Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hostess with the Mostess--or not

December was crazy this year.  I'm  not going to lie.  I hosted a boutique at my home on December 2nd, so that consumed much of the beginning of December.  In mid-December, we were planning a large scale ministry, Christmas celebration for about 250 people.  Last Thursday we decorated, organized and planned to throw a Christmas dinner for 70 people on a ministry's leadership team. 

What great opportunities to be thankful, to serve others and to demonstrate the love of Christ!  That was my goal, but, sadly, I failed miserably at times.

I'm not going to lie and pretend I did all that without sinning.  I had moments of complaining and stress.  In fact, even if we get through an event we are hosting with grace and joy, we have to look at our attitude when we had to run to an overpopulated Costco to pick up food for the event or how we felt when we finish the night and have hours of dishes and clean up to do.  Are we filled with joy, sacrificial love and thanksgiving then?

I was reading 1 Peter 4:9 this morning.  It says it pretty clearly:  "Show hospitality to one another without grumbling."  Wow.  There isn't any room for excuses there.  Thanks, God, for putting that mirror before my, at times, grumbly heart.

If you are in Christ, sisters, I urge you to align your thinking to God's like I am having to do.  It is SO easy to get overwhelmed and stressed, but remember that every imperfect detail is allowed by God to grow us, prune us and test us--even the failed centerpieces, missing guests and parking lot mishaps.  He doesn't want us to have the perfect, Martha Stewart Christmas party.  He wants us to grow into the likeness of Christ Jesus, the Savior we are celebrating.

This was just in time for those of you hosting Christmas Eve or Christmas.  When the turkey burns, someone spills on the couch, guests don't show, or you realize you forgot to buy the butter, just stop and pray.  Thank God for the growing lesson and extend grace and patience because we have been shown much more grace and patience than we are ever asked to give.

Merry Christmas, my fellow hostesses!  Our Savior is born!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Violent Crime: More than Conquerers

Genesis 50:20   As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

My closest friends and family know that I was a victim of violent crime in college.  I will share the details of the story some day, as God has been putting it ever more on my heart to have Him redeem my experience and story to minister to others. 

Briefly for now, one morning in June, a man I had known well for two years in the dorm (and a friend of my boyfriend at the time) knocked on the door of my dorm room, asking to borrow my phone (this was before cell phones) and use my bathroom.  He said his roommates were hogging the phone and bathroom, which he had to use before he ran to class.  He lived two rooms down from me.  As I said, I had known this person well for two years, so I let him in without a second thought.  My roommates had just left for class, so I was alone, but he would surely be on his way in a couple of minutes and I could finish getting ready for class and work that day.

Indeed, a couple of minutes later, he did emerge from our bathroom, but with duct tape and a hunting knife that he had brought in his backpack. He attacked me, tried suffocating me, and put the knife to my throat, attempting to rape me.  Again, I will get into the story another time, but, in this case, God intervened and stopped evil, and I truly witnessed unchecked evil on this man's face during the attack.  However, God gave me grace.  I wasn't raped.  I didn't die.  My attacker was put in prison.  I had small knife cuts and some physical bruises and lacerations from the attack, but the greatest injuries were to my sense of trust and "innocence."  At that time, I thought people are basically good and trustworthy, right?  I was so confused.  How could this happen?  This confusion was the beginning of God calling me to truly understand the right gospel.

Because of my experience, when there is a violent crime in the news, like in Conneticut, I am saddened deeply.  I mourn the evil that exists.  I weep.  My heart breaks for the teachers, students and families.  I am not surprised by the evil though.  In understanding scripture and the gospel, I know man is ultimately evil, and we shouldn't be shocked when evil makes a horrific appearance. People respond quickly to say that we need to show love and prove that people are more good than evil.  We do need to show love and compassion--this is good.  Man is not good, though.  Satan would love to promote this lie that we are more good than evil, but we need to look away from ourselves for hope.  The promise of salvation, rescue and hope is not going to be found in us.

Genesis 6:5  The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Mark 7:21  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts

Jeremiah 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Where is the hope then?  What discouragement if the story ends there, but it doesn't.

God created us, but we chose to disobey our Holy, righteous Creator.  We ALL foolishly chose the yoke of slavery under sin.  We ruined our relationship with our Maker, because a holy, perfect God cannot have fellowship with evil, sinful people who despise His commands and choose to glorify themselves.

Romans 3:23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

In fact, because God is holy, He must be just and give us consequences for sin--separation from Him and an eternity in Hell.  Though, in our human minds, this sounds harsh, imagine how angry we would be if the attacker in Conneticut had lived and the jury and judge who were presiding over his trial excused him with compassion?  We ultimately understand justice is good.  We just don't want it for ourselves.

