For all You Workhorses…

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This snow we get in the northeast is kicking my butt!

There was a week where I didn’t leave the house for four days.  Four days!  I needed to grocery shop but I refused to greet 3 degree air so I became ultra creative with chips, broccoli, cheese and tuna.  Ew, I’m grossing myself out just thinking about it!  The snow has been a complete thorn in my side because twice now I’ve canceled trips to the city to visit Krista because of this darn cold weather.  And I’ll admit, I’m a baby.  If it’s below freezing, I’m staying in.  With my jacket on ha!

My hubs has had a snow day or two during this awful polar vortex too.  I thought it would be fun, that we’d be like kids who couldn’t go to school.  Unfortunately the business world still functions when there is snow, go figure?!  He was seriously on the phone or on his computer the entire snow day.  They say Vegas is the city that never sleeps, but I think New York, New Jersey and Connecticut must be the same because people burn the midnight oil working out here.  It’s gotten me thinking back to when I was working out of the home (because we all know being home with a toddler is work too!).  I was career minded; focused on working hard and smart.  I was driven– working my way up, albeit tripping a few times as I took each step.  I loved the working life until I took on too much.

A few years ago, I was drowning in my job.

As I mentioned before, I’m not one to slack off; I always always always work hard.  That’s one of my strengths.  That strength can be my biggest vice, though.  At the time, that workhorse within me took on a little too much and I felt completely worn out, overworked and overwhelmed.  I was drowning, and even this strong swimmer didn’t know how to get herself to shore safely!  My career was always extremely important to me and I feared I would look bad to executive management if I didn’t man up and just take it all in stride.  Inside, however, I wanted to quit.  I was ready.  I couldn’t take it anymore.

I eventually did talk to my boss and he let me hire help.  Thank goodness!  I hired two additional people to my staff and immediately I experienced the reprieve that delegation can offer.  I was motivated again and excited to take on more.  But then I got pregnant and moved to New Jersey and now stay at home with my baby– oh the irony!

As I’ve watched the fast paced career world out here spin well into the wee hours of the night (and yes, I know, east coasters aren’t the only ones who work long hours or have crazy deadlines.  But there is something different about the working world out here, I can’t explain it!), I’ve realized there are universal things I’ve learned from my experience managing projects, people, deadlines and budgets.  Whether you work in suburbia or in the big city, I think there are some  things that just “work”.  Here’s my go-to list for project management for all you workhorses!  This list isn’t by any means all-encompassing, but are things I’ve learned that have worked for me. 🙂

1.  Create a project brief.

Creating a project brief can be a lot of work, but if it’s done well it can really add a ton of value to the project as a whole.  The brief (document, outline, etc…) is just an overview of what the project is and it’s major components.  These may include the goal for completing it, how much it’s going to  cost, the schedule, the team members involved, and the impact to the customer (the customer could be five year olds if your project is a birthday party!!!).  Once your brief is complete and approved (many times executive management will want to sign off on things like this) you are ready to meet with your project team to review the brief and answer any questions, which leads me to my next point…

2.  Clearly communicate roles.

During your overview of the project brief, it’s important you lay out basic roles at this point.  Sure, details will change and tasks will be added or taken away, but responsibility and accountability should not.  Who is ultimately in charge?  Who approves things?  Who is the liaison with vendors, who is the one implementing?  Defining roles from the beginning ensures there’s no confusion on who is accountable to what.  This has proven me to be a huge success factor to getting the people involved in the project on board and supportive as they understand their role and commitment level.

3.  Establish a budget and a schedule.

Knowing how much the project should cost and what the implementation/planning schedule is critical to a successful launch.  For some projects, if you implemented flawlessly and on time but were over budget it’s a failure.  To others, the timeline is more critical.  Make sure you understand what the costs are going to be and plan accordingly when creating your budget.  Picking a number out of thin air won’t do you any good; do your research and figure out a number that makes sense for the schedule and the pieces that need to be knit together.  Also, understand your schedule and when you are ahead or behind.  You won’t understand the impact of your decisions unless you can tie them to how they will affect the schedule and/or budget of the project.

