True Vine Challenge: Friend

It’s been a hard week.

I visited a young lady in the jail who told me her story.

Alone. Lonely. Tragic. Sad. Overwhelming.

When I asked her, tell me about your support upon release? Tell me about your friends.

She said, “I don’t have any friends. It’s just me and my son.”

I broke. Completely broke. With tears streaming down my face, I managed to eek out the words, “I am your friend.”

Over and over, I said it, looking into her eyes.

“I am your friend. I am your friend.

“Do you hear me? I am your friend.”

But the reality is, I am human and I will disappoint her. It was then that Holy Spirit reminded me of these words from John 15, the True Vine passage.

“You are no longer servants, but friends.”

Jesus will never, ever disappoint, and He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Would you pray for S. in the days ahead, that she will come to know Jesus as Friend?

Then today, I popped into Facebook to do some posting for The High Calling and saw an update of a dear friend’s daughter. Her dad, my friend’s husband, passed away this week, from what I gather, rather unexpectedly.

I’m shocked and saddened. I missed the news. Missed the funeral. Missed saying goodbye to my friend and missed surrounding my friend and her family during this time.

Years ago when I was newly separated, I spent the night at their house on Christmas Eve – surrounded by their love and friendship in my own very dark time. They gave me a journal, wrapped beautifully and placed under their perfect Christmas tree. And that gift? Just in time, as I’d recently filled the last page with hard, painful words and had no extra money to buy a new one.

Floral Journal

Journal insert

Once upon a time I remember sneaking into Andy’s closet (Andy, who put the A in Anal Retentive), and rearranging all his neatly ordered clothes. We twisted hangers this way and that. Mixed pants with shirts, lights with darks. And stacked neatly lined shoes into one huge pile in the floor.

I remember numerous hospital visits and times of prayer and laughs. Oh, so many laughs. And Sheila’s faith and trust in a good God.

Andy & Sheila Andrews

I know there’s purpose in pulling away from social media. Today? It’s just hard. I’m leaning into my friend, Jesus.

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Linking up with Lisa-Jo today because it seemed appropriate and I only have about five minutes.

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What about you? Won’t you take the True Vine Challenge and share the words God’s been speaking to you lately?

Would you share your own link, here?


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True Vine Challenge: We Receive Our Identity in Abiding

It’s been one of those weeks. We came home from vacation late Saturday evening, spent half the day at church. (It was awesome, by the way. You can listen to “Sit with Jesus.” Sounds like abiding, doesn’t it?)  The rest of the week is a blur.

Relationships become casualties in the battlefield.

And the battle has been fierce.

This morning when I finally had the house to myself, I stood at the kitchen sink washing yesterday’s frying pan. I wanted to kick and scream and pitch a fit.

Instead, I remembered what we talked about at the jail last night. Spirit, soul (mind, will and emotions) and body.

“Too often we’re ruled by our bodies, or by our soul, but God made us spiritual beings.”

His spirit within me wants to be in charge.

So I said to myself, only out loud, “I choose not to be ruled by my emotions today, but my spirit.”

By His Spirit within me.

In an instant, my perspective changed. Circumstances didn’t. I still have a long to do list for a major event tomorrow night. The house still needs cleaning. Relationships still need restoration.

The difference, however, was that I could SEE. I could see the enemy’s attempt at gaining a stronghold in me. In our home. And I called him on it.

“Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the Evil One.”

I brought my cup of coffee into the living room and sat in the red chair.

“Dad, Daddy,” I prayed. 

He cuddled me in his lap as I released the failures in a stream of tears.

He whispered words of love and affirmation, not judgment and condemnation.

“It’s OK, Sweetie. You’ll get it. You will. This calling of Oikos? It’s what you were made for! Loving your husband and your family and your neighbors. Inviting people in.

“In my strength. Not in your own.

“In my strength. Not in your own. Remember what Jesus said? He is the vine. I am the Master Gardener. I’m the one who does the tilling. I do the hard work. He abides in me. And you? You simply have to rest in me. Abide.

