Owning Who I Am – God’s Beloved

Today on Facebook I ran across this quote:

“May today there be peace within. 
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. 
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. 
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. 
May you be content knowing you are a child of God. 
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. 
It is there for each and every one of us.”

The authorship of this quote is questionable.  It has been attributed to each of the Theresa/Teresa trio of saints – Theresa of Lisieux, Teresa of Avila, and Mother Theresa of Calcutta – but many suspect it in fact wasn’t written by any of them and was actually written by persons unknown in the 1970’s.

Regardless of who wrote it, these beautiful words fill me with hope and courage to spread my wings and soar!   It also has me thinking about who I am in God and am I using the gifts I been given to live out God’s call in my life?  I mean, really truly use them to the best of my abilities?

Do I own who I am as God’s Beloved?

One of the recurring themes resonating with me in a lot of what I have been reading lately is that I am called by God.  As such I should live out HIS calling for my life, not what other PEOPLE’s expectations say I should be (based on societal or cultural norms).  I don’t and shouldn’t be hiding my light under a bucket, so to speak, in order to appease the comfort of others.

I think this is something that I truly struggle with.  It’s like I’ve been conditioned to champion those around me without really realizing what my own worth is or that I have something valuable to contribute.  Maybe all the comments over the years about not having a bachelor’s degree have really left me thinking of my talents as not enough.

Sometimes my gender has caused comments to be made about what I should or shouldn’t be doing, or where I “fit” into things.  These have also left a mark on me because I think a lot of times it is in our female nature to want to nurture and promote others around us, even at the expense of ourselves.

But in the wake of realizing, yet again, I am more than just what a piece of paper or my peers might say about me, I am going to now name what I am as a reminder to myself that God has been very gracious to me and has blessed me with many gifts.  Own who I am as God’s beloved, so to speak, in no particular order:

  • I am intelligent and actually quite educated.  Although the only degree I have says “Associate’s” I have an incredibly curious nature that has lead me to serious study of many different things as well as I have earned almost three quarters of a Bachelor’s degree in Business(Accounting).
  • I am a disciple – I am hungry for God and have a lifelong thirst to seek his ways to become more like Jesus in my daily life.  The C.S. Lewis Institute was, and continues to be a great guide in helping seek paths of continued growth in my spiritual life as I engage with Scripture and draw ever closer in relationship with God the Father.
  • I am a leader – both at work and at church, I have been blessed to serve as a leader in many different ways.  There is a quote that hangs in my office by Sheryl Sandberg that says, “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”  I agree with that whole heartedly and try to live that out with my staff.
  • I am kind hearted – Too much so at times.  I go out of my way to try to help others.  I can’t stand to see the commercials on tv that have starving children or caged, sad animals.  I am a people pleaser with a servants heart.
  • I am an accountant – no degree, but with seventeen years of full time experience in this field, it is safe to say that I am accomplished and competent in this area.
  • I am a singer – I LOVE to sing.  It can be in the shower, around the house, or in the car.  I also sing with our church’s praise team.  In high school I was in choir, musicals, and sang the National Anthem at some of the football games.
  • I am a writer – I have written for this blog, and I have written a few sermons.  I love expressing my thoughts on paper and wish I had the time to do that more often.  While I don’t have a following, my pieces have been picked up by a few outlets over the years.  I would love to someday write a book, if I could just figure out what I need to be writing about!
  • I am a student of theology – born and raised Catholic, but converted as an adult to Mennonite, I love studying the bible, biblical events, historical church history, specific denominational beliefs, the wider church as a whole and the early church.  All of it.  I can’t get enough of it.  I love to see how God weaves things together and specifically how women have fit into his plans.
  • I am creative – well there are the whole singing and writing things, but I also love to knit, crochet, do needlepoint, and pretend that someday I will scrapbook.  When my son was younger I enjoyed making his birthday cakes and valentine’s day boxes.
  • I am a teacher– Both at work and at times at church.  I love digging into material and then helping others to learn it as well.  I have never been the type to hoard information to myself.   I love sharing!

I have never been comfortable talking about myself in these kinds of terms and often downplay myself or my different roles.  So this is reaffirming to myself that I am already ENOUGH exactly as I am if I take the time to remember this.

