Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I have a question...

Last night I attended a woman's Bible study and part of our wonderful discussion revolved around the question, "What comfort zone is God calling you out of?" One girl responded, "All of them." How true is that!!

Then the conversation turned more specific and another response hit home, "He is calling me to move past comfortable Christianity. He's asking me to be bold and do something radical for Him." Though the idea is scary, it's what I feel as well.

One thing it seems God has asked me to do is share my story, something I've rarely done. Two years ago it was impressed on me to put this into a book and after some arguing with God (never a good idea), I submitted and now have close to 150 pages.

I have seen God's hand at work as I reflect back on my life, but at times I'm stuck with the question "is this just for me?" I have been blessed by the walk down memory lane and given hope for the future as I see what God has done in my past.

I have included the chapter titles and first chapter of "Letters from Leanne - The Beauty of a Spiritual Mother-Daughter Relationship" and after reading I'd love to hear your opinion. Would you continue reading? Is this something God can use?

Letters from Leanne
The Beauty of a Spiritual Mother-Daughter Relationship…

1. How this Book Began
2. The Friendship Begins
3. The 1st Letter
4. Birth Mom vs Spiritual Mom
5. The Emails Begin
6. Life Goes On
7. Approaching Motherhood
8. Motherhood Begins
9. The Friendship Grows
10. The Trust Builds
11. More than a Friend
12. An Encouraging Example
13. Good from Bad
14. Sharing Hope
15. Blessing His Name
16. A Book is Born
17. Why We Share

How This Book Began
“WOW!!!! I can't really put into words what I am feeling right now. I am honored, I am humbled and I am filled with an even greater love of God for putting you into my life to make me realize that what I have to offer is that valid to another person. Your words are so powerful. A spiritual mother-daughter relationship, what a beautiful thing. I feel stronger than ever that God would not want the words to be held back, yet they can't be spoken at the expense of someone else. I have had such uneasy feelings for several years that God wants me to move in another direction, yet I don't know what it is. I had a really neat talk with a gal in my church today and we talked about this very issue. We talked about how we as "older" more experienced moms do have a lot to offer the less experienced mom. Maybe this is what God wants me to do. Maybe He wants us both to do it. Maybe He wants us to share in some way the importance of having a spiritual mother-daughter relationship. So many questions. I ask you to put this all in prayer and ask God what He wants us to do. How can we help others to have what we have? If it's something so good, how could God want us to keep it to ourselves? I hope that I am not confusing this, but are there resources out there that speak to this?
I love you...Leanne”

This is an email from Leanne, a close friend and mentor, that God used to confirm something I’d been thinking about for a couple of years. Over a period of nine years, Leanne Anderson has come to play a big role in my life – she has encouraged me, listened to me, given advice, and set an example as a Mom, wife and woman of God. Recently, as I was trying to express my thanks for her impact over the years, I failed in my verbal attempt and then told her I could write a book about the difference she has made in my life.

I don’t know what she thought of the statement or even how serious I was with the comment, but on my drive home I was getting the idea that there might be something to this. Memories of our conversations, along with a new understanding of the significance of our friendship flowed thru my head. I knew Leanne was a wonderful friend, but I was beginning to realize she was playing the role of a spiritual mother in my life. She was a living example of what Paul describes in Titus 2:4, “The older women shall train the younger women.”

We had discussed mentoring before, but God was using my failure to express verbal appreciation to stir up ideas for a written thank you and a project bigger than we had imagined. So over the next few weeks, I really doubted the idea of me writing a book, but as thoughts came to me, I figured I might as well write them down. The idea of me being an author really seemed crazy, so I kept the dream to myself and at times really tried convincing myself that this would never happen. As I was carrying on this conversation in my mind, God was constantly telling me something else. After I had easily typed twenty some pages, I felt the need to share what I had written with Leanne. At that point I had titled my work, “Becoming A Spiritual Daughter” and really just explained the hurdles and rewards that are part of playing that role.

I wasn’t sure how Leanne would respond, but I sent the email anyway. The opening letter to this chapter was what I received in return. I was thankful for her appreciation and felt like she sensed a bit of her significance after reading what I wrote, but more important than her comments was how God spoke to me thru what she said. As I read about her visit with a friend and their thoughts on sharing about the spiritual mother-daughter relationship, for the first time I was believing there might be something to this. I knew for myself the value of spiritual mentoring, but felt convinced to really share this with others. So as excitement was beginning to take the place of doubt, I did what she suggested and took it to the Lord in prayer.

As I did this, I not only said the prayer, but also took out my prayer journal and put it on paper. As I turned to the next page in my journal, I was struck by the verse at the top. It said, “You must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken!’ The Lord touched my mouth and said, ‘See I have put my words in your mouth!” Jeremiah 1:7-9 The words really spoke to me at the time and were simply more evidence of God’s involvement in the whole situation. Fear and doubt were two things really holding me back from pursuing the idea of writing a book, but as I read these words, I felt if it was something God was calling me to do, His power would make it happen. So as time continued to pass by, I kept praying for continued evidence that this was His plan and not mine. I also found myself thinking of more words to put on paper...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Why me?"