One of the first realizations I made when I truly understood the gospel was that my own attacker and myself were both guilty before a holy God.  Though I had never attacked anyone with a knife or tried to rape someone, I had "murdered" by hating, I had injured through gossip and slander, and I had despised the Holy Creator who made me by choosing to obey my own desires over His commands.

God is loving, though, and He told us early on that He would conquer evil and sin.  He would give us hope and freedom from our sin.  He had a plan--a good plan.

Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Christ was promised even in the third chapter of the Bible.  A Savior would have to suffer for our sin, but He would ultimately give the fatal wound to Satan, ultimately overthrowing sin and evil.  He would conquer them for us and bring us hope.

Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

While God patiently waits for as many as possible to come to repentance over their sin and trust in the gift of Christ's righteous life and substitutionary death to reconcile us to God, He restrains evil all the time.  It is amazing in the fact that God loves us enough to give us all consciences and moral compasses that check the sin that plagues us. 

He restrained evil from killing me in June 1994.  I saw and experienced it.  Because of that attack, I lost my trust in man and misunderstanding that man is basically good, but I gained an unconquerable, steadfast trust in God for my salvation, for sovereignty over each day He has ordained for my life.

So when evil does emerge violently and glaringly, I am not surprised.  It drives me to thankfulness that God restrains evil often and, when He allows evil to temporarily happen, He does so for a purpose only He, as God, can understand.  Perhaps He will use this to bring people to eternal salvation.  We don't know His plan.  I do know that evil cannot and will not triumph.  He has conquered it.  He will judge those who practice it who are not found in Christ.

Such instances of evil, such as the attack on me or the shooting in Connecticut, drive me to the foot of the cross--clinging in absolute amazement that God could look upon such a wicked people (all of us) and, while we were still His enemies, love us enough to die for our sin so we could be free from that sin and evil and reestablish a loving relationship with Him. 

Romans 5:8  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Though the shootings in Connecticut were all the more awful for happening at Christmas, a time of joy and family celebrations; yet what comfort in the fact there was a fulfilled promise and hope at Christmas--a baby lying in a manger, denying His glory and power in order to be born in humble, human form so that He, truly innocent and perfect, could face that pure evil, pay for all of it on the cross and conquer it--crushing its head, as God, in Genesis, fortold.

Evil is horrific, but it has a determined ending that is quickly approaching.  When I am overwhelmed with sadness and grief at evil, I remember that my God is greater than any circumstance and, because He is loving, He restrains evil every day.  Ultimately, the hope we crave is not found in sinful men or good works, but in Christ Jesus.  He has made us conquerers with Him if we truly repent of our sin and trust in what He has done for us in His life and His death on the cross.  Then, if we truly trust this, whatever we face in His sovereign plan will not shake us.  We are conquerers with Him.

Romans 8:35-37  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Boutique

The Christmas boutique I hosted last Sunday was a fun success.  My favorite part of the day was just seeing all the friends coming over and getting to chat with people I don't see all the time.  I won't bore you with too many words--the pictures tell it all. 

I only got pictures right before the boutique since I was busy during, but it was packed and busy.  I didn't get pictures of my friend Tracy's beautiful wrap leather bracelets that she was selling.  They are beautiful!  I wish I could go back in time and take a picture.  Here are some other pictures from the event. . .

It was at my house. 

Here is my little table area.  I sold banners and canvas art.

Next, my friend Beth of Sew Blue Boutique.  She sells fabric flowers, clips, applique t-shirts and name signs on wood.

Her cute wood signs.  I bought a JOY sign.

Her flower necklaces, clips and t-shirts.

There were beverages and food--OF COURSE!

My friend, Lillian of Lil Desserts, made pinnk velvet maccaroons and

chocolate peppermint cake balls. . .

My friend Lisa sells Premier Jewelry.  She came to sell items too!

Denise made homemade prayer journals in beautiful patterns.  I got one to make a journal for my son and I to write back and forth to each other.

Sarah, of I.B. Spoiled, makes hair clips and headbands for little girls.  She had SO many beautiful products.

Cami, of MillaTuelle, sewed beautiful bags and coin purses, crafted tie necklaces and made homemade canvas art. . . Amazing!

My friend, Meredith of Simple Purity, brought her homemade lotions and skincare.  She also sews and made BEAUTIFUL table runners.  I got one in black and white chevron.  Love!

The event was busy and blessed.  I can't wait for the next one.  Thank you to all who stopped by and to all the amazing, creative ladies who sold items.
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