Mother’s Day and Moses

What does Mother’s Day and Moses have in common?

Me.

This Sunday I am preaching the Mother’s Day Services at Harvest Time Church in Brentwood, Ca and my main text will be the life of Moses- from his mother’s perspective.

I am so excited about it- it is going to be an amazing message.

Please pray for me.

Mother’s Day is a day with a plethora of emotions attached to it. I know that God wants to encourage, challenge and heal hearts on Sunday. My own Journey to Motherhood was definitely not what I expected but has been more than I could have hoped for.

My friend Angela wrote a beautiful blog on the subject as well, “What Hallmark doesn’t tell you about Mother’s Day”.

At the end of my post “Journey to Motherhood”, is a picture of the boys.

Here is an updated one for you:

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Have a wonderful weekend.
Happy Mother’s Day,
Happy Woman’s Day
.

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More Precious Than Gold

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This month has a been blur of Christmas parties, ministry, outreach, and work at Charming Charlie’s. I was sitting in church today trying (unsuccessfully) to keep my boys quiet and still. Family Service = torture for mom. Anyway, in a moment between hushing my children, I glanced up at the screen and saw “December 23rd, 2012″.” How did this happen?”, I thought to myself.

Two more days til Christmas. Wow.

Last Thursday I got an opportunity to tell a Christmas Story for a Heart For Her Christmas Party. I decided to write one because, well – why not? That and I wanted to tell it in a way that the girls would stay engaged in and maybe make it more real for them. If you find yourself with a few quiet moments sometime in the craziness of family fun, here is the Christmas Story from Mary’s perspective:

More Precious Than Gold
By Cindy Grasso

This story has been told many different ways, through song and poem, play and paper. It is a story that is not legend but history and it is perhaps the most important story ever told because it reveals to us the heart of God and the worth of men. It is a story that holds scandal, mystery, miracle, wonder and heartbreak.

Today, our story begins with an old woman at the end of her life sitting by a fire on a cool winter night. In her hand she holds a single gold coin. Sitting across from her is a gentleman who has come to ask her questions. He is a doctor named Luke and writing down the account of what happened. When she closes her eyes, she is not sleeping but remembering how it all began…

“It could have been yesterday”, she says with a smile, “and not so many years ago. I was a young, fresh faced 15 year old, ready for anything life would bring. When you are 15, you wonder what your life will be like. You hope and pray, dream and wonder. There are moments you feel that anything is possible and then there are moments that feel like nothing is.”

“It all began the night an angel visited me. A being wrapped in robes of light appeared in my room I was terrified. In calming tones,he told me to “Not be afraid”. He told me that I was going to become pregnant with a son. How, I wondered. I was engaged but not married and had not been intimate with a man. The messenger from heaven told me that “with God all things are possible” and that the child would be the very son of God. The last thing the angel said was that my barren cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant and in her sixth month.”

“I got up the next morning and went to see Elizabeth. True to the angel’s words, she was indeed pregnant and already in her sixth month. Her aged face was resplendent with joy as her belly was swollen with child. Soon I realized that I was pregnant as well as the morning sickness became a part of my daily routine. I helped Elizabeth through the last months of her pregnancy and she helped me through the first months of mine. Right before she gave birth to her miracle child, I went back home to my own village.”

“I didn’t tell anyone because I feared what might happen. The penalty of being pregnant out of wedlock was a gruesome death by stoning and it would bring disgrace to my family as well as dishonor my fiancé. I was not showing yet and when I told my future husband that I was pregnant, his face fell and I saw his heart break. It was a nightmare. He did not speak to me for the rest of the day and when he finally did, he told me that he would break the engagement quietly. He was a good man but what was he supposed to do? What was I going to do? How was I going to take care of a child by myself? No one would believe that I was carrying a miracle child. They would think I was just lying or worse…crazy. My pillow was wet with tears that night.”

“When I got up the next day, my own heart was breaking when my fiancé came to me. He told me that he had had a dream. In the dream a being wrapped in light came to him and had told him to marry me, for the child I was carrying was indeed the son of God and a miracle. He told him what to name the child and revealed to him the great plan we were a part of. I was relieved and amazed.”

