Monday, August 22, 2016

Thinking about royalty...

Awhile back I was reminded of a crown I once wore...it wasn't a crown I wanted and it's not one others were striving for either. I never thought much about crowns...the tomboy in me didn't want one and my insecure self knew I didn't deserve one. 

So...it was kind of funny and awkward when the Howard County Pork Council called as my senior year came to a close and asked if I'd be the county "Pork Queen". I'll wait while you laugh...this is a reality in Iowa. The lucky girl gets to hand out ribbons at the fair, ride in parades thru the summer and promote "The Other White Meat." If $100 hadn't been involved, I'm pretty sure I would have said, "No." 

That simple "Yes" opened the door for jokes, new names and crazy gifts. I was called, "Miss Piggy" and given a new nose. It was a job I did, but a crown I didn't want. 

This all took place during a time of struggle...I was a very insecure 18 year old who deeply struggled with my looks. My tender heart took words very seriously and personally. The doubts I already had were confirmed with the crazy crown put on my head. 

I never longed for a homecoming title or crown of my own and once I received one it seemed to solidify the thoughts and lies I believed. The girl associated with pigs...an animal that stinks and squeals and is rarely one others want to be around, felt the title fit. The one who struggled with looks, not being good enough and not feeling loved had a crown that fit. One nobody else wanted, but was given to me. 

Eventually, most forgot the role I'd played, but the struggles continued. I battled doubts and lies as life went on and eventually found myself in the pit of depression. For a few years my world grew darker, but I played the "I'm fine" game and walked thru life trying to hide the pain and pretend all was well. 

God intervened and saved me from a suicide attempt. He drew me to Himself and I eventually started a personal relationship with Him. In the last 16+ years, He has done a mighty work - replacing lies with Truth, pouring out His love and making me into who He created me to be. 

This last weekend I was blessed to help with the ReNEWed Life Women's Event for the 5th time. The day was AMAZING (I'm sure I'll say more in the days to come) - God said and did much. He touched hearts and transformed lives. He reminded me of Truth, His faithfulness and my role.

Our speaker, Micca Campbell, made a statement as she shared her testimony that I continue thinking about - "This is not who you are." These were words God impressed on her heart years ago and ones He used to speak to me today. And friend, I pray they speak to you as well.

How do you define yourself? Do you see yourself as "Miss Piggy"? Define yourself with labels others give? Is your identity rooted in lies? Are you wearing a "crown" you don't need to wear? Perhaps you find yourself thinking - 'I don't deserve a title. I'm not worthy of a crown.'

A couple of years ago, God used this royalty idea to speak to my heart as I spoke with a friend, who I felt I didn't deserve. I remember thinking, "She was a Baylor Beauty when the only title I could have won was 'Riceville Reject.'" If you want to read that lesson about our worth you can find it HERE.

Friend, I don't know your struggle with worth and identity, but I've visited with enough women to guess you've probably had one. I've also walked this road long enough to know God is constantly teaching me more and continuously helping me become who He created me to be. I trust He is, and will do, the same for you.

The other day as I sat and watched God work at our women's event a verse came to mind. Isaiah 62:3 - "You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God." I'm not Miss Piggy, Miss Doubtful, Miss Worthless, Miss I'm Not Good Enough and you're not "Miss fill in the blank" either.

Friend, we don't have to wait for the world to give us a crown, if we've accepted Jesus as Savior and confessed Him as Lord, we are covered in His righteousness. We are a crown in God's hand. We are His masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10) He wants us to shine for Him. (Matthew 5:16) He has plans for us. (Jeremiah 29:11) He created us for His glory. 

But, in order for that to happen we must be who He created us to be...we must quit living up to the titles the world gives or the labels Satan whispers with his lies. So to get you started, here's a few verses about who you are my royal friend -

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9)

"You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:5)

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you." (John 15:16)

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations..." (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)

We must not only accept our role as royalty, but then work to encourage others to embrace their crown as well. These words from Isaiah 61:1-3 offer some instruction about the work we are called to do as royalty in the kingdom of God. 

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor." 

Friend, I'll leave you with this...

