Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Best Way to Have Your Prayers Answered

Before the fall of Adam and Eve, man was given authority over God's creation. When Adam and Eve chose to sin, they forfeited their right to this authority and in a sense handed their authority over to the devil. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins and overcame death through the Resurrection, that authority was given back to us. Not only do we once again have authority over God's creation but we can bring God's Kingdom to the earth and earthly situations (Matthew 28:18). 

Often times however, we do not realize or act as though we have authority. We do not act as though we are sons, daughters and heirs of the King. 

I still have a ways to go in this area but I believe the key to seeing our prayers answered is to first realize the goodness of God; realizing that he is a good and loving Father who wants the best for his children. We also walk in the knowledge of who we are in Him. We do not need to beg God to act. We do not need to beg him because he never holds back or with holds from his children. He is not going to decide to act only after we have prayed for the 100th time. His love and mercy is overflowing and abundant!

The purpose of intercessory prayer isn't to manipulate God into acting but instead is an opportunity for us to come into his presence and exercise our authority as sons and daughters of the King. We have the opportunity to partner with God.

So, if you look at intercession this way, A lot of it is spiritual warfare. Through intercession, we are reminding the devil who our dad is. Through intercession, we are claiming the Kingdom in the here and now and what is rightfully ours.

In Daniel 10 we see how an angel of the Lord was on his way to assist Daniel as soon as he started praying but was detained for 21 days by the prince of Persia who was a demon over that region. 

We also see from Daniel 10 that the angel was released immediately to help Daniel because Daniel "set his mind to gain understanding and to humble himself before God."

James 4:3 says we do not see an answer to our prayers because we ask wrongly, to spend it on our passions.

So it seems to me, the way to see our prayers answered is to 1. humble ourselves and become like little children. 2. seek understanding to the true nature of God, realizing that he is always good and never holds back. Even if things don't go the way we thought they should, we can rest in the knowledge that He is good! 3. pray unselfishly and with the best interest of others in mind.

The reason we persevere in prayer and why the answer to our prayer is sometimes delayed is because we live in a fallen world and the devil prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour- 1 Peter 5:8. We are in a battle!

Having an understanding that we are at war should change the way we pray. Every time we come into God's presence and interceed, we stand in the gap,  push back the darkness, usher in the light and increase in faith! The Good News is we have already won and all we need to do is operate in that authority!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Leaving the World Behind! Who's With Me?

One of the most stressful things for me is making decisions, especially expensive decisions! When we were preparing our Florida house to sell, it was recommended to us that we first do some major renovations. That was very stressful for me and probably the reason I put up with the ugly green laminate counter tops for so long. I found it very stressful to pick out the right counter tops and back splash to match! After all, what if we spent all that money and it didn't even look good! 

When we moved to Indiana, we didn't bring our mattress or family room furniture with us. That meant we had to purchase those items when we got here. Tom and I slept on air mattresses for about a week before we got around to shopping for a new mattress. By that time, we were feeling desperate as our backs were crying out for relief! We ended up purchasing a mattress at the first place we looked. Needless to say I had buyers remorse especially as we kept getting ads for mattress sales. I felt we paid too much and probably could have gotten a better deal. One of the times I was stressing over it, I brought it to prayer and heard the Lord say, "Leave the world behind!"

I am thinking of that word especially now during this election season. I think people's emotions and anxiety levels are running high!  The choice of presidential candidates is daunting. Many of us don't know what to do or who to vote for. I think this is a great time for us to leave the world behind! What exactly does that mean though? It doesn't mean that we become apathetic or complacent! Our conscience may or may not allow us to vote for a certain candidate, but then we leave our decision at the feet of Jesus, acknowledging that he is ultimately in control! Whatever happens in this world, he is in control! Leaving the world behind means we keep Christ as our center and we keep our eyes on him! Jesus should be our hope, our peace, our strength, our joy, our all in all! If we are truly free, integrated with Christ as our center, the storms of this world can swirl around us and we will be unmoved and unwavering!

