Posted by: helenreese | September 30, 2014

Purpose or Calling?

I frequently ask the youth, “What is our purpose?” Their answers are always spot on and reflect the message of loving God and loving His people. I love the fact that they know that so well, but just like for many of us, it is very easy to say those words without acknowledging how that should look in our lives day to day. We may talk about our purpose or calling in life, but do we really know what we are saying? I have used those words interchangeably before, but I’m not sure I should have, so last week I did a little research on my own. “Purpose” is defined as “the reason something or someone exists.” To me, a Christian, that definition implies our purpose comes from our Creator, since He is the One who spoke us into being. On the other hand, “calling” is defined as “a strong desire to spend your life doing a certain kind of work.” Desires seem to originate from within us, and sometimes we deceive ourselves into thinking our desires are always ordained by God. Jeremiah 17:9 says the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure… Even if our desires are noble, responsible, and good, that doesn’t always translate into Godly. I believe the key to making certain our desires and our calling is coming from God and ordained by Him, is to make certain we are living our purpose first and foremost before seeking our calling. If we do, then the two should be one in the same and bring glory to Him. I shared with some parents in our small group Sunday night that I had always felt “called” to be a parent. Most parents could probably say the same thing, but I know there have been times when my so called calling came before my God given purpose. Basically, what I am saying is, at times I allowed my identity as a mother to come before my identity as HIS child. I know it is a fine line, moms, but it can be a dangerous place to find yourselves. When you feel guilty for that little bit of time you set aside to savor some much needed time with the Father, remember, you were HIS before they were yours, and you will be a better mother being connected to Him.

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Posted by: helenreese | May 7, 2014

Mom’s Day

It is hard to believe that my mother has been gone for over fourteen years now. Ray and I have often reflected on the fact that we lost both of our mothers long before we thought we would. Even so, we continue to remember qualities they possessed and things they said, and those memories just become sweeter and more appreciated with time. One of my favorite pictures I have of my mom was snapped by my sister-in-law during a race my brother was running. He is a long-time runner and frequently ran in the master’s division as a middle aged adult. It was during one of his races as he was approaching the finish line in first place, and my mother was enthusiastically running alongside him, cheering him on to the finish. I have to be honest. The younger me might have rolled my eyes at this, but the older me recognizes just how precious this was. My mother loved being a mom, and she loved all of us dearly. I have inherited a few traits from my mother; some of those traits my sister and I laugh about, a few I still roll my eyes at, and a few for which I am so very thankful. Proverbs 1:8-9 says, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” This is so true, so, to both my moms, I miss you and love you so very much. Until I see you again, I am trying desperately to keep that chain around my neck and the garland in place. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms I know!

Blessings,

Helen

Posted by: helenreese | May 7, 2014

Shalom

I hope your Easter was filled with hope and joy, and the peace that passes all understanding. In some ways this was a very atypical Easter holiday for us, but it didn’t rattle me like it might have other years. The services on Good Friday were especially meaningful. (Thank you Glenn and Larry) On Saturday Ray, Pearson, and I ran to Austin to pick up some clothes worthy of a graduate, so I can retire some of those old ragged spirit shirts Pearson loves to wear. Then at 4:00 Sunday morning, I received a call that my father had fallen and needed to go to the emergency room. So, I sat in the ER through most of the morning until we were able to get him admitted to a room for observation. There were no Easter morning pictures with the family. There was no spectacular Easter lunch. The Easter baskets I usually love to create for the kids became a grocery bag with a chocolate bunny and a few other things. I was so sad to miss the services on Sunday morning, and I’ve heard so many say how much they enjoyed the music and the message, but for some reason (Rom. 8:28), the Lord had me sitting alone with my father that morning. Maybe it was just for us to have that time together. Sundays are not usually a day that I am able to spend with him. Maybe it was for me to experience that peace and respite the Lord offers. Maybe it was an opportunity for me to contemplate my relationship with my father and how I can best be the daughter that the Lord desires me to be right now. This was the fourth fall since January for him, and with each one I can see him weakening. It is an interesting place to find yourself, and I know many of you have experienced this season of life. You may not be ready to face the finality of losing your parent, but you also can see the struggles they go through and you realize the quality of life they have is not what they desire. I was listening to a sermon by Matt Chandler yesterday, and he was talking about the implications of the resurrection. What he said at the end of the sermon has stuck with me. “Our lives are not about ourselves.” I know this. I think I may have even written about this before, but the reminder is so timely. Nothing we have, nothing we experience, nothing we accomplish, nothing we are given ….. none of it is about us. It is all about Him – His plan, His mercy, His love, and His glory.

