Saturday, August 30, 2014

6 Years Later

This is a day I've been thinking about since I turned the calendar to August. For the last 5 years, my eyes always glance ahead to the 30th of this month. Six years ago on 8-30-08, we experienced a miscarriage. The pain was something I never expected and doesn't compare to anything I'd experienced. God's presence and power was also present in my life in a whole new way.

The last few days I've found myself thinking about and remembering more than I have the past couple of years. I'm not sure if it's because it's once again the Saturday of Labor Day weekend or if God just wanted me to reflect. But regardless of the why, I'm grateful for the trip down memory lane.

I type those words and find myself shaking my head because friend it doesn't make much sense to be thankful for something that was hard. As I reread my prayer journals from back then, I was transported back in time and grief returned that was stronger than it had been in awhile. Tears fell and my daughter asked why. She knows she has a sister in heaven and was able to just cry with me.

I think it's normal for grief to return and I trust there will always be what if's and questions without answers, but I'm thankful this journey offered even more. As I read my words, ones I had written when my heart was broken, I saw God's work in faith was evident as I cried out to Him and trusted Him to carry me through. There was pain, hurt and even some anger, but what I really saw was hope.

For nearly 15 years my faith has been important to me and my relationship with Christ has been growing, but 6 years ago it became real and necessary in a whole new way. Nobody could fix the situation or change the circumstances, but in my heart I knew God was in control.

I knew it was not a coincidence that morning when I opened my Bible for my daily reading and found myself in Luke 22. As I read verse 42, I remember making Jesus' words my own and with tears and strength I didn't understand, I said, "Lord if You are willing to take this cup from me, yet not my will, but Yours be done." It seemed a miscarriage was inevitable, but yet I believed God could do a miracle. At the same time, I remember telling myself I had to trust His plan and let go of mine.

This wasn't a process that happened immediately, but by the grace of God it is something He helped me do. As I look back on my journal, I don't just see my faith, but I see God's character. He is loving, present and powerful - able to do more than we can ask or imagine. He provides peace that we don't understand and can't create.

My life today doesn't look anything like it did 6 years ago...I'm not pregnant, I'm not walking through a season of grief and my heart is not broken. I am grateful for that, but what I've really been reminded of as I reflect and read the prayers I journaled - God has not changed as all.

He is still with me, will always love me and will never run out of power. Today my heart's not broken, but some of my relationships are; the tears are not falling, but sometimes I fall down. I don't know what your life holds, but I know the One who is holding it. Will you join me in accepting His plan, trusting His character and walking in faith?

Six years ago He walked me down a road I didn't want to travel, but He used it to work in me and through me, and I've been reminded He's doing the same as I walk through life today. And I need to keep doing what I did back then - make Psalm 86:11 the prayer of my heart! The psalmist writes, "Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name."

As I went through my old journal I came across a few poems I penned as well and God's put in on my heart to share them too -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I never saw your face
and I never knew your name.
I never held you in my arms,
but you'll never leave my heart.

I never saw the dreams unfold
and I never saw your smile.
I never taught you about life,
but I'll never lose the lessons I have learned.

I never said hello
and I'll never say good-bye.
I never met you here,
but I'll always be with you in heaven.

“You’ll Be There”
Someday, when the questions are answered
And the pain has passed –
You’ll be there.

Someday, when I smile
Because of the beauty I’ve never seen –
You’ll be there.

Someday, when this all makes sense
And I understand God’s plan –
You’ll be there.

Someday, when I walk towards the gates
And enter my eternal home –
You’ll be there.

Someday, when I cry tears of joy
And embrace the ones I miss –
You’ll be there.

Someday, when I enter heaven
And forever praise the Lord I love –
You’ll be there.

Friend, if you are in the midst of a loss, I'm sorry and I can relate to the pain and grief, but please let me encourage you - run to God, especially when you feel like running from Him. Also, I believe you'd be blessed by visiting Mommies with Hope - a ministry that serves women who walk through miscarriage and infant loss. If I can pray for you or share more of my story, leave a comment and I'll be in touch. And friends, thank you for joining me today as I remember my little Jenae Hope Beran and reflect on the amazing God we know! And friend, if God puts it on your heart to pray for me today, I'd appreciate it - remembering is good, but sometimes it's hard. Thank you!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

An Encouraging Surprise

Last night I opened my email to sort through the days messages and came across one from Renee Swope's blog. The title was "Words for the Weary" and since I was feeling a bit weary myself, I opened it up. What a surprise to see she was sharing a story about me.

