Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!!

I consider you, my reader, a friend and wanted to share our family Christmas letter with you as well!  I pray the season finds you full of excitement and joy and asking God to bless you in 2012!!
    I always love trips to the mailbox during this time of the year, not because I like winter, but it’s a joy to get updates from each of you and see some pictures too!  This year I’ve found myself struggling to sit down long enough to write our Christmas letter.  As the day of celebration gets closer and closer, I find myself a bit overwhelmed and feeling a little stress.  Perhaps you can relate?  Presents to buy, cookies to bake, letters to write, plans to make…you get the idea!  But tonight I’ll pause and scratch one thing off my list!
    The highlight of the year would have to be the birth of Jesse Clay Beran!!  He arrived on July 19th and was instantly loved by all!!  I feel like a coach once again…it’s no longer 2 forwards and 3 guards, but 3 boys and 2 girls!!  So for the rest of Team Beran, the year has been busy with school, AWANA’s, sports, sleepovers, farming, sewing with Grandma Marie and the annual summer trip with Grandpa and Grandma Biwer.  There were lots of fun times and many memories made during 2011!!  Thanks to all of you for being part of them!!
    As I sit here and reflect on the year we’ve had my thoughts have shifted a bit, being overwhelmed at Christmas really isn’t something new.  I’m sure I could ask my mom, grandma or any mom if Christmas and all the prep it includes ever left them overwhelmed and the answer would be yes.  But I’m thinking of going back further than that with thoughts of another Mom, Mary the Mother of Jesus, the boy we celebrate.  Then there’s Joseph and the Shepherds…if I had to guess at some point in the story I believe they were overwhelmed. 
    So if you find yourself in a similar place this Christmas will you join me in setting aside the overwhelming feelings and simply remember the Reason for the season!  You’ll still be overwhelmed - not because of all you have to do, but instead because of all God has done!  These feelings won’t lead to stress, but always help me remember I am blessed!! 
   Merry Christmas to you!  We pray the season brings you peace, joy and love and even leaves you feeling a bit overwhelmed!!! 
                                                                                                      With Love,
                                                                                                      “Team Beran”
                                                                                                       Job, Jill,
                                                                                                       J.D. (8), Joy (6),
                                                                                                       Jaylyn (4), Jed (2)
                                                                                                       and Jesse (5 Months)

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”  Numbers 6:24-26

Question of the Week

Lately it seems like every conversation holds a similar question, "Are you ready for Christmas?" If I'm the one being asked my answer is "No!" There's still presents to buy and wrap, a few decorations that are still in the box and cookies in need of frosting. But the other day I was challenged by an answer I heard someone share.

When he was faced with the question of the week I heard him say, "In my heart, yes. Under the tree, not yet."

Immediately in my mind I thought wow, that is good! Perhaps I'm the only one who's been distracted and a bit stressed with all there is to do, but I was feeling quite convicted of losing focus of what the season is all about as I heard this gentleman's response.

Thankfully his words have challenged me to make the most important preparations and truly be ready for Christmas! Friends it's not about the gifts we put under the tree, it's the One God sent for you and me! It's not about the gifts we buy or receive, but instead the one we give when we die to self and choose to believe!

So today I'll a question you've probably already heard, "Are you ready for Christmas?" My prayer is our hearts will be ready on Christmas morning!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Baby Born to Die - Repost

Yesterday our Sunday School performed their Christmas program and I was reminded of the one that took place two years ago. These memories took me back to my blog and after reading these words again I felt the push to share them once again.

From January 2010 - 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 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!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

No Comparison

Recently I was reminded of a prayer I prayed in the past.  Back in October, I attended the Rise and Shine Women's Retreat.  The day was wonderful, God was there and hearts were touched.  This was the third year I've been blessed to be a part of this retreat, but this was the first year I was not on the leadership team.  Honestly, it was different to sit in the crowd and be on the receiving end. 

Like I said, the day was amazing.  The worship was wonderful, the fellowship was uplifting and God spoke through the guest speaker, Susie Larson.  I wasn't the only one who felt this way...in the days that followed I heard many comments, all positive and full of praise.

Such as, "This was the best one yet."  "Susie Larson was wonderful."  "I don't think it can get any better."  "God spoke through Susie in a powerful way."  "I don't know if they can top this."  Words of praise and rave reviews.

But after a few days this started to bother me.  I'll be honest...initially that scared me a bit because I didn't want this to be about me.  It was hard to step down from the team, but I know it was a step God led me to.  So when these thoughts first hit I asked God to take them away for fear of them leading to jealousy. 

A few days passed and someone shared, "Susie was the best!"  Again I found myself bothered by the comparisons.  This time I clearly remember stopping and asking God, "Why does this bother me so much?"  Before I go on I want to say God spoke to me in amazing ways through Susie Larson...she truly is a woman filled with the spirit!  I am thankful for her and all God says through her, but I can say the same thing about Renee Swope and Lysa TerKeurst (Speakers in '09 and '10). 

So I sat in silence and waited for an answer to my question.  It was as if God assured me in His eyes they're all the best, but like usual then He asked me a question, "If this comparison thing bothers you so much, why do you do it all the time!?!"

My reaction, "Ouch, that hurt!!"  God's right (isn't He always?!!) I do that all the time and it's always the other guy who is the best!  And those thoughts are ones that bother Him!  He doesn't want me, or you, comparing ourselves to anyone.  We are all made in His image and if we've accepted Him, His spirit can work through all of us.  It's not a competition and I believe Susie, Renee and Lysa would be the first to agree with that statement.

Actually I've heard Lysa say, "We're all on the same team!  Let's work together to make Jesus the star!!"  Friend that's only going to happen when we all strive to be who God made us to be and allow Him to shine through us.  Then we will be our best and the glory will be His!

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."  Matthew 5:16


Thursday, December 8, 2011

"I can't!" - Part 2

The other day I wrote about a new way to look at the phrase, "I can't!" You can read all the details by clicking here, but to summarize I shared how sometimes "I can't" is actually what God wants us to say. These words are good when they are words of surrender. Basically for me it was the realization that I was at place where I couldn't do the task that God was calling me to and that is a good thing.

But over the last couple of weeks I think I've taken the thought that "I can't" is a good phrase a bit too far. Because honestly these two little words aren't always a good thing. When "I can't" becomes an excuse these words no longer please our Father.

Again this thought takes me back to my coaching days when girls on my team found themselves being punished for verbalizing the words my mind has been saying. "I can't dribble behind my back." "I can't do a left hand lay-up." "I can't get up that early to lift weights." "I can't...." These were words of doubt and defeat. I didn't want my girls to give up before they even began. And I didn't want a little work to keep them from being all I knew they could be.

Friend, the other day God brought all this back to mind and I felt like dropping to the floor and doing some push-ups. You see my "I can'ts" were rolling through my mind...I can't write...I don't have time. I can't write...she's better anyway. I can't be a good Mom...I lost my patience again. I could go on but you get the idea.

How about you? Do you have any "I can'ts" rolling around in your mind? Perhaps what God is calling you to is bigger than you ever imagined, maybe it requires time (or money) you don't have, perhaps it appears to be more work than you would like, I don't know, but I do know this - when our "I can'ts" are based on our abilities or resources they are nothing but an excuse. Think of God as our heavenly coach He knows what and who we can be and He doesn't want a little work, doubt or fear to keep us from fulfilling the purpose He has for us.

Would you join me in doing what my friend, Kimberly shared in a recent comment, lay your "I can'ts" at His feet. And as you do remember, He CAN and if He lives in you that means you CAN too!! I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:13

Off to do just that and for old times sake I think I'll do a few push-ups too!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"I can't!"

Lately I've found myself thinking about the phrase, "I can't!" At times my children have said it, but I believe it's been on my mind because it's been on my heart. And over the last month I've realized there are two sides to these common words (ones we probably hear and say and think more than we know) - the good and the bad.

Honestly it was the good side that hit me first, the side I hadn't ever really thought about that much. You see thoughts of "I can't!" take me back to my coaching days...my girls knew that negative phrase would bring punishment, but still they often found themselves doing push-ups after expressing the doubt we all feel.