"Why me?" a question we have all asked from time to time and one I've asked far too often. Usually it's a question we hear from others or even in our own minds when something bad happens or tragedy strikes - "Why did I lose my job? Why did my loved one have to die? Why didn't I make the team?" Lately it's been a question I have been asking not because of a death, loss of a job or any other event, but simply because God is calling me out of my comfort zone.

In "What Happens When Women Walk in Faith" Lysa TerKeurst discusses this very question in chapter 6. As she too is being called to take a step of faith, she shares about not only silently asking herself the question, but asking a friend, "Why me, Sheila? Why me?" Her friend replies with the best possible answer, "Because God knew you'd say yes Lysa."

Obviously that's the best answer for Lysa TerKeurst, but does that apply for me too? At times when my mind is full of doubts and overflowing with all the what ifs, my mind wants to say "No, that's not true for you!!" But in my heart I know that's what God wants, it's what He calls us to do - follow Him and let go of everything else, including the worries, doubts and fears.

Though at times I don't understand the whys and occasionally the work seems impossible, I know it's not my place to figure things out. That's not what He has called me to do, He just asks me to trust, submit and proceed.

So as God continues to call, I know He doesn't want to hear a broken record. He doesn't just call us out of our comfort zone to perform a certain task and complete another job on His to-do list. He is strengthening me, our relationship and impacting others.

All the while this is taking place God is with me, the topic of chapter 7. As Lysa says, "though I knew the purpose was to learn to depend on God like never before, it was hard." God doesn't tell us it will be easy, but the Bible does tell us His ways are higher than my ways. Though my selfish mind doesn't always act like that is true, I have enough experience to know His word is accurate.

As the journey continues my faith is growing and my desire to share is increasing. At times it is amazing how much He can change me! Though I still have fears and can worry about others' opinion way too much, I prayerfully keep moving forward and trust where God is leading.

At times I even find myself still asking "Why me?" The question is not always based on fear though. Instead it stems from worthiness - the thoughts in my mind go from "Why am I the one privileged to lead this group?" or "God why am I the one whose story you want to tell?" I have done nothing to deserve the privilege of some of the callings God has given me.

"Why?" is one of the first questions every child asks and though the subject matter may change thru the years, the question is always there. At least that's been the case for me, but as I mature God continues to provide answers...

"Why me, God? Why me?"

"Jill you've said yes before and I trust you will say it again."

"God I want to say yes, but I can't do this. I don't deserve to do this."

"Daughter, you can't do this, but I can. And it's not about what you've done, but who I am."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Raising Godly Sons

Once again it is Monday, time for a meeting at the Well. Today, Lori at All You Have to Give is hosting the conversation and the topic of discussion is "Raising Godly Sons." Titus 2:6 says, "In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely in all they do."

Honestly thoughts of Titus 2 quickly bring to mind the idea of women training women, so it's a wonderful reminder to think about the influence our example has on men as well, our sons in particular.

As I read the questions Lori posed, I was more excited to read the answers than share some of my own. As a girl who grew up with 2 sisters and primarily babysat girls, my knowledge and experience with boys was limited as a child. So needless to say the birth of our son five years ago also marked the start of a real learning experience...

We hear people say boys and girls are different and now with 2 daughters of my own, I see that lived out daily. Though the sexes are very, very different I believe the foundation for raising Godly children is similar...

Like some of the ladies have mentioned there is insurmountable power in prayer. I don't know how many times I've heard someone say, "The only thing I can do is pray." I believe it's not the only thing, it's the best thing. My son is growing and changing and even the other day I said to a friend, "I wonder what things will be like when he's a teenager?" Honestly sometimes I don't just wonder, I worry!! That's where prayer comes in - though he's just weeks away from his first day of school, we are already praying about his first date, his first big game, his first job, everything. We are trying to put it all in God's hands now - as the saying goes it's better to be proactive than reactive.

As we do this, we don't just pray as a couple or me by myself, but include J.D. in our times of prayer as well. I guess part of the training involves letting your child see you walk the walk - our prayer is they will see how important this is to us and want it for themselves. Another prayer - they will make their faith their own.

Another area I feel is critical to establish in the younger years is communication. Trust me I know conversation with a 5 year old isn't always the type of conversing we are looking for, but we can't expect our child to just come talk to us when they are ready to have a deep conversation in their teenage years. Just like our friendships, our relationships with our children are built over time. Even though J.D. is only 5 we have had some wonderful talks, especially at bed time when life slows down and I make myself available. These times not only build relationships, but they are a wonderful opportunity to plant seeds that I pray will grow into truths that carry him thru life.

Finally for me, the third critical element in raising Godly sons comes back to Titus 2. Women who are a step ahead of me in raising Godly sons have been a huge source of encouragement and wisdom. They have walked the walk and their willingness to share from the good and bad have given me insight. Their words remind that it's never easy, but we grow thru the pain; though mistakes are made, children are forgiving and tomorrow is a new day; and raising Godly children is the biggest assignment God has given us, but He doesn't intend for us to go alone - He is there to help!