“My husband-to-be had to register in Caesar’s census, and so we decided to leave Nazareth and depart for Bethlehem immediately. I was grateful to be with him and for the first time in a long while, I thought maybe things would be alright.”

“I would like to tell you that things got easier but they did not. We made the 80 mile journey in good time but when we arrived the city was crowded with people everywhere. We were not the only ones coming to register for the census. My fiancé was a good man but he was not a rich man. He was a tradesman and hard worker. After walking the streets of Bethlehem and knocking on every door, we resigned to the fact that we could not find a place to stay. Discouraged, hungry and tired, we finally found a place on the outskirts of the city. It was not a home or hostel but a cave. In a cave being used as a stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem, we made a home for ourselves. It was better than nothing. I was thankful for the shelter.”

“I’ve often wondered why the Prince of Heaven would be given to a humble working class couple who often struggled to make ends meet. I’ve come to the conclusion that it was because He was sent for all men and women, not just for the privileged ones. He would know hunger, hurt, hard work and humility. He would know a trade from his earthy father and have a mission from His Heavenly one.”

“In the last days of my pregnancy, I worried and feared what might happen. I did not have my family close and no midwife would be there to help me. I felt so utterly alone. But then, deep in my heart, I heard the echo of words the angel spoke to me that first night, “Do not be afraid”. When the first pains began, a peace came over me. There was still pain but I had God’s peace in the midst of it. There are not enough words to describe the emotions of giving birth that night. It was frightening, exciting, heart wrenching and amazing. It is a miracle whenever a new life is brought into the world but for this one moment, this one time- the Savior of it was being brought forth. The power of it alone overwhelmed my soul and when I heard his first strong cry, I began to cry as well. My tears of pain turned to tears of joy.”

“My fiancé cleaned out the feeding trough and it became a crib for the heaven’s sent son. Other than my own cries of pain, the night was quiet.”

“As I held the newborn baby, we gazed down at the face of God and wondered why the arrival God’s son was only a secret for a poor couple in cave? We got our answer a few hours later when shepherds who had been in a nearby field sought found us. They told us that an angel had appeared brimming with the glory of God in the night sky. There were terrified, of course. The angel told them, like he told me, not to be afraid. He told them that the Savior of the world had been born that very night and that he would be found sleeping in a feeding trough of a Bethlehem stable. Suddenly a great choir of angels lit up the night sky and rejoiced in the news that heaven’s plan to redeem mankind had finally begun. I suppose heaven could not contain itself and had celebrated with a moment sheer exuberance. We did not see it but we had no doubt that the shepherds had. Why did they only appear to lowly shepherds and not wake up the entire city sky with the news? We found the answer to that question a couple years later.”

After the baby was born, we got married. We found a small house in Bethlehem and my husband worked his trade there. We decided to stay for a while as there would be to many questions if we went back home too soon.”

“One evening, we got visitors. Not from heaven this time, but foreigners from another country. Three men who had traveled for years looking for the child who was prophesied in ancient texts to become the King of the Jews. When they saw the child in my arms they fell down on their faces and worshipped him. We invited them in and they brought with them gifts to honor the young King: gold, incense and an expensive anointment called myrrh.”

As if she was suddenly brought back to the present, the old woman opened her hand and looked down at the piece of gold in it. “This is the last one I have, she said. “I’ve kept it all these years as a reminder of the wonderful and strange things that happened during that time.”

That night we found out why the Savior’s birth had been such a secret- the three foreign wise men told us that they had first gone to King Herod’s palace to find the new prince. King Herod was a evil man who was so paranoid that someone would take his throne that he had his own sons killed. Surely, he would not hesitate to kill my son. Our fears were confirmed that night in a dream given to my husband. An angel told him to leave and take us to Egypt right away for Herod was going to search for the child and murder him.”

“So we did. We used some of the gold to get out of the country. While we were in Egypt, we heard the awful news: Herod had ordered that all boys in and near Bethlehem who were 2 years old and under to be killed. I wept for all the mothers who had lost their sons. So many children were murdered because of that evil king. When Herod died, an angel came in a dream and told my husband that it was finally safe to return to Israel.”

