Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Anchored in Love

These last few weeks here in Minnesota have left us all longing for some relief...a thread of hope that spring will eventually come and we can leave our homes without wrapping every inch of skin in a mountain of hats, scarves and parkas. Last night as I drove home from dinner out with my in-laws {who are Florida-bound as I'm writing this - no fair!}, I came upon THIS in the street right by our house:


Well hello, snowdrifts.

Get my drift {pun intended}, it's fairly easy to feel overwhelmed or hopeless in this life at times. Maybe it's the season of life you're in {or the weather season!}, maybe it's the loss of a job, maybe it's struggles in your marriage or with your children or a friendship, or maybe it's accepting the reality of having a child with a disability {in my case}. Whatever it is, it's so easy to feel hopeless, buried {no "blizzard" pun intended} in the circumstances of life. It's so easy to let the evil one sneak in, as he tries to steal our joy and convince us that we have no hope...no relief in sight from the troubles and difficulties of this world.


But we DO have hope. Hope in HIM. Even in the midst of whatever circumstances or struggles we're trying to work through. He is right there with us, serving as our anchor in the storm. Lately, I've been so in love with the lyrics of this song:

 

Anchored In Love
I’ve found a sweet haven of sunshine at last
And Jesus abiding above
His dear arms around me are lovingly cast
And sweetly He tells His love

The tempest is o’er
I’m safe evermore
What gladness what rapture is mine
The danger is past
I’m anchored at last
I’m anchored in love Divine

He saw me endangered and lovingly came
To quiet my storm beaten soul
Sweet words He has spoken and bless His dear name
The billows no longer roll

The tempest is o’er
I’m safe evermore
What gladness what rapture is mine
The danger is past
I’m anchored at last
I’m anchored in love Divine

His love shall control me through life and in death
Completely I’ll trust to the end
I’ll praise Him forever and with my last breath
I’ll sing of my soul’s best friend

The tempest is o’er
I’m safe evermore
What gladness what rapture is mine
The danger is past
I’m anchored at last
I’m anchored in love Divine
Let those lyrics sink in for a minute. They're pretty powerful. I remember hearing this song when I was a kid and at that time I didn't really "get it" – I just loved singing the harmony lines with the old June Carter-Cash version {probably why I love Jenny & Tyler's version so much!}. But as I've mentioned before, music has always been the one thing that speaks to me – it hits me at my core. My favorite part of this song is "His love shall control me through life and in death, Completely I'll trust to the end, I'll praise Him forever and with my last breath, I'll sing of my soul's best friend". He loves us unconditionally. He loves us despite our flaws, failures and messiness. He loves us in life and in death. And He's our soul's best friend. I love that. I really do. My soul's best friend.

He's right there with us through the ups and downs, when we feel like we're floating helplessly and hopelessly in the sea of life – unsure what's next. He's our anchor, keeping our "storm beaten soul" safe and secure.

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

• Hebrews 6:19 •

I'm thankful today that no matter what storm we're in, we have Hope. A Hope that's firm and secure regardless of what this life may throw at us. Rest in that today.


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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Match Made In Heaven

Hi Friends,

Hard to believe we're almost through our first month in 2014. Life seems to be flying by. I wanted to back up a bit and post about something exciting I was able to be a part of over the course of 2013. But let's rewind a little bit first...so, back in April 2013 I received a message on Etsy from someone named Christie asking if I'd donate a print for an online fundraising auction. Honestly, I get tons of these. TONS. No lie. I've seriously donated more prints to fundraisers for ministries, sick families, adoptions, memorial funds, cancer benefits, you name it - I've donated prints for an auction benefiting "it". My husband doesn't always understand why I'm so giddy to send off prints for free {especially because I've given away more than I've sold}. And that's what I love about Red Letter Ink - how God is using simple 'ol me sitting in my basement with crazy-wild ideas pouring out of this strange brain of mine to touch the lives of other people around the country and really, around the world.

So, back to my message from Christie - I wrote back and said, "Sure, I'd love to!" like I always do. Then I had a few minutes before I was supposed to run out the door to a meeting so I clicked on the blog link she'd sent. As I began to read, I started to cry...then sob...then I was full-out weeping. I had to quick send an email and tell my client something had come up and I wasn't able to meet until later in the day - that's how bad I was. Something about this blog touched me at my core. After reading various posts about the work God was doing in Uganda through Ekubo Ministries, I was completely on-board, wanting to help in whatever way I could. I've asked Christie if it'd be okay for me to share a few of our early messages on Etsy...they're pretty great:


