Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"I'm Not Pretty"

This past Saturday, my mom brought a Christmas gift over for each of our kids. After opening them, little Joy was sad. Assuming it was because she received clothes rather than a new doll or another toy on her list, we gave her the 'need to be grateful talk' and moved on with the night.

Right before bedtime I found myself with Joy, who still was not herself, and asked what was wrong. Then 10 days before her 5th birthday, my little Princess says to me, "I'm not pretty." I was shocked to say the least and our conversation continued.

She was wanting a new green dress because she's not pretty when it's red. An unthankful heart wasn't the reason for her sadness earlier in the day. No, it was the result an issue many of us struggle with, our looks. As someone who's lost that battle my entire life my heart broke as I listened to my sweet, beautiful little girl say, "I'm not pretty."

She was crying and so was I as I tried to assure her of her beauty, which starts with her innocent, tender, loving heart. With her big blue eyes focused on mine she listened intently, but as I finished she said, "But Mom sometimes I get mad."

I agreed with her and assured her sometimes Mom gets mad too. She knew that!! So I asked her, "Joy do you still love me even when I'm mad?" She said yes, but she didn't like it and I told her that's kind of how it is with God too. He doesn't like it when we have an ugly heart or a bad attitude, but He still loves us and knows we are beautiful. I told her it didn't matter what color her dress was she is and always will be my pretty little Princess!! She smiled and went to brush her teeth...

Though the conversation came to an end for her, my mind continued to work. How could my little preschooler be struggling with the way she looks already? In a way I was shocked, Job is an amazing Dad who loves to compliment all of the kids and always acknowledges her "look at me" moments. At the same time I was also hurt, I've lived much of my life with those three words echoing in my mind. I've just rarely had the courage to voice them.

So as we headed to bed, I caught Job up on the story and he simply asked, "Why would she think like that already?" Initially I had no answer, but thru the night it was as if God would give me one - "as I spoke truth to her, He was able to speak it to me."

Today I encourage you to take a minute and think about your kids, the love you have for them and the eyes you see them with and imagine God, your Father feeling the same way about you. Now that's a gift!!

Here's my pretty princess with her new red dress -

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Face your fears...Live your dreams!

In my last post I shared a quote from my basketball days and how it no longer just pertained to sports, but also my walk of faith. The other day another motto from the days gone by came back to mind - "Face your fears, live your dreams." Back then the words meant I had to get past the fear of lifting weights with the boys if I wanted to get stronger as an athlete. Along with moving past the worry of what everyone would think and skip the party so I wouldn't risk eligibility for the team. You get the idea...

But again God is using those motivational sayings to encourage me in the game of life. Only know the fears at times seem bigger and the dream really isn't mine if that makes any sense. Let me explain...

As a child and a teen we all dream of what we will do and who we will become - I envisioned a nice little family and a successful championship winning coaching career. I do have a nice family that grew again this year, but aside from a game or two a year and teaching my 4 year old to dribble basketball is gone. And really not even that many years ago I had an idea of what I thought I wanted my life to look like, but I'm beginning to realize it's not those dreams that matter.

No, my dream has changed - I no longer see myself doing some specific task, being a certain person or reaching a goal. Instead my dream is doing the will of my Father, which means my fears must be faced. I'm beginning to realize being the only girl in the weight room really is no big deal!!

But at the same time, though my dream has changed in a way my fears remain the same. I'm afraid of being different than the crowd, I worry about what others will think and I fear failing, no longer just the team, but God too.

I believe God has reminded me of this quote to help me remember how I faced fears in the past and really did see dreams come true. The concept applied to a game and I'm sure it will to life too!!

I'd love to hear about your dreams and even your fears (remember we all have them!!) Just leave a comment!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why can't it be easy??

Back in the day basketball was my life and I had all the shirts to prove it! "Basketball is life the rest is just details!" "When I die bury me with my basketball!" and even one with the 10 commandments of basketball. I'm not saying sports are bad, actually they provide many lessons for life, but in my case it was an idol and that's not a good thing, but that's a whole nother story...

So back to the question at hand, during my high school years we often had poems and motivational quotes posted in the lockerroom and last week one came back to mind, "Basketball is supposed to be hard, if it was easy everyone would do it!" As a team we prided ourselves on this statement. It wasn’t easy running until you could no longer move, losing games you were supposed to win or dealing with mistakes you made, but we loved the game and there was satisfaction in doing something not everyone could do.

And really when it was a challenge is when I felt success. The games that were close were the ones I enjoyed the most - it was when I had to give my all that I felt the best. Was it easy? No. Hard? Yes! Worth it? For sure!!

Now though my playing days have long since passed me by and it’s even been a few years since I was the coach the quote I shared above has come back to mind. You see this last week I’ve been preparing for a book talk about my recently published book (for those who don’t know it’s a personal look at spiritual mentoring and the role it’s played in my life) at my hometown (very small hometown I might add) library.

Anyway in the days leading up to the event I felt myself getting nervous and at times fear would set in, so much so that late last week I remember asking God, “Why can’t it just be easy?” Instantly I recalled the quote above, but this time I wasn’t thinking about basketball, but instead my walk of faith. Honestly at the time it wasn’t the most comforting thought, in a way I think I’d been holding out hope that eventually following God and going where He leads would become easier.

Last night the event was held - I survived and God spoke. I pray He spoke thru me, but I know He spoke to me. As I drove home encouraged by what He had done this quote came back to mind - perhaps this is a stretched analogy, but bare with me here, in a way life is like a game, but in this league there are only two teams - God’s and the opposition. We’re either for Him or against Him and if you’re on His team there is no greater coach.

As the year comes to an end my mind tends to reflect and I’m amazed at what God has asked me and strengthened me to do. But that’s what makes Him, “Coach of the Year” again and again - He believes in me, equips me, encourages me, gives me the gameplan, prepares me and leads me into battle. Though there’s no headlines in the sports section or championship trophies on the shelf, He’s reminded me one day this game will end and the heavenly rewards will be eternal!

Back in the day I loved a game, which pushed me through the pain and made it worth it, but today I love my heavenly Father, who carries me through pain and says I am worth it! Yes the competition is fierce at times and this season that never ends is definitely not a cake walk, but someday I will take a victory lap!! Thank you Lord!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Choices at Christmas


Do I buy him a race track or farm set? Her a doll or dishes? Do we open gifts on Christmas eve or Christmas morning? Do we go to his parents or mine? One piece of fudge or two??

Christmas can be a time of choices - gifts, decorations, parties, food, the list goes on and at times it can be overwhelming, but it’s not just the holidays when decisions need to be made. No, daily life does that all on its own. We are constantly making decisions - some big and others small, but they are decisions just the same. Sometimes they are ones we expect and have come to make with relative ease and yet others it can be a choice that is a challenge or one we didn’t see coming at all.

Recently I found myself in a place of pain, a place that brings choices as well. It wasn’t that long ago, so the memories are quite fresh. From the outside all looked fine - a new baby, a healthy family, a newly released book, the opportunity to have been part of a wonderful women’s retreat and on and on. Life was good, but still I found myself slipping back into a place where I had once been. I could smell the storm coming - the storm of depression that is.

And though it wasn’t a holiday, that situation created choices too - do I admit the pain or appear like my life is perfect? Do I accept help or pretend I’m super Mom and do it myself? Do I internalize everything or open up? Do I trust others or turn to God for help? Believe me for awhile I made the wrong choice each and every time - someone would ask ‘how are things going?’ I’d respond, “crazy at times, but it’s alright.” They’d ask, “do you need a meal?” and I’d think why’s that necessary when I’m taking food to the field. Occasionally I’d drop a hint that I was a bit overwhelmed but when others didn’t pick up on it my mind would think if it’s not obvious to them, the pain must not be real. Instead I’d think, I’m just weak, which only lead to me closing up and feeling worse.

I’ve been in the pit of depression before and it’s never a place you want to be, but this time it was different. First of all, thankfully I didn’t fall as far as I have in the past and it wasn’t a constant state. This time I seemed so aware of what was going on, but that didn’t make things any easier. Though I knew the down times wouldn’t last forever some days were hard. But yet pride won for awhile as I put on a smile and tried to keep it all together. Eventually though I admitted things weren’t the way they should be. I was exhausted, easily upset and a bit overwhelmed with life. I felt weak, hypocritical and like it was all my fault. And worst of all I was doubting God and the plan He had for me.

Once I finally shared a bit of my struggle with a friend she shared some words that went to my heart - “You have to park your mind on what is true and worthy of praise. The enemy wants to consume you with disappointment and sadness but you don’t have to let him. It’s up to us my friend - only you and I can decide who we will listen to.” Now I’m not saying the battle with depression is always won by making a choice, at one point in my life medication was the answer, but this time the choice was mine. The words of Psalm 40 came to mind, “I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”

These words didn’t magically make things better, but they helped me focus on who is in control. And as I focused on Him in this time of pain He continued to work in me and make Himself real. That doesn’t change the circumstances of my life right now - the lack of sleep continues, the mountain of laundry grows and the work never ends, but His strength lifts me up.

