Saturday, February 25, 2017

Minimizing Means Letting Go, & 9th Update on Kristen

"He must increase, but I must decrease."
John 3:30

I stood, frozen in place, a moment several moments longer than necessary.
My hand brushed across the smooth wooden tabletop, every inch of which is so familiar to me.
My other hand rested on the top of the chair most within reach.
As I stood there, I could not hold back the tears.
I suppose if there is a surveillance system in the furniture consignment store,
the ones who watch the camera or find it necessary to go back and view the tapes
will think I should probably be locked up somewhere in a padded room.
Who would stand and linger and cry over a table and five chairs?
Who, that is, in their right mind would feel compelled to do such a thing?
As the tears rolled, unbidden, down my cheeks, my mind went back to so many, many memories.

We bought that round, solid oak table with what started out as six matching chairs and the matching hutch with the glass doors and glass shelves from an elderly couple named Mr. and Mrs. Lannan back in 1989.
How long they had owned it before we bought it from them, I do not know, 
but when I opened the left drawer to the hutch, the name of the manufacturer and the date, "1978" was imprinted on the side.

That table has been a constant throughout nearly all of our 28 years of married life.
The six chairs became five when we decided to leave one behind when we moved last year,
due to it having a crack in it that we didn't think could be repaired.
We bought it all when we lived in our first apartment together about a year after we were married.
I remember how, during those newly married years, I loved trying out any new recipe I could find,
and how much I enjoyed calling Mom and Dad to come over and gather with us around that table, 
so they could be the first ones to try my new concoctions.
They, along with my dear, patient husband, were the kindest of critics.
That dear, old table came right along with us when we had our first home built in 1992 and moved about 25 miles north of our first apartment.
It held plates and saucers and cups, casserole dishes, our big annual Christmas feasts each December,
birthday cakes, board games, and jigsaw puzzles.
It was there, standing strong and stalwart, when we brought our precious, baby boy home from the hospital in December of 2000.
We have a picture of Mom giving him his first bath at home on that table top.
I have cooked countless meals and placed them on that table in front of the ones I love most in the world.
While seated at that table, we have laughed until our sides ached,
we have cried uncontrollable tears, as we realized seats that were filled just the year before were now sitting still, their vacancy the starkest of reminders of just how much we have lost.
Zach and I have spent countless hours making crafts, 
poring over algebra problems and homeschool curriculum,
coloring in his coloring books while seated at that table.
We have colored more Easter eggs than I can even recall, and oh, the times that table has been set...
usually with our everyday dishes, but once in a great while, with the white china dishes that rested on the glass shelves of the hutch nearby.
If that table and those chairs could talk, oh, the stories they could tell!
From moments of jubilant praise to times of darkness and despair, 
that precious dining room set has "seen" and "heard" and "witnessed" it all.

Oh, the flood of memories that washed over me the other day standing there in that furniture store.
At one point, I walked away to look for the only other remaining item we had consigned there,
the wooden quilt rack Kevin bought for me so many years ago.
It was necessary for us to pick it up, as they only allow an item to be consigned for a six month period.
I quickly found it, and there was really no reason for me to walk back over to the dear, old table and chairs another time.
But, I did.
I could not help it.
I stood there, once more, with an ache deep within, 
and I know it sounds crazy, but, as the tears started flowing again,
I said, "Thanks for the memories" and "I love you", right before I tore myself from it to walk away.
Since it didn't sell during the time of its consignment, we decided to donate it to some friends.
I knew they were coming to pick it up within the next few days,
and I would see it no more.
As I walked away, carrying the quilt rack towards the front of the store to let the clerk know I was taking it home, I felt compelled to go stand there....just one more time....
like I have done thousands of times over the years, and just try to relive...try to recapture...
some...any...of those dear, precious moments....just one, more time.
I pulled myself together, and instead of turning back to walk to the table and chairs that held so much sentiment...I willed myself to walk towards the front of the store, through the door, and out to the car.

To keep going back and standing there and crying and grieving for what used to be was just plain not going to change the outcome.
It was not going to propel me those moments...with Kevin, Zach, Mom, Dad, Mom and Dad Smith, all of our siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, dear friends, loved ones, neighbors, and acquaintances.
Nothing can take us back.
Life is not lived backwards.
Time is a forward march, that never stops moving, no matter how much we want it to stop, 
slow down, or take us back.

On a side note, I love this song by "Dailey and Vincent".
I hope you enjoy it, too.

If video doesn't load, click here.

One of my favorite lines in the lyrics is, 
"Yesterday is all I'm after, how I get there, I don't care.
Just take me back, and leave me there."

It's a nice thought, isn't it?
Who wouldn't want to get in a time machine and travel backwards to certain previously-lived moments?
The truth is, we cannot go back.
No one is going to "take us back, and leave us there."

