Thursday, May 30, 2013

Change Always Brings More Change. I'm Moving Over

I started Blessed Builder one night late in 2007. It was the first I'd encountered blogland and out of curiosity more than anything, I clicked the button in the upper right hand corner "Create Blog". That night I became a blogger, even though I barely knew what a blog was.

I connected with a circle of bloggers who were connected through Proverbs 31 ministries and have made several friends from the early years. 

More connections were made when I attended (at the encouragement of another blogger) She Speaks in the summer of 2008. {And I'm excited to be going back this year!}

Since then things have changed. Blogging, life and me.

So I've been wanting to move from the original title which I didn't give much thought to when I created the blog on a whim that night. I am still blessed (and honored) to participate in building the Kingdom of God by encouraging your faith-walk. 

But I no longer build furniture, yard ornaments and home decor. Which was the other inspiration for the title, "Blessed Builder". 

God has changed our circumstances and my heart. I am more passionate to live Isaiah 61. As much as I have loved my Bittersweet Farm life, my heart is no longer there.

So, I am moving over to Wordpress. It's taken me a bit to get accustomed to the basics. But you can head over to Truth and Love {the address is simple: kathyschwanke (dot) com}

If you are a subscriber to this blog, you can just add your email in the box over there for updates in your inbox.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Adventures on the Road to Somewhere

The smoky-blue papered walls provided a rich backdrop for the framed black-and-white photos of days gone by. The mirrored walls reflected the suit-and-tie businessmen dining next to us, and the four gracefully aged ladies with their glasses of white zin. 

The ceilings were draped with heavy fabric of the same hue as the wallpaper and buttoned in the center reminding me of Pollyanna-day pageantry.

I felt like I was 14 again, pretending to be of a different society. One from the past, yes. But also one ‘above’ my middle-class farm girl existence (which I love-mind you!).

I looked across the table at my husband, his denim shirt with the Doran logo on his left pocket. He looks handsome in blue. His now-sparkling hair with only hints of pepper remaining and his blue eyes stand out against the denim.

I had that feeling you get when you are watching one of those movies. You know, like, You Got Mail? And it all comes together in that one moment when Tom Hanks comes over the bridge calling after Brinkley (the dog) and there is Meg Ryan. Their eyes lock. THAT moment. And I let out a breath.

What is that feeling? Satisfaction? Joy? Wonder? All three encapsulated in a moment. Yes.

He and I have been in a season of waiting for a while now. He works away from home; I keep up our now nearly empty hobby farm in hopes of selling so I can be with him more.  Then I sneak away for a week or so to wherever he happens to be working. Currently in Bismarck, ND.

The front and backside of traveling for me can be grueling. Making sure I stop the mail, pay the bills, secure a lawn care specialist or one to plow the snow, whichever the case may be. (His name is Tuffy, we will see how it looks when I get home!) Then getting the undone things done upon returning...

It has been hard. But it has also been really, really good. And sometimes wonderful. In moments like this one, dining in mid-day in my little version of Storyland. I let out a breath. And my heart sings.

God has romanced me. And so has my man. Our relationship has not been this satisfying since before the wedding day. (psst: it will be 30 years in August!) I don’t say that because our marriage has necessarily been hard-though it has had severe bumps. It just seems in the prime of life, after we started our jobs, marriage, and family… life happened! We let ourselves become too busy (I know you know what I am talking about!) and we just often forgot to slow down and look at each other. Much less enjoy one another. 

So now, here we are, living our life in the balance. We both have longings and hopes and dreams on our radar, but we need things to happen first. And so we continue to wait, to pray, to listen for the Lord and rest in His timing. We realize we are in "school". God's training-time. The Waiting is Preparation.

In the meantime, I anticipate the adventure that awaits 'round the next bend on the road to somewhere, and trusting the process. Anyone want to buy a hobby farm? 

For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
Linking up with Jennifer to Tell His Story

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

All This Talk About Heaven

I believe the moments in life that take your breath away, the newborn baby, the sunrise, the majestic mountain-view, the immensity of the ocean, the sun-sparkly ripples in the river. Those are glimpses of God. King's kisses I call them. Or "glory moments". 

I was in my early 20s when I called my mom with the question. She had done it a dozen times--labored and delivered babies. But I found no courage in knowing that. Dale and I were beginning to talk about having a family and the thought of the process was freaking me out.

Mom asked me, “Kathy, have you ever done something that was terrible-hard but when you got done you were overjoyed with what you ended up with?”

I looked at my freshly painted kitchen cabinets, sky blue doors framed in white. Just a few weeks prior they were dark red with brown frames. Ours was a very small, dark kitchen in our White Bear Lake cottage. I had lived with it dark long enough and decided that it would be worth it take all 15 doors off, bring them to the basement to sand and repaint. Imagine what I looked like after sanding all the red off of one door! I was head to toe in red dust and the walls of my basement were a haze of red. I momentarily changed my mind about having blue cabinets. But I realized there was no turning back. It was grueling, but when everything was put back in place and I stood back and looked, it was a dramatic transformation.

