A True Fixer Upper Became an Amazing House Flip!

I’m sure you’ve seen shows, read articles and posts which have to do with fixer upper properties. House flipping or remodeling is such the craze now and there are ideas galore. Fixer-Upper, Flip or Flop, Property Brothers, Love it or List It, are a few that have been around for years. We’ve seen design showrooms and quality craftsmanship with Mr. Handy Man and Home improvement professionals who’ve become well-known through these reality TV shows. I used to watch Trading Spaces the way children watch saturday morning cartoons. I love the Before-and-After, don’t you?

Remodeling homes and even tearing parts down has repeatedly caused Chip Gains to don the T-shirt which accompanied his rejoicing exclamation of, “It’s Demo Day!” It’s come partly with the surge of popularity of Chip and Joanna Gains, but I believe there is something fascinating and wonderful about make-overs and the seeming “resurrection” of dead things. (Now, dead people resurrected will have to be a different blog post.)

Like you, I too have seen posts, articles and TV shows all about house flipping. Well, along those lines-there is this house in my neighborhood which was such an eyesore. It stuck out like a sore thumb. (to be fair, completely honest and vulnerable, we don’t keep our property perfect, JUST SAYIN.’ I feel badly sometimes for my next door neighbor who has to look at my yard.)

But I would walk by this one property while on my walk and think, What’s really is going on inside this home? It is becoming such a dump out here!  Yikes! No exaggeration…There was a dumpster parked in the driveway of this home for months. I’m talking about the big metal blue dumpsters contractors use when they’re replacing a roof or completing some other huge project. YEP! It’s still here! Each day I’d pass the huge dumpster until I no longer noticed it because it had sat there so long.

This huge metal dumpster was in the driveway for such an extended period of time that it rusted when it rained and the rust dripped down the entire driveway. It looked like a bloody river of orange which stained half of the driveway where it sat. The bushes and hedges were all over grown and there was definitely some exterior damage too.

I wondered, If it looks like this out here, what has happened to it on the inside? It’s kind of a scary thought. It was never abandoned and I’m not sure what the situation was. I don’t know for sure, but it was a true fixer upper.

But it has been reclaimed! A contractor bought it, flipped it and a new family has moved in!

  • The exterior was repainted from a dingy and tired yellow to a pleasing slate gray, white and black color scheme.
  • Re-roofed and the chimney was redone too.
  • There is a new fence, shutters, windows, garage door and doors.
  • Mulch was brought in and put down around the nicely trimmed trees.
  • The shaggy and overgrown bushes have been cut down.

 

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There’s even a beautiful white rocker out front on the porch now.  I think it’s completely inviting and has sweet curb appeal. It was a true “Fixer Upper” and an amazing “House Flip.”

It’s just fabulous! I am so delighted for the neighbor across the street. His own house and landscaping have always been so pristine and beautifully manicured.

I saw a young woman out watering the plants on the front porch the other day. It just made me smile. How delighted she must be to be in her new home. My girlfriend and I walk this neighborhood and always bless the people who live in the houses. We bless  them with prosperity and health and we bless them with a sense of God’s favor and goodness to them. And now I’m just watching the revitalization happen before my very eyes! WOW! How beautiful these properties are becoming!

I have camped on this section of scripture lately. (Isaiah 61: 1-10)

God is the God of INSTEAD:

  • To give a beautiful headdress instead of ashes
  • The oil of gladness instead of mourning
  • The garment of praise instead of a fainting spirit
  • Instead of shame there shall be a double portion 
  • Instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot

Dear reader, know that you are being blessed. I pray that God is showing his favor to you. I pray you know that God is for you not against you he’s working to reclaim anything in your life that has been neglected, miss treated or is falling apart.  God is really good at DEMO DAY! He is the God of INSTEAD!

If you feel your life is in a shambles, if you feel like it’s been too long, or if you feel like there’s nothing that can be done in your current situation, know that you do not have to partner with those thoughts. That negative junk is a lie. The truth is God comes to restore and redeem.  He does it better in our lives than any fixer upper. He doesn’t desire to fix us up. INSTEAD He kills us off and starts completely over. (read these whoppers!)

  • I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20        
  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! (one version says the old things have passed away… Passed away means they are dead.) 2 Corinthians 5:17 
  • The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

Be encouraged, be blessed. “He who started the work in you, and in me, is faithful to complete it!’ (Philippians 1:6) 

 

I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!

  • What is your latest home project?
  •  What is God currently doin’ in the remodel of your life?

 

 

 

 

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How to Host the Perfect Graduation Party. Ha ha ha!

“My neighbor is going nuts about this graduation party she is hosting and is in a full-blown tizzy about it so I told her I’d help in any way I can.” My friend reported. “Seriously she is so worked up about it. She is stressed out and wants it to be perfect!” Her comments made me reflect about my plan for our son’s high school graduation party.

