Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day 2017


I have loved being a mother. Even on the hard days, I have loved everyday being called Mom. From the first time they laid a sweet towheaded baby girl in my arms, to the times when the principal called to say my child was suspended from school and I needed to come pick them up, (twice in one week!), I have loved being a Mom.

Fun. Sweet. Loving. Rewarding. Confusing. Frustrating. Overwhelming. Humbling.

Whether born from my heart or my womb, my kids, all young adults now, made me who I am today.

Before kids I thought I could do anything.  After kids, there were days I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t do anything . . . not sleep, not shower, not cook, not think.

Before kids I loved God. After kids, I’m desperate for God, for His love, forgiveness, guidance, presence and rescue.

Before kids I was self-sufficient. After kids, I can’t do anything without God’s strength.

Before kids I thought I would be a good parent. After kids, I wonder everyday if I am doing anything right with my kids.

Before kids I felt confident, had my act together, and knew where I was going. After kids, I sometimes felt lost, forgotten, and without purpose.

As I near the end of my parenting journey, my last two will turn 18 soon, I agree with all the other parents --- it has gone by too fast. A whirlwind of diapers, hugs, school, games, tears, trials, decisions, instilling values I hope will stick, and praying through the night they will choose to love God.

Before kids I felt loved. After kids, I never knew my heart could care about, love and break so much for another person.

Even though everyday has not been easy, and the bigger they grew, the bigger the challenges became, I would not give up being a mother for anything.

My kids have humbled me, grown me, made me more dependent on the Lord, and given me more joy than anything else in my life.

I love you Jessi, Zeek, Jeremiah and Josiah!


Mother's Day Hike 2017


































 Happy Mother's Day!
 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

"Worn" by Tenth Avenue North- Brian McLean - Danced by Nicole Casanova



Brian McLean singing at a Living Free service at 
Sagebrush Church. 
To read his story of how God changed him, Click Here.

This is part of a series called 31 Days of Change. To read others in this series, click the links below. 
Click here to read about Hearing God.

Day 1:   He Did What?!
Day 9:   Depression to Joy
Day 12:  Holding His Hand
Day 13:  Changed
Day 17:  Never the Same
Day 18:  The C Word
Day 19:  Punk to Pastor
Day 22:
Day 23:
Day 24:  All Fired Up
Day 29:  Brian Singing "Worn" by Tenth Ave. North
Day 30:
Day 31:


Thanks for stopping by,

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Little Hope Goes a Long Way in Prison


          (This is the continuation of Brian’s story. To start reading from the beginning,  click here.)








         After two years in prison, he was sent to a seven-month Federal Boot Camp Program. It was designed to break 18-year-old out of control punks. Brian was 39 years old. It was every bit as grueling physically and mentally as the 10-week military boot camps, only it lasted twice as long. But God was with Brian, and gave him strength and stamina to endure everything they put him through.



         When he completed the boot camp program, he was released to a halfway house in southern New Mexico. Finally, he made it back to Albuquerque, where his wife and daughter were waiting for him. They faithfully attended the church where they were baptized. They grew in their love for the Lord and their knowledge of the Bible.



         Singing praise songs to God had always been a meaningful part of Brian’s Christian walk. He began volunteering with the worship team on Sunday mornings. The church offered him a job doing janitorial and maintenance work. He worked in that position for seven years, and continued to volunteer singing with the worship band.



         Everyone who met Brian, could tell there was something special about him. He had a humbleness and peace that showed he walked closely with the Lord. He was an encourager and genuinely cared about people. When he sang worship songs you could see his deep love for the Lord. He is a picture of Luke 7:47, where Jesus said the sinful woman loved much, because she had been forgiven much.



         After seven years working at the church, one of the Pastors asked Brian if he would put together a band for the new mid-week service they would be starting called Living Free. It would be geared toward people with hurts, hang-ups and habits who wanted to break free and live their life for the Lord. Brian jumped at the opportunity. He put together a band, with and for people who worshiped the Lord desperately and authentically. This was real worship with people who held nothing back, but were grateful to be forgiven and praised God for giving them a second chance and a new life in Christ. Brian loved leading worship and being part of the praise team.

Brian singing.


         As the church grew, they opened a campus in Brian’s old neighborhood, where he used to deal drugs years ago. They asked him if he would lead worship for that campus on Sunday mornings, as well as continuing to lead worship on Wednesday nights at Living Free. As time when on, it became clear to everyone, that Brian was called by God to shepherd and Pastor the people in his old neighborhood. He is now the Campus Pastor of the Sagebrush Highland Church.