I think I understood. ‘Hanging in there’ hinges on hope for the reward (and relief).

Ultimately, I decided if all the other mothers in history could do it, I would do it too. And I did. Twice. 

What kinds of things freak you out? Are you facing a building project with little resources? An illness? Loss of a loved one? Challenges with your children? Do you turn on the news at night and like me, and think, “How will we get through all this and what is on the horizon?  Do you see the broad destruction in the world, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados and now bombings and wonder where we are headed? We hope things get better, and we should, but what if they don't?

It is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to complain. But discouragement and complaining never helps anything. It just makes matters worse lending to those around us getting discouragement and complaining.

In Matthew 24:6-8, Jesus says when we see these things, they are the beginning of birth pains, and that we should not get discouraged or be alarmed but keep looking up.

Last summer my friend lost both of her parents. Their family was very close. They are a family that loves deeply. They epitomized love. Recently she told me that she didn’t think about heaven much before, but now she thinks about it every day. She looks at all of life differently. I could relate having lost a niece in 2003 and then my little brother in 2006, I have had the same thoughts. I imagine you have too.

Hearing her say that reminded me of a demonstration by Francis Chan (watch it, it's only 5 minutes!)

Revelation 21:1-4 says in eternity God will wipe every tear away, and there will be no more sorrow, death, disease or any of the brokenness we deal with in this life. We can hang in here hinged to the hope of heaven.

If we set our sights on the other side of any difficulty and realize that pain will pass, the evil will one day be obliterated and life will be free of tears and suffering, we can endure and live our life knowing the best is yet to come.

We will be energized and motivated to do things beyond ourselves. We will use our time, energy and resources for blessing and honoring God and others. When we even give a cup of cold water to the thirsty, or visit someone in the hospital the Bible promises we will be rewarded in Heaven.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day, for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Isn't that how it is? Everything begins to deteriorate the moment you own it. New car, new paint, new clothes...and similarly our bodies, our world. Wearing out like a garment God says in Isaiah 51:6 and when that happens all will be made new {Isaiah 65:17-19}
When you are tempted to feel discouraged or freaked out by the evening news or a difficulty in your life, remember this: Endurance hinges on hope. Focus on Heaven. 

There are only two things for hope to safely land on: God and Eternity. When hope lands there, we will not be disappointed. 

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:24-25

Linking up with Jennifer for Tell His Story

Friday, April 26, 2013

UNSTUCK- We Made It!!!

It's alway hard to come to the end of a good thing. But it happens on a regular basis, right? Life has chapters. Family chapters. Career chapters. Phase chapters. We've closed a few here at our house in the past few years with Kayla getting married, and Ethan off to college. Closing my gift shop. Closing our farm.

The sweet thing about hard goodbyes is the anticipation of what is ahead. Often we don't know. For instance, when Kayla was married in 2009, I didn't know that I would be enamored by two little grandsons by this time. And when Ethan left for college, I didn't know I would be gaining a lovely daughter this summer.

As we wrapped up our STUCK study, we all felt it. The sorrow for the last chapter. We gained so much from our time together. We enjoyed one another, opening our hearts and embracing who we are as women on this journey of life, learning and love.

I highly recommend the study. Jennie Allen is gifted in transparently expressing her heart and studying/teaching scripture. The format was do-able for everyone. It didn't take a lot of time, but it was enjoyably valuable time.

In our two hour meetings, we started by walking through our homework and sharing stories. Each week digs into a passage of scripture, and asks questions to get us interacting with the God's word. Digging deeper than a read-through.

Then there are projects. It was fun to see how much the women enjoyed the drawing projects. I think sharing our hearts through the art, or...sometimes scribbles was a fun way to "see" what we were studying, and each picture would enhance the lesson for others. We see things differently, and our lives are different, but when we let ourselves be vulnerable and trust one another, the differences intertwine and enhance our relationships and life experience. I love that!

In the middle, we watched a short (and creative) video of Jennie teaching on the chapter. The last hour was spent guided by question cards which were exceptional conversation starters. We encouraged one another and laughed a lot. Sometimes we cried too.

So we are closing this chapter, but eagerly looking for what is ahead. Ultimately for our home with Jesus in Heaven.

