Sunday, January 20, 2019

Overwhelmed By Him

The little church that I attend now is quiet and very non-demonstrative compared to my past church life experiences. Actually, most churches could be considered non-demonstrative in comparison. I see deep value in both styles and I am slowly falling in love with my new church family. (The "slowness" is all on me. They have welcomed me with open arms. I have just been reluctant to walk completely into those arms.) I am thankful for their patience with me, and have been on both sides of this kind of relationship.

I do not attend every Sunday. I am one of THOSE. Again, it feels weird to be that kind of person. The one who shows up sporadically to random services and church events. I never used to understand "those" people and now I am one.

But today I went to church. I got myself dressed up in nicer clothes than my work t-shirts and jeans, drove around the block from my house and walked through those church doors. I looked into the eyes of the people walking towards me and was embraced by a friend that I work with at the preschool.

I muted my phone and took a seat near some ladies from the book club that I attend once a month.  The pastor came and chatted with me for a minute about the school and some changes that are coming up in the next year. Another friend came and teased me about a mutual situation we are in.

I sat down again feeling known, accepted and loved. With a deep breath I thanked God for loving me enough to push me into relationships that scare me.

And one of the first songs led by the "blueGrace Band" was the song at the top of this blog post. All about the overwhelming love of God...

"Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn't earn it, I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God."
Songwriters: Caleb Culver / Cory Asbury / Ran Jackson , Reckless Love lyrics © Bethel Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

I closed my eyes, lifted my hands and basked in His love. Tears came and I did not want the song to end. I smile now as I realize that this revealed another difference from my past church life. This song would have been sung at least 5 or 7 more times in row! Haha! We did believe in getting everything out of a song or message that we could! :)

Some people get upset at the use of the word "reckless" in this song. (Sheesh!) I love it, but the word that always sparks my heart is the word "overwhelming".

That is not a safe and secure word. That is a word that means out-of-control, not normal, unexpected, huge! To be overwhelmed is not all comfy and sweet. It is not carefully contained or bordered. It's a "swept off my feet" kind of word, isn't it?

The overwhelmed word makes me think of standing in the ocean when an unexpected wave hits you and at the same time the wet sand beneath your feet gives way and you find yourself floating and tumbling in the water. I've known this experience and it isn't all fun and games until you manage to right yourself again and then you laugh. But being overwhelmed by a crashing wave is an amazing and exhilarating sensation!

If you let it, His love can be like that. God's love for you is not gentle, meek or mild. It is powerful and can feel relentless. He loves you with all of His being. How big is that? He loves you with all of the power of creation. How much is that?

The love of God can tumble you upside down and around until you are laughing and gasping for air. He will set you back on your feet and then blindside you again with His love from a whole different direction when you are not looking.

If I have any advice to give; it will be the same thing I am talking to myself about. Let Him love you. Say "Yes!" to His big love. Stop protecting yourself from His reckless love. Walk wholeheartedly into those arms. Go ahead and allow the embrace. Tumbles may happen, but you will come up laughing.

Overwhelmed by Him,

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Always Comes Back To Love

Blurry but happy!
My home is quiet right now. My adorable (and sassy) daughter-in-law makes a point of having the two kids and herself out of the house on the days that I work at the preschool. She knows that I need some silent, down time after a day full of 15 busy and noisy 4 year olds.

She loves me and goes out of her way to try and make my life easier. Even in the middle of our crazy co-living situation that can be a challenge for all of us at times. This is one of the things she does because she loves me.

When I empty the dishwasher I always place my husband's favorite coffee mug toward the front of the cupboard door that I know he opens first. He does not know that I do this silly little gesture every day. But I do it because I love him and want to do all I can to make his life easier, even in such a tiny unnoticeable way.

When we know that we are loved, it changes us inside doesn't it? I know that it makes me want to live up to that love. I stand taller, feel calmer and like myself better when I am in the company of people who love me.

When I talk and write about how much God loves each one of us, it is not a small message. Most of us have heard the message of God's love for much of our lives. If you did not hear it from your family or friends, you had glimpses of the love message on TV, in books, magazines and online.