Heavenly Father, 
Lord you are king. You are the royal, worthy One. I love you and am grateful you chose me as your own. Help me become who you made me to be...when I'm not living as You created me to live, help me see that. When I'm believing lies about who I am, I ask You to quickly replace them with Truth. When I cling to the labels the world gives and doubt my ability, remind me your grace is sufficient. When Satan throws lies that make me feel less than, may you help me remember that greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. Father, don't just let me accept this position as royalty, but instead use it for your kingdom. May I shine your light and live for your glory. Use me to help the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom and comfort the hurting. I want to be who you made me to be so that I can help others become who you created them to be. So Lord, I ask You to fill me with 
your Holy Spirit and then give me a heart sensitive to your Spirit. In Jesus' precious and powerful name I pray...Amen

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hungry?

Feeding cattle...a job that happens every day on the farm and something I've done for the last week. The other night I walked into the cattle pen to do my chores, but later realized I was walking into God's classroom to be reminded of a lesson we must not forget.

As I approached the gate with the skidloader, the cattle came out of the shed and started lining up at the feed bunks. They were hungry and they knew where to go for nourishment.

While watching this, I had a thought - why don't I do the same thing?

I mean don't you get hungry? Chances are we're all grown women, so we know where the kitchen is, but let's think about this in a spiritual sense. Are you ever emptied? Need your cup refilled? Are you running low on energy? Your love tanking nearing empty? Your level of joy almost non-existent? How about peace? Are you experiencing that?

Friend, God provides all we need. Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus." He created the resources and they will never run out. We feed our cattle and God will do the same and more for our souls.

But just like the cattle line up at the bunk, you and I must go to His book. His living and active word will teach, correct, rebuke and train. His Word will fill us. It is the living water that we long for. I can't force a nearly grown steer to eat and God won't force us either, so today will you make the choice to go to Him and get filled up on His Word?

This sounds simple enough and experience tells me Scripture has the power to transform. God's Word has impacted me greatly, but I'm sorry to admit I don't always make the right choice.

As I observed the cattle and thought about God feeding me, I realized a problem with this illustration. Our cattle have no other source of nourishment...if they want something to eat, they must come to the bunk and wait for us to fill it. Sometimes I wish it was that easy for you and me, but we live in a broken world full of sin and distractions.

When we are feeling empty we have many options - picking up the phone and calling a friend, mindlessly wasting time on Facebook, eating another cookie or watching another TV show. Or we can ignore the hunger pains and get busy doing work, work, work. Do any of these sound familiar? Do you ever fill up on the wrong thing? Does it just leave you feeling emptier than you were before? The next time you're hungry, remember where we find the only nourishment that will last.

Another lesson from my four legged friends - they are satisfied with the same thing every day. My kids would probably wonder what was up if I served them the same meal day after day...if it was pancakes they'd be thrilled, but if it was oatmeal we'd probably have a revolt! Have you ever struggled with this in a spiritual sense? Do you long to hear from God and all that comes is a verse that's familiar?

Friend, that's not a problem. God's Word is living and active...it provides what we need. When He gives you a familiar verse or passage, dig in deeper, read it in context, study key words or find it's meaning in the original language. Scripture will satisfy.

Finally, one other thought from my time in the cattle pen - this time an advantage for us. We feed our cattle morning and night, so they eat twice a day. Friend, we don't have to wait for mealtime or bedtime to feed on God's Word. It's available anytime. The same can be said for the One who feeds us as well. We can pray anytime and anywhere.

The only reason we are ever hungry is because we fill up on the wrong food or don't stop long enough to eat His Word or drink the Living Water. Let's be sure to do that today!!

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord you know my every need. You know what I'm hungry for and can provide that nourishment. Help me go to You when the hunger pains hit. May I trust You to fill me up. Give me a hunger for Your Word. Like the deer pants for water may I thirst for You. Thank You for always providing and feeding me, Your sheep. You are a good, good Father and I am thankful. Help me be like Mary and choose what is better - time at your feet. In Jesus' holy name I pray...Amen


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Are you running? (A Short Study on Jonah)

Running...it's something I used to do and something I need to do. I type the word and can hear Forrest Gump say, "I was runnang." Friend, whether you enjoy running or not, whether you've jogged today or haven't since school, can I remind you we are all running a race.

We're not competing against one another and we're not sure where the finish line is, but we could compare life to a race. Hebrews 12:2 refers to this - "Let us run with perseverance the race set before us..." and 1 Corinthians talks about it as well in 9:24, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize."

Today, I invite you to join me as we study one who ran - the prophet Jonah. Are you familiar with his story? Remember the big fish? That's part of it, but there are so many more things we can learn about God, Jonah and even ourselves in these four short chapters. Join me?