Shalom,

Helen

Posted by: helenreese | January 29, 2014

Playdough and Priorities

So, New Year’s is a distant memory, DNOW is in the past, and this weekend is Super Bowl. It seems like once those three things are in the rearview mirror, the spring semester is in full force. That means it is a great time to evaluate what you are doing on Sunday nights. Adults and students, alike, need to be in a small group on Sunday nights. Adults, it is so easy for us to think we know all the “stories,” and fall into the trap of thinking we can ride out life’s challenges based on the knowledge we received when we were younger or on Sunday mornings. That may get us by, according to our own standards. The problem is, God intends for us to do more than get by. His plan is always so much bigger than anything we can fathom. I challenged the students to “be the Playdough.” It may have been awhile since you have actually played with playdough, but we do it quite often. While the playdough is in your hands, it remains soft and moldable. When you set it aside it becomes hardened, brittle, and unmalleable. That is what happens when we disconnect and don’t put time and effort into seeking Him through consistent prayer and Bible study. Parents, I had a serious conversation with high school students Sunday evening, and several of them expressed frustration and worry over making decisions, the uncertainty of their futures, and trying to keep up with everything in their lives. I want to ask you what I asked them. Do you desire God’s vision for your life or are you content to live with your limited plan? When students talk to me about being worn down and worn out, I honestly don’t know what to say. It seems as though so many things in their lives are non-negotiables, and they truly do struggle with how to fit it all in. I encouraged them to question where the true affections of their hearts lie. Parents, we need to help them discern what their priorities should be, but we have to get it right ourselves first. I keep a quote on my desk. I’m not sure where I heard it, but it says, “You’ll have many opportunities to be more or less of who God intended you to be.” It reminds me to do a self-check on whose agenda I am following. Matthew 6:33 says “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added as well.” Go ahead. Pick up some playdough. You know you want to. As you’re playing with it consider asking the Lord to show you where your affections lie. He wants to keep us in His gentle grasp so He can make us into who He desires.

Posted by: helenreese | November 13, 2013

Do a little shopping with the family

Do you plan to do a little Christmas shopping in the next couple of weeks? What if I told you it is possible to do a little shopping with the family without battling the holiday crowds? Would you like to help your child see beyond him/herself this Christmas? The pursuit of the latest and greatest, biggest and best can be frustrating, exhausting, and empty. How about something different this year?

The older I get the more disgusted I become with what our culture has done with Christmas. Parents have to be savvy and intentional in order to lead children away from a “season” of self-indulgence back to a spirit of thankfulness and realization of Who Christmas is really celebrating. There are many ways we can guide our kids through the holidays to help someone else and be part of something a little bigger than us. Compassion International is one of those ways. I have been following Compassion for over ten years and have found them to be one of the most effective and reliable organizations meeting physical and spiritual needs of children around the world. You may or may not already sponsor a Compassion child, but there are other ways to give if you are not able to give the $38 every month.

Take a look at their website, Compassion.com, and see the different ways your family can give a one-time gift, and you will be amazed at how a relatively small gift by American standards can go so far in an impoverished area. Thirty dollars can provide immediate needs for a child for 2 months while that child waits to be sponsored. Other gifts might provide care for a mother and baby, livestock for a family to raise, safe drinking water, education, medical care, and the list goes on and on.

What would happen if you sat down with your family and asked each member to give up one Christmas gift this year? How much money would you have to purchase a gift through Compassion? I encourage you to do just that. Give your kids that option and see what happens. Sit down as a family and look at the Compassion website. If you go to the “Gift Catalog” you will find so many affordable ways to help. By doing this you will be giving your own children a gift that is invaluable, and you might be starting a great new tradition with your family.

Counting my own blessings,

Helen

Posted by: helenreese | October 3, 2013

Point ’em to Jesus

Sometimes the “mama” in me clouds my ability to recall what I know God desires of me. I have shared with some of

you the challenges Emily has been facing with her new job. As she was preparing to graduate she felt the Lord leading

her to serve a two year term with Teach For America. She struggled a little, knowing neither her degree nor her long

term plan was education, but her heart is connecting with people and being sensitive to the Lord’s direction, so she

proceeded on faith.