We are here.
It is now.
Those days of yesteryear will never be relived.
They are done.
It hurts to even acknowledge that.

This letting go of the past is not for weaklings or the faint of heart.
I declare, it just never gets any easier.

The other day, we met a kind friend at our storage unit, and we gave him most of the remaining furniture we had left there.
This included our beloved king size bedroom suite.
We bought it shortly after we moved into the home we just sold and left behind last year.
You don't even want to get me started on how much it hurt to see it go.
It was something Kevin and I had dreamed of having one day.
The bed had small pillars and beautiful carvings on the headboard and footboard...
it had a real Victorian look to it...
the nicest bedroom set either of us has ever owned, by far.
We dreamed of having it, God provided and fulfilled the dream, we had and cherished it for many years, and then, it was time to let it go.
It served its purpose in our lives for a very long time,
and now, it will bless someone else.

Back in its glory days in our bedroom

(I must say, it brought tears ~are you surprised? Me? Tears?~ to go back and find this feels like another lifetime, to be honest. The angel lamps are gone, the little table holding the white noise machine on the left side of the bed in the picture is gone, the drapes have found a new home, the eucalyptus swag on the wall is gone, and , of course, the bedroom suite is no longer ours.)

It seems crazy to me now that we went to such extremes and pains to move it all such a long distance.
I literally cringe each time I think of how much it hurt me inside to watch Kevin and Zach struggling to get it all down the front porch steps.
I wish we had known then what we know now.

Being able to let it go and still survive, emotionally, really paints a blatant picture and lets me know how very far we've come.
There was a time I couldn't have stood to turn it all loose.
See how gentle God is?
How tenderly He leads?
See how many layers there are to trusting Him?

As our friend peeled back the blanket protecting the headboard to get it ready to load the other day,
we were appalled to find that the blanket had sort of melded onto the wood and left a trail of residue behind.
It hit me how things go to ruin while sitting in a storage unit.
To let things sit there and literally deteriorate, just because "we can't bear to part with it because of attached memories" or "we might need it someday" seems just plain selfish to me.
Especially when there are others who need and can use the things we are not using.
If we waited until we were ready to use it again, should that day ever come,
would it still be in good enough shape to even use?

The friend whom the furniture was donated to was grateful.
He will either sell it for needed money, use it himself, or he will pass it on to someone else.
I'd rather not know.
If I knew where it ends up, knowing me, I would try to go and "visit" it from time to time,
you know, just for old time's sake.

Is there anyone on earth who is more hopelessly sentimental than I?
The other night, as I cried during yet another moment of letting go,
I mentioned something to Kevin and Zach about being sentimental, 
and I told them to just drop the first five letters.
Forget the "senti", I think I am just, plain need of help,
and, through much trial and error, I have found that only the dear Lord can provide the help I need.

So, we press forward, a lot lighter than we were.
The truth of the matter is, the heavy, well-built furniture we owned was just too hard for us to keep up with anymore.
Kevin's health is such that it is becoming increasingly difficult for him to do any lifting.
Zach is very strong, but to laden him with the burden of hauling it around is just not something either Kevin or I are willing to do.
So, the time to let go has come, and we are turning loose.

Our storage unit is really, really starting to look emptier!
I look back upon the day we pulled that 26' big, old moving truck into that parking lot,
and I remember how we cringed thinking there was no way the guys who were to come help us unload could squeeze so much into such a small space.
I suppose I should have taken pictures, but suffice to say, it was risky to roll up the door,
because you were always afraid something was going to fall forward and hit you on the head!
Now, you can freely walk around in there, and you can pretty much see all three walls.
Major headway we're making, all glory to God.
Most of what remains there now are small pieces of furniture that we can fit into where we live now, more boxes, crates, and odds and ends loose things.
It will still take some time to complete the chore of clearing everything out,
but, thank the Lord, can we see progress.
I cannot tell you how good that feels.

The dear Lord also worked out more space for us to use in our current living situation,
and, what a blessing that is turning out to be!
Our goal now is to continue to downsize to the point that everything we own will fit where we are, 
so we can turn loose of the storage unit and eliminate the monthly expense of maintaining it.

Here are some of the latest lessons God is teaching us in this current season.
As He teaches, I love sharing with you here, in hopes that it may help some of you to become motivated to "decrease", so God and His perfect will can have room to "increase" in your lives, too.