Aimee Libby wrote:
Apr 30, 2013 (after my initial "Sure, I'd love to donate a print" response)
Christie,
I just checked out your blog and I'm bawling my eyes out. Though I may be living a comfortable "suburban" life here in the suburbs of Minneapolis, my heart has ALWAYS been elsewhere. I see the photos and the sweet kids you're caring for and my heart screams "I'M SUPPOSED TO BE THERE!". But then I hear the *ping* of another email coming in from the Special Olympics team that I helped start just over a year ago in our community, and God reminds me that He has me here for a reason. We have a daughter with special needs and I felt so called to reach out to families of special needs kids that we started a Special Olympics team like I said just over a year ago. It's been AMAZING to see how God is giving us opportunities to connect with and come around these families and love on them! But then I find out about ministries like yours and I so desperately would give anything to fly there and stay for as long as I could to help. I strongly believe that one day, God will quench the desires of my heart to serve overseas, but for now - if all I can do is support those who are already there, so be it! :) All that to say, let's go BIG...why don't you show bidders a "Pick your favorite FIVE Red Letter Ink prints". Hopefully that'll help raise funds to cover the many needs that you have...and it'll pacify my aching heart that longs to be there in the meantime as I wait on God's timing! :)


Once again, thank you so much for reaching out to me!!! I love how God connects his children in such amazing ways.

Can't wait to see how much money the Red Letter Ink prints raise for your ministry!!

Talk to you soon,
Aimee


P.S. Not sure if you saw this yet, but my latest blog post was about our May adoption fundraising...check it out! You'll get to see a couple of my newest adopted nephews, too! :)
www.redletterink.blogspot.com/2013/04/may-is-kind-of-big-deal.html

Ekubo Ministries wrote:
Apr 30, 2013
Gaaaaaah! Now you have me crying. Oh, sister. Children with special needs are discarded in Uganda but organizations like ours scoop them right up. They're our hearts. They're HIS heart. Makes me angry how they're treated. Oh, sister! More tears.

We would absolutely LOVE to have you come serve with us. But like you said, He has you here for a reason - FOR NOW - but when the time comes, bring it :)


The more I keep looking at your work and realizing how stinkin' long we've struggled to get our t-shirt ideas from our heads into a design - people offer on FB for all our supporters to see and thank them publicly but then we never hear from them - the more I pray He'd use you to help us somehow. Your work is just amazing. Wow. Let me know if that's something you'd be willing to bless us with as well.



LOVE that He connected us. Oh, I am praising Him <3

Aimee Libby wrote:
Apr 30, 2013
One more thing - the comment you made in your last message - that special needs kids are discarded there, but organizations like yours "scoop them right up". Here come the tears again ... :) Oh, how that makes my heart smile!!! Knowing that there are people over there who see and appreciate these sweet children...and see their worth, I can barely stand it!! God is SO good.


Ekubo Ministries wrote:
Apr 30, 2013
Sister, I'm just a mess. Crying. Listening to our newborn snoring. Crying some more. Thinking about how heavy my heart is for special needs children. Thanking God for His grace. Thanking Him for having met you. You have NO idea how long I've prayed for someone to help us. Without wanting something in return. Just a pure heart. Like ours. We do SO much for people and when we can't anymore, we have to bury them. Children. Babies. Old people. But we give it our all. I have been praying - for you. You are SO excited to help. THAT is not a "yes, I can donate to help you out". Help me? Oh, no. You're not "helping me". You're bringing glory to Him. But YOU, sweet friend, are cheerful. I'm crying again. Thank you for being different. Grabbing your hand and running towards Him together. So thankful. Sooooo thankful.
 
Aimee Libby wrote:
Apr 30, 2013
What a beautiful thing to find a connection like this where we both just "get it". I've run in to a lot of different organizations/people over the years who have requested donations, and I've yet to turn one down. But most of them take whatever donation I send and I never hear from them again. This'll be different, though, I can already tell. Because God meant for the two of us to virtually "brush shoulders". I can't tell you what a relief it is for me to finally have found someone who doesn't think it's absurdly odd that my hearts' real desire is to SERVE. I don't want money. I don't want recognition. I don't want anything but to use what God's blessed me with to bless others. Period.

Here in the States when people hear me say that most of them look at me like I've lost my marbles. And that's probably why I've spent all 13 years of my married life feeling like a loner on an island serving, rarely finding others who have the same mentality/desire who will serve alongside me. Then someone like YOU comes along and restores my hope in what God is doing through all the chaos of this world. He had a plan to connect us. He knew we BOTH needed it. And I am so ridiculously excited and humbled. It's gonna be a GREAT ride, I just know it!! :) SO. EXCITED.

