The Upcycled Life

I have spent the better part of a week painting objects found at the thrift store, alongside the road, and tucked inside of barns and storage sheds. No longer wanted or needed by their owners, these things have been cast-off and forgotten. But Susan, a volunteer at Liebenzell USA, saw their potential. She has taken the old furniture, picture frames, and lamps and breathed new life into them then using them to create inviting spaces for visitors to the Guest House. She is very good at it. Lucky me. Not only have I experienced the spaces she has decorated in my own apartment, but I feel like I have been on a DIY/Fixer Upper retreat over these past ten days. Mission work is rarely boring and this time has been no exception. It has been so fun to work alongside Susan creating something beautiful.

As usual, God does not just allow my hands and feet the joy of service. He also whispers a lesson to my heart as well. As of late, I have been reading in Ephesians and chapter 2 starts like this:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. Ephesians 2:1

How? There is a whole list of reasons that follow in verses 2 and 3. (Read here for yourself.)

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in our transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5

Sounds a little like those cast-offs Susan has found. Junk really, ready for the trash heap, but she stopped to look and considered the beauty they could bring. God does the same. He finds us where we are, messed up from worldly living and feeling good for nothing, but because of His great love for us, he gave us new life.

I can attest to this myself. Those who knew me before the upcycle will tell you the same. God’s great mercy has transformed me. It’s His personal touch that has made all the difference in my life. He took me from dead in my worldly lifestyle to alive in Christ and how amazing that change has been. No longer do I feel worn out, used up, and hopeless. I live with joy and confidence knowing I am valued by God. This is what He does for us.

But there is more. We not only have a new life, we have been raised up with Christ so that others can see the beauty of the incomparable riches of God’s grace, expressed in His kindness to us. (Ephesians 2:6-7)

One thing to remember when considering this passage of Scripture: We did not have the ability to upcycle ourselves. It was God. He saw the potential and He did the work. It wasn’t we who made the change. Even our faith to trust His work is a gift to us.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God—not of works that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

As it should be, God should get the glory. That is what our lives should be about anyway, making God known to those around us. We have the potential to make this life following God appealing and beautiful. Let Him make it so. He has the best plans when it comes to upcycling. He makes us something entirely new.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10


 

Our time serving at Liebenzell USA has been wonderful. We have met so many great people and helped in a small part to create a place of sanctuary for visiting mission workers, churches, and other various groups. This a beautiful place to retreat and we are thankful for our time here.

A few pics of the Guest Houses.


Our apartment.

kitchen at Liebenzell

 

 

 


 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. ” Jeremiah 29:11

Sabbath Sweet Sabbath

Sabbath is about taking a break, doing something different, and recharging. My husband and I often like to take a Sunday drive (Does anyone even do that anymore?) and seek out something new to explore. Today was no exception. After church, we along with our granddaughter wandered about the countryside near where we are staying in New Jersey. At the recommendation of friends, we stopped at Hacklebarney Farms Cider Mill in Chester for pulled pork sandwiches and their famous cider donuts. Sorry no donut pics, but here’s a couple of others.

Next we took a short hike at Hacklebarney State Park. Beautiful surroundings along a creek.

But we weren’t finished. We drove on to Jockey Hollow National Park and visited the soldiers huts orginally erected in 1779 for Washington’s troops during the winter. We saw only a few of what would have been hundreds needed to house the ten thousand soldiers stationed there.

From there, we headed to Morristown to where General Washington hung out for the winter. Quite different situation for the officers. They stayed with local residents. This is the Ford Mansion where Washington stayed. It is now part of Morristown National Park.

One more stop before heading home. Our kids insisted we stop by Carlo’s Bakery. Yes, more sweet treats, but it’s Sunday. Calories don’t count. Haha!

I hope your Sabbath brought you some relaxation and rejuvenation and perhaps some sweet treats.

Not That Way!

yes no

After last week’s article Follow Me to The Place I Will Show You, I thought I would tell you of a time I didn’t do what God asked. I hope it will speak to you if you are struggling to say yes.


No, that doesn’t make sense. I can’t be hearing you right.

I stood in the cold near a homeless girl who sat under her makeshift shelter, arguing with God.

Take your coat off and give it to her.