“We went home to Nazareth. Over the years, we sold or used the gifts the foreigners gave us to survive. I have not told my story to very many people. I’ve kept it close to my heart and treasured them for years.”

“As you know, my son grew up and became a man. The things he did, the things I saw him do with my own eyes, were amazing. I saw him turn water into wine with a word. Bring healing to the sick with a touch. I’ve seen him straighten crooked limbs and bring sight to blind eyes. These are truly amazing things to witness but for me, they were just the beginning. More than what he did, it was what he said that changed people’s lives, including my own. It was his love for people and his message of heaven’s love for a broken world that impacted hearts. It was the words he spoke of more than a temporary world but of each person’s eternal destination.”

“And as precious as this gold is, it is just a reminder to me of something more precious. It is the message that the child who I carried and gave birth to, lived for and died for. The message that God in heaven loves each one of us so much that he sent His own son to earth. A son who told us that God’s kingdom was so close you could touch it. A son who showed the world that a soul cannot be bought by gold, but that it can be redeemed by the shed blood of it’s Savior. ”

Have a very merry Christmas, my friend. Thank you for being a part of my life. Thank you for every comment, word of encouragement, hug and smile. I am blessed because you are a part of my life.

Always

Hello, my friend.

God Encounter this weekend was amazing and I am always in awe of how God reaches deep to heal his children. I am always so blessed to be a part of something that goes beyond the surface to deal with the root issues that impact our lives. And I am always, always, always honored to hold gently the tortured secrets that have shackled souls in shame and set them free by saturating them grace of God. I go into the weekend prayed up because I know that it will not be easy.

It is always worth it but never easy.

I guess that all the best things in life are never easy but always worth it.

Thank you for your prayers. They make a difference.

By Saturday night the entire world seems to stop and only God Encounter exists. Then after our last session, I hopped on Facebook to see what the rest of the world was up to and saw this message waiting for me:

“I just finished your book Unfinished Masterpiece, it was so good! I just wanted to tell you how powerful your words are and how much they hit home. It was a wake up call. I never realized fear could govern our lives so much. Your words have convicted and challenged my heart. Thank you for following the dream to get those words out there, I’m sure you will impact many more hearts of His daughters as more and more people read it!”
– Kaydee Daniel

Oh, that is right. I got the book up on Amazon and iBooks last week. This message came from a beautiful girl that I haven’t seen in over a year and really have not had much influence in her life. How awesome it is to be able to reach her through the words of this story and have God do something powerful in her life. Thank you, Jesus! This is why I want to do this.

I spent most of today working on my website and moving things around, trying to find the right way to present all this. Pray for me. Pray for this ministry. Pray that God always be lifted up and will draw all to Him through it.

Drumroll, please.

Hello, my friend,
I have some exciting news today.
For the very first time, Unfinished Masterpiece is now available on Amazon Kindle!

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And iBooks!

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Would you look at that!

Hopefully, it will be the first of many books coming your way. There are so many wonderful reasons that I am so excited to get it out there in your hot little hands. The top reason being that I am praying it ministers to you. I love that even though most of you are in other states and even other countries that we can “sit down” together, have a cup of coffee (a Kleenex box near by, of course), and share what God is doing in our lives.

The second reason is so God can minister through you. Now it is a resource for you to use when you minister to your friends and family. I am also working on putting together a ” gift set” with a paperback copy of the book, the cd with the audio book on it and a book mark for those of us who have people in our lives who look at us like we are speaking a different language when we use words like “e-book store and digital copy”. They would like the “real thing” please. I want them to have it too. I am hoping to have it available in early November.

The last reason I am so excited to get it “out there” is to have the opportunity for it to land in someone’s hands I don’t know and have God use it however He wants to . I need your help with this. I would be blessed beyond belief it you would take a minute and rate it with a review on whichever e-book store you use. It is these rating and reviews that give a book the opportunity to be seen by people who don’t know me from Adam (or Eve). We priced this little jewel of a story at .99 cents so that it would be accessible to everyone.