“It is absolutely counter cultural to make your first priority of the day that of abiding. It’s like tithing the first 10% of your money. It doesn’t make sense in the natural. But in the spirit realm, remember, I am the great multiplier. I created time. I still hold it in my hands. Trust me. Trust me with your time, your schedule, your to do list. And start your day by being still. Listening to me.

“It may look different from day to day, but I will absolutely give you what you need. I have it all right here in my hands. It is within my grasp to give you what you need.

“Cheryl, OIKOS is your identity. Abide is what you DO because you’re in relationship with me. Abide is for everyone who loves me because that’s what I desire of them. Not in some stingy sort of way, but because I crave intimacy with my children.

“Out of abiding you receive your identity and you gain understanding of your destiny. When you neglect times of abiding, you loose sight of who I say you are, and you try to make things happen in your own strength, which is always a recipe for disaster.”

That’s exactly what happened. There wasn’t time for abiding last week while we were on vacation. Zero alone time. Which is fine. I get it. Vacations are times to connect with family.

When I returned home, I needed time to draw away and I didn’t make that happen. But I still tried to walk in my Oikos identity. The thing that is SOOO hard for me naturally. I was doing it all in my own strength.

Tomorrow I’m responsible for a big event at church – a volunteer appreciation dinner. DINNER. Because we didn’t have the budget for a caterer, I’m planning and preparing and serving dinner for nearly 70 people. Me. The person who doesn’t like to cook.

Thankfully, I’m not doing it by myself. My friend Karen helped me plan the menu and even helped me do a small scale trial run. She’s also coming over tomorrow morning to cook the chicken. (Did I mention for 70 people?) Friends from our Life Group and their daughters (Cheryle and Jenna, Christina and Skyla) will help with set up and serving. Peter and Michaela will help wherever needed and I am so grateful for all of them.

The whole thing is WAY stressful. I’m being stretched way out of my comfort zone.

Maybe it’s OIKOS on a grand scale?

Walking in my identity.

Out of abiding.
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True Vine Challenge: Still Pruning

This is harder than I thought – this giving up social media.

I mean, I knew it would be challenging, so I took seemingly drastic measures.  To make sure I wouldn’t fall into the pattern of constantly checking, I removed all the bookmarks from my browser bar, but I knew that wouldn’t be enough.

One by one, I removed those alluring apps from my phone. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and all it’s affiliates. Google Plus, LinkedIn. Pinterest. All gone.

It wasn’t so bad that first day, or the next. Until I spilled a FULL picture of shake blend: milk and spinach and  berries, all over the cabinet doors and kitchen floor.

“I would definitely be facebooking this,” I announced to Peter.

When I met friends for lunch yesterday, I didn’t use foursquare to check in at the restaurant.

But I wanted to. Did I ever!

Last night when we watched The Princess Bride together as a family, I cheated slightly. I was struck by the fact that Inigo Montoya must have put in his 10,000 hours to become an expert dueler/swordsman, so I shared that thought on The High Calling Facebook page and asked a couple of related questions.

Recently I read an article that suggested at least one reason social media is so alluring. Evidently, when someone likes one of our a FB posts or Retweets one of our tweets, our brains release dopamine.

Neurologically, something is happening that increases happy emotions.

Maybe that’s why I’ve become accustomed to checking Facebook every few minutes. Why I scroll to the bottom of every page of my Twitter or Instagram feed until I get “caught up.” But that’s just it. I never get, “caught up.”

And I admit it. I feel a little lost.

Instinctively, however, I know the withdrawal (for some yet unspecified time) is the right thing, for me, for now.

While it’s uncomfortable for me to confess, I need more pruning.

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Funny, last year when I wrote this post about pruning, I thought I was finished for a long while.

I guess I was wrong.

Now I remember! Pruning is the will of God.

John 15: 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Linking up with Sandy.

Still Saturday

 

So, tell me. What pruning are you facing these days?

If you’d like to share your thoughts, please consider adding your name and post URL in the Linky tool here:



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It’s Time to Do Something About My Social Media Addiction

For the last week, the Lord has been convicting me of how I steward my time.

The truth is, that’s only part of it.

Specifically, God is telling me that I can’t serve two masters: God and social media.

