Monday, December 6, 2010

A Baby Born to Die

With Christmas approaching there is much to do! With one thing in particular being our children's Sunday School program. As they practiced yesterday and found their costumes, my thoughts went to last year when I was in the play. And those thoughts reminded me of this post -

As I wrote in my last post, I recently played Mary in our Sunday School Christmas program and doing so has given me much to think about. And today my thoughts revolve around the idea of a baby born to die. At Christmas time that can be a phrase we hear quite often, but do we really listen and more than that do we take the time to stop and think about the significance of those 5 words?

I have and I suppose you have to, but as I sat on the stage looking at my newborn son wrapped in swaddling cloths, the words were more alive. Anyone who's had a child can recall the emotion that overflows as you hold your baby for the first time - there's the overwhelming feelings, the awe at what took place, dreams for the future, really it's more than words can describe. I'm sure the same and more was true for Mary as she gazed at the Son God had given her...not only was she looking at Jesus her first born, but she saw the face of God!

Honestly I have to say this experience was the first time ever where I was on stage and totally unaware of the audience looking at me. (If you know me that says alot!!) But really I was consumed with being in Mary's shoes and still I'm amazed when I reflect on it all.

The impact of the experience doesn't end there though. When the service was done, a gentleman from the congregation asked me, "Do you know the significance of swaddling cloths?" The mom in me internally thought yes, they keep the baby warm and wrap them tight to ease the little one's transition. But he continued on, "Swaddling cloths were what they used for burial. He was born to die." That I knew, but I hadn't heard of that connection before so I looked into it a bit more.

In my research I came across this explanation, "In the Middle East, people traveling long distances were often met with many hardships and trials on their journeys. In the event of a death in travel, the body could not continue to be transported for many days. For that reason, travelers wrapped a thin, gauzelike cloth around their waist many times. If someone died on the journey, the others would use this cloth, referred to as "swaddling clothes" to wrap the corpse in before burying them. When Jesus was born, there was no room in the Inn, and so Mary and Joseph used a nearby stable for Jesus' birth. With no other cloth to use, Jesus was wrapped in Joseph's "swaddling clothes" - the cloth normally reserved for a person's death."

From the beginning Jesus was preparing to die. Now when my mind flashbacks and I see myself holding my little Jed, that can be hard concept to think about, but in life that is a reality. Thankfully chances are my son will not be called to the same death as Mary's, but just like Jesus, Jed's life on this earth will not last forever. And neither will mine...or yours.

Which brings me to another way to apply those 5 powerful words - Christ was born to die for my sins and because of that I am called to die to myself and live for Him. (Matthew 10:38-40). And as a mother I'm called to teach my son about His ways so someday he will do the same because when we die to self we live with Him and that is a birth that has no end!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What does Thanksgiving mean to you?

This is the question GOD had on my mind in the early hours this morning. And as I thought it was interesting to reflect on the answers I would have given through the years -

As a child, it meant a trip to Grandpa and Grandma's and also was a marker on the calendar, Christmas wasn't far away!!

As a high schooler, it meant basketball was here and games were about to begin! Back in the day we played in a holiday tourney, so in my mind Thanksgiving really was "Game time" Eve.

In those days, Thanksgiving basically was another day on the calendar. Special simply because it brought me one step closer to what I wanted.

I'm thankful it has taken on a whole new dimension over the last 10 years! Primarily because I now understand it's really not what I'm thankful for, but because of Who I'm giving thanks to.

Now Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of reflecting and reminders. The day always reminds me of our engagement - 10 years ago tonight my husband pruposed after our Thanksgiving Eve services. What a great memory!

And as I reflect on the years we've shared I realize I have much to be thankful for - a husband who loves me more today than he did then; 4 children who sometimes drive me crazy, but always bless my day; wonderful extended family; amazing friends; a warm home; a church family that helps me grow; opportunities to serve; the list goes on...

But last night after reading a post about how sometimes the holidays are hard because life is hard - relationships are broken, finances are low, lives on earth come to an end, things change. Holidays can cause us to remember the way things were and leave us missing what was and though it's good to be thankful for what was, this morning I got to thinking we must also remember to be thankful for what is.

If we are followers of Christ and truly believe He does work all together for the good who love Him, we should be thankful in (not necessarily for) all circumstances. Perhaps it's not what we want, planned or expected, but He is in control and has a purpose.

Finally even more than the "counting your blessings" and "thankful for" lists what truly is important on this day of Thanksgiving is giving thanks! In Old Testament times, there were thank offerings given and I believe God asks us to do that yet today, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1-2

What does Thanksgiving mean to you? And more importantly what offering of thanks will you give to your Father and Lord this holiday?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Leftovers

With Thanksgiving two days away, many plans are being made and the work has begun. As I make my grocery list and prepare for time with family I got to thinking about leftovers. Crazy I know!! Really who goes into one of the biggest feasts of the year thinking about leftovers?

I think a conversation with my grandma triggered it...you see the other day she was sharing with me how she didn't know if she'd be hosting Thanksgiving this year. She's 80, so we all understand! Then she shared the deciding factor - one of her great-granddaughters had told her mom, "I'm coming home for Thanksgiving - I don't want to miss G'ma B's dinner!" Grandma was so touched, you see in her mind her cooking is no big deal, but to Kylie it was special.

As I thought about this - my Grandma's reaction and Kylie's desire, I smiled, but then took things a step deeper. My Grandma would have graciously made up a plate to send home with Kylie's family so she could be with her boyfriend, but she didn't want the leftovers. They didn't excite her. That's not what she's been looking forward to over the last few weeks every time she eats another college meal.

While my mind processed this, God spoke to my heart, "Jill, your husband and kids don't desire or deserve leftovers either." Wow, so true! But God didn't stop there; He went on to say, "And neither do I." Wow, that hurts, but it's a fact. And sometimes the truth hurts.

The truth is I have been loving and serving my family and my Father, but honestly sometimes it's been more of a have to than able to. And others it's after my to-do list is done. In my last post I wrote about cutting back, which is necessary if I don't want to keep serving my family leftovers.

Once again my grandma serves as a wonderful example for me - she is excited about serving up a feast for her family. She is looking forward to the prep work and I know she will do it with joy in her heart. She will treasure the time she shares with the 40+ family members on Thursday. Her focus will be the feast, not the leftovers.

In the days ahead, I pray that will be my focus as well! I know my husband, children and especially my Lord will be appreciative of it and just like my grandma, I will be blessed because of it!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Time for a Trim

Over the last few weeks God has really been working on my heart to slow down...as a wife, Mom, homeschooler, MOPS leader and member of a women's ministry team I have been busy. And last week we added illness to the mix - then things were messy and I was tired. But as I sat up in the wee hours trying to comfort my little man, God worked to do the same with me.

You see He'd been "messing" with me - in a good way, but yet it was hard. So I sat there crying out to Him, "God what do you want me to do?"

And then a picture of my little Joy came to mind and I saw myself trimming her bangs - now initially I thought, Jill focus and honestly I did not know why my mind was thinking of this. But then the picture changed, I saw her face in a new way - a better way, a more complete way and then God said to me, "Jill, if you cut back in your life you will see me better too."

Wow!! I'm still not sure what He will be trimming from my life, but I'm willing to let Him and I look forward to seeing more clearly and am excited to see HIM in bigger and better ways!

How about you, "Is it time for a trim?" I think of my little Joy again and this is never something she chooses to do. In her words, "It feels funny. I want to play instead." And I know I've said similar things, "But God it hurts. It's change. I want to do..." Just like I know what's best for my little girl, God knows and wants what's best for me, and you.

So today will you join me in handing him the scissors and simply being still so He can do what He needs to do?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Worth Remembering

The other day I sat down with my notes from Rise and Shine and was blessed by the time of reflection. I also realized there were many points worth remembering! I have to believe they just might be beneficial for you as well, so below you will find 10 key points and quotes that Lysa TerKeurst shared with us -

* "Let God write your kids' testimony." That is so true and so important and as a Mom who wants the best for my kids' I know sometimes it will also be hard, but He is trustworthy!

* "Remember who you are!" A child of the Creator of the world. A daughter of the King! A girl who is loved, forgiven, chosen and blessed!!

* "I don't have to...I am able to." All too often it's easy to lose perspective and look at my never ending to do list in a negative way, but really God is giving me opportunities to shine for Him in the daily, mundane, ordinary events of the everyday.

* "Don't build the stability of your identity on the fragility of other's choices." Wow, that says a lot! All too often I define myself by what others say, my kid's behavior or the actions of others which I have no control over. When really my identity is in Christ alone!!