Knowing that I am loved by God has saved my sanity. I am an anxious person. A worrier and over-thinker. Is it possible to be an optimistic pessimist? I am both. Each time I leave the house I practically hold my breath until I am back home. I am also a very happy and cheerful woman.

But / And I am loved by God. He knows me. He knows that every time I drive away from my house alone to go to the store, I spend the first 5 minutes telling myself that I can still turn back and go home for the day instead.

He knows that I hide in the ladies room at church sometimes. I believe that He smiles when I take a deep breath and greet the ladies coming toward me as I leave the restroom.

I am known and loved by God. I know that He loves me because of the small and large things He has done to show me. I know that He gave me my wonderful husband. I know that my job is a gift from God. I know that He loves me when I am on my living room floor playing with my grand kids.

Being loved by God helps me breath. Knowing I am loved keeps me from hiding in my home. Knowing that I am loved makes me stand taller, feel calmer and like myself better.

When I question His ways...I remind myself of His love. When I am confused or angry...I remind myself of His love. When He does not do what I think He should do...I remind myself of His love. It ALWAYS comes back to His love.

We are all loved. God loves you, me and the annoying neighbor. He knows you...and He loves you...still.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Find A Book Club!

I just got home from my book club. Do you belong to one? I am part of an online book club and a wonderful real life book club started by the women of the Methodist church where I work and attend. 

But the women in my book club are not what you might expect from a church based club. If mentioning that it is "church based" causes you to picture a bunch of quiet, dowdy, mild mannered ladies, you would be wrong. Nopety nope! 

They are almost as crazy and sassy as the women in the Movie "Book Club" pictured at the top of this blog post. As a matter of fact, we all watched that movie together at someone's home a few weeks ago and it was hilarious! The movie is about a group of friends in a book club who decided to read and discuss the book "Fifty Shades of Grey", you can imagine where it went from there. 

We did decide not to add that book series to our list. 

Here is what is very cool about belonging to a book club. You get to experience the book more than once. Book reading is a solitary activity. But sometimes a book will touch you in a way that makes you long to talk about it. This is where the dilemma arises. 

Have you ever had a friend go into detail about a book they are reading that you have not read? It can be tedious to listen and act interested, right? A spouse will often have entirely different taste in reading and you can see the glaze over their eyes as you describe your latest delightful story. 

A book club allows you to enjoy the book again as you get together and talk it over. Why did this character do that? What worldview motivated the main character? What did you feel when so and so did such and such? How did this story resonate with you? 

As I am reading a book for the club, it affects my attention to detail. Today some of the books came into the cozy living room with little tabs marking certain sections to discuss. I love that! I've written myself reminders of favorite parts or questions that I had. 

Today we numbered 12 and it was a discussion full of laughter, sober thoughts and deep questions about life, relationships and trust. We read "Educated" by Tara Westover, an intense and gripping true story that I will not ruin for you here. Look it up. Amazing. 

I was hesitant to join this club because I do love to read, but did not like the idea of being told what to read. What if they wanted to read something I know I won't like? Last month we read a book I would not have normally read and I enjoyed it. Did not love it, but did not hate it either. It is good to get bumped out of our comfort zone once in a while. If you do not like a book, that just adds more flavor to the discussion. So it's a win-win.

I guess I should not have worried about the good taste of this particular book club. After all, I met them when they invited me to join them after reading MY book! 


Monday, September 3, 2018

The Fork In My Road

Have you ever looked back at your life and suddenly noticed a subtle fork in the road that you didn't even recognize at the time? A small part of me has been wondering what it might have looked like if I has chosen a different prong of the "fork". 

Tomorrow is another First Day of School for many of us. My preschool classroom is all set up for a new group of 4 year olds to arrive. My teaching partner and I are so ready! The texts have been pinging back and forth all summer and we are anxious to see if all of our fun ideas will work with this new crew. 

Tomorrow morning will be my third year back to teaching preschool since leaving it to raise my kids and join my husband in 30 years of full-time ministry life. 

I kept my hand in early education by working as a substitute teacher for three preschools in our city for a few years. But babysitting plans became too complicated and stressful, so I sadly took my name off the sub lists. 

Working with little ones has always been important to me, even in ministry life. Children's church, midweek Kids Clubs and teaching Sunday School began long before I was married and continued far into our ministry.  

