Wednesday, June 25, 2014

“[She] encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the LORD.” ~ Acts 11:23

Encouragement. It's something that everyone needs and something that everyone can give. It comes more naturally to some people, but it is something we all have the ability to offer to others. In fact, it's something God calls us to do.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…and we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
 ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14

My mom is a wonderful example of encouragement. She has always been one to encourage others - sending cards, talking to anyone and everyone, sharing God's love, etc. Since joining Facebook, she posts just about every evening a short post that includes encouragement in the form of a quote or short story and a Bible verse along with some love and smiles. I know that many people have been encouraged daily by these posts and I'm definitely one of them.

“Encourage one another daily.” ~ Hebrews 3:13

She also has created a list of six months worth of Scriptures, quotes and notes that she spends hours of time printing, cutting and folding to place inside jars or bowls that she then gives as gifts to people. A Scripture jar of encouragement that they can use again and again for daily doses of encouragement. I know this gift has been a great source of encouragement and support to many people over the years. Encouragement is definitely one of her gifts and her example has definitely been influential in my life.

“You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life forever.”
~ Zig Ziglar

The above quote has definitely been my experience. When I look back at my life, I remember many such moments and their impact on my life. Not always are the words something that I completely remember, but more the feeling of the words and how it affected me. In my Bible I have a few special saved mementos. First is a note from my dear friends and mentors - a small dose of encouragement and support that has been an anchor in my life for over 15 years. The second is two pieces of paper - they are from the summer missions trips I went on in 1996 and 1998 and they include short notes from each of my teammates and leaders. They too have been in my Bible ever since and often provide a dose of encouragement and love when dearly needed.

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ” ~ Colossians 2:2

A few months ago, I discovered some wonderful saved encouragement that I knew I had saved, but forgotten where it was. On my first summer mission trip, one of the many specific things we had to pack was paper towels and they had to be off the roll, in individual sheets, and folded into Ziploc bags. My mom took on the task of doing this for me, and unbeknownst to me, she wrote little notes of love and encouragement on some of the paper towels throughout. As I found them that summer they always seemed to arrive at just the moment I needed a reminder of home and love and support. At first I saved the whole paper towel, but as the summer progressed (8 weeks is a long time!) I started just saving the part with her note. :) All in all, my family was wonderful with encouragement that summer - I received mail at almost every stop and several care packages throughout and they always included enough so that I could share with my teammates as well. On my second summer I served as the nanny and my family was once again very supportive and I was able to use some of the abundance to write notes of encouragement to the rest of the team along with candy or mints or gum.

“Laying down your life means making your own faith and doubt, hope and despair, joy and sadness, courage and fear available to others as ways of getting in touch with the Lord of life. We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.”
~ Henri Nouwen

I've discovered that as we build relationships with others, and start to be open and vulnerable it is easier to find ways to encourage others. Because the more you know their story and the more they know your story, the easier it is to want to find ways to be a support and show love. As I've gone through the past few years and the journey God has been taking me on, I've seen again and again the need to be real with each other. And it's scary to be real, because there is real fear of being rejected or feeling shamed. Unfortunately, sometimes that happens and some people can't or won't  be able to be loving and accepting and supportive. But, thankfully there are people out there who are just as broken and just as open to seeking deep friendship that puts God in the center. He wants us to be in relationship with each other, He made us for community, He intends for us to live and work and be together - building each other up, encouraging, supporting, convicting and loving one another.

“Our Lord insists on the social aspect of our lives; He shows very distinctly that we cannot further ourselves alone.”
~ Oswald Chambers

The friends and family that God has placed in my life have been so important in so many ways:
  • My parents have been such a loving and Godly example of faith and forgiveness. Their support and encouragement of me has been such an incredible blessing. I always know that I can go to them and in the past year or so it has been such a gift to have access to people who not only know me so well, but also know God so well and who can be a sounding board, reference and source of love and prayer.
  • My husband has been such a rock - supporting me even when my journey didn't always make sense, and being for me no matter what. He hasn't had the same questions or worries and yet he's been 100% on my side and his love and encouragement have been vital.
  • My sister has definitely been a part of my spiritual journey of the last year. We've faced some struggles together - from different perspectives and it has been so helpful to have her support and love. I'm so thankful to have her as not only my sister, but also my friend.
  • My mentors have been such a blessing and their wisdom and advice has been so incredibly encouraging and helpful, especially as I passed through the hurt feelings last year and also their insight in directing me toward this passion to share my journey.
  • Several friendships that have deepened over the past year or so have been invaluable to my ability to process through this spiritual crisis, to grow closer to God and see His leading and direction in my life and to feel the warmth and support of loving community.
  • There are many other people in my life who have been so important to me, and just because they aren't mentioned here doesn't mean that they haven't meaningfully impacted my life. I honestly could spend hours of time listing those who have been an encouragement and support to me and I am so thankful for them and for God's plan in putting them in my life.