She has shared this story before, but last night it was not at all what I expected, but friend it was what I needed. Her words were ones for the weary and they blessed me in a special way. You see God is leading me and opening doors, strengthening my faith and blessing me with new friends. All that is good, but it can also be hard.

It takes confidence and work to follow Him and do what I've never done, our faith is often strengthened by being tested, which involves trials. And sometimes when you gain new friends, old friendships change and for me that is hard, really hard.

So back to the encouraging words from Renee...she shared a story from my life that took place 15 years ago this September and as I read her words a highlight reel played through my mind. Friend, at that point I was a church goer, but a few short months later I surrendered my life to Christ and the journey since has been unbelievable.

Last night that was just the reminder I needed. God has done things and made changes I never expected, taken me places and led me to steps that were hard, walked me through trials I didn't think I'd survive. And as I read the real encouraging words in her posts, the ones from God's Word, I was reminded of another verse. 2 Thessalonians 5:24 says, "The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it."

Friend, I don't know where life has you right now, but I do know this - we have a God is right there with you. Go to Him, seek counsel from His Word and trust His ways. And it just might be good to look back a few years and reflect on what He's done in you and through you.

I would love for you to stop by and visit Renee and be encouraged so that you can be an encourager as well. If you need some words for the weary, click HERE.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I'll do that tomorrow!

A few months back we were in the midst of potty training with our 5th child and there were moments I wondered if it would ever be over! Now that it's behind me, God has been reminding me of a frustrating phrase my little guy used all the time.

Jesse wanted nothing to do with potty training for the longest time. So much so that anytime we mentioned going to the bathroom, he'd simply respond with 2 year old confidence, "I do that tomorrow." After awhile, even Jed, our 4 year old would say, "Today is tomorrow!!"

We've had a child, sometimes two, in diapers for 11 years and I was ready to be done, so my little Jesse man was trying my patience and again proving he is a unique individual. One night in the midst of my frustration, God simply whispered to my heart, "You do that too."

Friend, I didn't even have to ask, "What?" I knew, I'd been telling God the same thing. He'd been leading me to do something and know as that leading, and a few new ones, continue, He's reminding me of progress. Jesse's not mine. I haven't changed a diaper in over 3 months...once my little guy was ready and made up his mind, potty training really was a breeze.

God has been encouraging me to learn a lesson from my little man...He's telling me I'm ready, now I need to just make up my mind, decide to obey and discipline myself to do it. Friend, we are told to wait upon the Lord - Isaiah 40:31 says, "But they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength..." and Psalm 27:14 says, "Wait for the LORD, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." I know waiting can be hard, but I'll be honest and admit sometimes I use that for an excuse.

Two of these "things" God is leading me to do have been confirmed time and again, but yet I wait...not for Him, but me and that philosophy is backwards. I am not to make God wait on me!! And neither are you!

Is there something God is asking you to do? A step He's leading you to take? Please don't respond like me or my son and say, "I'll do that tomorrow." Like my other little guy says, "Today is tomorrow!!" Friend, will you join me in taking action now! Walking in obedience can be scary and hard, but it is good and right and something God always blesses!!

Today let's think about this - "Now listen you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city and spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." James 4:13-14

Friend, tomorrow is not guaranteed, so do what you need to do today!!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Want to help your husband?

Greetings to those of you stopping by via the Encouragement Cafe! I'm grateful for your visit! The devotional I shared today (you can read it by clicking HERE), is one that is close to my heart and over the last few days it's been one God has used to test my heart.

Like I wrote I never expected or even wanted to be a farmer's wife...I lived on a farm all my growing up years and I knew the work it required, hours it demanded and plans it changed. But as always God knew more than me...He knew the lessons I would learn, fun I would experience and growth that would occur. So He had plans for the farmer's daughter to become a farmer's wife.