* "God created us to be not do." I led a breakout reflection group and one of the gals commented on this by saying, "Isn't it easier to do than be? God asks me to lead a Bible study...OK, but then He asks me to sit with Him for 20 minutes and I don't have time." Again another quote that provides a perspective check. I must strive to do what's important to God - the doing will flow out of the being!

* "Never give up!!" Lysa shared about her Bible friend, a gal who at a time drove her crazy, but in the end one who God used to speak truth into her life. People need to hear and when God prompts me to share, I must. The planting and watering is my responsibility, God will do the growing.

* "God changes us when we obey." So so true. I sat there as the day came to an end and marveled at all God had done and I was blessed to be a part of it. For me the amazing thing was though the day was wonderful, God really had taught me just as much in the journey.

* "Feelings are indicators not dictators." Feelings can lie, mine often do! They may indicate a problem, but they should never be the basis for a decision or alter my thoughts about a situation or even myself.

* "God doesn't need prayer, I do." True, true, true!! Prayer was a huge part of Rise and Shine and now as I reflect on it, I know God heard us and answered us. But I'd never heard this statement before and God has proven the truth of these words in my life - I need prayer, I need time with HIM!!

* "Make peace with reality." The truth is none of us live in the perfect world and none of us have had the ideal life - bad things have happened, poor decisions have been made and times have been tough and no matter what I do, I can't change what's been done nor can I change anyone but myself. But daily I can become more, I can choose to seek HIM, serve HIM, see HIM and believe HIM...no matter the circumstance, the reality is HE is there and that's a reality I can make peace with!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rise and Shine 2010

The day came and the day went…God was present and He provided! In attempt to update anyone who is unaware - Rise and Shine is a women’s retreat that was held this past Saturday. I’ve been blessed, honored and humbled to be a part of the team that God has entrusted to be responsible for the event. This year we were thrilled to have Lysa TerKeurst as our guest speaker and God spoke through her in wonderful ways!!

So back to the day that was…actually I’m going to begin on Thursday night - about 7 PM my little Joy started to get sick and she was my priority through the night, especially from midnight to almost 4 AM. By Friday morning she was feeling a bit better as in a “sick” little voice she assured me, “I’ll be OK.” I knew she would, but still saying good-bye was hard. This was the beginning of the reminders that God is in control and He will provide, strengthen and make a way!!

And make a way, HE did! Friday, the 4 of us along with some fabulous volunteers spent the day prepping - everything from preparing retreat guides, nametags, decorating, last minute registrations… And it all went well! I missed this step last year, but all the others agreed it was much smoother and faster too. Again, it’s in God’s hands!

Then around 5 I received a call from Holly, Lysa’s assistant that they were near the church and looking to have supper prior to the practice and run-through. So we welcomed them to Iowa and they met real farmer’s wives and had a delightful conversation over supper. It truly was a joy to meet both Holly and Lysa! God is good and His people really are family!!

Everything that night went so well and ahead of schedule, that Rachel and I decided to make the hour and a half trip home to at least see our families even if that only meant while they were sleeping! I believe God truly provided that opportunity because it really put my heart at ease to have my healthy little Joy smile and send me off on Saturday morning! And I was blessed to start the day with my husband, who’s believed in me and Rise and Shine since day one!

And now I look back at the day and it was all so good, I wish each of you could have been there, but that’s not realistic so I’ll share some highlights - we started the day in the prayer room, which is where our hearts have been all along! This year we’ve made prayer a much bigger priority and God responded to that!! From there we moved to the volunteer meeting and it was on my heart to share 1 Corinthians 3:6,7 “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” Because really that’s what this was all about!!

The day began and before I knew it Lysa was finished with her testimony and closing in prayer. During this time she explained the difference between religion and a relationship with Christ in a beautiful way. It was then she invited women to accept Christ as their Savior or recommit their life to Him. With everyone’s eyes closed in a powerful time of prayer she asked these women to make eye contact with her in order to acknowledge their decision and as they did she “Praised God” with her mouth and I did with my heart.

This truly was the highlight of the day for me and has once again brought me to tears because it’s such a picture of answered prayer - hearts were touched and lives were changed. Seeds were planted and others watered, but God was doing the growing! As this session came to an end, I whispered to a fellow Rise and Shine team member, “The day could end right now and the retreat would have been wonderful.”

It didn’t end there, but this blog post will…until next time friends, I will share this - if God puts something on your heart - even if it seems crazy, beyond you, too hard, too much work, whatever the excuse, today I want to encourage you to say “YES!” Initially I didn’t want to, but I did and like Lysa says, “Our job is obedience…leave the results to GOD!!” He can do it!!


Remember Who You Are

This past weekend at Rise and Shine, Lysa TerKeurst shared a story about one of her sons - the story was hard for her, a Mom, to tell and I’m sure if you could talk to her boy, it’s been one that’s been a challenge to live. You see a poor choice was made and now the consequences must be dealt with, but this story was meant for us all - daily each one of us makes thousands of choices!

As we make these choices, whether they are actions we carry out, thoughts we let enter our mind or words that leave our mouth, we must remember who we are. I’ve spent some time thinking about this (what it means for me and my kids) and have been reminded that before we can remember who we are, we have to know WHOSE we are!

When we know Whose we are, we have a better idea of who we are! So today I ask you, “Who are you?” How does remembering this help you? Strengthen you? Challenge you? Please share!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Speechless

Yesterday was the Rise and Shine Women's Retreat and now a day later, I find myself at a lack of words. Moments before the doors opened everyone who would be on stage gathered for final instructions and once they were given Lysa TerKeurst closed in prayer for the team.

She asked God to interrupt us and mess us up in the best sort of way! And now 24 hours later, I can say that prayer has been answered for at least one...

HE is messing with me...I am overwhelmed by all HE did...I am thankful for the privilege it was to be a part of something so good and so GOD!

The title of this post says it all...I am speechless, but as He helps me sort things out I promise to return and share more about a wonderful, wonderful day!

Until then a BIG thank you to each and every one of you who has been lifting the event, the team, Lysa, the attendees, everything in prayer! None of this could have happened without it!

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Mentor and Me

Hello to all of you visiting from Renee’s blog; thanks for taking the time to stop by!

Today I want to take a minute and share what my mentor, aka my spiritual mom, and me are up to - the two of us are blessed to be part of the Rise and Shine Women’s Retreat Team and the event we’ve been planning and preparing for takes place tomorrow!! Very exciting!

Yesterday morning I thought about the days to come - the work, the stress, the joy, the excitement! The more I thought the faster my mind began to race and then God slowed me down. I simply went and sat alone (in a house with 4 little ones that doesn’t happen too often!!) with HIM! As I did that He filled me with His peace and calmed my spirit.

But in that time He did even more, He reminded me - He reminded me of what this is all about - HIM!! He reminded me of where He’s brought me. He reminded me of people He’s used in my life. He reminded me He is in control and if we are willing and available He can use us. He reminded me He is so good!! He reminded me He is BIG and I am small; I am weak, but HE is strong! I was reminded He is a giver and my relationship with Him is such a gift.

I closed that part of my day truly feeling blessed! Because I am, but before I got up to really start the day I took a moment to pray. I asked God to keep me in that place…not just in the days leading up to Rise and Shine, but always! Day in and day out, I am blessed, loved and strengthened because of HIM. It’s true every weekend doesn’t hold the excitement and anticipation of this one, but still HE is there. The circumstances change but He does not!

Just yesterday I received a note in the mail full of compliments about the book and the impact it made on this specific reader. I was touched by her words and appreciated them so much, but her closing comment is what really struck me. She said, “I hope to find Him (Christ) someday the way that you have.”

Like I said her words have impacted me, actually in two ways - 1) I am committed to pray for this gal - specifically that she will know Christ in a very personal and powerful way and 2) I don’t ever want to take my relationship with Christ for granted - it is not something everyone has and it is not by my doing - He chose me!!

Friend, thank you for visiting today! I pray you’ve been blessed and I pray you are encouraged to make an impact in the life of another. I also pray you’ve been reminded of the value of your relationship with Jesus Christ! At the same time if this talk has you wanting to know more please feel free to contact me jillberan@yahoo.com I’d love to share more.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pressure

If you are regular visitor to my blog, you have heard about the “Rise and Shine Women‘s Retreat.” This event will be held Saturday - 4 days from today!! It is a complete honor and blessing to be part of the wonderful team that is organizing the retreat, but last night I was feeling the pressure.