The main rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity is also very fitting during this time!
The Rule of the brothers and sisters is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. We should be troubled about nothing except this all-encompassing rule. All that matters is that one be created anew. - Galatians 6:14-15 (from the Rule, Constitution and Directory of the brothers and sisters of Charity)



Saturday, September 24, 2016

Time to Shear the Sheep!

Last week in prayer, I heard the Lord say, "It is time to shear the sheep." 

Now, we know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and as I pondered what that word might mean, I thought about the abundance of grace, love and blessing God's people have experienced! Many of us have stored up these graces as the Lord has been teaching us to rest in Him and grow in our relationship with him. That is a good thing! I believe however, it is now time to share what we have been given! 

At first this might feel uncomfortable as we are called out of our comfort zones and placed in situations requiring us to share our faith and resources. We may also feel confused as to what is going on as well as vulnerable and exposed. As we surrender to the process however, willing to be vulnerable, trusting God and allowing ourselves to be led by the Lord, others will be blessed and experience God's loving presence and warmth through us.

Friday, September 2, 2016

New Beginnings!

The kids and I have been in Indiana for three weeks now so it is probably time to update everyone. The last three months have been an amazing whirlwind! I got the most important boxes unpacked and then I crashed! I am finally starting to feel like myself again as the fatigue is starting to lift. We also finally got internet after almost two weeks, I ordered schoolbooks for the kids and we plan to start homeschooling after Labor day.

Now to share about the process, amazing whirlwind and how we ended up in Indiana. When we tell people here in Indiana that we moved from Florida, their first response is, "Why?!" In all honesty, we loved Central Florida, our church community and all our close friendships we made there! What we didn't like was the commute and the job that Tom had. We were thankful that it payed the bills (he was getting paid over 100K a year) but it was sucking the life out of him! There were many days it would take him over 2 hours to get home in the evening and the kids would often be in bed by the time he got home. Once he did get home, he was usually frazzled from a stressful day at work and a stressful commute. It often grieved me to see him having to be at a job he hated and one that didn't really allow him to use his gifts and talents.  He was under the mindset however that he needed to stick it out in order to provide for his family. He felt the weight and burden on his shoulders to be the sole provider. This unnecessary burden and weight also left him feeling depressed and stuck. The desire of his heart was to have a job in ministry again but he also knew it probably would not pay nearly what he was getting paid as an insurance claims manager.

I on the other hand was starting to feel stuck in our house and in Florida. Even though I liked Florida, I never felt like it was supposed to be a permanent residence. I also liked our spacious house but for some reason, never felt like it was home. One day the Lord spoke through some bees on my neighbor's property. There was a huge congregation of bees in one of their trees. They called a beekeeper who told them to leave the bees alone for three days. If the bees didn't like their new home, they would move on and find a home elsewhere. The Lord has often used the analogy of bees and honey with me so what I heard the Holy Spirit saying to me was, "If bees don't like their home, they can't make honey!" That was my first clue that he would be moving us on.

Even though I felt like God was going to be moving us on, I still felt stuck because there was some quirks about our house and I thought we would never get out from under it. First of all, like many, we bought at the height of the market before the housing market crashed. Secondly, after six years of being in the house, we decided it was time to have our septic pumped out. We called a septic company to come out. When they got to the house and poked around the yard, they couldn't find our septic. We had to call a plumber who put a camera down the pipes and determined that our septic was under our pool deck, about 4 feet from the pool, without any access!

Despite the obstacles, Tom and I began to press in for God's will, knowing something needed to change! There were several ways we began to prepare and press in. Practically, over several years, we began paying off all our debt, except for our mortgage, knowing that a ministry job would probably pay significantly less. Spiritually we began making more of a concentrated effort to pray together and commit to daily prayer. As we did this, we began to see a change. Old mindsets and ways of thinking that didn't line up with the truth were being challenged and healed in us. 