1.  "Do You Need It Today?"
I often pray about our minimizing.
I beg the dear Lord to please give us wisdom,
to not allow us to make mistakes that would later turn into regrets,
to guide us to the right people/places to donate our things,
and to grant discernment at each step of the way.
Many times, I will bring specific items before the Lord in prayer.
"Lord, what should we do about those drapes or that table or the china dishes?"...things like that.
Do you know what the response is so many, many times?
So very often, I will hear His still, small voice return my question with a question of His Own.
"Do you need it today?"
This sets off the following conversation.
My response is always, "Well, no, we don't need it TODAY, Lord"...and that is usually followed by, "But, what if we need it in the future?  We don't know where You are leading us.  We don't know why You are requiring all of this letting go.  We don't know if we will buy another house or what exactly we will do, and what if we need it and regret letting it go?  Just because we don't need it today doesn't mean we won't need it a year or two years from now."
Again, I hear the same question.
"Do you need it today?"
"Well, er, well, Lord, ahem, NO, we don't need it today."
Point made.
Point taken.
Immediately afterwards, Jesus' words in Matthew 6:34 comes to mind.
"Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
Today is all we truly have.
Actually, this moment is all we truly have.
We are not promised another.
And, if tomorrow comes, God will still be "Jehovah-jireh", our Provider.
He will not forget us and what we need in the future any more than He has done that in the past.
"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows."
Luke 12:6,7
"...for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him."
Matthew 6:8

2.  The more we allow our affections to go out to something, 
the less likely and harder it will be to let it go.

I can sure understand the reasoning behind this verse.
"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."
Colossians 3:2

The thing is, I didn't even realize just how much and how extensively my affections were centered upon certain things, until God started saying, "Let them go".
You can tell how obsessed I have been with certain things by watching the amount of pain it is causing to turn them loose.
God forgive me.
I honestly did not realize.
As much as we would all love to stay here forever, at some point, you and I are going to have to leave this world.

"But godliness with contentment is great gain.
For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."
I Timothy 6:6-7 (emphasis mine)

We will not be able to take one single trinket, photograph, keepsake, or treasure we have accumulated along the way with us when we cross over from time to eternity.
We can't take souvenirs from earth to Heaven.
Even if our loved ones placed every, single thing dear to our hearts in the concrete vault next to our casket, those things would stay right here...decaying and going to ruin, just like these physical bodies will return to dust.
We, ourselves, would no longer "own" them.
I know this is graphic, but it is reality.

"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
Ecclesiastes 12:7

So, since this is the way it is...since the only part of us that will remain and return to the God Who gave it is our spirit, why do we I insist upon squeezing so tightly to physical things in this life?
I will either have to turn loose of them now, of my own accord,
or I will turn loose of them later, when I have no choice.
And, just think!
Who would want this stuff in Heaven?
The glory we will experience there will so far surpass the trivial things of earth,
we won't miss this...believe me.
"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him."
1 Corinthians 2:9
Here is another favorite "Dailey and Vincent" song of mine.
Have tissues ready, trust me.
It makes me think of Mom and Dad and makes me realize how temporary this life really is.

If video doesn't load, click here.

If we knew what is waiting for us on the other side, we would not cling so tightly to what is here.

3.  The less we own, the less our worries.
I am already realizing this.
Oh, how I used to worry!
Every time we left home for vacation or other reasons,
I would just fret and obsess to the point that I often couldn't even enjoy our trip.
The enemy would wreak havoc with my imagination, and I would envision all sorts of things happening while we were gone.
In reality, God was merciful every, single time, and He has always told me that He takes care of what belongs to Him.
He has never failed, but, my wavering faith and fearful outlook has caused me untold, and, might I add, unnecessary, worry.
What good did it do?
I am finding that the less we own, the less I obsess.
And, an amazing side benefit of all of this is that I don't seem to mind as much anymore.
There is a sense of freedom that comes with not having so many things to be concerned about.

4.  God will get us through whatever He asks us to do.
I'll admit it.
I do not like to do hard things.
Oh, I don't mind hard work.
Anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that I love to dive in with all fours, literally, and tackle a physical task with fervor, right down to cleaning floors on my hands and knees, no problem.
I know it's weird, but I absolutely love seeing a huge pile of dishes on the table, needing washed.
One of my favorite things is to clear a messy table, kitchen prep area, stove, countertops, etc.,
after having cooked and enjoyed a big meal for and with the ones I love.
There is something so satisfying about setting it all back in order and making everything shine.
Hard work and me, we get along just fine, and I will stay with it until it is done, and done right.
It is the hard things that I shy away from...
like good-byes...I don't do well with them.
I would rather pull an all-night cleaning job scrubbing toilets than to have to say good-bye to someone I love.
I would rather climb a ladder and help Kevin clean a roof than to have to sort through the 10 years of homeschooling books we have completed thus far.
Physically hard is one thing.
Emotionally hard is in a class by itself.
When it comes to letting go of things that memories are attached to, 
I completely draw back and do not want to deal with the heartache.
A dear friend of ours often says,
"God will bring you through, if you can stand the pull."
Were truer words ever spoken?
What I am learning is this...
if God asks me to do something, He will absolutely get me through it,
regardless how hard I cry, how much my flesh recoils, and how much it hurts.
He didn't say everything He asks us to do will be easy,
but He did promise to never leave us alone.