4.  Keep an up-to-date issues list.

Many projects require testing or approval prior to implementation.  Keeping an issues list will help you keep track of what currently needs attention and can aid you in knowing what action to take next.  Keep your vendors, team and management aware of any significant issues and the progress you’re making.  Designate one team member to update it so you don’t have multiple people duplicating issues or adding or deleting things.  This also helps to eliminate millions of little emails flying back and forth.

5.  Never assume…  EVER.  Did I say never assume?  I meant NEVER.  EVER.  ASSUME…!!!

One project I managed was coordinating the switch of one web host to another (I know, boring!!!!).  This meant copying every single URL, image, landing page, blah blah blah from the current host to the new web host.  I wasn’t the one copying over any of it, I was simply managing the moving pieces.  Work with one vendor, then the corporate team, then our new web team…  The thing is I don’t speak web lingo.  Drop that file where?  HTML code whaaaaat?  Link this source to fdalkfdsalfmjdk is what it all meant to me.  I assumed one group knew what the other group knew because I sure as heck didn’t know.  Wrong.  Don’t ever assume someone knows what’s going on.  Keep people informed and ask questions about the things you’re unsure of.  Get everyone in a room so there’s no “I thought… He said… She said…”

6.  Establish an implementation strategy.

As you are moving closer to the date you go live with your project (or event, or product for that matter) understand how you are going to implement it.  Write it down.  Collaborate with your team and management (keeping in mind to maintain clear roles and responsibilities!) to define how you are going to get this done.  This part of project management goes hand in hand with laying out an appropriate schedule.  Are you going to have a daily conference call to track the progress?  Or are you going to manage it by email or spreadsheets?  However you decide, be certain you and your team understand how the implementation should go which means planning way ahead before the actual live date.  What testing needs to be completed, at what point can you expose part of the project to management or others to gain feedback, etc…  Define a strategy for how you plan to get your product, event and/or project on the road with smooth sailing.  On implementation day the last thing you need is for someone to say “I can’t…”  You should be thinking of those things now and also preparing to ensure everyone can.

7.  Debrief, then move on.

After you’ve finished the project, take some time to sit down with your team and debrief.  Talk about what went well, what could have gone smoother, some ideas for next time and evaluate each piece.  Without a legitimate debrief it’s hard to go back and remember what exactly was done successfully.  The next time you go to plan a launch of an event, product or project you’ll have a clear idea of what was completed before, and the victories as well as the pain points to avoid for next time.

All in all, project management is fun.  I enjoy knitting together moving pieces to create something better than what was there before.  But it is stressful.  It doesn’t have to be perfect though.  Or maybe it does (depending on who you work for!).  Thankfully I’ve worked with a very forgiving teams!  Distinguishing between what’s critical to going live and what are pleasantries that would be nice to have is important.  Don’t aim for perfection.  Someone will always find a flaw in your work!  Have fun, drink lots of starbucks and breathe.  If you’ve followed the steps above, you’ll be on your way to a successful project!

Rachel Signature2

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Marriage: This Is NOT What I Envisioned…

IMG_3350I don’t know about you, but the last few weeks have been a little chaotic around here.

There has been one massive NYC snow storm complete with 10 inches of snow and painfully low temperatures, 2 bouts of the flu, and an innumerable amount of diaper leaks… on my lap!

I have also – rather impressively I might add – gone through two boxes of Kleenex… of which the remnants are still scattered in and around my bed!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, I caught my hair on fire while trying to light a candle, my daughter saw a picture of an elephant and called it “Mama,” and I tragically learned that ALL Fruit Loops are the exact same flavor! Oh, the cruelty!

All that to say that after two weeks of making a permanent home in my sweatpants, ordering takeout, rocking the messy bun (with special emphasis on messy!), and spending many days sprawled out on the couch watching countless episodes of ‘Scandal’ on Netflix, I came to realize something…

I am not as cool as I once was!