Over a week ago a friend asked, “Are you feeling the pressure as crunch time hits?” At the time I had a two part answer - I really wasn’t stressed with the detail part of it all, but I was feeling the pressure of living out what Rise and Shine is all about. Rachel, one of our team members had said a bit about the team, the volunteers, everyone involved being the face of Rise and Shine and that really hit me.

So fast forward to this week…with plans to meet for our last team meeting today I’m feeling a little stress with all the details that need to be taken care of and loose ends that need to be tied, but still it’s the daily rising and shining that is the challenge.

You see, tomorrow we take our little man Jed in for an echo cardiogram because last week at his 12 month check the Dr. heard a heart murmur. She has assured me I don’t need to worry - according to every thing else he is a healthy little boy. But still we want to make sure. And really I have peace that his heart is in God’s hands and believe the results will be fine. My bigger fear is the sedation process…worry can set in when I think about that, but that’s when God whispers to my heart, “Jill rise and shine - trust me.”

Then there’s the financial side of things - I know this test will be costly. Just 6 months ago we changed insurance meaning more of the expense is ours… Again my mind can go, but He continues with the same message, “Jill, rise and shine - I will provide.”

I could go on, but you get the idea…you too have daily struggles - it doesn’t matter if it’s health, money, relationships…we all have difficult moments in our life. Whether they are big or small is irrelevant as well, regardless of what they are they can create pressure.

The other day as I talked with God about this, I was struggling with why rising and shining, basically living out my faith sometimes has to be so hard. And why does it have to feel like such pressure. It may sound crazy but He brought my basketball days to mind…

Back then I liked the pressure…yeah it could be nerve wracking, but yet I enjoyed the intense moments, felt like I’d accomplished something during victories when the game was tight and learned valuable lessons when I fell short.

God has used those memories to speak me - as a point guard I knew when the pressure was on and last night was reminded of three things my coach used to say to me in those moments. “Slow down!!” “Keep your head up!” “Look down the floor!”

Today as I gear up for some intense possibly pressure filled days ahead, I pray I will not only hear God say that to me, but will listen and obey! I pray things will go according to HIS time while I keep my eyes on HIM and focus on HIS eternal plan! And when things get too intense I pray I remember I still have the option to call a time-out - my heavenly coach is always available!!


Before I was able to post this, we were reading our daily devotions and as my husband read, these words touched my heart -

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers." 2 Corinthians 1:8-11a

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Waiting for Rise and Shine

In 11 days the Rise and Shine women's retreat will be taking place! In a way I've been looking forward to this since last October when the first retreat was held. This year Lysa TerKeurst from Proverbs 31 will be joining us and I know God has great things in store.

We have been meeting and planning for close to a year and it's exciting to see all the details coming together. God is obviously putting the pieces together once again and I'm anticipating Him filling in the gaps this year as well.

It's been wonderful to connect with others who are attending this year through our Facebook page and it will be great to put a face to a name. There are so many things to look forward to, but at the same time there are so many things to do yet!

I know in the days ahead there are loose ends we need to tie up, final decisions to be made and finishing touches to be put on. And there are prayers that we must continue to pray!

But at the same time there's more...the other day as I was anticipating the day of Rise and Shine, I realized though the day is special and will be blessed, I really don't need to wait! God will speak on the 30th, but if I listen, He will speak today as well. God will create connections, but He'll also bring people across my path today. God will use me at the retreat in Cedar Falls, but He can work just as powerfully through me today in my home. His presence will be real at Orchard Hill Church, but He's here right now even as my children argue!

All of these thoughts remind me that Rise and Shine truly is more than a retreat; it is a way of life. I know the 30th will be wonderful, but at the same time, "This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24 It doesn't matter where we rise and shine; the important thing is we allow His light to shine!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

When the sun shines...

The other day I was driving down the road and the sun was shining! Outside it was a cool, October day in Iowa, but on the other side of the window I felt the sun’s power! As the temperature inside the vehicle rose my mind went to work and I took some time to really think about the big ball of fire in the sky.

Let me share some of those thoughts -
When the sun shines it’s presence is known!
It has the power to produce heat and light.
It can bring joy - picture my kids swimming on a hot summer day.
It brings peace - my husband combining on a nice, dry fall day.
The sun sustains life - the crops my husband is harvesting are evidence of that.

It was only natural for these thoughts to lead to some more; as I marveled at the beauty of God’s creation I was reminded of another Son that shines! And it’s amazing when you think about the similarities between the two -
When Jesus shines, His presence is known!
He warms our heart and lights our way!
He brings joy!
He brings peace!
He not only sustains life, He created it and is the Bread of life!!

God didn’t allow my thoughts to stop at this, no He took things a step further…you see I’m part of a team that is organizing the Rise and Shine Women’s Retreat that will be held in less than 4 weeks. So the idea of “rising and shining” has been on my heart for quite some time!

My prayer for this retreat is that women will not only walk away encouraged, refreshed and renewed, but they will be given a spiritual wake-up call! One that inspires them to rise and shine daily!! Because when the Son shines through us, His presence is known and His power can be felt; hearts are touched and what was dark becomes light. By rising and shining a difference can be made; His joy can carry someone through the pain and His peace can calm another during the storm. Ultimately by rising and shining, He may use the light in us to not just sustain life, but to save it eternally!

To think all these thoughts were the result of the sun shining! Think about what could happen if someone sees THE SON shining through you today!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Empty

Today has been one of those days - sick kids, crazy schedule, unexpected requests, you know the routine! All things that can create chaos and add stress to life. Couple that with the feeling of being a bit disconnected and I find myself at the end of the day feeling empty.

No matter what happens or others' say I know God can, will and does fill me up. He is enough! Even when others seem distant, He is near. When things don't go according to plan (mine), He is in control! Just the other day at MOPS, our speaker wonderfully disected Psalm 139:10, "Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." I know God is here, He is guiding me and holding me!

I know these things, yet I wanted more! I thought maybe I need to be reminded of His word, you know replace the lies with the TRUTH! So He led me to some verses, let me share a few -

"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" 1 John 5:1a - I am HIS child! That's a truth that can fill you up!

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-40

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 - The NLT says, I am HIS masterpiece - the gage is going up!

Being reminded of these truths and more should fill me, us, up, but yet as I sat down at the computer the empty feeling returned. As I felt myself deplete, I stopped and prayed, "Lord, why am I feeling like this? I know the TRUTH. I read Your Word and believe what you say. Why am I empty?"

I paused and before I even thought about listening, in my heart I heard, "maybe it's not a bad thing." Instantly a song I heard a few months back came to mind, please read the words of Chris Sligh for yourself -

I've had just enough of the spotlight
When it burns bright
To see how it gets in the blood
And I've tasted my share
Of the sweet life
And the wild ride
And found a little is not quite enough

I know how I can stray
And how fast my heart could change

Empty me
Of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition
And the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me
So I can be
Filled with you

I've seen just enough of the quick buys
Of the best lies
To know how prodigals can be drawn away

I know how I can stray
And how fast my heart could change
Empty me
Of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition
And the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me
So I can be
Filled with you

Cuz everything is a lesser thing
Compared to you
Compared to you
Cuz everything is a lesser thing
Compared to you
So I surrender all

Empty me
Of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition
And the poison of my pride

Empty me
Of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition
And the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me
So I can be
Lord empty me of me
So I can be
Filled with you.
Filled with you
Empty me
Honestly it's not an easy thing to ask, but will you join me in the process and pray for God to empty you as well! Only then will we be completely filled with HIM and ultimately that is what our hearts' desire! Believe me, I know this is a challenge, so if you're taking the challenge and in need of prayer, let me know I'd be honored to lift you up!

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Look at Me!"

A post from over a year ago has come back to mind...I guess I needed to read it again. Maybe you do too...

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 high school days 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 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.”

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lessons from a little one...

I am constantly amazed at the lessons I learn from my children! God can speak to me through them in so many ways and this past weekend I've been reflecting on and reminded of the many lessons He's taught me through one of my children in particular.

The child I never held in my hands, but will forever hold in my heart. The little one we lost to a miscarriage 2 years ago today. At the time we'd only known we were expecting for 15 days, but the reality is in those 15 days we came to know this little one as our own - we had dreams for her, hopes for her and a heart full of love for her too.

At times this weekend has been difficult - memories from 2 years ago have come back quite strongly. I recalled the events of that weekend quite vividly and as I did, I found my mind wanting to ask the question. You know, the question that has no answer - "Why?" Again I found myself following the advice Lysa TerKeurst shared in a recent Bible study; the question to ask is "What now?"

So as that thought came to mind, I asked God to show me. "Lord what do I do now? I'm sad and grieving this little one, but yet I know You are good. What do I do now?" There was no voice, but it was as if Iheard, "How was I good in this?"

