Monday, January 30, 2012

NYC Favor

Recently Dan and I were talking and this story came up. I had not thought about it in years but realized I had never told it in this format and could not resist telling it. It was a funny story.

When I graduated high school, my grandparents bought me a ring. It was out of a LeVian collection. LeVian is a well known jewelry designing legacy, and I am a big fan their work. This ring is still very sentimental to me.

When I was in college, I had my hand on a door frame and it was caught on the door hinge and literally ripped off my hand. The shank was broken. So I sent it off to a particular store that was to handle repairs for that company. They did replace the back of the ring but they never put the designer’s insignia in the ring. So I took the ring back and told them this. They solved this problem by forging the insignia in the ring. I was not a happy customer.

Later that year some friends and I decided to travel a bit over spring break. We ended up spending time in the Pocono’s, New Jersey, and New York City. I figured since we were in NYC for a day then I would go and visit the designer and tell them what happened. That maybe I could get my ring properly fixed. I figured they had a showroom in NYC, and I would be visiting a jeweler. When I called information and asked for the location of the designer, I never imagined what would happen.

After searching in several buildings and getting told I wanted a different building, my friends and I finally arrived at an office building where they would only let me in. The secretary kept looking at me befuddled as I explained to her what had happened and confirmed that it was in fact a LeVian office I standing in. She started looking my information up in the computer, and found me. While all this was going on, she motioned to a man on the phone in the back office. He came out of this room, and reached for my ring. He began looking at the ring while I explained what had happened to him. He stood half listening to me, and half listening to the other person on the phone. It was then in a stroke of utter shock, I realized I was standing in front of Eddy LeVian himself.

“Excuse me,” he said in a thick accent to the person on the phone. Then he turned to me and motioned, “Who are you with?” He motioned to my friends at the door who were not allowed to enter.

“These are my friends. I’m just a college student from Ohio.” I replied. The look of bewilderment on his face was unmistakable.

“But who are you with?” He kept asking me. The implied question was how did I get there.

“I’m just a college student?”

“How long are you in the city?”

“Just for the afternoon.” I felt like a small mouse in the corporate office.

“You come back to the office upstairs; we’ll have it back for you in three hours.” I was shooed out of the office. My friends and I went around NYC for the next three hours. We did nothing more than probably the typical tourist.

When I arrived back to knock on the door in the upper office I was only allowed to bring in one person with me only. There was a large guard in the office that looked as if he’d just got off the circus train touring as the “Incredible Strongman“. I was asked to wait in the hallway. I peeked around the corner to see Eddy LeVian himself scanning what looked like twenty to thirty loose emeralds on a black velvet cloth that looked like they were the size of dimes.

“Well,” he stood up when he saw me. “Did you enjoy the city?”

“Yes.” I nodded. He was a man that intimidated me, and still could not believe it was the Eddy LeVian in the flesh.

“You sit.” He motioned to the message chair. Like a dutiful puppy, I sat on the edge of the chair. “No you sit back.” I was about as comfortable as an ice cube in the desert. He flipped on the message chair and it began its rotations on my back. “You like?” I nodded, looking up at my friend who had entered the office with me.

Saved by the courier, the knock on the door came. It was my ring. It was all fixed and better than it looked like when I bought it originally. Mr. LeVian had really made sure that my ring was in its best shape possible. I would not have gotten some of the things that needed done to it had I have asked the store to fix it back in Ohio.

I love telling that story because it is such an example of God’s favor. I had not meant to go to NYC, meet a famous jewelry designer, and get my ring in its best shape ever. It just happened. I could not have made it work out that way had I tried.