So I have to admit I was a bit surprised when I got to thinking about these words in a positive way. Before I explain, here's a quick summary of where I'm at - God has put it on my heart to write a book - a crazy, scary thought, but He's done that before and it happened. This last month I've been wrestling with this and even avoiding it at times, but a couple of weeks ago I found myself saying, "I can't."

In the midst of this, memories of my first crazy, scary book came to mind. I clearly recall the first time I verbalized this idea...the scene is playing in my mind right now and these are the words I hear myself say, "I could write a book."

Don't get me wrong in no way was I oozing with confidence 4 years ago when I wrote! But I have been struck by the comparison between my initial response back then (well it was in words anyway!) to the thoughts I have now - "I could" versus "I can't."

More than once I've found myself in prayer about this saying things like, "Lord, if I really was supposed to do this wouldn't I have a bit of confidence?" or offering words like these, "I can't - I don't have the time, the words, the wisdom, the platform" and on and on and on!!

During one of these quite conversations, God helped me look at the contrast between the two phrases in a whole new way. "I can't" is what He wants me to say...it's not a bad thing when it means I'm surrendering, when I'm letting go of what I can do and trusting what He can. He showed me that sometimes, "I could..." simply means I might, or someday I'll get around to it and when I do, I'll do it in my own power. That is not what our Father, the One who lives in me wants for me, or for you.

Friend, I don't know if you've found yourself saying, "I can't" lately, but today I challenge you to think about it...perhaps that is just the response God has been waiting for! Sometimes these words are a good thing, but that's not always the case so stop by soon to hear about my experience and share a bit of your own.

Today I leave you with this thought, "when we can't remember He can!!"

Monday, November 7, 2011

Eating Twinkies

My kids love to hear stories about my younger days and a few weeks ago I recalled one from my college days. It went something like this...

"After I hurt my knee, I rehabbed and came back to play basketball, but things were never the same. Mommy just wasn't as fast as I used to be and it was just different so I decided the next year I wasn't going to be on the team anymore. But Antonio, a friend who played on the men's team didn't agree with my decision and had this to say, "Girl, you can handle the rock. You gotta play the game. What are you going to do? I know, you're just going to sit around, eat Twinkies and get fat!!"

The kids thought that was hilarious!! They also wondered what Twinkies were and one of them wondered, "did you get fat Mom?"

I explained what Twinkies were, shared about my experience with the intramural team and assured them how looking back this was clearly part of God's plan. We then moved on with our day with me thinking the Twinkie story was part of my past once again.

That was true until this past Saturday when my 4 year old and I were in the grocery story when something that looked like the Twinkies I had described caught her eye.

She pointed to the box and said, "Mom, are these those things that boy thought would make you fat??"

Though the box was labeled "Cloud Cakes" they were the same yellow, creme filled snack Antonio was referring to, so I said, "Yes!!"

She then gets a smile and asks, "Can we buy some?" I notice they're on sale, tell her to put one in the cart and we move on.

Yesterday I looked at the box sitting on our counter and had a new thought. Actually I asked myself a question, "Spiritually have I been sitting around, eating Twinkies and getting fat?"

Honestly that thought came from nowhere and in a way it hurt. But I know where it came from and really conviction is a good thing!!

Just last Monday, I posted a bit about enjoying a retreat a year ago I had been a part of and how that's been hard at times. Last January when I took that step, I had plans to use the time I would have been attending meetings to work on the new thing God had put on my heart. Well let's just say my intentions were good, my follow through not so much.

Rather than allowing me to stay there and beat myself up for failing once again, God gave me grace and reminded me of the work He's done through me. He also took me back to my college days and how walking away from basketball was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. At the time I didn't know it, but He was asking me to walk away from something I LOVED in order to find something that was so much better!! (And someone who would LOVE me back!)

Those memories excite me to let go and look forward to what is to come. And these thoughts remind me of this passage, “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:34-38)

Friends, Jesus wasn't concerned with his meal for the day, so I know He wasn't sitting around eating Twinkies!! As we seek and serve Him we shouldn't either!! Today I challenge you to ask yourself, "Spiritually are you eating Twinkies?"

Monday, October 31, 2011

"Who am I?" - A women in awe and should always be!!

Wow!! The month is about to end, meaning this 31 day journey will do the same! Though my day after day posts will be done the quest to answer this question will never be. So rather than a post that wraps everything up, I want to share what's on my heart...

This past Saturday I was blessed to attend the Rise and Shine Women's Retreat! It's the 3rd time I've been there, but the first time I attended as one simply going to be encouraged, refreshed and renewed. The last two years I've been part of the team, which was wonderful and a blessing itself. But it was a bit different to sit and relax rather than be running around tying up loose ends and getting a bit stressed with thoughts of being on stage.

So Saturday I drove down a bit sad, though being on the team adds a little stress, it also includes a lot of excitement. As I drove I prayed and asked God to help me let go of what was and rather than miss what's always been I asked Him to help me enjoy the day He'd put together. I also prayed for Him to speak, I knew He would, so then I asked for His help in listening.

I walked in the doors greeted by familiar faces and the day began. Susie Larson was the speaker, but often times the voice I heard belonged to God. Her opening talk was all about identity and if you've followed my blog over the last month and really the past year, you know that topic has been on my heart. Much of what she said encouraged me and confirmed what God has already been saying...I truly was touched and blessed.

By mid-morning I realized God had heard and was answering my prayers - towards the end of one of her talks, Susie led women in a time of identifying the things we hold onto. She encouraged us to write these down, crumple the paper, walk to the front, throw them down and leave it all in God's hands.

As the music started some women began to write, others were deep in thought and for a few tears began to fall. I took my list, which basically consisted of fears and doubts, and went to the front. As I returned to my seat I was struck by all the women moving forward...many with emotion evident on their face. I sat and again looked to the front to see women of all ages, from all places and in various stages, many of them joined with one another praying.

Though the music was instrumental it was then I began to listen....the Lord spoke to my heart, "Jill, look around, do you see this? Look at what I've done. Leave those doubts and fears in my hand and trust - you can't, but I can. Remember this!!" By now I'm the one with tears in my eyes and emotion on my sleeve.

Friend I want to explain a bit more, five years ago this month for the first time ever God put the idea of a women's conference on my heart. Today as I've continued to reflect, I went back to my prayer journals to see how this all started...

From Oct. 16, 2006, "Lord, if this dream I had is at all a message from You show me what to do. Never in my life would I have pictured myself doing something like this...Open the doors to what You want me to do and then give me the confidence and ability to do it. Lord it is amazing how You work!!"

God let that all sit for awhile as He continued to prepare me for what was to come. So fast forward to December of 2008, this is what I wrote,

"Lord it seems you've really been putting this conference idea on my heart quite a bit. And revealing some more details...in my mind this makes sense and I can see it, but then I think of all it involves and this is so beyond me. Father I know that means it will be You, so I ask you to help me stay focused on that and please keep showing me what to do. Lord, I trust You and know you have plans for good - don't let me mess them up."

Then from the very next day, "Lord this conference idea is on my heart and it seems you are revealing more pieces of the puzzle. If it's me doing that show me, but if it's You lead me on. I want it all to go according to Your plan. It is exciting to think about what You could do with this - Lord I know You have this on my heart for a reason!!! Keep me humble and may all of this glorify You!!"

Why do I tell you this?? Friend this is an idea that I thought was crazy!! Seriously I was nervous to share it with my husband, but God wouldn't let it die. Every step He led me to was one I was afraid to take. Believe me, it has been a journey...one that has taught me so much!!!

Over these last five years, He has helped me ask the question "Who am I?" but more importantly He's given me the answers and is now helping me believe them!! This past Saturday, He reminded me I am His chosen child, a daughter He delights in!! A new creation He works in and can work through - when I say yes!

Friend, perhaps today He is trying to get you to take a step, but like me you're afraid or feel undeserving, let my story encourage you - it's not at all about us, He is the one who will do it!! Just say yes and prepare yourself to look back with tears!!

We serve a BIG God, One we will forever be in awe of!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Who am I?" Looking in the mirror...

Jesse, our 3 month old, has discovered a new favorite thing to do - he loves to look in the mirror! He sees himself and smiles, then shakes with excitement followed by giggles that make me smile. The routine is one we've all come to enjoy!!

This morning though as I held him in front of the mirror I was convicted. You see mirrors have never been my friend, actually I've worked pretty hard to avoid them. Even today (as I tried to ignore the thoughts of conviction) I couldn't help but realize I was intentionally keeping my eyes from seeing the face they were a part of.