After the retreat in August, I received many wonderful verbal testimonies about Unfinished Masterpiece and this one was left in my comments on this blog:

“I am moved by your words and voice and so glad that I was able to attend your session at the Women’s Retreat this last weekend on “Unfinished Masterpiece-Not Forgotten”. I am strong in my faith and love the Lord with all my heart but it was made clear that I still had more to lay down on the altar. Thus, ch.2 “The Choice” hit me hard in a good way as I wrote my faith proclamation prayer to the Lord and later knelt down and truly confessed it out and over to my Majesty Lord and Creator. I walked out after the class feeling refreshed and anew”. – Vivian Snyder

Thank you, Vivian! I believe that it is just the beginning of many more testimonies to come. I long to see God’s precious daughters (and sons) be set free to see themselves in the light of God’s unchangeable love for them. It is a powerful moment of transformation and healing.

You know, I can’t say I thought this was going to be the first book I was going to publish. However, I am delighted by it and the blessing it has already been in peoples lives. I have had lots of plans the past couple of years, but the whole point of this has been to glorify God with my words and draw people to Him. Then, get out of the way and let God move.

Because when God moves, lives change.

I know that you are jumping up and down with me and are as excited as I am to see what God will do through this as I am. Let’s celebrate – pause for happy dance here – and give Him all the glory and praise!

There is Nothing Left…

As I reached to turn out the light and surveyed the now dark and quiet empty room, the thought ran through my mind, “There is nothing left.” Every tissue box had been picked up, the sound system and air conditioning turned off and the room looked as if nothing had happened there. But so much had. In that moment a swell of emotion came over me and I went back to the place I had designated as the altar, the place where so many wonderful ladies had freely come to lay down their burdens before. I stood there and wept. There was nothing left. I had given everything I had and laid it all out there. What God did there in that place filled my heart with overwhelming gratitude. God used the words of my journey to open hearts and then through prayer healed them. His presence was thick in the room and powerful in the lives of His precious daughters. Testimonies are trickling in of the burden lifting, bondage breaking encounters with the living God that came through this simple story.

For me, it was a new level of vulnerability and such a different way to lay out God’s healing words. More than a step of faith, it felt like flying leap. The feeling reminded me of the days when we would go to Lake Mead outside Vegas and jump off the cliffs. I would stand at the edge with my heart pounding, look down at the water that seems like an impossible distance away and then before I lost my nerve, jumped. You just have to go for it and as soon as you do, the air rushes by and moments later the dark blue water suddenly surrounds you. You are caught in the depths for a few fleeting moments before you kick your way to the surface. Saturday afternoon I took the leap and was caught in the depths of God’s grace and healing love for His daughters. It was a thrillingly sweet experience.

After it was all over, I stood in the midst of a quiet empty room holding an empty box of supplies and wept. I gave everything I had to give and there was nothing left. There is nothing better.

Unfinished Masterpiece is a short story that will have a long reach. I know I only gave you a glimpse of it last week. After seeing the impact, I am excited to get it available online soon. If you were there this weekend and experienced it first hand- I would love to know what God did in you through it. Leave a comment here or message me on Facebook.

Have an amazing day, my friend. Whatever God asks you to do today- go for it. Take a leap and give it everything you have. It is the sweetest offering you can give.

Unfinished Masterpeice

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I am preparing for the Bayside of Citrus Heights Women’s Retreat this weekend where I have the pleasure of doing a workshop on Saturday afternoon. The theme this year is “Masterpiece” and I pulled out the message that I did at the Ladies Tea in Elk Grove last October thinking that my work was done and I could relax. Then my good friend, Laura, who went with me to Elk Grove, asked me a question. She said, “I always wondered about your museum guide, who is he and what if he had a bigger role to play? I replied, “I don’t know but I will pray about it.”

So I did. In the mad pace of my summer, I stole away for moments at a time and asked God, “What would it look like if I expanded the tour of the gallery of heaven?”, “Who was the guide?” and “How would it change the journey?”

The following excerpt is the beginning of that answer. Unfinished Masterpiece grew into a short story of five chapters and a beautiful journey through the gallery of heaven with my very own personal guide. This gallery is filled with exquisite artwork depicting the most important moments recorded in the Bible. On this tour my guide brings me to specific pieces of art that will help move me from the gray apathy of emotional numbness to the bright color filled freedom of spiritual breakthrough.

