Monday, March 25, 2013

Mentoring Matters - Not Always Who You Expect

Do you need advice? Long for someone to train you? Would you appreciate someone older and wiser investing in you?  I can answer all three questions with a big ole YES! And I'm thankful I've had many people do just that!

Basically it all boils down to something called mentoring and God has blessed me with many mentors! Some are close friends and others enter my life for a season, but many are not who I would have expected.

Titus 2:4 is typically the verse associated with starts out saying, "The older women shall train the younger women..." Paul is instructing us to mentor one another and this my friend is a passion of mine. Honestly I believe it's always been part of my life...even before I knew what it was called.

As a child and teen I was constantly looking up to the older girls and appreciated their assistance in the classroom, during 4-H and on the basketball court. These girls taught me, encouraged me and spent time with me. As I entered my 20's and gave my life to Christ, mentors began to play another important role - they taught me about God, helped build my faith and set an example for me to follow. A recent birthday reminds me I'm not getting any younger...I realize I'm a mentor too.

Though that is true, I know walking with Christ is a journey and His work in me is not yet done; my need for mentors will never end. At times I intentionally seek these individuals out, but God often brings someone I wouldn't expect.

Lately He's opened my eyes to His ways once see He's done this before, but I'm grateful He's blessed me again. Now before you think He'll magically provide a close relationship with a wonderful woman of God tomorrow (He could) let me assure you this usually takes time. I want to encourage you with this fact though - God is at work, even when you are unaware. He knows what you need, who you need and when you will need them.

Let me explain - back in 2009, God connected me with Wendy Blight as we worked on a follow up survey for a ministry event. She was doing her job and I was doing mine, but more importantly God was at work.

Months went by and we reconnected because of a lost email, which led to me participating in her online Bible study. One in which she taught me from the book of Proverbs, shared stories from her life and impacted mine.

Time passes...we exchanged an email every once in awhile, commented on one another's blog occasionally and she answered my ministry questions from time to time. Though miles separated us the Holy Spirit was connecting us.

Two years ago, she left a FB message just "checking in and asking for an update." (Note for all of us in our older woman role - showing we care and have an interest is important!) I remember the timing of her message being a blessing...we were preparing to share the news of our pregnancy and I was a bit nervous about the world's reaction to number 5. Knowing she was states away, I shared our secret in my update.

She responded with words of Truth, offered prayer and helped me put things in perspective. Thru her, God made a difference in my day.

Time continued to go by and I was blessed to hear her speak...though it wasn't in person, her words were still powerful via a CD. The message she shared was one I needed to hear. Again she was sharing wisdom with her words, encouragement with her stories and building my faith with God's Truth.

Her blogs, devotions and book remained a part of my spiritual diet and this summer I was blessed to cross paths with her in real life. It was a joy to meet someone who has ministered to me so much these last few years.
Wendy and myself at P31's She Speaks Conference
Since then God has continued to bless me thru Wendy. She's answered questions, prayed prayers, shared praise and pointed me to Christ. All the things a mentor does...but I didn't even consider her one.

Not until a couple of months back as I worked thru her latest on-line Bible study...I'd been praying for a mentor, just really feeling the need for an older woman to advise, train and teach me the Truth. Someone God would use to deepen my faith. As I dug into the questions Wendy asked, God used them to challenge me, convict me and draw me closer to Himself. And He used them to answer my night He whispered to my heart, "Jill, you're looking for someone to share their faith and encourage yours...she's right here."

I have needs and God meets them - Wendy's experiences remind me I am not alone. The evidence of God at work in her life, gives me hope that He can transform me as well. As she shares Scripture and teaches the Word, my hunger for it grows. When she, a woman I respect, suggests I do the work, I usually do.

Friend, I share all of this to encourage you to keep your eyes open...the mentor you long for, may already be pouring into your life. She may not be the one you expect, but trust me she is one God will use! Learn from her, allow her passion to ignite yours and give God thanks for the gifts He gives and way He works. Then remember, chances are God may be using you to pour into the life of someone you don't expect as well. So be mindful of the things you do and say...if God puts it on your heart to check in or reach out, follow His lead and allow Him to use you to fulfill His perfect plan.