So as we enter a new stage of our son's life, prayer will be constant, communication critical and wisdom from my mentors craved.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Along for the Ride

Departing for a trip into unfamiliar territory can be scary! You’re not sure what lies ahead – twists and turns, hills and valleys, fresh starts and dead ends. It’s beneficial to have a passenger who can help and often times life is the same – it’s a journey without a map and one we don’t want to make alone…

I was headed down the dead-end street when my traveling partner joined me for the ride of my life. Her initial impact was remarkable as her words and shared faith helped me turn around and avoid the ditch of depression. She played a role in my life continuing, rather than it coming to a sudden stop.

She didn’t wave good-bye once I headed in the right direction, but instead packed her bags and continued on the ride. As I rounded some curves, she remained available and offered advise about new jobs and my role as a wife.

The journey went on and when there were bumps on the road she was approachable. I went to her with doubts, fears and pain; her honesty and guidance gave me direction when life was difficult.

Once carseats became part of the adventure her personal experience proved valuable. Her stories from days gone by reminded me I wasn’t alone in my struggles.

At times the bumps became valleys – as she dealt with death, she taught me about life. It is not a race! The time we have with loved ones is limited; we need to share our faith. If we want to leave the valley, we need the peace that only hope provides.

Some times the road has been smooth and it’s then she reminds me to be thankful and appreciate the view. But when traffic gets bad, she encourages me to be patient and let His plan unfold.

Other times the journey becomes an uphill climb, so as I struggle to take a step, her support and example move me ahead.

There have even been times I’ve reached a crossroads. When I didn’t know which way to turn, her insights and wisdom helped point me in the right direction.

The journey isn’t over and the path is still unknown, so my traveling partner is a constant necessity. As the seasons change potholes will return, valleys and hills will reappear and someday instead of buckling carseats I’ll be handing over the keys. I’m thankful my friend is along for the ride!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Suffering - A privilege?

I was up early today, something I may suffer for later, but found myself reading Philippians - a book full of wisdom and encouragement. Many of the verses hit home and were words I needed to hear, but nothing jumped out at me more than chapter 1 verse 29, "For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him."

Suffering - it's a word we don't like to hear let alone something we have to experience. Thoughts of the possibility can bring us down and hearing of others suffering even causes pain, so how can Paul say it is a privilege?

He isn't simply talking about suffering. He elaborates and says "suffering for Him." It's one thing to suffer because of our selfish desires or thoughtless mistakes, but the suffering he refers to is because of Christ.

Not that Christ causes us to suffer, but living our life for Him will. Our faith will not always be understood by those around us, which in turn will lead to judgement, misunderstanding, labels - suffering in one form or another.

Suffering isn't fun - it hurts, causes doubt, creates tears, but yet it is a privilege. Why? Because when we suffer for Him, it's proof we are living for Him.

I once heard Anne Graham Lotz say, "Jesus took the nails for me" (now that is suffering), so "in this life I need to take some for Him." No matter how hard life gets, we need to remember as the song says, "the darkest day in history is over," Jesus death brought victory. No matter how defeated we feel, joy will come.

So though my lack of sleep may bring suffering later on, it is a privilege - again from Anne, "sleep deprivation is better than God deprivation!!"

Have you suffered lately? Remember it is a privilege!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What am I living for?

During my high school days, this question was easy to answer - basketball. My world revolved around the orange ball in a similar way the earth revolved around the sun or so it seemed. I was always looking to the next game and driven to use my time to improve. Regardless of how the season went, it always eventually came to an end, which resulted in a bit of depression. What was I to do? Like the old song says, "All that I had been living for was gone..."

Eventually, I'd let that go and concentrate on the season that was to come. This process worked fine until my freshman year in college when I hurt my knee. I wouldn't surrender yet though as I rehabbed and made plans to play again.

Finally after a year of struggles, I let go and realized my days in uniform were done. Now 12 years later it's much easier to see though basketball taught me a lot, brought joy and created great memories it's not what I am to live for.

Though it can be easy to see the wrong answers to the question, "What am I living for?" as I look back in my life I wonder, "how am I answering that today?"

It's easy to say the right answer, but when I really look am I living it? It can be easy to get caught up in living my life for my kids - don't get me wrong, investing in those given to me is critical, but ultimately that can't be what or should I say who, I am living for. It's just as easy to get caught up in the dreams we have or the ministry we lead - pouring our self in to working for God.

But, just as my basketball days came to an end - one day my kids will grow up, my dream will come true or die, and I realize new leadership keeps ministries alive. One day all that I am doing will come to a close and when it does, "will all I'm living for be gone?"

I hope not and I really don't think that will be the case. Back in high school when we lost the final game, that is how it felt, I really didn't know what could take it's place, but now things have changed.

As I've come to know Christ and my faith grows, I realize it's not the things, dreams or even the people I'm living for - it's God. Yes, He wants me to do things, He even has dreams for me and people I need to touch for Him, but what I'm living for is Him.