Instead I kept watching my little man and found great joy in how he interacted with the face that smiled back at him. He loved the little guy who looked just like him, this face made him smile. He was pleased with what he saw. As a Mom this was fun to see.

Then as I called for my husband to "come and watch this" I was struck that it's what a father likes to see as well. Friends, I'm not just talking about Jesse's dad; no, I truly believe it's what our Heavenly Father wants to see too.

He created me, He created you and He created us in His image. So let me ask you a question, "When you look in the mirror what do you see? How do you respond? Or like me is it something you don't even do?"

Ladies, Psalm 45:11 tells us, "Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord." If He is enthralled by our beauty that must mean He thinks we are beautiful. I'm sure somebody is thinking, "Yeah, but you haven't seen what I see in the mirror."

You're right, but I know what I've seen in the mirror and I have plenty of words to describe the picture, but beautiful has never been one of them. Like I said, I was feeling convicted this morning and there was a reason. So let me share a few more thoughts -

Psalm 139:14 says, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." I have read and heard this verse numerous times, perhaps you have too, but today I thought about it a bit more.

The first three words really made me think. "I praise you" - what does that look like? It can look like a lot of things, but I know it doesn't look like avoiding looking at what He's created or shuddering when I do.

I'd have to say praising Him looks a bit more like what I see as I watch my son look in the mirror. I don't think you'll sneak up to find me smiling or giggling as I stand in front of the mirror, but you will find something new.

Tonight I'll be posting some truths on the mirrors that have always told me lies and praying that God will forever remind me of the joy I feel as I watch my little man smile at himself. May we all remember our Father does the same when it's His child looking in the mirror!!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Who am I?" - Quote for the Day

You are who God says you are! – Your past and other people do not define you.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Who am I?" - The girl who wanted to die...

Today will you journey with me as I tackle an area that at times I tend to avoid? You see for a long time this specific answer to our question was one I was not proud of, you might say it was a secret I wanted to keep. But God, has a purpose for the pain and perhaps a plan to use my past to help someone else's present.

I believe sometimes in order to answer the question, "Who am I?" we also need to consider the question, "Who was I?" Though we may no longer be that person, God uses who I was to shape who I am and can use that to help me become who He created me to be. So on today's answer...

Growing up, I was a child who got along with everyone, but wasn't real close to anyone. Others saw me as a great listener, but I rarely gave anyone the opportunity to do the same for me. Though I was surrounded by people who loved me, cared for me and supported me there were times I was lonely. It didn't help that I struggled with my looks and though I was a people pleaser I knew I'd let them down.

As my high school years passed by, the hole I was falling in seemed to get bigger. By the time I left for college, depression was part of my days. (Though I had yet to admit it.) Time went by and the days got darker until September of '99 during my second year of teaching.

It was a Tuesday and after struggling to connect with and gain respect from the kids I wanted to inspire, I felt like a failure. I looked at others' lives and thought I'd never measure up. As I listened to this repetition of lies and negative thoughts I convinced myself I didn't matter and uttered 4 words that have changed my life, "I want to die."

Instantly in my mind I had a plan, a way to end it all; but as I pulled out my journal, God had another plan. A thank you card from a Mom of one of my former students fell out and I picked it up. Her words shook me and reminded me of the desire I'd always had to set a good example and then my fear of failure kicked in and I was afraid I'd mess up my attempt at the unthinkable and have to face all the people I'd tried to leave behind. So rather than picking up my car keys, I grabbed the phone and called for help rather than going on a ride that would end it all.

Now for the sake of time, I'll spare you some details, but I do want to address my answer to the question "Who am I?" Though it hurts me to say this, I was the girl who wanted to die. Like I said for many years this was something I was ashamed of; if a conversation turned to suicide I found myself becoming very silent on the outside, but internally I'd beat myself up with thoughts like, "I can't believe you ever considered that!" Friend maybe you are there, if so can I share a new thought? A radical one?

I believe God wants us to die, just not the way the world defines it. It's not a physical death He desires but instead He wants us to die to self. And that's exactly what happened to me twelve years ago this fall, I finally realized I was not in control, it was not my job to fix everything or make everyone happy, nor was it anyone's job to fill me up or make me happy. By coming to the end of myself, I was able to go to the cross and receive all Christ had for me.

As I think about this John 11:25 comes to mind, "Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die." I believe Jesus is saying we can't live for Him and still do what we want, there's not room for Jesus and everything else; it's a one or the other decision. In this case dying isn't a bad thing, no, it's a good thing! It's what God wants me to do and you too!

The Bible supports this truth with Paul's words in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." When I decided to accept Christ, I was crucified with Him. Simply said, I died.

On that night back in 1999 I had no idea this is where my dying would lead, but God did. At that time I really didn't know much about a personal relationship with Christ, but as my Creator, God knew what would bring me to HIM.

In the days since there hasn't always been that same desire to die, but daily GOD calls me and you to die to our self and live for HIM!! Galatians 5:24 sums it up quite well, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."

I'll be honest this isn't always easy and I don't always succeed, but it is God's desire for me. By doing this I will become who He created me to be. The Word tells us only by losing our life will we find it! (Matt.16:25)

I understand this is a scary concept, but then I recall those days of depression and the moments I thought physical death was the only answer. If you've been there, I'd guess you'd agree that IS scary!! I never thought I'd be one who wanted to die and like I said for years the memory of desiring just that brought pain and shame, but today I'm grateful for who I was because it has played a critical role in helping me become who I am.

This process of becoming can be difficult because it is hard to lay it all down for the sake of Christ, but as I reflect on my life and see the times I've done just that I know it's worth it!! I pray you do too!! Today may we reflect on Paul's words, "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." Phil. 3:7-11

"Who am I?" The girl who wanted to die, and did!! Friend, if these thoughts create questions in your mind or confusion in your heart please feel free to email me! (jillberan@yahoo.com) If God is speaking to you and calling you to surrender; I pray you will respond. It truly is the most important part of our journey to answer the question, "Who am I?"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Who am I?" - They were going to call me Clay!!

Growing up I can recall a conversation my parents, sisters and I had about our names. If I would have been a boy, my parents planned to call me Clay Matthew. The name was in honor of two of my great-grandfathers, but as a child I remember thinking, "Clay? Really?" In my mind clay was too close to dirt and I was thankful for the name I'd received.

So now we fast forward to this past July and I'm the Mom naming my son! You guessed it, I did what I was grateful my parents didn't do - our son will forever be known as Jesse CLAY Beran!!

Daily my other two sons prove that boys have no problem with dirt, but that has nothing to do with the reason for the name.

Nearly a year ago, we found out we were expecting; honestly I was a bit surprised and if I thought too much I became a bit stressed. But God had it all in control, this was obviously part of His plan and yet another experience He was going to use to teach me.

The "Who am I?" question was on my mind back then and during one of my overwhelming moments He gave me an answer I didn't expect. One day I found myself reading Jeremiah 18 and I realized the name I never wanted was one God used to define me.

Verses 3-7 say, "So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel."

I read these words and it was as if verse 6 became real personal as I heard God whisper to my heart, "Can I not do with you, Jill, as this potter does?" I am clay in His hands and friend so are you.

This is an important answer to understand as we seek to know who we are. Accepting this truth is critical in becoming who God created us to be! As I return to the passage above, the words - "shaping it as seemed best to Him" are ones I love. These bring peace and joy.

And honestly tonight they bring tears...you see a year ago, I wasn't so sure about this being clay business. In a way I was trying to form my own pot - I had my own plans and ideas about how I thought my life would unfold. Friends I'm sorry to say that didn't include our little Jesse Clay.

I'm so thankful God knows best. I'm grateful He is patient with me. Again and again!! I'm in awe of how He works! I'm appreciative of how He continues to show me who I am!!

Though no one has ever called me, "Clay" it's comforting to know there is a potter who holds me in His hands and does what's best for me!! (Even when I don't realize it!!) And with tears, I'll add I'm blessed to know He holds my little "Clay" as well!!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Who am I?" - A Servant

Nearly a year ago, for a reason I no longer remember we were talking about servants and our son asked, "What's a servant." I replied, "Someone who does work for you, they might wash your clothes or make your meals." He listened and quickly responded, "Kind of like a Mom."

