Fresh Fruit

20131103-115218.jpg

On my way home from the Retreat last week, I swung by The Nugget and picked up some bright red beautiful strawberries. Sunday flew by and Monday I was sooooo sick. No food for me. By the time I re-entered the food eating world, those strawberries sitting out on the counter had begun to grow mold. I tossed them.

As I mourned the loss of those strawberries, I thought about the fruit of the Spirit:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)

I thought about how often we are living our lives in “moldy love, old joy, last weeks peace, etc”. Fruit is best when it is fresh. It is the same with the fruit of the Spirit.

– Fruit isn’t achieved by working, but is birthed by abiding.
– Fruit is fragile.
– Fruit is beautiful.
– Fruit nourishes.

If I want fresh joy to infuse my spirit, I don’t get it by trying to be joyful- I get it by abiding in God’s presence.

I can’t walk in God’s peace until I get God’s perspective.

When I focus on God’s faithfulness to me, a desire to be faithful is birthed in me, and so on.

How is your spiritual fruit looking?
Are you holding on to moldy love? Jaded joy? Puny peace?

Let it go.

Sink your roots deep, lift your limbs to heaven and drink in the Light of His Grace.

Fresh fruit is best.

Don’t settle for less- you don’t have to live that way.

I Wasn’t Expecting That.

I woke up yesterday morning, rolled out of bed excited about waking the boys up and getting them ready for school. I wanted to let Bobby sleep in since he shouldered all the work while I was away at the Retreat.

By the time I finished getting Kyle all ready and out the door, my stomach started rolling. I ignored it, of course. Maybe I’m just over tired from the weekend, I told myself. I stepped around the overflowing laundry baskets on the floor, mentally began to pick up the living room as I walked out the door to take Justin to school. I swung by Starbucks on the way home as we were out of K Cups and everything else. As I sat in line, I began to feel downright green. I was rude to the Starbucks guy and waved his extra questions off and gave him my card, took my order then sped home.

I was sick. Full blown flu sick and spent the rest of the day on the floor next to the toilet. My to- do list suddenly shrunk to an item of one: be sick.

I wasn’t expecting that.

I haven’t been THAT sick in a long time.

Some observations on being sick:

– we never want to admit how sick we actually are until it comes to the point of being undeniable.

– nobody plans (or chooses) to be sick.

– plans and to do lists must adjust to the reality that you are sick.

– you suddenly have to depend on others whether you like it or not.

– you must give yourself permission to rest.

– grace is required by all.

This morning I listened to Stephen Furtick’s newest message “How to Love Mud”. It was just what I needed to hear. Life is messy. Unexpected. Perspective is paramount. I highly recommend it.

Thank you for praying for the Retreat. What a treasure you are. We were unable to record my messages from the retreat but I will be setting up a page for the notes, if you are interested.

I hope you have a wonderful day and that the unexpected things you encounter today does not include the flu.

Last Night

20131025-155728.jpg

This is my front view and the amazing worship team that has ushered in God’s presence. I took this pic this morning because I didn’t take any last night! I totally forgot too.

Thank you so much for praying for me and this retreat. Last night was amazing. What an absolute delight it is to get to be a part of this.

I feel like the preparation of these messages has been a lot like giving birth: it grew inside me for a long time, God did the work, created it and I got to “house” it. Then when it was time, labor kicked in and I had to push through some pain right up until it was time for the delivery.

When I got up to speak, the podium/table I was planning on using was being used for something else. So, I decided to take my Bible up and just preach it. I left my notes, timer (on the phone) and most if all I left my trust in myself and went for it.

I have never preached without notes but I felt God’s power all around me and in me. I didn’t have to look at notes, I have lived them. They are in me. God had burned them into my heart and then poured them out of me.

The altars were full of ladies who responded and wanted God to “take off the veil” that was keeping them hidden and keeping them in bondage.

The place of authenticity is the place of honesty and vulnerability. It was amazing and God showed up here in a powerful way.

Please continue to pray. I feel the covering of your prayers and you are a part of what God is doing here because of it.

Tonight I am going to be ministering “Unveiled Intimacy”. It will be interesting to see what God will do!

Pray For Me.

20131024-152226.jpg

I really don’t need this coffee, I am so amped about speaking the Women’s Retreat this weekend. I was going to have a long beautiful post about it, but really – who has time for that? Not me, not you.
So, I am simply asking for a prayer covering this weekend: will you pray for me?

I am speaking tonight on “Unveiled Authenticity”.

I will be speaking on “Unveiled Intimacy” tomorrow night.

I will be speaking on “Unveiled Legacy”
On Saturday morning.

Thank you. Seriously- thank you.

Just the Way You Are

20130827-110323.jpg

One of the hardest things for me to do is write my own bio (description of who I am for a brochure, flyer or program). Long or short- it is my least favorite thing to write. First off, talking about myself in third person is weird and trying to paint an accurate picture of who I am is just darn difficult. It reminds me of the “self” you put out there on a first date and feels just as awkward.