So even though buzzers blow and cause the game to end, all I'm living for will never be gone!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bible Study Girl

Various readings and situations have me thinking about the ideal Bible study girl. I think we can each picture her and if we are honest, have at some point tried to be her. I know I have, but as I think about this I'm convinced there is so much more. And as I move away from trying to be somebody I will never be, it's not only for my own good, but others as well.

Lysa TerKeurst is one who triggered some thoughts about this topic as she shared about a book she is currently working on "Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl." I can't wait to read it - her words always inspire me and what a wonderful topic to consider.

Then last night at Bible study discussion came to this very topic as we discussed our fear of what others think and living up to unrealistic expectations. One girl mentioned how that not just sets us up for failure, but can drown others' hope as well. When we appear to walk the perfect walk, live the perfect life and come from a perfect family others may wonder what they are lacking or question where they went wrong. We all know that's not the influence God wants us to have on others.

So as thoughts lingered my mind came up with this,

"Bible Study Girl"
She comes to class
dressed in her best
with a smile on her face
and shares blessings from her day.
She recites the verses
and offers answers that are deep.
From the outside it seems
she has it all together,
but inside she struggles too.
There is pain from her past
and grief from what's been lost.
At times she doubts what she's called to do
and even fears what lies ahead.
As she studies, she learns
"People don't need a perfect person,
it's the real ME,
they need to see."
She becomes transparent
and leads in a way others can follow.
The Bible study girl grows up
and becomes a woman of faith.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Mess, A Message??

Once again it is Tuesday, meaning I will be looking at Lysa TerKeurst's book entitled, "What Happens When Women Walk in Faith." This week we are focusing on chapters 4 and 5 - Loving God More than My Dream and The Adventure Our Souls Were Made For. At times it feels like Lysa is writing about my life...

One of her first lines, "God will take you to amazing places - but it won't always be where you thought you wanted to go, and the road won't always be easy." Looking back over my life, I know that statement has been true, but I feel it's more true now than ever. As He calls me to leave my comfort zone, I am afraid, I doubt, and at times feel like my young children as my mind says, "but I don't want to."

As this struggle continues, God keeps working on me and constantly confirms the message He is sending. Gradually my heart softens, my faith grows and my attitude changes and little by little I move forward - one step at a time.

I think back over the last 6 months and I have done things I never thought I would and true, it hasn't been easy, but as she says, "your roots grow deeper, not just wider." That is necessary because as I step out there the winds blow and just like the corn my husband puts in the ground, I need deep roots to keep me standing when the storms come.

Those roots don't just keep me on my feet, they allow me to grow. God, our creator, created me that way and as this growth takes place in my life it simultaneously occurs in my relationship with Him as well.

Just this past Sunday our Pastor spoke on fear, not the fears I tend to occupy my mind with - the fear of other's opinion, fear of not measuring up, fear of not being good enough, you get the idea... But instead the fear of God - Proverbs 9:10 says, "The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge." I believe the Bible, so why do I struggle to do what it says?

So as my roots grow, God is encouraging me to live more and more in fear of Him and slowly removing the desire to please people. Though I have a ways to go, Lysa reminds us, "He's the perfector and God will finish it." What a comforting thought.

As that thought comforts me, it also reassures me who I must depend on. I have failed enough on my own to know my strength is not enough. I must rely on Him, even when it seems what He is calling me to do doesn't line up with the plans I had when I dreamt of my future as a child.

Though my reality doesn't match up with dreamland, I know it matches up with God's plan. He simply is asking for obedience. And as I do this my prayer is someday I will be like the orphanage boys Lysa refers to as she says, "Little did they know their step of faith to honor God would result in their biggest dreams coming true."

What is our biggest dream? They're as different as the faces in the mirror, but ultimately don't they all come back to honoring and obeying God?

It seems God has called me to use my mess as a message. He can do this in many ways in all of our lives, but in my case He's asking me to write a book. The idea seemed crazy, but after months of doubt, I did it. Now He's moving to the next step and asking me to publish it. Again it's crazy, but also overwhelming and a bit scary. Actually a lot, but then I'm reminded - "Who do I fear?"

I don't know what lies ahead with this book project or my life in general, but deep down, under the worries, fears and all the unknowns there is excitement - God is leading me. What better place to be?

So I'll close with Lysa's words, "Determine to delight yourself in Him, and trust Him to work out the rest."

Monday, July 21, 2008

What is a Titus 2 Woman?

As I jumped around to different blogs today I came across Joyfully Living for His Glory and she was starting a discussion on Titus, so I couldn't pass that by. Each week at they will be looking at Titus 2. To start the conversation, the above question was presented...

In my eyes, a Titus 2 woman plays an incredible role in the way God works - that has definitely been the case in my life. Often times first thoughts of Titus 2 bring up the idea of a role model - someone who sets an example.

As a junior high and high school student, I had various older girls and women that I looked up, especially on the basketball floor. I treasured their comments and enjoyed watching them do the things I someday wanted to do. At the same time I looked forward to being in their shoes and promised to set a good example for the eyes that would someday watch me.