What a ride it has been!! There have been countless times since last April where I'll drop Christie a note via Etsy or Facebook only to get a response, "No way. I was just praying for you!" {like tonight when I messaged her to make sure she was okay with me sharing our private Etsy messages}. I have no doubt that when that day comes where Christie and I are able to meet face-to-face, we'll be instant best friends...and there will be LOTS of hugging involved. And maybe a few tears of joy.

Something Christie had mentioned in one of our conversations was their need for a new/revised logo that could be applied to t-shirts, postcards, brochures, jewelry tags, etc. We put our heads together and after a few rounds of going back and forth, we settled on the new Ekubo Ministries logo...and I LOVE IT!!!

Our next project is t-shirt designs {my favorite!} which will serve as a means to raise additional funds for Ekubo, but in the meantime, if you're looking for an incredible ministry to support - please take a few minutes and consider Ekubo Ministries {check them out on Facebook, too!}. They have hearts of gold and will gladly share with you one of their many stories of how God has continued to provide and bless them even during the most unbearable circumstances. He is good ALL the time. And He connects people for a reason...even those who are worlds apart. The next time you come across a situation that makes you think, "Whoa, that's a little crazy how that hit me straight in the heart", pause and see if God may have purposely led you straight into that situation. Because He has a way of doing that. And it's up to us what we choose to do with opportunities that arise out of nowhere.



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Thursday, January 2, 2014

It's that time again...


That time again, you know, for New Year's Resolutions. The time of year where you start fresh and have great aspirations to live a "Pinterest-perfect" life. THIS is going to be the year, you tell yourself. This is the year to turn that flabby, post-baby body into that ripped fantastic bod that you see on all the commercials and in all the health magazines. And this is the year that running will become something that's so enjoyable you can barely stand to go a day without doing it. And this will be the year where you'll magically start to enjoy eating nothing but carrot sticks and lettuce like a rabbit to achieve the aforementioned teeny tiny magical bod that everyone will be so jealous of. And this is the year we'll suddenly become savvy in the home decor department and our homes will be transformed into an overly organized, type-A museum-like setting that would put Martha Stewart to shame. THIS IS THE YEAR! Time for a fresh start!

Now anyone who knows me knows that:
  • a) I like to be "healthy", but I'm allergic to exercise {either that or it's just lower on my list of priorities - not as important as whatever I'd have to give up in order to make time for it}
  • b) I did all my running in high school & college and am "run out" now {thank you college track & field knee injury}
  • c) While I enjoy a clean, organized house...I tend to fail miserably the majority of the time in the eyes of my type-A personality hubby {love you, dear!}

But with all that said, I still find myself thinking about all the "what ifs" as January 1st rolls around each year. Believe me, I'd give my right arm to have my stretched out baby belly GONE. And who wouldn't love to be a size or two smaller? I mean c'mon, everyone wants to be healthier to some degree, right?!

Over Christmas break we spent a good chunk of time at our cabin in NW Wisconsin {near where I grew up}. I'm not gonna pretend that we haven't taken a lot of heat for the crazy amount of time we've retreated to the woods over the past year, because we have. And to answer the question everyone and their dog asks every time they see us, no, we're not moving up there {not yet anyway}. But the time we've had there as a family and with other family & friends has been priceless as I've mentioned in other posts. And to be perfectly honest, part of what I've enjoyed so much about it is that there it feels like we have a "fresh start". We've been plugged in at a church {NorthRidge Fellowship} here at home for over 9 years now and we absolutely love and adore our church family! And the biblical teaching that happens week after week there has been so instrumental in the spiritual growth of our family. That was one concern we had about being away at the cabin so frequently. But a few months back my dad who works up in the area where our cabin is said, "Hey, I know there's a new church-plant just northeast of you guys - you should check it out". We'd tried another church close by and it was fine, other than the fact that we walked in and people looked at us like we were growing a third eyeball. We had been there several times and no one bothered to say hello other than the sweet elderly man who was handing out bulletins each week. I attempted to drag the kids to Sunday school and ended up sitting in class with them several Sundays. The preaching {when I was able to actually sit in the service} was decent, but overall it didn't feel like a good fit for our family. So one Sunday last fall we headed out to the new church plant. They meet in a small but brand new building that overlooks a gorgeous little lake, and the first time we set foot in the doors of this quaint building we felt like we were home. Instantly we were bombarded {in a good way} by people greeting us and wanting to learn all about our family. The kids enjoyed the Sunday school time and the preaching was engaging, scripture-based, and very solid. We felt so comfortable that first Sunday that we even stayed for the potluck after the service {seems to be a pattern here - at our home church we went to a small group gathering the first Sunday we attended}. We've been back several times, including a beautiful Christmas Eve service there, and we now consider Crossroads Christian Church our "home away from home church". What a stark difference this church is compared to our home church ... the attendance on last week's bulletin said there were 51 people there the previous Sunday. The last time I saw attendance numbers at our home church they were in the 550-600 range for one weekend. Regardless of the size difference, both churches have the same mission & vision: to love God, love each other, and reach the lost/make a difference.