If I were to write a sub-title to STUCK, it would be "forget the temporary temptations and trappings, instead spend your life for eternal joy- which is being with Jesus in Heaven"

To close, I wanted to give everyone something to take with them to be a reminder of what we learned, and of our time together. So I asked my graphics-girl (daughter) if she would create a printable with my chapter summary statements. Here is what she came up with:

This is the way to get UNSTUCK:

I will trust Jesus to heal my broken places.
I will relinquish my rights so that I can truly love.
I will look for my satisfaction and glory in Heaven.
I will overcome fear by praying and trusting God.
I will listen for God's voice and live free in His will.
I will trust that I am in Jesus-the source of my life. 
I will spend my life bearing fruit that will last.

If you would like to download it to print for yourself, you can click HERE.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sad Longing For Heaven

Just ask anyone who has lost someone dear to them how much more real Heaven is...Or ask them if they long for Heaven more now than before their loss. If you don't hear them groan, you will see it in their eyes. The longing for Heaven.

Our study this week brought greater clarity regarding the feeling we are all familiar with. The longing for something more that seems to linger even on the best of days. We savor the moments of life that ignite our hearts. The precious moments like the first wobbly steps our baby takes, or glimpsing the perfect fiery orb descending in colorful horizons at the close of day, or the magnificent Ocean waves rolling toward the sandy shore landing at our feet.

And still, on the other side of those glory moments, there it is. A feeling of wanting more.

And God created it that way. He doesn't want us to settle for less than Him. He knows we are too easily satisfied with inferior things. He knows we cannot even imagine what pure glory is like, and He is eager to show us. So he gives us the longing in our soul for His glory.

When we realize that, we can embrace the longing. He loves us so much He doesn't want us to settle for "here". His desire is that we will anticipate going there. His amazing love enables us to maintain joy in the midst of the inevitable broken and messy places we find ourselves in. 

Our life on earth is temporary. Aren't we seeing that now more than ever? As the storms of life rage, we can rejoice because we know Heaven is ahead and it is eternal!  This life is like a dot on a million mile string...

The pain of this life serves us. Just like pain in training serves the goal of an athlete, and pain in labor serves the birth of a baby, so pain in this life serves our life in Heaven. This world is not our home, we are just passing through. Heaven is on the other side, so keep your eyes focused on what is ahead and maintain your joy while you wait in hope for it!

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) Romans 8:18-25 NLT (emphasis mine)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

When You Get Overwhelmed Then {What?}

We drew pictures of what our lives look like right now. One sister's was orderly and told a sequential story: past-->present-->future. Another sister's was progressive. One day she drew how she felt and then she went back and added things. I drew where I spend my time and I ran out of room on the paper! In seeing it, I began to feel overwhelmed!

There are seasons of life when we find we have said 'yes' to one thing too many. When we do that, we have put ourselves in a position of living with little energy or inner-reserves to handle the incoming interruptions {sometimes we call them 'wits' and they can come to an end!}. When the milk is spilled, or the car cuts you off in traffic, or too many kids come through your door at the end of a long day and you feel like running and hiding or yelling at the top of your already-strained lungs.

Lungs that inhale hard because you feel like you can't get enough...

And then there are seasons when it is not due to a choice, but life circumstances. Loss of a loved one, disagreements with a friend, or spouse. And transitions are stressful, like a move or job change. Circumstances involving change can deplete our inner-strength bank.

The question we all face in these times is, "How do I manage this crazy life without going crazy or driving everyone around me crazy?" or more importantly, "How does God want me to respond in these overwhelmed seasons? In my overwhelmed moments?"

Surely we need to step back and take a look at what we have said yes to and ask God if there is anything that He wants us to eliminate. Then we need to do it. {that is the hard part, right?} Then we need to remember He is in it with us. {AH! That's right!} Sometimes He leads us into places where we are limited so we will learn to tap into His strength. Then we re-learn that we still are human. :)

When we feel stretched to the limit and on the verge of anxiety, we may have failed to consider that God is with us, and the very simple-yet profound passage stating that, "Without Him we can do nothing." John 15:5 

Or we might be doing things for wrong reasons (like to build our own kingdom instead of God's) and with our own energy (without God) and soon come to the place where we are ready to plant our face in the pillow for awhile.       Matthew 6:33

When we need a guide for our choices, when we need to know what God wants us to do, He is there willing to lead us. He reminds us that we can hear His voice and follow Him through prayer, reading His word and usually He also confirms what He is saying with outer circumstances or other people in agreement.