“Worry weighs us down; a cheerful word picks us up.” ~ Proverbs 12:25

 “Congenial conversation – what a pleasure! 
The right word at the right time – beautiful!”
~ Proverbs 15:23

Last weekend, my sister and I had the opportunity to spend the night at our cousin's home. We hadn't seen her in almost a year and we were so excited by the opportunity to spend time catching up and having a fun girl's night. God knew how much we needed this time and as the evening progressed and we spent almost four hours sharing the journey of the past year it became more and more clear how much we all needed this soul care. We three are very different people who look at the world differently, who react to life differently, who have different personalities - but God is so good. He has placed us together as family and what an amazing gift it is to have people who love you, people who can see things from a different perspective, people who can encourage and uplift you. Our cousin had some wonderful words of encouragement for both of us - perhaps even prophetic words. They were heartfelt, they were inspired by God and they were full of love and grace and truth. We cried a lot, we also laughed a lot and we hugged a lot. It is a gift to have people like my sister and my cousin who have been part of my life for almost my entire life - we know each others stories and strengths and weaknesses and we love each other. God is so good and I am so thankful.

“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Dear heavenly Father, Thank You for the gift of encouragement. Thank You for the gift of Your Word which is a constant source of encouragement and wisdom. Thank You for the people You have brought into my life - people who have encouraged me and people that I have been privileged to encourage. I pray for those who feel they have no source of encouragement - that they would feel Your presence and Your love in their life and that they might have the opportunity soon to have someone encourage them. I pray for wisdom and discernment to know who to encourage and how to do so - for the right words and the right approach. I pray for the courage and bravery to go out of our comfort zones and encourage someone this week.Thank You God for the encouragement You provide through Your Word and Your people. I love you. Amen.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

“The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs.” ~ Isaiah 58:11

It began with disagreement. It was a struggle for me because I knew that I disagreed, but I couldn't specify why, I just knew that I didn't agree. While part of me thought that I could just say "I don't agree and it doesn't matter why," I also believed that I needed to know why. Not so that I could prove that my disagreement was supported by evidence, but because I needed to know what exactly I believed. So I dove into my Bible and started reading. I began with Paul's writings in the New Testament since that was where the disagreement began. I began reading some theological books recommended by others as well as some I found on my own. I started praying about it, talking about it with my husband, my parents, my sister and my friends. I discussed it with my coworkers and read more books that led to more books.

I struggled with the idea of questioning authority and who exactly is in authority over my life. Ultimately, the only authority is God and I felt His clear calling to keep researching these topics and to keep questioning and learning and growing. Although there was an initial struggle, it was eventually made clear that the person who was questioning my faith was not someone who had any power to make me feel guilty or shamed by my journey.

“Only listen to people who are in the center of your bull’s eye [inner circle of your life people]. Those outer-circle people hadn’t earned the right to tell her what to do. Not that God couldn’t use their insights to direct or motivate…but rather those people weren’t empowered to boss her around or instill in her a sense of guilt or failure based on their opinions of who she was or what she should be doing.” ~ Robin Jones Gunn

Definitely this person directed me onto the journey that I have been on and I am grateful for that push, no matter how painful it has been. But they didn't have the right or authority to know my heart or what I should be doing or not doing. And even though there were other people in my life - those "center of my bull's eye" people - I began to understand that they didn't determine my beliefs either. God used that person to direct me toward Him - and it was God who was directing my journey and the many changes that were to come. It was only He who had authority over my life.

“Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let Him tell you what to do.” ~ Matthew 23:9

One of the topics that came up in my Biblical studies over the past year was the idea of spiritual direction and spiritual mentors. This was a phrase I'd never heard before, but it resonated with me the more I read about it. I've always loved Mister Rogers and have collected several books of his quotes and a few years ago I was reading a book about him called I'm Proud of You by Tim Madigan. This memoir details a relationship developed through correspondence between the author and Fred Rogers and the title of the book refers to the way Mister Rogers would end each letter. The book is incredibly heartwarming and I highly recommend it. In the book, it mentioned that Fred Rogers wrote letters to the Catholic writer Henri Nouwen and that inspired me to look up some of Nouwen's writings.

“…meeting of souls can happen…through ‘the discovery of a saint, a book, an icon from some other part of the Christian world which suddenly we find to be intimately linked with us; the meeting with someone far away in space and time who yet becomes our friend and contemporary.” ~ Edward C. Sellner in Mentoring

I absolutely fell in love with Nouwen and quickly read my way through much of his writings. I felt such a connection to his struggles with insecurity, with being overwhelmed, with feeling broken. The more I read, the more I felt connected to this writer who was no longer living and who I would not get a chance to meet in this world...yet, the connection existed nonetheless. Reading his writings helped me to feel like I wasn't alone - that someone else had experienced similar things and that helped me to continue on this journey.

"...healing begins with our taking our pain out if its diabolical isolation and seeing that whatever we suffer, we suffer it in communion with all of humanity, and yes, all of creation. In so doing, we become participants in the great battle against the powers of darkness. Our little lives participate in something larger." ~ Henri Nouwen

Along the way, I discovered deeper relationships with certain friends as I began to share my journey and the struggles and hurt that I was feeling as well as the lessons I was learning. God brought deeper intimacy to these friendships where we were able to share hurts and losses and the ability to feel less alone and the ability to grow together in a more real relationship with God.

“What happiness, what security, what joy to have someone to whom you dare to speak on terms of equality to another self; one to whom you need have no fear to confess your failings; one to whom you can unblushingly make known what progress you have made in the spiritual life; one to whom you can entrust all the secrets of your heart.” ~ Aelred of Rievaulx

God used these friendships to provide insights and understanding and we discovered together that we weren't alone. That we shared similar struggles and that only by trusting in God and allowing Him to direct our path would we be able to make our way through this difficult time. The encouragement to read our Bibles, to pray together, to study and know His will - all these things were such a blessing. It was a little scary to be so vulnerable and real with others but I began to see the importance of sharing life with others. I mean, I knew it before, but it began to feel truly real and vital as these relationships deepened.

During this time, we had to leave a place where we had felt settled - a place where we had friends and family. But the disagreements would not allow us to stay. We had to make a choice. It wasn't an easy choice and we struggled for many months trying to decide if it was better to stay or go. It felt like either way there were many positives and negatives but ultimately the lack of peace felt like a call to stay. We prayed a lot about it and asked God for a clear sign. And one day, it was provided - we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we could no longer stay. It doesn't mean that it was easy to leave - we hated to cause any conflict, we hated to say goodbye to people we loved, we wished there was some way to make it all go away and pretend that everything was fine. But it wasn't and we had to make that leap of faith.

“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.” ~ Psalm 143:8

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” ~ Psalm 27:14

It was truly difficult at first. I had to share the reasons why we felt called to leave, I had to experience confrontation that was hurtful and untrue, I had to see people I love be hurt in the process of defending me and I had to decide who had more authority over my life - this person or God. But God provided so much in this time. He provided His peace in the midst of a terribly uncomfortable experience. He provided emotional support and encouragement from the people who were in my "inner bull's eye". He provided confidence and reassurance that we had made the right choice and that He had plans for our lives. He provided evidence in His Word that this was part of His plan for my life.

“The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” ~ Psalm 32:8

“God is writing my life story, and it’s different for me than it is for anyone else…It shouldn’t matter if other people understand. You’re the one who knows in your heart of hearts when you’re obeying His direction. He’s the One who will lift you up and send you soaring.” ~ Robin Jones Gunn

While I don't know what the future holds for me, I do know that God holds my future. I know that He is in control and I know that even when I have to go through difficult and uncomfortable circumstances that He will never leave me and He always has my best interests at heart. I won't say that it's always easy to believe that, but I have to choose to trust even when I struggle. And I do struggle. I struggle especially when things start to go wrong or difficult - I worry too much and I stress and I forget to have faith. It's easier to look back and see where I had faith, but to be honest it was much harder and messier than these blog posts reveal.