The Sunday before New Year's we headed back to our "cabin church". Our son quickly began looking for his Sunday school teacher and our daughter went to find some of the new special needs friends she'd met at the Christmas Eve service {did I mention this place was an instant good fit?!}. The service started and we sang some worship songs then had some prayer/scripture reading time before their usual "visiting time". Then it was time for the sermon. Now, just to give you a little background, I grew up in the church. I mean literally grew up. I have more memories of being in church than being in our own home. So I've heard a sermon or two in my day. But the sermon this Sunday was one of the most challenging ones I've ever heard. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I wasn't sitting there in my chair thinking about the crazy week ahead with Special Olympics planning and practice, Speech therapy & Occupational therapy appointments for our daughter, basketball practice for our son, projects for clients, etc. Whatever the case, I found myself sitting there completely focused on what Pastor Tryg was sharing with us. And his challenge hit me square in the eyes. He spoke about New Year's Resolutions ... and I loved every second of it, because what he was sharing with us was so opposite of all the messages our world throws at us.

Pastor Tryg talked a bit about common New Year's resolutions - focused on getting in to shape and being healthy. He gave us several great scripture references that talk about "Christ in us, hope of glory" {Colossians 1:24-29} and our spiritual health, and how we're called to become mature in Christ {Ephesians 4:11-15}. Much like physical health, this isn't something that comes quickly or without hard work and dedication. But unlike becoming physically healthy, becoming spiritually healthy will have an eternal impact.

"Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."
- I Timothy 4:7-8

Let that one sink in for a minute.

I especially LOVE the last part of that passage, "...holding promise for both the present life and the life to come". Thinking back to the typical New Year's resolutions, how many people truly believe that if they could JUST get in shape and have a near-perfect physically fit body their lives would be much better? Sadly, I think there are a lot of people who think that. Our society is so focused on becoming the best YOU can be! If you're fit, your house is in order, and you appear as though you have it all together your life will be FANTASTIC because we'll finally feel like our life is headed in the right direction, right?! Ummm, sorry to burst your bubble. The bible is very clear that our lives are worthless and wasted without Christ in the center of it. As Pastor Tryg said on Sunday, "We need to live our lives based on God's truth rather than basing how we live our lives on emotions and circumstances in our lives" {I Thessalonians 5:16-18}. For me, that means even though I'm more than likely going to have to walk around for all of 2014 with my flabby post-baby belly and bum knee, that doesn't mean I have to feel like a failure because all my friends are a size 2 and run as many 5Ks and half-marathons as they can {they really aren't/don't}. And it doesn't mean that as I watch other friends' kids who are the same age as our daughter head off to enjoy typical activities like summer camp, I don't need to sit feeling depressed, mourning the fact that Miss Peyton will probably never be able to join them in most of those activities. No, instead, I need to focus on His truth. His truth tells us time and time again that each and every one of us was created for a special purpose. Some may become evangelists who lead hundreds of thousands to Christ like Billy Graham, while others of us may be placed here to simply impact a childhood friend in a positive way which they attribute to directing them towards choosing to follow Christ later in life. And some of us may be placed here with a physically/cognitively flawed body/mind – but we can't even begin to fathom the incredible ways God will use them to spread joy, hope and love to those around us. Whatever the case, if we shift our focus from being "physically" healthy to becoming "spiritually" healthy {which leads to becoming mature in our faith}, then everything else will fall into place. As the sermon Sunday came to a close, I jotted down the list of 3 questions Pastor Tryg challenged us to ask ourselves as believers, thinking about New Year's Resolutions:

1) Are we proclaiming Christ in our words & actions? {I Thessalonians 5:16-18}

2) Are we warning those who are falling away and have dull hearing? {Hebrews 5:11-14}

3) Are we teaching others? {Colossians 1:28-29}

I can't think of a better way to start the new year with the goal of loving BIG and focusing on our spiritual health so that we can impact others for eternity. Living with eternal purpose, standing on HIS truths is the only way to truly find happiness in this life here on earth. I'm excited to see what God is going to do through his children in 2014 if we obediently follow HIS lead and HIS truths, praising him no matter what the circumstances!

Happy New Year everyone! May this be the year we all become healthy ... in the right way.


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