My husband immediately stepped in and said, "Your mom is not your servant." I know what Job meant and I'm grateful for his concern, but lately as I've been thinking about the question, "Who am I?" this is an answer God has given.

His message was loud and clear a week ago when nearly everyone in our house took a turn with the stomach flu. By definition a servant is one who performs domestic duties and that week some of those duties, namely cleaning and laundry multiplied. I was serving my family and if you're a Mom, you know that's not just something we do when kids are sick.

Let's take this a step further though and think about what it means to serve biblically. 1 Peter 4:9-11a has this to say, "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ."

God calls us to serve others and will give us the strength to do just that! He also has given us an example...remember how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples?? (John 13) Jesus himself had this to say, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." (vs. 14-15)

Servant may not be a job we dreamt of when we were little or one we always enjoy when we're older, but as a child of God it is one He has given to us! And when we do what He has asked we will be blessed!!

J.D. was right - a servant is kind of like a Mom, but more than that a follower of Christ is interchangeable a servant for Christ. How will you serve today??

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Who am I?" - One who needs to trust!!

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I'm beginning to believe this is my life verse! It has come up through the years in what the world would call random ways, but I know it's anything but random to God. He uses these words to speak to me and to remind of what I need to do!!

Just the other night He did this again...for the last 2 years I was part of the Rise and Shine Women's Retreat leadership team, but last winter God called me to step away from a position He had used and I had enjoyed. Through the year I've kept in touch with the team and prayed for the event, but as it nears I have found myself missing what was and wondering, "Why?"

Practically I know why - I'm a busy mom and wife...planning a retreat takes a lot of time and energy, something that was lacking with a newborn this past July. Honestly I also know God clearly called me to step down, but still it's hard at times.

So this past Thursday night I received the list of names and promises I'd agreed to pray specifically for leading up to this year's retreat and God got my attention again. My name was "randomly" placed under Proverbs 3:5-6, the same promise I'd "randomly" selected out of a basket at last year's retreat.

I was like, "Wow God!" and moved on with the prayers, but through the night I thought about this more and more. I found myself wondering why this verse again. Then my mind would shift as I reflected on all God had done at Rise and Shine the previous two years and anticipated how He'd work this year as well. These thoughts then led me to that place of feeling like I was missing out...like if God wasn't using me for this BIG event, I was on a vacation or something. Thankfully I didn't follow this down my typical dead end trail to doubt, but instead returned to the promise that has been chasing me around!!

I went to sleep not knowing the why's, but there was peace and I chose to do what God's Word said, "TRUST!!" And friend, I have to say God responded in a fast and BIG way!

The very next day, the kids and I were doing some reading when my little peanut (Jaylyn, age 4) sat on the couch beside me with her sister's old Awana book. She wanted me to read the story with the snake picture. I had my agenda with more school work to do, dinner to make and probably a diaper to change (and in my mind I might have even grumbled a bit), but I knew this wasn't the time for my "we'll do it later" response.

So we get into the story and it's all about the Israelites complaining and whining (I'm thinking OK God, I get it!! And praying the kids do too!!) We read on and the story closes with Moses lifting up the serpent and then the final two sentences say this, "Many years later, God lifted up Jesus on the cross. If we believe (trust) in Jesus, we will be saved from our sin and live forever with God."

The story ends and typically I'd be on to the next thing, but God kept me still and moved my eyes to the question on the bottom of the page. I look at my little Jaylyn, who's snuggled in beside me with her big brother to her right, and ask, "Have you trusted Jesus as your Savior?"

She shakes her head no, so we talk about what that means. I talk...she listens. I ask questions...she answers. We talk about Jesus knocking on the door of her heart and she says, "I want to let Him in."

We pray. She tells Jesus, "I know I'm bad and I know you died for me. I want you to live in me. Come in. I love you." We say, "Amen" and open our eyes - she is grinning and I'm crying. Her big brother who's observed all of this simply says, "I bet they're celebrating."

Jaylyn then asks, "Who??" And big sis says, "In heaven, they are having a party!!" She smiles again and decides we better make cupcakes!!

We had reason to celebrate...a child taking a step towards owning their faith and choosing to follow Christ!!! And personally I felt like having a party too, God clearly showed Himself faithful to me! Twenty four hours prior to this, I'd let myself think I wasn't doing much for God, then He reminds me to TRUST and look what He does!! He brought 3 John 1:4 to life, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."

Friends, His ways are not our ways...they are so much better!! May we keep walking in them!!!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Who am I?" - A Disciple

Today in church I was given a new answer to our question...when I ask, "Who am I?" God wants my life to give the answer disciple. Think about this for a minute, when I think of the word "disciple" my mind instantly goes to the 12. Those who Jesus sought and called, spent time with, taught and prayed for, but today our pastor dug into this word a bit more.

Tonight I want to do the same, so let's begin with the definition - Webster had this to say, "one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another. According to Word IQ, disciple comes from the Latin word that means pupil. They go on to define our answer with this, "one who receives instruction from another; a scholar; a learner; especially, a follower who has learned to believe in the truth of the doctrine of his teacher."

So what do you think? Are you a disciple? Like our pastor said living as a disciple is more than going to church on Sunday. A disciple is a follower, one who sits at Jesus feet and listens to what He has to say. But this individual doesn't stop with hearing, a disciple lives what they have learned and then share what they believe.

Is that who you are?? I can ask you that question, but I believe it's more important for us to turn to God and ask Him to tell us who we are and as we listen we will hear Him say, "You are my disciple!!"

Now as you think about this role, take a minute and listen to what Jesus has to say to His disciples (that would be you and me) - "Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:16-20

Friend, this isn't a role to take lightly...as He defines us, He is calling us.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Who am I?" - Using the past for the present...

In March of 1976, a child was born, she was the daughter of Dan and Judy. In the years to come she became a sister to Jamie and Jenny. She would spend her time as a student and athlete, then later as a teacher and coach. In 2001, she became a wife and a couple of years later she was blessed to be a Mom.

These words sum up my life in a few short phrases, but the other day I was thinking how I could write another bio. It goes something like this -

In December of 1999, a child was reborn, she is the daughter of the King of Kings. She's been blessed with many sisters (and brothers too) in the family of God. She spends her time as a student of the Word and she walks in faith like an athlete who strives for their goals while pressing through the pain. As a woman of faith, she is called to teach others about the Lord she loves. Though she no longer keeps a record of wins and losses in a way, she's still a coach as she sets an example for the eyes that are watching. One day she will take part in another wedding when she becomes the bride of Christ. As a Mom, she not only nurtures her children physically and emotionally, but spiritually as well.

How about you, how has God used who you were to prepare you for who you would become?? Are there any roles from your past that you still play but perhaps in a different way??

Friday, October 21, 2011

Interruption of the 31 Day Journey

As many of you know this month on my blog I'm taking part in the "31 days of" series. I had planned to look at the idea of identity everyday of October and write about it on my blog, but this journey has been interrupted.

Life happened, there was the usual, cooking, cleaning, schooling and laundry, but we also had the stomach flu, so there was less cooking but more cleaning and laundry!! That's not all that was lacking - there was less sleep and less energy. Then as everyone was regaining their strength, I found myself in the Dr.'s office with an infection. Honestly it was a rough week, but that's not why you are here, so now back to our previously scheduled program -

During this time away from my blog, I've continued to think about the question, "Who am I?" And this morning as I was beating myself up for failing and not following through with this series, I was reminded of the importance of where I find the answer.

You see, sometimes when that question forms in my mind, the answers I hear aren't always good. I can tell myself, "I'm no good. I'm a failure. God can't use me. I'll never be good enough." The list goes on, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Today though as I tried to sort this out in my mind it was as if God whispered to me, "Jill ask me who you are." Then I turned from the lies and doubts to hear His truth - words like chosen, loved, gifted, valued and beautiful came to mind. Words that are good because He is good.

Friend, I've failed, but we all do and like I use to tell my basketball girls, failure isn't in the falling down, it's in the staying down. Today will you join me as we continue to let God define us and wipe yourself off, get up again and seek Him as we journey on. Praying I will be back tomorrow to share more of what He has put on my heart.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Day 17 - "Who am I?" - One with roots

Roots, what are they? Do you have them?? Better yet do you need them??