He went there. He actually said, “forsake.”

Gulp.

Last night I shared this kairos moment at LifeGroup. Boy, was that hard! Eight people, holding me accountable.

This morning, Peter and I prayed  that I will gain victory in the area of social media (addiction). Ultimately, until I I do, I can’t won’t ABIDE with consistency.

So now, I’m processing what that looks like, specifically, for me. How do I forsake social media, honor Him and die to self? How do I use my strength (Connecting) for my work at The High Calling and at One Community Church, without getting sucked into the black hole?

KAIROS at OikosLiving.com Time to change my thinking about social media addiction

Would you pray with me? Specifically:

  • That I’ll hear His voice about how to steward this KAIROS (about Chronos).
  • That I’ll REPENT (Change my thinking) from old mindsets and beliefs about schedules and structure. 
  • That I’ll take my ADHD medicine, consistently (seriously). Sometimes I think it’s no big deal, but then I realize my brain actually needs help in this area.
  • That I’ll BELIEVE (put my faith to action) what God is saying me and walk it out. That I’ll DO social media differently or maybe not at all?
  • That I’ll be quick to hear the voice of the enemy and rebuke him, like Jesus did.
  • That I’ll claim my IDENTITY as a Connector, but won’t accept the lie that says, “It’s OK. It’s normal to spend HOURS on social media. It’s how you’re wired.”
  • That I’ll walk in VICTORY!
  • That I’ll fully claim my IDENTITY as one who ABIDES.

Dear God, today, I confess that I’ve believed a lie. I’ve behaved in ways that have dishonored you and your calling on my life. It’s time. Jesus, you said so. Today, I change my thinking. I’m doing it differently. Starting now. With your grace, and with the power of you, Holy Spirit. Amen.

**
Apparently, I’m not the only one. Here’s what others are saying about Social Media Addiction:

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True Vine Challenge: We Are [Good] Stewards

We started our day in what has now become a familiar Saturday routine, except the day began much later than usual. Since I’ve been battling this cold and taking all manner of cold medicines, I slept until 8.

Without an alarm, I scored two extra hours of rest. When I finally came to some form of consciousness, I felt well enough to turn on the Keurig (such exertion!), pull out his red Tim Horton’s mug and fix Peter a cup of coffee. I was still undecided for myself. For the last ten days, I’ve barely had a desire for coffee, focusing instead on green tea and Earl Grey, both with lots of honey and lemon.

I went back to bed for a while because Saturday morning time together is always what the doctor ordered.

**
Eventually, Peter went to the kitchen to fix himself some toast while I showered and dressed. I’ve learned I function much better in the morning once I’ve showered, put in my contacts and brushed my teeth.

I made my way into the kitchen and pulled out the ingredients for my morning shake (Chocolate Juice Plus+ Complete, banana, cocoa powder, peanut butter, blueberries, kale and walnuts) before deciding coffee was indeed doable too.

Good sign.

By 10AM, Peter and I were side by side, sitting on the living room sofa. As is our new custom, we pulled out the laptop, iPad, calculator and bills folder.

Yesterday was payday, so we needed to budget for the rest of the month.

YNAB Screenshot

(That’s the first lesson we learned in YNAB [You Need a Budget - affiliate link-check details at end of post]. Rule #1 – Give every dollar a job. We LOVE this budget app. It’s easy, intuitive and since we’ve been using it, we have a much better grip on our finances. Better than at any other time in our marriage.)

Before we even started, Peter blurted, “I need to talk about something.” I detected a bit of angst in his voice. I knew exactly what was coming.

His paycheck included a bonus and this was unchartered territory for us. (Not the bonus part, but how we budget it.)

“Do we…tithe?”

 We talked it through, asking questions we already knew the answers to.

“What is tithing?”

“Can we out give God?”

“Do we trust Him?”

We stopped mid-conversation and prayed, asking God to give us pure hearts, give us joy, and increase our faith. We talked a little more.

“How much?”

Tithing on the entire bonus required a huge leap of faith. Again, we stopped and prayed, and waited so we could both draw near to the Spirit. We sat in silence for what was probably less than a minute, but felt much longer. Finally, we were ready.