“Point out the road I must travel; I’m all ears, all eyes before You. Teach me how to live to please You because You’re my God.” ~ Psalm 143:8,10

But, what I want is to trust God. What I desire is to put my faith and trust in Him and rest secure in the knowledge that He's got this. I will struggle and I will fail...but I will try again and again and again. Each new day is a new opportunity to trust once again. And thankfully God doesn't give up on me and He keeps loving me and directing me in spite of my failures and lack of faith. How grateful am I that He does!

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for loving me in spite of my insecurities and my lack of faith. Thank You for directing me on the path You have for me and for leading me to the people and the places that You put in my life. I am so grateful for the experiences that You've allowed me to go through - even the difficult ones because I know that my faith was deepened and I have become much closer to You because of those times. Help me to remember that when new and challenging things occur - help me to trust You, to have faith, to believe that there is a reason for these things and that it is an opportunity to grow closer to You. I know that many of my friends and family are going through really difficult times and I pray that You will make Yourself truly real to them. Help them to feel Your presence and Your love in a way that surpasses expectations. I pray for healing of those who are sick, I pray for peace for those who are hurting, and I pray for Your will to be revealed to those who are searching. Thank You for Your love and Your peace and Your direction. I love you. Amen.



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” ~ Proverbs 16:9

I don't like change. I don't like rocking the boat. I don't like confrontation. I don't like difficult situations or conflict.

I like peace. I am a people pleaser. I respect authority. I try to be the good girl.

Last year, my life got shaken up. My faith was questioned - by me and by others. Things changed. I had to rock the boat. I instigated confrontation. I experienced difficult situations and much conflict. Peace felt far away. I did not please some people. I had to question authority. I was considered the "bad sheep" and not a "good girl."

It was a scary, emotional, heart-breaking and difficult time in my life. But you know what? It was hard, but it was good. It was difficult, but it was necessary. It was life-changing, but I'm closer to God as a result and that can only be counted for good. I would not have chosen this journey, but God knows better than me and while I didn't think so last year, I am glad that this happened to me. 

I don't mean to sound vague, but I'm not sure at this point that I want or need to go into the specifics of what started my journey. But essentially it was this - What do I believe about God? and Why do I believe what I believe about God?

Is my faith based on reading the Bible? Is it based on what my parents believe or taught me to believe? Is it based on what I learned attending Christian schools all my life? What is the foundation of my faith? Is my faith my own or is it based on what someone else has told me? I discovered that I needed to own my faith and that required a LOT of evaluation, a lot of prayers, a lot of reading and a lot of tears. 

I started out angry. Partly at myself - I spent too much time being apathetic and allowing other people to tell me what to believe and what the Bible said. I was worked up about things I believed that were being questioned. But I'm not one to initiate confrontation so I was angry in my heart and in my home. I'd like to say that it was my idea to eventually confront the source of my anger, but it was my sister's idea. The hope being that by addressing the situation it would be easily resolved - no muss, no fuss. But that's not what happened. 

My faith was questioned and my heart deemed selfish...but, I felt no conviction. I'm not saying I'm perfect and that I don't have issues, but we all feel that tug of recognition or conviction from the Holy Spirit when something wrong in our lives is brought to light. As I poured out my hurt and my questions to God and my family and friends, I was more and more convinced that it wasn't from God. I was hurt and I was confused and I was questioning...but I had faith that God was directing my steps and that gave me peace. This was the beginning of my journey of change. 

I started reading my Bible with a passion...actually it felt more like devouring an amazing meal full of everything I could ever want and more. At first I was drawn to the New Testament to read for myself what it actually said and how it impacted what I believe. Then I started reading in the Old Testament. In my hurt and confusion, the Psalms were both comforting and convicting:

God, investigate my life;
get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can’t take it all in! ~ Psalms 139:1-6

I couldn't get enough of God's Word..."thrill[ing] to God's Word, chew[ing] on Scripture night and day." ~ Psalm 1:2 Everything I read seemed fresh and new and exciting and spoken right to me. I'd read parts of the Bible before, even got through most of the books and made many attempts to read through it all. But I had never done that. But this experience just propelled me deep into God's Word and I just had to keep reading and underlining and makes notes in the margins and copying Scriptures to 3x5 notecards and sharing them with others like pieces of amazing chocolate. Over the course of the year, I finally read through the entire Bible. 