O Lord, thank you for the way You work. You are faithful, You are good and You provide all we need. Open our eyes to see You more. Thank you for putting people in our lives who point us to You; help us do the same for others. May we as women train one another as the Word commands so that Your Word would not be maligned. In Jesus precious name...Amen

I'd love to hear how God's worked thru a mentor you didn't expect...share your thoughts in the comments -

 And let us consider how we may 
spur one another on toward love and good deeds...
Hebrews 10:24

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Name in Print

Seeing our name in print can be exciting - evidence of a dream come true or recognition received. And even if you're not a writer can you recall your days as a child...smiling when someone pointed out your name in the paper and grinning when Grandma handed you a clipping of the honor roll.

Earlier this month I had the privilege of seeing my name in print; an article of mine appeared in the P31 Woman magazine. I was grateful for the opportunity to be published with wonderful writers and women of God, but also an opportunity God is using to teach me yet another lesson.

P31 Woman Magazine - March 2013
I don't know what I really expected myself to think when I saw my name in print and honestly I believe God has been preparing me for the lesson He knew He'd be teaching. You see the article that was published was originally a blog post, which I then shared with a writing critique group and eventually submitted for possible publication.

This process instantly came back to mind when I first received the news of publication. God used it to remind me that He is in a wise friend says, "I write, He takes care of the results." This is not at all about what I can or cannot do, but instead all about Him, the doors He opens and the plans He has.

And friend, the plans He has truly are wonderful...I don't say that because my name appeared in a magazine; you see a few days after this came in my mail, I received another letter. Only this time it was words of rejection...the publisher I shared a book proposal with was not interested in what I had to offer - my name would not be printed on a book.

I'll admit...those words stung; I had to remind myself - rejection from man is not rejection from God. And in it all God spoke to me and offered encouragement I needed to hear. My name in print is not what He needs from me and striving to achieve is not His plan for me...He wants me to walk in obedience and His desire is for me to know Him more and make Him known.

Sometimes this will all look like I want, but typically it will happen in ways I least expect. Regardless of how it all unfolds, God has added one more point to His lesson about my name in really doesn't change things. I was grateful for the kind words a few readers shared with me, but daily life is still the same. This reminds me of hearing Lysa TerKeurst respond to someone saying she was a big deal, "Yeah, tell that to my kids!" The things we do, goals we meet and recognition we receive don't define who we are...God does and a published article doesn't make Him love me more. (And a failed book proposal doesn't make Him love me less!)

As I bring this to a close I can't help but think there is a reason seeing our name in print is important. Our world today tends to make this into a self-centered, look at me thing, but the reason I'm thinking of has nothing to do with us, but everything to do with Christ. Revelation 20:15 says, "Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire." Friend, it doesn't matter whether I'm ever published name is printed in the book of life - that is a BIG deal and truly it changes things for eternity!

Today I'm doing what Luke 10:20b commands, "rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” And I pray that you will take a minute and rejoice in that as well! If these words leave you with questions or you're not sure how to get your name printed in the only book that matters leave me a comment or send me an email -

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Making Things Right

Have you ever been in that place where things just don't seem right? Like you're going thru the motions of life, merely surviving the day rather than thriving? You're not drowning in a pit of depression but your life isn't full of joy either?

I feel like I've been there...not constantly down, but not consistently up either. Life will always be full of things that can bring us down (cancer, kids who misbehave, relationship struggles), but it also offers reasons to smile (a hug, a call from a friend, family who loves you, a sunny day...).

So awhile back I thought, "Why have I been on this roller coaster ride of emotions? Up then down rather than the steady path I'd been on." Honestly at first I couldn't pin point the answer to my question, but in time God has revealed it to me.

The other day I found myself reading Psalm 51 as I worked on a Bible study, initially I focused on the verse I'd circled - "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Verse 17) In the past these words have always reminded me that more than the things I do, God wants me - a heart that is willing and available. 