6 years ago, I was tan & toned, and I wore high heels more regularly than some brush their teeth! I had aspirations of putting meals on the table that would make Mario Batali swoon, and I believed that every outfit would be best accessorized with a coordinating bow for my daughter and a flawless coat of nail polish for me!

All this is laughable considering that my current chipped nails are tinged with yesterday’s blue play dough, and my daughter is running around – without a bow mind you – but with only one pigtail intact that looks more like a growth on the side of her head! … And seriously, WHERE ON EARTH ARE HER PANTS?!?!

Sigh. I digress…

There is no denying that my life is in no way reminiscent of a Harlequin Romance Novel, and that my parenting style would be nothing to write a book about… which is what often leads me to question if THIS is what my husband knew he was signing up for when he said ‘I do’ all those years ago!

… if spit up, stretch marks, messy buns and sweatpants were even on his radar?

And now that they are, if I still have what it takes to make him happy?

Oooooooh shoot! It’s about to get REAL!

As a little girl I used to day dream about love and marriage. I can remember passionately kissing pillows as if they were Disney characters, poring over elegant wedding gowns in bridal magazines, and meditating on advertisements depicting romantic getaways where couples are shown tossing their heads back and laughing joyously, as they soak together in hot tubs in the shape of champagne glasses.

And yet it would seem that the romance-filled, passion-infused, lifelong commitments we dream of exist only until we are actually in one!

Sadly once you’re married, a “successful” marriage is often weighed merely by whether or not you are ‘still married’… ‘Still in love’ and ‘still happy’ with our spouse only seems to be an added bonus!

Recently though, while watching on old Barbara Walters interview she did with Ronald Reagan, I was caught by something he said that I will never forget…

Ronald Reagan’s marriage to his wife Nancy was always in the spotlight. Even to this day it is remembered by them always walking hand in hand, leaving each other love letters, and by the fact that they never stopped courting.

Reagan said his wife gave him “…a marriage that was like an adolescent’s dream of what marriage should be,” and then he quoted this powerful statement by Clark Gable:

“There is NOTHING more wonderful for a man than to approach his own doorstep knowing that someone on the other side of the door is listening for the sound of his footsteps.”

Usually I envision the moments before my husband gets home a little differently …timers going off…  me scrambling to retrieve dishes from the oven… chasing a pants-less child around and attempting to put a bow on her head…. and hurriedly changing out of my sweatpants and hiding the evidence before my husband walks through the door…

But like Clark Gable so beautifully communicated, it’s about the significance of truly valuing our spouse! It’s about offering the gift of welcoming him home each day just as he is.

It’s about desiring to be the first person to high-five your husband when life has worked in his favor, and being the sounding board he can rant and rave to when it’s not! Maybe even throwing in a curse word in agreement to reeeeally drive home the fact that you are on the same team! 😉

Our husbands don’t care if the kid has a flipping bow on her head, or, if on occasion, the sweatpants beckon (… though I speak from experience when I say finding kleenex in the bed might be a problem!) He doesn’t care what new shade of lipstick we are wearing, or what Pinterest-inspired feast we have slaved over; our husband’s want US!

They want our respect, our admiration, and our constant support!

So no matter what the climate our husbands are walking in from – whether they drag themselves in sopping wet from an impending storm, frazzled and disoriented from an especially turbulent day, or radiating big smiles and good news on the tip of their tongues – let’s remember there is not a more wonderful gift we can give the men in our lives, than to be on the other side of the door awaiting the sound of their footsteps…

… For as long as we both shall live.

Krista Signature

Don’t Waste It!

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First of all, I’m not going to apologize for this picture but I know it looks a little funny.  A christian blog with a photo of two frat guys (or maybe they’re not frat guys, I’m totally assuming!) with a beer and a shot of who knows what (gasp!) on the front of the blog…  But I just felt like it really drives home the point of this post.  We really can be influenced to do/be/feel a multitude of things (apparently, including wearing leis and not wearing shirts while not laying out on a beach but whatev! haha!).  But I digress.  To each their own!