         It was hard for him to give up leading worship because praising the Lord through music had always been deeply meaningful to him. God brought him full circle. In a neighborhood that he used to destroy with drugs, he now brings hope and healing through Jesus. It has been a wild ride for him. God doesn’t waste any of our experiences and He has a plan for redeeming everyone. Brian sees the irony in the fact that he can stand outside the church and see the patch of land where he used to deal drugs.

         It can be overwhelming and depressing at times. This neighborhood has the highest percentage of people being released from jail. Drugs and crime are prevalent. People are desperate, sometimes just looking for their next meal for themselves or their children. The church is there to help, both practically and spiritually. They have a food pantry with free clothes, household items and food for families in need. A medical team provides free medical and dental care. There are vans to pick people up who don’t have transportation to the church. They started a Living Free ministry at that location to bring help and healing from addictions and other challenges.

         Brian says people ring the doorbell to his office all day long. They come in one by one and, as Brian shares with them, they give their life to the Lord. It amazes him. Life has been hard, but God has been good. Brian and his wife have been together for 29 years, which is unheard of with most addictions and incarcerations.

         A Bible verse that is meaningful to him is Psalm 139:9-10:

“If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest ocean,
even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.”

Click here to listen to Brian sing Worn, by Tenth Avenue North.

Has God redeemed your life from where you used to be?
What has been the biggest change He has made in your life?




This is part of a series called 31 Days of Change. To read others in this series, click the links below. 
Click here to read about Hearing God.

Day 1:   He Did What?!
Day 9:   Depression to Joy
Day 12:  Holding His Hand
Day 13:  Changed
Day 17:  Never the Same
Day 18:  The C Word
Day 19:  Punk to Pastor
Day 22:
Day 23:
Day 24:  All Fired Up
Day 28:  A Little Hope Goes a Long Way in Prison
Day 30:
Day 31:









Thursday, October 27, 2016

When the Father Ran





         His brother was stationed in Albuquerque, so that seemed like the best place to move to. Nothing changed. Brian continued to deal drugs, speed, cocaine, crack and meth. He was constantly dealing. He moved to Phoenix for a while, but a drug deal went terribly wrong, he got in trouble and had to return to Albuquerque.



         In 1999, Federal Marshalls raided his house at 5:00 in the morning. They kicked in the door, wearing black masks and pointed guns at his wife and daughter. It was part of a federal wire tap case and 14 people, including Brian, were arrested that morning. He was thankful the Marshalls did not search his house, because they would have found an abundance of drugs. But they only wanted Brian.



         He was convicted of moving drugs across state lines and sentenced to five years in federal prison. After many months in jail, the first part of his sentence was house arrest with an ankle monitor. They did not want to release him back to his own home or to his wife, because she was also a drug addict. The judge finally agreed to allow him to live at his father’s house. Brian was 38 years old, and would spend the next 15 months on house arrest. He put his parents through so much. He rehearsed in his head how he would apologize and thank them for taking him back in after all he had done.



         He would never forget stepping out of the vehicle to walk up to his parent’s house. He was nervous and racked with guilt for his crimes, for getting caught, for the lies, the stealing and the agony he caused his family.  Before he could say a word, his father opened the front door and ran out to where Brian was. He threw his arms around him and gave Brian the biggest bear hug! He didn’t let go for the longest time.



         Brian’s wife and daughter moved into his parent’s house as well. Around Christmas time, his wife saw some signs for a church that met in a junior high school. She attended the Christmas Eve service and invited the family to join her the next week. Brian was not allowed to leave the house because of the ankle monitor, but he was able to get permission to attend the church on Sunday mornings.



         One of the first sermons he heard was from the book of Luke chapter 15, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Brian was astonished at the story. He remembered some years back, when his Grandmother gave him an inheritance of $36,000. As a drug addict, he quickly squandered all the money on drugs and hard living. The Pastor read the story of the son in the Bible, wasting his inheritance and then returning to his father, hoping the father would take him as a servant. Brian wept when he heard the boy’s father ran to his son and threw his arms around him and welcomed him back into the family. 

That was his story! Brian was blown away that his exact story was in the Bible!

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:20-24


Have you had a prodigal son or daughter?
Don’t you love the heart of our Heavenly Father who loves us
unconditionally and runs to us when we return to Him?

(Click here for the rest of Brian’s amazing story.)



This is part of a series called 31 Days of Change. To read others in this series, click the links below. 
Click here to read about Hearing God.