Before I go on, I want to admit this is still hard and if you're walking in the pain of a recent loss, I know your emotions are raw and the pain is real. You may be thinking there is no good in this (I've been there), but I want to encourage you - circumstances change, life is hard, but GOD is GOOD! Two years later I can say that and if you seek HIM and trust in HIM someday soon you will too.

Now, "How was God good in this?" Well, the first answer that came to mind was my little man Jed - 6 months after our loss, God blessed us with another pregnancy and this October we'll celebrate Jedidiah Jay's 1st birthday!! God is good!

Another lesson my little one has taught me is that God does provide - as memories flooded my mind these past two days I was amazed to see how God provided a listening ear, an encouraging word, a warm embrace, a friend to share my tears, a song to change my perspective, strength to face another day...

He also provided an opportunity for us to grieve as a family. At that time our other kids were 5, 3 and 1, and we didn't explain to them what had happened. After spending the day at their grandma's house because mom needed to rest they came home for the evening and I worked to keep things together as we prepared supper. It was then that we discovered Dorothy, the goldfish we'd had for over 2 years had died. I can remember J.D. and Joy just crying. They crawled onto my lap and we all grieved - them for a fish, but me for the sibling they wouldn't see until this life was done. Those moments were hard, but yet so precious - God is good.

God also provided some answers - answers to the questions, "Was this baby a boy or a girl?" and "What was his or her name?" In April of '09, when I was expecting Jed, we were discussing names and I always came back to Jenae Hope Beran. Jenae means "God has given" and Hope, well that's obvious, so together I thought "God has given HOPE" was very fitting. So needless to say in June when the ultrasound said I was carrying a boy, I was surprised! I was for sure I'd be holding another little girl in the delivery room; a little Jenae Hope actually! I can remember asking God, "What about Jenae?" And He whispered to my heart, I'm already holding her.

Knowing this was good, my baby had a name! But yet it was hard and in a way I grieved all over again. But God is good - He gave me time to grieve; prior to this we'd never even had an ultrasound with our other children. This time the Dr. recommended it and though my husband didn't want to know the sex of the baby, God knew I did. (I did keep the secret!) And I'm thankful HIS ways are higher than mine - you see I don't know how all of these emotions combined with those that accompany a new baby would have all played out. God knew I needed time and He provided.

This little one, Jenae, has also taught me that God really does speak to us and work in ways we never expect or fully understand - the story of her name is proof of that! He is good!

Her little life has taught me that I serve a God who is faithful! He keeps HIS word - when I am weak, He is strong. When I can't, He can. When I fall, He will lift me up. When I'm in need, He will provide. No matter what the situation, I can put my trust in HIM. He is my hope!!

My trip down memory lane has shown me that Psalm 139:10 is true, "even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." During those first few days and even weeks there were moments I wondered if this was true, but looking back I know it was and better yet still is and will always be!!

One final answer to the question, "How was God good in the worse loss I've ever experienced?" He provided strength and peace I'd never felt before. He drew me to Him, even when at times I tried to push away. He comforted when no one else could! He taught me what HOPE is all about!

Two years ago, because of Him I could say, "blessed be the name of the LORD." And today though my heart still grieves for my little girl and I've experienced first hand how the Lord gives and takes away, it is a privilege and honor to bless HIS name. HE is GOOD! Thank you little Jenae HOPE Beran for allowing Him to use you to teach your mom so much!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Heavy Heart

Last night while I was leading our women's Bible study, I missed a call from my sister-in-law. After returning home, connecting with my husband and getting the kids to bed I called her back. It was then she asked if I remembered the principal from my time at North Fayette; I said, "Yes, Mr. Haught." And then she went on to tell me he had taken his own life.

I was in shock, just like anytime I hear news like this. Thoughts went to his wife and family. Then to fellow c0-workers and all the students he had led through the years. With every thought that came to mind, my heart grew heavier. Situations like this are so hard to understand and really there is no answer to the question, "Why?"

So why not focus on the question that has beneficial results, "What now?" As God shifted my thinking I was reminded that we are all in need of hope. Not wishful thinking, but hope that really makes a difference, hope that only God can give. I don't know where Mr. Haught was spiritually, but regardless of the strength of our faith or lack of it, life and its circumstances can bring us down. We must constantly seek God, draw closer to Him and share that hope with others.

As I grieved for all those who knew Mr. Haught, God took my thoughts a step farther and I shared with my husband, "11 years ago next month, people could have easily been making those same calls about me." You see back in Sept. of '99, my second year as a junior high math teacher and Mr. Haught's first year as principal, I was struggling with depression. At the time I had religion, but no relationship. I was hurting, lonely and on the brink of giving up. It hurts me to think about how close I was to ending it all, but I'm so thankful God intervened and has me where I am today. As my husband responded last night, "Praise God."

So back to the question, "What now?" When our hearts are heavy with grief, when things happen that we don't understand and life is hard, "what now?" We seek HIM, trust HIM and praise HIM. For me, God is using this to remind me; to remind me of what HE's done in my life, to remind me that we never fully know what's going on in another's life and to remind that there's always a need to shine HIS light in a world that is dark.

Friends, please join me today in lifting the family and friends of Ken Haught today. Only God can provide what they truly need in a time like this and in the days ahead. Thank you.

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's more than...

The other day we were doing morning devotions and my husband read from Luke 12:24-27, "He (Jesus) said to them, 'Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.'

"But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'

Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.'

"But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!"

As he read, I really thought about these words and simply said, "That could happen to a lot of people." I know I use to be one of them - I went to church, did more good than bad and believed Jesus died on the cross. But I didn't KNOW HIM.

But now I do and I'm so thankful! My heart rejoices at where He's brought me and I look forward to where He's taking me. I'm thankful I have the privilege to know Him more daily and the responsibility to make Him known is a wonderful opportunity.

How about you? Do you know Him? Is your faith more than a religion? Jesus, the savior of the world, wants to know you!! Friend if you have questions about this please let me know. Email me at jillberan@yahoo.com

And if you do know Him, how are you making Him known? Share your story with someone today!

As I've thought about this I've been reminded of a poem I wrote years ago and as I've read the words God's shown me though they are true, the amazing thing about this walk with HIM is it's always more than I ever think it could be!

"It's More Than"
It’s more than going to church,
It’s needing to.
It’s more than spending Sunday morning with God,
It’s knowing you’ll be with Him forever.
It’s more than believing there is a God,
It’s knowing Him.
It’s more than reading the Bible,
It’s believing what it says.
It’s more than praying in times of need,
It’s praying always.
It’s more than singing “Jesus loves me”
It’s knowing he always will.
It’s more than loving your neighbor,
It’s loving your enemy, too.
It’s more than following the rules,
It’s obeying God’s will.
It’s more than being a good person,
It’s knowing God forgives you when you’re not.
It’s more than faith in Christ,
It’s a relationship with Him.
It’s more than being thankful,
It’s constantly giving thanks.
It’s more than asking “Why?”
It’s knowing God has a reason.
It’s more than serving others,
It’s expecting nothing in return.
It’s more than thanking God for blessings,
It’s praising Him through the storm.
It’s more than being baptized,
It’s accepting Christ as your Savior.
It’s more than knowing Jesus died on the cross,
It’s knowing your sins put him there.
It’s more than saying, “I’m a Christian.”
It’s living a life that proves it.
It’s more than a religion,
It’s a way of life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Too much to say...

I've taken a bit of a break from my blog and it's not just because summer is busy. That's so true, but there's more. There have been times I've had things going through my mind and I've thought I should write about that, but it didn't happen. Sometimes it's because there are 4 kids in my house who need me quite often, but primarily it was because God was simply talking to me. I needed to process what He had to say before I could share with someone else. But the reason for my hiatus doesn't stop there - He didn't simply want me to process the truth on my own, He expected me to apply it and live it out. He wanted me to make it my own!!

As everyone prepares to head back to school (myself included) and let learning resume, this summer I'm thankful class was in session on the Beran farm! The teacher is being praised! And the learner, well daily she's being tested!!

In the days ahead I hope to be able to share a bit of what God has been doing; as I share the lessons I've learned, I pray He will teach you as well. For now I will close with a passage I just read out of Lysa TerKeurst's participant guide for Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl,

"The more we see our life's purpose unfold...
...the more we'll be secure in the person God has created us to be.
The more we become secure in the person God created us to be...
...the more we'll be able to make peace with liking who we are.
The more we make peace with liking who we are...
...the more we'll be able to untangle self-distracting thoughts.
The less entangled we are...
...the more effective we'll be for Christ."