Isn't it good to know that He is always with us and just a prayer away? That even in sustained dark-valley seasons, He is working things for our good. Romans 8:28

Once again we find that our perspective and our attitude have much to do with our experiences. They determine our motivation and the value of the things we spend our life on. We are all given gifts, resources and time. If we follow God and use our resources His way, we will reap rewards that will come with us to eternity. {See 1 Corinthians 3:11-15} 

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:7-11

Thursday, April 4, 2013

When We Sit 'n Spin Scared

We sit and spin our strategies for making our life work...or toss and turn at 3:00am while worry wears us down. Sleep stolen and life-on-hold we dizzy ourselves with mental anguish and we don't even realize often that we have the power to "stop this crazy thing!" {Remember George Jetson on the treadmill?}

I try to figure out how to make so-and-so_____________. {it could be children that do what we want, friends that do what we want, a husband that does what we want} My greatest fear is _____________.  {fear of anger, fear of failing, fear of losing something or someone...the list could go on and on} The things we highly value can consume us and we can become in bondage to them. Whatever we fill in the blanks with can become idols in our lives. Idols always bring us into prison.

"Whatever you fear is your god." ~Ann Voskamp

Anxiety has been an unwelcome companion in my life. If you type 'fear' in my search box, you will find more than a few posts. I'm always learning and seeking greater freedom from it...and now this chapter in our STUCK study. It is entitled "Scared". Its the place I am most likely to be tripped up. Ensnared. About a dozen years ago, I was. Spun into a web of fear that derailed my life, paralyzed me in many ways and really landed me 'rock bottom' in the dark place where one has no choice but to surrender their faulty concept of life being something controllable.

It was excruciatingly painful. But also beautifully good.

It was a gift. A hard gift. Its what Ann Voskamp calls "Hard Eucharisteo"  and my friend Laura Boggess writes about it more here.

Perhaps you've heard from teachers that when you teach something you are likely to be tested in it. Its true. I experienced what I've come to believe at the end of the week as God lifting His hand of protection over me and allowing the fear-bully to have access to my soul another time. I haven't had a full-blown panic attack for quite a while, though I do still at times experience symptoms of anxiety (breathlessness and like I need to run).

Last Thursday while in the salon, head bent for foils by my hairstylist of three years, the young woman... I am still uncertain of whether she likes having me and all my hair in her chair... I felt it. The rise of heat and the split-second of blackness in my head, and then the fear-feeling of panic and need to immediately exit for air, or water, or a really wild scream. And the cape was choking me, and the foils felt heavy. I wasn't sure it was a panic attack, it felt like it might be a physical condition-you always wonder what it is. I'd started my day with two cups of coffee. Maybe it was that.

What if I pass out? Should I tell her I feel like passing out? She would feel alarmed! And then I would feel more alarmed because she would be maybe freaking out inside. And on it goes. And I remember reading 'no one ever died from a panic attack'...

So, as I had done in the past, I kept thinking faster than usual. Where is my faith during this time? What is happening? Process. Remember: give thanks in all circumstances. God is here. What is the worst thing that can happen? I could pass out? "Thank you God that you will still have me!" I might need people to care for me, and heaven forbid, carry me? "Thank you God that you will be there too!"
Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. 
It gave me some comfort to process, but I still felt the urge to get away-that's the best way to describe it.

I had one more panic attack later that day. And then I felt so discouraged. Then came the fear of "going back there" into the pit like before. But I remembered when I was being rescued a decade ago, I asked the Lord, "What if I fall into this hell again?" to which He distinctly so-I-would-remember replied, "Just keep holding my hand." and I knew that He would uphold me. I am always in His hands. This gave me great peace and the ability to walk forward and mostly free until Thursday.

...perfect love drives out fear... 1 John 4:18

Monday I sat down to do the study. I saw the title: SCARED. As I was doing the work, I realized that what had happened to me was something God wanted me to share. I had never admitted before to having a full-blown panic attack. It scared me bad. I've always called it 'anxiety'. That felt safer to say, it made me feel less weak. I prayed. Then I sent half a dozen text messages to friends and to my mom asking them to pray. I knew God wanted to use this story for my freedom- and maybe for others to understand or find freedom and I had to fess up. To reveal the thing that scared me. Expose my weakness.

I also understood my salon-chair fear was prompted by several things converging in my life including hormones, the caffeine from my morning, recent challenges, and the thoughts I was having that day about her not liking me as a client (which are most likely not true). God revealed that to me. I also knew I needed to renew my reserves; to enhance my natural tranquilizers by rest and laughter and exercise. But mostly recharge my trust. To remember (again) it is not me who is running this show. {ha ha, I know. but I still live like that sometimes! ~as if!!!}
Oswald Chambers says, "Anxiety is calculating without God" 
Ann Voskamp said, "Pride is fear's father and kin to all the cowards." 
It has been my pride that makes me want to hide. Exposing my fear is freeing. Not only for me- I learned already that God has encouraged at least one friend who struggles. And I know He knew. He knows what He is doing. And I am His. And she is His. And He wants to see us free from fear's shackles. Have you faced down fears? Are you fighting them even now?
Trusting Love is the antidote to fear. God is love. Trusting God then. That is freedom...
If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  John 8:36

The LORD is my shepherd...Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me...Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days fo my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23:1, 4, 6