I hesitated. I ran through all the reasons, justifying my reluctance and His faulty thinking in the situation. I walked away, coat still on my back.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17

Tears started to flow but I kept walking, her face etched in my mind. But this story is not about the young woman or her poverty, but me and my choices. That night, I rejected God’s words and chose mine instead. I didn’t trust Him or His wisdom in the situation. I chose not to do the good I ought to do. I chose to sin.

What comes to mind when you think of sin?
Transgression, ungodliness, evil?

Sin means any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, or lapse; especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle. This definition doesn’t sound so devilish, but he is in the details. He is all about tempting us into sin knowing full well it is what separates from God. It is his mission in our lives.

When I look at all the actions that come with the definition of sin, lapse is the one at times that is the hardest to come to grips with. Jesus says, “If you love me, you obey my commandments.” (John14:15) We get the thou shall nots, the things to avoid when we are living our lives according to God’s ways. But it is those thou shall dos that sometimes trip us up.

The original translation of the word sin—hamartia— means loss or forfeiture because not hitting the target. It is the brand of sin that emphasizes its self-empowered nature. Willfulness comes to mind here. Sort of like when I said no to God’s prompting and walked away. I didn’t just miss the target. I aimed for something in the opposite direction. I chose what I wanted above God.

I have often thought of the time I said no. It has shaped how I now respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I want yes to be on my lips and in my actions even when things don’t make sense. I want God to know that I love Him by doing what He tells me to do.

Being a grandparent has some pretty great perks. One comes from my four-year-old granddaughter, Brielle. All through the day, she runs to where I am, wraps her arms around me, and says, “Grandma, I love you.” Then off she goes again to continue playing. It melts my heart. I can’t help but think God is the same way. I picture our yeses to acts of kindness, service, and compassion—those love your neighbor moments—as a great big hug and an I love you to God. His response may sound a bit like this—

‘Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Matthew 25:23 NIV

I love you, too.


Have you ever found yourself reasoning with God on whether you should follow His command? How did that go for you? What did it reveal in your life?

Follow Me to The Place I Will Show You

road-220058_1280
I can do that.

My husband and I both had the same reaction at the same moment in church. A guest speaker was sharing of a need he had, and the Holy Spirit whispered, “He’s talking to you.”

I love when this happens. Holy Spirit talks. We listen. The we listen part is key. So many opportunities are lost because we didn’t act on the words we hear from Him. Hearing and listening are not the same things.

Years ago, we made a move that was very unpopular with our then twelve-year-old. She cried and complained for weeks. One of the times when she was being quite vocal about her discomfort over the whole thing, she asked her dad why we had to move. He simply told her, “Because God said so and we do what He says.”

It was a little bit like the story of the Calling of Abram found in Genesis 12. One day God said, “Leave what you know—your country, your friends, family, and all that feels safe and secure—and go to the place I will show you.” Right there in the midst of God’s challenge to Abram is a gift. Do you see it? Abram was not striking out on his own. God was going to lead the way. He would be with him. And Scripture says, “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” Smart man.

I think of how God did just that for us when we relocated and every other time he has called to us to do something outside our comfort zone. He led the way every time, and oh, the adventures we have experienced following Him just from being willing to do what we’re told.

Our daughter listened to her dad that day. His statement has impacted her life since when faced with hard or challenging decisions. It has become a family legacy of sorts, so when God told us to say yes, we did.

The mission we decided to accept doesn’t appear to be hard or challenging or even out of our comfort zone. (At least I don’t think so, but God might have other ideas.) It is actually in our wheelhouse. We will be traveling to New Jersey to help with the remodel of the Liebenzell USA Retreat Center. We have no idea what to expect or what we will be asked to do but our hearts and hands are willing. Many of you know we work with a ministry called Hands of Mercy that constructs small homes for the people of Mexico. The skills we have learned there along with the recent renovation of our own home are sure to be put to use in this new project we’ve been called to. We are excited to see what God is up to in that part of the world, and we will keep you posted.

If you would like to pray for us while we are following where God is leading, please do. We want to make as many people as possible part of what God is doing. For every one person heading out to work, many are needed to support them in prayer. Like the root system of a forest, we intertwine creating a strong foundation that will keep us connected, allowing us to work together in strength. Please sign up to receive new posts in your email.

This portion of Scripture written for the Israelites as they were crossing into the Promised Land speaks to me when thinking of listening to God’s voice. Perhaps it will speak to you as well.

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

Deuteronomy 30:11-16 NIV

Choose Life. Follow God’s Lead into the Land of Promise.