The process of moving through these stages is not easy and really it never ends, but as I reflect on the last few months I know it is worth it. Press on my friends, press on!

Monday, August 16, 2010

We have a winner!!

Thanks to all who have stopped by, left a comment and entered the give-away! Honestly I wish I could send you each a book, but since that can't happen I'm excited to say Joy is our winner! I will be in touch with you soon and for those of you who's name was not drawn if you're interested in ordering a copy of the book, click on the link on the sidebar.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Never too big...

In a house with 4 small children someone is always too big - too big for their clothes, shoes, car- seat, toys...you get the idea! But that's the way it's supposed to be; their change in size is a sign of growth and for that I am thankful.

This is just the beginning of things that my kids will outgrow - if I look ahead ten years they will be too big for most everything we have in the house at the moment. I take it a step farther and think about all I've outgrown over the years, that list almost seems endless!

Over the last month God has shown me there are some things I will never be too big for with one of them being spiritual mentoring. No matter where we are on our walk of faith we have not arrived yet and never fully will this side of heaven. On this earth there will always be more to learn and I don't know about you, but I have a ways to go in the be like Christ department!

Someone is out there who is a step ahead, she (or he) has walked the road I'm on and God wants me to learn from her. Her experience and encouragement can teach me. He can show me things thru her example.

This past year, Leanne, one of my spiritual mentors, and I co-published a book, Letters from Leanne, that chronicles our spiritual mentoring relationship. And through this process, God has shown me so many things - He is in control, He can use ordinary people like me and His ways are wonderful. He has also reminded me that I always have room for improvement and He is constantly working in me. Some of these lessons are hard and the melting and molding can be painful, but it's all for a purpose, HIS!!

As I walk this road, I'm grateful for the constant role spiritual mentors play in my life - these people help me, they listen and keep me focused on what and who the journey is all about! My kids are growing physically and I'm grateful I'm maturing spiritually (and they are too - being a mom also means you are a spiritual mentor, but that's another post!), but I'm thankful I will never be too big for the blessing of spiritual mentoring!

And now as I see my 3 year old influence our little guy, I realize we're never too small for spiritual mentoring either, but that's a thought for another day....

Now for a give-away, leave a comment sharing your thoughts and be entered to win a copy of Letters from Leanne! We pray our story will encourage you to create one of your own!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spiritual Mentoring and a Weekend Give-away

A special welcome to those of you visiting from Wendy Blight's blog! Thank you for stopping by and please be sure to leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of "Letters from Leanne - The Beauty of a Spiritual Mother-Daughter Relationship."

Spiritual mentoring is not a new concept or idea - it was present in the Old Testament with Naomi and Ruth and also in the New Testament with Mary and Elizabeth. It is also a way of life Paul calls us to in Titus 2:3-5, "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."

Some individuals can read these verses and think the older woman can hold a six week class for the younger woman and her job is done, but I don't believe that is the case. From my experience, spiritual mentoring is all about relationships and sharing life together. In Letters from Leanne, you will see how God grew our friendship and worked through it to mature our faith.

This road to maturity has had ups and downs, smiles and tears - much like the road you are walking. There have been times of joy - babies, weddings and new jobs; along with trials - injuries, the loss of a parent and a miscarriage, but because we've journeyed together the good times have been better and the burdens lighter. The words of Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 are true, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up."

Regardless of where you are on your walk of faith, spiritual mentoring is for you - someone is a step ahead, learn from her, and someone else is following behind, share with her. I have been blessed by how God has worked through spiritual mentoring in my life and it is a privilege to share that gift with others. I pray you've been encouraged to make it part of your life today!!

Now for the give-away - How about you, has spiritual mentoring made a difference in your life? How? If not, how do you think spiritual mentoring could bless you as you walk in faith? Have you asked God to put an older woman in your life? If not, do so now and please share your requests with me, I'd be honored to pray for you. Share your thoughts and enter to win a copy of "Letters from Leanne." Please remember to leave your email address so I can contact the winner!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Becoming More

Currently I'm taking part in a study of Lysa TerKeurst's new book, "Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl" which has been amazing! The personal study time is powerful and the group discussion has been wonderful as well. At the same time, I'm leading an online study of the book as well at the Rise and Shine Women's Retreat site. We are so looking forward to what God has to say through Lysa this October, but in the meantime are already being blessed by His words through her book.

True to form this week's chapter has made me laugh, challenged me and even created some tears. It's the tears that God is really working through tonight. You see Lysa shared a story and the verse "Teach me your way O Lord and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." Psalm 86:11

Perhaps you're wondering why those words make me cry...it's the memory associated with them. You see I recall Lysa sharing this verse and story on her blog nearly 2 years ago and days later her prayer became mine. As I walked through the pain of a miscarriage, I too cried out, "teach me YOUR way O Lord..."

You can read that story here, but tonight the tears aren't simply ones of pain; there is also joy. As I stop and reflect and read words I wrote nearly 2 years ago, I see GOD has answered my prayer. He is teaching me His ways. And I am so grateful and humbled and encouraged. I'm appreciative of where He's brought me, thankful for where He has me and excited about where He's taking me. As I continue asking Him to teach me His way, I know He will be faithful to show me and strengthen me and in the process I will become more!

Tonight I leave you with words from September of '08 -

"Teach Me Your Ways"
Lord, when I’m hurt
And just don’t understand –
Teach me Your ways.

When I’m sad
And just want to cry –
Teach me Your ways.

When I’m confused
And tempted to give up –
Teach me Your ways.

When I’m put down
And not sure I want to go on –
Teach me Your ways.

When I’m angry
And on the verge of losing control –
Teach me Your ways.

When I’m recognized
And receive praise that is Yours –
Teach me Your ways.

Lord, today and always
Thru the good and bad –
Teach me Your ways.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

An Update and Invitation

Thanks to all of you who have been praying for my mom! It's been a month tomorrow since she had her hip replaced - the first three weeks were full of setbacks - illness, a fall and staph infection to name a few. Thursday she was back to the Dr. and had a good check-up - thank God for that! She doesn't even have to use her walker around the house anymore, but the IV antibiotic will continue for another 3 to 4 weeks. Please continue to pray for complete healing and for God to draw her closer as things go according to His plan and not hers.

On a completely different note, I'd love to invite you to the Rise and Shine Women's Retreat site! We are hosting an online conversation of Lysa TerKeurst's latest book, "Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl." Today we're looking at chapter 4, "Beyond Sunday Morning" and would love to hear your thoughts on moving past the church routine! Join us here...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Road Signs

Today as we travelled, I saw numerous road signs - "Detour Ahead," "Road Closed," "Wrong Way," "Construction Zone" and "Men at Work" to name a few. As our route changed and time in the car increased my mind went to work - these same signs can be seen as we, I, walk in faith.

It can be easy to make our plans, think we know the destination God has for us and map out the best route to get there. Then I set out and things don't always unfold like I had expected. At times the "Detour Ahead" sign appears on my path and God helps me change directions. Occasionally my plans take precedence over God's, I move ahead, thinking I'm walking according to His will, but eventually I see the "Road Closed" sign and realize I was wrong. It's then I have to back up, seek His wisdom and direction and begin again. As the journey continues there can be times when I don't hear or follow directions and the "Wrong Way" sign appears - usually out of nowhere!

Today as we travelled I was thankful for the signs. Yes, they changed my plans, but they kept me from danger, warned me of what was ahead and were put in place by someone with more knowledge of the roads than me. The same is true for the signs I see as I walk in faith - sure they don't have flashing neon lights, but God, the ONE who knows what lies ahead, has His way of keeping me from danger and helping me change direction.

The next time we travel these same roads there most likely won't be any construction or men at work, but I've come to realize the road of life is constantly under construction and God is always at work! I simply pray I will be quick to see the signs He has for me! Proverbs 20:24 says, "A man's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?" God does direct our steps, ones I don't always understand, sometimes rarely, but I'm beginning to realize if I seek His direction and follow His map I will arrive at the destination He has for me.

Friend, today as you set out on your journey, look for the signs and obey them. "Listen, my son, (and daughter) and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path." Proverbs 23:19

Monday, June 21, 2010

Please pray

I didn't realize it had been so long since I last posted, but as I look back at the last couple of weeks - life has been busy. On the 9th my mom had her hip replaced and in the time since then she's had various setbacks - the most recent - staph infection. She is now back in the hospitol and has had 2 more surgeries. I ask that you keep her, Judy, and my dad, Dan in your prayers. The struggles are beginning to create discouragement.