And now here I am, back in a colorful classroom and wishing I had never left. My mind wonders what it could have looked like if I had stuck with it. 

There were other reasons for leaving. I suffered from severe headaches in those days and we all know that head pain and little kids are not a great combination. But still I wonder.

Could I have taught preschool while my boys were in school? Instead of being the pastor's wife who obsessed over Women's Ministry Committees, Bible Studies and making sure the Nursery Helpers were arriving on time? 

There was an optional prong to the fork that I did not even consider at the time. Could I have been the pastoral wife with another job? It actually sounds pretty nice from this end of the fork. 

I loved working with college age students for the last 10 years of our ministry and I would not trade that for anything. But even those years could have been shared with a preschool job a few days a week. 

Maybe all of these wonderings about this prong or that prong are simply a sign that the current prong is just right for right now. 

I love this preschool job so much! I am finding a great deal of fulfillment, challenge and just the right amount of tension to keep life very interesting! I get to be creative and silly and my co-workers and Director have become great and true friends. 

We are The Owl Class!

I was a caterpillar who became a butterfly and now I am an owl. Owls are known for their wisdom that comes with age, so there you go. I'm wise enough to know that looking back with regret is a lose-lose situation, so I will not do that. 

If you are a young mom who feels stuck or you find yourself wondering if putting your career aside was a mistake, I want to tell you that the fork you are balancing on right now is not permanent. 

Surprises are ahead of you. Even if you are a crazy detailed planner like me. I had no clue I would ever come back to early education as a job. For years I moved an extremely awkward file box of preschool supplies, songs and crafts from one home to the next, never wanting to let go of all that work. Finally I put it in the garbage tote one night while doing an extreme purge-cleaning. I thought that part of my life experience was over.

Surprise! Now my laptop is overflowing with all the info I need, no problem. :) 

I would not change the path I chose. The fork in my road took me to some wonderful places and I met amazing people who still mean a great deal to me. Of all the cutlery in the world, I love mine and I have no regrets. 

aka Ms Susie

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Where I Talk About My Book and The Three Amigos Movie

Most of my writerly friends have gone on to publish many books, so I sometimes feel a little left behind with my one and only little creation. 

I worry that my family and friends will get tired of seeing this same orange book cover showing up repeatedly in their newsfeeds on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

But I might be a "one and done" writer. I just don't know right now. I put my whole heart into this one message and I am very proud of the book that carries such a huge and powerful piece of good news. 

The news that God loves me is still a big deal to me. It is a simple message. It is also a very complicated truth. 

When I hear that God loves me, (tell me if you do this) my mind immediately goes to my most negative traits and habits and the argument begins. 

How could the Creator of the Universe even KNOW me, much less LOVE me? And if He really KNOWS all my stuff, then why in the world would He love me? 

Is He in denial? Does He have a blind spot? Maybe He is a "glass half full" kind of being and only sees what He wants to see in me. 

But that would not be an honest view, would it? That would mean that God is pretending to know me and therefore pretending to love me. 

I don't want pretend love. And He is not a pretender. I believe that God knows all the little hidden bits about me and He loves me still. He is not loving the potential me, the possible me, the future got-it-all-together me. 

God loves the today me.

The good news that God loves me and God loves you is complicated, isn't it? It is also very simple. 

He loves you. Period. Full stop. 

It took a long time for me to believe this good news. God went out of His way to convince me that this was the truth. He set me up over and over again in situations and relationships that would highlight this truth. 

My book, Walking Butterfly is a collection of these moments, when God caught my attention long enough to say, "Hey, I love you Susie." 

As I wrote that last sentence I could not help but remember a favorite scene in one of my favorite movies, "The Three Amigos". Lucky Day is trying desperately but secretly to get the attention of Dusty Bottoms and Ned Nederlander. 

Lucky begins with simple and subtle bird calls, but his friends do not notice him calling. He changes the bird calls to a weird "LookUpHere, LookUpHere!" sound and finally he just yells, "HEY, YOU GUYS!"

God was sending me love notes all the time, but He finally had to just yell, "Daughter! Look up here, I love you!" 