“Form your purpose by asking for counsel, then carry it out using all the help you can get.”
~ Proverbs 20:18

During this time, I also started reading a lot of books about theology. Definitely not my idea, not my interest, not my preference. But I felt called to do it - I knew it was what God wanted me to do. I read many books from many perspectives and each book seemed to lead to two more and those two to four more and so on. I started understanding what I believe and why I believed it. I had a lot of conversations with friends and family about what I was reading and learning. I had some friendly debates on several topics that helped strengthen my confidence. But I had this lingering feeling that there had to be some purpose for all this - some reason I was doing all this research and grow - some "thing" God had planned for me. 

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” ~ Matthew 6:34

“These things I plan [for your life] won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.” ~ Habbakuk 2:3

I had to let go and trust that God had a plan and eventually it would be revealed. This blog feels like a definite part of that plan. I tried to write about this experience last year, but I was still too hurt and angry and confused. I didn't know, but God knew that I needed time to read, to reflect, to percolate on all this overwhelming information and change before I could possibly begin to put into words anything about this experience. And honestly, I needed to be more open to His leading than I might have been last year. I feel like the words I've been writing the past few weeks have come from Him...I felt clear calling to speak about certain subjects and use certain Scriptures. And every time it's been different than what I thought it would be...and that makes me more certain that He is truly directing me. 

But, I'm not done. I'm definitely not perfect and I'm still learning and growing and trying to be who God wants me to be. It has been an eventful journey, and it's a journey I'm still experiencing. Thankfully, not in a hurt and confused bit for now, but I know those times will likely come again. What I do know is this: “Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure everything out on your own. Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

I still don't really like change and I'll still usually try to avoid confrontation and keep the peace. But I'm thankful that God knows better than I do what I really need. And I'm thankful for the opportunities for growth that this past year has brought me. In my reading of the New Testament, these verses from 2 Corinthians brought me so much peace, like a gift from God to me:

“You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from Him. The result was all gain, no loss. Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain…And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart. ” ~ 2 Corinthians 7:9b-10a, 11

To be honest, I wouldn't want to go through the distress again, but I am so thankful that it drove me closer to God. I am grateful that God determines my steps and I want to always try to follow where He leads. Even when it's scary, even when it's hard - God is always with us - "...our refuge and strength, a VERY present help in trouble." ~ Psalm 46:1. Here is my prayer for you and for me:

Dear heavenly Father, Thank You for determining our steps. Thank You for allowing experiences in our lives that give the opportunity to know You better and to deepen our faith and trust in You. I'm so thankful that you brought change to my life and I'm sorry for the times that I felt it was unfair and when I was whiny and angry. I thank You for loving me in spite of my weak nature and for bringing me through that challenging experience to a place where I can feel glad that it happened. Thank You for giving me the words to share and help me to always be open to Your leading and direction and give all the praise and glory to You. Please help these words to encourage and uplift others and help them to feel Your peace and Your presence in the midst of their journeys. Thank You for loving us and thank You for Your Word which is such a gift. I love you. Amen.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

“As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where He wants it.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:18

In the early 90's, our family started receiving monthly book deliveries of Christian romances from Heartsong Presents. We are big readers and my mom wanted my sister and I to have good clean romances to read and this was a great inexpensive service. Each delivery would include four 100-150 page novels - two contemporary and two historical. Thankfully we could agree on how to divide them since I preferred the contemporary and my sister preferred the historical. But we would share them amongst us all and they were read very quickly. We received these books for many years and they are always quite good for a quick read.

Over the years, we accumulated hundreds of these books and have passed along many of them to friends, family and thrift stores or yard sales. But I have a collection of about 10-20 that became my favorites. These are ones I have read and reread over and over again because something about the stories or the characters stuck with me and became like cherished friends. I was re-reading one of these books a couple weeks ago and something stuck out to me that never had before. A character was singing an old song to their child and the words touched me and I wanted immediately to write about it. Of course, I didn't write about it right away...but it's been in the back of my mind since then and now I'm finally getting a chance to do so.