Peter entered the first transaction into the budget. Our tithe – based on paychecks and the bonus. The WHOLE thing.

The rest of the budgeting went well – much quicker than our first few times. We’re building muscle memory.

We paid the bills, even paying some that aren’t due until next month. We set aside money for groceries and fuel for the rest of the month.

For many people, this is simple. The stuff of grown ups. But it’s new to us – this intentionality and stewardship. And we’re making progress!

For the last two and a half months, we’ve tracked every penny. (Remember Rule #1? Give every dollar a job.

We’ve been hyper-focused on paying off credit cards. As a result, we imposed a spending freeze on all non-essentials. For seventy five days, we’ve denied ourselves anything resembling a splurge. We’ve worn the same clothes, over and over, and over. And secretly, I prayed the kids wouldn’t grow bigger than their clothes and shoes. Prayed I wouldn’t either!

It’s paying off, too. I’m happy to report that as of today, we have zero credit card debt. Zero! In two and a half months, we’ve successfully paid off our credit cards.

It doesn’t make sense, exactly, but that’s when the Spirit reminds me of Paul’s words to the Corinthians.

“The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them for they are spiritually appraised.” 1 Corinthians 2:14.

That’s it! The Holy Spirit is moving in our hearts so that we’re catching a glimpse of his principles at work. We’re actually becoming stewards. Stewards with joyful hearts!

It’s been a LONG journey, and we still have a long way to go, but God IS at work. I’m reminded that steward was one of my words for 2012. More than a year ago I started studying stewardship. Then one month later, I had a really bad false start. Last summer we continued the conversation. By December, FINALLY, I was ready to embrace my identity (part of which is) as a steward.

I write about our journey, not to boast, but to give God glory. HE has been at work. HE is faithful.

AND, if He can work in us, He will work in your life and your situations as well.

Linking up with Sandy tonight.

[YNAB - You Need a Budget is an application we've been using since January 8th. We LOVE it! If you use the link here or the earlier in the post, you receive $6 off and we receive $6. If you decide to try it, please let me know. I'd love to hear what you think, and I'll be happy to share any thoughts/tips with you. Of course, we're not experts. Not yet, anyway. But we are stewards.]

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Still Saturday



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True Vine Challenge: Hospitality

cupcakes1

It’s after 11PM and I’d much rather be in bed, but Hannah decided to throw a surprise birthday party for her friend tonight. There are nine high school juniors and seniors in our family room and since the crowd is co-ed, I think it’s best I stay awake another hour.

They leave at midnight, except for the girl who lives around the corner. She’s spending the night.

I wonder if it’s too early to take Nyquil for this cold and sore throat I’ve had since Tuesday.

nyquil1

Unfortunately, if I take it now, I’ll be down for the count – unavailable should they need speaking to. Again. (Technically it wasn’t “they” that needed speaking to. It was “she,” my very own flesh and blood, whose excited voice can sound like she’s using a bullhorn.)

I’m sooo tired.

My nose is runny and the drainage tickling the back of my throat keeps making me cough. I want to snuggle underneath my green fuzzy blanket, lay my head on the pillow I’ve recently decided is perfect, and go to sleep.

I remind myself that tomorrow is Saturday and I can sleep late because Peter is taking the younger kids skiing for the day. I can even nap if I want to!

But none of that happens until the movie they’re watching is over and they all leave.

Immediately the Holy Spirit convicts me.

During the devotional time this past Sunday morning, I encouraged our volunteers to remember Paul’s words in 1 Peter 4:9.

“Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.”

Hospitality, as it turns out, is philoxenos (Strong’s #5382) in the Greek and means, “Hospitable, generous to guests.”

[philos - friend]
+
[xenos - foreigner/stranger or one who entertains another hospitably]

Duh.

OK, God. I get it.

For tonight, I’ll sit in the red chair for another half an hour and enjoy listen to the laughter and sometimes too loud voices of teenagers. Or at least one teenager.

I’ll know that good kids have a safe place to hang out and have fun. And maybe, the two teens who’ve never been here before will catch a glimpse of OIKOS.