I am also working on adding an audio cd with my narration of this wonderful journey.

Here is the beginning:

“I sat alone on the top of the little hill in the dark of the predawn. It was quiet there and it matched my mood. I watched as the sunrise warmed the cold dawn sky above me. In the next few moments the world changed from shades of grey to full blown color. The world was brought to life around me but couldn’t seem to touch the cold that had settled inside of me. I was an indifferent spectator to the beauty around me and numb to it’s majestic display. I sat there until the magic of the sunrise dissipated into the bright morning light of a new day. Unable to move but unwilling to stay, I whispered a desperate plea, “Help me”.

“I am here”.

I turned to see a companion sitting next to me.

“I didn’t see you before”, I said.

“You didn’t need to”, he replied, “but I have been here the entire time”.

Without looking at him I asked, “Why do I feel nothing- Why does the world warm to life around me but I still feel lost in the predawn?”

“It is because you have come to a place of decision” he said, “You think you are here because you want to give up, but really you are here to decide.”

“Decide what?” I wondered aloud.

Instead of an answer, I received an invitation,”Will you come with me? I want to show you something.”

“Sure, what do I have to lose?”

He smiled at me as he stood, held out his hand and helped me get up.

“Let’s walk”, he said.

With a sweeping gesture of my hand, I replied, “Lead the way…”

We walked silently through the idyllic village street with its charming storefronts and shuttered cottage windows. No one was out and about as it was still too early in the morning. I didn’t ask my companion where we were going, I didn’t feel the need to know. I was simply glad for the walk and for not feeling alone anymore.

Soon we came to the end of the street and to the entrance of a beautiful museum. The simple sign on the door said, “The Gallery”. I raised my eyebrows at my guide and asked “Are we going in?”

“We are” he said as he pulled a key out of his pocket and proceeded to unlock the door.

We passed through the old fashioned turnstile in the front lobby and entered a big room with sparse modern decor. The hardwood floor gleamed as if it had just been polished and the walls answered the floor with beautiful simple light woods. The room was filled with an air of uncomplicated refinement reflecting well it’s owner. My guide lead me to a small wooden sculpture that sat upon a glass pedestal. It was a little bird, a sparrow, I think. I marveled at the detail given to it’s delicate wings and small beak. It looked as if it was about to take flight and could at any moment if it desired to do so.

“What a beautiful work of craftsmanship”, I said, as I bent down to get a closer look.

“No more beautiful than you are,” I heard from behind me.

I smiled but shook my head and said, “I am not beautiful, or at least- not beautiful enough.”

“Enough for what?” he questioned.

“Enough to count, to be used, to be chosen. I am not enough” I said as well practiced thoughts slipped into words.

“More care has been put into your life than was put in creating this sculptor.”

I pondered that for a minute.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care”, I recited from memory.

“Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” he said as I felt the gentle tug on my hair. “Don’t allow fear to hold you captive; your are worth more than many sparrows. Little things matter. You are created by millions of little things; The cells that make you,your body and house your spirit. You are alive because of such wonderful little things. Each one is beautifully fulfilling it’s intended purpose.”

“Tell me,” he continued, “What do you think is the purpose of this sculpture?”

I gently shook my head back and forth.

“It is to remind you that no matter how little you feel, you are of great significance to God. It is here to remind that if He put such care into creating this small creature how much more care has He put into creating you? Every Life matters. You matter.”

I glanced down at the inscription on the pedestal: Life’s Significance.”

Friend, what well practiced words hold you back?
Do you realize how precious and valuable you are to God?
Every life matters. You matter.

I am so excited about what God can and might do through this project. Pray for me this weekend and pray for the ladies who will take the time to walk the journey with me. I am working on making at this project available “out there” in the real world too, lol. Let me know if you are interested.

May God’s amazing love surround you, fill you and overflow from you to all those influenced and impacted by your life. Have a fantastic weekend!

Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
who is the fairest of them all?

It has occurred to me that God created no mirrors in the garden of Eden. He was the mirror.

