Thursday, August 29, 2013


I've spent sometime thinking about the days ahead...2 of them in particular - August 30th and September 3rd. Those days are markers, I can tell you exactly what I was doing 5 years ago on the 30th and 22 years ago on the 3rd.

In 2008, we lost a baby to miscarriage and I can remember most moments from that day. In 1991, my grandpa was killed in a skidloader accident and I don't think I'll forget much from that Tuesday of my sophomore year. These days hold memories...ones I never wanted to have and have hoped would fade away. The hurt and pain has changed, but the loss is still there and every year about this time I remember.

But this year, my thoughts about memories have changed a bit. Let me ask you, "What is a memory?" Webster defines it as a recollection from the past and we all have many of them. We tend to focus on the good ones - times that were happy and fun. Memories are often shared when someone passes on, which is good, but that's not their ultimate purpose.

Because if that was the case, wouldn't we just remember the positive times and people? I don't know about you, but that's not what happens for me. Often times I remember too much and some of the memories are of times that were hard, moments when I was hurt and trials that I endured.

When memories are good it's easy to appreciate them. Like my daughter who often says, "Remember that time when...", I too enjoy a trip down memory lane. But friend, what do we do when the memories are hard and take us back to times that were tough?

Like tomorrow, when I remember waking knowing something was wrong only to go to the Dr. who told me what I already knew. Or on Tuesday, when I remember seeing people cry, who I thought never did, tell me my grandpa was killed. What do I do with them?

May I share my plan? It has to do with a statement my pastor shared a few weeks back as he taught from Philippians 1:3 where Paul says, "I thank my God every time I remember you." As he pulled this verse apart he shared about memories and said, "They are good, but if it's all you have that's not much." Pastor Tim wasn't downplaying the value of memories, but stating the fact that we all yearn for something more. 

And that something more is God...the One we should thank for the memories and more importantly in the memories. As believers, I think we understand this when it comes to the memories we enjoy the other day when I saw pics from the ReNEWed Life Women's Event. Those pictures took me back and brought to mind a day that was wonderful. A day we praised God for and as I remembered I thanked Him again.

But can I say, I haven't always been so quick to thank Him in the memories that are bad and sad, but He's leading me to do that. Tomorrow when I recall the pain, the loss, the grief, I will thank Him. Not because I'm grateful for the circumstance, but as I remember those feelings, I remember Him. God was there taking care of me when I couldn't take care of myself. He was comforting me and filling me with His peace. He was in the oldest had a goldfish at the time and that night we found Dorthy floating in her bowl. Now I'm not thankful J.D.'s fish died, but I am amazed at the timing. You see that night as my 3 children sat wrapped in my arms weeping over their dead fish, I held them and cried too, grieving the sibling they'd never know til heaven. I am so thankful we could all cry together and I thank God for that.

So friend today what are you remembering? Whether it's good or bad can I encourage you to thank God in the memories! He gives them to us and is present in them...pass your thanks to Him and He'll share His perspective with you!!

On a side note -  friend, I want you to know I thank God when I remember you!! Through your comments and personal notes, God uses you to encourage me in a powerful way. I know life is busy, so I want to thank you for spending some time reading what God puts on my heart. And know I'm praying He uses what is shared to touch yours!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Process of Pruning

I am not a gardener and honestly have no desire to be. But yet I live on a farm where we grow crops and have a small apple orchard. Apple pie is one of my favorite things to eat, but something I can not make! My kids love applesauce, but making it isn't really a hobby of mine! So the other day when I was looking at our trees and saw an abundance of apples I honestly wasn't too excited about all the work I knew the apples would bring.

In that moment, God brought to mind John 15:1-4, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me." 

Two weeks ago, I read this verse at the close of our ReNEWed Life Women's Event and God has been using it to speak to me about pruning. Our speaker that day, Wendy Blight, had talked about God's Word being living, active and sharper than a double edge sword. As I thought about this and spent time in prayer, God had me focusing on the fact that it is sharp and can cut...He uses it to prune. 

So that day as I looked at all of our apples on the tree and the ground, I found myself thinking, "I'm glad we didn't prune these trees. Then I'd have even more work to do!" As that thought left my mind, God said to me, "Jill, sometimes you feel the same about the pruning work I try to do in your life."