Last week I found myself wrestling with having to do a bio for the workshop that I did at our WM Retreat. The workshop was titled “X Marks the Spot- Discovering Hidden Treasure in Your Life”, and I was actually really excited about presenting it. What I was not excited about was writing a short bio for the program on it.

I came up with this:

“There are hidden treasures in your life. Hidden truths that will enrich your heart and rejuvenate your spirit. You don’t see them but they are there, just waiting to be discovered. Join Cindy as she leads you on a journey through the map of God’s Word to uncover, reclaim and grasp the precious treasures God has placed in your life. You won’t want to miss it.

Cindy Grasso is the mom of two almost teenage boys and the wife of the Student Ministries Pastor of Bayside of Citrus Heights. She is thrilled to be on a journey of uncovering new treasures in God’s Word as well as rediscovering the joy in sharing them. Through her writing and speaking Cindy gets to share what God has done in her life and because of her part time gig at Charming Charlie’s, she is well accessorized while doing it.”

Now, while all the above is true, before I got to the “polished” version, I had to wade through the miry mud of the first one that came out of me:

“Cindy Grasso is a slightly overweight middle age woman who is in the throws of a midlife crisis half the time. The other half of the time she is loves her life as youth Pastor’s wife, the mother of two teenager boys and part time worker at Charming Charlie’s. She dreams of making a living as a writer and event speaker bringing healing and hope to women’s lives but until then will continue to blog inconsistently and speak for free. She has food issues, is shy and loves more than anything to curl up with her cat on a comfortable couch and get lost in a great book with chocolate and a cup of coffee nearby.”

Granted, I was in the throws of PMS when I wrote it but can I tell you that pre- polished version has really grown on me? It made me laugh and take myself less seriously (which MUST happen before writing a bio).

I ended up opening my workshop with it and it made everyone else laugh too. It isn’t as shiny or “professional” as the polished one but who cares? As of yet, I don’t live a “shiny” version of my life and I’m not a pro. I am….me.

I like me. I love what God has done in me and through me. He has taken a mess and made a message. He has mended my brokenness and broken strongholds in my heart. He loves me just the way I am and loves me enough not to leave me that way.

Thank the Lord, I don’t have to even attempt to be someone I’m not to fulfill the calling He has placed on my life.

And neither do you.

When God calls you to step out, it is more about obedience than ability.

The world likes a tidy image to categorize us in but God has no such desire. In fact, he is much more interested in authenticity vs “image” and reality vs the “picture in our head” of what and who we think we are supposed to be.

“So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you”. (1 Peter 5:6, 7 MSG)

Let go of the image of you think you need to be and embrace who you are. God does. Live carefree before Him. Start enjoying the reality of your life instead of being discontent that it doesn’t fit the “image” of what you think it should look like.

In fact, I find that the more I let go of that “image”, the more I’m able to thrive in the life God has given me. Since I am not spending all my time and energy trying to “shine it up” and make life “look right”, I can simply enjoy who I am and what I have.

Is there an “image” that you are trying to live up to?

Are you miserable because you are trying to live up to it (and it is impossible?)

What would happen if you let go of it and asked God to help you love who you are, where you are and what you have got?

Bios come and go, but the ability to love the reality of yourself is priceless (and only comes by God’s grace).

Thank you for cheering me on, my friend. Thank you for believing that the “polished” version of me is possible and loving me for the “unpolished” that I am.

I feel the same way about you.

Are We Flying Yet?

20130728-143052.jpg

On the way home a couple of weeks ago from a very quick trip to Vegas to celebrate my birthday with a dear friend, my plane was delayed. When I finally boarded 2 hours after the scheduled time, I made my way through the tight aisle amongst disgruntled passengers to my seat and sat down next to a 5 year old girl and her mom. Instead of taking off and heading home, we ended up stuck in the plane for another hour. Then much to my relief the stewardess announced that were were going to be unloading and getting on another plane. Seriously, if the plane wasn’t safe after an hour, do I really want to use it to fly home? No. I’m good, I was more than happy to get off that plane. The little girl beside me had actually slept through most of it , thank goodness. We got off that plane, waited another hour in the terminal and then finally boarded a new plane that would carry us home. For the second time that day I sat down next to the 5 year old girl and her mom. After about five minutes of waiting on the new plane, the little girl turned to her mom and asked,

“When are we going to fly?”

“Soon” her mother replied, “Soon”.

After another long ten minutes, the stewardess began her pre- flight prep talk. We looked at each other and smiled. Some people even clapped.
As the plane backed up and slowly turned around, the little asked her mom, “Are we flying yet?”

“Not yet, but soon” her mom said.

Then we had stopped to wait our turn in the runway . By this time, every stop and turn felt like an eternity, and the irrational fear that we were actually going nowhere teased at the very edges of our emotions.

Finally, the plane turned onto “our” runway and began to pick up speed as it prepared to lift off. The little girl looked out the window as the world blurring by and asked again, “Are we flying yet?”

