a spiritual desert where few know the Savior.

But I looked at the olive trees and figured if they could flourish on this semi-arid landscape, then so could I. My daily quiet time became my life line because God refreshed me each day, even during discouraging times.  My Turkish brothers and sisters were another life saver. In a desert where most people say, “No thanks,” to the waters of eternal life, my faith family reminded me that God was at work. I learned that when we stuck together, met together, prayed together, and worshiped together, our lights shone brighter.

Like those olive trees, I learned to thrive in the face of challenge. (Even though I didn’t always feel like I was thriving.)

Olive Tree Scripture

I don’t have any magic formula, just two secrets so simple that we sometimes overlook them.

1. Make Sure You’re Planted in the Right Place

It’s tempting to center our lives on our calling, family, ministry, or career, but sooner or later those disappoint. We can only flourish if we’re planted in God, with our lives centered on Him and our eyes fixed on Him no matter what.

2. Grow Roots Down Deep

We need God’s Word and God’s Church to grow roots that anchor us down.  As we read God’s Word, as we believe it, speak it, and live it, our roots grow deeper. As we meet with His people on Sundays and during the week at prayer meetings and over coffee, our roots become interconnected. We grow stronger.

What challenges are you facing, friend? Are doubt, discouragement, and unmet expectations knocking on your door? I write this with a prayer for you. We may feel like we’re barely surviving, but as we plant ourselves firmly on the Rock, we become the kind of people that thrive no matter what.

Now it’s your turn:  Has God ever surprised you with plans different from your own? How have you learned to thrive?

I love linking with these communities: Holly Barrett’s #TestimonyTuesday, Kelly Balarie’s #RaRalinkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory, Suzie Eller’s #LiveFree, and Grace and Truth.  Check them out for more encouragement.

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Photo Credits: Olive Tree 1, Olive Tree 2


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9 Secrets to a Life Worth Celebrating

9 Secrets to a Life Worth Celebrating

Our family’s greatest treasure is a 90 year old stick of dynamite. Ofelia Cruz may look like a fragile, elderly lady, but my sweet mother-in-law is a powerhouse of faith and a testament to the overcoming grace of God. Spunky, witty, and wise, she’s STILL sharp as a tack. She can roll off some one-liners that leave us all in stitches.

However, doctors tell us her frail body won’t be with us much longer.  Our family’s brightest light is fading, and my husband just flew home to El Salvador to spend three weeks with his mother. We can’t imagine life without her. We’re crying and rejoicing at the same time. Ninety years of glorious life and a glorious future with Jesus are worth celebrating.

Remembering her shining example of love and a positive attitude, I’m sharing 9 of my mother-in-law’s Secrets to a Happy Life:

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1. Keep your chin up

Ofelia’s an overcomer. Hardship and sorrow didn’t derail her when her husband died, leaving her with four boys to raise alone. She kept going and she kept those boys in line. With her family’s help, she sent them to a good private school, and all four went on to college.

2. Keep Knocking

Back in 1963, no one wanted to give a job to 37 year old, inexperienced stay-at-home mom, so Ofelia went to the top. She wrote a letter to the President of El Salvador to ask for employment. It worked. The ministry of finance hired her, and she was able to provide for her family.

Rather than giving up when I face a challenge, I want to go to the top. I have a connection with the King of Kings.

3. Keep Praying

Several years after her two youngest sons met Jesus, my mother-in-law came to Christ in her early 50’s. She prayed 30 years for her oldest son to enter the Kingdom. It worked. He finally gave his life to Jesus too.

4. Keep Serving

When I met my mother-in-law in her late 60’s, she worked full-time and volunteered at a church health clinic on Saturday mornings. She taught Sunday school for 20 years.

wedding

5. Put on Makeup and Fix Your Hair

We always laughed that the employees at department store makeup counters recognized dona Ofelia.  In her late 80’s Ofelia still went to the hair salon weekly and spent time each morning putting on makeup, skin cream, and perfume. She’d wear a pretty dress each day. As a result, she always looked fabulous and felt better too.