There isn’t anything that I need to prove, nothing that I need to earn before I can be taken seriously.  This also isn’t all that I am.  God has blessed each of us in more ways than we can ever list completely.

We all have our labels that we go through life with.  I am a wife, a mother, an accounting manager, a praise team leader, etc.  However, I am so much more than these labels.

I am God’s beloved.

And so are you.

Thirty-Ten: Reaching the Middle

Middle age has found me! 

             I can no longer avoid it or hide from it.  No sense in denying it.  This Friday will mark my fortieth birthday.  Someone out there in the cosmos has said they refused to turn forty, instead they are turning thirty-ten.  While clever, it still equates to the same thing.  Youth is over, young adulthood has flown by, and I am now officially entering into the stage of life known as middle age.  And it is okay.

Thinking back over my life so far, I see that I have a lot to be thankful for.  A good marriage that has survived over twenty years and counting.  A healthy son who is now fourteen and entering into high school this fall.  God has been gracious and with a lot of hard work we have overcome most of our financial struggles (including bankruptcy and foreclosure) and have been blessed with a beautiful house that is the perfect place for us to call home. 

The coming years will bring us the frustrations of parenting a teenager, and we expect to have trials and tribulations but we are a family and we will take each trial as it comes.  I think what I am realizing the most is that this is a time of also trying to prepare for the transition from care taker to supporter as our son finishes his high school years and sets out to conquer his own path. 

As my thoughts skip about on the path of yesterday, things I thought would be impossible to recover from we have since recuperated.  A lot has been accomplished as well.  A stable job, an associate degree and most of a bachelor’s degree, leadership programs and intentional discipleship programs.  This blog.    

Do I think that the struggles are over?  Not a chance.  Life happens in living the moments of ordinary days and living is never perfect. 

Thirty-Ten will come with new challenges to take on and I can’t help but look forward to what I hope my life will be and won’t be.  The loss of one of my aunts last summer has made me realize how fleeting our time on earth is, and I don’t want to spend my life at a job that I don’t absolutely love.  Work life shouldn’t be something that we settle for. 

I want to eventually take a new career path that leads me to a place where appreciation is felt and that brings me pleasure daily; to enjoy what I do so that I don’t feel like I am working my life away.  Instead work should be able to be something I am truly passionate about so that each day begins with excitement to start the day’s tasks. 

Recently I was certain God was leading me to this dream position.  There was an opening for a job that seemed to be tailor made for me.  It cobbled together all of the unrelated experiences from the different segments of my personal interests and professional careers.  It was like all of the different puzzle pieces of my life were being put together to create the most beautiful picture of contentment and shalom in a new career direction.  But alas, it was not to be. 

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t distraught to find this out, but I know that the Master of all the puzzle pieces of my life still has a beautiful picture that will be completed for me.  I just have to wait and trust that when the time is right, the doors will open to a new adventure that will take me places I could never even begin to imagine.

This can happen.  History is full of people who were able to change directions and begin careers that were based on their passions, not just getting by.  Many of my own personal heroines appear in this list:

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder – didn’t start writing until her fifties for newspaper columns on farm life and didn’t begin her Little House books until her sixties.
  • Louisa May Alcott – worked as a domestic servant, and then as a nurse during the Civil War and was thirty-six when Little Women was published.
  • Lucille Ball – she had a successful modeling and movie career, but it is her television shows that we remember her for. Lucille was in her forties when she decided to give tv a try with the show I love Lucy.
  • Julia Child – didn’t begin cooking professionally until her late thirties and was forty-nine when her cookbook was published.

Turning forty isn’t the beginning of the end.  It is the beginning of a new and exciting decade of life.  Life lessons from the past free up expectations and constraints for going forward.  I am more content both in myself and with my life. 

Going into the great age of Middle, I choose to focus on my health, my family, and simple pleasures.  Gone are the high ideals of success from my youth. 

Somewhere over the past decade I feel like I lost pieces of myself trying to live up to worldly definitions of success that society has created. I have learned it is more important to focus on being grateful for what I have and where I am than to be constantly hungering for more.

I intend to spend this next decade finding myself again, forgetting who I thought the world wanted me to be, and embracing the person God has created me to be.

Thirty-ten, forty… poTAYto, poTAHto…The middle is here, and with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). 

