Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Greetings

                                                  “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
                                                           Let earth receive her king;
                                                  Let every heart prepare Him room…”

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Yet again another year is about to end…it seems the time has quickly passed, but looking back I’m reminded much has taken place.

Jesse (1), our baby, has learned to walk and is starting to talk; our Jed man (3) has mastered potty training; Jaylyn (5), our little girl, has started kindergarten; Joy (7), our big girl, now plays basketball and J.D. (9), our oldest, left the country! (He enjoyed a fishing trip to Canada with Job.) There’s also been daily laughs and smiles along with some tears and a few fights, but all in all 2012 was a wonderful year for all of us! We are looking forward to celebrating Christmas as the year comes to a close.

As the big day approaches we continue to prepare - it started with the tree and decorations, next comes the baking and Sunday School program and I always seem to save the shopping for last. But the other day in the midst of all this preparation, that is both enjoyable and overwhelming, I was reminded of the most important prep work I must do - prepare Him room!

Years ago at the 1st Christmas, shepherds and wiseman took quite a journey to see Jesus, the One we celebrate. But this year we don’t have to leave the comfort of our home…instead Jesus comes to us.

He says to us, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Rev. 3:20)

This Christmas if you hear Him, the “birthday boy”, knocking we pray you’ll answer the door. What better way to celebrate than spend time with the One who is the Reason for the Season!

We hope this Christmas finds you blessed and enjoying time with the ones you love! We pray all your prep work is a success and trust as you make room in your heart for Jesus, He will fill it with JOY!

                                                                                                 Merry Christmas and God Bless!
                                                                                                           Love The Beran’s

                              May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
                                  so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the holy spirit. 

                                                                        Romans 15:13                                                 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Are you ready?

"Are you ready?" seems to be the question of the week...everywhere I go people are talking about the up-coming holiday. The one some have been preparing for for months. The Christmas ads start in October, the decorating begins in November and much takes place in December.

We decorate trees, buy gifts, wrap presents, mail cards, bake cookies and the list goes on. There is much to do to prepare for this celebration that commemorates the birth of Christ. It's good stuff. It's fun stuff.

But with Christmas 5 days away and a blizzard taking place outside my window, it's feeling more like stressful stuff. I still have gifts to buy and cards to mail, but since travel is not advised in Iowa...that won't happen today. And really that's OK; all month long I've been asking God to help me focus on the real meaning of Christmas and keep me from being overwhelmed with the busyness of the season. He's answering that prayer.

This morning He also opened my eyes - Christmas isn't the only thing I need to be ready for. The prep work I do for the celebration of Jesus birthday is important and serves a purpose, but there's a more important day to be ready for - Christ will come again.

I was challenged this morning to think about how much time and energy I devote to getting ready for that big day. Honestly, I don't work as hard or do as much to prepare for that as I do for Christmas. And the thing is if I don't get everything done by December 25th, chances are pretty high I'll get another try next year.

But friend, preparing for Christ's return is something we can only do once. There are no second chances.

So today as you bake cookies or address cards, can I encourage you to think about what you are doing to prepare for Christ's second coming. Perhaps you have sin to confess, a relationship to restore, a friend to forgive or maybe you need to accept Christ as Savior and declare Him your Lord.

Think about this: Be dressed, ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. Luke 12:35-36

The question of the month really is a question for life! So ask yourself today, "Am I ready?" I pray your answer is YES!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Choices at Christmas

 Lately God has me revisiting words I wrote years ago...they bring back memories and have made me think...Did I really write that?  It is my prayer that they will bless you in some way as well. As I read I'm also reminded that God does have a purpose for the road He leads us Christmas approaches and your faced with countless decisions I pray you will make the one that matters most!

From Dec. 8, 2009 - 
Do I buy him a race track or farm set? Her a doll or dishes? Do we open gifts on Christmas eve or Christmas morning? Do we go to his parents or mine? One piece of fudge or two??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Picture of Prayer as Preparation

This week in Wendy Blight's online Bible study our lesson is titled, "Pray so that." She has shared many good insights and powerful scriptures that remind us why prayer is powerful and necessary.

One thing that struck me was this paragraph that Wendy shared, "Our God is All-Knowing. He alone knows what our future holds. God has given us this gift of prayer. He intends to use it to prepare us. In prayer, God girds us up for the trials, battles and temptations that will come our way." Honestly I don't think I'd really thought about this before, but as I dug into the passage we were studying, Matthew 26:36-45, I knew it was true in my life.

These words about Jesus praying in Gethsemane brought to mind Luke's words about the same time in Jesus life, which were powerful in mine.

Saturday, August 30, 2008 - I can remember that day like it was yesterday...we'd found out we were expecting our 4th child a few weeks prior, but yet the pregnancy was different. And early that morning I woke up knowing something wasn't right. As a Mom, I knew we were losing our baby. The reality of that fact was hard to grasp and brought pain from depths I hadn't experienced before, but before heading to the hospital my husband led us thru family devotions.