And one morning as I laid in bed praying for the very thing, He put a verse on my heart - John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only begotten Son that anyone who believes in Him shall not parish but have eternal life.” It’s a verse I’ve known for years and one even my kids can recite, but on that morning I looked at it in a new way - God didn’t just love the world, He loved me and ladies He loves you too. I’d understood that for years, but still the choice is mine to believe it. Do I believe He loves me enough to give up His son? Do you?

I do and perhaps you do to, but my recent struggle has shown me that it’s not a one time decision - daily we have a choice. Revelations 3:20 shares Jesus words, “Look here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.” He is there but it’s our choice if we let Him in. Just as the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can cause us to lose focus of what Christmas is all about, the demands and duties of life can cause us to forget who life is all about.

So today before you are faced with another holiday decision, I encourage you to take a minute and forget about the money and the gifts you’ll be giving, but instead focus on what matters and think about what you are willing to receive. In a few weeks we’ll have presents under our trees, but I pray you remember the only gift that lasts is found on the cross. As the chaos gets crazier and the kids excitement grows remember over 2000 years ago God so loved Wendy, Al and Anna (insert your name) enough to send His son to be born in a stable and die on a cross to give the gift of eternal life. Whether it’s in the stress of the season or the drudgery of life don’t forget He stands at the door and knocks and like my friend said, “the decision is ours.” Make the choice to let Him be your guest this Christmas.


Monday, December 7, 2009

The Unknown

Have you ever had to wait for news? I know the obvious answer, but as I'm in the midst of waiting my mind has focused on the very idea. I've found myself in a time of waiting many times and sometimes the result has been I what expected, others it's been even better than I anticipated and yet there have been times when the news was, for lack of a better word, bad.

Now I find myself waiting again, this time it's not for news about me personally, but instead I'm waiting to hear back from a loved one about tests from last week. And as she explained there is a best case scenario and on the flip-side a worst case scenario.

Like me, I'm sure her mind has been wondering over the weekend playing out the endless what if game. I know I've done that a time or two. But this morning as worry tended to creep in and thoughts focused on the worst it seemed God gave me peace. Regardless of what news comes, it will be the best case scenario because it's the one He has planned.

As we face the unknown, which really is what we do each and every day, we (including myself) must trust God is in control. I know sometimes that is easier said than done, but yet that is what faith is all about. Romans 8:28 reminds us, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."

God has a purpose for the pain and in the end even a reason for us to sit and wait in the midst of the unknown. As my mind thought about this earlier today, the DJ on the radio was talking about the Christmas story. At this time of the year it's easy to think about it all in a glamorous way, but take a minute to really think about all that took place. Riding on a donkey while being 9 months pregnant...do I need to say more??

Think about the unknown that Mary faced. The angel said to her, "You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his kingdom will never end." Can you imagine the thoughts that went through Mary's mind?

She was given a glimpse of the future for her son, but still the logistics of how it would all come to be were unknown. And really in a way, the same is true for us today. If we are followers of Christ we know in the end we will be with Him, but on our journey to His heavenly home there will be twists and turns and ups and downs. There will be moments of pain, days of doubt and situations that we don't understand, but just as God was with Mary during the trip to Bethlehem and later on the journey through Jerusalem, God is with us too.

As you face the unknown - whether it's your financial situation, in a wait for tests results or thoughts about the world in which your kids will live remember it's all unknown to us, but God knows. He is the one who knows the number of hairs on your head and loves you enough to send His son to die, give Him with what's unknown to you and trust Him to fill you with the peace that begins with Him.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving - What's it all about?

Take a minute and think about the above question - what's the first thing that comes to mind? Pilgrims? Dinner at Grandma's? An attitude of gratitude? Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie? Football? One day til Black Friday??

I don't know what your answer is, but last night at our Thanksgiving Eve service my thoughts shifted from my response to God's. In God's eyes what is Thanksgiving all about? I have to believe it means more than setting aside the fourth Thursday in November for food, fellowship and football.

As we walked through scripture, we found that is the case. Thanksgiving was first mentioned in the Bible in Leviticus 7:12, "If you present your peace offering as a thanksgiving offering..." The passage goes on to explain what was necessary to make the sacrifice acceptable to God. Many steps were involved to give an offering of thanks, a process we don't think about today.

It's true, God's expectations back then are different than they are today - He no longer wants or needs us to sacrifice an animal. He sent His Son years ago as the lamb who took away the sin of the world. So as you reflect on your Thanksgiving day don't worry about failing to carry out the procedure required of the initial thanksgiving offering, but do please take some time to think about what that offering should look like in the here and now.

For a clearer picture turn to Romans 12:1, "And so dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice - the kind He will accept. When you think of what He has done for you, is this too much to ask? " Thankfully, God no longer asks us to go through the grueling (and gross) process of animal sacrifice instead He gives us even a bigger challenge - He wants us to give up our bodies, our very lives for Him.

And on a day designated as Thanksgiving that may seem easy - we set aside time, prepare a wonderful meal, gather with family and friends, offer thanks for the blessings and then prepare for the biggest shopping day of the year. In the busyness of it all, do we really stop and think about thanks giving? What should that look like?

Think of all He's blessed you with, starting with salvation - is it enough to pause on one day out of 365 and have a grateful heart? I don't think so, but this Thanksgiving I'm seeing things differently than I have in the past. It's not that I've been ungrateful - really for the most part I've usually been a thankful gal, but the holiday is thanksGIVING and it's not just a state of mind, this word involves some action.

On the world's calendar it's one day out of the year, but in God's eyes I believe He sees Thanksgiving as a way of life. And again this is my interpretation but I believe He expects more than words of thanks - it's our living sacrifice that truly shows our gratitude and glorifies His name.

So on a day when perhaps you sent a card to say "Thank you" or gave a hug with a grateful heart take a minute and think about how you can thank our Father in heaven. And though thanking the ones we love is important, and enjoyable too, giving thanks to God daily is what it's all about.

This can't be done with a card or a big meal, but there's something we can give. And I think it's wonderfully explained by the words in my son's board book, "What can I give him as small as I am? I will give Him my life."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What's in a name?


"Jeda-what? How did you come up with that name? How do you spell that??" All questions we've heard a number of times over the last month after naming our little guy Jedidiah Jay Beran. I'm sure the spelling one is a question he will hear for many years to come, but for now when his 4 year old sister asks, I simply respond, "J-E-D."

That speeds things up, but for now I'd like to share the story behind his name because I know it's not one you hear everyday. Our three older kids all have a family connection with their name - J.D. is James Daniel, with James being his dad and grandpa's name and Daniel his other grandpa. Joy's middle name is a combination of my middle name, Ann, and my mom's middle name, Lee, to get Leanne. While Jaylyn has her other grandma's name for her middle name, Marie. This time around we decided not to move to the next generation, but instead have a name that was on my heart during the pregnancy.

As some of you know, prior to this pregnancy we experienced a miscarriage and as I prepared to meet our little man, the baby we lost came to mind quite often. At times I would find myself feeling guilty - as I was excited about a new baby, it was hard to think about embracing a new child when thoughts would turn to the baby I never got to hold.

I believe it was last March when I was first explaining this to my husband. He grieved too, but things seemed different from a mom's perspective. As I shared my pain with him he encouraged me to look at David's response after he had lost a child. So in an attempt to find comfort that is what I did.
I found myself in 2 Samuel 12 and read the following words, "But when David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. "Is the baby dead? he asked. "Yes," they replied. Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions, and changed his clothes. Then he went to the Tabernacle and worshipped the LORD. After that he returned to the palace and ate. His advisers were amazed. "We don't understand you," they told him. "While the baby was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the baby is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again."

David replied, "I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, 'Perhaps the LORD will be gracious to me and let the child live.' But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me."

Though it didn't take the pain away, David's words made sense. In the few short weeks I knew I was pregnant before the miscarriage I sensed something was wrong. I too had shed tears while our baby was living, but now it was true my child would not return to me. Like David though there was hope - someday I will go to her.

So with that I had some peace and found myself looking forward to the newest addition to our family. With that expectation came the joy of choosing a name and as I had numerous names go through my mind, God drew me back to this story in Samuel in July.

In verse 24, it goes on to say, "Then David comforted Bathsheba, his wife and slept with her. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved the child and sent word through Nathan the prophet that his name should be Jedidiah - "beloved of the LORD" - because the LORD loved him.

When God had me read these words again, I had just found out we were expecting a boy when prior to our ultrasound I had felt it was a girl. That experience brought back the pain and loss of our miscarriage, but God kept speaking to me. As I let go of a little girl's name He had put on my heart, He gave me the name of our new little man.

