Thursday, February 28, 2013

There is no stupid question...

Does the title of this post take you back to junior high? It does me...I can still recall various teachers sharing these words. My parents and other adults echoed them as well thru the years, but after a recent visit with a friend this line has come back to mind.

We were sharing about our difficulty in asking - asking others to watch our children, asking our husbands to do this or that, asking our friends to help, asking a neighbor to borrow something and the list goes on.

As I've thought about our conversation, I've wondered "Why? Why is it so hard to ask?" Actually we discussed this a bit...we don't want to be a burden or a bother.

I've thought about this numerous times before and ended at this point, but this time it was different and memories of days gone by have shifted my thinking a bit.

During junior high why did teachers have to tell us, "There is no stupid question"? And as a middle school teacher myself, why did I repeat the phrase? I believe it all comes back to one simple thing - we, well I, and perhaps you too, worry about others think.

Why doesn't the 13 year old ask a question in math? She doesn't want her peers to think she's dumb. Why doesn't the freshman ask the teacher to repeat the information she just shared? He doesn't want her to think he wasn't listening. Why don't I ask a friend for help? I don't want her to think I'm unable.

God has challenged me to think about the answer I'm quick to give in response to my failure in asking - do I really not want to burden the other person or am I more concerned about him/her seeing me as a bother? This question has my attention and friend, I pray you'll give it a little consideration yourself.

I'll admit, God has convicted me that all too often I don't ask because I'm worried what people will think. You know what that is called? P-R-I-D-E! And friend, that is not a good thing.

Granted I can't ask my husband to do everything and there are times I need to tell my kids what to do rather than asking them to do it, but asking is a good thing. Better yet, it's a Godly thing. In His Word, He commands us to ask. A few verses to support that statement -

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Luke 11:9

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matt. 7:7-8

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, "Ask! What shall I give you?" 1 Kings 3:5

Is there a question you need to ask? Can I encourage you to do just that today!! And may I suggest that you start by spending some time with God and allow Him to be the first one to hear your question! I did just that and He's given me some questions to ask...some of Him, others myself and several for those I love. In our quiet time together I wrote them down and then presented my first request, "Lord give me the strength and courage to ask the questions You need me to ask!"

Friend, I hope you and I will remember what our former teachers said and move on doing what God commands us to do! As those same teachers would say, "If you never ask the question, you'll never know the answer!!"

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It'd be easier...

Have you ever been in a situation and found yourself thinking, "It'd be easier if..."? Me too. I've found many ways to fill in the blank: It'd be easier if I had more time. It'd be easier if we had more money, if the kids were older, if healthy food tasted get the idea.

But the other day I was struck by an answer that entered my husband wanted me to attend a conference with him and my feelings were mixed. The thought of spending time with him was good, the thought of making arrangements for the kids was a bit overwhelming and the thought of using my away time (it's a high commodity) to attend a farming conference was honestly a little discouraging.

I was really struggling with the decision to go or stay home and as I talked with my husband the title of this post came to mind, along with a thought that struck me. As we worked thru this decision I thought, "It'd be easier if I was somebody else."

Like if I was the girl who grew up dreaming of living on a sisters would tell you my famous line, "I'm never marrying a farmer!" (Lesson there - never say never!)

Or it'd be easier if I was the woman who's home was organized and neat so the thought of someone spending the night didn't put me in freak out mode.

If I was the wife who joyfully and continually submitted to her husband that would make things easier.

Being the person I just described would make things easier, but the truth is - farming is not a passion of mine, keeping house is not one of my strengths and honestly I believe we all struggle with submission from time to time. I know this. And my husband does too.

After informing me that I analyze things way too much, he went on to ask, "What happened to the confident woman? The one who knows who she is and whose she is?"

Job knows who I am...he doesn't want, or expect, me to be somebody else. And neither does God...He's the One who made me who I am. He created me, gave me my desires, my strengths and even my weaknesses. He also knew who my husband would be, planned for us to share our lives and is sanctifying me as we journey together.