After graduating from college and giving my life to Christ, I found value in watching those who were ahead of me in their faith journey. Just like I had as a child I gained insight thru their words and saw who I wanted to become by watching their actions.

Many women have impacted me by living their lives as a Titus 2 woman, but one in particular has taken it a step further and become a spiritual mom. (See "She's a Friend") She has done all the things Paul talks about in Titus 2:4,5, but hasn't stopped there. Paul goes on to talk about salvation and the hope of Christ in 2:11-15, and Leanne has strengthened my faith because of her willingness to share hers.

In the last couple of years, God has really put it on my heart to share about the significance of spiritual mentoring in today's society. I am living proof that when He connects generations, He impacts lives and as women what an honor to play a part in His plan.

In order to do that we must constantly be aware of the message our lives are sending because someone is always watching. I truly believe our example is priceless, but at times He requires more of us. A Titus 2 woman realizes that and takes the time to really connect with the women around her.

Her words can encourage, her stories can uplift, her experience offers perspective, her listening ear gives comfort, her mistakes can prevent mine, her transparency helps me grow, the list goes on and on...

But the best thing a Titus 2 woman does is share God's love. I have found myself wondering from time to time what I've done to deserve the many blessings the Titus 2 women share with me and the answer is always the same - NOTHING!! I honestly believe God gave us Titus 2 women to give us a glimpse of Himself.

As I reflect on what a Titus 2 woman is, I realize in the world's eyes she is no different than anyone else, but then I remember God sees differently. He sees her heart, one that longs to live for Him and share that with others.

I have often wondered, "How can I thank these people?" I know there is nothing that will express my gratitude, so my prayer is I will use what they taught me and become a Titus 2 woman myself. After all my little girls are watching!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Reason for the Storm"

“Reason for the Storm”
The sky is dark,
A storm is taking place.
The pain is real and
The suffering hurts.
The difficulties can’t be understood
And the struggles result in sadness.
Questions go unanswered and
Trials put you to the test.
The road isn’t easy,
But the walk has a reason.

God is in control and
His plan is perfect.
He gives and takes away,
He has a purpose for it all.
He can take the bad and
Use it for His good.

God knows during the rain,
We always look for
The Son!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Our Audience

Last night as we sat down for supper, we had two guests. Former basketball players I had coached dropped by to visit and catch up. My husband asked Joy, our 3 year old, "What do you want to pray?"

"Praise Him," she says, like she always does.

I have moved past the fear of praying in front of others, but this wasn't just praying - it was singing. For a side note, my dad and I use to joke - "yeah, we can sing like a bird, a dead one!" So not sure if that fear will ever come to pass, but you can't stop a 3 year old who loves to sing praises and prayers!

We all survived and I heard no comments about my singing ability or lack there of, but as the night came to a close Job asked, "Why were you so nervous when we prayed?"

I said, "I don't like singing in front of people."

He simply responded, "They are not our audience."

Wow, that was a simple but powerful response. One I'm afraid I need to hear more often. It's so easy to get caught up in what other's will think, but ultimately it's not their opinion that matters.

Honestly what better way for me to share my faith with these young ladies, who are following in my steps, than by living it out - without fear.

God is the audience, no one else's opinion matters. His approval is all I need. Sure my singing might cause someone to laugh and stepping out of my comfort zone may cause others to think I'm crazy or too religious, but am I willing to trade that for pleasing God?

Sure going with the flow may keep the peace or temporarily help a relationship, but it in the end it does nothing. Nothing for the ones who are watching, nothing for me and especially nothing for God.

He is my audience and one day I want to hear Him say, "Well done good and faithful servant." He won't be talking about my singing, but obedience.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hope vs Doubt

Hope - a wonderful concept that keeps us pressing on and moving ahead. Doubt - a dreadful concept that knocks me down and beats me up.

The Bible tells us our hope is in Christ, true; but satan is constantly planting seeds of doubt to change my focus that in turn quenches my hope.

We can't have hope when we allow doubt to enter in and when we're full of doubt, hope is not present.

When we focus on Christ our doubts don't seem so important. We remember I can do all things thru Christ or with God all things are possible. Those thoughts alone offer hope!!

So why is it when I know these things and trust in the promises God provides, I still doubt. Why? Because I'm human and give in to the thoughts in my mind. The I can'ts, the worries of other's opinions, the I'm not good enoughs... They all produce doubt...

It knocks me down
and beats me up.
It makes me question
and sometimes quit.
It causes me to worry
and even wollow.
It robs me of joy
and leaves me empty.
It prevents me from sharing my faith
and truly loving my neighbor.
It causes me to compare
and think I'll never measure up.
It fills me with regrets
and plenty of "what if's."
It leaves me discouraged
and sometimes even depressed.
It is one of satan's weapons
and one, only GOD can combat.
It reminds me I can't,
but I trust God will.