It's a name I didn't expect, actually one my husband considered 3 years earlier, but I had ruled out. I think he was surprised when I was the one to put it up for consideration this time! But as I read thru the notes in my Bible that go along with verse 24, I could relate - "Solomon was the 4th son of David and Bathsheba. But Bathsheba may still have been grieving over the first child's death."

That was me. And now I'm blessed to have my own little Jedidiah! Even though others will forever misspell his name, I know without a doubt it's the one God gave! And I pray he will always live up to the meaning of it and forever be a friend of God!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rise and Shine - WOW!!

The Rise and Shine Women's Retreat was held on Saturday, October 31st and what a day it was!! Above is a picture of the planning team along with our guest speaker, Renee Swope from Proverbs 31 and her assistant, Leah DiPascal. (From left to right - Leah, Rachel Beran, me, Renee, Judy Walsten and Leanne Anderson) The event was one we've been working towards and praying about for months and God showed up in a big way to answer those prayers and more!!

I'd like to try and capture a bit of the journey this has been, so to start at the beginning - in September of 2006 God put it on my heart to write a book and a couple of weeks later the idea of a women's conference was impressed as well. Doubt took over though and I really didn't think that would happen. I'd read plenty of books and attended a few conferences that I knew there was no way I could do either. I was right, alone I couldn't, but after putting the ideas in God's hands He continued moving me forward.

He started with the book, but about a year ago reminded me of the idea of a conference. I entertained it in my mind for awhile, still thinking it was a bit of a stretch, but yet no matter how much I tried convincing myself this was crazy, the idea didn't go away. So by December I stepped out and shared with my husband and a close friend and mentor and they agreed it would be work, but encouraged me to keep listening to God and move forward.

So I did and by January, we'd set a date, had a location, contacted Renee Swope to speak and created a planning team. It was all a bit overwhelming, but God kept providing confirmation as this is what we were to do. But by the end of February circumstances made me second guess all that was taking place - I found out I was expecting a new baby!! And with a due date of October 29th, 2 days before the retreat, I honestly didn't understand what God was doing.

I questioned how this was all supposed to happen and wrestled with the fact that I may not attend a retreat I was planning and excited about. I also felt bad in a way thinking here I had this idea, put a team together and may not be there to help. But still God confirmed it all - I remember in March when we were going to sign a contract and officially book Renee as our speaker. Before printing the contract, I emailed the team a second time to make sure this is what we were to do. After hearing another round of yes responses I printed the form and felt God say, "You need to do this."

That thought came to mind quite often as we kept moving forward. At times I'd wonder, "Why God? Why do we need to do this?" I never heard an answer, but tried to create one a few times, and often thought about the women who would be attending. And though I'm sure He had more than one reason for us to plan this event, He answered my question this past Saturday.

When God impressed on my heart, "You need to do this" I never thought the reasons would be so many and so personal. Like I said I know other lives were touched, but not until I was driving home did I realize I was one of the women we'd been praying for. Our goal for the retreat was that women would be encouraged, refreshed and renewed and leave with the desire to "rise and shine." He answered that prayer for at least one attendee - ME!

I look back at the journey of the last year and I am amazed at His faithfulness - God provided every step of the way. Including the birth of our little man on the 12th of October. And then He topped it all off with a wonderful experience this past weekend, one in which I was truly blessed. It was an honor to meet and visit with Renee and Leah on Friday night - they are wonderful women - so real and have a huge heart for God and His people.

Then Saturday, wow, I still feel like I don't have words. It was so neat to see faces for the names we've been praying for and hear stories of hearts touched by God. Listening to Renee was an opportunity to hear from God - I related to so much of what she said and was greatly encouraged by her obedience.

It seemed like God had so much to say and from the stories I've heard He wasn't just talking to me! I could elaborate but for now all I can say is I'm so grateful we serve such a BIG God, one who is good and has plans that are perfect. Tonight I encourage you to listen to His voice and follow His lead because when we believe, He will bless!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Please pray!

Well tomorrow is the day!! The Rise and Shine Women’s Retreat will be taking place and I’m asking that you keep it in your prayers. I believe God will be showing up in a big way and am excited to see how the day unfolds. He has been faithful thus far as details have come together over the last 10 months! Renee Swope from Proverbs 31 is our speaker and I know He will be speaking to the hearts of the women with the words and stories she shares! Thank you for your prayers and I look forward to sharing details of the event real soon…

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Something I've waited to share...

This past June 20th, I sat alone at the computer and put these words together, but have waited until now to share them with you. It's a glimpse at how God has worked in my life and shown himself real. There are certainly times when life seems to make no sense and moments when His plan seems far from perfect, but He is present and He is working. While He does just that He never asks for me to figure things out (though all too often I try), He simply wants me to seek Him, trust Him and never lose my hope in Him.

So with that here's my story of "Hope"...

Last August we experienced a miscarriage – pain and loss you never understand until you’re in the midst of it yourself. I only knew I was pregnant for 15 days – doesn’t seem long, but once you’ve connected with a child it is a bond you share for life. I never felt the baby move, saw her face or heard her voice, but yet the baby is mine.

The days following the loss were difficult; tears would come in ways I never expected. I’d see a baby toy and wonder if we’d ever need that again, I’d look at the kids’ pictures on the wall and realize I wouldn’t need to rearrange them 9 months down the road, and once my 3 year old asked me to read a book and handed me one titled, “We’ve Lost our Baby.” She didn’t understand why it made me cry.

During the time of sadness there was also strength, not mine, but God’s. He lifted me up in ways I hadn’t experienced. The loss was real, but His comfort was too. In this difficult time, I experienced a side of God I never had before. Even when I wasn’t seeking Him, He was holding me. When the hurt created questions and caused me to push away, He drew me close.

Looking back it’s still hard to understand and thinking about our little one who should now be 2 months old still brings tears. But God’s word is true, He has a plan and it’s one for good. Now I would never say losing a child is good, but what God did through the experience has been.
He made Himself real and proved His word to be true. He worked through others and lifted me up. He reminded me why we have hope and how heaven is real.

And nearly 6 months following, He unexpectedly blessed me with another pregnancy. Early on the fears returned, what if I lost this baby too? That wasn’t a road I wanted to walk again.

As our pregnancy reached the 6-week mark, thoughts turned to the baby who should have been born in 6 weeks and feelings of joy turned to ones of guilt. I really struggled with God’s ability to give and take away. I rejoiced for the baby to come, but felt like I was forgetting the one who already was.

Time went on and God continued to walk me through this journey we call life. I would cry and He’d dry the tears. I would question and He would answer. He assured me my pain was OK, the loss was real and He knew, He’d lost a child too.

So as the pregnancy progressed I found myself thinking about names. And as a family of all J’s, thoughts started there. Janelle, Judson, Jordan, Jace, Jared, Julie…the list went on, but I always came back to Jenae. I’m not sure why, but it seemed to be the name God had for our little one.
Eventually I looked into the meaning of the name and found it to be, “God has given.” Since this wasn’t a baby we had “planned” (are any?), I thought the name fit.

Then it was time to move on to the middle name and instantly Jenae Hope entered my world. It made sense - God has given hope, and what a gift that is!!

My husband still wasn’t sold on the name; he claimed it sounded too much like one of the other girl’s. I assured him all names that start with J would be similar. We continued to discuss possibilities and had plenty of input from the little one’s older siblings, but still without even knowing the sex of our baby I was sure we had a little Jenae Hope Beran.

Well that confidence only lasted to the halfway point of our pregnancy. We had always waited for the Dr. to announce the baby’s sex in the delivery room, but this time my curiosity surprised me.

At the completion of our ultrasound, the radiologist handed me an envelope with the answer to my question. I waited awhile, but eventually took a peak and pledged to a 20-week secret – it was a boy!

I wasn’t totally surprised as there had been similarities in the pregnancy with that of our other son, but because of the name, it seemed God had given, I was prepared for a girl. I can remember thinking, “What about Jenae?”

And though I didn’t hear God’s voice, it was as if He said, “I’m already holding her.” And then there was peace – it all made sense - that name was on my heart during the time she should have been born. I thought I was naming baby number 5, but God knew it was number 4.

The name doesn’t make it any easier; actually it brings the tears right back. But I’m learning that’s OK, though her life was short, her presence was real and the pain is too. She’s one I won’t hold until heaven, but I’m thankful for her life and that I know her name. I’m also grateful God has given us His hope! Mommy loves you little Jenae Hope Beran.
 
"I Will Not Forget"
Though it seems
the world has forgotten
and even I have went a day
or two without remembering,
"I will not forget."

The role you played was pivotal
and your presence powerful.
You touched my heart
and changed my life,
"I will not forget."

I think of you often and
still miss you just the same.
You will forever be
a part of me,
"I will not forget."

No one will ever take your place
or do what you have done.
You alone are special -
a gift only God could give,
one, "I will not forget."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

He's here!!!