I remember sitting with my boss one rainy afternoon, talking about my job performance.  It was a good conversation; I’ve never been one to slack off or not get something done.  Even so, something struck me throughout our conversation that I’ll never forget.

Influence.

He told me that I had the unique ability to influence those around me, and I could use that to either motivate and help grow the business or I could waste it.  Use it or lose it, essentially; make it count or pour it down the drain.  It was up to me.  

While I’m sure he meant for those words to make me think specifically about my promotable future, that conversation was a pivotal moment for me beyond just my job.  He said I could be influential.  I had the ability to influence decisions, minds, direction– even mood.  Thankfully, my boss wanted me to flourish.  He wanted to help me understand the business even more so that I could better make decisions and better guide that influential spirit he believed I had.  I was grateful for his mentorship.

Influence has power, doesn’t it?

And while I think he was right about some things, there’s something I think could use a little tweaking (tweaking, not twerking, LOL!).  While he was speaking to the uniqueness within the business environment, I do not think influence is unique to only certain individuals.  What I’m talking about is not like a skill or a gift or a strength.  While some may use it more heavily than others (politicians, anyone?! :)), we all have the ability to influence, lead and build.  Don’t waste it!

Now that I am a wife and a mama, I realize this more than ever…  Especially regarding the tone of the spirit in our home.

  • If I am crabby, my baby girl gets restless.  I can assure you destruction mode will follow!
  • When I am annoyed and unhappy for no apparent reason (PMS I hate you) the people I love most suddenly follow suit.
  • If I am tragically over-dramatic, over-dramatic responses and tones of voices and words fill that stuffy air.
  • But when I choose joy, gratitude and patience, the mood reflects those tones as well.

It’s kind of scary, but we have power!  Don’t waste it!

It’s up to you.  To me.  It’s up to us to set the tone in our homes.  Aren’t peace and joy and kindness so much better than moodiness, crankiness and criticism?  Doesn’t forgiveness begin to chip away at resentment?  Isn’t grace refreshing to keeping score?  You set the mood.  I set the tone.  We are the deciding factors.  Don’t waste it!

“Do everything without complaining and arguing…” ~Philippians 2:14

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” ~Ephesians 4:29 (emphasis added)

The last couple days these verses have been the topic of my study, which bums me out on one hand because it brings to light how much growing I have to do in this area!  On the other hand, however, it illuminates what Christ intends for us– and if this is His will, He will do it!  Now…  Will we allow him and will we be obedient?

Don’t waste this power, my friend.  Your influence is key to shaping the vibe your home, husband and children (or if you’re single– your roommates, classmates, coworkers and/or teammates) will exude.  You can change minds, decisions, direction– even moods.  Your influence has power.

You are influential.  

Don’t waste it!

Rachel Signature2

We Must Remember The Storm

Of all my most cherished photographs there is one that stands out.

There are pictures illustrating wedding day jitters, and another portraying a perfectly wrinkled newborn smirking in her sleep. There is one that captures the rare occurrence of me and my siblings embracing, and another of my daughter warily taking her first steps.

And then there is the picture I hold closest to my heart…

a picture of when I had nearly given up.

storm

The summer sun illuminating the smile I had purposefully painted on my face doesn’t fool me. At the exact time this picture was taken my husband had been sleeping on the couch for weeks, and the broken promises within our marriage easily outnumbered the wedding gifts we had received just two years earlier! We had run out of things to say and even worse, reasons to keep trying to make it work!

…And it was going to get worse!

At the time this picture was taken, I could have never known that there were more lies bubbling to the surface, more fits of tears in store (that were oftentimes so intense, I questioned whether my heart would physically give out) And even more difficult for me to admit, a bout of depression that would have me questioning whether I could endure any longer.

The picture that holds the most significance to me is one taken amidst a raging storm in my life. A storm that pains me to remember, but I am hard-pressed to never forget!