The song was Bloom Where You Are Planted and here are the lyrics:
Bloom, bloom, bloom where you're planted
You will find your way
Bloom, bloom, bloom where you're planted
You will have your day. Look at the flowers, look at them growing
They never worry, they never work
Look at the way our Father clothes them
Each with beauty all its own
Each with beauty all its own
Some plant the seeds that others will water
But in all things, God give the growth
Come let Him garden the flowers within you
Come and discover some you've never known
Come and discover some you've never known.
Look at the love that lies deep within you
Let yourself be! Let yourself be!
Look at the gifts you have been given
Let them go free! Let them go free!
Let them go free! Let them go free!
When I was looking up the full lyrics to that song, I read some things about the phrase "bloom where you're planted" and it appears that this phrase was first attributed to St. Francis de Sales - "Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence."
I was suddenly struck by the realization that I am where I am for a purpose and that I simply have to trust God, listen to His leading and "bloom where I'm planted." I don't have to run around trying to be something I'm not, I don't have to stress and worry about why I don't have the strengths and gifting of other people around me, I don't have to feel guilty. There is freedom. Freedom in being who God made me to be. Freedom in trusting that I am where I am for a purpose. Freedom in trusting that God will do the growing and I just have to be in Him.
I believe that God has given me a gift - a gift of encouragement and one of the ways I use that gift is through sending cards. I send a lot of cards. I definitely keep the post office in business. I believe in the power of words to encourage, support, uplift, and love others. I love quotes and verses and use many of them in my cards. I read a couple daily devotionals and often include them as I feel led. I have found and created several laminated bookmarks and verse collections that I frequently send to others. This is how my process works:
  1. God brings someone to mind - sometimes through reading a Facebook post, sometimes while flipping through my address book, sometimes completely out of the blue.
  2. I look through my collection of cards (I frequently buy them from Hallmark, Current and even occasionally have had a subscription for monthly card deliveries through Someone Cares). Sometimes as I look for a card, one of them will remind me of someone else and I'll pull that one to send as well.
  3. I sort through my Quotes folder looking for a quote, verse, devotion, etc that speaks to me as something for that person.
  4. I either print out or hand write in their card the chosen words and then wait.
  5. Sometimes these cards sit for a couple days, occasionally a few weeks, and very rarely a month or longer. I fully believe that although it feels like I'm slacking off or being lazy about sending them in time it really is God's timing because often it's these cards that I feel are sent late that I hear from the recipient that they came at exactly the right time.
  6. Writing a message in the card is usually preceded by thoughts of them, perhaps a prayer or two, and very occasionally have felt like words written by God Himself not because I think highly of myself but because I felt that the words were too strong, too direct or simply something I feel uncertain is the right thing to say, but feel strongly must be written.
  7. Add addresses, stamp, and of course stickers and then mailed.
I love sending these cards. I love when I hear from the recipient that they appreciated it. But I don't always get a response or acknowledgement. And I don't need one or expect one. I'm not fishing for compliments or praise. I trust that I am doing what God calls me to do and what matters to me is not any kind of applause, but to believe that God is using my gift to bless others. Sometimes it can feel like what I do doesn't matter, but I have faith that it does. “…very often I expect, the service He really demands is that of not being (apparently) used, or not in the way we expected, or not in a way we can perceive.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Sometimes I might wish that I had different gifts. Like my sister, who is amazing at acts of service - if she knows her friends are sick, she will make a big pot of soup and bring it to them. Or she will clean someone's house if they can't due to sickness or pain or other such things. She is kind and generous with her time and her abilities. Or my husband who makes friends with everyone and has the wonderful gift of making people laugh and feel their best. He is a server at Olive Garden and he makes all his tables feel like close friends or family - he jokes and teases, flirts and winks and makes them happy. This is a huge gift and one that I definitely don't have! :)
But, we must remember -  “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”  ~ Galatians 6:4 God has made us all uniquely gifted to do different things and one is not better or worse than another. When we all work together and do what God has gifted us to do then we will be able to bless others and experience the joy of being where and who we are supposed to be. “And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God…defines your life…The really important thing is obeying God’s call, following His commands…Friends, stay where you were called to be. God is there. Hold the high ground with Him at your side.” ~ 1 Corinthians 7:17a, 19, 24
God has made me who I am and He has made you who you are. He has placed us where we are supposed to be and our only job is to listen, obey, and love. If we are putting our trust and faith in God, if we are doing what we were created to do where we are planted, and if we are obeying God's leading then we can have joy and be able to bless others.
This is my prayer for you:
"...asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to His will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. {I} pray that you'll live well for the Master, making Him proud of you as you work hard in His orchard. As you learn more and more how God works,  you will learn how to do your work. {I} pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul - not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that He has for us." ~ Colossians 1:9b-12