Friend in the moment we might think it'd be easier if we were somebody else, but living life as anyone but the one God created us to be is never easy. He has a plan for me, and one for you, that is unique for the individual He designed us to be. May we move ahead embracing who He made us to be and living like we trust His plan.

As we take a step towards finding our identity in Him, may we remember life isn't about the easy way. If it was, why would we need a Savior? Why would we depend on our Heavenly Father?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The kind of kids I want...

The J-Crew
"You're such a good boy!" "You have good kids." "They're so kids never behave in public."

Lately these phrases and others like them have caught my attention. It doesn't matter if I'm the one uttering the words or if it's a complete stranger, they leave me thinking.

Now you'd think a Mom of 5 kids would be grateful every time these words are spoken and in a way I am. Who isn't thankful when their child doesn't have a fit at the store? I always appreciate the good things my kids do and I value kind words from the check-out lady and the elderly man at the restaurant.

But...the truth is, as the Mom, I know my kids, I see my kids and I observe the things they do. Trust me...they're not always good. Actually not long ago, one of them did something that made me believe this even more. Thankfully my kids usually keep their meltdowns and misbehavior at home, but this time it was different. The child didn't have to confess to a sibling but someone outside the walls of our home...all of which reminded me: they're not always good!

As I processed the situation with my little one, who was obviously hurt and didn't feel "good", I hurt as well. I felt myself taking on some of the blame for what "J" had done and found myself thinking, "If I'd of done this or taught that, "J" would NOT have done this." Guilt and shame were setting in and I heard the words, "You're not a good Mom."

Those words can hurt and at times have led to condemnation, but this time it was different and they didn't. I was convicted as new thoughts rolled thru my mind, "Jill, you're a child too. And God your Father, He knows you, He sees you and observes the things you do. He even knows the thoughts you have. Trust me, He knows you're no good."

He knows and loves me still. He forgives me when I mess up, and as I shared tears with "J", I did the same for my child.

I watched "J" confess, apologize and ask for was one of the hardest things this little one has had to do, but "J" knew it was what needed to be done, so they did it. And friend, as a Mom it was one of the hardest things I've had to do, but I did it. Not because it was a "good" thing to do, but because it was the right thing to do.

Thru all of this, God has taught me a lesson and I'm about to say something I never thought I would, "I don't want good kids." It's true, I don't. They don't exist anyway! But, oh do I pray for GODLY ones!!

Ones who know they fall short and who understand they're not "good". Ones who rightly call themselves sinners, but who understand they are saved by grace. Ones who have a desire to seek wisdom from God and who have the courage and confidence to do what is right.

Will you join me in praying that even though my little "J's" have a Mom who's no good, they would have one who is Godly? I thank you and I'm sure they will too!! If we can bless you in the same way, leave a comment and we'd be honored to lift you to the only One who is GOOD!!

If we claim to be without sin, 
we deceive ourselves 
and the truth is not in us. 
(1 John 1:8)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mile Wide and an Inch Deep

Lately I've found myself craving connection and longing for a deep know the ones that go beyond, "What are you doing today?", "Is everyone healthy?", "Tie yours shoes, pick up those toys!" "What should we have for supper?" Exchanging these words are important, but we were created for more.

More than a quick hello and a 140 character post on Twitter...don't get me wrong technology isn't necessarily a bad thing, but we can't allow it to become the only thing. Relying on the perfect pictures and posts from Facebook to keep us connected can do some damage - one, it's pretty much surface level communication and two, the perfect world Facebook presents really doesn't exist.

If you or I depend on anything but good ole real face to face, heart to heart interaction to keep us connected we're setting ourselves up for trouble. We're simply building friendships that won't last; ones that won't make much of a difference in our own lives or that of the others.

My husband is a farmer and I won't claim to know much about crops and all it takes to make them grow, but I know the soil is important. In order for our corn to grow, my husband takes care of the soil...if the roots can't grow down, the corn won't grow up. Well it could grow up, but when the winds blow or the drought comes it won't stand for long.