It was back in 2008 but I still remember it vivid

I had things planned for this Grad Party:

  • food
  • drinks
  • desserts
  • decortions
  • signs and balloons
  • photos and photo-boards
  • indoor and outdoor seating.

I too was excited and a bit worked up over hosting this shindig. However, all my planning and effort for a perfect backyard barbecue celebration quickly went awry when the June storm rolled in instead.

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We had tables decorated with colorful water-filled SOBE bottles, my son’s favorite drink at the time, and helium balloons floating above each bottle as centerpieces. The backyard had plenty of seating for everyone. “This looks great! I have a few more folding chairs coming from a few neighbors and we are all set!” I told my sisters.  They’d traveled to be the ones serving our guests.

I wanted it to be a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach and had even fussed over the flower pots on my front porch. I moved them each a few inches one way or the other then stepped back to compare which position I liked better.  It was a bit obsessive. I had balloons too and it looked fabulous. “THERE! DONE!” I decreed.

BUT…

NO ONE even sat at the tables or noticed the front porch flower pots due to the torrential downpour, each guest made a mad dash to get into our house as quickly as possible.

Instantly soaked from the storm they stood dripping in the entryway like drowned rats. They stood stunned for a moment. They were greeted and welcomed with bath towels to dry off.  It was chaos and a mess. We were soggy!

My husband and brother-in-law grilled chicken and hamburgers from inside the house as they pulled the grill as close to the back door as possible. Michael ran out into the treacherous conditions and collected hail and stuck some pieces in the freezer because they were so large he wanted a preserved memory.

Michael’s friends embraced the monsoon-like conditions. ” Let’s go!” They said and dashed out the front door FULL BOAR!  These high school kids jumped in the puddles and danced in the river that formed in the street’s gutter. Others were sliding down our backyard’s hill the way we sled on snow during the winter.

They scurried up the soaked hill and body surfed all the way down and repeated the process. I’ll never forget the looks on their faces as they hydroplaned down. They grinned even though the water-spray and grass hit them. Some closed their eyes as they flew down the hill. A few may have used the plastic sleds we own, I’m not really sure.  I do remember it was frantic and loud and CRAZY and FUN!

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Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

Because of the downpour and flooding, the interstate north of our house closed as the rain continued. This prevented guests from traveling to any other graduation open houses they had on their docket. THEY WERE STUCK. The result was we had a packed house as most lingered and filled both their plates and our home with food and laughter. Friends hung out in the basement where I never imagined them even being allowed. Some folks were up in our loft area sitting two to a chair…they seemed to enjoy it.

It was a great and memorable celebration and we all embraced it. It was quite unexpected. I still laugh at my fussing over the front porch and the other tiny details because I got a crash course in “DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF” and even though the graduation party wasn’t at all what I had envisioned or planned, it was one my son will never forget.

A bit of advice I’d give now:

  • lower your expectations
  • make people the foucs
  • expect to be surprised by something
  • you’re not perfect…but you are perfectly loved by God.
  • don’t sweat the small stuff (remeber most of it is small stuff)

The LORD’s plan stands firm forever. His thoughts stand firm in every generation.

Psalm 33:11

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Unplanned Celebration

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Sometimes it’s when things don’t work out the way you planned that it leaves an indelible mark on your memory.

 

I’ll never forget!  It happened last October after hurricane Irma hit Florida.  I was privileged to spend time in Marco Island with my girlfriends.

One of them planned a wonderful beach photo shoot at sunset featuring my fabulous girlfriends each wearing my mantra T-shirts “Don’t Compare, Don’t Compete, Celebrate! ” I was touched and felt so supported by these awesome women who are all so dear to me. I celebrate them!

We were excited, “I’m going to wear white pants with my shirt, is that okay?”

“Sure!”

“Rach, I’m just going to keep on these jean shorts with mine.”

“Yes, whatever you want to wear. The point is it can work with anything! I’m wearing these black leggings. No worries.” I reassured them.

We selected our outfits and got ready together.  It was great fun. We curled our hair, applied our makeup and selected our jewelry.  Someone texted our sweet friend Autumn, who lives in Marco, she texted back…”you might want to hurry there is a storm coming tonight.”

(It will blow over it’s Marco!” Let’s go! So…)

We piled in our rental van lookin’ good and smellin’ fine.  I was excited for this opportunity.  “Thanks for doing this you guys, these photos should be great!” I said.

We pulled into the parking area and the parking attendant asked,”What are you ladies up to tonight?”

“Lisa, our driver said, “Oh just heading  to the beach to do a photo shoot for our friend Rachel Inouye who is a speaker and…blah, blah, blah.”

He said,”Okay, great have fun and you look like a speaker.” (I shook my head and thought such a weird comment. He was probably thinking, Ya realize it’s supposed to rain, right? Goofy girls!)

As we walked down the board walk we passed a couple holding hands as they left the beach. We stepped onto the sand noticed only one other small group of five gathering their beach chairs and towels as they held on to their hats and exited quickly too.