She was assigned to a failing inner city high school in Dallas to teach geometry. She has been observed by at least a

dozen people over the course of six weeks. (For those of you not in education, imagine a stranger standing in your

office, in your barn, or wherever you work, and critiquing everything you say and do and the method in which you do

it.) Before I go on, let me say that amidst the challenges and in spite of the horrific workload, she KNOWS the Lord’s

hand is on her and HE has placed her exactly where He wants her. He has also strategically placed some key people

around her and has blessed her with some treasured moments of affirmation from her students and co-workers.

However, in between those times of affirmation, the fire she is enduring brings the mama out in me. When she calls

and I hear the fatigue in her voice and the despair of someone who desperately wants to do a good job, my heart

breaks for her, and any Godly advice I have to offer is difficult to muster.

Last week was one of those times. She called to vent, and I followed up with how unfair the situation was, then I

proceeded to offer suggestions on steps to “fix” the issue. A few days later she called me and sounded a little better.

She mentioned she had spoken to one of her best friends from Baylor, and went on to say “she pointed me back to

Jesus.” The friend went on to tell her she could not wait to see what it is that God is preparing her for by allowing her

to endure this trial. Wow! Why didn’t I respond that way?

Parenting is so very difficult. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t. I think our natural tendency is to

parent out of emotion rather than pointing our kids back to Jesus. We don’t have to be afraid for our kids to endure

suffering, pain, and failure from time to time. When we attempt to rescue them from it we may be trying to undo what

God has intentionally allowed. He allows those same failures in us, as parents, so that we might parent with Godly

wisdom next time.

Proverbs 27:17,

Helen

Posted by: helenreese | September 17, 2013

Suffering for Christ

Paul is one of those guys who I would love to sit down with and talk to one day. When I think of Paul I picture him as the poster child for “before Christ” and “after Christ”:

“If this is what God did in Paul, just imagine what He might do with YOU when you completely surrender your life to Him!”

(It helps if you read that last sentence in your best radio voice)

Think about it. He went from being one of the most arrogant and zealous persecutors of Christ followers around, to one of the most humble and obedient servants we read about. As Glenn preached from Philippians last Sunday, he mentioned Paul’s tenacity to pray for sufferings. Some might call that courageous and some might say it was crazy. Either way it goes against our human nature. Our tendency is to resist or turn away from that which brings pain and suffering. But maybe Paul grasped something that we don’t fully get. Maybe Paul understood that we (Christians) can’t completely appreciate the power of the resurrection until we have experienced the depth of the crucifixion. Paul prayed for suffering to put himself as close as possible to the reality of the suffering of Christ so he could greater comprehend the power of God’s saving grace. (Thank you, Glenn, for your insight on Paul.)

I don’t know about you, but I find it encouraging that God will use the things we endure to teach us, shape us, and draw us into a deeper understanding of Himself. I also am thankful that He will continue to transform us over the course of our lives to more clearly reflect who Christ is as we follow Him.

The world might look at your life and not see the stark transformation as is obvious in Paul’s life. The truth is the power behind our own transformation is the same power that transformed Paul AND the same power that allowed Christ’s crucifixion so He could bring resurrection. Let that sink in a little and then go rejoice!

Helen

Posted by: helenreese | August 13, 2013

Back to School!

I just realized this will be the last “back to school” shopping I will do. I know next year we will be shopping to get Pearson geared up for college, but the experience just won’t be the same, and that makes me a little sad. For twenty years I have done the same thing every August – walk the aisles of WalMart or some equivalent, admiring the latest and greatest things on students’ lists, checking out backpacks and lunch boxes and picking out the best snacks to start school right. While I haven’t bought crayons in many years, I can never resist the temptation to stroll by and take a whiff of a brand new box of the perfectly shaped instruments of unleashed creativity. Just the smell triggers a flood of memories and emotions in my mind, and yes, an occasional tear as well. My kids would probably agree that back to school shopping memories are fond for them as well, but they don’t understand the extent of the experience I am describing, at least not at this point in their lives. In fact, I am sure the notion that this very topic made it to “blog material” will be a source of laughter around our table the next time we are all together…. at my expense. But that’s alright. Perhaps my “sister moms” can appreciate what I am saying.