Well, my last post spoke of waiting for our new arrival and now today I'm thrilled to tell you the wait is over!! Little Jedidiah Jay Beran arrived early Monday morning weighing in at 7 lbs 6 oz and measuring 20 inches long! We were able to come home this afternoon and he was greeted quite well by his big brother and sisters! I think they could be a little more helpful than I was anticipating!!


All in all though we are very excited and thankful - children are truly a gift from God! And it is amazing how He has watched over us all every step of the way and though I came home to a bit of a chaotic house, I know He will continue to walk with me thru this journey we call life. Thanks to all of you for your prayers! And please stop back soon for a story I've been waiting to share.

Friday, October 9, 2009

While I'm waiting...

I'm beginning to feel I can relate to John Waller's song, "While I'm Waiting" in a whole new way. But really I guess the song relates to any waiting periods we have. In this life we have various situations and circumstances and the last 10 days we've played the waiting game in our house.

You see we are expecting our 4th child on the 29th of this month, but last week after my check-up, the Dr. told me things were progressing. So I travelled home expecting the baby to be born soon...

After a couple of normal days, my patience was growing thin and I was growing frustrated as I attempted to figure out when this little one would arrive. Yesterday I returned to the Dr. and she told me my body is half way there, but yet now 24 hours later nothing has happened.

Now it's not only my patience that is growing thin, but so is that of my oldest 2 kids who are anxiously awaiting their new little brother or sister. Today as I've been frustrated with our time of waiting, I heard the song, I've listened to numerous times, but related to it in a whole new way.

Regardless of why we need to wait, God has a purpose for these minutes, days, weeks and sometimes years. And today He has simply reminded me I'm not the one in control, life isn't about my plans, but His and since they are perfect while I'm waiting I pray this is the song of my heart...

I’m waiting
I’m waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I’m waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I’m waiting
I will serve You
While I’m waiting
I will worship
While I’m waiting
I will not faint
I’ll be running the race
Even while I wait

I’m waiting
I’m waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I’m waiting on You, Lord
Though it’s not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait

I will serve You while I’m waiting
I will worship while I’m waiting
I will serve You while I’m waiting
I will worship while I’m waiting
I will serve You while I’m waiting
I will worship while I’m waiting on You, Lord

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Good enough?

Lelia at Write from the Heart is hosting her next Yes to God study and this week we take a look at the opening chapter of Lysa TerKeurst's book, Becoming More.

I can relate all too well to thoughts she expressed as she wrote about trying to be good enough. All my life it seemed my goal was to be good enough - to be the good girl, to make everyone happy, to win other's approval...and at times I accomplished that goal, but the results and feelings that achievement created never lasted very long.

You see the phrase, "you can't please all of the people all of the time" is so very true. I'd have a bad game and feel I let my coaches and teammates down, I'd struggle on a test and feel I'd failed my teacher, I'd say something harsh to my little sister and think I'd ruined that as well.

As time went on all this striving left me empty and wondering who I really was - this person expected me to do or be this, so I'd try to live up to that, but then someone else had other thoughts of me, so I'd play a new part. Not only did I fail in making others happy, I usually left myself feeling rather empty.

It seemed as though I'd never be good enough and the realization of that hurt, at times it hurt bad. Because you see, I didn't just relate this fact to the people in my life, but to God as well. I grew up attending church, but never really knew Him. My understanding of salvation was I had to do more good than bad, so with every failure and feeling of worthlessness I not only thought I was letting others down, but really thought I'd failed God as well.

Years went on and my attempt to live this "good enough" lifestyle continued, but the pain of failing only grew stronger. So much so that I seriously considered the thought of ending my life, but again the thought of not being good enough entered my mind - "What if I failed at this too? How would I deal with everyone knowing? Then what would they think?"

Now looking back I see God had a reason for my struggle with not being "good enough" because that night over 9 years ago He changed me. The process of me understanding who He really is and the relationship He wants began and it's been a constant journey ever since.

Though at times my mind falls back into old ways, I don't have to be good enough for God, in reality as a human being I never will be. He loves me, accepts me, forgives me and has a plan for me just the way I am. And the way you are too.

Does that mean we are to cease striving? No! Instead think about the motivation behind your efforts - are your attempts to be or do good to please your spouse, children, boss, friend or even yourself? If so it will never be enough! Or are your works because of your faith and desire to glorify God? If so, keep it up, work to make Him famous - in the world's eyes that may not be good enough, but in God's it will be a picture of beauty. There's nothing He likes to see better than His girls living for Him and being who He made them to be!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

How will you be remembered?

Yesterday I was meeting with the Rise and Shine team and as we put details together about an up-coming women's retreat, we spent some time discussing music. We listened to a few songs, and since then one line has really been on my mind, "How will they remember me?" from Nicole Nordeman's song "Legacy."

I have been blessed by some wonderful individuals living a legacy in my own life. I know I will remember these men and women and the special role they play. Not just for the things they've done and how they've made me feel, but more so because they've allowed God to use them. I pray someday I will have a similar legacy myself and hope someone following in my steps will share similar words -

"I Will Remember You"
For the things you do
and the words you say.
For the smiles you share
and the hugs you give.

I will remember you,
For the example you set
and the blessings you provide.
For the woman you are
and the one you've helped me become.

I will remember you,
For the difference you make
and the love you give.
For pointing me to Christ
and helping me follow in His steps.

I will remember you,
and God will too.

Take a minute and think about the question - "How do you want to be remembered?" Live in a way so you, and even more importantly God, will be satisfied with the answer!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

God is good...

It seems the last week or so my mind at times has been too quick to focus on the negative, worries and struggles this life has to offer. But yet thru it all God has continued to draw me closer to Himself and remind me of His truth.

He is good...
His faithfulness endures forever.
His mercies are new every morning.
He has a plan for good - one for a future and a hope.
He loved the world (me) so much, He gave up His only Son.

Lord, Thank you for turning my eyes towards you and reminding me of who you are and all you have to offer. You are good and I am thankful! Continue to work in my life along with the life of everyone who reads this - may we know you more everyday and strive to be like you more every moment. In your precious name, Amen

Sunday, September 27, 2009

And the winner is...

Well I am a little bit late, but I wanted to take a minute and share the winner of Letters from Leanne. First of all thanks to all who entered and left a comment. I greatly appreciate your encouraging words. And finally congratulations to Kate from JottinMomma!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A little bit about Letters from Leanne and a give-away too!!

This October 20th, Letters from Leanne - The Beauty of a Spiritual Mother-Daughter Relationship will officially be released. Today I'd like to take a little time and share some of our thoughts with you and give you the opportunity to win a copy for yourself. This is a book that has been on my heart for 3 years and on paper for nearly 2 and now I'm grateful for the opportunity to share it with you.



First of all a bit about the authors - My spiritual mom, Leanne, and I are co-authors and though I penned many of the words between the covers, emails and letters from her are woven through the pages. And the Titus 2 relationship is something that is important to both of us. We each make our homes in Northeast Iowa and feel our family is our priority. Leanne has three grown children and I have 3 under the age of 7 and a baby on the way. I spend my days homeschooling our oldest and coordinating a MOPS group, while Leanne designs fabric, runs her own company and works with youth ministry. Together we pray our story will touch your heart and not only encourage you to connect with other women, but also inspire you to draw closer to God - the One who's made this all possible.
 
Tell us a little about the book - Letters from Leanne is a look at what the Titus 2 relationship looks like today. The book is basically the story of our friendship over the last ten years and how God has worked through it in wonderful ways. As you read you will share in the joys and get a glimpse of the trials we have encountered on our walk of faith, but ultimately we pray you will see God’s hand in every situation. Letters from Leanne is a real life look at how we don’t always know the plan God has for our life, but when we trust Him, He will provide, strengthen and bless.

Why did you write this book? - To be honest, my initial comments about writing this book were in reference to a comment I made to Leanne in attempt to thank her for the role she played in my life. I knew I had been blessed by her presence - the perspective she offered as a Mom, the acceptance she gave as a friend, the guidance she provided as an older woman and especially the love she poured out as a sister in Christ. But as the writing process progressed it became more than that - this isn’t just a thank you for Leanne, it’s also one for God. I once heard someone say, “The best way to thank God is by sharing what He’s given to you.” Spiritual mentoring has been and still is a gift in my life and I pray by reading the story of our friendship, others will be encouraged to pray for one of their own.

I also believe this book is an answer to prayer. For a few years I’ve been asking God how I can better share my faith and with the words on these pages He’s given a quiet girl a voice. The book is not simply about spiritual mentoring, but ultimately about our relationship with Christ.

What do you hope readers will gain? - As women read our story my prayer is they will be encouraged in their faith and inspired to find a mentor or be one. I also hope they see a clear picture of what mentoring is all about - not having all the answers, but simply sharing your life with one who is following in your steps. Along with that we want readers to see the power God has when we simply surrender to His plans and follow His ways.

