Friday, July 29, 2011

The Goodness of 2011

After yesterday's post...and several previous posts...I decided it was time for me to post about the good things from this first half of 2011.  Pictures say 1,000 words, so I've decided to let them speak for me...

I was blessed in having the opportunity to teach about being a Warrior of God...the story of David continues to work in my life!

My job allowed me to do some traveling to some beautiful parts of the state...

and I got to spend a lot of time with these folks...

They are my heart's delight!!! (This picture is a little old, but they are just a
gorgeous today as they were in this picture.)

I experienced snow, more than once in this horrifically hot state of Arkansas...I LOVE snow!!!

This little man continues to be inspired by...

This little man....

Which means my little man is growing up and developing closer to his age group...
which is an amazing praise report for our family!

I've been able to watch this amazing young woman grow in the Lord and expand her horizon as a leader.

I'm certainly growing in the Lord too.  "If you're not growing, you're dying!" ~Bro. Bill

He's still the man of my dreams...even in his Roman guard dress :)
I could go on for hours about how he had become an even better
husband this year.  His support, wisdom, love and leadership
has been absolutely amazing!!

I had the honor of co-leading the first ever Revolution Student Ministry encounter retreat.
Wow, God...Wow!!!

I continue to be blessed day after day by these two folks.  My parents are unbelievable! 
They have served us and loved us just like Jesus.

My precious, precious new life group.  Wow...I love these women!! 
I'm so honored to be their new leader.  I knew I would be a life group
pastor one day.  I never dreamed it would be young adult women.
We're going to have a ton of fun!

I've been blessed with a friendship that has
grown even deeper in 2011...
And I just received news yesterday that she will be staying here forever...
Not sure it was really THAT concrete...but that's my interpretation.

Blonde-headed Blessing #1...


Blonde-headed Blessing #2...

My card-playing nemesis...MEAT HUD....
Husband of Jenny...
Dad of Blonde-headed Blessings #1 & #2...

I proudly watched as my beautiful, sweet Adj graduated from high school...

Once again...I can not allow circumstances to rob me of the joys of being blessed with
our dream home.  The home that we have waited for, prayed for, dreamed about for over
two years.  The home that we separately fell in love with before we ever imagined having
a home like this.  The Lord has blessed us abundantly...we can wait to fill it with the
laughter, tears and conversation that await our ministry!

2011 has been a year of goodness...let us not loose that
in the midst of trying times!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Challenged to the Core

As we entered into 2011, Rich told me one night in the car that he felt as though 2011 was going to be a year of great change...of good things.  (Looking back on that moment, I sometimes wish I had known what I know now so that I could have told him to take that statement back!) I had no idea just how deep that change would go.  I could not fathom how broad-sweeping that profession would be.  We are only 7 months into the year, and I'm looking ahead wondering what else the Lord has for us in the remaining 4 months.  I'm sure I'll read over this post in a year or so and laugh with the knowledge of what happened in the remaining months.

The Lord has certainly been passing out change slips to the Roberts household.  We've been up, down, round and round in the selling of our old home and purchasing a new home.  We are in the process of "making the new home ours" which has proven to be one challenge after another.  (Who knew it could be so difficult to get flooring installed or that paint could be so expensive or that people don't really do what they say they are going to do?...ok...we already knew that.) We've had to deal with family issues that we wished had turned out differently.  We stared into the eyes of haunting health problems.  My new job escalated in responsibility and travel. We've paid off debt.  (I had to throw that one in because I'm just so dog gone excited about it!)  We've taken on a new area of ministry.  (Although not viewed by me as positive, in the beginning, I am now 110% certain that this is a great change.)  We learned new things about some of the people in our lives.  We learned new things about ourselves.  

All of these have challenged me to the core.  To the deepest part of my core.  There were times when I could physically feel the changes effecting my life.  I have shed tears.  I've yelled.  I've fought (and lost).  I've dug my heels into the ground.  I've thrown a fit (or two).  I've given in, only to take up the fight later the next day.  I've questioned who I am and what in the world I'm doing.  I've questioned God.  I've contemplated just giving up and being a status quo Christian.  All the while, the Lord was taking away layer after layer of stuff sin so that He could get to my "core".  The central part of my life.  All so that He could be my helmsman.  He was refining what was already there.  He was making sure that I am not the same person today as I was on January 1, 2011.  He has picked me up, turned me upside down and shaken everything out of my pockets.  I thought I was strong.  He showed me my weaknesses.  I thought I trusted Him completely.  He proved to me that my faith wasn't as big as it seemed.  I thought I was trucking right along doing well in my spiritual walk.  He pulled the road out from under me.  I thought I had a good attitude.  He gave me a whiff of the stench that was rolling off my attitude.

I have been challenged to my core, and I'm shocked at what He had to remove and/or change.  BUT GOD... Man, He is so faithful to us.  I can see that what He's doing in me is to prepare me for something far greater.  (Do you ever get tired of saying that or wonder if you sound as cliche to others as you sound to yourself?)  All of those things had to go if I'm going to grow as a leader.  I can say "I don't want anymore, Lord.  Just stop!"  But I do want more.  So much more. The thought of being stuck right here, spiritually, for the rest of my life gives me an anxiety attack.  What a waste of a person I would be!  Through this all, He has uncovered new passions within me that I didn't even know were there.  I had packed so much junk around my "core" that I didn't even know what was there.  There are all these things that He has put inside of me, and I just keep covering them up with sin, ideas of my own and the daily grind of life.