I know the whole situation is further proof that we are not in control and remind me that we don't know what tomorrow will bring, but I trust God does!! Thank you for your prayers for my parents - my greatest hope is He will reveal Himself in a powerful way in a dark time. I also would appreciate prayers for myself - that He would strengthen me and use me to shine His light. Thank you friends.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Join us for a journey!

The Rise and Shine women's ministry team would love for you to join us on a journey to become more! In a couple of weeks we will begin reading Lysa TerKeurst's latest book, "Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl." For more info visit the Rise and Shine Women's Retreat site found here!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memory Day

Just yesterday I heard a teacher talk about asking a class of students, “What does Memorial Day mean to you?” She was surprised with the answers. “No school!” “We go camping!” “You remember people.” “We’ll go to the cemetery.”

Today as we explained things to our kids, I thought about the question. We didn’t have school, but we didn’t go camping either. We made our yearly trip to the cemeteries and remembered ones we miss. But I’ve also thought about things in a new way - earlier on the radio, the DJ was talking about paying tribute to the soldiers who have fought and sacrificed for our freedom. Ultimately that is what the day is about - honoring those who have fallen on our behalf. I thank God for the soldiers who have served and for those who continue to fight, protect and put their lives at risk today.

Then as he spoke of soldiers he took things a step further and reminded listeners that we are soldiers of Christ. Yes there is another battle going on and it’s not just in a foreign country; the LORD’S army is battling on US ground as well.

These thoughts have been on my mind and I’ve found myself turning to prayer. My 3 year old keeps calling it “memory” day and I’ve been asking God to help me remember. I don’t want to forget what others have done for me, the lives that have been lost, so I might be free. I want to remember the people who’s names are etched on the tombstones we’ve visited. I’ve asked God to help me share stories so my kids will remember their grandparents, a cousin, friends and neighbors.

As I was praying, God brought to mind the most important person I must remember - He was a soldier and a friend. He fought an opponent bigger than any army has ever faced; He defeated death itself. The victory He won, set me free; His life was lost, so I might live. But He was more than a warrior, He is a compassionate friend. On Memorial Day, I pause and remember all He’s done, the lives He’s touched and the difference He has made. And I’m humbled to pay tribute to Jesus - the ONE who lost His life for me!

I want to ask, "What does Memorial Day mean to you?"

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Will you call me friend?

My friends, people who have been important since my earliest years - the ones I’ve laughed with, played with and cried with. They have been my classmates and teammates. I've been in their weddings and they've been part of mine. Some of them I haven’t seen in years and others I see on a weekly basis. And now thanks to Facebook, I’ve reconnected with friends from days gone by.

Recently I’ve been thinking about friendships and how they change through the years - with graduation taking place I hear many young people say to one another, “let’s keep in touch,” “we’ll be friends forever” or something of the sort. I flashback and recall saying the same thing, but I really believed it too! I had spent years with these people and made memories - though others had told me and I had seen it happen, I was planning to be different - my friends and I wouldn’t drift apart.

It’s been 16 years since I walked across the stage, received my diploma and moved to a new chapter in my life. At the time I didn’t know what that all meant, but one thing I was certain of was a lifetime wasn’t too long to live as friends.

Well, it seems those who advised me things would change were right - nothing has stayed the same and that’s not all bad. Some friends go, others come, some return and a few friendships have grown stronger. Though I haven’t seen or spoken with some friends in years, I still count them as a friend, but I wonder if I will always be one they call friend.

Awhile back I read this poem (I apologize for not knowing the author - he deserves credit for great words and insight) and it has me thinking…

"My Friend"

My friend, I stand in judgment now,
And feel that you’re to blame somehow.
On Earth I walked with you day by day,
And never did you show me the way.

You knew the Lord in truth and glory,
But never did you tell the story.
My knowledge then was very dim;
You could have led me safe to Him.

Though we lived together here on Earth,
You never told me of the second birth.
And now I stand this day condemned,
Because you failed to mention Him.

You taught me so many things, that’s true;
I called you “friend” and trusted you.
But I learn now that it’s too late,
And you could have kept me from this fate.

We walked by day and talked by night,
And yet you showed me not the light.
You let me live, and love, and die,
You knew I’d never live on high.

Yes, I called you “friend” in life,
And trusted you through joy and strife.
And, yet, on coming to this dreadful end,
I cannot, now, call you “my friend.”

It’s true, my friendships have changed over the years - my best friend has a new name, Jesus, and He plays a role that will never change, Savior. This was one friend I never really expected, but am now so grateful for! He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24) and truly the ONE who loves at all times (Proverbs 17:17).

Today I wonder, will those who called me friend in this life say the same in the next? It’s not enough for a social network to say we’re friends…remember another line in the song? Friends are friends forever if the Lord is Lord of them!

Though I didn’t believe it years ago - friendships do change, but they can last forever! That only happens though when we share the same best friend! Jesus isn’t like the friends from junior high - He is big enough to be friends with us all and though He’s my best friend, He can be yours too!!

Someday just like our time together in school, on a team or in a town our time together on this earth will be over and I wonder, “will you call me friend?” I pray you will! And friend if you’ve read these words and have questions, want to know more or are curious how Jesus can be your friend please let me know! Email me at jillberan@yahoo.com If these are words you’d like to share with a friend, please do!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

When a Child has to Wait

“I want that!” “How much longer?” “How many days til Christmas?” I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea - little ones have many responses when it comes to waiting. Though the questions can change and topic can vary the struggle is usually the same - waiting is hard. It’s never something my little ones choose to do - if they WANT a cookie, they want it now; if they want to call Grandma, they want to do it now; if they want me to read a story, they want it read NOW!!

I’m not sharing this because I have demanding kids, they really are no different than the average child - one who has wants and needs and longs to have them filled. When the average child has these needs it’s natural to think they need to be met immediately. They don’t want to wait, it’s hard, it requires patience and sometimes even sacrifice.

This struggle can sometimes lead to not so pleasant results - the child who has to wait can become whiney, naughty, angry, demanding. We’ve all seen the child at the check-out counter have a tantrum as a result of being told, “No, you have to wait!” It’s not a pretty sight!

Recently life has shown me, though I’m no longer a child, sometimes I still have to wait. Nearly eight months ago, I was waiting for our baby to born - anyone who’s been there knows, waiting is hard!! I’ve waited for friends and family to get medical tests results, sometimes waiting is scary. I’ve waited for God to show me what comes next, sometimes waiting can be confusing.

But as I wait, God works - eventually our little man arrived, the tests results are revealed and God’s plan unfolds. Still though the waiting really never ends - we wait for a friend’s baby to be born, someone else has Dr. appointments and though God gives me a glimpse of what lies ahead, He says, “Not yet.”

Sometimes the “not yet” wait is the hardest - just ask my little girl who wants a bowl of ice cream thirty minutes before supper. She just knows it will be so good and she’s had to wait all day already, she just can’t wait. At times I can see what God has for me and I relate to Joy - it looks so good, I want it, it’s tempting to reach out and grab it on my own. But then I hear God change my words a bit, “Daughter, remember Your FATHER knows best!”

Those words can be hard to hear - it can be tempting to regress and act like that child in the grocery store, but as a child of God that’s not how my DAD has trained me to react. No in place of the tantrum, He wants me to trust and instead of me making things happen on my own, He wants life to happen on His time. And finally rather than me creating things by myself; He wants to use me in ways that are better than anything I could do on my own.

Though I’m all grown up, I’m still a child who has to wait and though the game is still hard, I’m thankful my Father really does know what’s best!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rejection

In the final home basketball game of my high school career, the game was tight with the conference title on the line and I came up with a steal. I grabbed the ball and headed to the other end, I put up a shot that would give us the lead only to have it rejected.

Rejection - it’s never fun on the basketball court and the effects of it in life are even more painful. This hurt can come in various ways - being rejected for things you do, rejected for what you believe, rejected by those you love… Sometimes this rejection is real and others it’s created by our, or at least by my interpretations.

Let me explain - my child disobeys, so I teach and re-teach, discipline and model only to have them repeat the act of disobedience. At times it can be easy for me to feel rejected, like I’m not accomplishing anything, but I need to remember my little one is a work in progress. There may be times they flat out reject my teaching, but with God guiding and strengthening me as their Mom, I pray they won’t reject me.

Then there can be seasons of drought in friendships when my mind can play the guessing game and return to the days of junior high, “what did I do wrong?” The lack of communication can leave me feeling rejected. Thankfully God usually doesn’t let me waste much time with these worries and the phone will ring or an email will arrive to remind me life is busy, friends are friends with words…and without.