This post is a bit different than my typical ones as it requires you to open your Bible and do some studying for yourself. I trust God will meet you in the pages of Scripture and the Holy Spirit will give you discernment as you read the Word that has the power to transform. If you feel led to do this with a friend, I encourage you to do just that. Tonight at Titus24U I had the opportunity to work thru this study with sisters in Christ and I'm grateful for the insight they shared and the work God did. If you want to do it individually, I know God will meet you there as well. Also feel free to leave comments or ask questions, so we can grow together in this community as well.

Before we begin, let's pray -
Dear Heavenly Father, Lord we approach your throne with confidence. We trust you will speak through your word and work in our hearts. Help us know you better as we see you in this story. Help us learn from Jonah's example and apply the lessons to our lives. Lord, humble our hearts and give us a teachable spirit. Use this time for your glory and our good. In Jesus' name...Amen

What do you do when you make a mistake? When you are in a hard place? How do you respond when God leads in a direction you don’t want to go? When He gives a job you don’t want to do? When He requires an action you think is too hard? Do you run away? Try to hide?



Open your Bible to Jonah and read chapter one. Who was Jonah? Describe his attitude towards God. How did he respond to God’s call?



How does God respond? 



Have you ever acted like Jonah?



Now move on to chapter 2. These verses are a prayer Jonah prayed. When did he pray this? Where was he? What brought him to this place?



Do you see how Jonah's running led him to the belly of a whale? Well, he didn't literally run in there, but his heart ran away from God and because of that he found himself in a stinky, smelly place. Do you ever run from God when He asks you to do something you don't want to do? Something that seems impossible? 



Friend, running for our health is good, but when it comes to running from God it's all bad. Read the first six verses of chapter 2 again. What were the consequences of Jonah's running? Who allowed these consequences to happen? 



Think about your own experience with running away from God...have you too fell in the pit? Felt trapped? Lacked peace? 



Jonah 1:3 tells us Jonah payed a fare to get on the ship so he could go in the opposite direction God had told him. Friend, we too pay a price when we disobey God and go our own way or do our own thing. Our running has consequences...may we remember that the next time we're tempted to lace up the sneakers of our heart!

Now take a minute and focus on Jonah 2:8 - "Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them." I believe (and so do most commentators) that Jonah is including himself in the those he is talking about. What worthless idol was he clinging to? What worthless idol do you cling to? 



We either worship God or we don't - there is no neutral ground. We don't have to have a golden calf to worship an idol - we can worship self, comfort, people, money, sports, food or anything else we put above God. When we do, we turn away from God's love. We must set our hearts on God or we'll be running in the wrong direction.

We've looked at the consequences and reason for Jonah's running...now let's continue in his prayer and see the start of him running the right way. What insight do we get from verse 7? Do you ever forget God?



What do we see Jonah do in verse 9? How has his heart changed? 



Friend, if we want to run with and for God, we must do what Jonah did - be grateful, keep our promises, admit Truth and confess Jesus as Lord. 

As we reflect on these two chapters, I want to ask you a question - "What do we learn about God?" This sounds like a simple question, but take your time - there are many answers. 



We learn much about God and who He is in this story, but the lessons don't end there. What do we learn about prayer? What about following God?


One of the things I glean from Jonah's prayer is the importance of hiding Scripture in our heart. The chances are pretty slim that Jonah had a Bible in the belly of the fish, but he did pray words from Scripture. Look at Psalm 18:6, 31:22 and 42:7. Do you see any similarities? Have you hidden God's Word in your heart so you can pray it back to Him?



It's good and necessary to learn about God, His Word and His people. The next step is to apply this to our lives, so I encourage you to pause for awhile and really go to God in prayer so He can examine your heart and help you answer these last few questions. I also urge you to take the time to write them down...putting something on paper is powerful and is a step towards acknowledging our problem, struggle and/or sin. 

Are you running from God?



What are the consequences?



Are you willing to repent?



How can you run with and for God instead of from and against Him?



Friend, I didn't just pray for God to lead women to my blog, I asked Him to meet you here. I trust He did that as you spent time in His living and active Word. Chances are some of the stuff He revealed to you is hard...don't run away from it. Remember He is a God who will go to great lengths to show us running away is bad. We can't hide from God and He will never forsake us. He is sovereign and His plan will unfold. It will go much better for us if we work with Him and not against Him. 