5.  Sometimes, God needs to empty us of ourselves, so there is more room for Him.
"He must increase, but I must decrease."
John 3:30
My heart longs for more of Him!
It is the constant cry and yearning of my soul.
There is one way, and only one, for this to happen.
I must decrease, in order to make room for Him to increase.
Self is a fierce competitor for number one place.
As long as self is being served, gratified, and catered to, how can God sit, unrivaled, upon the throne of our hearts?
He wants to be our all in all.
He wants us to let go of earth's security blankets in order to find our security in Him.
The less there is of me, the greater my capacity to be filled with Him...
His Spirit...His presence...His power...His love.
Having more of Him and His approval trumps anything and everything else.

6.  There are underlying issues that need to be dealt with.
I did not know they were there.
They should no longer be ignored.
I mentioned in my last post that in our previous living situation,
it was never necessary for me to let go of things that were hard to part with, because we had an enormous amount of storage space.
I could have held on to every, precious card and note Kevin has ever given or ever will give me even if God were to give us 75 married years together.
I could have clung to every, single piece of paper Zach ever drew a picture on until he reaches his 100th birthday, (had I lived to be 134, that is☺), and never, ever run out of space.
On the last school day of the year during each of our 10 homeschool years thus far,
Zach and I have gone through the same, little ritual.
We would both get a little sentimental, realizing our homeschooling journey is one year closer to reaching its destination, we would reminisce back over the year that just passed, we would gather all of his workbooks from the files we keep them in, we would stack them neatly in a box, add any accompanying paperwork and artwork, and we would tape up the box, label it with a marker, and put it out in the garage.
Not one of those boxes has been opened or seen the light of day since we taped them shut.
I don't know how long I would have kept those things had the dear Lord never led us to move,
but I have a hunch they would have stayed right where we placed them until He called me home to Heaven.
Then, dear Zach would have had to have the unpleasant, sad task of having to figure out what to do with them.
The memories would have made him cry, and it would have been heartwrenching for him.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
This dear boy is his Mama's son.
One of the things Kevin has consistently prayed over Zach throughout life is that God would give him a tender heart.
Proof that God hears and answers prayer is that Zach has one of the most altruistic, sympathetic, kind, and tender hearts I have ever known.
So, as long as we had all that room, I never had to ask myself why I was so insistent upon keeping every, single thing.
I didn't have to deal with the underlying motivation, nor did I find it necessary to investigate what was driving me to do what I did for so many years.
Come to find out, and much to my surprise, my need to hold on to these things was coming from my unwillingness to let go of the past.
Somehow, if I keep things from former days, it creates an illusion of me being able to go back there.
God does not want us to try to live in the past, because it is a futile endeavor, and it prevents us from truly living now.
Only having a limited amount of space now is forcing me to not only let things go,
but to deal with the underlying issues that compel me to want to hold on to them.
This needs to happen.

There are more lessons we are learning, but this post is so long already.
I am going to stop for now and let the rest simmer until another day, Lord willing.
I want to include an update on dear Kristen below.

To read past posts about our minimizing journey, click the following links:
MINIMALISM: How Much Stuff Do We Really Need?
One Word For 2015: PREPARE
Eleven De-Cluttering & Organizing Tips
Healthy Breathing
How Minimalism Has Made Christmas More Peaceful In Our Home
Our Minimalism Journey Update
To Keep, or Not To Keep?
Sweating The Sentimental Stuff
Don't Pursue What Vexes You
The Earth Is My Treadmill
Life In The Slow Lane At Christmas
How Far We've Come
Living By Faith
The Man Who Comes After Me
What God Is Teaching Us Through Minimizing

9th Update on Kristen
Though there are no what you would call significant changes in my dear niece's condition, I feel compelled to praise God for all He has done.
The baby is still very active!
Praise the dear Lord!
Kristen was able to work just a little this week, and I am offering a huge praise to God for this.
Up until now, she could do very little.
She is still having a lot of shortness of breath, and her tachycardia is severe.
It is so frightening to think of how fast her heart races, at times.
She has been referred to see a cardiologist and is waiting for her appointment.
There have been times that she has wondered if a 2nd blood clot may have formed.
We are surely hoping not.
By Kristen being a nurse, she knows what is normal and what is not, and actually feeling her symptoms lets her know just how serious all of this really is.
PLEASE keep praying, dear friends.
I know you are, and you will never know how much comfort that brings to all of us.
We cannot ever thank you enough.
Kristen and Mike and my dear sister, Sandi, (Kristen's mother), are all very grateful to you.
It touches all of us very deeply when we read your precious comments,
and I can tell you, we all feel the weight of your faithful prayers.
We would so appreciate you continuing to lift Kristen and her baby boy in prayer.
We are believing God for a full miracle in this situation,
and I cannot tell you how much I look forward to the day I can praise God about it here.
God bless you all!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What God is Teaching Us Through the Process of Minimizing, & 8th Update on Kristen