So I say bring it on!

 I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, NRSV)

Who Is My Neighbor

 “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”  He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29, NRSV)

Amid all of the turmoil and news that has been inundating me these past few weeks, I received a Facebook invitation to an event.  It was sent to me by one of the gentleman I attend church with and would be taking place in Akron, OH.

What was this event?  It was for a 48-hour prayer vigil being held by World Relief Akron.  The purpose of prayer? Intercession for refugees and immigrant families as our new administration tries to figure out how it would like to handle new refugees coming to the United States.

Initially I didn’t think much about this invite other than giving it a passing glance.  We have all been inundated with news stories and events and conversations on social media regarding the refugee crisis, especially in Syria.  I just couldn’t at that particular moment absorb one more thought on the matter.

I have been seeing stories and posts from groups and people who were all for a refugee ban and their reasons for supporting legislation that would enforce this.

I have seen just as many stories and posts from groups and people who are against any measures that would prevent refugees from coming to the U.S. and their reasons for believing to not allow refugees and immigrants is wrong.

We continue to witness the clashes between these two groups on television, in public conversations, and on social media.  So, when this particular invite notification arrived I chose to ignore it for the sake of preserving my sanity.

I began to feel as if God was telling me to reassess that invite, and to take a second look at it.  It felt as if this was something I needed to attend.

Prior to this event I have never attended anything like this outside.  I have never been part of a march or held a picket sign for peace, or other similar activities that a lot of the Anabaptist community have taken part in over the years for peace and social justice causes.  So, it was with some trepidation that I set out with a couple from my church this past Sunday afternoon.

Fear, I must confess, was one of the things I was feeling.  Fear that with all of the emotions that have been running so high in our society that some violence might come from groups that opposed refugees.  Perhaps it was a little over dramatic on my part, but I wondered if I would be somehow harmed in some way while there.

Isn’t that funny and awful at the same time?  I was feeling sorry for myself that God was telling me to attend a prayer vigil and feeling fearful about going at the same time.

The very refugees that I was going to pray for are facing real dangers EVERY SINGLE DAY!!!  Especially the women and children!  People that are stuck with no country to call their own and no idea of where they will be ending up.

My fears (unfounded as they were) almost prevented me from going.  I needed to set them aside and trust in God.  This was the lesson given to me to learn.

In a coffee shop that was in the middle of being remodeled, a small group of strangers gathered together in Akron, OH.  People of different denominations, backgrounds, and beliefs bowed their heads together in prayer.

Prayers for safety for refugees.  Prayers for the heartaches being felt by families who have been torn apart and separated.  Prayers for mommas who are desperately trying to provide shelter, food, and clothing for their little ones the world over.  And prayers for the immigrants who are already living in our communities that they may find acceptance and love here.

Human beings united in the common cause of praying for other human beings.

Should refugees be allowed to come to the United States whether they are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.?  Should there be a limit to the number who can come?  Should they not be allowed to come at all?

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions or any solutions for how to fix these real problems that are affecting very real people.   What I do know is that I can continue to do something.  I can pray for all the people who find themselves stuck as refugees and also for immigrants who are just trying to find a new way of life in a strange place.

Somewhere there is a new home for these people.  I can pray that they find safety and a place to begin again.  But most importantly, that they can begin to find peace and healing.

My neighbor isn’t a specific race or religion.

My neighbor doesn’t just live in just the houses around mine.

My neighbor is everyone.

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’  Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”  ( Luke 10:30-37, NRSV)

Talents and Testimonies



A few weeks ago my son and I joined our church family on the annual weekend spring retreat.  It was held at the Laurelville Mennonite Church Center near Mt. Pleasant, PA.

One of the activities available at Laurelville is a prayer labyrinth. It is situated at the top of a long, gradually winding, hilly path.  From this labyrinth, which is a large circle and consists of winding stone and pebble paths, you can look out across a breathtaking view of a valley.

As I set out for an afternoon walk to the prayer labyrinth I found sunshine, deep vividly blue sky, brisk winds, and a quiet meditative time of reflection and prayer.  My thoughts began to reflect on the powerful messages our resource person for the weekend had shared with us earlier that morning and the previous night before.