One of the first strongholds or wrong mindsets the Lord dealt with was Tom's thinking that he was the one that needed to provide for us. God spoke the truth to him that he is not the one that has to provide and he even heard the Lord say, "Where has that gotten you?!". In all honesty, even though Tom was making good money, we were still always living paycheck to paycheck. Once God spoke this truth to Tom, a huge burden was released from his shoulders! He felt so much lighter and free!

Another way we began to prepare and step out was to apply for many different ministry jobs all over the country. There were several jobs that came up that were exciting and he even made it to through the interview process. Not only did he have one, long distance interview, but all expense paid, fly-up interviews. Needless to say it was very disappointing when those jobs didn't pan out and someone else was chosen. The Lord kept assuring me however that he had something that was the perfect fit for Tom. 

Finally after about five months of seriously looking, a position for a Director of Adult Faith Formation at a church in Carmel, Indiana came up. We both got excited but didn't want to get our hopes up. He had a Skype interview and then was asked to come up for an in person interview. I decided to fly up with him because learning from the mistakes of our past, we needed to make sure this was also a church community we would like to belong to and a place we would like to live. 

The weekend we went up for the interview happened to be very blessed! God's grace seemed to be in every little detail! Not only that but we loved the parish! We could tell they were orthodox and well balanced. There was a also a real sense and appreciation for the sacred! 

That next week, the waiting was hard as we waited to hear something. By the end of the week however, we received a call from the pastor offering the job to Tom! We were ecstatic! One major obstacle overcome!!! Now to think about the house!

The first miracle we saw happen had to do with the floor. When we bought the house, 8 years ago, it had wood looking vinyl planks in most of the house. There was a spot about 6 inches in diameter, in the living room, under the computer chair that had been worn down to the threads! I called around to several places to see if just that area could be fixed and replaced. They all told me the same thing. The vinyl planks were older and no longer made like that so unless we had some spare planks, it couldn't be fixed. I knew we didn't have any spare planks because there had been two but I let my kids act out a Passion play with them during Holy week two years in a row. They finally broke and I threw them away. At first Tom and I were pretty discouraged because we didn't want to have to replace the flooring in most of the house. I decided to take it to prayer. I prayed specifically for 3 planks as I knew that was what we needed to fix the floor. I then went looking in the pantry and amazingly I found exactly 3 planks right away! They were not there before!!!

Soon after that, we met with a realtor. She suggested we do some renovations. She said if we did, we would sell it faster and we could ask about 15K more. Selling it faster is what got our attention! We immediately started the renovations to our kitchen, family room and both bathrooms. We had a new granite counter top and a new back splash installed in the kitchen and both bathrooms and we put down tile in our huge family room. It did make a world of difference and looked so much better! The question arose in our hearts however, "Why didn't we do this sooner?!" I knew we were right to be responsible and pay off debt instead of remodeling in the past but it was still hard to know someone else would be able to enjoy all the updates in the home. Instead of becoming resentful however, I began blessing the would be owners of our home. I began thanking the Lord that he was preparing our house for someone even though I knew we might not find something as nice since our new price range was going to be about 100K less than what we were asking for our house.

After just a week, we received an offer. It was a  full price offer just asking for help with closing costs! We accepted and held our breath as they would also be seeing the home disclosure for the first time that said the septic was next to the pool! They signed the disclosure and didn't retract their offer! We still weren't sure if they knew fully what that meant. When we found out the loan they had would probably require a septic inspection, we went ahead and hired someone to create an access to the septic and inspect it. It was a little nerve wracking to see them cutting a 16 x 16 square in the concrete pool deck! Miraculously, however they happened to cut the access exactly where there was already a hole in the septic lid! Granted, it wasn't good that there was a hole in the 4 foot lid because it made it unstable but it was good that they didn't have to cut out a 4 foot section in order to pump it.