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Matthew 6:19-21

First, I want to say "thank you" again and again for all of the love and support you are continuing to show my family and me in the midst of our current trials.
Foremost on our minds, each and every day, is concern for my dear niece, Kristen.
As you know, she is expecting her first baby, and she has had one scary issue after another.
For those who may not know, she developed a blood clot in her arm that traveled to her lung, 
had to be hospitalized for a time, was put on the wrong type of medication at first,
then released from the hospital and sent home with instructions to give herself two shots a day of an alternate, slower-working medicine.
Needless to say, that whole process has been very difficult and terrifying for her,
and now she has developed tachycardia.
This explains the chest pain, shortness of breath, racing heart rate, and heart palpitations.
Several other things have happened that have heaped more fear and anxiety,
and we would surely appreciate your continued prayers for her and her unborn baby boy.
Each day is a real struggle for her, bless her dear heart.

It is hard to see the reason behind such trials, isn't it?

We take comfort in the words of our Lord Jesus found in John 16:33,
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

There is a beginning and an end to every trial in this life.
While it is hard to find sense in the midst of the worry and concern,
I believe with all my heart that God will heal Kristen and bring her through this,
and my constant prayer for her is that God will give her a healthy baby and allow her to live to raise
that boy to full adulthood.
We can't ask too much of our God, and regardless how dark the path ahead may look for her,
we walk by faith and not by sight.
We dare not take our focus off God and fixate on the problems at hand.

I keep hearing the dear Lord say,
"According to your faith be it unto you."
Matthew 9:29

In times like these, I begin to much faith do we have?
How much of that faith will we choose to exercise in this current situation?

I have often mentioned what Papaw used to say,
"God will be everything to us that our faith will take Him for."

Will we limit God?
Will we allow the "what ifs?" and "might happens" of this life to overpower our perception of what our God can do?

I choose to believe.
If I will get exactly what my faith takes God for, 
I choose to "take Him for" all of the good He has promised.
I choose to "take Him" at His Word.
I choose, like Abraham, to live life fully persuaded that, what He has promised, He is able also to perform.  (Romans 4:21)
He has demonstrated countless times that He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think, so why would He do anything different now?
His track record is impeccable.
He is worthy of our trust...even now.

Another beautiful picture and caption by my dear, faithful friend, Gentle Joy


Moving on to our minimizing efforts, I wanted to share some lessons God is teaching.

1.  Anything God asks me to get rid of that I refuse to surrender and insist upon keeping becomes an idol, because I am choosing to serve it, instead of Him.
Idols can take on the strangest, most unlikely forms.
Anything that we put ahead of God in our lives becomes an idol.
If God says, "turn it loose" or "let it go" or "stop doing that", and we stubbornly refuse,
we are choosing to cling to that...whatever or however improbable that is...than to follow Him.
That thing impedes our progress, and we cannot move forward with Him.
We are making the choice, however unconscious of this we may be,
to serve the idol, instead of serving God.
Jesus said not to lay up treasures on the earth.
Treasures on earth become more precious than God to our hearts,
and they absolutely compete with Him being first in our lives.
Excess possessions vie for our time, energy, affections, and effort, 
and oftentimes, we are so busy pouring ourselves into maintaining and bowing down to them,
that there is nothing left of us to give to the One we should love and honor most.
God is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14)
He wants to be our all in all...the One our soul craves...the One we hunger for more than all else.

2.  I will make no further progress if I keep insisting upon not doing things that hurt too much.
I must stop refusing to do what He is asking me to do just because it is hard.
Doing the right thing in order to follow Jesus and be faithful to Him often goes completely against the easiest path, but without being willing to give up what He asks us to, we will never be His disciple.
"So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple."
Luke 14:33
Following Jesus is sometimes going to hurt.
It will usually go against the grain of what "self" wants in our lives.
"Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
Mark 8:34