Our resource person was Dr. Don Bartlette*.  He is a very gifted speaker known for his  life story, Macaroni at Midnight.   It tells of the struggles he faced as not only a disabled child, but also as a discriminated Native American child who grew up in poverty.  He over came all of the adversities of his childhood and young adult years and would eventually go on to use his story of healing and redemption to help spread God’s message of love.

As I continued to walk with the brisk breezes and sunshine hitting my face my thoughts shifted from Dr. Don to one of the scriptures I have been meditating on over the past month,  the Parable of the Talents.

Found in Matthew 25:14-30, this story tells the tale of three servants who are each entrusted with different amounts of talents (money) from their master.  Two of them immediately go out and use the talents they have been given to increase the total amount of talents.  The last servant, who had only been given one talent, dug a hole and hid the talent given to him there.

When the master returned he was greatly pleased with the first two servants and rewarded them.  The third servant was not so fortunate.  He was tossed out for being wicked and lazy.  I must admit that I have always felt sorry for this poor guy.

Until recently I must have been taking this story quite literally because I couldn’t understand why the guy who protected the money he was given was considered so lazy.  He was entrusted to protect the money given to him, right?  That’s exactly what he did!  In my mind the first two were the ones that were questionable because they were gambling with the master’s money.

It turns out Jesus wasn’t telling this story to warn us about the dangers of a gambling addiction!

In this parable the talents are actually representing spiritual gifts and the master is God.  So the first and second servants went out immediately and used the talents/gifts God had given them to increase the numbers in God’s flock which in turn brought the gifts of the new members to be used for Kingdom work.  They were obedient and willing servants.

The third servant, who was called lazy, actually kept his gifts locked inside and was refusing to use his gifts because he was afraid of God.  I believe that at the heart of this fear was the fact that he didn’t clearly understand the nature of God.  He says to him, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed,” in verse 24.

We have been taught in songs that there are many gifts but the same Spirit.  The Holy Spirit gives each of us gifts and talents that are uniquely suited to our purposes and tasks in the Kingdom:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;  and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;   and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.   To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. – 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (NRSV)

However, neither God the Father nor the Holy Spirit forces us to use these gifts.  We have to willingly make the choice to share our gifts and to be used for good here on earth.

We are also each given a testimony that is unique to us.  These testimonies are made of good experience and bad experiences.  There is pain in this life.  No one can escape from it.  However, God is using that pain in the process to help refine us.

God doesn’t choose to let bad things happen to us, but he will always use the experience for good.  If we are willing to live lives of obedience and humility in his service he will help us to not only survive but to heal and to thrive.  He will use these experiences as teaching tools once the work of refining and molding are done.  The greatest men and women in the Bible had to go through pain and trials as God was cleansing them and preparing them for great tasks.

Who would know this better than Joseph?  He chose to trust in the Lord in the midst of his betrayals and sufferings caused by his brothers’ jealousy.  Joseph also allowed God to heal his wounded heart.  When the time came, he was able to not only forgive those same brothers, but he provided for them and their people during the time of famine:

Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. – Genesis 50:20 (NRSV)

We each have a testimony to go out and share and talents to use to help us share not only our testimony, but also the love of God.  Our heavenly Master is weaving together our gifts and experiences into the tapestries of our lives.  Will the finished tapestries reflect love and care for gathering in God’s people?  Or will they be marred by insecurity or an unwilling, unrepentant spirit?

Will we allow God to heal our wounds and depend on him to use them for good? 

Trust in God and he will make all things new and good.

I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. – Philemon 1:6 (NRSV)

*To learn more about Dr. Don Bartlette and his experiences and testimony, visit his website or find his recordings at Amazon.


Mr. Max and Dr. Don Bartlette – Laurelville Mennonite Church Center, April 2016

What Happens When the Reason for the Season is Forgotten?


It was a normal enough Monday afternoon.

Monday was behaving in typical fashion, and I was just waiting for the work day to finish.  Suddenly my phone beeped at me calling for my attention.  As it was late Monday afternoon, any distraction would do.  So I checked to see what the notification was for.