We were following a daily Bible reading calendar and I opened to the New Testament passage that I was going to read aloud, Luke 22. I read about Judas and the Last Supper, but was simply saying the words not digesting them or really expecting to hear from God. Outwardly I was reading the Bible but internally I wrestled with what was happening to the baby I already loved, but wouldn't hold til heaven.

I continued in this fashion until I reached verse 42. It was then I paused - I knew what the words were, but everything in me fought saying them out loud. I didn't want to echo Jesus words, but I did. With tears. And His words became my words, "Father, if you are willing take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

I believed God had the power to stop what seemed inevitable, He could take the cup from me, but more than that speaking these words reminded me God is in control. His plan is perfect. I must trust that He can use bad for His good.

Knowing all of this didn't make the situation easier...I cried a lot. I didn't understand. But God was there and through it all drew me closer to Himself. In the days that followed I returned to Luke 22 and found encouragement in verse 43, "An angel appeared from heaven and strengthened Him." In my darkest moments it seemed God did the same for me.

This all took place 4+ years ago, but just now I've realized God had even more in that passage. Verse 46b says, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Wendy shares these words about this:
“Temptation” as used here is from the Greek word peirasmos and refers to “trials with a beneficial purpose and effect.” They are divinely permitted trials and temptations. As specifically used here, it refers to trials and temptations entered into by a person’s disobedience or carelessness. 

Matthew Henry in his commentary writes, “There was an hour of temptation drawing on, and very near; the troubles of Christ were temptations to his followers to disbelieve and distrust him, to deny and desert him, and renounce all relation to him. There was danger of their entering into the temptation, as into a snare or trap; of their entering into a parley with it, or a good opinion of it, of their being influenced by it, and inclining to comply with it; which is the first step toward being overcome by it.”

Jesus knew the danger and trouble that lie ahead for His disciples. Spending time praying with Jesus and for Him would have not only blessed them but also equipped and empowered them for all they were about to endure.

Looking back this makes so much sense...God brought me to that passage, so I could pray Jesus words. So He could prepare me to fight temptation. The temptation to doubt God, to question His ways, to turn from Him in times of trouble. Friend if you've experienced loss, plans that didn't go the way you expected or times of trial chances are you've asked or wondered, "Why God?" Perhaps you've been tempted to disbelieve, distrust, deny or desert Him.

God knows the why, but He doesn't always explain the answer to us. But He does know the future and He uses His Word and our prayers to prepare us for what lies ahead. Today may I encourage you to stay in His Word, pray, pray, pray and keep your eyes on Him - doing just that will help you walk in faith and thru situations you never imagined you could.

Question for you - How has God used prayer to prepare you?? 

Monday, November 19, 2012

So that...Week One

I have recently started Wendy Blight's on-line Bible study entitled "Living So That: Our Call to Action." I believe God will use this study in my life and in the lives of all the participants. During this first week we spent time digging into a lesson titled, "God Spoke So That."

Our memory verse for the week was from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good purpose.

Through the week, we've explored many verses that prove God had a purpose for every word He spoke. He did not waste His words. He did not use them in the wrong way. He did not talk to drown out the quiet. He spoke SO THAT we could hear, we could learn, we could understand, we could be prepared, we could be disciplined and on and on. 

As the days have gone by, He's opened my eyes to much and as I've thought and prayed about what to write in this week's wrap-up, one thought keeps rising to the surface. It's actually a question that He's whispered to my heart and one that has really made me think, it sounds like this, "Jill, why do you speak? Why do you write? What is the purpose of your words?"

And friends I'd like to ask you the same question, "Why do you speak?" Now our words can't compare to God's, the One who spoke and created the world, but they do have power. How do you use that power? Do you even realize the power you hold? Do you waste your words? Do you use them wisely? Do you speak with purpose?

I know it could be easy to give the right answer to these questions or simply ignore them entirely, but I encourage you to take some time and think about it. Pray and ask God to show you the power in your words and ask Him to help you value them the way He does.

His Word transforms us and our words (when there spoken so that He speaks thru us) have the potential to make a difference. I have a desire to speak and write SO THAT others are impacted for Christ, how about you?

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Here's something to think about -
God spoke SO THAT..................
I speak SO THAT...................

Friday, November 16, 2012

Flashback Friday - No Turning Back

Today I'm going way back to one of my very first blog posts from July 8, 2008, the words spoke to me and I pray they do the same for you.

I read the second chapter of Lysa TerKeurst's book (What Happens When Women Walk in Faith) 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 how far He's brought me. 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?? 

I move ahead 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!!

Friend, what is God calling you to do? Take the first step, rely on His strength and remember there is NO turning back!