Day 1:   He Did What?!
Day 9:   Depression to Joy
Day 12:  Holding His Hand
Day 13:  Changed
Day 17:  Never the Same
Day 18:  The C Word
Day 19:  Punk to Pastor
Day 22:
Day 23:
Day 24:  All Fired Up
Day 27:  When the Father Ran
Day 29:  Brian singing "Worn" by Tenth Ave. North
Day 30:
Day 31:




Blessings,





Wednesday, October 26, 2016

All Fired Up - Part 3

This is the conclusion of this story. To start at the beginning, click here.

         The next day his lawyer told Jeff* he should go to Al-Anon, a program for family members of alcoholics. At first he resisted and was too proud. He thought, “I’m not the one who needs counseling. She is the alcoholic, not me.” But he knew he had to do something.

         The first night he drove to the meeting place and sat outside in his car. He didn’t want to go in. Part of him thought, “You don’t need this. You have your daughter now. You are in control.” After he watched some other young people walk in, he felt compelled to go in and check it out. He didn’t say anything that first meeting, just sat and listened. He was relieved to hear there were people in worse situations than his. He learned you can’t control or force an alcoholic to change. That was out of his control. He could stop enabling her though. They asked him to choose a Higher Power, so he chose the Lord.

         He started praying to God to help him. He was finally able to sleep at night.

         One day a guy called Jeff and said Anita was passed out in his car and he wanted Jeff to come get her. Jeff didn’t want anything to do with her and told the guy to call 911. A little while later the guy called back and said he didn’t want to get in trouble by having a drunk woman in his car. Jeff drove to where she was. She woke up and started yelling at Jeff in the parking lot. A nearby restaurant called the police. Since Anita was on probation, they arrested her.

         While Anita was in jail, she wrote Jeff a long letter apologizing for everything. She understood she had a problem with alcohol and was finally willing to go to rehab. In rehab, she met some women from a church who talked to her about God. It was like she woke up and became a completely different person. She started believing in God while she was in rehab.

         Jeff realized he still loved her and wanted to pursue the relationship. In Al-Anon he learned if he was going to have a relationship with a recovering alcoholic, he had to let go of his anger at things that happened in the past. The two of them went to couple’s counseling. When she found out she was pregnant again, Anita said, “Maybe we should go to church.” Jeff, remembering John 3:16, and acknowledging that he believed in God, said, “No, I’m good.”

         Jeff’s sister invited them to church. He didn’t want to go, but remembered attending church with his grandmother when he was young, so he let their daughter go. She came home singing songs she learned and talking about the Bible stories she heard. She loved going to church. After a few weeks, Anita started attending as well. He saw a change in her. She had more peace and patience. They didn’t fight and argue like before.

         After seeing Anita change, Jeff decided to go to church on Easter. He felt like the Pastor was talking directly to him. He learned God is love, and loved him. Up until that time he only knew the fear of God. He didn’t know God wanted a personal relationship with him. Jeff understood he needed to ask God to forgive him, and he also knew he couldn’t keep living his life the way he was. He started reading his Bible and learned more about this great God.



        
         After a year of attending church, Jeff and Anita decided to get married. Jeff joined a men’s group and learned to study the Bible. He learned that to be a man who followed God, he had to walk with God.

         Jeff and Anita’s lives and family have changed dramatically. They are committed to following the Lord. They were baptized and are actively serving in their church. After seeing their lives changed, many of their family members started attending church and found the love of Jesus also. Jeff says the biggest change is he lost his anger and rage. He has none of that anymore. He says he still has plenty of things he needs to work on, but he no longer has that sense of needing to get revenge, even when someone cuts him off in traffic.

*Names changed.


Has God changed your life, or someone you know, so dramatically that others want what you have? Isn’t God amazing to make us new when we choose to follow Him?

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the 
new has come!"2 Corinthians 5:17
This is part of a series called 31 Days of Change. To read others in this series, click the links below. 
Click here to read about Hearing God.

Day 1:   He Did What?!
Day 9:   Depression to Joy
Day 12:  Holding His Hand
Day 13:  Changed
Day 17:  Never the Same
Day 18:  The C Word
Day 19:  Punk to Pastor
Day 22:
Day 23:
Day 24:  All Fired Up
Day 26:  All Fired Up - Part 3
Day 27:  When the Father Ran 
Day 28:  A Little Hope Goes a Long Way in Prison
Day 29:
Day 30:
Day 31:
 









Blessings,