Thursday, August 1, 2013

Brenna, my Friend, You will be Missed.

As I write, my friend Brenna Stull and her family are just arriving at their new home in Phoenix, Arizona. They will soon be starting a church plant and starting a movement of God in that city, a revival that God promised years ago. Please pray for them as they settle into their new home and begin God's mighty work there.

More than a few friends have asked me this summer how I was handling Brenna or the Stulls moving. I know that they asked out of love and understanding, but it made me feel a little self-centered, as if their leaving had anything to do with me. My laughing answer was always the same, "I am in complete denial about it. My brain can't accept that they are moving away." I even managed to miss church their last Sunday at First McKinney.

Several years ago, when our church was searching for an executive pastor, I heard that Chris Stull was the likely candidate. I said, "Oh, I know his mom!" I went to church with her when we lived in Oklahoma. A few seconds later, I said, "Oh, I know his wife!"

I met Brenna in 1987 when I started in the University Chorale at Oklahoma Baptist University. When the director placed us for the best blend possible, I was sandwiched between Brenna and her sister Tamara, and there I stood the rest of their time in Chorale. Needless to say, sitting beside someone for an hour every day allows you to get to be pretty good friends. Such blessed days.

So, yes, I was thrilled to know they were coming to First McKinney. It was a joy to watch as her ministry grew here, and soon her book Coach Mom was published. And a couple of years later, Brenna asked if I would re-design her website and take over sending out her monthly eNewsletter.

I wanted to tell her, "no," but I couldn't. I told her that I didn't really know what I was doing. I had only done one website for another ministry at that time. I told her she was taking a risk, and I might complete fail. But, she took the risk, and I'm so glad she did.

Over the next several years, our friendship grew richer and deeper because we were working in ministry together. We saw readership of her Newsletter double. We launched her revamped website ... twice. She had an idea for a new retreat topic, and that resulted in the start of my MomsAway Retreats ministry. She mentored me, as I started writing the Bible study God asked me to write. We prayed together through loss and illnesses, praised God together for answered prayers, and lifted each other up in prayer through many of life's challenges.

Another friend, Kim Heaton said that Brenna has the ability to make everyone feel so special that they all believe they are her best friend. That is the perfect description. I know how busy her life is, and yet she never hesitated to lend an ear. She never rushed a conversation. She never failed to stop and give a hug or say a prayer or extend encouragement.

I have pretended that it won't be that different now that they've moved. With the technology available these days, we can still easily work together, talk on the phone or even face-to-face on Skype. But truthfully, life here in McKinney won't be the same. Brenna (and all the Stulls) made such an impact on my life (and many others) during their years here. I never could have imagined how God was going to bless this community, this church, this family the day He called Chris Stull and his family to minister at/to/with First McKinney.

So, Brenna, my friend, you will be missed. I am so honored to have you as a friend. I am praying for you, as your new ministry grows. I am confident that God will do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine or ask for. I love you, sister.


Philippians 1:3-6

The Message (MSG)

A Love That Will Grow

3-6 Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Making Me New

I just returned from Xtreme Camp with the youth of our church and once again I am overwhelmed by God's goodness and the way He works in individual lives.

I LOVE to worship with the youth - there is so much freedom and sincerity and it really comes from the heart.  One of the songs that really touched my heart this week was called "Beautiful Things."  It is very simple but has a profound message, no matter where you are in your walk with Christ.  Basically, it says that Christ can take whatever you have, whatever you bring and make beautiful things out of it.

So, bring all that you are and all that you have to Christ.  Bring your brokenness, your pride, your hurts, your hang ups, your praises.  Bring it all ... and let Christ make beautiful things out of it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

You Are

Sometimes a song just gets stuck in my head and in my heart.  This is one of those songs.  I hope you'll take the time to listen--who knows, it might just get stuck with you, too.  Happy listening!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stuck on the Crumbs

I wrote this post about 3 weeks ago.  For those who may not read my blog or may not have seen me reference it on this blog, we brought home our daughter from Ethiopia at the end of March.  This was written after she'd been home 5 weeks:

Ella has gotten much better about eating in the past five weeks.  She has gone from practically inhaling every bite to often being one of the last ones done.  She has gone from stealing E and J's snacks after finishing hers to actually getting up and walking around before her own snack is finished--trusting that it will still be there when she comes back.  She still says "eat" as soon as she gets up in the morning, but she truly is learning that we can be trusted to feed her, and she will have enough.

However, as I was watching her today, it struck me how she still longs for the crumbs.  She had an entire cupcake in front of her, yet she was reaching instead for the tiniest speck of a crumb.  She sometimes gets so caught up in the little piece, that she fails to see the meal in front of her.  And I thought, Well isn't that me, too? 

God has given me so much; in fact, He has blessed me with a feast, and yet too often I seek after the crumbs.  I only see the little thing in front of me, and I fail to look at the beautiful big picture of what God is doing, the banquet table He is preparing. 