To make a long story short, they pumped the septic and everything looked good and functioned properly. My heart sank however as the inspector told me he could not sign off on the inspection unless the buyers were okay with the septic being only 4 feet from the pool and having an unstable lid (replacing the lid would require a bigger section being cut out of the patio and since it was older, a new lid would need to be custom made). Well, we were upfront with the buyers, even sent them pictures of the hole and everything! This was not something that was disclosed to us when we bought the house but we felt it was important to do the right thing and be upfront with them, knowing if it was God's will for us to move, it would still happen! Amazingly, the buyers were okay with everything! They were just in love with the house and nothing else seemed to matter! God definitely picked the right buyers for our house! Another thing we did was buy a gas fire pit to cover up the hole in the concrete. Turns out the buyers really wanted a fire pit and even spoke to each other about having a fire pit at the next house they would have!

Once we had a solid offer on our house we flew up to Indiana, July 4th weekend to look at houses! Talk about an emotional roller-coaster! We had a really hard time finding something in our price range that was anywhere near the church! Finally on the second day of looking, and last possible house, we felt like we found something that would work for our family. We made an offer and found out it was a foreclosure. Still we felt confident this was the one! After going back to Florida and being on pins and needles all week, we finally found out there were multiple offers on it! We were told we could up our offer. We had no idea what the other offers were so we wanted to take it to prayer and see what the Lord would have us offer. We used the Psalms to do this. We read Psalms that would coincide with a reasonable price to offer on the house. Psalm 142 is what stood out to both Tom and I, particularly verse 5 for Tom and verses 6 and 7 for me which talks about being in a battle but being rescued and let out of prison by the Lord. We decided to offer $142,500 for the house and then we waited! A whole week to be exact, which was torturous! Then after a week, we found out the bank picked another offer. We were disappointed since there were no back ups. We also knew we would have to wait till Tom went up the middle of July and he would have to find a house on his own. 

That day came and as he was driving up, I was bombarding him with houses. He arrived on Saturday and on Sunday I had him going to several open houses. Finally, the next to last house was the one! It was far better and bigger than any of the others we had seen! Tom made an offer and then went to worship with friends we had made in Indiana. Finally he heard from our realtor that they accepted our offer! The cool thing is, which we didn't realize till we moved here, the address is 14267!!!

So, now I am sitting in my new house in Indiana. I really like it!  There wasn't anything the house needed! As we were preparing our house for someone, the Lord was preparing a house for us! I have the windows open because there is a nice breeze. I grew up in the mid-west so it is feeling like home. I look forward to the seasons! At times it seemed like this day would never get here but the Lord is faithful and I look forward to seeing how He is going to use us here!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Most Important Thing: Entering into God's Rest!

Well, lots has happened since my last post! As I stated before, there would probably be more obstacles and there has been! 

We ended up losing the foreclosed house we put an offer on. It turns out there were multiple offers on it and after two weeks of waiting, we finally heard the bank picked another offer. It was disappointing but we also had peace because we did all we could and prayed about what we should offer.We wanted to go higher because we didn't want to lose the house, but we stuck with the number God gave us. 

We knew we had been obedient but it was still hard because there was literally nothing new coming on the market worth seeing, especially in the town closest to the church Tom is going to work at and we are going to be parishioners. Tom also was about to leave and I would be left behind with the kids, packing up the house we were going to have to move out of by August 5th with no place to go.

Tom left for the two day drive on July 15th and as soon as he got there on the 16th, he started looking at houses. Finally, the last house he saw on the 17th was the one! It was by far nicer and bigger than anything else we had seen! He sent a text to our realtor and then went to worship with some friends. 