 Jesus replied,  
“No one who puts a hand to the plow 
and looks back is fit 
for service in the kingdom of God.” 
Luke 9:62

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"In My Arms"

My baby is growing up, but the other day it was just him and me in the house. He woke from a nap, early and a little unsettled, so we sat in the chair. I shared gentle words and he calmed down. Time ticked away, a load of unfolded laundry sat in front of me and a counter of dirty dishes were behind me, but we were still and there was peace.

I rocked my little man and thought about much...the amazing impact of a Mother's arms, the joy in being still and the love of family. Like I said my little man is growing up and honestly I don't remember the last time I just rocked him, snuggled and enjoyed the moment. I thought, why don't I take more time to do this? 

As I pondered this question, God asked me another one, "Jill, why don't you take more time to sit with me? Jesse needed your comfort and oftentimes you need the same. Don't get so caught up in all you have to do that you miss time with me and the ones you love."

In the days that have passed, He's reminded me of this moment and brought a few simple words to mind. Friend, no matter your struggle or need take a minute and let His arms embrace you. Being in my arms made a difference for my little man and being in His will do the same for you!

A Mother says to her son,
"In my arms,
you are safe and secure.
You find comfort and rest.
You feel love and peace."

The Father says to His daughter,
"Call for me and I will come.
I'll hold you and
you'll experience the same...
in My arms."

I'm a little late, but Julie Sunne is the winner of Unglued! I'll be in touch! I'm praying this book blesses you!! Trusting it will!!

Friday, November 2, 2012

A letter to a friend...(And a GIVE-AWAY!)

I've been following along with Melissa Taylor's on-line study of Unglued and earlier this week she shared an idea. She suggested writing a letter to Lysa TerKeurst, the author of Unglued, and today I'm doing just that. Though this letter is not addressed to you, I believe God may have a message tucked in it for you. And if you haven't read Unglued add it to your list!! If you'd like to win a copy, there's an opportunity to do just that below!!

Dear Lysa,
Oh where do I begin? Six years ago I heard you share your testimony at a Hearts at Home Conference and you've been speaking into my life ever since. Your challenge to say "Yes" to God is one that scared me at first, but it's one God has used.

I could write about the impact of your numerous books, the She Speaks conference or the opportunity I had to work with you at the Rise and Shine Women's Retreat. But for the sake of time and space I'm going to focus on the events of the past week.

I'm currently leading an Unglued study at our church, following Melissa's on-line study and was blessed to hear you speak on the topic in Pella. Obviously God wants me to get the message of Unglued!! And I am!

Like you, I see myself as an exploder and stuffer. And God has been working on each of these areas - the strategies you share are practical and powerful. They have made a difference in my life and relationships.

I first read your book and God opened my eyes to the stuffing I do with my husband. Since then I'm making progress, imperfect I might say, but even the other day he said to me, "I can't believe you're bringing this up already!!" Doing the hard thing, or should I say the good thing, has made a difference in our marriage. Thank you for being part of the process.

So now fast forward to this I understand more and more about stuffing I realize I do this with friends as well. And lately it's been with a friend who's been close thru the years, but a friendship that has grown distant over the last few months. God had revealed the problem to me, but I avoided it and worse yet I continued doing it. It drove me crazy and left me with guilt, but still I did nothing.

Until this week when I was submersed in our study and then heard you speak Lysa. God opened my eyes. He used your question, "What do you fear losing by addressing the issue?" It was true - I missed what was, but with the barrier between us I didn't have that. So this gal, who avoids conflict and confrontation like most people avoid the plague, made plans to do what I don't like to do.

My friend and I got together. We visited and caught each other up. And I silently prayed that God would give me the courage to do what He was leading me to do. He did. We both agreed there was a wall and each owned our role in building it. It was a time of honesty. A precious time of sharing from the heart. A beginning of God's restoration.

I walked away from our time together with one thought - God is GOOD!! I'd avoided and in a way dreaded doing what I knew I had to do, what God was calling me to, but He showed Himself faithful and powerful. Good.

As I've reflected on all of this, I know it's not just the relationship with my friend that has been blessed, no my relationship with God is stronger as well. Psalm 51 comes to mind, verse 4 specifically, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." I was not living with soul integrity as I hid things from my friend and played the "I'm fine" game, but worse than that I was sinning against God. A God who calls us to be honest. 

I'm thankful things went well with my friend, but I also know this may not always be the case. Still God has shown me honesty is worth the risk and a relationship that's right with Him never costs too much.

Oh Lysa, thank you is not enough, but it will have to do as I have no other words. Praying God continues to give you messages that impact my life and strengthen my faith.

Blessings from your friend on the farm,

My friends and I sporting our IMPERFECT PROGRESS shirts!