In a spiritual sense, the question isn't - "Are you running?" but instead "Are you running towards God or away from Him?" Friend, He set the course, He knows the direction you are going and longs for you to finish well! Instead of running for gold, let's run for HIS GLORY!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

An Invitation

Invitations - typically something we all like to receive. We like to be included and tend to enjoy being part of something beyond the walls of our home. Being together can be a good thing. Scripture touches on this....

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up." Friend, we were created for community and we crave connection. That didn't happen by chance - our Creator is part of the Trinity and we are created in His image...we long for and need relationship, first with Him and then with others.

Matthew 18:20 says, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." This verse brings to mind times when friends have invited me to pray or I've done the same with them. Powerful times, not because of our words, but instead because of God's presence. When we join together in prayer, God works.

Hebrews 10:24-25 instructs us - "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - all the more as you see the day approaching." Another vital reason for our need for sisters (and brothers) in Christ - we need encouragement. Life is hard, hearts are broken and the world is hurting - we need to be reminded of Truth, encouraged with hope and supported by loved ones.

Friend, whether you are near or far I have an invitation for you! On August 20th, the 5th ReNEWed Life Women's Event will be held in Cresco, Iowa. This year Micca Campbell will be joining us along with local speakers and a wonderful worship team. I've been blessed to be on the team since it all began and I'm eagerly anticipating all God has in store this year.

So first of all the practical invitation - if it works for you to join us, PLEASE do!! Every year after the event I drive home thinking about women I wish I would have invited...this year I don't want to forget YOU. If you have any questions about registering, let me know.

The 2nd invitation - if you are unable to be in Iowa on the 20th, I invite you to join us in prayer. God hears the prayers of His people and we know they carry us through. Friend, I don't just share this as a selfish request...it truly is an invitation. I've prayed for some events in the past from afar and the first few times I was amazed at how God blessed me through it all. I'm asking you for prayer, but I'm also inviting YOU to be part of God's work!! You can play a part in the praise reports I know are coming! If you want any specifics, let me know.

Finally, the third invitation - when God puts something on your heart that seems impossible, when He leads you to take a scary step or when He prompts you to reach out...do it. Think of it as His invitation...one that will likely take you to places you never expected and require you to do things you've never done. Every invitation He gives serves a purpose...thru it His kingdom grows and our hearts change.

To close here's a glimpse of what God's done in the past...He doesn't change, so we know He'll be faithful in the future! Like with any invitation, be sure to RSVP!! Just kidding, but friends please know I'm grateful God has invited YOU into my life!

ReNEWed Life 2012, 2013, 2014



ReNEWed Life 2015



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Where the weeds grow...

"Walking beans" or "Pulling weeds" are two phrases my kids and I are tired of hearing. The job is hot, it seems to never end and you get itchy. But like any other experience it's one God is in...He's always there, but we need to look and listen. I'm not sure I was looking the other day, but I was listening.

We'd been up and down the rows a few times, played the "I'm going on a picnic" game and everyone was quiet. I'd spent some time praying, but then as I walked in silence going thru the motions of pulling weeds I spent some time listening to the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart.

There are different kinds of weeds growing in our bean field - pigweed, button weed, ragweed and other names I don't remember. Some of them at a certain stage look much like our beans. If I'm not intentional in my looking or too quick in my walking I can miss them and assume they are on the way to producing a crop.

A weed in the center of our dry beans.
After this observation, my lesson began. Think about this for a minute - Where do weeds grow? They, these bad, unnecessary plants, grow up amongst the good ones that produce the harvest we hope for.

Friend, the weeds in our heart often do the same. They grow right up with the good fruit we are trying to produce for the kingdom of God. Button weeds don't just sprout in one corner of our field, they grow throughout it and sin works the same way.

That's not saying we can't have hidden sins that stand alone, but it's a reminder that we must address the ones that grow up with fruit we are hoping to produce. I encourage you to take some time and think about this.

As I did just that, the thing God brought to mind was pride. Let's define this word that we know the Bible says is bad - deep pleasure or satisfaction from one's own achievements and thinking more about yourself than others.

If we're honest, I think we can each admit to a struggle with pride at some point in our lives. It's not a fun admission, but it is a necessary one. And friend, this pride isn't limited to the it's all about me, I'm better than everybody thinking and behavior. In a way, insecurity can be labeled pride as well. When we worry about what everyone else thinks...we are focusing on self and thinking about ourselves more than others.