That struck me and got me thinking. Initially I thought about why we hadn't pruned our apple trees and three reasons came to mind - time, work and the know-how. Life on the farm is busy and we had not made the time to care for the trees. Pruning takes work and effort, you have to get the equipment, do the work and clean up the mess. Before we can even do the work, we have to know how to do it. And then God reminded me of a 4th reason...pruning would lead to more fruit which meant more work and I'd chosen to avoid that.

God clearly showed me I uses the same excuses in my own life. Sometimes I'm not still long enough for God to work...I don't take the time. I also don't do the work of building my faith and fighting my flesh at times. There are also moments when I don't know how to cut off what needs to be trimmed away. But He showed me at times my biggest reason I avoid pruning is because of fear of what it might bring. That reason alone convicted me to dig a bit deeper into the idea of pruning.

So what does it mean to prune? According to some of the definitions I read it means to clean and selectively remove parts of a plant. Why do we prune? Again according to my research, in nature we prune to remove dead branches, control and direct growth and to improve and maintain health. In the plant world it is ideal to prune when things are young.

Though I don't have much experience with pruning in nature, experience tells me it is quite similar to spiritual pruning. God determines what needs to be cut away...selfishness, false growth, pride - just to name a few and He does. The pruning process may be painful, but it has a purpose.

When God removes what He knows we don't need, we are able to grow, He is able to shape us and it is healthy. Though the cutting away can hurt, in the end it's for our good and will result in a blessing.

I discovered in nature when plants are pruned, their roots go deeper which leads to them producing better fruit and I have to believe the same is true for us spiritually. When God, the Gardener, prunes us, His branch, we grow deeper into Him and produce more fruit.

Friends, last week we spent a couple of days making apple sauce and the work wasn't that bad. Actually I was able to enjoy some special moments with a few of my kids as we worked side by side. I know when we open a jar this winter, the work will have been worth it. As I have those thoughts, God is whispering to me again, "Jill someday when you see the fruit in your life that results because of the pruning I'm doing, you'll be grateful."

I know God is right...He always is!! Regardless of the time it takes, effort it requires or pain pruning produces, it's worth it because God is worth it!! I doubt I'll ever be a gardener, but I'm thankful I'm a branch in the hands of the greatest Gardener; I trust Him to care for me and use me to produce fruit that benefits Him. 

Friend, do you trust Him to do the same? If so, take some time and pray about the pruning He needs to do in you. Is there something in your heart that needs to be cut away? Is there fruit you should be producing but can't until you grow? Does the Gardener need to shape you and restore your health? Or perhaps pruning is necessary so your roots will grow? I don't know, but God does! Ask Him to do it! He has a tool that is sharp and capable of doing the job that needs to be done!

Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." May I encourage you to allow His Word to prune; I was content with an average apple crop, but spiritually I have a desire to produce fruit that is the best! That will only happen if I allow Him to cut away what I don't need!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Don't wait until it's too late...

This morning I woke up with much on my mind. Many of my thoughts were centered on death. Yesterday a neighbor from my childhood, a friend to my mom and mother to my friends passed away. Annie was a sweet, gentle woman who always had a smile to share and time to listen. She will be missed. As is my grandma, who also lost a battle to cancer this summer.

Thoughts of death brought back a question my daughter, Joy, asked a couple of years back at the insightful age of 6. An elderly man from our church, one she really didn't know, passed away and as we drove to his visitation she asked, "Why do we go see people when they die?"

I explained the basics and told her how it was an opportunity to express sympathy to the family and share our love and support. She accepted my response, but God continued to use her question and now nearly 2 years later He's brought it up again.

Death is one of the guarauntees in life, but yet it's something we don't like to acknowledge. Sharing my feelings and expressing my appreciation of others is something I tend to avoid. Taking the time to visit is is busy and it's easy to think I'll do that later.

But yet when someone passes away, what do I do? I stop...I find the time to pay my respect, I have the courage to talk about the impact the one I've lost made on my life and I can't deny the fact that death is real.

Today God is challenging me to remember this and do something with it. What is He saying to you? Is there someone in your life you need to make time for? Are there words you need to share? Feelings you need to express?

Friends, when they are gone, it's too late. Speak up now and share what's on your heart. Talk about the stuff that matters. Have the hard conversation. Offer forgiveness. Share your faith. One day when they're gone, you'll be glad you did...and so will they.