Pics on a tractor after our wedding.
I share a bit more about that in my devotional, but for the sake of this post I want to share what God is teaching me as I try to live out the role He's given me. Just so you know this is a lesson that may take me a lifetime to learn!

Genesis tells us God created woman so that man would not be alone and so he would have a helper. This truth alone can stir up quite the discussion, but friend if we say God and His Word are our authority we can't pick and choose what we believe or apply. So rather than discuss this, let's talk about how we can live it out.

I've known this devo was going to post for nearly a week and I also knew I'd be tested in this area, so one of the first things I did was pray and then I eve asked a friend for prayer. I asked God, "How can I help Job?" He gave me some practical things to do, but also provided four keys I hope I can remember in the days to come. Perhaps they'd be helpful for you as well.

NEVER COMPARE - If I ever won a title, I think I'd wear the "Comparison Queen's" crown. Comparison is a sin and it's one that can destroy your marriage. Personally, I don't find myself comparing our marriage to other couple's, but I have been convicted of comparing Job's "stuff" to mine. For instance, he recently took a week long fishing trip to Canada and I'll be honest there were moments I wished I was the one who was gone. In reality I know there's no way I'd leave for 7 days! I've compared his roles, responsibilities and freedoms to mine as well and that's like comparing apples to oranges - it just doesn't work because I typically compare the good, fun part of his to the hard, monotonous side of mine. God didn't bring man and woman together to compare or compete, but to complete. Friend, if you and I want to help our husbands we must never compare!! In a way comparison stems from selfishness, so it would do our marriage good if we'd humble ourselves and live out Philippians 2:3, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself."

ALWAYS COMMUNICATE - Communication isn't my strongest skill, but it's one I've learned to work on. I entered marriage a bit naive to how important this would be; all too often I assumed Job would just know or he would read my mind. That assumption (like most) led to trouble. Add to this that I am one who tends to go into silent mode when I'm upset and it's obvious God has had to transform me! Friends, our husbands can't read our minds and often they don't understand our hints...if we want to help them, let's start by communicating with them. When we are open and honest, we each understand one another better. If I want my husband to be the man God created him to be, I must be willing to share my heart, speak Truth and use words (and tones) that build him up. A key verse for this point - Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

PRAY CONTINUOUSLY - In 1 Thessalonians we are told to "Pray continuously". (5:17) If we would live this verse out as wives I can't imagine all God would do in us, our spouses and our marriage! Friend we need to pray for our husbands and our marriages, but may we remember we must also pray for ourselves. This is a concept that has taken time for me to learn. As a wife I realize it is important to ask God to help me be the woman He created me to be so that I can live out the roles He's called me to. I trust He will bless you, and your marriage, if you do the same.

GIVE THANKS CONSISTENTLY - The fourth tip in helping your husband is the very next verse in Thessalonians, "Give thanks in all circumstances because this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Let me ask you, "Do you appreciate when someone says 'Thank you'?" Me too and I'm sure our husbands would agree with us as well. When is the last time you thanked your husband? How about the last time you thanked him for the simple, everyday things he always does? Thanking him is a way to help him...words encourage, build up, and show respect - they help our husbands be the man God created them to be. Friend, don't let the thanks stop there; today I encourage you to spend some time in prayer thanking God for the husband He gave you. Sure he's not a perfect man, but none of us are perfect wives either. Thank God for the way He provides, encourages and loves through your man. If you really want to step out, ask your husband to join you in this time of prayer.

The Farmer and me 13 years later!
Our Best Crop!!
Friends, I pray these tips are helpful and I'd love to hear your wisdom in regards to being a helpmate for your husband. I never wanted to be a farmer's wife, but I'm grateful God's plan is much better than any I could have put together!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cutting Back

Lately I've been reading much about Lysa TerKeurst's new book, The Best Yes. In it she addresses the busyness most of us live with along with our disease to please. As I've read her posts and heard others share their "unrush" me stories, I've been reminded of a visual God gave me nearly 4 years ago.