We just stood huddled and motionless under a thatched shade hut for a second. We’re the ONLY ones here. It’s so deserted! “Not gonna be a wonderful sunset tonight. It’s cloudy and grey.” (For Marco Island, Florida that’s very ATYPICAL!)

“Hey, Rachel get out there and smile.” I stepped out from under the hut and onto the sand alone to get the first photo. It was breezy so I only posed for a few. (The wind blown look it okay, i guess. BUT No girl likes to have the wind-blown look especially if the wind causes ALL your hair to be in your eyes and face or when most is stuck to your lip gloss. At least THIS girl didn’t welcome it. I tried to pose but just laughed instead.)

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We hurried to snap a few photos to document the event and promote the CELEBRATE T-shirts hoping to invite others into the ever growing “Celebrate movement” when all of a sudden the wind came up and howled, this drastically altered our plans it caused us to hurry, giggle and panic a bit too. It was shocking and took our breath away.

As the wind blew stronger, the more laughable the thought of even attemping this endevor became. Then WIND invited its friend WATER and she joined in and made her presence known to all. We got drenched instantly.

We tried to run back to our van but couldn’t. We had no footing but slid like we were skiiing in our flip flops along on the slippery and flooded boardwalk. One friend didn’t even try to go fast because she was about to wet her pants from laughing.

She grabbed herself with both hands, hoping to help her stop the inevitable accident. She cried out indistinguishable words mixed with screeching laughter but finally made it to the shelter of the van. It was dry but very loud as the rain continued to pelt the metal roof.

These photos crack me up! I can still feel the rain and hear the roar of the wind even now! Memory made! Celebration embraced! ( Photos from FB sorry for their quality- a bit blurry, I know.)

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This is a Facebook post my friend Lisa wrote at the time. Enjoy the comments too.

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So let’s embrace and celebrate being together no matter what form it comes in, planned or unplanned.

Pretty sure of this!

“I don’t know much but I’m pretty sure of this…” is a phrase my father Richard has said so often when I’ve heard him tell stories or teach. Both things he is gifted in along with another special quality I’ll mention here.

In light of recent Father’s Day, I thought I’d give a glimpse into a bit of my life with my Dad. I wrote in the Father’s Day card I gave him: Dad, you are my hero! You have taught me so much about God and the nature of our “with us ” God -Emmanuel.

I love to be with you. No matter what we are doing whether it is:

• eating

• laughing

• singing

• creating

• drawing

• playing the guitar

• constructing

• thrifting

• teaching

•repurposing

It doesn’t matter what I am doing with my father being WITH him is what I enjoy.

The other day we laughed as we carried things from the neighbor’s yard where scads of various items lined the curb. Because of an upcoming move they were throwing out a bunch of junk aling with some treasures too.

I helped my dad search these are the treasures we found:

• 100 DVD’s

• watering can

• small guitar amplifier

• collapsable stool

• Eureka vacuum

.• nice pieces of wood

He also grabbed:

• a bicycle

• a large piece of plywood

• a lamp

• a bike rack for behind a car

• truck tire and rim.

We hauled all these things home in waves and cleaned up the items that needed it. Some items have found a home already and others will be given away.

The next day we took a stroll, and I mean stroll, back down the street again to the same house where we grabbed another gem. Dad said, “We’re kinda like Sanford and Son, right?” The gem was a perfectly good twenty foot steel pole so we hauled it home.

I was wearing white pants with flip flops so my dad asked, “Are you good to go right through the yard, Rach?” I followed behind him carrying my share of the weight and length, he warned,” Careful it’s a little muddy here ya see, so I just go like this!” and away he went up the slight hill tromping through everything.

He continued to navigate as he lead me through the trees, plants and ground cover that lines the south side of my parent’s property. My feet began to feel cool because I was tromping on the leafy plants still wet from the buckets and buckets of rainfall we’d received.

We made it to the back yard and we lifted the steel pole up over the custom-built fence my dad made years ago behind our house. I stood on my tippy toes and pushed and held it there waiting.  Meanwhile dad went around between the house and went  inside his high wooden fence.

“Push a bit more, will ya? Okay, yeah, yeah, now I see it. Keep on a’comin!'” He instructed.

“Okay, Dad that’s it! That’s the last of it and it fits!” I exclaimed.

He told me he found table saw and jigsaw in the same find one time. He also said, “I picked up a lawn mower once at the dump I just pulled the rope and it started!”It probably hadn’t been sitting there too long. I’m not kidding, I pulled the rope and it started. I gave it to my brother and he used it for twenty years!”

I’m influenced so greatly by my father, like him I always experience “a thrill in the FIND.”

I don’t know much but I’m pretty sure of this..My dad is a master of salvaging things. He enjoys cleaning up, modifying and fixing things for his own use or giving them away to someone in need.

I love to be WITH him.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 NIV

“‘My son, the father said, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’ Luke 15:31 NIV

Father God, thank you for the good and perfect gift of my dad, Richard. I know every good and perfect gift comes from you so I acknowledge you as the giver. And thank you with a full heart that I’ve had Time recently to be with him.