I share all this because it's what God's whispered to me...words HE knew I needed to hear, and ones I feel He wanted me to pass on. Let's make an attempt to bless someone today! Friend, today who can you go see, call or write because they are alive and loved by you?  Find the time, because someday life may force you to take the time.

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, 
that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." 
Matthew 5:16

Sunday, August 18, 2013

When cultivating is not enough...

This summer, cultivating has been a common occurrence on the Beran family farm and in my heart. My husband has been tilling the soil and uprooting weeds in our fields while God has done the same in me. The work the two farmers have done is important and makes a difference, but today as I walked past one of our fields I was reminded that sometimes cultivating is not enough.

I was struck when I looked at the field my husband had cultivated twice...he'd spent hours attempting to remove weeds and after he'd passed through the field, it looked like he'd succeeded. But as time has passed, it's obvious that some of the weeds are still there.

So, what does my husband do? He sends out the bean older children and others, who walk the field and pull out the weeds. This is a more time consuming job than cultivating and it takes more effort, but in reality the work done by hand is more efficient.

Though that method is efficient it is still does not remove 100% of the weeds. My husband has cultivated our field and the bean walkers have covered the ground, but there are still weeds. As I observed the field, I was reminded of my husband's words, "We're going to have to get the machetes out." Friends, if you are unfamiliar with a machete it is a giant sword like knife that can do some damage!!

As I thought of his statement, I was reminded of God's work. I've shared about the cultivating God has done in my heart...He's tilled the soil, pulled some weeds and made my faith grow. By removing some weeds, I've been given a clearer picture of the weeds that are big and still growing...the ones that keep coming back.

Currently it seems God is addressing two weeds in my life - the lies I believe about myself, specifically the thought that I'm not good enough. Which feeds the other weed...the fear of what others think. Over time God has dealt with this, but the problem still exists.

Recently thoughts of not being good enough have resurfaced...I've felt like a failure, like I can't do anything right, like somebody else could do it, whatever it is, better. In the past, I've actually doubted God could use me, but He's uprooted that weed and I know He is all-powerful, sovereign and able to do what is impossible. So though I know He could use me, I've honestly wondered why He would want to. I understand that is a lie from the enemy, and it's one I need God to remove.

He also needs to remove my fear of man and addiction to their approval. God's done some work here as well...I've stepped out of my comfort zone and had conversations I thought I'd never have, I've quit hiding behind a mask and am willing to share my faith. Though it looks a bit different this weed has come back...recently God showed me how I was worried about what more mature Christians thought of me and the things I did. I was longing for their approval when honestly it's ONLY His that matters.

Friends, these are weeds that I've dealt with all my life and I'm afraid they have roots that go deep. Weeds that require a machete. Ones I must let God cut away!

God has a tool that is capable of the work I need Him to do...His living and active Word is more powerful than any machete on our farm. "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

I recently watched my oldest son use the machete to cut away weeds...he was careful not to cut the beans and in one clean cut the weed was gone. As the scene unfolded in front of me, God spoke to my heart - "Jill, my daughter, my sword is sharp, but I am gentle. Allow me to use it in your life, let it cut deep and through the weeds in your heart. Just like J.D. is improving the condition of the field I can do the same for your heart. When your husband, the owner of this land, works with Me, the Creator of it, the plants bear more fruit and my child when you do the same, you'll experience similar results."

After that conversation with God, He led me to His Word. He's given me 4 verses that I pray will be living, active and penetrating in my life. Friend, can I encourage you to allow God to do His work? Whether it's cultivating, pulling weeds by hand or cutting them with a sword...He is the One who knows exactly what we need! And may we always remember that He will finish the work He begins!

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, 
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” 
(Ephesians 2:10)

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, 
but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. 
(Proverbs 29:25)

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people?If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. 
(Galatians 1:10)

On the contrary, we speak as those APPROVED by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 
(1 Thessalonians 2:4)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Look at ME!!

Over the past couple of days, there has been a battle in my mind - hearing lies from Satan and whispers from God. In the midst of this, I recalled a lesson from the past. God's reminded me of a post from 2008...I guess I needed to read it again. Maybe you do too...

This past June, while attending the local county fair my brother-in-law came across a picture from years ago. It was of me during my early high school days and as he showed his wife, my husband and children I was embarrassed.

Though everyone laughed, I hurt as I recalled many negative feelings associated with my looks. What really hurts is they haven’t entirely disappeared over the past 20 years. As a child and teen, I was a tomboy who enjoyed sports and life on the farm much more than fashion, make-up and the latest hairstyles and my picture proved it.