Ironically, the Gospel reading for that Sunday was about Martha and Mary. Mary knew how to sit at the feet of Jesus and worship whereas Martha was anxious about many things. I have come a long way in this area over the years, but in this situation, I was definitely feeling more like Martha and knew Tom was being like Mary. That didn't make it any easier though! I knew it was a hot market and if we didn't stay on top of things, we could lose the house. Finally the realtor got back with him and Tom was able to make an offer. Around 3pm the next day, we found out there was another offer on the house and it was a cash offer. My heart sank! I began praying hard!!! I thought we probably wouldn't hear anything till the next day but just an hour later the seller countered. We originally offered $3k less than the asking price and $4k in closing costs. The seller came back with the same price we offered but only $2k less in closing costs. Yes!!!! I couldn't believe we were going to get the house without even going up to the asking price, with another offer on the table!

Anyway, it is a beautiful house! It doesn't need a thing! It has all new flooring and new paint throughout. They say hind sight is always clearer and that is definitely true in this situation. The first house we put an offer on needed all new floors and an updated kitchen. Tom and I both had a few red flags about that but we ignored them. The reason we had red flags was because as we were getting our house ready to sell, we really felt God was preparing a place for someone through us and he was preparing a place for us up there. With the house we are getting, God is truly in the details. For starters, the whole house is blue! I love the color blue, especially the blue that is in the house. I have always wanted to have blue walls but it never happened. Blue also speaks to me of Mother Mary. I think she might have had a hand in things as well as St. Joseph. St. Joseph is often depicted in pictures holding lilies.There are beautiful lilies in the front of the house! They were definitely interceding for us!

After we lost the first house, people told us it wasn't meant to be then and God would have something else. I think in this case that is true because we prayed hard and had other people praying hard that we would get that house and we still didn't get it. I don't think it is always the case however. I think often we have a tendency to be fatalistic about things but I don't think everything that happens or doesn't happen is necessarily God's will. God can work all things out for good (Romans 8:28) but I don't think everything that happens, happens for a reason.

The devil prowls about the world seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He would love to rob us of our inheritance if we let him. We need to stay awake and be proactive in our faith! It may seem like an oxymoron but we are also called to rest. When we proactively lean back and rest in the Lord and seek his will, he goes before us and he fights for us!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Parting of the Red Sea

I might be premature in writing this blog post as I know there are going to be more miracles to tell and probably more obstacles to overcome but I know things are just going to get busier and I can't wait to share about God's goodness and faithfulness! 

This 4th of July weekend we are in Indianapolis looking for a house. It has not been easy! We are trying to stay under budget because we want to be able to do fun things and not just pay a mortgage. That seems to be the trend now days too as some people are buying tiny houses because they no longer want to be slaves to their stuff and paying out the wazoo for a mortgage.

Anyway, like I said, it has not been easy!!! We thought we were either going to have to settle for a 3 bedroom, 1200 sq. ft. house or a severe fixer upper! We also thought we would have to be 20 to 30 minutes from the church where Tom is going to work. Finally, on the third day (like the Resurrection), we found something decent that happens to also be a foreclosure (which is making it more affordable) and only 10 minutes from the church! It is probably a good thing that it is the last house we saw because if I had seen it first, I may have not been open to. It is really close to the neighbors! We arrived however before our realtor and one of the neighbors happened to be out. She was a young mom with a couple kids. She was really nice and I could see myself being friends with her and our kids being friends as well! I was really hoping I would like the house! We walked in and it didn't smell, so that was a good thing! It also had high ceilings which made it feel bigger even though it was only 1800 sq. ft. It also has 4 bedrooms and an upstairs loft!  The back yard is nice and fenced in and beyond the yard a walking trail that leads to a big community playground! The kids are going to love it! The only thing it needs is new flooring because it currently has green carpet throughout the house.

It will still be an adjustment I'm sure! When we get back to Florida, we will probably have to have a big garage sale to sell a lot of our stuff as we will be going from a 2600 sq. ft. house to an 1800 sq. ft. house but I am excited about it and didn't feel like I had to settle too much.