Drawn Back to My Childhood.

I’ve had a lot on my mind today. I took a walk earlier this morning with a friend,yet my mind remained full. As thoughts seemed to loop, I decided to take a another walk to clear my head before dinner. I had only been gone about half an hour when I had this very random thought sneak in almost sideways. It was a thought that came from my early childhood. I was drawn back in time.

I could picture myself with my thin legs and boney knees tucked up under me, long, stick-straight light brown hair hanging down (Yes, I play with the color of my hair. It is usually blond now.) as my head was bowed in prayer. As a family we sat around our kitchen table which had a built-in booth like an “L” along the wall and corner with chair pulled up on the other sides.

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Maybe it was because I was hungry and needed to get back home to make something to eat, but I began to think about a simple little prayer we used to recite in unison at my family’s dinner table. It goes like this: “God is great! God is good and we thank Him for our food. By His hand, we are fed. Give us God our daily bread. Amen.”

This childhood memory came out of nowhere. I just thought of that short, child-like prayer as I was walking along. Then, as I traversed my neighborhood, I began to say it aloud, “God is great! God is good and we thank Him for our food. By His hand, we are fed. Give us God our daily bread. Amen.”

As my feet hit the sidewalk in rhythm I repeated the prayer in separate smaller phrases:

  • God is great!
  • God is good!
  • &
  • We thank Him
  • For our food——
  • By His hand
  • We are fed
  • Give us God
  • Our daily bread

I was struck by thanking Him for more than just my food. So I began to thank Him for:

  • His love
  • My husband
  • My family
  • My friends
  • His faithfulness
  • My healthy body
  • Our neighborhood
  • His kindness to me
  • His tender mercies-new every morning
  • His goodness

My mind quickly zipped to the rest of the prayer I learn as a little pip-squeak. I was struck by the words “by His hand” I thought of how God’s hand does more than just provide food. Man, God your hand does so many things. You have such busy hands! So I continued to say aloud, “By your hand:”

  • We are fed
  • We are led
  • We are guided
  • We are protected
  • We are saved
  • We are defended
  • We are delivered
  • We are supported
  • We are comforted
  • We are upheld
  • We are sustained
  • We are blessed
  • We are rescued
  • We are kept from being snatched

The remaining part of the prayer says, “Give us God our daily bread, amen.”

I got to thinking about more than FOOD how the word of God is daily bread the bread of life! So I thanked him for His written word the Bible. I thanked Him for His word spoken to me and through so many ways:

  • Other People
  • Circumstances
  • Songs
  • Sermons
  • Creation

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I believe the reason this childhood memory popped into my head is that no matter what happens in my life and how FULL my mind gets. I have settled the matter that God is great! God is good.

Scripture says that David strengthen himself in the Lord. I think just reciting this little prayer during my walk may have been how I’ve strengthened myself in the Lord.

I sure hope this reminder has strengthened you too.

The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:9

 

I’m Overwhelmed!

When you hear the word overwhelmed what do you think? Is it a positive or negative word? Overwhelmed is defined as buried or drowned beneath a huge mass.

When I think about it I typically think of overwhelmed in the negative sense. I think I’m overwhelmed by tasks like piles of laundry. Or I’m overwhelmed by the weight of the concern I carry for a loved one. I can be overwhelmed by other people’s problems and life situations too.

I would like to change my tendency to think of “OVERWHELMED” in the negative sense and instead train myself to see it in the positive light. I love the current worship song, “Reckless Love of God.”* A few of the lyrics read “Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”

Lately, I have been overwhelmed by God’s love even when I have been tempted to be “overwhelmed” by my circumstances instead. Just so you know God’s love trumped the other junk and my concerns every time, hands down NO contest!

A mentor and precious friend of mine, Jill Briscoe, says, “When you are overwhelmed remember you’re overshadowed!” I love that. I refer to it often and have passed it on many times to multiple people for a myriad of reasons. Lately, in the midst of hard circumstances I have looked for the ways I’ve seen God’s hand or timing and chosen to be overwhelmed by the goodness of God instead.

I’ve been overwhelmed by His goodness to me expressed in these ways:

  • Our recent tour to the Holy Land of Israel.
  • The beauty of spring time flowers and the lush green everywhere.
  •  A friend who walks with me three miles a day and prays.
  • God’s orchestration of caring people at the “perfect time.”
  • My husband’s hand interlaced with mine.
  • My parent’s constant love for me and my family
  • Texts “I’m here for you. Do you want to talk?”
  • A phone call “Hey, we’re headed to your house with carry-out tonight.”
  • My sisters’ love and support and prayers.
  • A phone call I received from a nephew expressing his deep love for me.
  • A long lingering hug from my son.
  • Many phone calls from my long distance son.
  • Warfare prayers from wonderful prayer warriors.

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I am simply OVERWHELMED by God’s goodness in the midst of circumstances that want to negatively overwhelm me.