Feelings of rejection can even take place in marriage - let’s be honest, after the wedding things change and with 4 kids they really change! Time together is not easy to find; dates can quickly become a thing of the past. Though feelings can make me feel rejected that is not the case, the truth is our lives are different and time together becomes more precious.

Really there can even be times when we, or at least I, feel (there’s that word again) rejected by God. Times when we expect things to play out a certain way and they don’t. Or when something or one is taken from us, our minds can wonder, ask “Why?” and then listen to satan answer, “Because He doesn’t care.” During these moments we must remember that feelings and emotions are things that come and go, they change with circumstances, truth on the other hand is real and stable. God is truth, His love and acceptance is real.

Yet bad things will happen, we will hurt, we may even feel rejected, but we must remember Paul’s words in Romans 11:1,2, “I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject His people, whom He foreknew.” That was true then and it still is today!

So with God on our side we must not forget that when those feelings of rejection come (and they will) life really isn’t much different than a basketball game. In that game years ago, emotions were strong, fans were loud and the game was tight. When my shot was rejected I couldn’t quit, we’d been coached to persevere. And our team did just that, so much so that in the final seconds of overtime, I got a steal and a second chance and a new result - in place of rejection, two points and a victory for the Wildcats. So it is in life, we must keep playing, stay focused, listen to our Heavenly coach and trust there will be victory in the end!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

We have a winner!

Thanks to all who left comments and shared the link to my book give-away! The winner is Amy from Reading it Daily! Congrats!!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"My Friend, A Mom"

You’re a diaper changing,
Meal makin',
Clothes foldin',
House cleanin',
Fight stoppin',
Bill payin',
MOM!

But as your friend,
I know there’s even more –
You’re a kid lovin',
Future changing,
Home makin',
Marriage building,
Difference making,
MOM!

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Mother's Day Give-Away

It's Mother's Day once again - a day to celebrate those who love us, care for us and raised us up. Now as a Mom myself this day takes on a whole new meaning - I understand the job - the daily demands and the tasks that don't always bring thanks. The work that it entails - jobs you can finish today, but will be back tomorrow and often times sooner!! I appreciate all my mom did for me, the sacrifices she made, gifts she gave, support she provided and the lessons she taught. She helped me become the person, and Mom, I am today!

This weekend I will also acknowledge "other Mothers" in my life - those who have loved me and touched my life in a motherly way. One area in particular is with my faith, those I like to refer to as spiritual mothers.

In John 3:3, Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

Then Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council says, "How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit."

The idea of being born again was confusing for Nicodemus and it may be for you as well, but as Jesus said, "the Spirit gives birth to spirit." Somethings are not for us to understand; faith is all about trusting God! A child knows when they are born, the newborn cry shows they are aware things have changed and in a similar way a child of God knows when the old has gone the new has come!

When an infant enters the world they are dependent, primarily on their mom to provide for their needs. As they grow and mature these needs change but still there is the need for someone to instruct, guide, nurture and love. The same is true in a spiritual sense - when we come to know Christ, we are new believers and we too need someone to instruct us in His Word, guide us in His ways, nurture us with His touch and love us like He does. In other words, we need a "spiritual Mom."

I have been blessed by others who have played this role and through them God has touched my life and strengthened my faith. I have been privileged to watch my children grow physically (and spiritually) and my spiritual moms have witnessed similar growth in me as a child of God.

Life is a journey and just as we never stop growing and learning physically the same is true for our walk of faith. As you celebrate Mother's Day, I pray you will take time to thank those who have touched your life in a "motherly way!"

Perhaps you will be selecting a gift for these special ladies and today I'd like to give you the opportunity to win one for yourself. Leave a comment, perhaps words about your spiritual mom and you'll be entered to win a copy of "Letters from Leanne - The Beauty of a Spiritual Mother-Daughter Relationship." If you don't have a blog you can comment anonymously, just include your email for contact info. Finally post a link to the contest on your blog or Facebook page and increase your chances to win - just leave a second comment saying you did just that! Check back on Monday to see who the winner is!!

Finally I pray you have a blessed Mother's Day - celebrating those who have touched your life and appreciating the lives you are blessed to touch!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

"The Power of One"

Though there's strength in numbers,
there is power in one -

One card with a word of hope
when it seems all's been lost.
One smile, a picture of joy
when times are tough.
One visit with a friend that lifts you up
when life has knocked you down.
One call when the day is quiet,
a reminder you are not alone.
One hug, an embrace of love,
a touch that says, "I care" and "you matter."
One prayer, words providing peace
with perspective changing power.
One person, a friend who makes a difference
without even attempting to.
One Savior who changed the world long ago
all..........by...........HIMSELF.

There is strength in numbers,
but there is power in One!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gone, but not forgotten...

Yesterday marked the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, a day many lost their lives and thousands of others lost their loved ones. These individuals are gone, but they are not forgotten.

But April 19th marked the anniversary of another loss for me - it’s the day we should have been celebrating the 1st birthday of our little one. A child we lost to miscarriage, a face we never saw, but a life we loved and at times still miss.

Yesterday as thoughts went to what might have been my mind wondered - would she be walking? Would she look like Joy or Jaylyn? How would J.D. feel about having 3 little sisters?

Then Jed’s cry interrupted my thoughts and a whole new series of questions stirred in my mind - what would we do without him?

I don’t understand all of God’s ways, but I trust Him. He really does give and take away. He comforts and strengthens. He helps me let go, but doesn’t cause me to forget. He leads and I follow. He loves, so I do too.

Daily I love my children, but today I’m reminded of my love for one of them in particular - the little lady I refer to as Jenae Hope. She’s played a big part in my past, the last few days she’s really been on my mind in the present and because of God’s grace I know she’ll forever be in my future.

Happy Birthday Honey!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Reflection"


He is my son,
so sometimes
I think about
the things he has done,
the words he has said
and the choices he has made.

I wonder,
"What does that
say about me?"

Then I remember
I am His daughter,
so I think about
the things I have done,
the words I have said
and the choices I have made.

I wonder,
"What does that
say about God?"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

In Control

Do you ever struggle with the need to be in control? This thought crossed my mind the other night when I was up with my almost 6 month old and then joined by our 3 year old. Lately it seems sleep has been hard to come by and that night when I was being beckoned from bed I honestly didn't want to get up. I just wanted to sleep and seriously thought if I could just control one thing I'd chose to have the power to set the sleep patterns in our house!!

Since God didn't hand me the reins, I got up with my little man and was soon joined by my princess Peanut. As I met their needs in the early hours of the day, God met mine. This idea of control or better yet my lack of it really had me.

For the longest time I didn't think I was one who struggled with being in control, but I've realized I was wrong. I think as Moms we, or at least I, like to think we have a little power over situations, but really our children are each unique individuals with the desire and drive to do what they want to do. Granted I can shape, guide and influence them, but in the end I am not in control...of the good or the bad...of whether they sleep all night or don't. I realize this issue of control will appear quite minimal when the teenage years hit but that's another post for another day!!

So back to how God met my needs - that night as I let go of my desire to sleep, God showed me I do have some control - perhaps it's not the control I want, but it is the control I have been given. I have no control of the circumstances that happen, but I am in control of my reaction to them.

I could sit there with a bad attitude and a grumbling heart or enjoy this time with my little ones who won't spend the 2 AM hour with me forever. I could spend my time thinking about how tired I was or appreciate the only quiet time our house has to offer. I could grumble about my husband sleeping all night or be thankful he'd be refreshed for the work tomorrow would bring. As my pastor says, "My response is my responsibility!" This is something I can control!! Easy? No! Necessary? Yes!

That night I chose to be in control and use my power the right way - I took responsibility and thus am thankful for my response. I snuggled with my little ones and took time to pray and as I did this idea of control went a step further.

In my quiet time God brought Micca Campbell to mind. I had the privilege of being part of her group during last years She Speaks conference and appreciate her heart for God and His girls. At the time she was waiting for surgery on an ovarian cyst that was possibly cancerous. I took some time to lift this sweet sister in prayer and as I did God showed me my lack of control in the sleep department really is quite minimal.

Losing an hour of shut eye really doesn't compare with the reality of facing cancer, but yet both situations remind me, all of us, we are not in control. Well at least in regards to the plans God has for us, but He has given us some control - that of our reaction. I couldn't change the fact that my sleep was interrupted and Micca couldn't avoid the surgery and possible outcomes, but our response was each of our responsibility.

Again my days on the basketball court come to mind - many times life too boils down to our attitude! Back then I couldn't control the opponent's size, speed or game plan, but I was in control of my work ethic, dedication and determination. The same is true in life - we have no idea what it will hand us, it is out of our control, but the way I react is completely up to me! And you!!