A storm much like what was described in the Bible…

“The waters of the flood came and covered the Earth…

All the underground waters erupted from the Earth and the rain fell in mighty torrents from the sky…

The rain continued to fall…

The floodwaters grew deeper…

As the waters rose higher and higher above the ground, the boat floated safely on the surface.”  

Genesis 7:10-12, 17-18

This violent storm that the Bible is referring to is the flood, and from the sound of its enormity it sounds much like the ’emotional storms’ I have found myself in!

…When bad luck seemed to fall ‘ in mighty torrents from the sky’…when my seemingly happy existence ‘erupted’ into something barely recognizable …When my trials got deeper… and deeper… and each new wave of trouble threatened to overtake me….

Yet, the Lord kept me safe.

After all I am here to tell you about it, aren’t I?

God tells us that our lives will be full of many seasons, “planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night…” but in Genesis 9:11 He clearly says, “… never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood.”

God made a promise to the world (via a rainbow) that He would never again destroy all life, and that picture of me smack-dab in the middle of my heartache proves He never did!

Even so, my heart will always break for the girl in that picture. When I look into her eyes I will always feel pressed to tell her there’s no need to disguise her pain because I know she cries every night in a heap in the closet. Oh, how I wish I could remind her that when she screams out in frustration like a raging lunatic, it’s not a direct reflection of how ‘awful she is’ but how hurt she has been!’

… And that no matter how unfair a hand life has dealt her if she can withstand the storm  just a little longer, the storm will settle ‘and she will not be destroyed!

Our God promises a life of varied seasons, so we can be certain that at times it is going to rain! Likely even that it will POUR!

But even when life seems most bleak… we will not be destroyed!

Even when we feel most weary… we will not succumb!

Because In God’s hands we will ‘float safely on the surface’ of every storm that comes our way!

Oftentimes it takes staring deep into the heartache of our past, to speak directly to the fear that is overwhelming us in the present. So this week: find a picture of yourself in the midst of the most turbulent storm in your life, and remind yourself that our God will overcome!

He did it before, He will do it again! ( and again!)

“[God] calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.” Psalm 107:29Krista Signature

What’s Your Egypt?

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The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!  There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” ~Exodus 16:1-3

I often wonder what the conversations looked like among the Israelites during this crazy time in their history.  Did they really complain this much?  Did they really wish they were back in the land of slavery?  Did they seriously prefer death in Egypt, even after they’d seen the Lord part the sea?!  I shake my head in disbelief, shocked that they would be so shortsighted to miss out on the glory that was to be theirs if they could just be patient and go forward– trusting in the One who had faithfully brought them all this way!

But I must admit– Egypt did look good.

From what I understand from history, Egypt was a great place to be.  Egypt was flourishing with food, trade, water, and land.  Egypt’s economy was booming.  It wasn’t so bad to be a worker in this place…  And until administration changed, the Israelites were treated pretty well because of Joseph, an Israelite who through unfortunate yet God-ordained events, was Pharaoh’s right hand man.  God had used Joseph to help Pharaoh store up food for when there was an extreme famine that had lasted seven years.  Because of his character, faith and diligence, Joseph had been God’s vessel to save the Egyptian people from starving to death.  Pharaoh was indebted to him.  During his ruling, the Israelites were highly regarded and treated respectfully in their land.  When Pharaoh died, however, and a new Pharaoh came to rule, he had no ties to Joseph (who had also died) or these people who were infesting his land.  They were multiplying and becoming potentially too ‘powerful’.  Enter the beatings and working to death and the slavery of the Israelites, and enter Moses, who God used to lead His people out of Egypt.

Whew!  You didn’t know a history lesson was going to hit you this morning did you?!  Neither did I.  Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is, Egypt– even though it was a place of extreme work and slavery for the Israelites, was also an economic powerhouse and a pretty amazing place to be.

Not as amazing as Canaan, though.