God is lavishing us with love and pouring out his goodness always. So let’s grab a bucket or barrel to try to contain it all. Let’s stay attentive, turned in and aware of the positive side of the word overwhelmed.

So today, if you feel negatively overwhelmed. Remember that God promises these things:

  • He is for you, He’s not against you
  • Through Christ you can do all things
  •  Nothing is impossible with God
  • All things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.
  • We can consider it joy when we encounter trials because the testing of our faith produces endurance.
  • Hope will not disappoint.
  • God is the God of all hope. If your thought doesn’t have hope then it’s not from God.
  • God does not withhold any good gifts from his children.
  • God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
  • If you stumble you will not fall.
  • God holds you by his righteous right hand.
  • God has a banner over you and it is LOVE.
  • In your weakness He is strong.

God is our healer, provider, way-maker, comforter, friend, defender, deliverer, strong tower, sustainer, keeper and the lover of our souls. He delights to overwhelm us with his love and abiding presence. He is good. It is truly overwhelming!

We ARE OVERWHELMED. We are buried and drowned beneath a huge mass – it’s God’s love and goodness.

Father God,  I pray for the one who has felt overwhelmed lately, under a pile of negativity manifested in the forms of anxiety, worry, strife, dread or gloom and doom. I pray, in the name of Jesus, you would set them free. I speak out and release peace and  hope and joy and laughter and praise over each one now.

You promise to give us a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. You alone can make beauty out of ashes. That is my personal prayer right now and I pray this too for each reader. May we be overwhelmed by your love, forgiveness, goodness and glory. May our only response to being overwhelmed be thanksgiving and praise to you. In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

Oh, Jerusalem!

As I sit in the airport here in Tel Aviv waiting to board our plane to Toronto, I wonder. How does one take memories of a lifetime back home? They aren’t the kind that fit in my suitcase or carry-on bag. They seem to be best stored in my heart. 

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There is a scripture which says, 

but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.

Luke 2:19 NLT

I will think about my recent trip to Israel often. I know for certain they will never leave me.

A Reason A Season or a Lifetime

A Reason a Season or a Lifetime

“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold. Make new friends, but keep…” Do you hear the music? Are you

singing along? (It would depend on your age, I guess) As a young girl, I learned this song in music class. It’s sung in a round. This simple folk song sums up my friendship experience nicely. The theme of this song runs through my entire life. I’ve always made new friends and kept the old ones. I like to relate to people and connect with strangers. Like my dad, I’ll speak to anyone, but I LOVE making friends much more than merely making acquain- tances. The investment pays huge dividends.

People collect many different things. I don’t mean to say that people are things but rather we invest in people and gather them around us in the same way. We carry them with us. I think I collect many different people.

On one of his summer road trips, my son Andrew collected a friend named Gabe. Gabe came to stay with us at Christmas time and for a few days in the summer too. One summer morning, Gabe and I were talking about life, faith and relationships. We sat on the back deck and soaked up as much vitamin D as the summer sun provided. We both chomped on a crunchy cereal blend, “You know Mrs. Inouye my uncle always says, ‘People come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime.’”

I really liked that perspective: a reason, a season, or a lifetime. It was succinct and it resonated with me. Over the years, I’ve seen God provide friends for me and I am truly grateful. Some for a reason, many just for a season and others for a lifetime! Or at least so far, I’m not dead yet! I’d like to highlight a couple of gems.

My dear friend Lisa is a southern belle. We met at Grace Church shortly after my move from the Chicagoland area to Minnesota. Immediately I knew, if I got to know her better, we’d be friends. I was given her number for an upcoming church formalized dinner group. I didn’t wait. I called for a recipe, or some other silly fictitious reason, just so we could chat.

We were both young moms. She had a traveling husband, a pilot, and I had a husband who worked in retail and often worked late shifts. The friendship was rich. We explored our different back- grounds and discovered our places of common ground. We’d talk about anything and everything and nothing. Our time together included a great deal of laughter because Lisa can turn a phrase! For example, when I asked her if she liked to go camping, she said, “Girl, my idea of being outdoors is to be inside with the windows open!”

 

Lisa and I spent multiple days and extended evenings together. We both lived close to the Minnesota Zoo, so we’d meet there then let the play continue wherever the day took us. Our children spent many summer nights in the yard playing while we moms made dinner. In my mind, a meal shared together is always better than alone. Afterwards, I’d put my son’s pajamas on him and lay him in a play pen while she’d ready her two girls for bed.

We would often pop popcorn and collapse into the couch to watch a “chick flick” together. This routine and rhythm was only the start of hours, even years, of “doing life together.” At that time, we had three children between us and now we have fourteen, counting the married children’s spouses. Which, of course, I do!

We are doubly blessed because our spouses like each other too! BONUS! The two of us, our children and the men bonded. Our children have strong “growing up together” memories and, in a sense, Lisa and I grew up together too. Our friendship is PURE GOLD.