Now not everything that was around my core was bad.  I have some really sweet fruit that has grown from my core...just like the apple above.  But I feel like the Lord has pulled that fruit back so that the seeds He's been planting in me could be used to produce more fruit.  We sometimes like to hang on to old fruit and show it off for as long as we can.  We love to talk about the time back at the Fall 2001 retreat where we led this lady to the Lord and she's now a powerful woman of God.  "Yep, look at my fruit...isn't she lovely?"  Only problem is that we get into a rut thinking that we've done one good thing so we can just sit down and have a rest for the next 10 years.  We get really comfortable in our Christian walk because we continue to focus on the good stuff we've already done and we end up forgetting that there's more to be done.  So He's making sure that I don't become one of those complacent Christians.  He's not allowing my fruit to rot or become damaged.  He wants me to be constantly sowing and reaping.  So He continues to refine me.  He continues to dig deeper and uncover the more mature seeds....all while pulling out the worms and getting rid of the rot.

That process has been painful...BUT GOD has been an amazing provider and healer.  Every cut He makes, He covers with the Balm of Gilead.  Every thing He takes, He replaces with something greater.  Every time He turns me upside down, He eventually stands me back up on my feet...kisses me on the top of my head and says, "Go get 'em Tiger."  Man, I love Him!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Work in Progress

We are about ready to sign the papers to finalize the purchase of a "new-to-us" home.  We have waited on this house for well over two years.  This house oozes with character and potential.  It represents the very essences of both of our styles and desires.  It was built for us.  The Cummings may have thought they were building it for them back in 1987...but they were really building it for the Roberts' household in 2011.

We have endured many ups and downs while waiting to see our dream come true.  We thought waiting on this house was tough.  Then we got into the middle of making it all happen and discovered that the fight had only just begun.  We have literally had to fight for this every step of the way.

We have asked "Why is this so hard" many times.  We have both prayed, "Lord, if this isn't you please shut these doors.  We don't want to buy this home if this isn't where You want us." At times the stress was so great that we secretly wished He would stop it.  Our little house was looking better and better at times.  Isn't that just like us in our spiritual walk?  When something is new, unknown, painful, inconvenient, bigger than us and hard we would just rather stay right where we are...even if that means staying in the pigs pen and forgoing the blessing. (Luke 15)  But the peace of God never left us and we knew that we were on the right path, no matter how difficult.

As we barrel into month four of the fight, I can say that the end beginning is near.  We close on July 15th.  Appraisal, home inspection, flood determination, financing, etc. etc. are almost complete and we have now turned our attention to the move and remodeling of the house.  (Rich is, of course, very focused on the landscaping!)

As we pick out flooring, furniture and paint colors we continue to fight.  This house will clearly be a "Work In Progress" over the next several years.  I know that in my head but a part of me wants it all done right now...yesterday.  This is the house.  The one where I want to get every piece right.  I don't want to compromise.  I don't want to settle.  I want the style to flow.  I want it to be what we love...not just like.  This is an investment for us.  This is a place we will live in until we pass away.  We will help raise our grandchildren here.  It will be a huge tool in our ministry.  At the same time, it will be a refuge for our family.  We want it to be right.  Unfortunately all of this takes money and time...both of which we are limited on.  So, it will be a "Work in Progress".

I still want to walk into a finished product on day one.  I want to move right in to the perfectly decorated and remodeled house.  I want to immediately enjoy the beauty of the home.  Just like I want to be perfect in my walk with Christ.  I want to be the ultimate woman of God without waiting on any additional work.  Yet, we all know that is not how it works.  As I nail the "Work in Progress" sign on the front door of our new home, I also have to don a t-shirt that says "Work in Progress".

As I've been working on the transaction of purchasing the home and soon to be physically working on the home, the Lord has been working on me.  Through the pressures of these last four months, He has shown me that I didn't trust Him near as much as I thought I did.  He is so faithful, yet I demand (through my actions and thoughts) that He prove that to me over and over again.  I went into this believing I was strong in my faith.  I very shortly discovered that I was far too weak.  As I'm nearing the end of this trial, I can look in the mirror and see that I am now stronger in understanding just how faithful He really is.  I see the growth in me already.  I rejoice in the pruning He has done in my life.  But I'm a "Work in Progress" and I know that as I enter into the physical work of this project He will continue to grow me...all for His glory and His kingdom.

(James 1:2 - 8 NIV)  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Lord God, I do not want to be unstable nor double-minded.  Finish the work You need to do in me so I can be the woman of God You intended for me to be.  I want to be all shiny and new at the end of this trial.  I want to be a rock for others.  I want to look and act more like Christ.  I don't want to be tossed around by storms and circumstances.  I want to stand strong in all things.  Thank you for loving me so much that you insist on pruning me.  Thank you that at the end of this is a beautiful blessing in a home that we never dreamed we could have.  You continue to blow me away.