3.  The past can never be relived, even if I hold on to the baby clothes.
Yes, our dear, miracle-baby, boy is now 16 years old.
And, no, your eyes do not deceive you.
We still have a lot of his baby clothes.
You won't believe how many of his clothes we have passed along to others through the years,
but, there were just somecertain, okay, a lot of...special things...that I have insisted upon keeping.
As if holding on to those clothes will make him a baby again,
as if clinging to them with all my might would somehow cause a time machine to appear that would transport us those baby days.
Zach is growing up.
He is much more a man, than a boy, now.
He is wise beyond his years...always has been that,
and he will never be an infant, toddler, or child again.
I cry over this more than I care to admit.
Oh, in this mama's heart and mind, he will always be my baby.
My perception/illusion of that will never change.
But, the reality that he is now more grown than not slaps me in the face each time I have to look up at him to look him in the eye.
So, I am finally allowing my sentimental mind to grasp the concept that regardless how many onesies, pacifiers (yes, I know), cute little hats, overalls, and Pooh outfits I squeeze on to,
not one of those precious things possess the power to ever be able to take us back to those growing up, carefree days of childhood and cause him to be able to squeeze again into those clothes.
Those days are gone.
They have been lived.
And lived exceedingly well...all glory to Jesus.
Regardless how many meltdowns I experience while sitting on the living room floor,
baby clothes scattered all around me, each one bringing back its own, special memories like a flood,
the fact of the matter is, Zach is 16.
From this moment, he will only get older, progress forward, and continue growing into the man of God he was created and born and designed to be.

4.  God is the God of ALL comfort.
That includes when I grieve for what used to be but can never be again.
It includes when I have to let things go that tear at the very heart of me.
It includes when what I am grieving over seems absurd.
He understands, and His ability to comfort is all-encompassing and enshrouds every, single, possible, potential hurt of the human condition, including the hurt of letting go.

5.  In this season of our lives, it is His will for us to do whatever it takes to minimize.
This is not just a whim.
It is not some fad we are following after.
This is God's Divine calling upon our lives in this season.
It is why we feel such a drawing to continually pursue the letting go of what is not necessary,
even when what we are doing does not make sense or conform to "the norm",
and even when it is so difficult all three of us break down and cry.

6.  We are not walking this minimizing journey alone.
He is with us, just as He has always been.
He is there, even in the moments of tears and separation-anxiety,
to soothe, console, ease, and bring a sense of peace.
He makes our obedience doable.
As I look back over my life, I realize one consistency.
God has never asked me to do anything that He was not willing to do with me.
Isaiah 41:10 has been my life verse.
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
I will never forget the day He first gave me that Scripture.
I was 14 years old, sitting on a stool in the basement of this little house, scared-stiff, terrified to face the next day.

You can read about that here.

I was getting ready to change schools for the umpteenth time...
this time, it was at the very end of the school year, with only one month to go.
As I sat there, with God's Word open in front of me, my eyes fell upon 
that precious, life-changing verse, Isaiah 41:10.
I adopted it then and there, and it has sustained me through more than I can even remember.

7. God will lead us on this journey, but we have to allow Him to and remain willing to surrender to His prompts.
I have never considered myself a controlling person, but I declare, this whole process has really opened my eyes and revealed things I never saw before.
Too many times I have dug in my heels, and I have hindered God from doing what He knew was best,
just because I did not want "self" to be inconvenienced.
I didn't want to surrender, because the process was going to require so much effort...
so much much hurt.
So, I stayed when God said to move,
and I got ahead of Him when He said to stay.
Over the past few years, He has taught me so many lessons from Joshua 3:3-4.
"When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore." (Emphasis added.)
To stay right at that perfectly, fine-tuned spot...that exact "two thousand cubits behind the Ark" is a challenge.
It is going to require a constant awareness of what God is doing and an intentional focus on making sure we can hear His still, small voice.
The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant is a type of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
We cannot afford to take our eyes off Jesus, our "Ark", for one split second.
We have to stay in tune with His stirrings that happen deep within our spirit,
just as Joshua had to remain continually focused on the ark of the covenant.
When a stirring started and it began to move, he knew it was time for him and the people to follow,
in that perfectly-spaced position and lockstep rhythm.
You can read more on my past thoughts about this here.

8.  When Jesus left home to begin His full-time ministry, He had to leave people and things He dearly loved behind.
He had to walk away from His past and life as He knew it and everything in it.
He could afford no distractions.
He could not live out His mission weighted down with possessions of this life.
He needed to remain completely engaged in the purpose God sent Him here to fulfill.
Don't you know it must have hurt Him to leave what He knew as familiar?
He was 100% God, but He was also 100% human.
He felt hurt just as keenly as we do.
Yet, He did not allow His human hurts to deter Him from His Divine mission.