(And whaddayouknow? It’s just after midnight, the house is quiet, and this week’s True Vine Challenge is ready to roll. Thank you, God, for your grace and mercy. Forgive me when I fail to extend the same to others.)

When have you had a difficult time being hospitable? Or, when have you been the recipient of hospitality?

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Linking up with Sandy for Still Saturday.
Sandraheskaking



 

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True Vine Challenge: Consistency

We didn’t feed Archie breakfast yesterday.

It’s not that we’re terrible dog owners. We simply forgot.

And this isn’t the first time. (It’s a good thing our kids are old enough to fix breakfast for themselves these days.) Part of the problem has been that sometimes I fed him, sometimes Peter did, and other times one of the kids fed him.

Or not at all.

So we found a rhythm that works. Peter is responsible for feeding Archie, or asking someone to take care of it for him. Typically, if I don’t see Peter or someone else feed him, I’ll call Peter at work and ask (to alleviate Archie getting two breakfasts, which has also happened on occasion).

But yesterday? All systems failed and Archie did not get breakfast until lunch time.

though they may forget

Today the dog was eyeing my every move. I had some extra time so I decided to feed him (and told Peter).

“Archie? Are you ready for breakfast?

“Poor baby. Your daddy forgot about you yesterday. But I didn’t forget you this morning. Did I?”

(Sorry honey. I’m really not throwing you under the bus. I’m making a point.)

That’s when the words of Isaiah came to mind.

“Can a nursing mother forget her child? Though she may forget you, I will not forget you. I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.”

I took a picture of Archie’s food dishes with the thought of quickly posting them on my CherylSmith.Writer page on Facebook, along with a quick status update.

Immediately, God stopped me.

It’s funny, I used to read these verses and couldn’t even imagine how a mom could forget her child. Now I totally get it. God reminded me that I have you, this faithful True Vine Challenge community, and I have neglected you. (Though you really have been in my heart, in my thoughts and prayers.)

I’ve been absent, and I’m sorry.

Would you please forgive me?

He also nudged me that I need to write (HERE as well as in a Book: A-Work-In-Progress) more consistently.

That word, consistency, is one of my words for 2013, though admittedly, I’ve been hesitant to put it out there.

The truth is, I struggle with consistency in a huge way.

I struggle to abide. I struggle to be consistent in my parenting. I struggle to keep my house consistently clean. I struggle to be a consistent steward of our finances (though I am getting better!) and of my time. I struggle to exercise consistently and to eat healthy, consistently.

And I struggle to write consistently, despite the fact that this is one of the callings God has placed on my life.

There.

I’ve said it.

I need help to be the person God intends for me to be.

Would you pray for me? Today and in the days and weeks and months ahead? Would you pray that as God grows consistency in me, that I’ll become more like Him? Whole?

And if you struggle with consistency, might you need to say it out loud too? Would you be willing to ask (me, this community, others) for prayer support as well?

I truly believe life is done best in relationship.

Today I’m grateful for you – for your love and prayers that have sustained me these last few weeks as I’ve fumbled to find a healthy rhythm. (Still fumbling, but getting closer.)

And I’m grateful that we have a Father who does not forget about us, even when we may forget. Aren’t you?

What is God speaking to you these days?
Share your thoughts in the comments or your URL to a True Vine Challenge blog post in the linky below.

I’m also linking up with Sandy. Stop by her place and say hello. She’s awesome.

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Still Saturday



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Couples Who Pray Together…Have Better Sex

As I drained the pasta in the brown colander, Peter ceased from our familiar routine and stood behind me. For just a moment he wrapped me in his arms, leaned over my shoulder and nuzzled into my neck. When he kissed my cheek ever so gently, his breath warmed my heart as well as my face.

“Mmmmm. That’s nice,” I said as he pulled away and returned to the task at hand.

“Do you know what I heard today on SpiritFM?” he asked.

“No. What?” I responded as I took clean glasses from the top shelf of the dishwasher and transferred them to the top shelf of the cabinet.

“Couples who pray together have better sex.”

**For “the rest of the story,” check out my post at The High Calling today.

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