Well, let's start at the beginning, according to Webster root means - "the part of a plant, usually below the ground, that lacks nodes, shoots, and leaves, holds the plant in position, draws water and nourishment from the soil, and stores food." Other definitions I read included these words - basic, essential, core and base.

Now onto question 2, anyone who's taken high school biology understands plants need roots, but how does this apply to us as people? As my son said, "It would be kind of hard to get very far with roots coming out of our feet!" But we'll move from the literal conversation and focus on all things spiritual and let me ask you again, "Do you have roots??" Is there something that holds you in position, draws nourishment and feeds you?

Is this something we need?? Yes, yes, yes!! Tonight I just heard Ann Noonan say, "Most of us don't know who we are. We need to get back to our root system. We can do a lot of pruning - change things on the outside, but we need to dig deep in order to get to the root."

There's a lot to her words, but what really hits me is our identity is found in our roots! This makes sense in the plant world, so it's no surprise that it does the same spiritually as well!!

So what are your roots? Where are you planted? How is this connected with who you are? Do you spend more time pruning than you do nourishing and caring for your roots?

As I seek God's answer to my question, one response I've found is, "They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." (Is. 61:3) I'm far from an expert, but I do know oak trees are tall and strong, which can mean only one thing - their roots go deep!

"Lord, please help me pay attention to my roots. May they always be planted in you. Remind me to nourish them and help them grow by spending time with You. As my roots grow, teach me. Lord, teach me who I am. Make me strong, like the oak tree. Help me stand tall."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Day 16 - "Who am I?" - Thought for the Day

"A personal relationship with God sets us free to be all we were created to be. As children of God we were designed to find our identity, our significance, and our confidence in Him. When we respond to God's invitation and accept Jesus' gift of salvation, we don't just accept a new philosophy of life. We establish a personal relationship with our Creator, the One who knows us and accepts us fully, but who also desires our transformation so we can become all He created us to be." From A Confident Heart by Renee Swope

Friday, October 14, 2011

Day 14 - "Who am I?" - Where the journey begins...

As I walked down our gravel road, my mind began to reflect on all that God was doing in my life and honestly I was amazed. He was doing things I never expected and at times ones I didn’t feel I deserved. I thought about the privileges and responsibilities He had given to me as a wife and Mom, along with my role on a women’s ministry team. On top of this I was in the process of publishing a book. Personally I did not feel worthy and on that lonely, quiet country road I can remember saying to God, “Who am I? Why are you blessing me? Why are you using me?”

Instead of an answer to my question, God shifted my thinking with the same three words as He whispered to my heart, “Jill, Who am I?” From that point on, He’s been showing me the only way to truly understand who I am begins first with knowing Who He is and knowing Him in a personal way.

For years, I didn’t understand this and perhaps you can relate. I grew up going to church and believed there was a God, but that was as far as it went. During that time in my life, the God I knew was a distant figure who was keeping score of all I did right and especially all I did wrong. As a child I sang, “Jesus Loves Me,” but the feeling I most often associated with God was fear.

In my high school and college days, I sensed God was there, but still believed I needed to earn His love and most days felt I wasn’t worthy of His approval. Though I lived with that hole in my life, I walked through most days with a smile on my face, all the while hiding the hurt in my heart.

I don’t specifically remember asking the question, “Who am I?” but I know it was part of my inner struggle. As a teen and young adult, I struggled with depression and loneliness, two battles that God eventually used to draw me to Himself. Through a series of events and some fellow members of God’s family, God revealed Himself to me in a powerful and personal way.

It was then, in my early twenties when I took the first step to really answering the question that we all ask. The only reason I was able to start this process was because I finally realized where the answer was found. My roles, friends, family, success, effort, nothing but God Himself could define who I was. And friend the same is true for you! How have you answered the question, “Who am I?” Let me encourage you to look to God for an answer to your question!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day 13 - "Who am I?" One in need of healing...

The stomach flu has hit our house, thankfully I'm the one hurting the most and I'm grateful for the help I've received with the kids. This morning while I was feeling terrible, our 31 day journey came to mind.

At that moment, the only answer I had was, "I am sick and in need of healing!" Those words described who I was for the last 10 hours, but they've been true for me before today. How about you? Have you ever been sick? Are you in need of healing??

In a physical sense, I could answer yes to both of those questions, but let's focus on something that can hurt even more, "Spiritually, how are you feeling??"

As you think about your answer take a minute and let these words sink in, "On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

Friend if you are in need of healing, He can do it! Turn to Him, receive what He has for you and let Him make you well!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Day 12 - "Who am I?" - Me, a soldier??

"I may never march in the infantry,
ride in the cavalry,
shoot the artillery,
but I'm in the Lord's Army,
Yes, Sir!!"

Do you remember those words? Or perhaps you've heard your children sing them? It's a song my children love; they sing it with joy, excitement and a smile on their face. The actions are fun and the tune is catchy, but what about the message? What do these words mean?

Honestly I'm thankful, I don't have to march in rank - I'd be the one turning right when everyone else was going left!! And shooting artillery, let's just say my son laughs when I shoot his BB gun because I close my eyes!!

This song says I may never do all these typical "soldier" things, but I am in the Lord's Army!! So what does that mean?

In order to answer that question, my mind asks,"Why do we need an army? Because there is a battle!" And when we choose to follow Christ, we are signing up to serve!

Perhaps like me, you've never defined yourself as a soldier, but friend just like the children's song says, we are in the Lord's Army!! Though the song is fun and catchy, the reality is being a soldier is hard work.

Paul paints a picture of what it's all about, "Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer." (2 Timothy 2:3,4)

I don't know about you, but suffering wasn't on my mind when I accepted Christ as Savior. Soldier wasn't one of the labels I anticipated receiving, but God's word tells me differently. And as I journey on, experience tells me it's true - there is a battle, I have an enemy and he is roaming around ready to attack. (1 Peter 5:8)

Friend, we must be aware of this - it will happen, it is happening and the more we seek after Him and try to serve Him, the stronger the attacks become!!

Like any good soldier, let us prepare ourselves and put on the armor!! Take a minute and read what Paul tells us, then equip yourself!!

"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." Eph. 6:13-18

As a soldier, remember we are "more than conquerors" (Romans 8:37), may that encourage us to always respond with the same enthusiasm my kids do - when the commander gives us our orders let us eagerly and confidently say, "Yes Sir!!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 11 - "Who am I?" - Not just another face in the crowd!

Today I was reminded of a post I wrote earlier this year and God's put it on my heart to share it once again, so I apologize if you've read it before, but perhaps like me you needed to read it again!!

I'm not sure about you, but for me God has bringing the idea of identity to mind quite a bit here lately. That's a good thing because remembering who I am is critical if I want to be who He made me to be!

As this topic has come to mind, I've thought of an answer I've given quite often to the question, "Who am I?" Through the years as this search for identity has taken place, in my mind I know I've asked myself the question and replied, "just Jill." With these two simple words I meant - I'm nobody special, I'm not popular, I really don't matter, I'm nobody important - you get the idea, I really didn't see much value in myself. I'd come to measure my worth by my achievements, appearance and acquaintances. As I played the comparison game I never measured up and merely saw myself as "just Jill."

I never really thought much about this until a friend responded to a message I left on her voice mail. I had simply left a message I'd probably left with hundreds of times - "Hi! It's just Jill, I was calling to..." Anyway this friend responded with words I have yet to forget! When the two of us finally connected, she opened the conversation with and I quote, "Don't ever say you are 'just Jill' again!" I heard her mother voice come out as I felt her scolding me!

We went on to have quite the conversation about how God sees us, how I am not 'just Jill' to Him. And friend if you've ever thought this way, today I pray you will know you are not just "insert your name" to God. He knows you and He knows me, chances are better than we know ourselves!! He created us and formed us uniquely and knows us by name! A name that is engraved on His hands. Let that soak in for a minute - He knows you!! Thus He, our Lord, our Savior, our Father, knows the answer to our question, so let's keep seeking HIM!!

Honestly that conversation with my friend changed my thinking, I don't believe I've ever left that message again, though there have been times I've felt like it. But what always jumps out at me is when I hear others say the very same thing on my voice mail or in a conversation. Really my heart breaks and I quietly think, "Don't say that! You are not just another name!"