I'm thankful to say Micca's response was amazing, I'll quote her words, "I want to make God look good!!" She did and He made Himself look good - she is cancer free!! Praise the Lord! As for me the night folllowing the intro of this post everyone slept for at least 8 hours!! Obviously I haven't passed the test yet though as little Jed was up by midnight last night!!

I know someday he will sleep all night, but I know the lessons will continue and I'll constantly be reminded of all I don't control and given opportunities to make God look good by making the most of the control I have been given.

Regardless of what you're facing today though it all may seem out of your hands, remember your response is your responsibility! Rather than wishing for control of what's not yours, make the most of what is!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In then through...

Awhile back I had this thought and recently it came back to me, so I thought I'd share it with you - have you ever thought about how you can't walk through a room until you are in a room? Perhaps not, but take a minute and think about the truth in that statement.

The same thing can be said about traveling - as we journey down the road, we can't get from point A to point C without going through point B. Before we can go through point B we actually have to be in point B. And maybe point B is a big city that we'd rather avoid, one that maybe even scares us a bit. If we want to reach our destination we must enter the city, look at the map, navigate the traffic and eventually we will make it through.

I've been thinking lately how God works in similar ways - He's not going to work through me until He first works IN me. Sometimes that involves difficult situations and events that are hard to understand, but yet it's IN these things that He strengthens me and draws me closer to Him. And once we've walked through the situation I can look back and see His hand at work and He can work through me and use His daughter for His work.

So what room or city are you IN? Remember God has you there for a reason, one that will bring results - don't forget God is working IN you to prepare you for the moment he will work THROUGH you!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"I want that!"

Recently a friend was sharing her son’s reaction to a snowmobile that was being raffled - the instant he saw it, little Carter said, “Mom, I want that!!” In her mind she thought so does every other kid in the county, but went on to buy a ticket anyway. As I write this post I can relate to both Carter and his mom, you see Lysa TerKeurst is giving away 3 scholarships to She Speaks this summer and in order to enter there’s no ticket to buy instead she’s asking for your thoughts via a blog post.

This was a contest I almost didn’t enter for a few different reasons - the first one being my husband’s fishing trip also scheduled for July 30 - August 1, but he has assured me “if you win don’t you think we could work around that?” And second I can relate to my friend and hear myself saying, “every other blogger in the country wants to win!” But the biggest hurdle I’ve had to jump as I finally sit down to write is I’m not so sure this is something I want.

Let me explain…in order to begin here’s a little info on She Speaks - this is an annual conference put on by Proverbs 31 for writers, speakers and ministry leaders. And the event is amazing! I had the privilege of attending last year and I was truly blessed!! (Read part of that story here.)I left thinking it should be called He Speaks instead because God’s presence was powerful and His voice was loud!! I was encouraged and challenged. I was built up and given ways to improve. But mostly I was reminded of who I am in Christ and blessed by some wonderful friendships with sisters in Christ.

So with that said you may be wondering, why wouldn’t I want to win? And as I ponder you asking the question, I am asking it myself. The part of me that is prone to doubt and feel unworthy says this won’t happen anyway and if it does I don’t deserve it. Then there is the bit of me that prefers to stay where I’m at and can fear leaving my comfort zone and this part knows She Speaks is not simply a 3 day event. No, God strengthened me and matured me a year ago, which has led me to places I never expected and stretched me in ways that haven’t all been easy.

Finally, as I sit here now and ask this question I’m reminded of a conversation I had in my mind over a year ago when I contemplated my first She Speaks conference. At the time God had really put it on my heart and I sensed His leading to go, but as registration neared circumstances began to change. The friend I thought I’d travel with had another trip the same weekend and I found out I’d be 10 weeks from delivering our 4th child when I'd be taking my 1st plane ride by myself.

It all didn’t make sense and I remember asking myself, “Why? Why do you think you should go? Does this really make sense?” I mean here I was a farmer’s wife with 3 little ones who rarely traveled by car let alone a plane. Then thoughts shifted from the simple idea of leaving to really thinking about where it was I’d be going - a conference for speakers, writers and ministry leaders. Granted I was a MOPS coordinator, who was in the process of publishing a book and led our women’s Sunday School class, but still I wondered, "what does this mean? Where will this lead?" As possible answers rolled through my mind, I thought, “is that what I want?” And as a girl who preferred to live behind the scenes rather than on the stage, my answer was “NO!”

But God quickly reminded me, it’s not about what I want. He was calling me to She Speaks and though I was afraid, nervous and full of doubt He provided, He strengthened and He spoke. Last year as the conference came to a close I was amazed at how my thoughts had changed in 3 short days, I left wanting to register for She Speaks 2010.

I had been so touched by the entire event - the speakers, the other attendees, the prayer room, the whole experience. I knew I wanted that again, but lately my thoughts have been different - is this what God wants? I know that’s the clearest truth God spoke to my heart during my time in North Carolina - speaking, writing, ministry, my life, nothing has anything to do with what I want, it’s about what God does!

This leads me to the contest and back to my conversation from a year ago - though once again, I don’t want to leave my husband and 4 kids, I don’t want to step out of my comfort zone, I don’t want to deal with the pain that inevitably comes with growing my faith, but still I know if it’s what God wants, I will. Like Carter, my friend’s little boy, I’m beginning to hear myself say, “I want that!!” Only my words aren’t about a snowmobile and really not even winning a contest or attending a conference, no my desire is to truly want God’s will for my life. And maybe, just maybe that involves a trip to North Carolina again this summer…

How about you? Maybe you are the one God has already chosen as the winner for Lysa’s contest, but you haven’t entered yet! To do so click here and to find more information on She Speaks, click here!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Feed my Sheep

We are back in the sheep business, Grandpa brought 3 orphan lambs over for the kids this past Monday and they are excited. Me, on the other hand, well, not as much. Though I grew up enjoying the soft little animal, the last few days these innocent lambs will have become one more thing to do on my list.

So this morning as it’s early and raining, the idea of heading out through the mud to feed my sheep didn’t sound like fun. Before I made it that far, my husband started the day in typical fashion with an “I love you.” Then I changed things up a bit and simply asked, “You do?” He quickly responds, “Yes.” So then like Jesus challenged Peter I say, “Then feed my lambs.” (John 21:15-19) Job caught on to what I was up to and assured me I was the “sheep farmer.”

I mixed up the milk and headed outdoors wondering if maybe this would be the feeding when our little rebellious lamb would want to eat. For some reason, Fuzzy has not adapted to change and has rejected every one of our attempts to feed him. This time he came up to the gate and even sniffed the bottle, but that’s where his interest stopped. As the others eagerly and aggressively took their bottle, I appreciated their compliance and liked them better than the rebel who created more work and was a potential heartache for my little ones.

As I thought about this, God spoke to me in the sheep barn - it’s not always easy feeding the sheep. Just like Jesus asked Peter to demonstrate his love for his Savior, he does the same for me and you. You may never have the opportunity to literally feed some lambs (count your blessings!!), but in the spiritual sense we are all sheep and God has put some on your path to nurture and care for.

My experience this morning reminded me that though it is humbling to serve the Lord and glorify Him - the position doesn’t come without work. There will be days we don’t want to get out of bed and do the jobs that aren’t real fun or come at a bad time. In life there will also be rebels - those who want nothing to do with what we have to offer, others who run away after hearing what we have to say, some who tease us and act as they are interested only to turn away in the end. My little rebel this morning reminded me of the old saying, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” The same idea is true as we feed God’s lambs - we can do our part, but then must trust Him to do the rest.

Another thought I had as I wrestled (almost literally) with “Fuzzy” was the idea that though each individual is unique, we are all created in God’s image. Though some lambs I’m called to feed will be compliant and easy to work with that does not make them any better or more valuable than the “rebels” who cross my path. Each and every person is precious to God, and should be to me as well!

Now as I bring this post to an end, it has a new twist - my dad stopped by with a replacement lamb for the kids - he didn’t want us to have any trouble. So he’s taken “Fuzzy” and left us with a new lamb yet to be named. This unexpected event has put another picture in my mind - I know my dad didn’t want to see my kids suffer through losing a lamb, but I also know he is a “shepherd” who cares about his sheep. Friends, God is the same - He cares about you and His lambs you are called to feed. If there is a rebel, a problem child, someone you are struggling to reach, trust the Good Shepherd, He cares more about that individual than you!!

So let me ask you, “Do you love the Lord?” If so, “Feed His Sheep!!”