What unique elements are part of your book? - As God put this project on my heart one of the first things I did was really look into resources already available on mentoring. There are numerous beneficial materials on the shelves, but I believe our book is unique for two reasons. One it is a look at a specific spiritual mother-daughter relationship and takes you on the journey of how the friendship has grown. The other unique factor is for the most part the story is told from the younger women’s viewpoint, which is beneficial for all women to understand.

We have also included questions at the end of each chapter and hope women can take our story a step further. Rather than simply reading a story about two friends, you will be encouraged to slow down and find lessons in the letters applicable to your own life.


What others are saying - “This book is a beautiful picture of what a mentoring relationship can be - whether face to face or long distance. Many women today need mentors to learn from. I pray this book will inspire all of us to pursue finding a mentor, or being one!”


“What a beautiful look at what the Titus 2 relationship is today!”


“I finished your book- I loved it!! Thanks for being transparent and allowing God to work through you. Loved all the thought provoking questions in the back too.”

“I just wanted to let you know that I can't put your book down. It is such a beautiful story and so sweet to read.”


So that's a bit about our book and remember you have the opportunity to win a copy - simply leave a comment with your contact info and I will post a winner on Friday! In the meantime, I'd also love to hear how a spiritual mentor has impacted your life!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Follow the Leader

Do you remember the game as a child? I recall days of lining up, skipping along, changing directions and the way I moved feet as we ventured across the playground. It was fun to vary my steps and I appreciated the opportunity to set the pace as a leader as well.

But lately I've been thinking about that simple childhood game in a whole new way. It's no longer classmates leading me across monkey bars, over the playground bridge and around the bases, but instead it's God, my heavenly Father leading me on this walk of faith.

At times the journey is fun and exciting just like those days from long ago, but the walk isn't always simple and at times traveling is tough. It can be difficult to follow when the leader goes where I don't want to follow. At times it seems the walk is all uphill and yet others we trudge thru the valley and still there are times when the road is simply dark and what once was a game now becomes a scary adventure.

Unlike the playground at the school, now I don't know what lies around every bend and ultimately this game never ends. Back then the whistle would blow and leader lost their job, but now there's a need for endurance as I follow the One who planned the steps I will take. Even though at times it seems we've taken a wrong turn or perhaps even hit a dead end, in this game our roles never change.

As a child I had the opportunity to be the leader, but today there's only One qualified for the role. It is God and the rules of the game haven't changed - where He leads, I must follow.

So today I ask you, "Are you still playing the game from years ago?" If so have you given up the role of leader and submitted to following Him? May I encourage you, as I do the same for myself, keep walking in His steps and stay on the path, ultimately this journey will be better than any game we played as a child!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Look at Me"

This past June while attending the local county fair my brother-in-law came across a picture in a scrapbook from years ago. It was of me during my early years of high school and as he showed his wife, my husband and children I was embarrassed.

Though everyone laughed, I hurt as I recalled many negative feelings associated with my looks. What really hurts is they haven’t entirely disappeared over the past 20 years. As a child and teen I was a tomboy who enjoyed sports and life on the farm much more than fashion, make-up and the latest hairstyles and my picture proved it.

The doubts on the outside weren’t the only ones I recalled as I took a look at who I once was - I recalled the insecurities as well. The picture brought back a statement I’ve said to myself quite often as I’ve journeyed through life, “look at me!”

These words have never been an attempt to catch everyone’s attention, but instead have given me a reason to doubt. Many times I’ve looked at myself and thought I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough or worthy enough to do whatever it was someone was asking me to do.

After giving my life to Christ in my early 20’s I caught myself giving the same response to God – “Look at me!!” He obviously had made a mistake; I wasn’t the girl for the job!

In the past few years God has used one of my children’s favorite stories to speak to me. My kids are intrigued with the idea of walking on water and have attempted to do it themselves, but more important than Jesus’ ability to defy nature is the message He has for all of us.

In Matthew 14:22 – 33 the story is told of Jesus walking on water. It begins,“Immediately after this Jesus made the his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake while he sent the people home. Afterward he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.” I think we can relate, I know there are times when storms hit my life and it feels as though Jesus is far away. In those moments it can be easy to lose focus and rely on my own strength. It is then that the “look at me” worries, fears and doubts resurface and seem just as powerful as the strong winds and heavy waves.

But we read on – “About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came to them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him, they screamed in terror, thinking he was a ghost. But Jesus spoke to them at once, “It’s all right,” he said. I am here! Don’t be afraid.” A man walking on water, who wouldn’t be afraid? But Jesus assures them of His presence and the story continues,

Verses 28 and 29 – “Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you by walking on water.” All right come.” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on water toward Jesus.” Again can we relate? Have you ever felt God’s presence in your life and by faith reacted to his calling? Like Peter have you jumped out of the boat with complete trust in your savior who is calling you? Have you taken the initial step of faith only to experience what came next for Peter?

In verse 30 we read, “But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

I read this verse and can picture Peter mentally saying, “look at me” I’m walking on water and then when the reality of the situation hits I see the statement move from being one of pride to one of fear and doubt. He looks around and sees the danger in the situation coupled with the lack of his own ability to do the very thing Christ told him to do and fear sets in.

As I share this story with my kids, I see myself in this role all too often – God calling me to do something and then in my heart I say yes, but as I survey the situation I too become terrified and start to sink. The “look at me” phrase returns and leads to many excuses in my mind that cause me to sink before my feet even leave the boat.

But as God continues to prove Himself faithful, the final verses of the story carry more power. It says, verses 31 to 33…"Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him. “You don’t have much faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” And when they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshipped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.”

How many times has Jesus uttered the same words to me? “You don’t have much faith. Why did you doubt me?” For years I believed doubting myself couldn’t hurt God, but I’ve realized that is wrong. If it is Him who lives in me, when I say I can’t who am I referring to? Take a minute and think about that.

As I do just that I think about our evening at the fair and I recall someone saying, “Well at least you can say your looks have improved.” Perhaps, but more importantly than what’s on the outside is what’s happened internally.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” I’m grateful I don’t see the same person anymore and I’m more thankful that every time I hear the familiar phrase “look at me” I’m beginning to sense God whispering, “No Jill, look at me.”

Though He has yet to call me out of the boat and literally walk on water, He has asked me to do things I never thought I would do. How does this happen? By keeping my eyes on Jesus. As Peter did this he did the unimaginable – he walked on water! When I focus on Christ, though the winds may blow and the waves rage, He keeps me from falling and proves himself true. Sisters he will do the same for you – keep listening for his voice, you will hear him say, “Look at me.”

Sunday, August 30, 2009

One year later...

A year ago, my husband and I faced pain we never expected and never had experienced. At nearly 7 weeks in our 4th pregnancy we had a miscarriage. Though we'd only known about the baby for a short time the loss was real. This was our child - one we'd prayed for, dreamt about and had considered naming.

The walk through the valley of the shadow of death was hard, tears would fall and loneliness would consume. Though I'd never seen this little one's face or felt their touch, this baby was still a part of me.

As I reflect on the year that has passed I am amazed. God has truly been faithful. He's carried me, strengthened me and given a peace only He can provide. He has blessed me in ways I never expected. And through it all He's strengthened my faith.

By saying this in no way do I want to portray that it's been easy because the loss is still there and will forever be. As time goes by the pain isn't as raw, but it still hurts. This last week as I thought about the anniversary of the loss that changed the make-up of our family forever my mind play the what-if game quite often. And last May as our 5th pregnancy progressed I faced guilt and grief I didn't expect. As I eagerly anticipated the birth of our 4th child, I missed and grieved the one I won't see until heaven.

Those who have walked this road tell me those thoughts will remain, but in a way I guess that's OK - that way I won't ever forget our little "J." And though according to the world's standards this little one was only part of our life for a few short weeks, I know my baby will forever be a part of me.

And because of that forever aspect, this little one I never had the joy of teaching has taught me more than I ever imagined. Though in a sense God has taken away, through our loss from a year ago and the days since He has given. He has given me a wonderful reminder of how important our relationship with Him really is. Because I've accepted Christ and know Him as my Lord, one day I will see my baby and the One who saved us both!

Lord, though it hurts as my mind goes back to a year ago and the pain that was felt and the loss we endured I'm so thankful you carried me. There were times I wondered how I'd make it through, but you always provided and strengthened. Thank you Father. And Lord thank you now a year later for giving my little one such a purpose in my life, may I always hold on to the hope I find in You. In your precious name, Amen

Friday, August 28, 2009

From the mouth of my child...

About a month ago we were driving home from a weekend away. Our kids had enjoyed spending time with their aunts, uncles and cousin, not to mention lots of time at a pool and fun riding bikes. But yet at the age of 6 and 4 they had a real interesting conversation as we made our way back to the farm -

Joy, 4, says, "Vacation is fun!"

J.D., 6, agrees, "Yeah, I liked swimming and playing in Aunt Bev's woods."

Joy continues, "But sumthin else is better,"

J.D., "What?"

Joy, with all the confidence in the world says, "Vacation is not as good as dying, it's the goodest thing. Because then you get to go to heaven and that is the goodest goodest thing."