It was a tag on Facebook to an article that has had the thoughts in my head turning ever since reading it.  The article comes from a blog called  Scary Mommy and the title of the post is “When the Heck Did Easter Become the New Christmas?”  (Click the post tittle to see the entire post).  One section in particular caught my attention and stuck out to me:

What happened, America?  Easter used to be the simple holiday; the one you barely even had to acknowledge if you weren’t celebrating it for religious reasons.  Now, it’s yet another day of the year we’re expected to shower our kids with mountains of plastic crap they don’t need and organize a full day of meals, gatherings, and activities.  – Ashley Austrew,  posted at http://www.ScaryMommy.com

The statistics referenced in the article were startling!  Has commercialism and/or consumerism taken over this religious holiday?  My answer would be not really in our house.  We choose to try to spend more time and energy on the religious significance of the holiday.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t take part in some of the fun traditions.  Mr. Max will be eagerly searching for his basket on Easter morning, but it will contain mostly candy.  We do tend to add non-candy items to the basket as well, but they are small things  — a small stuffed animal, a book, and a couple of neat mineral rocks as geology has become a new interest of his.

While we do enjoy watching the search every year, these fun family activities aren’t usually our main focus during the holiday season, be it Advent or Lent.  A part of our family traditions yes, but not the main focus.

Oddly enough though this consumerism attitude has come into our home ever so slightly this year.  Just last week Mr. Max was telling me about all of the things he is hoping for in his basket this year.   My response to him?  “This isn’t Christmas you know.”

There always seems to be something taking place at our church that my husband and I look forward to during holiday seasons as well.  We have been able to pass this tradition on to our son too.  He will tell you that he looks forward to the Christmas Eve service at Midway each year.  I look forward to singing the hymns that are only sung during this season.

We are very focused on the fact that this holiday is in remembrance of our Saviour going to the cross for us to give us the gift of sacrificial saving grace.  It is the celebration of Jesus triumphing over death and his redeeming love for mankind.

With the wheels spinning in my head it isn’t long before I am wondering if there is a reason Easter is becoming the new Christmas.  Is  it possibly because the folks that are buying the gifts to beef up baskets are more focused on the gifting part of things rather than the religious aspect of it?

Is there a connection between the loss of religion in general in a Post-Christendom culture and the increase in spending at Easter?  Does removing the religious origins of this holiday cause us to spend more on the gifts/baskets because the focus is now more commercial/consumerist?

Is spending up because faith is down?

—  The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the Church is famishing for want of His Presence. – A.W. Tozer – The Pursuit of God  —

We have seen time and again that we seek to fill voids within ourselves that can only truly be filled by God.  We struggle to be self-sufficient.  We don’t want to depend on anyone else.  So it would stand to reason that as we forget the religious significance of Easter it is leaving a void in our souls.  We as humans seek to fill this void by shopping:

  • we shop for basket fillers
  • we shop for the perfect Easter outfits
  • we shop for food for a fabulous feast
  • we shop for decorations to make our homes more festive for the season

Isn’t it odd that we are even celebrating the holiday if we aren’t celebrating it for the religious reasons?  In our church communities we mourn that Jesus Christ seems to be absent in the ways our society celebrates Easter (or Christmas).  We pray for the unchurched who are missing “the reason for the season.”  How many times have we heard this expression said?  How many times have I said this very thing?

Does this signify that we are fearful that the evil one is winning the day, even though we know he has already lost the war.  Perhaps it isn’t just the unchurched that have lost faith.  The claim could be made that perhaps we as Christians are trying to take over for God in a way and make sure that the reason for the season becomes the focus again. We are showing a lack of trust in Him who knows all that has been and all that will be.

However, perhaps we are looking at this trend all wrong after all.  Maybe the Enemy has started his victory dance a little too early.

What better way to start a conversation with someone on the status of their belief or unbelief than to ask them, “So, what does Easter mean to you?”  This little question will lead to wonderful doors that will open up for conversations on the concept of saving grace to take place!

When we share the Easter Gospel with someone, we are sending out the Word of God.  Essentially we are offering a life line.  Planting a seed.  We can’t make people take ahold of the message we are offering to them.  But we can know with confidence that if we sow the Word in people, the Holy Spirit will come back to gather the harvest when the time is right.

Hallelujah!!  He is risen, he is risen indeed!

Death has been conquered!

No one can remove the reason for the season as long as there are still faithful people out there spreading the love of God.

Keep sowing the seeds of the gospel.

It always produces.


For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
    and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:10-11 (NRSV)