This time, I chimed in, “Not yet, but you will know it when it happens, you won’t miss it”.

Just then, with the plane speeding down runway, that tell tale moment of take off happened: you are pushed into your seat and the plane feels heavy as it leaves the ground, tucks up its wheels and takes off. Then for just a moment you feel lighter than air then heavy again as the nose of the plane points to sky. Now…you are flying.

I turned to the little girl next to me and asked her ” Are we flying yet?”
“Yes!” She said with a big smile on her face, “We are definitely flying!”

As the plane leveled off and I settled down for the ride, I thought about how often I ask God the same kind of question in my life, “Is this it? Am I flying? Am I living in the fullness of Your purpose?”

I looked down at the precious blond headed little girl sitting next to me (who is already over the novelty of flying and now coloring in her book) I was reminded that “flying”is a part of the journey but not the apex of it. I am flying -living passionately and pursuing God daily. It though it looks different than I thought it would and sometimes it feels frightfully “normal” after things have leveled off. I have faced fears and taken risks. I have failed and succeeded. I have been hurt and been healed. I have seen miracles and cleaned toilets. I am living and indeed “flying”. So why am I asking the question, “Am I flying yet?”

I wonder how often am I searching for the “feeling” of lift off and misinterpret that as flying? The take off is just the beginning. Not only is it just the beginning but flying is transportation. It is meant to get you somewhere. You go farther faster and it is terribly exciting, but still it is just a part of the journey. There are times in your life you have been launched into a new arena or when the speed of life has reached a breaking point where you either take off or turn around. Though they are defining moments to be sure, they are not permanent. The point is not to spend your life looking for the next take off. By all means- fly! But remember that what matters in the long run is what you do when you land. How you live. Who you love. What you do with what God has given you.

When you are pursuing God’s purpose for your life, it can feel like that departing day in Las Vegas. You are packed and ready to go, checked into the right place and feel more than ready to fly. You know you are where you are supposed to be and doing what you are supposed to be doing . You are headed in the right direction but instead of going anywhere, you end up feeling like all you are doing is waiting. Starts and stops. Boarding and un- boarding. Waiting for your “turn” to take off.

Frustration and discouragement sets in and you begin to wonder, “When will it be my turn to fly?”

Just like that gentle mother who answered her little girls questions, so your Heavenly Father answers yours (and mine):

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

And

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “(Isaiah 55:8 NIV)

Instead of looking for the next take off, enjoy the wait, the ride and indeed the journey of life. Trust God. He knows where you are and where you are destined to be.

Remember that life is a journey that has more to do with who you are with than where you go.

“Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life.” (Colossians 3:3, 4 MSG)

Walk with God everyday and enjoy the journey with Him. He will take care of when and where and how of it all.

After about an hour in the air, my plane finally touched down at the Stockton Airport. As the wheels touched the Tarmac, the passengers broke out in applause, myself included. We were so glad to be done with the flying and to get on with the business of living.

May your journey be filled with moments of take off, flying high and landing right where you are supposed to be. But most of all, may it be filled with His presence as you get down to business of living fully and passionately within the freedom of God’s great grace.

A Summer Storm

20130625-211827.jpg

I walked past the beautiful flowers of red and white on my way to work yesterday morning and breathed in the heavenly scent of rain. The pavement wet with it and the puddles in the street reflected the cloud filled sky. It is late June and we are experiencing a soft summer rain for a couple of days. The grey skies cast a soft light on everything and those pretty flowers between Whole Foods and Charming Charlie’s at The Fountain’s seem brighter than ever.

It is in moments like this when I think to myself, “I need to take some time and write”. But then the days blur by spent at work, at church, at home or on the road to somewhere.

I am always glad school is out for the summer and the task master of the 6am alarm clock is silenced for a few weeks. The first week is wondrous with everyone sleeping in until 7am and it feeling so luxurious. The second week is lopsided with late family nights and early work mornings. By the third week healthy habits slip to the wayside and housework suffers. I step over toys and shoes and clothes to make my way to a sink full of dirty dishes only to turn around and think, “Nope, ain’t nobody got time for that”.

Finally , I muster the energy to clean up a bit and wistfully think of the days a few weeks ago when I got up early and got so much more done.

Such is frustration of the human heart, always wanting what you don’t have. Or more: wishing for benefits of discipline without, well…discipline.

I was listening an Elevation Podcast this morning and Pastor Stephen Furtick said, “Today’s excuses are tomorrow’s regrets in disguise”.

It is so easy to let the valid reasons of yesterday (I don’t have time, I don’t have the energy) become the flimsy excuses of today. Too soon the days blur by and some important things slip by the wayside.

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”(James 1:4 NIV)

Begin again.

Surrender to perseverance instead of pessimism.

Enjoy the season you are in while still holding onto the important things of the season before.

Don’t get lulled into the blur, go boldly forward in God’s power.

Tomorrow is a new day, use it wisely.