The doubts on the outside weren’t the only ones I recalled as I took a look at who I once was - I recalled the insecurities as well. The picture brought back a statement I’ve said to myself quite often as I’ve journeyed through life, “look at me!”

These words have never been an attempt to catch everyone’s attention, but instead have given me a reason to doubt. Many times I’ve looked at myself and thought I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough or worthy enough to do whatever it was someone was asking me to do.

After giving my life to Christ in my early 20’s I caught myself giving the same response to God – “Look at me!! God, You obviously had made a mistake; I'm not the girl for the job!"

In the past few years, God has used one of my children’s favorite stories to speak to me. My kids are intrigued with the idea of walking on water and have attempted to do it themselves, but more important than Jesus’ ability to defy nature is the message He has for all of us.

In Matthew 14:22 – 33 the story is told of Jesus walking on water. It begins,“Immediately after this Jesus made His disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake while He sent the people home. Afterward He went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while He was there alone. Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.” 

I think we can relate. I know there are times when storms hit my life and it feels as though Jesus is far away. In those moments it can be easy to lose focus and rely on my own strength. It is then that the “look at me” worries, fears and doubts resurface and seem just as powerful as the strong winds and heavy waves.

But we read on – “About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came to them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw Him, they screamed in terror, thinking He was a ghost. But Jesus spoke to them at once, “It’s all right,” He said. I am here! Don’t be afraid.” A man walking on water, who wouldn’t be afraid? But Jesus assures them of His presence and the story continues,

Verses 28 and 29 – “Then Peter called to Him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you by walking on water.” All right come.” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on water toward Jesus.” Again can we relate? Have you ever felt God’s presence in your life and by faith reacted to His calling? Like Peter have you jumped out of the boat with complete trust in your Savior who is calling you? Have you taken the initial step of faith only to experience what came next for Peter?

In verse 30 we read, “But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

I read this verse and can picture Peter mentally saying, “look at me” I’m walking on water and then when the reality of the situation hits I see the statement move from being one of confidence to one of fear and doubt. He looks around and sees the danger in the situation coupled with the lack of his own ability to do the very thing Christ told him to do and fear sets in.

As I share this story with my kids, I see myself in this role all too often – God calling me to do something and then in my heart I say yes, but as I survey the situation I too become terrified and start to sink. The “look at me” phrase returns and leads to many excuses in my mind that cause me to sink before my feet even leave the boat.

But as God continues to prove Himself faithful, the final verses of the story carry more power. Verses 31 to 33 say, "Instantly Jesus reached out His hand and grabbed him. “You don’t have much faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” And when they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped Him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.”

How many times has Jesus uttered the same words to me? “You don’t have much faith. Why did you doubt me?” For years I believed doubting myself couldn’t hurt God, but I’ve realized that is wrong. If it is Him who lives in me, when I say "I can’t" who am I referring to? Take a minute and think about that.

As I do just that, I think about our evening at the fair and I recall someone saying, “Well at least you can say your looks have improved.” Perhaps, but more importantly than what’s on the outside is what’s happened internally.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” I’m grateful I don’t see the same person anymore and I’m more thankful that every time I hear the familiar phrase “look at me” I’m beginning to sense God whispering, “No Jill, look at ME.”

Though He has yet to call me out of the boat and literally walk on water, He has asked me to do things I never thought I would do. How does this happen? By keeping my eyes on Jesus. As Peter did this he did the unimaginable – he walked on water! When I focus on Christ, though the winds may blow and the waves rage, He keeps me from falling and proves Himself true. Friends He will do the same for you – keep listening for His voice, you will hear Him say, “Look at ME.”

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Late night thoughts...

Tonight, on the eve of a weekend that I know will be blessed, God is flooding my mind with thoughts and my heart with memories.

Four years ago was the first time I took part in helping organize a women's event and I felt very undeserving of the privilege God had given me and unqualified for the responsibility of it all. Though I had made strides, I was still very insecure. I recall walking down our quiet, gravel road and sharing with  God, "Who am I? I don't deserve to be doing this? Why are You using me?" And then continued with a list of others who were much more qualified. He simply responded with a question of His own and whispered to my heart, "Jill, Who Am I?"