J.D. simply responded with a few words that made his homeschooling mom happy, "It's not the goodest, Joy it is the best!"

Let's just say Job and I were surprised as we sat in the front and listened to all of this unfold!

Lord, I am so thankful you speak to us through children. May we always remember that knowing you, which means someday we will see you, is the best thing! Please continue to draw my little ones to you and may they always want to know you more!!! In Jesus name, Amen

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I Wanna Be Like...

MIKE!! Do you remember the commercial from the early 90's? I believe the words went something like, "I wanna be like Mike. I dream I move, I dream I groove like Mike. If I could be like Mike..." If the memory is not returning it was an advertisement for Gatorade referring to the one and only Michael Jordan.

As a teen who was obsessed with basketball, I could relate all to well to the words. I can vividly remember afternoons on the farm when my sisters and I would back our dad's truck up near the basketball hoop so we could jump off the tailgate and practice some of MJ's dunks! Now I think back and am amazed that we never got hurt.

But the thought that strikes me even more is "Why?" I know I wanted to succeed on the basketball floor, but in reality the game is only going to take you so far. And really, what do all the records and trophies mean when it's all said and done? Believe me that question makes much more sense now at the age of 33 than it did back in high school.

During those days, it wasn't just Michael Jordan that I wanted to be like. I was also looking up to high school players when I was in junior high and college athletes and coaches during my days on varsity.

Now as I mature, my perspective changes and my faith grows I realize role models continue playing an important part in life. Only now their impact no longer revolves around what they can do with a little orange ball! I no longer dream of moving and grooving like Mike, but instead appreciate the opportunity to learn from those who are a step ahead of me in the walk of faith.

God has placed some tremendous people in my life to set an example for me as a Christian, wife, mother, friend, writer...and I'm grateful for all I glean from them. And at the same time He's also blessed me with another whole group of people - those whose stories are chronicled in the Bible. With Jesus being the ultimate role model!!

And over the last year, God has really changed the words to the song in my head, "I wanna be like...Mary, the Mother of Jesus." I don't dream of doing the things she's done, but I do long for the day when I approach life the way she did.

At times I have a tendency to doubt what God has called me to do and others I feel undeserving of what He has to offer. Once as I shared thoughts along this line with my husband, he said, "What did Mary do?"

We can look at Luke 1 to find the answer. Though she was initially confused, she trusted him and eventually responded, "I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true."

We all know the rest of the story...everything God said through the angel did come true. Mary was blessed. But that didn't mean her life was easy. Yes, she was the mother of the Savior of the world, but she also witnessed her son die a death no Mom wants to see.

In the end she lived the life God had for her - embracing the gifts and enduring the trials, she trusted him and He blessed her. Truly results that cannot be compared to records that get broken and trophies that collect dust. I'm so thankful God has changed the commercial in my head and pray He will continue to change the desire of my heart. I wanna be like Mary, his lowly servant girl.

Who do you wanna be like? I'd love to hear...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Update on the Lion

Nearly a week ago I posted about a lion loose in Iowa and this morning I wanted to take a minute and update you on the situation. Saturday the lion was becoming more at home and roaring around like he owned the place - his presence was more than influencing my actions and mindset, he was controlling them.

Finally Saturday afternoon, I made mention of the problem to some friends who could help with the situation. As I let go of thoughts that I could handle this on my own, progress began. After the events of Sunday morning things really started going in the right direction...

Again to remind you this was not a real live lion prowling around our farm, but instead satan acting like one in my head. Like I said though this past weekend the battle picked up and now 4 days later, that roaring creature is no longer in control.

The first step was simply surrendering that I could fight the battle on my own and letting go of the lie that the problem wasn't real. Then on Sunday it was as though our pastor had read my mind and gave the perfect illustration.

During the children's sermon he had all the kids stand up and then proceeded to give them a little push. He asked if they were afraid of him or if they thought he could knock them down. A few yeses were heard as well as no's. Then he told them to strengthen their stance and be prepared for the gentle push. This time around they didn't move near as much.

The visual didn't end there as he went on to say how the devil roars around like a lion wanting to shake us up and push us over. The kids shook their heads like this made sense. Then pastor Tim proceeded to ask Jaylyn, our little Peanut, if she'd help him. She obliged and then took his hand and stood in front of the group.

He then asked the kids if they were afraid of her. Now picture this - she is our tiny 2 and a half year old who still wears 18 months, so naturally the kids said, "NO!" But he went on to say, "Though she is small, she can do more damage than you think!" (Oh how true that statement is!!)

So with that he invited Brian, a former college football player and one of the biggest guys in our congregation, to come up front. P Tim continued, "now I want Brian to stand in front of the kids and Jaylyn you push Brian." Our little innocent "devil" tried but had no success.

Then P Tim closed the message by explaining when the devil is roaring and trying to push us down, we don't have to fight on our own. Jesus, big, strong, unshakable Jesus will stand in front of us. He's already taken the blows and the won the victory.

Then it was time for the real sermon to begin and we focused on 1 Peter 5:8-11 - "Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour. Take a firm stand against him and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to his eternal glory by means of Jesus Christ. After you have suffered for a little while, he will restore, support and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power is his forever and ever. Amen"

It's true the devil is roaring, but the greater truth is we are not alone and God is constantly restoring, supporting, strengthening and settling us. These battles are temporary, but His power is eternal. Stand strong behind Him today!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Good Friend or A God Friend?

Have you ever had a good friend? As a child perhaps this was the girl you played with, dressed like and always invited to your house. Maybe in the teen years you spent hours on the phone together, were there for one another during the difficult times and combined your abilities on an athletic team. Then as life went on perhaps this good friend was someone you worked with or who had children the same age as yours.

Looking back at the various stages in life, good friends through the years have some similarities. They are the ones we talk with, listen to, laugh with and even shed tears with. She's the gal we call in times of trouble and lean on when life gets tough. Those who are really good friends get to know us well, sometimes better than we know ourselves! These friends are special.

But my life experience shows that even good friends don't last forever. As times change, friendships do too. That doesn't mean these good friends don't serve a purpose, but it does prove they don't last forever.

Though I will always value my good friends and treasure those relationships from years gone by, I'm beginning to appreciate another type of friend, my God friends. These gals are good friends, but they take the next step. We do and share all the things I've done with my good friends, but yet the friendship is different.

I'm starting to realize these women care more about my relationship with God than they do about my friendship with them. And that is huge. I'm sure many of us can think back to the difficult days of junior high and recall a friendship or two that only revolved around what we had to offer. With God friends that is not the case.

With these women you can still talk and laugh, cry and listen, but these relationships are real. With a God friend you don't simply get together for a good time, you cross paths and share life. She is there to listen and rejoice, support and encourage. Since she too is walking in the truth, she also keeps you accountable, has the ability to see the mistakes you make and earned your trust and respect to confront you with it. These friends don't just build you up, they strengthen your faith as well.

I think about my good friends through the years and at time miss the things we shared, but will always value the memories. At the same time I look ahead and think about the God friends I now have. I know that though time and distance may separate us because these relationships are based on God, not good things, they will last forever. My God friends and I will always be connected; our friendship will stand strong now and forever.

"Thank you Lord for good friends and especially God friends! Like your word says they truly do love at all times. Though sometimes that love is tough, I greatly appreciate all you do through the people you've placed in my life. And Lord, thank you for being the best friend of all! In your precious name, Amen"

Friday, August 14, 2009

There's a lion loose in Iowa -

And he’s made our farm his home. His very presence has changed our actions and altered my attitude. He’s made me fearful and caused me to worry. When I feel him prowling around, I think about the damage he can do and wonder when he will attack. He even affects my life when he wonders off and hides; it’s then I worry about what will come next.

He himself hasn’t directly caused any harm, but the impact he’s made on me has created some damage. Only days before his arrival, I had taken leaps of faith, but now because of the fear he inflicts I am afraid to even take a step. Once there was confidence, but this lion prowling around has replaced that with doubt. Previously I could hear the whispers of encouragement, but now his roar has drowned that out.

Now before you google lion in Iowa and search for the latest news and most recent pictures, let me tell you, “I have yet to inform the authorities.” You see, I thought this was a situation we could handle on our own. My husband’s a hunter, so I figured he could protect us. Our dogs are here and would warn us if the lion came to close. And besides this creature really hadn’t hurt anyone yet, so why bother others when there are problems bigger than this?

First Peter 5:8 tells us, “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victims to devour.” The words are true and though I can’t look out my window and see a wild animal the picture I created is real. Our farm hasn’t been his home, instead it’s been my mind.

When the devil tries to move in, he can change our actions and alter our attitudes. He can take faith and replace it with fear. His roar of lies can cause you to miss God’s whispers of truth.

And as he gradually does damage, he distorts our view. We can think the problem isn't that bad and often think we can combat him on our own. Simply another lie he tells when he moves into our life. No matter how strong we are and even if we have others surrounding us to help, it’s not a battle we fight on our own.