Lisa possesses the gift of empathy and, as we’ve lived life together, I’ve been the receiver more than once. I have a vivid memory of myfirst miscarriage and Lisa’s was the first face to appear at my door. She wondered what I needed and asked how she could help. “Do you want me to take young Michael for you now or is that the last thing you want?” Lisa brought something with her, I believe it was a lush plant in a dark, woven basket, but that is not what stays with me all these years later. I just see her face! It left an indelible mark on me. God sent Lisa. She came. She showed up at my door. It was her presence with me that ushered Jesus’ presence in too. She brought encouragement and sweet healing to my sad, mama heart.

 

Lisa has continued to empathize with me throughout the years. Not long ago, I stood in an Iowa funeral home and I visited with people who came through the line. I was strong. It was my father- in-law Bob’s visitation. I loved him. He was easy to love. I knew he loved me back. I felt it. He died five days after a cancer diagnosis. It all happened so fast. A constant line of people streamed through the door and it was a comfort to see how many people loved Bob. But my feet still stung, hot from the continual standing. My back rebelled with a dull ache in the lower section, proba- bly the high heels, and I felt drained. I rubbed my back with the palm of my hand, stretched my neck from side to side and rotated my ankles one at a time. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw three of the dearest people on the planet to me. Lisa, her husband and one daughter. I cried. I couldn’t believe she’d come. In that moment, I felt so honored and supported. Not until that moment did I realize how much I needed my friend.

Isn’t that what God gives us friends for? To love, support, encour- age and help us. He gifts us with friends with unique strengths. I have another friend, Stefanie, who is refreshingly honest and re- minds me of the Proverb “an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips” Proverbs 24:26. She shoots straight and doesn’t sugar coat any- thing. She gets straight to the point. Her thoughts seem to be without clutter and so is her house. Bonus! She is incredibly clean! So, when I clean my house, shuffling piles of paper from one counter to the other, I often think of Stef. What would Stefanie do? I wonder. I have watched her clean her house. If she found “junk,” she’d march right over to the garbage and throw it away! She doesn’t hem and ha about whether to keep it like I do. She doesn’t think of ALL the ways that item could be used, or whether it could be fixed to be functional, or how to repurpose it. No! She throws it away. Maybe that’s part of the secret to why she is so clean!

 

When Michael and I visit the Twin Cities, we often stay at Stefanie and Brian’s house. We are so grateful for their long-term friendship and hospitality. One night, while staying in their home, Michael and I crawled into our guest room bed. As I pulled the covers up to my chin, elbows akimbo, I turned my head to the left, looked into his eyes and lamented, “Honey, when we’re here at Brian and Stef ’s, I feel like we’re pigs! I mean seriously, the closets in the kids bedrooms are nearly empty, there’s no dust in any of the rooms, and everything is in its proper place.”

The next morning, I told Stefanie what I had said to Michael. In an attempt to make me feel better she said, “It’s clean because we are selling! For last-minute, spontaneous house showings, it needs to be super clean, clutter-free and ready.”

As true and comforting as that was, the truth is she’s very clean and it’s one of her strengths I celebrate. Her cleanliness is a chal- lenge and great reminder for me. But it’s easy to be jealous of that strength instead of celebrating it. Jealousy twists up friendship and we end up comparing and competing, especially in the age of Facebook. So I’ve learned to celebrate her instead of compare my- self to her. Stefanie has challenged me with the way she lets God’s word stand for itself and I love this dear friend and sister in Christ. I celebrate her and her giftedness. Don’t compare. Don’t compete. Celebrate!

In friendship, remember this mantra and practice it because it keeps the relationship healthy and encouraging. Don’t compare. Don’t compete. Celebrate! Don’t compare. Don’t compete. Celebrate!The mantra needs to be repeated and rehearsed because it is so tempting to forget and slip back into the comparison mindset. I encourage you to practice right now. Don’t compare. Don’t compete. Celebrate!

 

The comparison game is insidious, dangerous and particularly prevalent in the lives of women. When tempted to compare, I use the only antidote available. I rejoice in my friends’ giftedness and celebrate them. This encourages them and brings glory to the God who created them. It’s a paradigm shift, a conscious choice and deliberate action to celebrate. Instead of feeling small, insignifi- cant or incompetent, feelings that create fertile ground where jeal- ousy likes to wiggle its way in and pollute or destroy the friendship, speak aloud words like “Wow!” Audibly exclaim, “You amaze me!”

When we celebrate one another, we create a safe community where we can belong. And belonging is crucial! God pairs and groups people perfectly together and that’s part of His plan. He wants us to connect so that, through friendship and community, He can cause our connected wires to create even more “electricity” for His glory and the Kingdom’s advancement. We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them (Romans 12:5-6 ESV). Here Paul is describing the church and how our unique strengths combine and complement one another to better everyone.

Comparing and competing steals away the richness of community. But when we celebrate individual’s gifts, Lisa’s empathy and Stefanie’s honesty (and cleanliness) for example, we reap countless benefits. Because of my involvement with friends, my love for God and for others has grown.