Friends, those words stuck with me and the memory now brings tears because that exchange has led to quite the journey. It was the catalyst that led me to live out Deuteronomy 4:29, "But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul." The more I tried to answer the question the Creator of the universe had asked the more I learned about Him. 

With each lesson He taught, Deuteronomy 6:5, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength," started to become more evident in my life. The more I sought Him and loved Him the more I longed to know Him and obey Him.

As the years have passed the Author of your story, and mine, has given me plenty of opportunities to do both. God has worked in good times and bad, through happy and sad and in big events and ordinary days. He's done things I never expected, proven Himself faithful and is teaching me who I am. 

Through the lessons He's woven into my life, I've grown and I've changed. I'm more secure with who I am and quicker to depend on the One my confidence is in. I worry less about pleasing people and focus more on honoring God. Sharing my faith no longer paralyzes me with fear and expressing emotion is something I'm slowly beginning to do. 

Though I've been given a glimpse of my progress, I'm also aware of the room for growth. Today has been a day of revisiting thoughts from the past...there have been moments I felt like a failure, worries about not being good enough, and thoughts of just wanting to quit. I've battled doubt and listened to lies.

For a moment I thought, somethings never change. Then my husband spoke up and said, "This doesn't happen as often as it use to." It was then the Lord pricked my heart and said something about this being a stronghold that I need to address. I've read books that have helped me battle doubt and it's getting better, but it still impacts the thoughts I have and at times keeps me from being who God made me to be. 

All of this ties into the other thought I had this evening...tomorrow Wendy Blight, a teacher who's impacted me greatly and now feels like a friend, will arrive and the ReNEWed Life Women's Event will be a day away. God knew this would happen before time began and it's been on our calendar for a year, but He's reminding me He knew about all that would unfold today as well. 

Summer is coming to a close, but He continues to cultivate. I truly believe God's working up the soil of my heart in preparation for the seeds of Truth He is about to plant. I trust the words He whispered to me today are the beginning of another journey that's about to begin. Because of what He's done in the past...I look forward to what is yet to come!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Crying over spilt milk

Have your children ever spilt milk? Mine too. Have you ever spilt milk? Me too. But last night it wasn't just a glass, it was nearly a gallon. On the floor. Of my suburban. On the way to our church for prayer time for the upcoming women's event.

I was already a bit frazzled when I left home - I was running a bit behind and had left a mess in my kitchen, but as I turned out of the driveway, I intentionally turned the radio off and began to pray. I wanted to get my heart right and focus on the task in front of me instead of the work that would greet me when I returned. And I did.

Well until, I turned at the next corner. That's when the jug of milk I was delivering to a friend became an ocean of milk on my passenger floor. In a frustrated voice, I said out loud, "Are you kidding me?" I stopped the vehicle and sopped up as much as I could.

I started to drive away and wrong thoughts entered my mind ones like - "If I didn't have to deliver this milk it would not have happened. If my husband would have been in earlier to watch the kids I would not have been in a hurry. If I didn't have to go to this meeting, I would not have been doing this."

Thankfully God had heard my earlier prayers and reminded me to focus and shared some truth - "Jill, you offered to bring the milk. Hurrying doesn't help any situation. You're blessed to be a part of this don't have to do it, you want to do it and I've called you to it."

I made it to the church, did some more cleaning and took part in the meeting. All the while I did OK with letting go of the mess and not dwelling on what I couldn't change anyway.

Then I came home, told my husband and gathered more cleaning supplies. He put the kids to bed and then came out to help. I simply stated, "This isn't quite how I expected to spend some time with you tonight." He kind of smirked and continued with his work.

Nearly two hours passed and we'd taken things apart that I didn't even know existed. Job had removed trim, lifted the flooring, unscrewed some wires and every time we found more milk. I'm praying we can get it all back together!

Never once did he utter negative words to me or share frustration about the work my mess had created. But as we crawled into bed those were the thoughts I had. I no longer considered blaming my friend, husband or the meeting, I was upset with myself.

Those feelings of frustration opened the door for Satan to share some more lies. And friend, I was quick to believe them. Lies like - You can't even deliver a jug of milk, how can you stand up and speak at a women's event? I became discouraged, full of doubt and felt unworthy. As the tears started to fall my husband asked what was wrong. He couldn't believe my mind could go so fast and this mishap could pull me down so far. (Women truly are different than men!!)