Last weekend I was blessed to attend a women's conference where Lysa was speaking! It was a joy and God had much to say!! The organizers of the conference gave each attendee a copy of the book and today I'm going to give mine to you!! So leave a comment for a chance to win!! Just for fun share your thoughts - Who has spoken truth into your life this week? How has God used it to make a difference? And if you don't have time to share, just say I'm in and leave your contact info!! Enter for a second time by sharing a link to this post!! I'll announce the winner on Monday!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31 Days - What I've learned...

I can't believe the month is over...really it seems like I just started this 31 day journey! Though the page on the calendar is turning I pray my intentionality of looking for God will continue. I hope I will hold onto the lessons I have learned.

So today I want to take a minute and think about what He's been teaching as I've been looking -

* I will find what I'm looking for. I've seen God at work and noticed the beauty of creation, but after 31 days of intentionally looking for Him I am reminded that I need to open my eyes and in my head I need to know what it is I expect to see. That doesn't mean life will be easy or the picture I see pretty, but if I set out expecting to see God in it, I will. His hand is in everything. I know I want to live to see it.

* I don't just see with my eyes. God is different than man...He is invisible so obviously I can't see Him with my eyes. But friend I can see evidence of Him around and so can you! But we also see with the eyes of our heart and the pictures our heart captures are better than those a camera will ever take. Oh how I long to see Him more with my heart!

* Sometimes I might not like what I see. I'll have to admit this lesson has surprised me a bit or at least it wasn't one I expected. Over the last 30 days I have seen God in many, many good ways - blessing me, creating beauty around me, loving me and others, working in ways that amaze me and the list goes on. But I have to confess some of the things I've seen Him doing have been hard to observe and harder yet to endure. You see I've seen Him working in me, changing me, changing relationships and I don't know about you, but for me change is hard. There are times I don't want to let go, I don't want to step out. I don't want to be molded or chiseled, but that's what I see Him doing. Today my 7 year old daughter was learning to borrow and she didn't like what she was seeing - it was hard, she was frustrated, she didn't think it made sense, but as her teacher I know. I see the big picture - I know there's purpose and friend God does too! He sees the big picture and knows how His plan will unfold and though it may be hard to believe in the long term it's for our good.

* I see Him when I reflect. When life is hard and times are dark, I know it can be hard to see God, even though I know He's there. In moments like that I've been reminded to reflect, to look back at where I've been and see how God was with me too. My flashback Fridays have been good for me - remembering what God has done and where He's brought me from builds my faith and encourages my heart. It reminds of His presence and leaves me looking for Him again.

I'd love to hear from you...what's God taught you this month? Or as you look for Him what have you been learning?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 Days - "But He's invisible!"

Awhile back I was talking with my kids about seeing God and one of them responded, "But Mom, He's invisible!!"  In her 5 year old brain, she knew if something was invisible that meant it wasn't able to be seen. Colossians 1:15 supports my daughter's thinking. It says, " The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation."

There have been times in my life when I would have agreed with her thinking I can't see God, He's invisible!! Perhaps you can relate to those moments, when you get a call with news you never expected, when a love one passes away, when the diagnosis is not the one you prayed for or when a relationship falls apart.

In moments like that I find myself slipping into a dangerous place...not just thinking God is invisible, but questioning if He's even there at all. And friend that is a lie satan would love for us to believe...regardless if I can see Him or not He is there!

We don't have to look any further than His word to know He is omnipresent!!

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell [the grave], behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7–10)

Friend if you're in the middle of a storm, physically or spiritually, He is there! It may seem He's invisible, but so is the wind. If we look we can see the effects of the wind and the same is true, if we look for evidence of God...He Will Show Us! Ask Him to reveal Himself and open your eyes to see!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

31 Days - Scripture for Sunday

Words from King Jehoshaphat to the Lord -
 "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you."
 2 Chronicles 20:12b

Oh, that they would be our words as well!!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

31 Days - Seeing God in our Obedience

Today I'm excited to be attending a women's conference where Lysa TerKeurst will be speaking! I know I will see God and expect to hear from His as well!! But for this post I'm taking another trip back and sharing a post from exactly 2 years ago when we were thrilled to have Lysa speak at our retreat! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 26, 2012

31 Days - Flashback Friday

Today for our flashback Friday, I'm going back 3 years and returning to a post I shared after the first Rise and Shine Women's Retreat. I see God's hand in it all and pray you do too. I'm so thankful for the reminder of His faithfulness!!

From Nov. 2, 2009 -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

31 Days - In the rain

As the rain falls, I think, "I wish I would have left the suburban out instead of parking it in the garage." We live on a gravel road and though our vehicle's paint is blue, but appears to be dirty brown. It's just a reality of country on them often enough and your car will get dirty.

This thought reminded me that I too get dirty as I walk down life's road. This dirt doesn't come from a muddy road or dust in the air; no, it comes from the choices I make, better yet, the sins I commit. Romans 3:23 tells us, "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Friend, that includes me and you.

That's not necessarily the good news you wanted today, but it's the truth.