6. Keep your sense of humor

My mother-in-law loves to joke. Before a trip to Spain, one of her sons asked Mama Ofe what he could bring back for her. We still remember her answer: “A handsome Spaniard with plenty of money!”

7. Keep Moving

Arthritis slowed Ofelia down, but she surprised me when I took her to the supermarket last year. I was worried about how on earth I was going to help a woman who could barely walk navigate the store.

“Oh no, I don’t need help,” she insisted. She took off down the aisle with her shopping cart, leaning into it like a walker. I didn’t see her until 30 minutes later at the check-out.

8. Keep Learning

At 88, my mother-in-law finished a two year Christian leadership study program.

9. Keep Affirming Others

Just last week, lying flat on her back, Ofelia told my husband on the phone, “You’ve been a good son.” Tears welled up in his eyes, and I marveled to see that even a middle-aged man wants to hear he’s a good son.

Am I speaking words of encouragement to the people I love?

life worth celebrating

Our family’s stick of dynamite may leave earth quietly, but she’ll enter heaven with a bang. I suspect the angels will set off fireworks to celebrate.

Now it’s your turn: What kind of lessons have you learned from the role models in your life?

I love linking with these communities: Holly Barrett’s #TestimonyTuesday, Kelly Balarie’s #RaRalinkup,  Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory, Dance with Jesus, and Grace and Truth.  Check them out for more encouragement.

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Fireworks Photo Credit


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10 Wonderful Reasons You Can Celebrate Today.

free FMF

We all long to be free. Kids at school squirm and watch the clock, itching for the 3:30 bell to ring finally, so they can be free to run, jump, and ride their bikes home. Tired mothers dream of freedom from diaper duty. Stressed business executives look forward to the freedom that comes with a vacation. Oppressed people strive to be free from tyranny.

Locked inside each human heart is a yearning to be free. Freedom eludes us. It’s just around the corner. Something we long for, but can’t quite attain.

The Gospel brings good news: We’ve already been set free. That’s something to celebrate.

Here are 10 freedoms that we can celebrate today.

1. Jesus came to set us free from sin and addiction.

2. We’re free from condemnation, judgment, criticism, and fears of “what will they think?”

3. We’re free to be the people God created us to be.

4. We’re free to be transformed into His image.

5. We’re free to let go of sin and be filled with Holy Spirit power.

6. We’re free to let go of bitterness and choose to forgivene.

7. We’re free to love and serve others without expectations of what they’ll do for us.

8. We’re free to change our expectations when our day doesn’t go as we planned.

9. We’re free to embrace grace when we fail.

10. Jesus set us free from death. It has no power over us. Heaven is our surest hope.

where the spirit of the Lord is

Remembering my freedoms in Christ gives me hope for transformation. I want God to have free reign in my heart. I’m free to let go of criticizing and judging others. I’m free to leave off complaining and embrace gratitude instead. I’m free to let go of the need to be in control. I’m free to be transformed as I let God be in control.

I’m taking a minute to stop and let the truth of my freedom in Christ sink in. I have reasons to celebrate!

Now it’s your turn: What does the word “free” mean to you?

I’m linking up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday. Writers all around the world join in a flash mob of free writing. This week’s prompt is “Free.” Join us over at Kate’s place for fun and encouragement. Also joining with Susan B. Mead’s #DancewithJesus, and Barbie Swihart’s Weekend Brew.

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Seagull Photo Credit

 


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3 Positive Steps When You Have Zero Energy

3 Positive Steps

Do you ever have days when you hit a crisis, and life suddenly feels like swimming upstream? So. Hard. To. Keep. Going.  Like last Friday at my house. At the end of a long week, I had an argument with my husband just a few hours before the CHURCH DINNER FOR COUPLES. The dinner we were helping to host. At the church where my husband serves as a pastor. I can laugh now at the irony or having an argument with my husband on the way to encourage other couples, but last Friday it wasn’t so funny.