Psalm 84:9 (NIV)
Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one

Joshua 1:9 (NIV) Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

When you are one of God’s children, His favor is with you where ever you go. He will take care of you. I promise you God can get you into situations that even you would shake your head and not be sure how you got in them, but He will make them all work out for His glory. I think so often in life we are always thinking and conjuring on how we can make something happen, instead of letting God do it. It is always better when He does. Remember God has awesome plans for your life! Get excited!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Belizean Puzzle

My aunt and uncle recently spent some time in Belize, and they brought back this very beautiful wooden puzzle. It is hand carved with various woods and finishes, and it really is an impressive piece they placed on their coffee table. While we were in Ohio and visiting their house my oldest daughter without even questioning it picked it up, dumped all the pieces out, and began to try to do the puzzle. I had seen the puzzle setting there and I’ve never been a huge fan of puzzles so it wasn’t much of a temptation to try. However, my oldest daughter earnestly began trying to put it back together. Since they had rather recently returned from Belize they had yet to take a picture of the puzzle. It never occurred to anyone that it would be that difficult. My daughter tried and tried to put that thing back together. Then it got passed around the room for others to try, and then she tried some more. My aunt sent it home to my parent’s house with her to keep trying. She spent hours working on that puzzle. I have to give her credit here. She was determined. We were to leave the next morning to visit my in-laws in Canada and my daughter was up working on that puzzle that night, and in the morning.

We spent a week in Canada and when we came back we found out that after hours no one else could put it together and finally after a lot of searching someone found a picture of it put together online and that’s how it finally got back together. Of course my oldest had to see that picture and put it together herself. She was that determined, but she had needed a little guidance.

How often is it in life that we find ourselves in situations we have no idea how we got there or how to get ourselves out. The very thought of our situation can overwhelm us. It’s like we find ourselves stuck in a dark well, and we just need a light to get us out. We can spend hours trying to find out way on our own, and still be just as confused. Like the puzzle and they needed a picture or a map to find their way out….the Bible can be that way to us in our lives situations.

Psalm 119:105 (NIV) Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

It’s okay to look at the map to find your way out of the situation! You need to know the word of God; you need to learn what God says about your circumstance and you need direction from Him as to what path to apply. If my family would have never found the picture of that puzzle online I’m not sure anyone would have solved it. The result would have just been a lot of frustrated people including my daughter. God does have awesome plans for your life, but you need to know what God and the Bible says about you. You need to know how to get there, and you need to be able to see where you are going. Read the word! Let Him show you the way! Get excited!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Flashcard Cheating

Recently I was reminded of a story with my sister and me while I was growing up. My sister and I are six years apart. I remember having a horrible time with learning my math figures. Math has never been my gifting. I can remember spending hours looking at flashcards and several educational things my mother purchased to help me learn my times tables. I was told that my aunt remembers my sister was setting on her couch trying to go through my flashcards with me. She remembers that I was setting somewhat high on the couch but could hear my sister and me talking.

“Wow you’re doing much better Ann.” My sister would encourage me as we went through the flash cards. My aunt heard me go through a few more, and then suddenly, “You’re cheating!”

“But it’s easier!” I yelled.

I guess I figured out how I could see the back of the cards and instead of actually learning the math figures, I was looking at the answers. While I had a point it might have been easier to cheat it was not helping me in the end. The cheating was only a short cut. However, I promise if I did not learn them when I went to take the test I would not do so well.

I think many take this approach subtly in life, and then wonder why things did not work out the way that they thought they would. For the years I continued to write and no one professionally would give a me the time of day, I was asked often why I didn’t just self publish. For me that would have been cheating. I am not saying all self-publishing is, but I knew that was an attempt of a short cut, and it was not God’s will for me.

When David faced Goliath the Bible says he boldly declares to the giant “he fought the lion and fought the bear” so he knew he could take Goliath down. (1Sam 17). When the rain started to cascade and Noah and his family were in the boat, what would have happened if Noah had decided to take the easy route…what if he would have had a moment of doubt and maybe did not tar a section of the boat and as a result, the boat started to fill with water? Short cuts for the ark would have meant we would not have been here, cause that boat would have sank.

God wants to teach us things in life, and if we are always trying to cheat or find the easy button, we will not be ready for what lies ahead. We will not be prepared. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing and even if the road your on now seems a bit redundant. God knows what He is doing.

Proverbs 10:4 (NIV)
Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.

Be diligent in whatever and wherever God has called you to be on this earth. I promise you that eventually it will be worth it. Even the smallest of things can later turn into what lead to some of the biggest breakthroughs of your life. Trust Him! Remember God has awesome plans for your life. Get excited!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not Listening?