As I wrap this up, the word 'just' really hit me as God brought to mind another answer I've given to our question. When I left my teaching position 8 years ago, I often found myself responding with these very words, "I'm just a Mom." Believe me, I know better now, but that's a conversation for another day, so I'll leave you with this, "What just response have you given to the question, "Who am I?"

Monday, October 10, 2011

Day 10 - "Who am I?" - Joy's lesson for the day...

Yesterday I shared a conversation I recently had with my 6 year old daughter and today we worked on how to respond if that happens again. To recap the story, Joy was hurt when two other young girls said she looked like a boy. She was hurt, I was hurt, but we've both learned a lesson.

That night as Joy shared her experience with me, I was determined to not let these lies and doubts (On a side note if you need help with this read Renee Swope's book, A Confident Heart) take root in Joy's heart like they had done in mine many years ago. This thought of roots led to another, my friend Kimberly is also doing a 31 day series; hers is titled, "Rooting Deeper." Her words have blessed me. (They'd bless you too, so visit her blog, "A Planting of the Lord" sometime soon!!)

Anyway my teacher mind got going and I thought how can I get Joy (and my other children) to understand this better. So today, the kids helped make a tree to put up on our school room wall. The entire time they were cutting and gluing, making branches, roots and dandelions, questions were being asked, "Why are we doing this? What is this for?" and on and on.

After talking about trees, I asked, "How are we like a tree?" The responses were varied with a few being quite interesting and then our lesson began.

We all gathered around our newly decorated school wall and I shared Joy's recent experience with all the kids. I asked, "Is she a boy?"

Her 4 year old sister looked at me like I'd lost my mind and said, "No!"

I responded, "Jaylyn, you are right! So were those words about Joy true?" Again I hear, "No." So I ask, "What is the opposite of the truth?"

My 8 year old answers, "A lie." And little Jaylyn adds, "They are bad!!" "Right again, a lie is bad, kind of like weeds in the garden or dandelions around the tree."

We then turned our attention to the tree that had caused so much curiosity. Only now there were words on the dandelions (as you can see art is not my strong point - they are the yellow lollipop looking things!!) and on some of the roots.

We talked how we are like a tree and our roots are what make us strong and help us grow and stand tall. But sometimes things happen in our hearts just like they do on the other side of the window - weeds creep in and mess things up.

So I asked, "What do we do with weeds in the garden?" Three little voices tell me, "We pull them out!! "Right again! So Joy why don't you come up here and pull out this weed!!" She thought that was great!!

But there was more, I went on to share when the weeds aren't there, the roots have a better opportunity to grow. Then we focused on one root specifically, one that said, "Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord." Psalm 45:11

We read the verse, talked about what it meant and Joy added some construction paper so the root could grow!! I pray the one in her heart grew as well!!

Minutes ago I asked Joy what she thought about our tree or what this meant to her...this is what she had to say, "Somethings that people say might make me cry, but they're a weed. I need to think about that and try not to cry and remember God made me. My roots need to grow and that's stuff that is really true cuz He thinks I'm beautiful just like you think that too."

We ended the day with a new picture, one without weeds, but ladies I believe we all know the ones in our heart grow back faster than the ones in our garden!! May we all remember to weed them out, so our roots can grow and we can be who God made us to be!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day 9 - "Who am I?" - This matters...

Joy (6), "Momma, 2 girls at Awana's were laughing at me." I respond, "How do you know they were laughing at you?" "They were whispering and they pointed at me. Then they said I look like a boy." Tears fall before she can finish her sentence and mine begin before I start my response. She then continues, "It hurt my feelings and made me want to cry, but I didn't want to cry in front of them."

Last night's conversation was hard and it hurt. Why? I never want to see my little ones in pain, physical or emotional. And two, this took me back, Joy was verbalizing a situation I understand all too well. I've been there and though I hate too say it, sometimes I still go there.

No, this Mom of 5 hasn't been called a boy lately, but I do put too much value on what others think and at times find my identity in what they say. Which brings me to this series and the realization that it does matter.

You see just yesterday I found myself wondering, "Why am I doing this?" Honestly, though I find myself writing posts in my head quite often, I don't have much time to sit and put them on the computer. Then when I do, I can find myself wondering, "Why? Does anyone even read this?"

I had these thoughts and then God reminded me of our conversation before the month began, I hesitated signing up for this "31 days of" group. But God convinced me to do it, not because of the 100's (or 1) who would visit my blog, but for what He had to say to me.

Last night after my little heart to heart with Joy, I was reminded I have much to learn. This series about "Who I am" is important, I need to know (and my kids do too) who I am in Christ.

Stop by tomorrow if you want, Joy and I will be digging a bit deeper and sharing what God has to say to us!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 8 - "Who am I?" - One who falls apart...

"One who falls apart" - I don't believe any of us want that to describe who we are, but if we are honest I think we all know it is true. Perhaps not on a daily basis, but it happens. Sometimes in big ways and others small, but regardless of what it looks like, the truth is it happens.

We are human and life is messy, sometimes we respond well and others, well we react in ways we are not proud of, we fall apart.

I'm not sure about you, but I don't like when this happens. I can visualize my little one building a tower of blocks - they work hard, they concentrate and spend a lot of time, but then it falls apart. They are frustrated, upset and want to quit. And in our house, when their siblings tower still stands, sometimes they feel like they're not good enough.

When I fall apart, I can relate to what my children experience. And it's that last thought that is the hardest - feeling I'm not good enough. But friends, let's take our eyes off ourselves and how we feel and consider falling apart from a different perspective.

Falling apart is something God can use. He has used my trials to teach me and through my falls He's proven He will lift me up. My pain has drawn me back to Him.

Join me for a minute and think about what happens when something is broken in your house. Let me give you an example, in the Beran house when something breaks our little ones immediately come to my husband or myself with the broken pieces and expect us to fix it. Thankfully most of the time that works, but if not we can take it to someone who can. Perhaps someone who created the item in the first place.

Friend, the same is true for us when we fall apart. We take what is broken and give it our Father, the One who created us and knows how to fix it. Our falls and falling aparts take us back to Him.

If our falling apart is the result of sin, we should "feel" bad, but as we seek forgiveness and repent God can make things new. If our falling apart is because of the hard reality of life, we will hurt, there will be pain, but God is bigger than that and provides peace that surpasses all understanding. Regardless of the why's of our falling apart, God is a God who doesn't change and works all things together for good!! (Romans 8:28)

To close I'd love to share the words of Josh Wilson's song, "Fall Apart." He sums it up quite well!!

Why in the world did I think I could
Only get to know you when my life was good
When everything just falls in place
The easiest thing is to give You praise

Now it all seems upside down
‘Cause my whole world is caving in
But I feel You now more than I did then
How can I come to the end of me
And somehow still have all I need
God, I want to know You more
Maybe this is how it starts
I find You when I fall apart

Blessed are the ones who understand
We’ve got nothing to bring but empty hands
Nothing to hide and nothing to prove
Our heartbreak brings us back to You

And it all seems upside down

‘Cause my whole world is caving in
But I feel You now more than I did then
How can I come to the end of me
And somehow still have all I need
God, I want to know You more
Maybe this is how it starts
I find You when I fall apart

I don’t know how long this will last
I’m praying for the pain to pass
But maybe this is the best thing that
Has ever happened to me

My whole world is caving in
But I feel You now more than I did then
How can I come to the end of me
And somehow still have all I need
God, I want to know You more
Maybe this is how it starts
I find You when
You will find me when I fall apart

Friday, October 7, 2011

Day 7 - "Who am I?" - A song with the same title...

Casting Crowns has a song with the title "Who am I?"  Take a minute and read the words, the give
us a glimpse of what really matters when we think about the question!!

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I,
that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
But because of what
You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours,
I am Yours

Who am I,
that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love
and watch me rise again
Who am I,
that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours
I am Yours

Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
'Cause I am Yours
I am Yours

Now that you've read the words here's a link to hear them!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 6 - Am I educated or equipped??

It's only day 6 of our month long journey and I'm already amazed at what God has been putting on my heart. Over the last few days Acts 4 has been referenced at least 3 times, so today I've decided to dig into that a bit deeper.