God is constantly sending us messages of His love. But some are too subtle for us to hear. Our world is a noisy, clamoring place. It is difficult to hear Him sometimes. Often the quiet, subtle love notes from Him are unrecognized because we have a false view of how God speaks. 

He's GOD! Doesn't that mean His voice is loud and bold and GODLY? A crack of lightning-clouds parting kind of voice makes sense, right? 

Only in the movies, apparently. In real life I have found God's voice frustratingly similar to mine. "Was that me? Am I just imagining this?" 

I have the choice in a fraction of a second to ignore and disregard the thought (voice) in my head. It comes as a thought, a question, sometimes a declaration. I have been known to actually stop and ask God if that thought was from Him or not. 

Then I picture Him going, "Duh, been doing bird calls at you for at least an hour now!"

All of this to say that my book is now available in another format for your convenience. Yay! Many have asked me to get my book into digital access so they can have it with them all the time and I am excited to finally get Walking Butterfly on Kindle now! 

I hope this enables the good news of God's love to reach beyond what a little paperback can do. This simple and complicated message needs to be spread far and wide in today's world. Don't you agree? 

Blessings, Susie

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Holy Club

The "Holy Club", "Bible Moths" and "Enthusiasts". These were all slightly derogatory nicknames given to the Wesley brothers, John and Charles in 1728 as they tried to walk out their faith in every day ways. College groups formed as the young men got together with friends to discover methods of living a holy life that would please God. The name that finally stuck and that they embraced was the "Methodists."  

In recent months I have been "kind of" attending the Methodist church near my home where I work in their preschool. I am still a little skittish about committing myself to a church, but I am gently falling in love with the people in this church. 

A few Sundays ago I found myself nervously standing in line in the middle aisle of the sanctuary waiting for my turn to take communion. I kept peeking up ahead to see what to expect because it was looking very different from what I am used to. I considered turning the opposite direction and heading out the door and to the safety of my little yellow truck, but only for a split second. My curiosity and a sense of God's presence made me inch along in the line until I reached the front of the church.

This would be my third or fourth time taking communion with this group and I'd only been attending sporadically for a couple months! Every time was different so far. I would later learn through some research that celebrating communion almost every week was one of the "methods" the Wesley brothers established in the Holy Club. 

When I reached the front of the line I was met by the pastor holding a big loaf of bread and with a beaming smile she broke a piece off for me and spoke the words, "This is His body broken for you.." I took the bread and then was faced with another person holding a beautiful chalice filled with grape juice for me to dip my bread into. Following what those before me had done, I dipped it, ate it and walked back to my seat. 

Another Sunday I was in line again, but this time five of us at a time were led to kneel at the prayer rail in front of the church and we were given communion by smiling helpers and allowed to kneel a few minutes then move back to our seats. 

Being the newbie in a church is a very foreign experience for me. I am comfortable on the other side of the story. I am used to setting up the sanctuary (and the communion) long before the first member even arrives. This is all new territory for me and it is both challenging and rewarding. 

The worship "style" of this little church is the polar opposite of my background. And yet, and possibly because it is different, the tears have fallen and even surprised me. 

Many years ago I wrote that I do not believe that God is worried about all the different denominations. I don't think that any one kind of church is right and all others are wrong. I remember feeling very radical to admit that I actually think that maybe God even LIKES all the different flavors. That it may be possible that He designed them so that He could reach all different personalities and all kinds of people around the world!

The other side of the forest behind our home as seen
from my truck in the church parking lot.

I have seen God in this little church near my home. Back when I was part of a Bible school staff, I remember describing the school as simply a framework for God to inhabit. That all God wants is to see some people gathered to meet Him and He will be there. Simple as that. Gather, look up in invitation and He says, "Here I am." 

He loves a party. Small or large, if He is invited He will come. I have been part of tiny home groups, medium size church congregations and on staff in a huge church. God loves them all. Because they are all people who want to meet Him, who desire to know Him better. God cannot resist His people. 

I may still be nervous about commiting to a church, but God does not hold back from anyone who wants to meet Him and know Him better. I trust Him completely and I look forward to getting to know some more of His "Holy Club" around the block from my house. 


Friday, June 22, 2018

My Book On A Beach!

Sent to me by a reader...on the beach!
I grew up about 20 minutes from the beach. My West Coast beach was usually cold, windy and rocky, but I still loved staring out at the waves as they crashed ashore, again and again and again. 