And there is a good part: Just as the rain can wash my vehicle, God can make me clean. And if you go to Him, He can make you clean as well.

1 John 1:7 says, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." Do you know what purify means? The dictionary I used said, "to rid of impurities, cleanse and to free."

I'm thankful for the rain...our land needs it, but I'm also grateful for the opportunity to see God. I've been reminded that He is a forgiving Father...He has cleansed me and I am free. 

I missed out on an opportunity to have my vehicle cleaned, but I pray you won't do the same. Take a minute and make the choice to stand with the One who reigns and let Him wash you clean.

It doesn't matter if you're covered in mud or just have a little's all dirt to Him and through the blood of His Son, He can make us white as snow.

Would you join me now, "Father, you are all-powerful, you alone are holy, you reign Lord and you know, you know I've sinned. You've watched me _____________. Please Lord forgive me for _____________________. Help me turn from my sin and walk in Your ways, in your light. Thank you Lord. In Jesus name, Amen"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

31 Days - In His Word

For some reason today, I'm finding it difficult to sit and write, but that's OK. I'm seeing God and pray you are as well. This morning as I was reading I was reminded I never have to look any further than the Word to see Him. I'll share the Psalm that gave me a glimpse of God today -

The Lord reigns,
    let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
    let the earth shake. 
 Great is the Lord in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the nations. 
 Let them praise your great and awesome name—
    he is holy.
The King is mighty, he loves justice
    you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
    what is just and right. 
 Exalt  the Lord our God
    and worship at his footstool;
    he is holy.
 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the Lord
    and he answered them. 
 He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
    they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.
Lord our God,
    you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God,
 though you punished their misdeeds.
  Exalt the Lord our God
    and worship at his holy mountain,
    for the Lord our God is holy.

How have you seen His holiness today??

Monday, October 22, 2012

31 Days - In the life of my friend...

Intentionally looking for God is a good thing and really opened my eyes to a truth I new, God is everywhere, but a reality I don't like to admit, I haven't always seen Him. Honestly it's been a challenge to narrow my thoughts down to a simple post most days and that is a good thing!! So onto today's post...

The other day I read a devotional that focused on Job 42:5, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You." Henry Blackaby went on to share how during our trials God will reveal His character in ways we never knew. I have experienced this myself, but as I thought of my friend I saw this verse come to life.

You see Rachel and her family have had quite a year...I'll mention a few of the major things: stitches for their oldest son, her husband had an emergency appendectomy, a miscarriage, a major drought that affected their farm, she had her gallbladder removed and now their youngest son fractured his leg. She's still a longs ways from the suffering we read about in the book of Job, but that's a list of events I wouldn't want to experience in 10 months. How about you?

Now many might read this (or think about your own struggles) and wonder, "How can she see God in this?" Friend, there's a time I would have asked the same thing, but honestly as I've shared this journey with my friend I have seen God in it all. And I know Rachel has as well. I can't speak for her, but I'd like to share a few observations of my own:

1) Daily in my own life I'm reminded that I am not in control, but some of these major struggles have really solidified that fact. Seeing God in Rachel's life reminds me that Proverbs 19:21 is true - "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."

2) Worry does us no good, but there is power in prayer. I'm not saying Rachel hasn't worried...I have to believe every Mom does that at least once, but she has prayed and asked for prayer. I have watched God answer prayers and work through them. He has provided, sustained and comforted. Matthew 6:34 says, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Rachel can vow for this, but she also knows the importance of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 - "Pray without ceasing!!"

3)  One of my favorite passages is Romans 5:3-5, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love  has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Though I don't believe Rachel would have chosen the events that unfolded this year she has endured them. Because of that I have seen God at work and I know she has as well. Trials are never the way we'd chose to see God, but often it's a way He uses to reveal Himself to us. When we come to the end of ourselves, our patience, our ability...He shows up and He shapes us in the process. He's developing character in us to make us who He created us to be. When times are tough, we are able to see our God, a God who is stronger than any trouble that may come our way.

I share these things with a bit of hesitancy because I'd guess there were days when these thoughts and truths weren't the first thing on Rachel's mind. And I know the trials, injuries and illness won't always be part of my friend's life...someday I might have a year like her's. It is then in the dark that I must remember to hold on to what God has shown me in the light.

I'm praying this rollercoaster year will soon come to an end for my friend, but I'm thankful God has opened my eyes to see Him in it!! I hope you've caught a glimpse of Him here as well!! And if you want to read a firsthand account of Rachel's story check out her blog by clicking HERE!!

On a side note thanks to all those who left comments last week!! The winner of Wendy Blight's book is Rachel...I'll be contacting you!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Scripture for Sunday

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 
Hebrews 12:1-3

Friday, October 19, 2012

31 Days - Time for a trim

Once again another week is coming to a close and I'm doing another flashback Friday. This time I've gone back nearly two years and pulled out a post that still comes back to me from time to time and one that fits in well with my "Seeing God" series.