Doubt - it's not a pretty thing, but when I recognize it and call it what it is, I'm reminded of my need for God and His power in my life. Even when I can't, He can!

Remember we can't have Hope and doubt, so the next time lies and doubts fill my mind I must do what Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Perfect Plan

Every morning I wake up with a plan for the day, but rarely do I head to bed after doing what I set out to do just 16-18 hours earlier. I often think my agenda is what is right, but daily God reminds me it is His plan that is perfect.

You'd think that daily reminder would be enough to make me constantly embrace His plan, but my stubborn mind tends to forget too quickly. At times I try too move ahead doing what I think is best.

Lysa TerKeurst reminds us "that God indeed has a plan. Not just a good plan. Not even a really good plan. God has the perfect plan." Wow! I need to rest in that!

This plan applies to every facet of our lives, but the area He seems to have me focusing on is just like Lysa mentioned, "sharing the real me, the imperfect, desperate-for-God me."

God is an honest God, so obviously His plan for me is honesty as well. I know that, but for quite some time have lived believing the lie the more people know about me the less they will want to know me.

I think of my closest friends and know that isn't how I feel about them, but for some reason I've never been one to share. Growing up I was the listener, always available to hear what anyone had to say, but rarely letting anyone know what was on my heart.

A past that includes depression and times of loneliness proves that isn't what God wants for any of His children, myself included. As time moves on though He also reminds me being real isn't just for my own good.

Just as others impact and bless me by sharing from the heart, my story could help someone else. Experience is a wonderful teacher and using my pain or mistakes to keep a sister from the same struggle may be out of my comfort zone and doesn't always appear on my to-do list, but it is part of His plan.

The influence doesn't stop there - God calls me, and you, to be real, open and honest for even more. When we go deep and share our heart - the good and the bad, we also share our faith. And when someone sees what God has done for me, that can only give them hope for what He can do for them.

So like I said rarely do I start the day with "share my heart" on my agenda, but I know when God brings the assignment I must follow thru. It's not always easy, sometimes not real fun, and others I am afraid, but it is always right. After all, it is part of His plan, the perfect plan.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"A Step Ahead"

"A Step Ahead"
The places you've been
are on the road I'm walking.
You've done the things,
I need to do.
You've passed the test
I'm preparing for.
You're a step ahead...
You've reached the goals
I'm beginning to set.
You've succeeded with challenges
I have yet to face.
You've answered the questions
I'm beginning to ask.
You're a step ahead...
The stories you tell
are ones I have yet to live.
You've experienced things
I someday will.
You've even made mistakes,
and now keep me from doing the same.
You're a step ahead...
The example you set
shows me how to live.
The advice you give
guides me through the day.
The words you share
put things in perspective.
You're a step ahead...
I'm thankful for where you're at -
You prepare me
for the future.
You teach me
how to be a parent.
You point me
to our Father.
I pray you'll always be
A Step Ahead!
The other day I wrote about being a true role model - one who not only sets an example, but shares their faith as well. Those thoughts led to ones about the steps I am following, I'm grateful for the Godly Titus 2 women who are showing me the way. My prayer is all of us will take that influence and pass it to the next generation.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A True Role Model

As a child, a young teen especially, I was one to really look up to those who were older than me. I especially looked to those who were on the basketball floor wearing the jerseys and playing the game I dreamt about. I not only admired their ability to dribble and shoot, but watched them off the floor as well.

I still remember the joy that came when they said hello or encouraged me as I played the game. I recall thinking someday when I'm on varsity I'll do the same.

That time has come on and gone, but it was a concept I took quite seriously. One that motivated me even more during the last 14 years as I coached 3 different sports from Little League softball to varsity basketball.

I viewed my role as more than teaching the girls to hit or play zone defense. I wanted to have a positive impact on their life and set an example. This desire motivated me to coach with integrity and value the girls more than winning, but over the last couple of years a question keeps reoccurring - "Am I true role model?"

Expressions of appreciation, comments of thanks and words describing my influence all prove I've set an example for the young girls I've worked with. And I am grateful, but I once heard someone say, "If you aren't impacting them for Christ, what's the point?"

Meaning ultimately the only difference that will last is one we make for Christ. Have I done that with the girls I coach? I don't know. I've tried to encourage right over wrong, we've touched on the clothes they wear, how they treat their teammates and I've tried to walk the walk.

It has been said, "Your life may be the best sermon someone ever hears." I agree - there is power in our actions and believe in the importance of living our faith, but I recently heard someone say, "No one ever gets to heaven by watching." People have to hear the words.

So as I reflect on the ones following in my footsteps, I think about those who are a step ahead, my true role models. They no longer wear a jersey or influence me by the success they achieve, but with the words they say and the faith they live.

Their stories, some told with smiles and others tears, teach me about life. As they share their faith in God during the storms, their praise in the pain and tell about the strength that results from the hurt, I am impacted. Not just for today, but eternally.

They will never know the difference they make and my thanks will never be enough, so I've come to understand when God gives us a gift, He wants us to pass it on.