I don't think He wants me to feast on crumbs; I think He wants me to drink from His goodness, to feast on His Word, not the leftovers that I find lying around.  So today I will seek to enjoy the meal, and I hope to teach Ella to do the same.  Will you join me?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Changed and Prepared

This (school) year, I have been involved in a Bible study that has focused on the book of Genesis.  I have done this study before and it never ceases to amaze me how God worked (and still works) in the lives of men and women in the Bible to bring about His plans and purposes.

As we are wrapping up the study of Genesis, I am struck with how these men - whose flaws are written for all eternity to see, whose mistakes are studied over and over, who did not always do things God's way - are still an example for how we are to live and die.

Judah - who tried to do the right thing by Joseph - but was then caught in a grievous sin against and with his daughter-in-law - was changed when confronted with his sin.  He had a heart and life that was changed when he encountered God. (Genesis 38)  I so want to be one that is changed - both when I am confronted with sin and when I encounter God.  And Judah has been blessed forever - from his line came the Messiah!  How thankful I am that our past does not define us!

And then there was Jacob.  Known many times as the deceiver of the the family.  He tricked his brother out of his birthright.  He had to run in order to stay alive.  But he also suffered being deceived - by his father in law, by his sons.  Jacob also was changed when he encountered God.  Jacob met God on the banks of the river - he knew he needed God's blessings.  God touched him and he was never the same. (Genesis 32) Again, when I encounter God, I never want to walk the same again.

Then at the end of his life, Jacob shined the brightest.  Not only did he believe in God's promises that his people would one day return to Canaan, in his last breath, he worshiped God (Hebrews 11:21).  What an example for all of us!

I have watched and heard about many godly people - how they have been prepared to die (both physically and spiritually) - but most of all how they have been an example to others of how godly people die.  They worshiped God until they took their last breath.  Oh God, how I want to be that example to the people around me. Granted, this is not an easy task, nor do I want it to come quickly.  But I want to be so changed by my encounters with God, that there is no other option for me.

Will you join me in seeking to be so grounded in Christ and willing to be changed by Him that we have no other choice but to worship Him to the very end?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Teacher Appreciation

A thank you for the many teachers that shaped my life.

The teacher that taught me my address and introduced me to a new friend who lived on my street.
The teacher that welcomed shy and quiet and grew a leader.
The teacher that called me out when I wasn't listening.
The teacher that didn't flinch when I made a 100 on her pre-test.
The teacher that brought history to life.
The teacher that knew me as a baby and taught me as a senior.
The teacher that gave me my first C.
The teacher that apologized.
The teacher that expected greatness.
The teacher that taught me about grace.
The teacher that trusted me with important work.
The teacher that prayed.
The teachers that I call Mom, Dad, MIL, sister, Granny, friend.

Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for investing in my live.

May my life honor the time and care and love you poured into me.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Joseph and Me

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected.  So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, "Why do you look so sad today?"
Genesis 40:6-7 

In the passage above, Joseph has been imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit after being sold into slavery by his own brothers.  He has every right to be a bitter man, but instead he has chosen to rely on the Lord for his strength.  By relying on the Lord, he has left himself open and ready to truly see and notice those around him.  Rather than focusing on himself, perhaps even throwing a continual pity party for himself, he instead is finding his hope in the Lord and passing that hope on to others as he builds relationship with them.

As I studied Genesis 39-40 this past week, I was struck by Joseph and these two verses in particular.  Joseph shows sincerity and thoughtfulness in these verses, and it left me wondering if I would've done the same.  Would I have taken the time to notice the sad faces of those two men, or would I have been too caught up in the other things around me that I'd deemed important to even really see them?  Would I have been paying more attention to my check list than to the people around me?  

Thinking through these questions helped me to see something in my own life that I need to work on, but they also helped me to see how well people have been caring for us recently.  We brought our daughter home from Ethiopia almost 4 weeks ago, and the days have been challenging.  Yet, in the midst of the challenges, we have had so many who have seen our needs (or possible needs) and have offered to help.  They, like Joseph, have been ready to ask us how things were going and not shy away from being there for someone in need (even if they, too, are busy--which of course they are--we all are).

In the past few weeks, we have had over 20 people sign up to bring us meals.  I have received texts, messages, and emails asking how we were doing.  We have had people volunteer to run to the store for us.  Earlier this week as I had a particularly hard day with our daughter, a friend brought me a drink from Starbucks to brighten my day.  I could go on.  People have seen us, and they have responded to the season we are in with mercy and grace.  It has been such a beautiful representation of the Body of Believers serving well, and I feel privileged to see it firsthand.

But I don't want to stop there.  I don't want to simply receive and move forward.  I want to be like Joseph, too.  I want to see someone and being willing to take the time to stop and ask them why they are sad (or angry or upset or whatever).  I want to be Jesus to those I encounter.  And I'm wondering, do you want to try it, too?  Who's with me?  Who wants to stop looking past people and start looking at them....not to judge but to help?  To make a difference, even if it's simply giving a smile to someone who hasn't smiled in days.

Let's do it--let's get serious about this Jesus life.  Let's be Jesus to those around us and see what happens.  Whatever happens, I have a feeling it's gonna be great!  Let's go!

(And if you have a story to share, please feel free to add it in the comments--we'd love to hear from you.  Let's change the world one step at a time.)