Growing up I liked school all right, but I didn’t have such a veracious hunger for knowledge that drove me to ever celebrate the beginning of another school year. I think what DID excite me was probably the hope of something new. Every year was another chance to improve on the last. Just like a brand new box of crayons, I loved the idea of starting the new school year unblemished. I liked the challenge of doing things a little bit better than before. I think it is really exciting to know we – as Christians, passionately pursuing Christ – can begin each day, each hour, each moment – with the hope and the expectation that He will make us new. What we allow to blemish or tarnish us in one moment, He will turn around in the next to make Himself shine gloriously if we will allow Him. We don’t have to wait for the start of another year or another day for Him to offer that hope. He is walking beside us waiting for us to hand “it” over – our frustrations, our fears, our anger, our resentments, our less than stellar performances, our pride, our relationships, our habits and hang-ups. In that moment, when we fall prey to those things that weigh us down, we can seek and find the hope of something new. Maybe I will buy one last box of brand new crayons this year and keep them in my own desk to smell and look at and remind me of the hope I have in Him.

Blessings,

Helen

Posted by: helenreese | August 13, 2013

I am reposting this blog from a former site.

Congratulations

Last night was the Academic Awards Banquet.  It seems like that is always the last celebratory event for the year leading up to graduation.  I have sat through more of these banquets than I can count, and I have to admit I usually dread them all.  Don’t get me wrong – I love to celebrate everyone’s achievements right alongside you.  In fact sometimes I find it somewhat humorous when I look around and see many of the same people attending the same events celebrating the same achievements.  The location and the food may change but that’s about all.  Oh well, life in a small town – I wouldn’t trade it!  I guess the thing that really keeps me from wholeheartedly embracing another banquet is wondering how long the speaker will speak and whether it will be good.  Now, let me say right now, the Education Foundation / Bohman Clinic / Wells Fargo has brought in some very great presenters before, and they do a superb job at hosting a wonderful evening.  (thank you Becky and Roxanne!)  I was especially impressed by the speaker they brought in for the event.  His name is Keith L. Lee, Vice President and COO of the National Consortium of Academics and Sports. (He also played pro football and has had numerous appearances on ESPN and other shows) It is not often that a speaker stands before a crowd in a public school setting and claims to be our brother in Christ, but that is what he did.  He had my immediate attention.  He stressed that who we are is children of God first and foremost, rather than who society, our culture, our families, our whatever wants to defines us as.  I want to share some of his comments with you:

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.  A dream without faith is a passing thought.”

He also encouraged us to “be courageous, be curious, be creative, and be concerned.”  He closed by saying that we are all on a life journey, and on that journey at times the road is wide and at other times it can become narrow.  He said at times when that road is narrow we may find a huge boulder completely blocking our path.  He said that some will view that obstacle and turn around to go back where they have already been, some will stop where that boulder lies and stay there indefinitely, but some will see that boulder as a stepping stone that will take them to a whole new level of understanding.

That is such a good lesson for all of us.  As children of God and followers of Christ, we are assured that the road ahead will bring trials.  Hold on to the hope that our Sovereign Lord allowed those trials to give us opportunities to grow and become more of who He designed us to be.  Bring it on!

Posted by: helenreese | April 23, 2013

Macaroni and Cheese

Some days mac & cheese is all I’ve got.  I was visiting with a close friend and we were swapping kid stories.  She was sharing her struggle in trying to encourage her son through one of those bitter life lessons that all mama bears hope to shield their kids from altogether.  We laughed about how inadequate our responses, as parents, seem to be at times when our kids come home upset or angry, or when they desperately need our correction and sometimes we just can’t find the right words.  You know the words I’m talking about – those words that jolt us from a dead sleep in the middle of the night – the ones we commit to memory in our slumber because they sound so good in our heads and we want to be able to recall them.  We are sure that when we gently whisper those powerful words to our children in the morning all the hurt will disappear, the lessons will be learned and life will be good once again.  We might even be nominated for some mother of the year recognition once we utter those words!  If only we could remember them, or better yet, think of them in the heat of the moment!  I don’t know about you, but the wisdom of mom and pop Cleaver just doesn’t seem to come when I need it most.  I would love to say I am always that Proverbs 31 woman, doing, being, and saying all the right things, but it just doesn’t usually happen that way.  The words don’t always come and the best I have to offer is mac & cheese.  The older I get I realize that mac & cheese is not such a bad solution.  Maybe God withholds my words as He sees fit and reminds me He just needs me to be there holding a hand, cooking a little mac & cheese, and He will do the rest.   

 

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