 


As with anything, there will be a certain amount of expenses to going on a mission. If you are reading this and the Holy Spirit is saying to you, “This is for you,” and you would like to help out with providing money for our transportation costs, go here to make a donation. Thank you so much for coming along on the journey with us.

 

Building Hope Together

hand-labor-188742_1920

The sound of women’s laughter sang in harmony with the whirl of their sewing machines. At the end of the day, they would go home with a beautiful quilt top they had created with their own hands. But as wonderful as the new creations were, something much more had taken place. You see, these women pooled their resources to build a small house for a family in Mexico. While they spent time sewing together, they were also building hope in a community far from their own.

There is just something about finding a way to bring people together for a common cause. In our case, my friend, Jan, and I took what we had—expertise and an abundance of fabric stashed away in our closets—and traded it for the money needed for building materials for the house by teaching a class on beginning quilt making. More fabric came from someone who could not join us but wanted to help. And yet another woman came bearing ingredients for a delicious lunch. It was almost like the story of Stone Soup as we brought what we had to stir up something wonderful and satisfying. When they returned home, each woman had a finished quilt top and our little house had $1600 towards making it into a reality.

The next step in the process will be a Prebuild Party where families will come together and partially construct the house. Walls, roof, and floors will be prefabricated in the church parking lot and loaded onto a trailer. All the components will then be transported to a site in Mexico near Ensenada where yet another group of people from both the US and Mexico will build it. By the end of the project, more than a hundred sets of hearts and hands will have been part of creating change.

Jellyroll6

For more information about the loft house project. Please check out Hands of Mercy’s website here. Perhaps it’s your turn to build some hope. You can also read more about my experience with the project in these posts:

For Goodness Sake
Hope Under Construction


Here’s something exciting!

Since writing this post yet another group of friends, this time from the Oklahoma City area, have decided to come together to repeat the fun of raising funds. I am so excited to be part of the world coming together for good.


 

Our project was a super simple quilt top method called Jelly Roll Race. I think our tops turned out great. Here are just a few.

 

 

Command [those who are rich] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:18-19

hand-labor-188742_1920

 

Paddling Through Knee-Deep Waters

Elk River

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

 Isaiah 43:2

We discovered the Elk River in southern Missouri on our last adventure. Beautiful, clear, and lazy, it is a popular place to take a float trip. How could we resist? The morning leading up to our trip was spent reassuring our seven-year-old granddaughter, Hero, that she would be perfectly safe. The water was only knee-deep in most places after all. She wanted to know whose knees—a kid’s or a grown-up’s. (Important to know when it comes to measuring.) We reminded her of the lesson she had learned in children’s church that week about “God does not give us a spirit of fear. . . but of power, love, and self-control. (Talk about a teachable moment.) She thought rivers were something you should have a good fear about. (Smart girl.) We told her if anything should happen and the canoe flipped over, Grandpa would be right there to save her. Not convinced she reluctantly strapped on her orange life vest and got in the boat.

It was a beautiful ride. The water was so clear you could see the bottom. There were fish everywhere. The surroundings were peaceful. There was a learning curve for us being beginning paddlers, but it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. Mostly the stream did the work and we just steered. It was fun, and we felt a bit like Pocahontas as we discovered places just around the river bend.

And then it happened.

That thing that wasn’t likely to go wrong did. Our canoe got caught in a current and pushed us up under a tree that was hanging over the bank. As we got closer to the tree, we all leaned away from it to avoid getting poked and scratched. As we leaned, the boat did too. We started taking on water and over we went. My husband grabbed Hero by the handle on the back of her life jacket and held her head out of the water. Arms and legs flailing and kicking, she was in a blind panic thinking she was surely going to drown. We told her to put her feet down on the bottom of the riverbed and stand up. Eventually, she calmed down enough to do what we asked. You should have seen the look on her face when she realized the water was not over her head as she feared. It barely came up to her thighs. She was wet and mad, but no worse for wear. By the end of the day, Hero was telling us how good it was to fall out of the canoe. It had cooled us off. Lol!

Life can have an uncanny resemblance to our little trip downstream. You start off on an adventure not knowing exactly what it will look like or where you’re going. You might step in the canoe with caution like Hero did. You have your life vest on, yet you’re not sure if it will be enough for all the ‘what ifs’ you’d imagined. After a while, you get the hang of it. The current isn’t so bad after all and you gain a little confidence in your navigation skills. You’ve got this! And then it happens. Something unexpected shows up and flips your life completely upside-down. The next thing you know, your gasping for air and struggling to keep from going under. But in your panic, you hear it.  “I’m right here. Put your feet down and stand up.”