At that time I was busy as a farmer's wife, mom to a 1, 3, 5 and 7 year old, a leader of our MOPS group, a homeschooling Mom, and member of a women's ministry team. Though I didn't know it yet I was also pregnant with our 5th child. The week following our big women's event, I was exhausted and God was answering our speaker's (who just happened to be Lysa T.) prayer - He was messing with me!

One night my baby boy was sick and as I sat up in the wee hours trying to comfort him, God worked to do the same with me. He'd been "messing" with me in a good way, bet yet it was hard. So I sat there and cried out to Him, "God, what do you want me to do?"

I asked that question and instantly a picture of my little Joy came to mind and I saw myself trimming her bangs. Initially, I thought, Jill focus! I really did not know why I was thinking about this. But then the picture changed - I saw her in a new way, a better way, a more complete way and then God said to me, "Jill, if you cut back in your life you will see Me better too."

Those words were impressed on my heart and in time I gave "The Barber" the scissors and within months He'd trimmed away everything outside the walls of my home. At times I felt a lot like my little girl...the trim wasn't comfortable and the process wasn't one I enjoyed. I recall thinking things like, "Why God? You led me to step out only to lead me to step away? God it hurts. God it's change. God, I can't." But just like I know when my daughter's bangs need a trim, God knows when my life does too.

He did much through that time of cutting back and I did see Him much truly was a blessing and now 4 years later I know He closed some doors so He could open others. I'm grateful I let go and let God be God...He had a plan, though I didn't always understand it, and it was good.

Some of the "No's" I said back then have led to "Yes's" I'm able to say today. My plate is no longer empty and God continues to have me evaluate what I'm doing, while He reminds who I am is not what I do. And friend, the same is true for you.

I share all this with you in attempt to encourage you. If God is leading you to cut back or He's asking you to trim things from your schedule, or life, let Him do it. It may not feel good, it might not make sense and it may even hurt, but trust me He has a purpose. Remember Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope."

A few other encouraging reminders that are much more powerful that my experience -
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord." Isaiah 55:8

"The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Friend, if it's time for a trim, schedule the appointment! Experience tells me, the process goes much smoother when the participant is willing!! If I can pray for you, please send me a message or leave me a comment!! Blessings to you!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Powerful Words from a Friend

Welcome to those of you stopping by from the Encouragement's a joy to be sharing a bit of my heart with you there today. In my devotional, I share wisdom from my mom, "Choose your friends wisely!" Do you remember your points sharing the same statement with you? Do you now share with your kids?

Choosing our friends wisely is important regardless of our age or stage in life. Relationships play an important part in our lives and we must make sure we are surrounding ourselves with friends who will help us grow and stand strong in our faith.

This last week I found myself thinking about friendships and many thoughts went through my head. At times I struggle with how friendships change, but others I'm grateful for the powerful ways God uses them. Some of my friends are very different from one another, but yet they each play a special role.

Today I want to spend some time focusing on the things we say as friends. Of all people, friends should live out Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

I am part of a women's ministry team and last week we were gearing up for our annual event; one in which God had given me some speaking parts. Standing on the stage with a microphone in my hand does not come natural for me, but this role was one God had confirmed again and again. He'd put a short message to close the day on my heart and confirmed it through His Word.

As the day drew near, He encouraged me through friends who lived out Ephesians 4:29. These friends weren't tickling my ears, but were encouraging me to trust and obey. They supported me as I tried to live out what God was asking me to do.

I heard things like, "You were made for this." "Remember the One who calls you is faithful!" "It will be wonderful!" Another message I appreciated greatly was, "I'm praying for you!"

I appreciated all the conversations and messages, but was also surprised how God used words from the past to encourage me as well. During the late night hours when doubt would hit, I would remember friends' words from months and even years ago...ones like, "You have a giftedness." "Your voice matters." "Remember God's faithfulness, we should never doubt again."

I'm grateful I've heeded my mother's advice and am thankful that God has blessed me with wonderful friends! Ones who sharpen me, build my faith and encourage my heart. These friends pray for me, speak Truth to me and set an example for me. I pray I can be a friend like them!

How about you...what role have your friends' words played in your life? What role do your words play in theirs? To see a specific example of my friend's powerful words, visit the Encouragement Cafe and read my devotional by clicking HERE.