But that night as I worked thru my study, verse 10 is the one that stuck with me - "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." These words became my prayer...I needed to be renewed and knew God was the only One who could do it. 

Then the next morning during family devotions I found myself reading this same Psalm aloud and again verse 10 along with 11 and 12 caught my attention and became my prayer. Lord, "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."

He's continued His work and has started to answer my prayer. Words from Isaiah 1:18 jumped off the page of my morning devo book, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. I read those words and thought, "Yes...reason with the Lord, why didn't I think of that?!?!"

Well reasoning with Him didn't last long...instead it became time to listen to Him - the verse continues, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

I read those words and Psalm 51 came back to mind. David wrote those words, ones that expressed his need of renewal and his desire for restoration, but he also wrote the words in verses one thru nine. The ones that convey his sin. And friend, they also convey mine. 

David wrote these words after committing adultery and thankfully that is where our comparison stops. I'm not confessing that sin to you today, but I'll admit: I've sinned and as I've processed thru all of this the last few days I realize I've disobeyed. 

As a parent, I know the pain a disobedient child can create, but I also appreciate what takes place when my little ones confess. Friend, I'm reminded God is a parent as well; my parent, One who appreciates me admitting when I'm wrong and confessing when I've sinned. One who is glorified when I do what is right.

Isaiah 1:19-20 continues, "If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.' For the mouth of the Lord has spoken." In language my children will understand - The Lord will bless our obedience and discipline us for our disobedience. Friend, you and I have a choice to obey or not to obey? And when we choose the later, which if we're honest we do more often than we'd like to admit, we have another choice - to confess or not to confess?

From my experience that is an important choice to that will truly make things right!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

It'd be easier...Part Two

Awhile back I wrote a post titled, "It'd be easier..." (Click HERE to read it.) Today my mind has been thinking about this once know thoughts like, "Marriage would be so much easier if..., Parenting would be so much easier if..., Teaching, Writing, Following Christ..."

Much of life could be easier if this would happen or they would do this, but it doesn't and they don't. As I thought about this a quote from my basketball days came back to mind - "Basketball - it's supposed to be hard; if it was easy everyone would play."

Those words were true about the sport I loved and I believe they can be altered to apply to God's plan for our life - "Life will be hard; if it was easy, you wouldn't need Me." In His Word, God tells us, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

It's a given - this life involves work and I'm sure you know as well as I do, work isn't easy. So rather than constantly contemplating how things would be easier if the circumstances would change, God has challenged me to add two words to the title of this post - It would be easier IF I...

He hasn't just added those words, He's given me ways to complete the statement. I'll share a few -

Marriage would be easier if I put my husband's needs above my own.

Parenting would be easier if I was more proactive than reactive.

Writing would be easier if I was more disciplined and used my time wisely.

You get the idea and I'd like to challenge you to take your "It'd be easier" statements and try this yourself.

As I've thought about this, a passage I read a few days back has come to mind. I read the story of the widow's offering in Luke 21...a story I've read and studied numerous times, but one God has used in a fresh way. It seems I've always focused on her giving monetarily, but I've been reminded this concept applies to all the giving we do - giving with our money, our time, our talents, our attention.

Friend, I've been convicted - things (life, roles, relationships) would be easier if I'd follow this widow's example and give all I have. I can hear someone saying, (maybe it's me), "But that's hard, do you know how much I already give?" 

I can't answer that question for you, but I can for myself - with 5 kids, homeschooling and life on a farm I am needed for much and most days I give quite a bit, but do I give all I have? Honestly, the answer is no. Because even on the days when I think I give all I's just that - all I have. All too often I parent, teach, write, be a wife and follow Christ out of my own strength, but friend God wants us to rely on Him and His perfect power.

When you and I tap into His unending resources of strength, love, patience and power life may not be easier, but it will be better!!

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.   
He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  
 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  
All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; 
but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
                                                              Luke 21:1-4