God timed this lesson for me - just days ago, I was blessed to be part of an amazing sports camp where we saw God work. The testimonies we've heard have been a joy, but in all honesty I've wrestled with a few doubts as I reflect on things I said, or didn't say, as I shared from my heart and tried to point kids to Christ. In reality, I'd been praying about this and others were praying for me...what's done is done and what I said is what I must trust God will use. I still battle some insecurity every time I step out to speak, but I'm realizing that is a weed I must uproot. Reflecting and working to improve is a good thing, but dwelling on doubt is bad and something that hinders the growth God is working towards.

In just over two weeks I will again be blessed to be part of an amazing event God will work through - the 5th ReNEWed Life Women's Event will be held in our small town. Today in the field I was reminded that God is growing fruit, but I must be diligent, intentional and watchful to recognize and remove the weeds that are growing right along with it.

Friend, Hebrews 12:1 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..."

We need to get rid of the sin...it trips us up and prevents the fruit from growing. This is an easy statement to make and a concept that I think we agree with, but it is a task that is challenging. Just like pulling weeds in our bean field, we must learn what sin is - it can resemble fruit, we must be diligent to look for it - it takes effort to spot it and distinguish it as well. The job isn't fun, it requires work and takes time.

But friend, let me remind you - the work is worth it! Today the kids and I finished a field we'd been working on for awhile and there was a real feeling of accomplishment. We also had joy when we shared the news with my husband - the farmer was pleased! He understands the damage weeds can do and the growth they hinder. God understands that so much more!!

Today I'd like to encourage you to think about the fruit God is growing in your life. Thank God for the growth and then ask Him to give you eyes to see the weeds that are growing right up with it. Once you see it, pray and ask for help in removing the weeds. Friend, our good Father...the One who controls the wind and the waves, the one who does the growing...He knows. He is faithful and will provide the tools you need.

Sometimes my younger kids need help pulling the weeds so they ask me or an older sibling to pull along with them and I'd be honored to do the same for you. If you are aware of a weed and want prayer, leave me a comment or send me an email (jillberan@yahoo.com) and I will lift you up.

Blessings from the farm!!




Monday, August 1, 2016

Dance in the Rain

A BIG welcome to those of you joining me from the Encouragement Cafe today. I pray my devotional, "Wisdom for the Wait" was one God used to speak to your heart. If you haven't read it and would like to, you can click HERE.

Waiting isn't something we like to do, but I'm sure we agree it's something we have to do. Just last week I was reminded of something else we can do in the wait...

Last Friday our church hosted the first ever H.E.A.R.T. of a Champion sports camp in memory of my niece, Grace. We were all looking forward to the day and many had been working hard in preparation. We'd been praying for much, including the weather. The event was taking place in our church yard, so we were praying the sun would shine.

Well the pitter-patter of raindrops woke me up at 4:30. I couldn't believe it and a bit of anxiety set in. I started to pray, eventually crawled out of bed, glanced out the window and then checked the radar. It looked like it wouldn't rain much and was predicted to end soon, so I prayed some more. In time my husband joined me, peeked out the window and watched the radar. His thoughts, "If I was going fishing, I'd go."

After an hour, the phone rang...Christine, the other camp planner, wondering if she should contact our local school's athletic director about moving the camp to the gym. We talked and decided to wait an hour. Time passed, prayers continued and the rain increased. We talked again and thought we'd better look at plan B. She hung up with plans to call the AD.

As I waited for the rain to stop and the phone to ring, anxiety increased. Finally, I realized regardless of the location the camp was going to happen so I had to focus and prepare for the day. I woke up my kids, got myself dressed and started breakfast. My daughters woke excited for the day and then saw the rain. They were a bit concerned, but quickly got ready for a camp they'd been eagerly anticipating.

They all sat for breakfast and I again checked the radar as the waiting continued. With my back to my oldest girl, she says, "Mom, do you remember what your shirt says?" I was wearing my "Grace" shirt and on the back they have a few lines from an encouraging note she'd written. Joy read them to me, "Don't forget to dance in the rain. God's got you. Keep looking up." The rain had not stopped, but my perspective changed.

Worry disappeared and peace came. The phone rang and we proceeded as planned. Christine couldn't connect with the AD, so we headed to the church trusting the One who was in control.

Things were a bit crazy as we scrambled to adjust the schedule and prepare for registration. Extra towels were found, leaders were sweeping water off the wet basketball court and prayers continued. A bit before 9 the first of 50 some young athletes started to arrive, by 9:15 registration had ended and the rain had stopped.

The day had barely begun and God was already teaching me much. He is in control. His timing is perfect. His way is not always our's, but it is best.