As many of you know a few weeks ago my family and I drove across the country for the holidays. As any long road trip it soon became full of its own adventure. Truthfully the way there wasn’t too bad. We took three days to get there because we stopped and visited a few people on the way. It was the way back, when we drove it straight through that I was again saying to Dan we need a jet plane.

My oldest daughter was setting in the backseat of the SUV with her DS taking pictures along the way. She was getting very annoyed with us because she wanted to get a picture of all the states “Welcome To” signs, so I started trying to tell her where they were whenever we were going to pass them.

On our way into Michigan I said to the girls, “Look there is the sign. We’re in Michigan! Look! Look! Look!” I was sure they heard me. We were nearing the Canada border and all was well.

About ten minutes later I heard a “MOM!” from the back seat of the car. “We’re in Michigan! Why didn’t you tell me?” Really? I had gone out of my way to make sure I told them. This was one of those moments I started to ask myself as a parent why do I bother talking sometimes? Do they just always tune me out?

Dan piped up, “Ann, we’re in Michigan?” He was joking but at that moment I didn’t find him funny.

Do you ever wonder if God has moments where he feels the same thing? Maybe He’s tried to tell His children something a dozen and a half times and they aren’t listening. Sometimes, myself included, we get so caught up in what we think we know, that we stop listening for God’s voice on the matter. We figure we can do it our way, but yet get frustrated at God when it doesn’t work out.

I can’t imagine going through life and not hearing the voice of God.

John 10:27(NIV)27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Isaiah 30:21(NIV)21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

God longs to tell His children things. He longs to give you direction, but you have to stop doing everything your own way. You have to stop tuning Him out and start tuning Him in. I think about a radio. It’s as if many Christians live their lives with the wrong station on. They wonder why they can’t hear God’s voice, but their daily worries and life seems to be yelling louder than God. Tuning back into the God’s voice station is easy. Jesus was always finding time to get alone with God when He was on the earth. Sometimes you have to lock yourself in a room, turn off the distractions, and seek the voice of God. While His voice does come across booming at times, often it’s a still small voice where unless you find the time to get away you won’t be able to hear Him. (1Kings 19:12) Tune into God, and what He is saying! You’ll be happy you did. Remember He has awesome plans for your life. Get excited!

Monday, January 16, 2012

One Person Can Make a Difference

I have heard people tell me over the years that “You are just one person, and you couldn’t possibly make a difference on this earth.” On this Martin Luther King Jr Day of 2012 I want to remind you all that one person can make a difference. Martin Luther King Jr was one pastor, one father, and one man who essentially changed the world. He helped bring about change in this nation, and when the wars of apartheid sprung up in the 80’s in South Africa I know his inspiration was there as well. One person can make a difference on this earth. Names like Martin Luther (who broke off of the Catholic Church in the 1500’s), Nelson Mandela, Corrie Ten Boom, Anne Frank, and Billy Graham. They were all probably people that would have been considered normal. However, as I wrote in a facebook status update yesterday, “God loves to take ‘normal’ people and do extraordinary things. But it takes the ‘normal’ person to step out of the box of normalcy, and dare to believe Him.”

Many of you have heard me tell the story about a similar argument I had with God years ago. I was in an inner city arguing and giving excuses to the Lord as to why I couldn’t pick up the call of God on my life. I kept saying, “But God I’m one person!” There were some little girls playing on the swings beside us as we picked up glass and shards of debris. To those little girls the playground was normal, but there were broken bottles everywhere. As I bent down to pick up piles of glass, like a bolt that hit my spirit and shook me from my moment of selfish pity party, I heard the Lord say to me, “That piece of glass will never end up in that child’s knee.” One person can make a difference.

Jesus was just one person. (Well he was also God, but when He was on the earth He was one person) and He changed the world…He changed the eternity for many.