9.  "Lovest thou Me more than these?"
John 21:15
If Jesus asks us to drop something, give something away, stop doing something, bless someone with something we own, etc., and we insist upon clinging to it and refuse to let it go, it not only becomes an idol to us, but it proves where our heart really is.
"...where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Who/what do we love more?
Who/what do we love most?
Who/what is more most precious to us?
Who/what are we bowing down to and do we most want to please?
Remember the letter the Lord dictated to the church at Ephesus?
After complimenting them on their works, labor, patience, abhorrence for evil, ability to recognize false/impostor apostles, high level of tolerance, perseverance, endurance, and refusal to give in to weariness, He said,
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love."
Revelation 2:4
This process of minimizing and letting go is showing me where my heart really is,
and I am continually being forced to make choices.
Obey or rebel?
Do I love Him more than what He is asking me to let go of?
Is He still, as at the beginning of our journey together, my first love?
The question is EVER before me.
There is a cost to love Jesus "more than these".
Am I willing to pay it?
What will the cost be if I don't?
What/who will suffer if I do not mind God?
Following Jesus is not without great personal cost, 
but we must remember that it is also not without great reward...
not only in the next life, but in this life, also.
"And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."
Mark 10:29-30

10.  God has a way of orchestrating our circumstances to reveal what lies beneath and forcing us to make hard choices.
For years, we lived in a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home, with a huge, oversized 2 car garage.
The house was not big, but it had plenty of excess space considering there were only three of us living there.
There were all kinds of nooks and crannies, closets, cupboards, and shelves for what-nots and treasures,
all kinds of wall space for lots of wall hangings and pictures, 
and plenty of floor space for all sorts of furniture and the primitive decor I love so much.
The garage was not too much smaller than the house, which meant we had tons of storage.
Rather than deal with things that hurt, I became very proficient at boxing it up and either asking Kevin to put it in the attic or walking it out to the huge garage that was attached to our house.
I never had to deal with anything that had to do with whether I should keep something or let it go.
There was no need.
Minimizing was the farthest thing from my mind.
Excess space provided a way for me to cling to the past, with no guilt for doing so.
Fast forward to now.
God has led us to a living situation with less square footage, a small outside storage area, no attic space, no attached garage, smaller rooms, fewer closets, and filled with someone else's furniture.
Do you see how He is working?
As you know, He started us on this journey long before we ever made a long-distance move,
and we thought we had made major strides in reaching our minimizing destination before we loaded the moving truck.
After the Lord led us to where we are, we realized that we had merely skimmed the surface...
we had only shaved off the "superficial".
Now, we are dealing with all that lies beneath.
I am having to face hard truths and answer difficult, incriminating questions...
like, why did I keep all of this stuff, in the first place?
What drove me to cling to every single homeschool workbook Zach has ever written in?
What made me refuse to let go of his baby stuff?
Why do I still hold on to Dad's sweater?
Now, we get to the real issues and my refusal to let go of the past.
God is forcing this.
And, I thank Him for it.
It needs to happen.
He is showing Kevin, Zach, and me that we need to scale down to what will fit in our current living arrangement and that in order to do that, we must let go of what used to be in order to live life going forward, not looking back.
It is wasteful to continue to pay for monthly off-site storage and goes against everything He is teaching us about frugality and being good stewards.
It is not that we do not have enough space here.
It is that we still have too much stuff.
If we pare down to what will fit here, the excess monthly storage bill will be eliminated,
that money can be put to much better use,
and, we will come yet closer to aligning ourselves with the minimal, unattached-to-the-things-of-this- world lifestyle Jesus, our Example, lived.
He is not asking us to give up everything dear to our hearts.
He is just asking us to give up what won't fit here.
He is allowing us to keep certain things that we need to keep in order to remember precious parts of our past, because He knows how important that is to us, but He is freeing us from trying to continue to live in that past.
As we seek Him and walk in obedience to all He is asking of us,
we trust Him fully to lead us away from doing things we will later regret.
Our part is to simply do what He tells us to do...even when it hurts.
It is not about us; it is about Him.
It is not about this life; it is about eternity.
His grace is all-sufficient, and He is faithfully sending the healing that we need.

To read past posts about our minimizing journey, click the following links:


And now, for those who are still with me and who persevered to read to the end of this very long post, I want to invite you to click over to our FREE STUFF page!!
I added a few books to give away!
Happy Shopping, and God bless you all!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Continued Prayers Needed...7th Update On Kristen

"Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

I apologize that it has been a while since I was able to publish a new post here.
Thank you so much to all who have contacted me to check on us!
I have several blog posts started and in the pipeline, and I hope to publish them soon.
Unfortunately, my laptop cord stopped working, and, boy, do I miss my laptop!
It is hard to get used to using a desktop again, especially when health issues hinder you from being able to remain at a desk for long periods of time.
So, this post won't be as long-winded as mine usually are, 
but I am compelled to write with an urgent plea to all of you prayer warriors on behalf of my dear niece, Kristen.