From November 19, 2010 -

Time for a Trim

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

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

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

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

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

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

This mind picture is one that has never faded that time in my life God did some major trimming. I won't lie it was hard and took some adjusting, but the view it led to was beautiful. Friends, if God is asking you to step into the ultimate barber's chair can I encourage you to do it!! Your life may look different, but trust me you will SEE Him more!!

Has God ever given you a trim? I'd love to hear how it helped you see! Remember your comment enters you in a drawing for Wendy Blight's book "Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner." 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

31 Days - In my husband...

Yesterday I wrote about seeing God in my children and today I want to share about seeing God in my husband. We're celebrating his birthday today, but I'm thankful for his presence in my life everyday.

It's hard to believe we've been married for over 11 years and have known one another for over 20! My relationship with Job is one that caused my relationship with Jesus to grow. We started dating shortly after I had given my life to Christ and much of what I've learned and the habits I've created are because of what he's taught me and the life I've watched him live.

He is a man who seeks Jesus and one who shows me God. In honor of his 3+ decades I'm going to share 3 ways I see God in him...

Sometimes I look at my life and marvel at the things God's allowed me to do, but the thing is I know I wouldn't have stepped out in obedience without Job first believing in me. He'd never want to be known as a cheerleader, but he's my biggest one!! When he expresses the confidence he has in me, I'm reminded God feels the same way. I'm praying God will allow you to see His belief in you today!!

Job is one of the most generous people I know...he is constantly sharing with someone in need. It doesn't matter if it's encouragement, finances, a meal or a friendly smile; if he can help someone out he will. Friends to me that is a picture of God - "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." 1 Peter 5:7

Last but not least, Job is an honest and loving guy. He says what he means and he does things the right way. He disciplines our children, but he does it in such a gentle, yet powerful way. He tells me the truth, but he speaks it in love. Jesus (God) is the TRUTH (John 14:6) and He is LOVE! (1 John 4:8)

Friends, I am grateful my husband gives me a picture of God and gives my children a glimpse of their heavenly Father! 

But my prayer for you today is that you will see God! God the one who believes in you, gives you what you need and loves you in the most amazing way. He is real and He's waiting for you to find Him today!! 

I would love for you to share what you see...remember a comment from this week's post will win a copy of Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner! You will see God on the pages of the book!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

31 Days - In my children

I find it kind of funny that yesterday I wrote a bit about being unglued as a Mom and today I'm going to share about seeing God in my children. This past Sunday our pastor was preaching on Matthew 7:12, which says, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." This is where we get the "golden rule", but as he dug into this deeper we found there is a lot in this's not always as simple as it sounds.

Anyway he challenged us to think about how we are doing with this concept and encouraged us to ask those we love the most. So I did this...even though God was already convicting me of somethings I needed to change as a Mom. I expected my children to be honest with me and figured I might get a response similar to "you could do better Mom" or "Part good, but sometimes bad!"

Actually I didn't just expect that...I knew I didn't deserve a real great evaluation. So I was a bit surprised after I spoke with my oldest 2 children. I talked with each of them individually and they both answered my question with these words, "Pretty good Mom."

I've been reflecting on this and as I do, I see God in my children. They are giving me grace. They are quick to forgive. They love me for who I am not because of what I do or do not do. And friend God does the same. Only He does it perfectly.

Through my children God has helped me see Him as a there something you need Him to forgive you for? Go to Him today and share the sin. Friend, He knows we're not perfect, but He loves us and wants to forgive us and free us. 

Psalm 130:3,4 says, "If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you." Today won't you let Him forgive you so you can serve Him?

Question for you - How have you seen God today? If you're a parent how have you seen God in your children? Remember all the comments from this week serve as a chance to win "Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner" by Wendy Blight where you will learn more about the freedom forgiveness offers.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

31 Days - Seeing God in and because of a Conference Call

It's Monday night and I'm writing Tuesday's post because I have to share how God showed up big tonight. So big, I'm not sure how to put this all together, but I'll try, so please bear with me.

Tonight I had the privilege of being part of a conference call for Melissa Taylor's online study of Unglued. Wendy Blight was the guest and her message was one God knew I needed to hear. She was focusing on being an unglued parent.

My starting five on Mother's Day!
Now when I tell you I'm the homeschooling parent of 5 children who are odd (that was our discovery today - since Jed turned 3 on Friday I now have a 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 year old) you might realize there's the potential for unglued moments in our day. But if you were to ask some of my friends or people who know me, I'm guessing the last word they'd use to describe me would be exploder. I can recall the comment I heard the most as a former teacher (junior high of all things), "You are the most patient teacher my kids have ever had."

Let's just say my husband cannot say that about the woman who teaches his children day after day. And the thing is, he hasn't really even seen me snap at them. So what's changed? Home-school vs public, Elementary vs Junior High, My children vs My students, Me? Lots of things really, but since I only have control over myself that is where I must look to make improvements.