He went on to share what was true - this was an accident, it could be worse and we got it cleaned up. He assured me I was right, I can't do anything I need to do on my own, but if I depend on God and trust Him, He will do it. Job spoke encouraging words and I said to him, "I now know why this happened...God wanted to remind me of the gift He's given me in you."

If that lesson wasn't enough God had more to say - listening to one of Satan's lies is a bit like giving a mouse a cookie. If I entertain one, he's quick to give me ten more. Friend you and I must take every thought captive!!

Finally, He showed me I must continually remember who I am and find my identity in Christ alone. He is the ONE who defines me...not my mistakes or my messes and not my successes or accomplishments. As we cleaned, one of my favorite songs came on and Job said, "There's your buddy." I smiled and changed a few of Jason Gray's words, "When I've spilt the milk and made a big mess...remind me who I am..." I was doing that in fun, but as the night went on, God showed me that's exactly what I needed to do. Friend, whether we're in good times or bad, enjoying life or cleaning up a mess we must remember who He created us to be and then live like we believe Him!

Crying over spilt milk is something we're told not to do, but God had a reason for my tears and a lesson to share! Would you pray it's one I'll be quick to learn...I really don't want to experience this one again!!

Looking back...

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. Philippians 1:3-5

Our pastor is now preaching through the book of Philippians and last week as he taught from verses 3-5, I thought much about the ministry events I've been blessed to be a part of. Four years ago we were prepping for the first ever Rise and Shine Women's Retreat held in Cedar Falls, Iowa. It was a joy to see a vision God had given me unfold and a blessing to work with wonderful sisters in Christ as we worked to share the Good News.

The experience was fun, but it also included work, a bit of stress and lots of learning. God taught me long before the retreat ever took place. In February of 2009, we developed a team, set a date and invited Renee Swope and then days later I found out I was expecting. Baby Beran was due October 29th, 2 days before Rise and Shine would take place. 

To say I struggled with all of this would be an understatement; I don't even like to admit where my mind went, but God is leading me to do just that. News of a little one overwhelmed me...we had 3 children ages 2, 4 and 6 and I was in my first year of homeschooling - I wasn't sure I could handle adding a new baby to the mix. Fear also accompanied the news...6 months earlier we'd had a miscarriage and I did not want to experience that pain again. And worst of all were the selfish thoughts. I clearly remember the night I saw the positive sign and mentally did the math. I knew the due date would be near the event date and said to my husband, "What if I can't be there?" He sensed the pouty, anxious tone in my voice and simply responded, "You think God can't do it if you're not there?"

I knew what he said was true, but it was a reality I didn't want to face. That didn't alter the fact that it was something I could not change. So I moved forward with a heart willing to let God's plans unfold...obviously they already were!! I honestly didn't know if I'd get to take part in the event I was helping plan, but I trusted the work God would do. 

As the months passed God proved Himself faithful as He did more than we could have imagined and even asked. He taught me much and blessed me with a new little boy on October 12, who at nearly 3 weeks old attended his first, and maybe last, women's retreat. That year Renee Swope shared about moving out of our shadows of doubt and encouraged us to live under the shadow of the cross - a message God etched on my heart and is still helping me live today.

Leah, Rachel, Jill, Renee, Judy and Leanne at Rise and Shine '09
A year later, God opened the door for another retreat and we were thrilled to bring Lysa TerKeurst to Iowa. Once again God worked in mighty ways! In the morning before the event began I can recall Lysa praying that God would mess with us and in the days following that's exactly what He did. Days after, He clearly began showing me I had to cut back and as time passed He led me away from every ministry leadership position I held. 

Friend, can I tell you that messing was hard. And it again involved a pregnancy, which again left me overwhelmed. I thought there was no way I could be the mom of 5 children, but then I recalled Lysa's word's, "If you call yourself a woman of faith, be prepared to live a life that requires it." 

Rachel, Jill, Lysa, Holly, Judy and Leanne at Rise and Shine '10
So I again moved forward, letting go of my plans while trying to trust God's. I adopted a new motto for life - "Have FAITH and Be Clay!" I realized I had no choice but to believe God and trust His plan while I allowed Him to make me into who He created me to be. As I grew closer to Christ, I began to understand God didn't need me to do anything, but He chose to use me and I was grateful. I finally came to a place where I was thankful (well most of the time) with where ever He chose to use me. He taught me that pouring into my 5 children was more important than speaking Truth to hundreds of women.