My true role models live in a way that makes me want to be like them, and I pray someday that will be true.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

No Guarantees

With the unexpected passing of a young man in the community and the accidental death of a 3 year old in our neighborhood, I have been reminded of the fact that there are no guarantees.

We have no idea what tomorrow will bring or even the next moment, which can be a depressing fact if we dwell on it.

But over the last couple of days, God hasn't allowed the circumstances to bring me down. Yes there is grief and feelings of sympathy for those who lost loved ones all too soon, but He has used this to motivate me.

Situations I don't understand often remind me that I am not the one in control. God has the ultimate plan, though we didn't expect these deaths at all, He knew and though we don't know who will be the next child He calls home, He does.

My thought lately has been, "will that person be ready?" Again I don't know, but God does. I can't control who it will be or know if they are prepared, but God has given me a purpose - I need to share my faith with them. Sometimes it's with actions, but lately God is calling me to use words.

What is He calling you to do? Or say? Do it today as there are no guarantees for tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"She's A Friend"

“She’s A Friend”
She’s a friend to the young girl
who feels out of place.
Her kind words and caring ways
welcome her.

She’s a friend to her daughter’s coach,
who’s in need of confidence.
Her thoughtfulness and reassurance
encourage her.

She’s a friend to the one
who is hurt.
Her compassionate heart and loving spirit
comfort her.

She’s a friend to the new Mom
who doesn’t know what to do.
Her honest example and Godly advice
guide her.

She’s a friend to the quiet girl
who’s afraid to open up.
Her shared struggles and admitted mistakes
strengthen her.

She’s a friend to the woman in her 30's
who has a fear of failure.
Her listening ear and their time together
change her.

She’s a friend to her daughter
who sometimes has doubts.
Her constant prayers and walk of faith
inspire her.

She is a friend to God
because she knows His Son.
Her helping hand and grateful heart
glorify Him.

A special thanks to all my friends out there!! You are all a blessing!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

No Turning Back

I read the second chapter of Lysa TerKeurst's book entitled a Line in the Sand and God not only spoke to me thru the words on the pages, but illustrated it as well.

Today, Joy, my second child and also our little miss independent was determined to ride her bike without training wheels. So J.D., our 5 year old mechanic willingly removed the extra wheels and encouraged his little sis!

After moments of frustration, I suggested possibly putting the training wheels back on, after all she is only 3!! But my little princess/tomboy, who believes she can do anything her big brother can, wanted nothing to do with that!

She had been able to ride with me getting her started and believed with enough determination she could do it herself. She wasn't turning back even if it meant a skinned up knee!

As I watched her persevere, I thought of Lysa's words, "starting something new begins with leaving something old." That was true for Joy today, just like it is for me as I walk the path God has paved.

Sometimes it is hard, I think I can't, I worry about falling and getting hurt, I wonder what others will think, but just like my little girl I have to make a choice. No matter what might happen, I have to do what God calls me to do. Sure I might crash, but she reminded me I can get back up, brush it off and try again. She even went so far after one fall to stand up, smile and say, "There's not even any blood!!"

As much as Joy encouraged me today - after an hour she was making skid marks just like her brother, Lysa's comment about God filling in the gaps was the icing on the cake. I know my confidence and belief in myself can only take me so far and when I reach the limit it is wonderful to know God will cover the rest.

In the past year I sense He has done that and it's wonderful to look back and see what He has done. His faithfulness in the past offers wonderful hope for the future!!

As I say that I think about what He is calling me from because as Lysa says we have to leave the old if we want something new. I know the thought is right, but at times it is scary - I often let the what if's occupy my mind and find myself dwelling on what might never happen. Why??

So as I move ahead, I do so trusting the One who calls. As a former public school teacher who left teaching to stay home 5 years ago, in a sense I will leave an old mindset this fall as I begin homeschooling my son. As I take this step with worry, fear and excitement I know I will depend on God like never before and just like Joy reminded me this afternoon once we take that step there is no turning back!!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Something fun...

I saw this on another blog and thought it looked fun! If you try it on your blog, leave me a comment with a link

A is for age.
32, my HS b-ball number, so it's bound to be a good one!!
B is for burger of choice.
One of my husband's specially made burgers (with oatmeal) on the grill.
C is for what car you drive.
A 1999 dusty Dodge Caravan.
D is for Dog's name.
Blondie and Rosco
E is for essential item you use every day.
Toaster and microwave it's a toss up.
F is for favorite tv show at the moment.
Clifford - guaranteed quiet time!!
G is for Favorite game.
H is for Hometown.
Riceville, IA.
I is for instruments you play
J is for favorite juice.
K is for who you'd like to kiss.
My little Peanut (Jaylyn who's 17 months) She loves to make it smack!
L is for last restaurant you ate at.
Pizza Hut
M is for your favorite Muppet.
N is for number of piercings.
O is for overnight hospital stays.
5 - 3 kids, 1 early labor complications and 1 reconstructive knee surgery
P is for people you were with today.
My family.
Q is for what you do with your quiet time.
Read, write, study the Bible and pray.
R is for biggest regret.
Not speaking up and sharing my thoughts and beliefs because of fear of what others will think.
S is for status.
Married 7 years this month.
T is for time you woke up today.
5:30 to rain in our tent!!
U is for what you consider unique.
My kids and husband.
V is for vegetable you love.
W is for worst habit.
X is for number of x-rays you've had.
Maybe 3.
Y is for yummy food you ate today.
Peanut butter bar!
Z is for zodiac sign.
Pisces-- though I don't believe in the zodiac.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Thinking too much...