Canaan was the land God had promised the Israelites.  A land flowing with milk and honey.  A land flourishing with enough for everyone, and then even more.  It could put Egypt to shame.  It was good, real good.  Even better, the people wouldn’t be slaves.  A gorgeous, cultivated land that was all theirs!  Imagine the best vacation spot, and then told it’s all yours, and you don’t have to go back to that day job you’ve been working.  Sound too good be to true?  But it wasn’t.  That was Canaan.  So.  Good.

And yet, along the journey to get to Canaan, the people grumbled and bickered.  They complained against God.  They lost sight of the land ahead, and actually wished they were back in Egypt as slaves!  They thought it might be better to die where at least they had meat to eat, rather than be in the desert.

Say WHAT?!

Really?!  They want Egypt over Canaan?!  Come on!

I know.  It sounds crazy, doesn’t it?!

So now I pose the question to you…  And me.

What’s your/my Egypt?

  • What looks so good to you right now that you’re losing sight of Canaan?
  • What’s tiring you out so much that you throw your hands up and settle for Egypt when the promised land awaits you?
  • What journey are you on that you wonder if it’s worth it and if you’d be better off back there…  A slave to whatever it is…  In Egypt?!
  • What can’t you let go of that’s preventing you from really realizing Canaan in your life?

Say WHAT?!

You want Egypt over Canaan?!

No you don’t.

You really don’t.

I know you don’t!

I don’t either!  But there are so many things that I allow to hold me back from realizing the Canaan in my life that God is trying to lead me to.  Whether it be money, health, success, popularity, friends, jobs, homes, vacations, more children– whatever it is– (a little bit of all of it for me!)  I sometimes have such hard time of letting go of my Egypt that I forget that Canaan awaits me.  God forbid I would spend 40 years in a desert wandering just so I could figure out what I really want.  I want Canaan!

Lord help me see that you are orchestrating all things for the good of those who LOVE you and are called according to your purpose!  Help me realize you are planning a future with hope and goodness, and I will find you when I seek you with all my heart.  Allow me to experience joy in the journey, but keep my eyes on you so I don’t go wandering in the desert away from you.  Keep my eyes on you Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, who has gone and goes before me.  Keep me out of Egypt Lord.  Make my feet swift, my eyes forward and my heart and head on the Canaan you are preparing for me.

Amen.

Rachel Signature

God Doesn’t Need Your Help

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Growing up as a Pastor’s kid had many perks.

Empty wooden pews transformed into our playground. And it wasn’t uncommon for regular competitions testing upper body strength and physical endurance to ensue as we competed to see who could army crawl their way from the pulpit to the back row the fastest!

Vacant Sunday School classrooms (which we had access to, thanks to the master-key we were always able to get our hands on!) were always filled with endless entertainment thanks to glitter glue and infinite amounts of goldfish crackers.

And the day that was always sure to get this PK’s heart racing in excitement was the one in which we would take ‘The Lord’s Supper.’ More specifically, it was when the hundreds of people who had once filled the pews were now heading home with their families for the afternoon, and a little plastic cup with a shallow pool of leftover grape juice marked the place where they sat. It was there that I would wait. Wait for when my father was far too busy cleaning up and locking the doors, to notice me shamelessly walking the aisles and drinking the last remnant of juice…. from each cup… in every row…. until I had savored the last drop of each and every one! 

Sorry Mom, I do sincerely hope this isn’t the first time you have heard this.

But above all else, I am most thankful for the skill I have mastered over the course of my many years growing up in the church… the uncanny ability I possess to spot even the most subtle of judgements.

How did I acquire this gift you ask? Because judgement is as prevalent in church as fake smiles, panty-hose, and renditions of Amazing Grace!

Over the years, I have overheard the backhanded comments towards the ‘tattooed couple’ sitting in the back row of the balcony; I have sat at, then excused myself from, a table of people who had nothing better to do then to whisper about the same-sex couple in the booth behind us; and I have endured innumerable prayer requests shared ‘with a heavy heart’ that are laced with malice and gossip.