As you know, she is expecting her first baby, and she has a blood clot in her right lung.
It has just been a horrible time for her.
Due to her pregnancy, they cannot give her the medicine she really needs to dissolve the blood clot quickly, and in order to make up for that, they had increased her dosage of the alternate medicine to try to compensate for the lack of the medicine she really needs.

Fast forward to this week, when she began to have nose bleeds and abdominal pain.
Her doctor has reduced her dosage, which has stopped the nose bleeds, praise God, but she is still having severe heart palpitations, racing heart rate, and elevated blood pressure.
As you can imagine, all of this is bringing on anxiety and so much fear.

Dear friends, please, please keep praying for Kristen.
I know so many of you are, and you just have no idea how much it means to my family and me.
We are SO grateful for every prayer you are praying on her behalf, and it does not escape us that our dear Lord answering all of the prayers going up for her is precisely why she is doing as well as she is.
Yesterday, I found out that one of you dear, precious friends is even fasting on her behalf.
You know who you are, and I tell you, I just cannot put into words what this has meant to Kristen, to me, and to my family.
To think that one of you would lay aside food for the sake of interceding to God for Kristen's healing just humbles me beyond what I can express.
"Thank you" seems so inadequate to convey our deep appreciation,
and I can only hope that the dear Lord will abundantly bless and reward your sacrifice on our behalf.

Praise God, the sweet baby boy Kristen is carrying is still very active, and the heartbeat is very strong, in spite of all that is happening right now!
She is 17 weeks along today!

I have been enjoying finding little things for the little fellow.
It is so much fun to know that we will soon have a new baby in our family again!
I am choosing to believe that GOD will heal Kristen,
protect that baby boy and allow him to be born full-term and completely healthy,
and spare both Kristen's and his life to a ripe, old age!
Surely this case is not too hard for our God!

"Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?"
Jeremiah 32:27

"And He said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."
Luke 18:27

I don't know what you may be going through right now, but I want to encourage you to keep looking to the Lord to see you through.

"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:2

Even though, we do not understand why He allows trials to come into our lives,
He is ever-faithful to remain by our side through them all.
Here are some Scriptures that have been sustaining me through some hard places lately.
I hope they encourage you, uplift your heart, and comfort you as you face your own dark times.

"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness."
Isaiah 41:10

"Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalm 46:10

"And the LORD, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed."
Deuteronomy 31:8

"There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."
Joshua 1:5

"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms..."
Deuteronomy 33:27

"When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him."
Isaiah 59:19

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
I Peter 4:12, 13

"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
Hebrews 12:11

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
Psalm 46:1

"Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us."
Psalm 62:8

"But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine.
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
Isaiah 43:1,2

 A precious blogging friend who has been such a dear blessing and comfort to me over the past few years has been gifted by God with the ability to not only write, but to take some of the most lovely photos.
As is the case with several of you precious readers, she and I have been through a lot together on this blogging journey.
We have shared heartaches and tears and many, many prayer requests.
So many times, I have opened our inbox to find a sweet note of encouragement from her, just when I needed it most.
Today, she sent this to encourage me in my current battles, and I was so grateful that she granted permission for me to share it with you here.

Photo and Poem by Gentle Joy
I hope you take the time to stop by and visit her beautiful blog by clicking here.

One of the old, comforting hymns dear Mom used to sing to me when I was down or going through a hard trial was written by May Olinger and entitled, 
"What Should We Do Without Jesus?"
It was one of Mom's favorite songs.

Here are the words...

I have thought of that song so many times, as Mom is on my mind so often when I am going through deep trials.
Oh, I do miss her!
I've lost count of the times I have longed to call her for prayer.

After my prayer warrior Papaw died in 1979, I remember Mom telling me how much she missed Papaw's prayers.
My heart went out to her, but I couldn't come near to comprehending the depths of her loss until I lost Mom in 2012.
There is no way to measure the worth of a praying parent, 
and when they are gone, the void is indescribable.

What should or would we do without Jesus?
To whom would we turn?
I find that I lean harder upon Him with each passing day, it seems...
even harder since my own dear praying parents are gone.

"...there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."
Proverbs 18:24

"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up."
Psalm 27:10

Another dear blogging friend, Victor, (you may remember and like to read his Inner Views published here) put together this beautiful version of "What A Friend We Have In Jesus".
I hope you enjoy it.

If video doesn't load, click here.

If video doesn't load, click here.

Keep encouraged, dear friends.
Jesus overcame every, single obstacle put before Him in this life,
and because He triumphed, so can we.
There is a crown reserved for each and every one of us, waiting in Heaven.

"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing."
2 Timothy 4:8

Thank you ever so much for your love, kindness, friendship, support, and continued prayers
for my dear niece, Kristen, and my family and me.

God bless you all!