When there’s a lion loose, the authority must be informed. Rather than grabbing the phone and dialing 911, we must hit our knees and call out to the Lord. He will strengthen us and remind us of the victory He’s already won.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Same old song...

Today our church held a potluck and extended the fellowship with a variety show. We enjoyed a similar event nearly a year and a half ago and today God blessed us once again. He truly has gifted members of the congregation - there were remarkable testimonies given by youth and hilarious skits performed by many.

Variety shows and all they entail have never been a strong point for me, so involving myself in them is a step out of the old comfort zone. At the first one I didn’t dive in myself, but encouraged our kids to take part and at the ages of 5 and 3 the fear of being in front of others hadn’t really set in, so they willingly obliged. They sang their favorite song, “Jesus Loves Me” and joined a cousin in singing “I’ve Got the Joy” and “Amazing Grace.”

This past week the upcoming variety show and preparing for it never made it to the top of my to-do list. And with our oldest gone the last 3 days it seemed I had an excuse to simply show up and be a spectator. Well, that strategy seemed to work until he returned home just as church was coming to a close.

My parents had taken him and another grandson on a little vacation and then we reconnected at church. After a quick hug and “hi mom,” he was ready to head home, show me his new treasures and tell of his trip. I informed him we’d be staying for dinner and having the variety show.

He quickly said, “I want to sing.” I asked him what he was going to sing and naturally he said, “Jesus Loves Me” with Joy. In my mind I thought you did that last time, but in my heart I wondered how can I discourage him from doing the very thing I’m afraid of doing? So I then asked if there was a different song and as bold as a little 6 year old can he said, “No I just want to sing ‘Jesus Loves Me.”

I told him I’d check with the gal in charge and see if he could still be put on the schedule and just left it at that. It’s always cute to see little ones sing and I figured the congregation wouldn’t mind hearing this familiar tune once again.

So the show began and eventually J.D. and Joy were called to go up front and he turns to me and says, “Mom, I want you to come with.” Now for a Mom who can’t sing those are scary words!! But I agreed and said I’d sit up front by them. That eased his fears and off we went.

When the 3 of us turned around, J.D. and Joy stepped to the stage and we were met by Jaylyn, our 2 year old Peanut. As usual she wasn’t going to be left out!! J.D. moved to the center, joined hands with his little sisters and started to sing.

Though I’ve tried to correct him numerous times, he sung the version he always sings, “Jesus loves me, YES I know…” And as I sat there, thoughts went to worries I’d had an hour earlier, J.D. don’t you want to sing a different song?

I don’t think that question will ever enter my mind again because I pray that song will always be in my children's hearts and come out of their mouths. More than that I pray they will always say with that same boldness (that sometimes drives me crazy), “Jesus loves me, YES I know.”

The song may be familiar, but the message never grows old!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Back to reality...

This past weekend I attended She Speaks – what an absolutely amazing time. Last night I was still running on adrenaline, but just this morning I told my husband, “I think I’ve come off the mountain.” He simply replied, “You knew that was going to happen.”

He’s right, but I didn’t know it would be so difficult. I don’t even know the name of the song, who sang it or really what it was about, but a line from my younger days keeps coming back, “And coming down is the hardest thing.” How true! I can’t believe the contrast in my emotions as I compare today with just one week ago.

Last Thursday I was full of worry and doubt as I tried to pack bags, practice talks and just face the facts that I was about to encounter plenty of firsts. Add that to a pregnancy that hit the 27-week mark and needless to say there were plenty of emotions.

In the time since, the emotions have just grown stronger and now a week later my mind is still full. I never expected returning to reality to be such a challenge. But as I step back and really look at what has taken place it all makes sense.

One of the first things the P31 staff shared with all of us last Friday was how we were with 600 women who really got us. And they were right. Everyone I talked with seemed to become a fast friend. The women, each and everyone, were so encouraging and full of God’s love that it truly was amazing. Their realness was a blessing as well. Other’s ability to admit mistakes and insecurities truly touched my life. It not only removed that feeling of being alone, but also reminded me that if God can use them – the broken and beautiful creation that they are, He can use me as well.

I’ve never been one to leave home too often and when I’ve attended a conference it’s never been by myself. Though that frightened me a little (OK a lot), now I know it’s the best thing that could have happened. In that real alone time, God had plenty of opportunities to speak to me and wow, was I humbled. And inspired. To say I came home on top of the world is truly an understatement.

But like I said, today it’s back to reality. Not that I’ve just arrived home, but the excitement of being home has worn off and the work I left behind needs to be done. There’s the usual laundry, dishes and cleaning. Little ones that need time with mom and a husband who needs his wife as well. Prep work for my 1st grade son’s home school year that will begin in less than 2 weeks. And thoughts of what needs to be done before our 4th child arrives in less than 3 months. If I let it, it can all be overwhelming!

Still the bigger challenge is not just returning to reality but the real world where not all 600 plus people in our small town get it. At the conference though we were all being called in different directions, every woman had the same mission – make Jesus famous and in the world today that is not the case. When I’m misunderstood or looked at as different it can be difficult to embrace that call and too easy to give into the doubt that results as I worry about what others think.

The hardest part of this coming down business though stems from the doubt. When worry and fear enter in, Satan only speaks louder. His lies can echo in my mind, “God really didn’t say that. Who do you think you are? He can’t use you. Think of what others will say.” The reality of facing him is a challenge!

As my mind thought about the words of that song from long ago another quote I heard recently came to mind. I believe it was Anne Graham Lotz I heard say, “Fruit doesn’t grow on the mountain, it grows in the valley.” So today as I continue my descend I will focus on her words rather than the lyrics and be thankful.

My mountaintop experience at She Speaks was truly a blessing, but it won’t be all it was met for until I head out to the valley and apply all I’ve learned and live as the woman He called me to be. On the mountaintop, I was close to God, but I know His light still shines in the valley and I trust He will make the fruit grow!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More than words...

This past Sunday evening I returned from the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference, which was amazing!! My family and I spent the night at my sister-in-laws and when they asked how it was I simply said there were not words to describe all the weekend held, but then went on to talk for over 2 hours. But still it didn't come close to justifying all the conference held. God was obviously present and every person there was sharing His love and encouragement.

Yesterday on her blog, Lysa TerKeurst asked attendees to share about their experience and 2 days later I still feel as there will never be enough words. I was touched in so many ways by so many people. God confirmed things I've been thinking about and working on along with reminding me of what ministry is all about.

So as I've thought about what to say I've decided to share some I put on paper Saturday night. The day had been full of wonderful talks by amazing speakers, I'd survived speaker evaluations, and been touched by seeing the heart of many women called by God.

I'd went to sleep but then awoke in the early hours with much on my mind. As an individual who's always tended to compare myself to others and feel I wasn't as capable or worthy, I had been deeply touched by the lack of this very thing at the conference. It didn't matter who I spoke, they treated me the same.

Lysa had set this tone early on as she spoke about us all being on the same team and as a former athlete I connected with her words. It didn't matter who was the MVP, on the starting 5 or the last off the bench - we are all on the same team and Jesus is the star!!

Like I said the words weren't just said, but lived out by everyone there - well known speakers, attendees, volunteers, everyone! It is often said actions speak louder than words and that is true.

So Saturday night as my mind wouldn't shut off, it seemed God put these words on my heart...

"What is it about?"
It's not about me -
who I am or
what I've done,
who I've been or
the qualifications I have earned.

It's about God -
who He is and
the power He has.
The strength He supplies and
the opportunities He provides.

It's not about me -
how good I sound or
high I climb.
How well I'm known or
successful I become.

It's about God -
how great He is and
the gifts He gives.
It's about His unconditional love and
the power of His name.

What is it about?
Something I don't deserve,
but yet I have received.
It's not about me,
but all about Him.


"An Ordinary Girl"
My house can be a mess and
sometimes the kids are naughty.
My past is far from perfect and
my mind is full of doubt.
Lord, I'm not qualified and
this is nothing I deserve -
I'm just an ordinary girl.

Then I met her -
the one who has it all together
or so I thought,
but she's not perfect either.
She's had her share of falls and
even questioned her own worth -
She's an ordinary girl.

But God, then there's You -
the Maker of the heavens and the earth.
The One who moves mountains
and has counted every star.
You can use us all,
especially when we're just
an ordinary girl!!

I would like to close by saying thanks to the entire P31 staff, my wonderful roomie, Amy, Micca Campbell and my eval team, and all the attendees who touched my life.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Timely words...

I have enjoyed Downhere's song, "Here I Am" since the first time I heard it. But today it seemed to take on a deeper meaning. Having a heart that says, "Here I am" has been my prayer and now it seems God is carrying through with the rest of the line. He is sending me, tomorrow I leave for the She Speaks conference and anyone who's been following this blog knows that is a huge step.

The words of the song spoke to me once again though and I'll pray they do the same for you...