My friends have helped shape my understanding of worship and encouraged my devotion to Jesus. And that’s how life should be! Whether the friendship is for a reason, a season or a lifetime, we are rich when we connect as friends and do life in community. I know I am rich in friendship because I seem to collect real gems and they’re also gold. “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”

 

Questions for Reflection

What one thought stuck with you?

Read Ephesians 4: 32 and 1Thessalonians 5:11

Think of one friend who you would like to celebrate today. What do you appreciate about her/him? Do something to celebrate them.

Pray and thank God for the friends you have and those He’s going to bring into your life.

Are There Voices In Your Head?

I didn’t blog earlier this week partly because I needed to pack for a trip. But instead of completing the packing task and writing this post, I found myself selecting paint and traveling to The Home Depot. What in the world was I thinking? Anyway I painted, attended a bridal shower and am now I’m about to jump into the shower because the wedding is today. No worries Rachel you will finish only a few minor details remain.

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While I painted the other day, I continued to hear this voice in my head accusing me over and over. “Why are you doing this? You realize you should be getting other things accomplished. You need to be writing a blog, why do you plan to do this project today?  You are so random and you’re not very disciplined otherwise you’d be writing.

ENOUGH!  I realized the source.  The voice I had been listening to was the accuser who was trying to make me feel badly about myself. That’s what he does 24/7 he accuses.

I recognized it as his voice and spoke the truth, God made me and He knows how I’m wired. He knows I do random tasks even when it makes no sense. He is delighted to spend time with me!  I asked God, “Do you want to take today to do this with me? He said. “Yes!” So we headed to Home Depot.

I asked God if he’d help me. He said, ‘Yes!” We listen to music and painted the living room. It was a beautiful time. Later I got to thinking about how we are human beings not human doings. I believe we need to have enough time in our schedules to just sit and soak and be in His presence.

I also know that we can’t fight against the way we were wired and sometimes we need to embrace it. God made us each the way He made us so we too can delight in ourselves the way he delights in us.

pink petaled flowers closeup photo

I was walking back to my house thinking through what I should try to accomplish when I finished my walk. I really should get a blog post written, but I still don’t have something I desire to write about. I then heard the sound of a car behind me. I was met by a friend who slowed down and said, ” Hey pretty lady!”

I removed my hood and turned my head toward her familiar face grinning at me. She had the window rolled down so we caught up about my upcoming trip and her recent time away in California.

She then asked, ” Hey, would you blog sometime about the four things that you need to do when it comes to listening to voices in your head? What were the four things again? I saw something on Facebook from one of your retreats about it. I still need to be reminded.”

I said. “Really? I was wondering, what I will blog about today? She stressed again, “Seriously, Rachel I so needed this, this past week. Please write about it!”

So here are some of  my thoughts about the voices in our heads. We must realize there’s always an inner dialogue going on. You’ve heard it, right? Yes, there are voices in our head. We MUST learn to distinguish the source of the voices that we’re listening to.

Here are some things to keep in mind. If the voice is the voice of approval it is from God.  If it’s a voice of accusation it is from the enemy. If it is a voice of comfort and confirmation it is from God, but if it is a voice of condemnation it’s from the enemy. If the voice is based on behavior and your past it is from the enemy but if the voice is based on your purpose and your destiny it is from God.

God; Comfort & Confirmation                  Enemy: Condemnation

God: Affirmation                                         Enemy: Accusation

God: Your position in Him                         Enemy: Your Performance

God: Purpose & Destiny                              Enemy: Your Past & Mistakes

So with that in mind realize there could be four voice sources:

  • An Angel
  • Holy Spirit
  • Your spirit
  • An ungodly spirit – or the devil.

So recognize the voice or even straight up ask Holy Spirit, “Is this from you? God is this you?” Remember the voice is NOT from Father God:

  • If it does not bring you encouragement…
  • If it does not tell you, you are loved…
  • If it does not show you your future, which is bright…
  • If it does not have kindness and comfort… Remember, even in correction God is good and kind.

(Scripture tells us, it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.)

So if the above list is the VOICE you hear- then it is NOT from God. When it comes to that kind of voice you must choose NOT to listen. I’ve told my audiences many times and I will repeat it again in this blog today at the request of my friend. We MUST:

1. Recognize

2.  Reject

3. Repent

4. Replace

It’s pretty simple. When you recognize it’s from the enemy or voice you shouldn’t listen to then reject the thought. then reject the voice and don’t give it any more “head space” or” airtime.” Third you have to think again on a higher level. Think in a kingdom way, re-think on a higher level…in the heavenly places with Christ where we are seated. (Ephesians 2 you have to repent)

BUT REMEMBER you can’t leave the shelves in your brain empty because the thoughts from the negative voice will come flooding back in so you must replace those accusatory thoughts with the truth.

brush painting the white wall

Let’s use my earlier example of when I was painting the room. I was hearing all the voices about why I shouldn’t be doing this or that. I needed to be writing a blog instead. Blah, blah, blah. I don’t even want to rewrite the garbage thoughts again. I had to silence the voice.  Recognize, Reject, Repent, Replace!