We begin with Peter and John sharing the message and many believing. The next day they are brought before the Sanhedrin and asked, "“By what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7) In verse 11, Peter responds, "It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed."

These verses set the stage for what God has put on my heart and is another answer He's given to my question. Verse 13, the one that's been rolling around in my head says this, "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." (NIV)

The word "unschooled" really jumps out at me - the former honor roll, Dean's list girl who went on to be a teacher and currently instructs my own children. The NLT uses untrained while the KJV describes Peter and John as unlearned and ignorant men. So what does this mean for me? What does this have to do with you?

If my children read this it doesn't mean we are throwing our school books away, but it does mean we need to remember to use one book day after day, year after year! The Bible may not educate us or prepare us for calculus like algebra will, but it will equip us for a life that makes a difference!

What about you, are you feeling unschooled or untrained today? Don't let that keep you from what God is asking you to do! Spend time with Him and He will make a difference in you and through you just like He did with Peter and John!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 5 - A girl who is growing up...


Recently my 8 year old son and I had an interesting conversation. It revolved around the idea of maturing, and he was struggling a bit with how somethings didn't just come natural for him. I tried explaining to him that it was a process and how sometimes he has a choice. I asked him, "When it's bedtime what do you need to do?" He answered, "Brush my teeth, pray and go to bed." Then I asked, "Is that what you did tonight?" "No." We went on to talk about how part of growing up is learning to make the right choice and doing it with consistency.

That night as I reflected on our conversation, I was grateful for my little guy's heart, one that is maturing before my very eyes. J.D. knows what is right and what is wrong, but sometimes chooses to do wrong. (What does Proverbs say about the foolishness of a child??) He can recite our family slogan, "Obey right away," but isn't always quick to live it out. He has a heart that loves the Lord and has a hunger for His Word, but understands it's easier to say I want to be like Jesus than actually do it.

As I thought about these things, I realized it was all true for me as well. And it should be, when God answers my question, He tells me I am a child, His child! So to phrase that a bit differently, I am a girl who is growing up.

Just like J.D. expressed the other night sometimes this process is hard, sometimes I fail, many times actually, but I have a Father who loves me and is way more patient with me than J.D.'s mother is with him!! In the way I want and try to equip my son to grow up and be all he can be, God does the same for me. He will be my strength, He offers me His wisdom and He gave me an example to follow!

But just like J.D., I have a choice! I must listen for my Father's voice and if I want to mature I need to obey Him. In the process of growing up I must leave childish ways behind. 1 Corinthians 13:11 says, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me."

At the age of 8 my son realizes this is hard and I agree with him! How about you?? Today what one thing can you do to show who you are, a girl who is growing up and becoming more like Christ??

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 4 - Me, A Sheep??


Growing up I lived on a farm where we raised sheep. I've fed them, helped shear them and trained them for the fair. Recently, I've helped care for orphan lambs once again as every spring my dad gives a few of them to my children. I guess you could say I have some experience with this cute, woolly animal!

In pictures this four legged creature is cute and in real life they can appear sweet and innocent, but from experience I know they are not the smartest animal. Nor are they brave. And compared to other livestock, they aren't the strongest either.

So when I read God's word looking for an answer to my question and He tells me, "I am the sheep of His pasture" (Psalm 100:3), I stop and wonder a bit. Me, a sheep? Really??

I type these words and can hear the comedian Ken Davis saying something about sports teams and how we've all heard of the Bears, Wildcats or Gators, but never the Sheep!!

But as I think about the sheep I've cared for over the years - the timid, weak, not always wise woolly animals who are usually quick to follow, but rarely lead I realize He's right (isn't He always!!), I am a sheep!! And friend, if you're looking to Him for answers, He'll tell you the same thing!!

Rather than focusing on what this says about us, let's take a minute and remember what it says about HIM!! If I am a sheep, HE is my shepherd!! He will provide. It's Him I can follow. He will protect. My shepherd will take care of me!!

Though we won't be cheering for the Sheep this weekend at the game, I'm thankful for this answer to my question! I never thought I'd define myself in this way, but since God's ways are not mine, He did! There is a reason, He knows anyone can look at a sheep and see they depend on their shepherd and that's exactly what He created us to do with Him.

So friend, what do you think? Do you see yourself adding this to your bio?? Even if you don't share it out loud when someone asks, "Who are you?" I pray you spend sometime thinking about what God means when He calls you His sheep!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Who am I?" - Where do I begin??

As I was thinking about the month long commitment I've made to ponder the question, "Who am I?", I had one thought where do I begin? It was then Genesis 1:1 came to mind and my mind focused on these 5 words, "In the beginning God created..."

The word created jumps out at me and reminds me of my little Joy, who is constantly being creative. Her skills are improving with each passing year, but I remember the times when I'd look at her drawings and ask, "Tell me about this." Those words were the result of me not knowing what she had created. Though I couldn't always see what she had made, she could tell me exactly what it was.

Friends, God is the same way. He is the One who created us, He knew my days, and yours, before they even began. (Psalm 139:16) He is the One who can tell us who we are!!

Let's turn to Him and ask Him, who He sees when He looks at us? He knows the truth! Let's do that today!! Please feel free to share what He puts on your heart and lets encourage one another with the picture He gives to us!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day 2 - A Verse for Today

As we continue on our journey, today I will keep it short! The verse below has much to say, let's think about these words and dig in deeper during the days to come!!
It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living. Eph 1:11 MSG

Saturday, October 1, 2011

31 Days...

October has arrived, which means many things, but here on my blog it means one thing...this month I'm joining in with many others at Emily's site to focus in on one thing for 31 days. I'm feeling the nudge to dig deeper and look for more answers to the question I wrote about last spring, "Who am I?" So join me as we do just that! I can't assure what each day, or post, will hold, but I trust God has much to reveal to me, and you, as the month goes by!!

So let's get things started, if I were to meet you for the first time, who would you say you are?? I'll share my answer here and look forward to your answer in the comments!!

"I'm Jill Beran, wife to Job, mom to J.D., Joy, Jaylyn, Jed and Jesse, otherwise known as TEAM Beran! We live on a farm in NE Iowa where we enjoy our days (some more than others)!! I homeschool our oldest while trying to keep our preschooler, toddler and infant entertained as well!! I grew up going to church, but am now thankful for a personal relationship with Jesus and am grateful for a faith that is growing."

So that's a bit about me, but really it is not the focus of the month! "Who am I?" is a question about so much more than what I do or where I live!! I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to understanding my identity more in the weeks to come!!

Until then, please feel free to introduce yourself!! That way when we turn the calendar, we can look back and see how God has helped us answer our question!!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Who's your team??

With football season kicking off, I've heard many people discussing their favorite team - they believe in their team and where the colors with pride. For some it's the NFL, others college or high school, but for the real fan the level doesn't determine their enthusiasm. The fans who are die hards feel as though they are part of the team, they rejoice in the victories and experience the pain of defeat. I know, I've been a sports fan all my life!

But as this season begins, I've been thinking about teams in a whole different way. This past July we were blessed with baby number 5 and as I sat alone with him in the hospital just hours after he was born I had a thought I didn't expect. I'm a former basketball coach, who set aside dreams of a state championship to stay home and raise my children.

Two months ago as I gazed at my new little man, God put it on my heart that I didn't have to let my coaching dreams die, but I had to change the sport we'd be playing. Little Jesse made our starting 5 complete and instead of 3 guards and 2 forwards, I'm coaching 3 boys and 2 girls. No longer am I striving to win a trophy to put on the shelf, but my desire is to store up "treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Matt. 6:20) I used to think it would be work to win that elusive title, but I realize one of my favorite old slogans is even more true - There is NO offseason!!

In the days since penciling in Jesse Clay as starter number five for Team Beran, I've thought of a few things. Many teams I've been a part of have had a team slogan -
words that united, phrases that brought focus or sayings that motivated. Team Beran has one as well, I don't believe it's one you will ever see on the back of your favorite team's shirt, but I pray it's something every member of our team believes - Have FAITH and Be CLAY!

As I coach my team, I hope I can teach them to have faith and help them understand that in God's hands we are clay. (And I thought it was a challenge to teach someone how to do a lay-up!) As our season moves on, I'm beginning to realize the challenge doesn't just come with the teaching, but is especially a part of the living. I always took my role as a coach seriously and enjoyed the privilege of impacting young lives while at the same time I valued the responsibility as well. I knew little eyes were watching and I wanted to set an example that was worthy of following. I pray the Lord will give me the same passion with the team I lead now!!