Before improvements can be made I must confess something isn't right. This isn't an easy thing to put out there, but God already knows - Psalms 90:8 says, "You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence." He's seen me snap at the ones I love the most, He's heard me use words that hurt their heart (and His) and He knows I've regretted reacting wrongly, said I'm sorry but then did it all again. He knows and now you do too, but that's OK.

Tonight I truly believe He's taken me from a place of condemnation to a place of conviction. It's no longer about me trying to work harder and get this Mom thing right it's about turning to Him faster and being a daughter who relies on her Father. He is the one who does the Mom thing right. 

I was blessed to meet Wendy this summer...a real woman of God!
Friend, I'm seeing God in all of this and I pray you are too! You see as Wendy, gentle, kind, loving Wendy shared her story tears fell from my eyes, but God spoke to my heart. From my perspective, I've observed a wonderful relationship between Wendy and her college daughter, but to rewind and see how things were years ago that gave me hope. If God can do that for her...I know He can do it for me.

The call ended...a bit early for me, my 3 year old dropped my phone and it died, but I didn't explode!! As we prepared for bed I was eager to begin applying what Wendy had taught us...I was going to pray, dig into the Word and begin filling myself with Truth.

But God had other plans...we started in with the bedtime routine and I found myself laying next to Joy. I started what I thought to be a quick prayer, but God intended to be a cleansing of the heart. The spirit had been stirring my heart and I began pouring it out...this put Jed to sleep, but left a look of concern on Joy's face. 

This opened the door for a mother and daughter heart to heart complete with tears and laughs, apologies and forgiveness. A precious and powerful time.

I came downstairs with much on my heart and a house that was quiet. The thought, "I should write my blog post for tomorrow" crossed my mind, but then I recalled words from the call, "Go to Him first." So I opened my prayer journal and poured from a heart I thought was empty. 

As soon as it was empty God led me to His Word so He could fill it. He took me to places I didn't expect, but shared passages I needed to hear. The journey began in Psalms with the verse I quoted above and then led to Psalm 51, specifically verses 10 - 12, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit  from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." 

These are words I recited every week in church as a child, but ones I didn't realize came from the Word until I was an adult. Words that are now the prayer of my heart!! I want a heart that's pure, I need His Spirit in me and I desire a spirit that is willing even when my children are not!

My walk thru the Word took another change of direction and I ended up at 1 Samuel 28. Here Saul inquires of the medium at Endor after he had expelled them from the land. The point God made to me here is: an unchanged heart is going to return to sin. I have been down that road and I don't want to return. 

Friend, it's not enough to acknowledge the problem and say we want to change, we have to do the work. Like I tell my kids, work usually isn't easy, but it is necessary. And when God is the One we are working for the effort is worth it and the results are eternal. 

I'll close with two verses I plan to enthrone on my heart and I'd love for you to share one of your own! Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of Wendy Blight's amazing book, "Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner." Believe me God speaks thru this book!! I will draw a winner from all of this week's comments and announce the winner on Monday!

Two verses I know I need and trust He'll use - 

Proverbs 19:11 - A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

Proverbs 16:32 -  Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.

Monday, October 15, 2012

31 Days - In my life...

The other night I had a visit with a friend, one in which she shared about her day. A day a big event was held, Truth was spoken, women were encouraged, hearts were touched and God was glorified. The event she was referring to was one I've attended for the last 3 years, one I helped organize in its first 2 years and one God put on my heart many years ago.

The praise reports she shared were powerful and I was grateful, but part of me was sad...sad I couldn't be there. Disappointed I couldn't see some of the women I've come to know thru the years. As these feelings of disappointment and sadness rose to the surface I began to question if I'd heard wrong.

You see I'd been praying about attending over the last few months, but the door never opened. As my friend's excitement and enthusiasm came thru the phone I thought, "Maybe I was supposed to be there."

I put all this thinking aside and listened to my friend share. We went on to have a wonderful conversation - one that truly blessed me. It left me reflecting about so many things and helped me see God in a few different ways.

One, I saw God in my past...this conversation stirred up memories from years ago when God led me to step out and do what seemed crazy. Though I thought it was impossible, He has shown me HE is the GOD of possible!!

Two, I saw God in the "No's"...not always a fun place to be - saying no or hearing no, but God is in it. He knew where I needed to be on Saturday. Two years ago He knew I needed to say, "No" and step away from the Rise and Shine leadership team. But He's also reminded me when I say "No" to one thing, I'm freeing myself up to say, "Yes" to God's thing.

Which leads me to three, I saw God in my friendship...though the retreat would have been a blessing and He would have used it in my life, the phone call and heart to heart with my friend was what I needed and where I saw Him.

Friend, can I encourage you today - sometimes we have to say "no" to what is good so we can experience what is God's best.