God has created you with greatness inside of you, will you rise to it, or will you spend your life ignoring it? I find it so sad when I talk to people who have known what God had called them to, but have chosen their own paths. God doesn’t waste lives. We are all his creation uniquely fashioned for destiny. Hook up with His plans, and you will see His greatness come out of you that will even surprise you!

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

I will close this blog today with a clip from the infamous “I have a dream” speech. I believe one person on this earth can make a difference. Will you let God use you, to step into your destiny? Remember God has awesome plans for your life. Get excited!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Getting Caught Lying?

While my family and I were in Canada a few weeks ago, Dan and I went to the main bookstore in town. I am trying to get my book tour schedule down for post the book release and am planning a Northern tour this summer. Because we do travel to Windsor a couple times a year, and I already have a book signing tentatively planned in Detroit, I thought going to Windsor would be a good idea. While I had called this store before and mentioned the idea, and they kind of gave me the run around because I am an American, I thought it would still be worth the try to talk to someone in person. I mean really the border is ten minutes from the store.

Dan and I arrived in the bookstore and shook the snow off our shoes. We have done this enough. We have the drill down. He went his way in the store and I went about finding someone I could talk to.

“Excuse me ma’am do you have an event coordinator I can speak to…” I went into they why’s and the book release. The worker listened to me with a blank expression.

“You need to talk to *Sue. She will be in on Friday. You can come back then.” *Sue was not the name she gave me, but for the sake of discretion, I will not give store names or exact names.

“Ok. Thank you.” I shook her hand and went about to find Dan. When I found him, I explained to him what happened. It appeared on the surface like every other conversation I have had with bookstores. You just need to be persistent and talk to the right person.

As Dan put the magazine, back into the rack so we could go in the mall the loudspeaker to the store came on. Blaring like an alarm we heard someone speak, “There is a call on line 1, will Sue please pick up the phone.” Without uttering a word, my husband and I turned to each other, and started to laugh.

For those of you who are thinking maybe there are two workers by the same name. I doubt that for the real name was not very common. Truthfully, it is not a big deal; there are other bookstores out there. I just really found the story funny.

You know the Bible talks about things being done under cover will eventually be brought out.

Luke 8:17 (NIV)
For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

I know that worker thought she could get away with lying to me. However, really she should have just told me the truth. The truth came out anyway. Many times people make up stories and call them “little white lies” because they do not want to fess up to something. People have this idea that what they do in secret people will never know about. I have made some goofy mistakes in my time. While I do not broadcast some of them, I try to be honest about them if confronted. We have to be honest. Eventually those things come out, so really it is just easier to tell the truth than have to admit a lie later. Life your life as an open book. God can see the truth anyway! So maybe I will not be going to Windsor in that store for a book signing this time around. It is okay. Learning to deal with the truth is always better than a fabricated lie. Remember, God has awesome plans for your life. Get excited!

Monday, January 9, 2012

What Is A Skunkypoleon?

While my family and I were spending time with my parents in Ohio, I was reminded of a valuable lesson. My daddy all through growing up would jokingly call my sister and I “skunkypoleon’s”. We would wail and giggle and say we weren’t, and it was a big game in father daughter land. I never thought to ask what it was; it just was something I was sure I wasn’t. Now that my sister and I have our own children, daddy does the same thing with them. For several days I could hear my daughters and nieces’ go back and forth that they weren’t skunkypoleon’s.

In the car driving to an Amish store the game with my daughters continued. Daddy was calling them skunkypoleon’s and likewise they were saying he was one. Then wisdom from the back of the car piped up in the words of my oldest daughter.

“Grandpa? What is a skunkypolen anyway?” I paused laughing and turned to her. I had never thought to ask what one was. All eyes turned to my dad waiting for a response. Surely after all these years of skunkypoleon calling it had to mean something.

Daddy paused to think. “You know what I don’t know.” The car began to laugh hysterically and the irony wasn’t lost on me. All these years I firmly persisted I wasn’t this made up word and now no one knew what it was. I even went home to Google it and alas it is just a made up phrase.

We do the same thing in life. There are times we just start thinking the worst. So often we live in fear of the unknown, and in all fairness our fears rarely have any kind of reality behind them. The worst case scenarios dance in our minds, but their just made up in our heads.