Well there is more to say, but it's time to huddle up the team and tackle the next thing on our game plan!! So as I close, though you will find me cheering for the Vikings, wearing my Hawkeye black and gold, and even standing on the sidelines in Riceville, this year I have a new favorite team...Team Beran!! This bunch doesn't have a mascot or any mega shoe deals, but they are my number one!! How about you, who's your team??

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Winner, another story and some advice

First of all, I have to apologize for not posting the winner of "A Confident Heart" on Sunday like I had planned. Though I would love to give a copy to each of you, I'm glad to announce that Angie is our winner. I will be in touch with you soon!!

Next I have another story to share, which I pray will encourage you to buy a copy for yourself or borrow it from a friend. This book will make a difference in you and your life. Let me explain -

Friday night my husband, myself and our 5 children attended our local high school's football game. This is the same school I graduated from and later I taught and coached there. Since our town is small, everyone has connections to the school and now as enrollment drops and it's future is unknown people have their opinions as well.

In the last few years my connection to the school has changed...God has put it on our heart to homeschool our children and this is something not everyone understands or supports. As a people pleaser this has bothered me and impacted me. Whenever I was back in the building or around former co-workers I found myself wondering, "what are they thinking?" Even if they didn't question our actions, in my mind I doubted God's call. It always seemed like it would be easier to do what everyone else did.

But God would confirm this time and time again, so I'd fight the doubt and obey. Today marks the start of my 4th year as a homeschooling mom, but Friday night I realized it is the first without fear. That night as we drove away I realized I had visited with many former teachers, parents and community members, but this time something was different - I wasn't consumed with the worry of what they thought or fear of doing the wrong thing.

It was then the idea of confidence came to mind...I had been obeying God, but now I had confidence to do what He called me to do. I honestly believe Renee's book is playing a part in the transformation God is doing in my heart. Friend, I know He can change yours as well!!

If you haven't read the book yet I'd like to share a little advice -
1) Pray first. Don't start without asking God to use this book in your life. Ask to open your ears to what He wants you to hear and strengthen you to walk this road.

2) Take your time. Though it may be tempting to rush through and enjoy Renee's story, may I caution you to slow down so you get God's message. Pretend the words of the book are a tea bag and let them soak!!

3) Be prepared. For the change and challenge that lie ahead. And for the attacks as you embrace God's truth and become who He made you to be - His daughter with a confident heart.

And then don't put your book on the shelf, pick it up and start reading again!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Remembering...

August 30th is a day that will always stand out on the calendar for me. Back in 2008, the 30th fell on a Saturday and it's a day I will never forget.

This morning as we read our morning devotions, the events from that day 3 years ago came back to mind. You see we were using the same Bible reading calendar then as we are now, so today as my husband read Luke 22, I vividly recalled doing the same not long ago.

You see it was on that day when we experienced a miscarriage, but as I read from the Word before the Dr. confirmed what I already knew, verse 42 became real personal. I read these words with tears in my eyes, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

His will was done, but this morning as I listened to my husband read verse 43, the very next one, jumped out at me. It says, "
An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him." Honestly 3 years ago, I don't even know if I saw those words, but today I did. I have spent some time remembering and reflecting, and God has shown me He responded to me, His daughter, the same way as He did to Jesus, His Son.

I didn't see an angel in physical form, but as I look back and recall the emotions and pain I experienced as I grieved a child I will not hold until heaven, I know He strengthened me. His love held me. His peace filled me. Hope in Him helped me.

Today I've been reminded of the importance of remembering...not just the ones we love and have lost, but remembering the One who loves and saves us when we are lost!!

Oh Lord, help me never forget who You are and help me rest in the truth that YOU are faithful! Thank you for memories, ones that are fun and full of joy, and ones that are of those we miss, but remind me of You.

Friend, what do you need to remember tonight??

Monday, August 29, 2011

"A Confident Heart" Review and Give-Away



"A Confident Heart" is a newly released book written by Renee Swope of Proverbs 31 Ministries. I have had the privilege (and challenge) of reading this book and want to take a few minutes to encourage you to do the same!!

First of all a bit about the book...from the back cover, "Ever feel like you're not good enough, smart enough, or valuable enough? Renee Swope understands. Even with a great family, a successful career, and a thriving ministry, she still struggled with self-doubt. Sharing her own personal story, Renee shows you how to rely on the power of God's promises to find the security you need and the confidence you long for!"

What do you think? Are you interested? Does this sound like a book you want to read?? If your answer is yes, scroll to the bottom of this post for a chance to win a copy, but if you're still not sure, read on...

Now for my review...when Renee asked me to read an early copy of ACH, I was thrilled! I have enjoyed her blog for years and appreciated the times I've heard her speak, so I knew her message was one I needed. After sending her my yes, Renee responded with, "I pray this book encourages your heart." Instantly I had the thought, "I pray this book changes my heart."

I knew her story would be encouraging, but my problem is I've read many encouraging stories and I wanted more, I needed more. You see doubt could be my middle name and I think Thomas could have been my brother! I knew it was time for a change and I believed God could do that through Renee's book.

So I jumped into the book with excitement and enthusiasm, eager to see how God would answer my prayer. After the first few chapters, I found myself realizing that I was not alone! As I read Renee's story, I read much of my own - depression, never being good enough, the comparison game, feeling empty, failure... I could relate and found relief, but then I read on.

About halfway into the book I realized our stories were no longer the same. As Renee wrote about living beyond the shadows of her doubts, I knew I was still standing in mine. Honestly there were times I wasn't sure I would finish the book - sometimes the truth hurts and this book is full of truth!! But in the end the truth always helps and friend, I promise if you read this book, you will be helped!!

I could write for days about how "A Confident Heart" has helped me, but instead I want to share a quick story...

Just two days ago my little Joy (my 6 year old daughter who is sometimes too much like her mother) was in tears. I asked what was wrong and she gave me the answer I know all too well, silence, only to be followed by "nothing" when I asked again. It was then her little sister says to me, "Joy said she is dumb." As we talked, she couldn't tell me why she was dumb or what made her feel this way, but having said those same words and others like them, I felt I knew what was going on.

One thing Renee writes about is AM/FM thoughts. Take a minute and think about the last thought you had of yourself and ask yourself this question, "Was it for me or against me?" This may sound like a simple task, but do it often enough and you may begin to see a pattern. I know, that happened to me and all too often my thoughts were of the AM type - they were Against Me, not For Me. I'm sorry to say there was no static on this station; the negative message was all too loud and came through much too clear. The problem with this is - how a women thinks is often how she lives.

So back to Joy, eventually I asked her, "Who said this? Who told you, you were dumb?" She didn't know, so I went on to share how this wasn't true, how it was a lie and we have to make a choice not to listen to the lies. We talked a bit more and replaced that lie with truth. She even said, "I guess if I don't know how to do something, I can just learn." Then she smiled and returned to the life of a 6 year old.

Her tears were gone, but mine had started to fall. I'm grateful to think perhaps my little ones won't have to walk the same road I did - one that was filled with self-doubt and endless AM thoughts. I know they will experience these thoughts, but I'm thankful that as I learn to replace my doubts with God's truth, I can teach them to do the same. There was a time when I didn't know if that was possible, but just like Joy, I'm going to turn the channel and cling to His promise, "I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me!!"

Like I said, "A Confident Heart" has impacted me greatly and I know after reading it you will say the same! So now for the give-away, click on the comment button below and share your thoughts with me - Why do you want to read ACH? or What AM thought do you need to replace? If you do not have a blog account, just click on the comment button and choose to leave a comment as "anonymous." Just don't forget to leave me your name and an e-mail address so I can contact you if you win.

Finally, some links. For another more great thoughts on the book and another chance to win, visit my friend, Kimberly by clicking HERE!

One for you to order Renee's life changing book for yourself. :) Visit the Proverbs 31 store by clicking HERE!!

And the link to Renee's blog, which is always full encouragement.

And a thank you to Renee's publishers at Revell Thank you for this copy of the book to give away and for the chance to be a part of Renee's blog tour.

Come back on Sunday when the winner is announced!