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17

Monday, August 11, 2014

Discipline Does NOT Disqualify

Do you remember being disciplined as a child? Me too! It was not my favorite experience, but as I look back I know it was an important part of my growing up years. Now as a Mom, though it's not an enjoyable part of my role, I know it's also a necessary part of my children's lives. And in the last month, I've been reminded as a child of God, discipline is still a critical part of my life.

Over a month ago, God led me to step away from my blog. I felt Him leading me to prioritize things in my life and reminding me to live out my faith and apply His Word instead of simply talking about and telling others. Initially, I also thought He perhaps was pushing pause with my blog writing so I could spend my writing time working on another project He's put on my heart.

In the 30+ days that have passed much has happened and recently I've connected some dots. I'm sorry to say I didn't get much writing done at all, but am grateful for the time and work I spent praying and preparing for the ReNEWed Life event. I am also thankful for the work God has done and lesson He taught.

Nearly 10 days ago, I found myself in a battle - there was a mess in my mind. Different things had happened, comments were made and lies believed that left me feeling like a failure, like I wasn't good enough and like my voice didn't matter.

I've been in this place before and I'm grateful God opened my eyes to the problem rather quickly this time. Through the process He showed me much, but today I want to focus on one short statement - "Discipline does NOT disqualify." Friend, this may sound simple, but it makes a powerful point. It teaches me a lesson I really hadn't thought about before, but addresses a lie I've believed from time to time.

Looking back I think God was disciplining me as He led me away from blogging, but through that process I'm grateful for how He's addressed a struggle in my life. And yet again reminded me to replace lies with Truth.

As a kid, a student and an athlete, I didn't enjoy being yelled at and I wasn't one of those tough kids who could handle it. On the outside it probably never looked like it bothered me, but internally it crushed me. Yelling, criticism, discipline it all left me feeling like I wasn't good enough, like I didn't measure up or like I didn't matter. Until one day, a coach made a powerful statement, "Don't worry when I yell at you; worry when I don't. I yell at you because I believe you can get better. When I stop yelling at you, I've given up on you."

First of all this coach was not abusive or mean, but one who practiced their authority with a bit of a stern voice. These particular words went straight to my tender heart and put things in much better perspective.

There was much that led to the recent mess in my mind, but part of it was my reaction to God's discipline and the lies Satan whispered through the process. Ones like - "If you're really supposed to do this, don't you think you'd do it right?" "You can't even live out God's Word, how can you share about it?" "If God really loved you, why would He have you stop doing something you love?"

Thankfully one day, God opened my eyes to what He was really doing...He had disciplined me. Why? For the same reason I discipline my children and my parents disciplined me. He loves me.

"Because the Lord disciplines the ones He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son." Hebrews 12:6

Discipline is never easy and rarely is what the disciplined would choose, but when it's done in love there is always a reason. Like my coach explained, discipline shows you care and believe they can be better. We can't pick and choose the parts we children of God it's a package deal and discipline is part of it...and remember it's only because God knows what is best!

"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?" Hebrews 12:7

Finally friend, we must not simply endure discipline, we must learn from it or we will experience it again. As a parent I discipline my children because I want them to do what is right instead of wrong. Other times just like my coach, I do it because I believe they can do better. When God disciplines us, we need to step back, pray and ask "Is there something I'm doing that I shouldn't be?" There usually is! Don't allow this discipline to discourage you or disqualify you, but let it equip you and empower you! When we quit doing what we shouldn't and remember God loves us enough to correct us, we will do what He's called us to!

"A fool spurns his father's discipline, but whoever heeds his correction shows prudence." Proverbs 15:5

It is wise to pay attention to all God says and does...including when He disciplines. May we always remember He has a reason for it, but never forget it's not to disqualify us from what He's called us to do. I've missed joining you here, but I'm grateful I obeyed God and stepped away. In the moment I didn't appreciate His discipline, but I'm thankful for the lesson He taught. I look forward to applying what I've learned and pressing on with what He's leading me to do. I invite you to join me back here tomorrow as I share a devotional and talk about a topic dear to my heart.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on discipline. Has it ever left you feeling disqualified?