After my sweet hubs and I talked it out and apologized to each other, I was exhausted. I had zero motivation to do anything, much less go to a COUPLES DINNER. Blazing a trail through the Amazon with a machete sounded lots more fun.

Life is a crazy beautiful gift. Our glory days fill us with joy and energy. But some days suck the life right out of us. The kids are driving us bonkers, and it’s only 11:00 a.m. A computer crashes. We wake up depressed. Those days zap our emotional and physical strength. We’re hanging onto the grace of God by a thread, and that thread just snapped.

How do we persevere when we have zero energy?

We Pray for our Portion

Psalm 73 My heart and m y flesh

Lately I remind myself often: God is my portion. He has everything I need today. When a conflict at work or a problem with a child drains our energy, we can approach His throne of grace. He has all the strength, wisdom, and joy we need. When our cup runs dry, He fills it with living waters of refreshment. When our strength is gone, He pours out His power.

So when we’re running on empty, we can ask Him, “Lord, fill my cup. Pour out your life-giving power on me.”

We Put on our Praise

No matter how uphill the day ahead looks, we always have something to praise and thank God for. When I just don’t have it in me to praise, I turn the music on loud! What can you thank God for right now? What has He done for you? What can you praise Him for? Let’s put on our praise and grow some gratitude.

We Do the Next Thing

After the Friday afternoon fiasco between my husband and me, I had zero energy and zero desire to go to that dinner. But I just did the next thing, which was to go into the kitchen and make a salad. I turned on the praise music loud. And you know what? Pretty soon I felt better. My husband and I went to church and had a great time.

Maybe your next thing is to play one more nerf blaster game with your kids, cook one more meal, or write one more email. Just do it. The Strength of your Heart will give you a strength you didn’t know you had. Before you know it, you’ll feel better.

When life sucks the life out of us, we can always come to the One who is our Portion. If we ask Him to fill our cup, He will. As we put on praise, He renews our hearts. When we do the next thing, we find we have more energy than we thought. And when we fall into bed at night with our cups empty again? We can trust God to fill them the next morning.

Now it’s your turn: How’s your energy level these days? How do you keep going when it’s low?

I love linking with these communities: Holly Barrett’s #TestimonyTuesday, Kelly Balarie’s #RaRalinkup,  Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory, and Grace and Truth.  Check them out for more encouragement.

Did you enjoy this post? Subscribe to get fresh servings of Faith Spilling Over delivered to your inbox. Enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

Photo Credit: Melika


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Why We Can Hang onto Hope in a Hopeless World

Why We Can Hang onto Hope

Have you ever faced hopeless situations when you wonder if God is on your side? Right now I’m hoping against all hope that my husband and I will find someone to sublet our apartment in the next 10 days. We’ve advertised for 6 months and prayed like crazy, but right now there’s no one banging on our door asking to rent the place.

As we prepare to relocate from Turkey to Texas for just 9 months, I’ve told God again and again how much easier my life would be if we didn’t have to pack everything up, put it in storage, and then look for another place when we return. I’m still hanging on to mustard seed faith. But if God’s plan is different than mine? Well, then I hope He’ll give me the strength to pack up during our last weeks of goodbyes!

Hope is a crucial ingredient that keeps us going through the challenges of life. Continue reading


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When You Want More out of Time with God

more out of time with God

Morning times with God fill me with joy and faith, but later on in the day traffic jams, lost library books, and leaky washing machines turn me into a hot mess faster than nobody’s business.  During my quiet time I often sense God speaking. I feel peace. But during my hot mess times I whine, and I can’t for the life of me remember what I read in the Good Book that very morning.

Um, isn’t the Bible supposed to affect how I live my life? How is it that the same woman who heard God’s voice in the morning gripes at the kids for messing up the kitchen and snaps at her husband because the poor man left his tea bag in the WRONG saucer?

How can I carry what I read in the morning into the rest of my day? Continue reading

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