As God attempts to work out His plan in my life often times I find myself thinking too much, which in turn can lead to worrying too much. It's not always a fun or good situation. I don't know how many times I have told my husband, "I just wish I had an off switch."

Like I have said before sometimes God calls us to the unexpected and gives us a task we don't understand. When that happens the math mind in the former teacher in me starts to take over.

I analyze things and try to figure it out but life isn't like an algebra problem. Just because A + B = C on the pages of a math book doesn't mean the same is true in my life. God hasn't revealed the variables yet, so it's impossible for me to find the solution.

At times it's tempting to take on the attitude of some of my former students - I don't get, I give up!!!

God doesn't want me to give up, but He does long for me to surrender. Giving up says I quit, but surrendering to God says I'm yours.

When that's the case I don't need to figure out what the future holds, He has always known the answers to the problems my worries create.

I have come to realize most times when I think too much, I'm not trusting enough.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

"Are you sure?"

God has a plan. I know that in my heart, but at times my mind says, "Are you sure?" Experience has proven that often times His plan is what we least expect and when that's the case I often don't understand.

As if misunderstanding isn't enough, doubt and fear tend to make their presence known as well.

When God calls me out of my comfort zone, I know the right thing to do. It's as Nike says, "Just do it!"

Though I know the right thing, all too often I sound like my child, "but...." Then I hear our pastor's wife, "The right thing usually isn't the easy thing."

As God calls me out of my comfort zone, and you out of yours because He will, He has a plan. Maybe our actions will impact another - by hearing about our faith, they will want the same or maybe our confidence in Christ will encourage a fellow believer to take a stand or maybe God is simply trying to strengthen and mature me to preparation for what lies ahead.

So in the moments when I'm doubtful and afraid rather than asking God, I need to ask myself, "Are you sure?" "Jill, are you sure you believe God works all things together for good? Are you sure you can do all things thru Christ who strengthens you? Are you sure you love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind?"

I'm sure my mind believes that, now my life needs to prove it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

God has a plan...

I am taking part in an online study of Lysa T's book When Women Walk in Faith, so I'll be adding comments from a chapter each week...

God has a's a thought that makes sense to me in the grand scheme of things, but as I make it more personal it becomes a bit more overwhelming and at times confusing. God has a plan, a plan for me and a plan for you.

What is that plan? Good question, but often times it's what I least expect. As a child, teen and college student I had visions and dreams of what my future would hold, but it wasn't until I was a second year teacher that I realized my future looked different in God's eyes.

Thru a series of events, struggles and setbacks He called me to Himself and began revealing the plan He had. It all started with me accepting Christ as Lord and Saviour.

In the 10 years that have passed, my life at times looks nothing like I would have expected, but I'm thankful for where I am at. I read one person say they wouldn't trade anything for where they are at on their walk of faith. True.

God does have a plan and often times difficulties and trials are part of it. So what do we do when things don't make sense? Look back and see how far He has brought you and trust Him to do it again.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Dilly Dally

My 5 year old son runs on his own time. Sometimes it's 90 mph full speed ahead, but when I'm in a hurry and the clock is ticking it seems dilly dally mode kicks in. I'm not even sure if that is a word, but it's a concept that is too visible around here at times.

J.D. can be so consumed with what he's doing that he's oblivious to what I'm saying. Other times his urgency just doesn't match mine. Yet others, there are moments where he simply doesn't want to do the job at hand, so slow motion sets in.

The other day during a bit of frustration caused by of one of these dilly dally moments God used my son to get my attention. You know one of those times when you ask yourself, "Why is he like this?" Only to realize you do the very same thing.

Now I don't drag my feet when there's chores to do, well not always, but God did have my attention because the very actions that were upsetting me as the mother of my child had to be frustrating God as my Father as well.

As He calls me out of my comfort zone to share my faith and walk in obedience, I dilly dally. I drag my feet, think of excuses, worry about what others would think, and on and on...

Later that same day, God again used a frustrating dilly dally moment. J.D.'s actions, or lack there of, caused him to miss out on a trip to town with his dad which in turn led to one sad little boy. As I tried to capitalize on this teaching moment, God did the same.

He echoed the very same words I told my son, "when we don't listen and move our feet sometimes we miss out." It's yet to be determined what effect this has on J.D., but God made His point with me.

Just like Job, J.D.'s dad, didn't wait forever for him, God will do the same with me. He's given me a task to do and though it's scary at times I need to listen and obey. So as I encourage my son to leave the days of dilly dally behind, I'll be attempting to do the same myself.