So friend, what does this have to do with waiting? Like I said it's something none of us enjoy, but all of us do. Sometimes the wait is long, and it's almost always hard. The wait is something we can't control and never will change. Sometimes it's kind of like the rain...it will come whether we want it or not. The thing is what we do in the wait...Grace had a pretty good idea.

We can't control the rain, but we are in charge of our attitude. We can choose what we do while we wait...do we trust or worry? Experience peace or anxiety? Do we wallow or worship? Do we work or waste time?

Friend no matter what the day brings or how long the wait takes may we remember these timely words a friend shared with me Friday morning -


"This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it."
(Psalm 118:24)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"Voice Your Vows"

"Voice your vows" is a phrase I heard Joni Erickson Tada use in a radio interview the other day and I loved it. She was sharing about her walk thru cancer and all the work her husband had to do to care for her as a paraplegic. At one of the more trying moments, he simply said to her, "This is part of the for worse." They went on to talk about the difference it made in their marriage to simply remind each other, and themselves, of the vows they had made.

I hadn't thought much more about this until today on the eve of our 15th anniversary. This was a day that didn't look anything like I expected, which can be hard for a planner like me. Forty years on a farm, where things rarely go as planned, is slowly helping me change though. So I set aside my agenda and tried to embrace the one that was taking place.

We're in the midst of combining oats and my husband, Job, asked me to take some wagons to another farm. I agreed, completed the task and was then asked to unload the wagons I was pulling home. I tried, but didn't have the brute strength to move the equipment. So I gave Job a call thinking my work on the farm was done. I was wrong and humbly received a different job.

I say humbly with joy because not long ago I may have outwardly submitted and took the job, but inwardly my thoughts were running...quickly...in a negative direction. All my married friends know that's not a good thing! Today part of me wanted to grumble...this wasn't my plan for the day. I could have complained...my to-do list was long. Thankfully I chose to die to self, shut my mouth and do what needed to be done.

As I did what I didn't expect to do, God gave me time. Time to think, time to pray, time to be still, time to reflect and time to remember. I spent close to 5 hours on the road, but never went more than 4 miles from home. Tractors are slow and our fields are not that far away.

It was good to be quiet and let the Spirit speak to my heart. I needed to remember where and who I've been and reflect on all God has done. Twenty-five years ago, I was a teen in love with basketball who swore I'd never marry a farmer. Seventeen years ago I was a new teacher struggling with depression and fearing a life lived all alone. Today I'm a day from being a farmer's wife for 15 years and I'm grateful for the life we live and family we have.

I truly am blessed, but today I was reminded...there's two sides to every story, every situation brings some good and bad. Life on the farm is a great opportunity to work together and raise a family, but there's also the work that never ends and pressure that accompanies weather and prices you can't control. Being a wife is a role I thank God for...I'm truly blessed by Job's encouragement, provision and love, but as any married woman knows marriage isn't always easy. The joy that comes with being a Mom is really immeasurable, but that role too has its challenges.

Friend, no matter what roles you play, I'm sure you could say the same. We live in a fallen world and Jesus assured us we would have trouble. So the question is not - "Will trouble come?", but instead - "How will we respond when it does?"

For the purpose of this post, I'm going to look at struggles in the arena of marriage - if this isn't a place you find yourself, I trust you can substitute a different role and apply the same concept. I believe Joni's three words are a powerful tool. When struggles come, voice your vows.

Let me ask you, have you ever repeated your vows since your wedding day? I haven't and I was so nervous that day I'm not sure I even knew what I was saying! But speaking truth is important...this is a great reminder and attitude changer. Remembering the promise you gave and covenant you made puts things in perspective.

Friend, I encourage you the next time trouble comes, plans change or your feelings are hurt - voice your vows. You don't necessarily have to speak them out loud to your husband, but say them to yourself and see the difference it will make.

This strategy doesn't just work with our earthly husbands, but also our heavenly Father, whom Isaiah 54:5 says is our husband. God has made us countless promises...the Bible is full of them and when trouble comes it's vital that we voice His vows.

Just for starters...

Feeling unloved? He promises love that never fades - "No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39

Feeling anxious? He promises peace - “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid." John 14:27

Feeling weak? He promises strength - "He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:20-31

Feeling tired? He promises rest - Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29

Today is there a vow you made to your husband that you need to remember? Voice it now!! Are you forgetting a vow God has made? Remember it today!!