“So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”
(Genesis 1:27 NIV)

When he created Adam and Eve, he looked at them. They looked at each other,they looked at God. No where does it say that they spent time looking at their own reflection. They didn’t even know they were naked until “their eyes were opened” after eating the fruit. The knowledge of good and evil. I think it is the evil side of knowledge that draws us to look at ourselves, focus on ourselves and feel shame. Feel disgust. Feel not good enough.

God said, “who told you you were naked?”
Mirror, mirror on the wall.

I don’t think we were every meant to stare at ourselves, to look at our bodies and analyze, compare and hate the reflection we see. To be consumed with the desire to “look” good enough in order to “feel” good enough. This doesn’t come from God. It comes from sin.

We are meant to reflect the image of our creator. We are meant to be mirrors for others so that they could see their true beauty reflected through our eyes instead of the reflection on the wall. We are meant be a reflection of God not a reflection of ourselves. We are supposed to see ourselves through God’s eyes and not our own.

I met with a beautiful vivacious 16 year girl this week. She is on a diet – a dangerous diet of the mind. In her short life, she has already struggled with anorexia. She had already been down that road of starvation to “feel beautiful”. I see her slipping even now.
“Bathing suit season is approaching” she says as she slumps in the chair across from me as the baggy sweatshirt and sweatpants she wears swallow her up. Yes, bathing suit season is approaching . As I write this the sky above California has opened up and a cold rain and bitter wind slap at the windows. Bathing suit season is approaching. Mirror, mirror on the wall.

You know, I never feel beautiful when I look at myself…ever. But I feel beautiful when my husband does. I didn’t for a long time. About 10 years into my marriage, I was leaning close to the bathroom mirror to apply mascara when my husband said to me “you are beautiful“. I was about to reply with “whatever” when the thought “how many years will you have to hear this before you believe it is true? You are beautiful to him. It is time to choose to believe it and receive it.” Instead of replying with a sarcastic role of my eyes and a self deprecating comment rolling off my tongue, I said, “thank you- I am” instead. It was a game changer in my life. I chose that day to stop seeing myself through my own eyes and see myself through his. He had proven himself trustworthy and had faithfully repeated the words daily for a decade. The time to believe the truth was overdue. It was definitely time.

Mirror mirror on the wall.

I also have found that I feel beautiful when my boys smile at me. About 5 years ago, in an effort of entertain my then 4 year old while we were waiting for something, I gave him my camera . This was back in the day before my camera and my phone were the same thing. He started to take pictures of all the things around him and then turned the camera toward me. He took a picture of me and for the first time- I saw myself through his eyes. It is one of my favorite pics of myself. I don’t have much if any make up on or am all put together- but I am smiling at my little love. And the love that comes shining out of my face is beautiful. I don’t smile at myself the same way. Maybe if I did, I would feel beautiful when I looked in the mirror.

Mirror, mirror on the wall.
How do I look?

The irony is that in this moment, I am at a salon getting a beauty treatment. I am getting a deep conditioning for my hair to combat the damage of coloring it. Even as I sit here under the hair dryer a bag on my head looking like a caricature of a woman spending her morning in a salon, I am vitally aware of the difference between “looking” beautiful and “feeling” beautiful.

The feeling, emotion, state of being, this feeling , “beautiful” does not come from outside looks. It comes from an inward knowledge that you are loved and beautiful. If you feel ugly, dirty, shame filled or lacking, there is no outward beauty, no reflection that will truly convince you different. It might make you feel better, give you hope that it might be true but it even that feeling will fade as fast as the make up on your face or the hair do on your head.

But if you believe you are loved, cherished chosen and beautiful on the inside, if you choose to receive this truth, (and it is a choice) then the outside work becomes an extension of this belief. Your appearance becomes a creative expression of self. A free canvas to play with and enjoy. To be healthy and fit is about celebrating who you are instead of punishing yourself for what you are not.

Mirror, mirror on the wall.

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27 NIV)

You have to look at the right mirror to get the right reflection.

It is time to start seeing ourselves through love’s eternal reflection and let the rest come from that.

Mirror, mirror of my soul,
You are the fairest of them all.

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