Sadly, even to this day, I have friends and family who at the hands of such judgement, seem to believe that one must “exude perfection, lest you be judged…”

But this last week, while reading the Book of Hosea, God spoke to the most superficial and judgmental person in me

Hosea illustrates both God’s uncontainable fury towards sin, and His passionate love and loyalty for His people in spite of it! It begins with the story of a man named Hosea, who is married to a prostitute named Gomer, and whose three children are the product of his wife’s unfaithfulness. A man, who if you were asking just me, had every right to judge! And to light some junk on fire, if you know what I mean!

But God had a plan to deal with Gomer’s straying when in Hosea 2:6,14 He says, “I will fence her in with thorn bushes. I will block her way with a wall to make her lose her way… But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. I will return her vineyards to her, and. transform the valley of trouble into a gateway of hope”

I found it interesting that never once does God ask Hosea to ‘grab her arms, while He grabs her legs…’ so-to-speak. Instead, He makes it very clear that He has a plan and, more importantly, that He’s got it covered! He will fence her in… He will block her way… He will win her back… He will lead her and transform her…

And that, ultimately, He doesn’t need our help. (GASP!) 

I believe many of us Christians begin to think a little too highly of ourselves. We start seeing ourselves as the ‘Robin’ to God’s ‘Batman,’ and we falsely believe that the Creator of the Universe needs our help rescuing lost souls…often times one “strategically placed” Bible verse at a time! We resort to pitchforks and engage in spiritual debates; yet in these verses it seems God never asked for the help we so free-handedly offer.

Kinda stings, doesn’t it?

But then God does ask something from Hosea! And what He instructs him to do is surprising…

“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. THIS will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel.'” – Hosea 3:1 [Emphasis added]

You see – at this time Israel, much like Gomer, was full of wickedness with a tendency to fall back into its “unbecoming” ways. This was a nation whose people were far from God and indulged in every sin imaginable. But God’s most passionate desire expressed in the book of Hosea is to show the unrighteous and immoral people of Israel that He still loves them in spite of it!

(Now for the record, this post will in no way directly address cheating spouses. Nor is that my expertise! After all, like I said earlier, I lean towards lighting things on fire! 😉

I am talking about the epidemic Christians have believed for far too long! The belief that we are to embark on a passionate crusade against the way other people are living their lives. A journey, that the Lord made very clear to me this last week, I was never invited on to begin with!

My job, like Hosea, is to love.

To ‘go and love’ those who are the cause of my anguish… to ‘go and love’ the person I just don’t ‘connect with’ and who I avoid at all costs in the church lobby… to ‘go and love’ those who have been given too many chances and who are SO undeserving….

You see, there’s a man that stands every day in Times Square with a megaphone…

A man with a message, standing in one of the most prominent areas of our country to speak words he believes are of great significance. So he amplifies his voice loud enough so the 170,000 people walking past him can hear what he has to say.

But the message he has hand-selected to introduce our God to the streets of New York City is always one of condemnation, rage, and disgust with the sin of this city. Even worse yet, our hopeless future as sinners because of it!

And you know what? I don’t think he is a bad person.

I believe just as much as him, that the world … that WE – desperately need Jesus more than ever! Furthermore, I know that some could argue that the man with the megaphone’s fury against sin and alternative lifestyles, parallel much of the same outrage that God had for Israel at the time…

I fear however, that he is playing the wrong role.

In Hosea, we learn that it is God who can, and will, judge. And ultimately, it is only God’s perfecting love that can “transform …” 

But like Hosea, we are only asked to love.

So, we too must decide what message we are going to proclaim to the world. What will be our chosen words to the people who pass by us each day?

Will it be a message that arrogantly puts people in their place and, in doing so, broadcasts that the Almighty God we serve lacks the strength to fight for His people on His own? Do we truly believe that our God is so weak that He needs flawed human beings like ourselves to be His backbone?

OR…  are we going to remember the truth found in Hosea and believe that the Lord, in all of His power, will Himself fight for His people? And will we remember that the best thing we can do as His devoted followers, is to choose each day to speak a message that sounds like hope and feels like an outpouring of love to all of His people?