God doesn’t want us to live in fear of the unknown.

Psalm 23:4 (NCV)
Even if I walk through a very dark valley, I will not be afraid, because you are with me. Your rod and your shepherd's staff comfort me.

Psalm 56:3 (NCV)
When I am afraid, I will trust you.

God wants us to just trust Him! He wants us to have faith in what He has spoken, and not to focus on what could be out there. He’ll take care of you! Trust that He is your rear guard.

Yesterday Dan and I were briefly watching the cartoon Meet The Robinsons. I have always loved that movie, and we were hypothetically talking about what we would say to ourselves if we could talk to an 8 year-old version of ourselves. I quickly responded, “Don’t sweet the small stuff, trust the Lord, and enjoy life.” To which we started to discuss…the list of things I stressed out over as a kid, and how God fulfilled those issues in my life. Then we went on to talk about, if I would tell myself that at 8 years-old then why do I have problems doing that today for my future. Looking back on your life it can be easy to see God’s hand at work. He promises that He’ll always be with you and never leave you nor forsake you. I’ve watched Him time and time again supernaturally fulfill things in my life. It hasn’t always been easy, but things have worked out. Moving forward and living forward is what can get complicated. Just like being “afraid” of the label “skunkypolen”, it’s easy to focus on the unknown.

As I said before and I will continue to say, I believe the key to a mature walk with the Lord is the simple truth of trusting in God! You don’t have to be afraid of the unknown, worst case senerios, and an overactive imagination. Simply trust Him! You have to move forward. You cannot keep living in fear. Put your hope and trust in God. You’ll be glad you did. God has awesome plans for your life. Get excited!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Conversation with an Italian POW from WWII

Greetings all you awesome people! Hope your Christmas was Merry, and your New Year rocked. I am officially back at my desk, though it seems I have a massive amount of things that need to be done. I have decided being overwhelmed is a strength zapper and I refuse to be zapped. I am choosing to be at peace, and rest in the fact that God is able. We had some exciting doors open up for ministry while we were gone, and I am prayerfully working on some others. If you know of, or are a pastor especially in the Central FL, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, PA, etc area please let me know if you’d be interested in us coming to minister. If you are outside of those areas we can make it work, these are just areas I will be touring.

Like always when I travel and spend sometime away, I come back filled with stories of our trip and little lessons learned. I wanted to start by writing a blog about getting to meet an extended family member of my husbands. This uncle was captured during WW2. He was fighting for the Italians, and was actually held in a POW camp in Arkansas. Today he is a proud Canadian citizen. I am a history buff, and a lover of hearing people’s stories so it is no doubt I found the idea of getting to talk to this man intriguing.

Through bits of very broken English and hand gestures, bits and pieces of his story came out like water in a rocky stream. He had been captured and sent into a US POW camp. They were given supplies to make their own food, and I saw a picture of him outside of a tent that had been his home.

What I found so precious and remarkable about his story is spaced in regular intervals was him continuing to say, “Put God first and the rest will follow.” While English was not his native language, I knew what he was saying. Before me sat an old man who had lived through the horrors of battle, but learned to live. One must continue to trust in God. He held no ill will to American’s. He kept telling us that as a whole the Italians and Germans were good people, but just had bad leaders.

Him continuing to remind us to put God first was wisdom He wanted to make sure he passed to us. Here is the same sentiment in the Bible.

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

He is a survivor and He wanted to make sure we understood why the war, captivity, or the conditions in Italy before the war did not break him. His answer was simple. He kept God first.

I sat on his couch a cold Canadian afternoon feeling like I had been reminded an important life lesson. Maybe the lesson is simple, but its an area we all seem to trip over on occasions. It can get so easy to be caught up in circumstances, disappointments, and moments we can never change. Spending time with an Italian POW from WW2 reminded me, that life is not really life unless God is first. Spending time with him reminded me that in order to be a person of wisdom, I had to look to the wisdom of God. I hope his story and message inspires you as it did me. Remember, God has awesome plans for your life. Get excited!