Sometimes Your calling, comes in dream
Sometimes it comes in the Spirit's breeze
You reach for the deepest hope in me
And call out for the things of eternity

But I'm a man, of dust and stains,
You move in me, so I can say

Chorus
Here I am, Lord send me
All of my life, I make an offering,
Here I am, Lord send me
Somehow my story is a part of Your plan,
Here I am

When setbacks and failures, and upset plans
Test my faith and leave me with empty hands
Are You not the closest when it's hardest to stand
I know that You will finish what You began

And these broken parts You will redeem
Become the song that I can sing

Chorus

Overwhelmed by the thought of my weakness
And the fear that I'll fail You in the end
In this mess, I'm just one of the pieces,
I can't put this together but You can

Chorus

Here I Am, all my life an offering to You, to You
Somehow my story is a part of Your plan
Here I am

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

8 years ago...

Wow, I can't believe my husband and I are celebrating our anniversary for the 8th time today. It just doesn't seem possible that it's now 2009 and we were married on a beautiful day back in 2001. When I take a quick look back it seems like it was yesterday and I feel myself getting older as I think, where has the time gone?

It's true I am getting older, but in those 8 years we've walked thru two thousand nine hundred twenty days together. Obviously a lot has taken place! The first thing that comes to mind is the children God has blessed us with - they've created some long nights and busy days, but brought blessings to our marriage that I never even expected.

Speaking of expectations, I'm not sure how much of our married life today matches up with what I envisioned 8 years ago. Our relationship no longer revolves around dinner out, long talks on the phone and time alone. Though our number of dates is down our relationship is stronger than ever. I'm so thankful God had a better plan than we did.

Does that mean it's always been easy? No, we've had misunderstandings, we've let each other down, we've walked through a miscarriage and struggled with normally daily life. The key word is "we" - whether times have been good or life's become hard we walk together. That alone isn't always easy, but it is what God meant when He said two shall become one.

Eight years ago we read the love chapter from 1 Corinthians at our wedding. At the time I'd heard the passage quite often and recognized it as wedding words, but now I'm grateful for the opportunity to not just know it, but have experienced it.

Love is patient and kind,
love is not jealous or boastful,
it is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on it's own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends.

I'm grateful for what the last 8 years have taught me and how God has strengthened our marriage and because of that I look forward to what He has in store for Job and me in the years to come.

I pray the same is true for you and your spouse - just remember as DC Talk sings, "Love is a verb." And I've come to find out the action begins with a choice - decide today to love your spouse unconditionally. God will be honored, your spouse will be touched and others will be inspired.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Before I pack...

In a week I will be in North Carolina for the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference. I am excited, overwhelmed and a bit nervous. But thankfully in the past few days in place of some of the fear God has provided peace.

Today I had some time set aside in which I intended to focus on some prep work for when I will be gone. Now as that time has faded, I realize nothing I envisioned accomplishing has been crossed off my list. That could be a reason for panic and frustration, but God had plans so much bigger and better than mine. He was doing prep work I didn't even realize needed to be done.

He has shown me before I pack I have more to do than the simple things that made my list. Before I can pack my bags to go, I need to set down the ones I've been carrying.

So you're not confused, I haven't just returned from a trip. In the last 7 years I've rarely left the state! So you ask what am I talking about? It's the baggage I carry around from my past and misconceptions about who I am. It's the stuff that weighs me down and keeps me from seeing myself the way God does.

Now in the past 6 months God has helped me lighten the load a bit as He's helped me become more secure in Him. He's shined His light in the bag I carry and revealed things I didn't even know were there. I'm trusting Him more and living to please others less. I'm beginning to realize He doesn't compare me to anyone else, so I shouldn't either.

Even yesterday I was visiting with a friend and she shared how she sensed I was more at peace. I agreed and driving home reflected on how God has moved me from there to here - what a blessing to see Him take my pain and replace it with His peace.

But this morning after a long talk with my husband, I realized I wasn't allowing God to work in all areas. I was still holding on to some things - mistakes God had forgiven and others had too, but yet I had not.

And as the day has continued, this precious on-going conversation with God has as well. He has reminded me His blood covers it all and I can't continue to beat myself up over things He has forgotten and I can't let mistakes I've made define who I am - His daughter, one He loves and has a purpose for.

I know He will meet me at this conference and though I don't know what is in store, I trust He has a plan. But before I pack, I have to empty the bags - I have to lay it all down and He will lift me up. He's shown me though it will be important to pack the right things, I will never be prepared until I let Him remove all the wrong ones.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rise-n-Shine

Evening comes
& a storm may rage,
but morning breaks
& the sun will rise.
Rains may fall
& clouds can form,
but the sun shines
& lights the day.

The world grew dark
& pain was inflicted,
but three days passed
& the Son rose.
Struggles surround us
& hard times hurt,
but the Son still shines
& lights our way.

We will suffer
& get knocked down,
but God will strengthen
& we will rise.
The world is cold
& needs God's love
so we must shine
& share His light.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Leap of Faith

I recently picked up Liz Curtis Higgs book, Embrace Grace, which Lelia is doing as an online study. They are into chapter 4, "Embrace Faith," and what a timely chapter it is.

Higgs states, "Faith is not something you fall back on; faith is something you step into." Wow! How true is that. It seemed yesterday was a day of mixed emotions as I thought about what lied ahead for me in the next couple of weeks - the first shipment of my published book arriving (expected today) and preparing for She Speaks. It can all be overwhelming - sometimes in a wow sort of way and others in a very scary manner.

This is all so new and at times when I try to logically think about it, things don't always make sense. Though my analytical mind is at times tempted to know what this all means, I really don't know where God is leading.

But like Higgs says that is where faith comes in. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." This is all part of his plan - 5 years ago it may not have been mine, but it was his before time and now I must embrace it.

At times that sounds difficult - I want to be the one in control and have an idea of how things will turn out, but that's not the way faith works. God is in control - always has been and always will be. It's not for me to know what comes next, but instead trust the One who does. 2 Corinthians 5:7 puts it plainly, "We live by faith, not by sight."

So as I prepare to take a leap of faith, I will look to the One who is faithful, God will protect, guide and strengthen. He is trustworthy and as a good friend always says to me, "He hasn't brought me this far to leave me now." And that is true for all of us sheep who trust our Shepherd.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Be Small

As an individual who didn't break 5 feet/100 pounds until I was 15, physically being small has never been much of a challenge. But over the last week I've thought about this concept in a different way - "What does it mean to be small in God's eyes?"

Now I have thought about this before and at times thought I knew the answer, but I'm beginning to realize I may have been wrong. I know God doesn't want us, me, to be prideful and for the most part I lived in a way I thought wasn't.

I was one willing to go behind the scenes, do the "simple" jobs and the ones that aren't always fun. And if credit or compliments came I was one to shake it off and make others think it was no big deal.

This past Wednesday we started a women's Bible/book study at our church. We are going through Susie Larson's, The Uncommon Woman. As one of the leaders I have read much of the book already, but the first question she asked has been on my mind a lot lately.

She asks, "Have you ever considered that insecurity is a form of selfishness?" My answer, "NO!" But as I read this and discussed it, I realized you can't deny the truth of what she said. Webster defines insecurity as not confident or sure and as I look back over my life most of the time I could be the poster girl for insecurity.

I've doubted myself and let fear keep me from doing and saying things I probably should have. I've been small and taken the backseat at times because I didn't think I was worthy of anything more.

And yesterday as our pastor reminded the kids during the children's sermon of what it meant to "be small" I realized my idea of this has been wrong. It's true, God wants us all to be small - it just doesn't look the way I've always thought.

In no way does He want this to be the result of doubt, fear, worry or lack of worth. His word tells us He has not given us a spirit of fear and He advises us to worry about nothing. Not even what others will think!!

Our pastor went on to share from 1 Peter 5:4, "Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." The key word? Humility, which Webster defines as not being proud or arrogant.

Honestly for many years if you asked me if I was a humble person, I'd say yes, but this morning God really had me thinking about insecurity. And as I did just that I wondered, "Can I really be humble and insecure at the same time?" I don't know, but it seems God is showing me the answer is no. I have to move from insecurity to humility.

I still need to be small, but the reasons are different. In place of doubting myself, I need to trust God. Rather than being self-confident, I need the holy confidence of Christ. Instead of tooting my own horn or looking for a pat on the back, I need to give God the glory. There's no need to worry about what others think and say when pleasing God and winning His approval is my goal.

For the little ones up front at the children's sermon it didn't seem being small was going to be real difficult and initially I felt the same, but it is a challenge. This doesn't just mean stepping up and doing the work that's rarely acknowledged and putting others before yourself - it's that and more. It also means letting go and letting God - sometimes we (I) need to realize when we're too small for a job, God is big enough. If we humble ourselves and allow Him to use us (whether it's cleaning up the nursery or publishing a book) He will be faithful and carry His work to fruition.