This is the message that beautifully illustrates the fervent love God has for even the most undeserving and unworthy, no matter how far they have strayed from Him!

Because I realized this last week:

It’s not about us as Christians standing by to do nothing. It’s about stepping to the side to allow God to BE everything!

It’s nothing personal, God just doesn’t need your help.

Krista Signature

Reflect, Project or… Neither?!

One of those surfers out there is my husband, although I have no idea which one :)

One of those surfers out there is my husband, although I have no idea which one 🙂

I’m not gonna lie.

I love reading all the “words of the year” and resolution posts around the blogosphere and social media this time of year.  I love fresh starts, blank pages, and the motivation that comes with a new beginning.  I appreciate goals and if they’re S.M.A.R.T. I even do a little happy dance inside sometimes.  I know.  I’m nerdy like that.  I love a new adventure, whatever it may be.

Part of me embraces this new year with a desire to sit down and reminisce.  I want to reflect on all that has happened over the last twelve months and see how I can make the next twelve even better.  I want to pause and remember the good that came out and the lessons learned.  Reflection can be oh so good.

Another part of me wants to get out my journal and start projecting to the year ahead.  What will I do?  How will I accomplish it?  Where will we go, who will we see, how many new things can I learn, how many books can I read, how many projects can I finish…  How can I improve myself (aka what new self help book will I be lured into)?  I’m wired to plan, or at least write down– everything I want to do or think I should do.  Projecting can be oh so fun.

Reflect.

Project.

Or for me– this year– neither.

I’m not saying I won’t have things I want to do this year, or I won’t think about things I did well/poorly over 2013.  But I’m not going to go through that saga of creating my word for the year, or writing down all the things I learned– or making S.M.A.R.T. goals for myself and our family.  I’ve done it all before and checked off all my boxes at the end of another year, and sometimes I was left realizing it was just filler.  It was like going to a real, authentic Chinese restaurant and filling up on steamed white rice.  I was “full” (busy), but substantially lacking.

Being SILLY at one of many family gatherings!

Being SILLY at one of many family gatherings!

Over the break, I was in California visiting family for the holidays.  We. Had. A. MARVELOUS. Time!!!!  It was perfect weather, in the mid to high 70’s the entire trip.  David went surfing while I walked on the beach (alone, sans baby girl!!!).  We had a date night.  We enjoyed family, family, and more family!  We sat late into the night talking and spending time with people we love.  It was perfect.  And throughout the trip, I just kept wishing we could move back.  Wishing we could see our family all year round, wishing we could live in jeans and tanks and flip flops all throughout winter, wishing we could drive the 2 miles to the beach anytime we wanted.  Wishing, wishing and more wishing.

I felt a little bit of discontentment begin to creep into my soul.

Normally, after coming back from a trip like that– and especially being that it’s the new year– I would have sat down with my journal and my husband and said “let’s write out our goals!  Let’s make it a priority to get back to California!!!”  But this time it’s different.  I don’t want my love for that place to become an area of discontentment, or even worse, misdirected worship.  It’s absolutely fine and wonderful to miss a place or people you love, but not at the expense of missing out on the greater glory that is already OURS who are in Christ!

So…  This year I’m okay with not knowing what’s ahead because I already know He brought me HERE.  I’m alright with not having concrete goals.  I  pray that I will settle into this life He’s called me to in the here and now, and that I’ll be grateful for our adventure– even a year after it’s begun.  I pray I would love this little family well and that I would not miss out on extraordinary gifts right in front of me because I was looking elsewhere!  This is my prayer for 2014.

As you begin your 2014, I pray you would embrace the here and now too.  If you’ve made goals and resolutions, good for you!  Like I said, I love all of that.  If you are still settling in and waiting, good for you too!  Whatever your 2014 holds, it will be marvelous if we direct our worship to the One who deserves it and rest in the assurance that He governs all things!

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” ~Psalm 139:7-10

Rachel Signature2