And God, the one who was part of your past, wants you to see Him today and trust Him with the plans He has for your tomorrow!!

On a side note - Kimberly is the winner of Letters from Leanne - I pray you will see God's story as you read mine!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

31 Days - Sunday Scripture

May these words  
of my mouth 
and this meditation of my heart 
be pleasing in your sight, 
my Rock and my Redeemer. 
Psalm 19:14

Saturday, October 13, 2012

31 Days - In the details...

Yesterday our little guy celebrated his 3rd birthday and everyone in the family was excited for this special day. I saw glimpses of God from morning to night and today I want to share one of them.

Little Jaylyn was up early and wanted to help prepare the traditional birthday breakfast. She put a balloon on the back of her little brother's chair, helped mix the pancakes and began setting the table.

I'd handed her a stack of plates and she began putting them on everyone's place; before she set Jed's down she held it up for me to see. In her soft little voice she said, "Look Mom, I'm giving Jed the heart plate because it's his birthday and we want him to know we love him."

I'm not sure my new 3 year old picked up on that or even saw the heart on his plate, but I saw God in the whole situation. I was touched by Jaylyn's compassion and then reminded of God's attention to detail.

He whispered to my heart, "You are impressed with a 5 year old's ability to select a certain plate, but remember I know the number of hairs on your head." (Luke 12:7) He also knows the plans He has for me. And friend those aren't just the BIG plans...He knows it ALL.

But sometimes, actually more times than I want to admit or even realize, I'm like my son. The little boy who was so busy this morning and focused on everything but the plate that was in front of him, that he doesn't even see the love someone is trying to pour out on him. And if that hadn't blinded him, the pancakes covered with syrup and whip cream would have.

I too can pile my plate so full of that I don't even know what's on it and distractions can make me lose focus in a real hurry. Sometimes I miss God in the details. Friend, I don't know about you, but today I want to slow down and see God placing the heart plate in front of me!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

31 Days - Flashback Friday

It's Friday once again, a special one in our house as our little Jed man turns 3!! The big day has me reflecting so the post I'm going to share is from days after his arrival. But first a couple pics - our precious little baby boy and one of my happy, energetic little man and then a story of the hope God brings!!

Jedidiah Jay Beran - A Few Hours Old
Our little clown - 3 Years Old

From October 17, 2009 -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So as the pregnancy progressed I found myself thinking about names. And as a family of all J’s, thoughts started there. Janelle, Judson, Jordan, Jace, Jared, Julie…the list went on, but I always came back to Jenae. I’m not sure why, but it seemed to be the name God had for our little one.

Eventually I looked into the meaning of the name and found it to be, “God has given.” Since this wasn’t a baby we had “planned” (are any?), I thought the name fit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The name doesn’t make it any easier; actually it brings the tears right back. But I’m learning that’s OK, though her life was short, her presence was real and the pain is too. She’s one I won’t hold until heaven, but I’m thankful for her life and that I know her name. I’m also grateful God has given us His hope! Mommy loves you little Jenae Hope Beran.

Friend, it was good for me to revisit this story and I hope the words have blessed you as well. May we always look to see God! Today as we celebrate Jed's birthday I thank God for him and I realize our precious little man wouldn't be here without God's perfect plan.

So today, how have you seen God? Remember all comments from this week's post are entered to win a copy of "Letters from Leanne".

Thursday, October 11, 2012

31 Days - God is Love

Last night we attended parent's night at AWANA's and I saw God. His presence was obvious and I pray His spirit was at work!

God is Love - this point is made twice in 1 John 4. Verse 8 tells us, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." And verse 16 states, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them."

As I watched leaders interact with my children and the other 70+ kids in the building, it was clear God was working thru these individuals. Whether it was a gentle touch, an encouraging word or heartfelt prayer God was there. 

It wasn't just the things they did or said, but the heart they did them with...these leaders, men and women who'd had a busy day, maybe even a bad day, were patient and joyful, understanding and loving. Even when some of the little people were distracted, unprepared or misbehaved.

I watched the evening unfold and was reminded that sometimes I'm like the little AWANA students - I lose focus, sometimes I put off what I need to do and there are moments I don't live or think like a follower of Christ should.

But God...He is a leader who loves. He's gentle and patient. He wraps His loving arms around me. He understands I too am a child, one prone to mess up, but He loves me anyway. And friend the same is true for you!!

The AWANA leaders mission is to fill the young people under their care with the Word and though I'm an adult, God desires the same for me. He wants me to saturate myself with the Truth. 

During counsel time, the AWANA leader shared how God's Word is like a compass, it gives us direction and points us to God. And I'd have to add it tells me of His promises, one that reminds me I am LOVED.

So thankful I saw my loving God last night and I pray you not only see Him today, but feel His loving touch as well!!

This post is part of my 31 Days of Seeing God can find all the posts HERE.