The photo above was sent to me this week by a new friend who was reading my book on a beach while vacationing in Florida. The message that accompanied this picture means the world to me. It is more than I hoped for while writing my book, Walking Butterfly.

She wrote....

"I am enjoying your book right now...on a beach...with constant repetition of waves coming toward me, reminding me of God's love.

I am by myself on a beach and I was thanking God for my blessings right before I picked up your book to read a couple more chapters.

Tears came to my eyes as I read your words about the waves! You are an angel to me."

She also sent me a video of the waves crashing to the shore so I could see and hear it for myself. The relentless waves have always reminded me of God's love. 

Would you like a peek at Chapter 11 where my friend was reading? It is titled "God's Song For Me."

"The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17"

God sings over us? Have you ever thought about that possibility? My daughter-in-law has written a beautiful multi verse song that she sings over our first grandchild. I heard her sing it to him one night when she did not know I could hear her from a different room.

It was beautiful and encouraging and full of valuable declarations about who this little person was and how important he would be to the world. God is a creator and His people are full of creativity too.

Special songs can sooth us and significantly alter our mood in minutes, can't they? Even the robotic and socially awkward Sheldon Cooper on "The Big Bang Theory" admits to needing the comfort of a song in times of illness. He often asks his friends to sing the song from his childhood...Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty.

As silly as that little song is, it was easier to believe than the whispering song I heard during a desperate time of struggle in my life several years ago. I am not musical, so I cannot translate the tune that accompanied this song, but it is in my head and heart forever. I sometimes hear myself humming it and I know that God is singing it over me. 

You are loved, you are loved,
I am loving you.

You are loved, you are loved,
I am loving you.

I am loved, I am loved,
He is loving me.

I am loved, I am loved,
He is loving me.

Sometimes He adds my name to make sure I get His message. God is romancing me; He wants me close. He is wooing me and drawing me to Himself. The little song says the same thing over and over, like waves, because He so desperately desires that I believe the words.

I often picture a beach scene and the constant repetition of the waves coming toward me again and again, reminding me of how God's love for me is completely relentless. He knows about my doubts and He is trying to convince me. Like a fairytale lover beneath a window, God is calling, enticing and promising me His complete love. 

When this little song slips into my mind and heart, it makes me smile, but the intensity is also a little bit scary. I ask myself if I am enough for Him. I wonder how I can possibly be worthy of this attention. His desire is for my complete surrender to Him. Can I do that?

God knows my heart. He knows that there are areas that are not all His. But this knowledge does not stop His desire or His deep pleasure in me. He sees, knows and wants more. So He is wooing me to give Him more because He loves all of me. Not just the sweet and pure parts, but all of me.

Everything in me wants to just drop into those eyes that are full of so much love. And it is easier to do than most of us think. All it takes is a small nod of the head and the whisper of a "yes."

And He has us.

We are His.

He is loving you. 

At the end of each chapter I closed with a section called "Your Turn"....

You are His.

He is calling you to move even closer.

God wants you to know that His love for you is complete and true and pure.

As you read these words, I believe Father God is leaning forward in anticipation of you and your response. He knows you, warts and all, and He desires you still.

God is singing over you. Feel free to borrow my simple little song, but I am convinced that He has a special song just for you. Ask Him to sing it over you. Why not? It may feel silly, but whatever tune and words that come to mind just may be from Him. Can't hurt to ask, can it? Go for it.

My little song from God came to me way back in 2007, but it is still as clear as ever while I sit here typing this message for you. My eyes are brimming and my heart is excited to know that you may be hearing your very own God song right now. I pray you will hear it and believe that the Ruler of the Universe, the King above all Kings, is singing over you because He adores you and wants all of you for His own. 

My prayer...Dear God, I ask You to share Your song with this reader. Would you open her or his eyes and ears to the magnitude of Your love for them? Whisper, shout, sing, or write a message that cuts through all the doubt and wondering and makes the message of Your love unmistakable and impossible to ignore. Thank You Father, amen.

I do not live near a beach anymore, but water still seems to be my happy place in so many ways! I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Walking Butterfly. 

Waves of love still move me.