I had to replace it with truth. I had to say aloud, “You know what? This is how I’m wired. Psalm 139 tells me I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. This is the way I roll. I may make my husband crazy, I may drive people around me nuts but I am keeping in step with the Spirit and today this is what we are going to do. We’re going to paint this room!”

I don’t know what you’re battling today. I don’t know whether you’re hearing the voice of condemnation or not. But I do know God is speaking to you and his words over you are words of LOVE. They are words conveying His pleasure with you because He made you. He wants you to know He is proud of you and He sees your circumstances and how you are pressing forward. He wants you to know you are an overcomer. He wants you to know greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. He wants you to know no weapon formed against you will prosper. It may be formed but it will not prosper.

He hopes like nobody’s business you know: you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. He wants you to know He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. He wants you to know the righteous have NO FEAR of bad news. He wants you to know  He will provide for your every need. He wants you to know you don’t have to dwell on the past. (If you confess your sins He is faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.) He doesn’t want you to dwell on things Jesus paid for on the cross. He wants you to leave the past behind and go forward in faith.

Okay, I guess I DID have something to say today and at the risk of ranting, I just want to leave you with the thought that you too can do the four “R’s”. Maybe it’ll help you to remember Rachel said them and they all start with the letter “R”

  • Recognize
  • Reject
  • Repent
  • Replace

(I wrote about this in my book Lily Pads – Stories of God on Display.  Chapter Two- Identity and the Tooth Fairy.  rachelinouye.org)

Let me lead you in a prayer:

Father, help all of us recognize the voices that are coming in and help us to know if it’s from you or not. Lord, if the voices that we listen to are from an ungodly spirit or the enemy I pray, in the name of Jesus that we would reject them. Lord, we repent of partnering with any thought that is not the way you think about us or our circumstances. We repent of thinking on an earthly level when we are kingdom people.

We repent of partnering with the lies and the negative voice of the accuser. We ask you for forgiveness. Give us the ability to think again on a higher level. Lord, I thank you for your word.  Your word is the truth. We can replace any negative thoughts and lies we’ve believed with positive thoughts of what you think about us straight from your word.

Thank you for what you say about us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You never make junk and you have started a good work and are faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. We thank you, we thank you, we thank you, we believe you are doing a good work in and through our lives. I pray this, in Jesus name, amen!

Weary- Give Me Strength!

Today I have been a bit weary. I think I’m just a wee bit tired. I have so enjoyed my time with Ying Ying, but the time and energy spent doing things out of the ordinary and the effort of wanting to be a good hostess took a toll. Don’t get me wrong, I loved doing all the things I have done in the last few days, however they have contributed to my weariness, I’m sure.

Here is a quick glance at just a few of the activities from the last few days:

  • Downtown Milwaukee
  • Historic Lighthouse
  • Milwaukee Art Museum
  • Eat
  • Retzer Nature Center
  • Shop
  • Thrift stores
  • Walk
  • Bible study
  • Eat
  • Eat
  • Life group
  • Eat

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I just returned from O’Hare airport where I dropped Ying Ying off to catch her flight back to China. I grabbed a set of verse cards and sat down outside on the back deck and reviewed some of the promises of God. I melted into the cushion and simply sat for a moment. I was grateful for the safety and for the chance to just catch my breath before I would think about writing a blog post.

I sat there a minute before I realized I was crying. Tears streamed down my face I flipped through the cards with promises of God printed on them. Why so downcast oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:11 (Serously, that’s the first card I turned. 

I wiped my tears as I continued to read but the tears kept coming. God what’s going on with me? Am I just tired? Do I miss Ying Ying?  Do I miss my children? Am I going to be okay? I feel so tired and weary.  I don’t have any strength to write a blog post today, but you know how much I like to encourage people. I want to write but I don’t have the energy or the strength.

I had a melt down really. God didn’t demand, “Rachel get it together!” Instead He let me cry it out.  He then comforted me and we had a bit more of a chat. I had wiped off all my mascara so I went inside to grab a tissue because I had the “snotty-nosed, ugly face kind of cry” going on.

When I returned I flipped to the next section of promises of God entitled: GOD WILL GIVE YOU STRENGTH.  BOOM! Then I knew what to share with you today. Let it be for the both of us!

PROMISE God will give you strength:

  • My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness… 2 Corinthians 12:9a

 

  • Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73: 25–26

 

  •  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:28 – 29

 

  • For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9a

 

  • So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

 

  • I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

 

I sure will miss this  beautiful young lady and her precious face.

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I am thankful to God for how relational I am. I am also thankful God gives strength to the weary.  His promise to me was fulfilled. I started to write, went on a walk, attended a meeting, finished this blog post all after the earlier melt down.  I believe God will give me continued strength and rest. He promises to do it. Let it be an encouragement for you as well. God will give you strength.