Friend, I believe the same is true for the relationships in our lives. If we don't take the time to really invest in them, go beyond the surface and make the effort to connect not just with a status update, but instead by sharing our heart, they will not stand when the test comes. And isn't that when we really need our friends?

These are thoughts I've needed to hear and I pray they are words that speak to you as well! But before I close, one final thing: as I've been thinking about all of this God has reminded me, the same is true for my relationship with Him. There are moments I need to send a quick prayer His way and times I can read a short verse, but if I want to build a real, solid relationship with Him (and I do), I must spend time and share my heart. It will be a sacrifice, but the investment will make an eternal difference!

I pray you will join me in making a deposit in your relationships today!! I'd love for you to share how you do just that!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New thoughts on a familiar word...

 This past Christmas a friend gave me a gift and as I opened it she said, "I know you're not much for pink, but I saw this shirt and thought you needed it." She was right...there's not much pink in my closet, but my thoughts of not wearing the shirt were connected to something other than the color. 

You see in BIG letters across the top of the shirt it said - BEAUTIFUL. Not exactly the word I use to describe myself or one I want others to read when they see me. Now I didn't mention this to my friend, but soon God had more to say to me.

Later my daughter, who loves gifts and all things pink, asked to see my new shirt. I pulled it out of the bag and she asked, "What's it say?" It was then God gave me new thoughts on a familiar word...

My focus had been on the first, large word I saw but as I read the verse to my daughter, God shifted my focus. The shirt reads: "Beautiful are those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation. Isaiah 52:7"

I'd been focusing on my and the world's definition of beautiful, which states: having qualities that delight the senses. Thoughts (some I know are wrong and God is working on) had convinced me that word doesn't describe me, but God thru His Word has reminded me of His definition of beauty. 

In 1 Samuel 16:7 we read, "For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Make-up and the perfect outfit doesn't make me more or less beautiful in God's eyes, but the motives of my heart and the love that flows from it are what He sees. (Now there are times He shows me there's ugliness there too, but that's another post for another day!!)

Friend, the words on this shirt reminded me of another isn't necessarily based on our appearance it can be a result of the things we do. God sees the things we do as beautiful - sharing the Good News, proclaiming peace, bringing good tidings and proclaiming salvation...this delights God's heart!

What beautiful thing have you done today?? (On a side note...I have worn my new shirt and am blessed by the reminder of this beautiful conversation every time I put it on!)

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
Isaiah 52:7

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Question We All Ask

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

Instead of an answer to my question, God shifted my thinking with the same three words as He whispered to my heart, “Jill, Who Am I?” From that point on, He’s been showing me the only way to truly understand who I am begins first with knowing Who He is and knowing Him in a personal way.
For years, I didn’t understand I could know Jesus in a personal way and perhaps you can relate. I grew up going to church and believed there was a God, but that was as far as it went. During that time in my life, the God I knew was a distant figure who was keeping score of all I did right and especially all I did wrong. As a child I sang, “Jesus Loves Me,” but the feeling I most often associated with God was fear.
In my high school and college days, I sensed God was there, but still believed I needed to earn His love and most days felt I wasn’t worthy of His approval. Though I lived with that hole in my life, I walked through most days with a smile on my face all the while hiding the hurt in my heart.
I don’t specifically remember asking the question, “Who Am I?” but I know it was part of my inner struggle. As a teen and young adult, I battled with depression and loneliness, two trials that God eventually used to draw me to Himself. Through a series of events and some fellow members of God’s family, God revealed Himself to me in a powerful and personal way.

It was then, in my early twenties when I took the first step to really answering the question that we all ask. The only reason I was able to start this process was because I finally realized where the answer was found. My appearance, ability, behavior, accomplishments, friends, family, success, effort, nothing but God Himself could define who I was.

And friend the same is true for you! How have you answered the question, “Who Am I?” Let me encourage you to look to God for an answer to your question! I'd love to hear the answer He's given you!!