A few years ago, I was floating along through a great life. I was doing good things, having some successes, and enjoying a wonderful season with people I loved. Suddenly, it all came crashing down. Selfishness and Greed rocked the boat, dumped me out, ruining everything. The grief of losing what had been threatened to suck me under. I lost my footing, and since the pain came from something that happened at church involving church people, I wanted to quit. Forever.

God was having none of it.

He held the handle of my life vest, telling me to just put my feet down and stand up. I couldn’t. I didn’t know where to stand. I thrashed about, sinking deeper, but He didn’t let go. He sent in the troops, trusted friends who gently spoke truth into my life. He guided me back to His word and sat with me as I sobbed through its promises. Slowly, my flailing about stopped, and my feet touched solid ground. I realized the water had not been so deep after all, especially if I used God’s knees as a measure.

I’m happy to say that I am enjoying a relatively calm season in life. The lessons I learned from my experience overboard have proven to be valuable and my relationship with God is deeper and stronger. How will I respond next time I get tossed out of the boat? It’s hard to say until I find myself struggling again, but I do hope it won’t take so long to remember God has got His hold on me, put my feet down, and stand up.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23

Road Trip: Delivering the News

horse cowboy

If you follow me on social media, you know that with summer and its longer days, the wandering has commenced. My husband and I made our way east via the road less traveled . . . literally. This year, we chose to take The Loneliest Highway across the country to see what we could see. U.S. Route 50 comes by its name honestly. Much of the way, we and the locals were the only ones using it. Cars were few and far between.

That was okay with us. We liked the slower pace it provided. We saw beautiful country. There was also a bit of history to be found. U.S. 50 was built along the Pony Express route. It was fun to imagine the riders as they charged through the wilderness carrying the mail to people who longed for news. Given the short existence of the Pony Express, it had a lasting impact. Today, small towns dot the landscape where there once was only a stop on the trail.

This legacy of the Pony Express made me think of another story I heard from a friend from India. He told me he is only the third generation Christian in his family. It all started when his grandfather, the community’s witch doctor, met Jesus. With news too good to keep to himself, he wanted everyone to know so he took the message on the road, traveling from town to town, delivering the story of Jesus. Today, in each place he stopped there is an active church among its people.

In this busy life with our lives consumed with tasks for today, I wonder how often we think about what will have a lasting impression on our world. Will our actions today bring benefit to others in the future?

There is a story in the Bible about a time when Jesus told his disciples to set sail for a region called Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. There He had an encounter with a demon-possessed man from the town who had lived rough for many years due to his condition. The long and short of the story is that Jesus healed the guy and restored him back into the community. You can read it for yourself in Luke 8:26-39. When Jesus was ready to depart, the man begged to go with him, but Jesus had something better in mind. He urged the man to return home and tell how much God had done. (Luke 8:39)

That is exactly what the man did.

He “went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” I may have chosen to go with Jesus and get a new start for myself, but he was obedient and did as Jesus told him. We do not know if he could have anticipated or even knew later what kind of impact his life had on his community, but we have the full story. This particular miracle of healing was the first in Gentile territory, a region called the Decapolis. Sometime later, Jesus did return and a crowd of 4000 came out to see Him. (The story is found in Matthew 15:29-31 and Mark 8:1-10.) Jesus repeated the miracle of healing, again and again, restoring “the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others.” (Matthew 15:30) Did these people come because of the story they had heard about the guy whose life was changed by Jesus? I like to think it was.

So, what impact are we having in the world around us?

Are we like the transformed witch doctor who carried the news of Jesus to other communities, resulting in churches being established? Or maybe like the man from Gerasenes who just shared his story with the neighbors. At the time, I’m sure neither of these men had any idea that their words would bring thousands to the feet of Jesus. The legacy that belongs to them is great, but ours can be too. We must take what we know about Jesus and make it known to the world around us. These men were not great theologians with exemplary training and a huge following. They were just common individuals who took what they had been given—a relationship with Jesus—and told others. It made an impact and continues to do so, especially if we now take their example to heart. How much of the world will be changed simply because we carried the Good News and delivered it? Only time will tell.

Share Jesus.
Change the world.

 


Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!
Anne Frank