On the selling end, things are going well too. On Friday, while we were away looking at houses, the inspection was taking place on our house. All 6 of our kids and our dog were in the house. They wanted to at least walk to the ice-cream shop down the road while the inspector and buyers were in the house but it ended up raining. It worked out though and my older daughters said the buyers were really nice, seemed pretty laid back and really like and want our house! It also turns out that they are Christian and even prayed with my kids before they left! It makes me think about how while fixing up and renovating it, I imagined Jesus preparing the house for somebody. He definitely was and I look forward to sharing that with them!

Anyway, things are happening quickly and smoothly. We can't believe it has only been 6 weeks since Tom was offered the job! There have been some things that we thought were going to be big obstacles but they are turning out to be non-issues. He is definitely parting the red sea and we are seeing miracles! I'll have to share more in detail about them later, when everything is complete and we are moved into our new house.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Becoming Poor to Serve the Rich

Yep, that's pretty much what we are doing but I'm okay with that! You see, for the last couple years, it has seemed as if the grace was lifting for us to stay in Central Florida and my husband to stay at his job. Life has been difficult and like we were trying to row upstream. That was my first clue that maybe God was moving us on. We have been pressing in and seeking God's will for our lives. We knew there had to be more than the hamster wheel that we were on. Finally after much heartache and disappointment, a job came along that seems to be the perfect fit for Tom. He will be the new Director of Adult Faith Formation at a parish in Carmel, Indiana. They also like that we have a vision of doing ministry together.

In the natural, nothing seems logical about this move! It is a big leap of faith. Even though it pays better than most ministry jobs we have come across, it will still be a pretty big pay cut for us. The cost of living in that area is pretty high too. So far we haven't seen any houses within 10 miles of the church in our new price range. 

We are choosing to trust and believe that God is preparing a place for us. I also think the right attitude to have is that we will be like missionaries. Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta said that there is a greater poverty among the rich. Spiritual poverty is in some ways worse than material poverty.

I must confess that I had the right attitude until our realtor recommended some major remodeling and upgrades on our current home. She said we would sell it faster and receive a bigger return if we upgraded. This is something I have been wanting to do since we moved into the house seven years ago, especially the kitchen. 

At first I was pretty emotional as we started remodeling. I was jealous that someone else was going to be able to enjoy our beautiful upgraded home while we weren't even sure if we would be able to find something decent up there. 

I began to realize that I had a selfish attitude. I began to change the way I was praying. Instead of just praying that our house would sell fast, I began thanking the Lord that he was preparing our house for someone. I began praying that they would be blessed and for their benefit, find it quickly. I also began putting myself in Jesus' shoes as I have been painting and fixing up the house. I have been imagining Jesus as a carpenter, aware of who is going to be receiving the works of his hands and paying close attention to detail and what he knows the people will like. Also, not cutting corners or sparing expense. 

You see, Jesus holds nothing back from us! He gives all of himself! He gave his very life and continues to give himself to us in the Eucharist! We are called to be like Jesus and not hold back as well! 

He has an extravagant love for us and desires to lavish us with his grace and mercy! He has good gifts for his children! I believe he is preparing our house for someone and he is in the process of preparing a house for us!

I am convinced more and more that the troubles we experience in this life are stemmed from us not being able to fully surrender and entrust ourselves to God. With the fall of Adam and Eve, we lost our ability to lean back and rest in the arms of the Father. In Genesis 3 it says the woman's pains in childbirth will be greatly increased. People often see this as God punishing the woman. If we look at God's heart in the matter however, I think he wept and just merely stated the consequences of what was going to happen. 

If you are a woman and have had a natural birth, you know that the pain is worse when you tense up and try to resist. When you can let go and surrender to the process, it is less painful and happens more quickly. 

That is the same in life. No matter what our circumstances, if we can lean back, rest and surrender to God's plans, we will have a lot more peace and things will go much smoother.

For too many years, I think Tom and I have been walking against the wind in a desert. The sand has been blowing in our faces, making it impossible to see. It can feel scary to not be in control but I look forward to the wind of his Spirit carrying us where he wants us to go and what he wants us to do instead of us resisting. There is a freedom and lightness in that! I look forward to this new adventure and season in life!