Time marched on and I was longer as a MOPS coordinator, event planner or Sunday School teacher, but my days were full as a wife and Mom and my time was spent digging into God's Word and getting to know who He made me to be. Thoughts of women's events now consisted of contemplating which one to attend, but there was a small hope that maybe someday I could help with one again. I even occasionally prayed about one in our local area.

Honestly I thought that would unfold years down the road, but in March of last year God opened doors that I didn't even know existed! In August of 2012, the first ever ReNEWed Life Women's Event was held in the small town of Cresco. Lisa Whittle, a national speaker and author, was there and delivered a message many needed to hear.

Kim, Teresa, Lisa, Jill and Rachel at ReNEWed Life '12
During one of our conversations I recall Lisa saying, "I do what I can do and trust God to do the rest." These words reminded me of words Lysa T. had shared as well, "My job is obedience, God takes care of the results." Since that day nearly 12 months ago, that is what I've attempted to do. Have I failed? Yes, more than I'd like to admit. Have I grown? I have to believe the answer is yes. Have I seen God? Yes and friend, can I encourage you? When you obey God will bless!

Which leads me to today...this week we are prepping for ReNEWed Life '13 and I'm excited that Wendy Blight will be in Cresco to share from her heart while God touches ours. The event hasn't even taken place, but because of memories of what's brought me to this place, I trust God has good things in store. And really Saturday isn't about event, but instead what God will do.

Friends, will join me in praying for the final details, the attendees, Wendy Blight, our local speakers, our team, the worship team, volunteers, food providers, decorator and all the others who will be involved. It's a joy to have you partnering with us as we move forward. 

As I close this post, my mind goes to the verse our pastor will preach on next - Philippians 1:6, "being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Friend, can I encourage you to move from thinking about "the good ole days" and instead allow memories of what God has done to lead you to a place of thanksgiving? Reflecting on where you've been brings encouragement for where you are going!

Friday, August 2, 2013

How'd I get here?

Growing up, I wasn't the girl who longed to be Cinderella and I didn't dream of the perfect wedding. Actually thoughts of wearing a long, white dress, standing in front of all those people and kissing a man kind of freaked me out. I was a tomboy and becoming a wife was not a goal of mine.

During my teenage years, those thoughts really didn't change. Many of my friends fell in love and so did I - they were attracted to the cute boys in our class, but a round, orange ball caught my attention. Through high school and into college, basketball was truly the love of my life.

An injury changed things and the game was no longer the same. My heart was broken and it seemed my life fell apart. Depression set in and loneliness took over.

As friends got married and even my little sister planned her wedding, I wondered what my future held. I'd always loved kids, so the thought of being a mom was good; but I was in my 20's and had been on one date, which made me think marriage was not an option.

The only time a boy had chosen me was for the kickball game at recess. As a student that really didn't bother me, but when I became a teacher it made me wonder.

I can recall thinking -
I'm not pretty enough for a guy to love me.
I'm not good enough to be someone's wife.
No boy has ever loved me why would one start now.
Maybe my students are the only kids I'm supposed to love and perhaps the team I coach is the only family I will have.

And friend, there were other thoughts I entertained, ones I've never shared til now...I thought -
What if I'm different?
What if it's not a man I'm suppose to love?

Though I never felt attracted to another woman or had the desire to pursue that type of relationship, this thinking confused me. I was raised homosexuality was wrong, but in college I saw people live this way and listened to others say it was OK. Me, the girl who'd been an athletic tomboy and grew up intimidated by guys, wondered if that's what my future held.

Thankfully, I didn't have to wonder (or worry) the age of 23, I picked up a book that changed my life forever. I have no idea why I thought I needed to read Josh Harris' I Kissed Dating Good-Bye, but I'm thankful I did.

Through this book, God showed me who I needed to love and when I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior, He filled me with His love. As I invested in my relationship with my Creator and began to live as the bride of Christ, God led me to another book. A book I'd owned for years and one I'd read for information, but my Bible now became a source of transformation filled with words of wisdom.

My eyes were opened to sin in my life and my heart embraced the plan God had for me. He filled me with peace and reminded me happiness wasn't based on my marital status. He showed me NO ONE can love me like He does and I knew His love was enough. He took me to a place where I was OK with being a single woman in my 20's, but better than that I was fine with being the same in  my 80's.

Honestly, as the new millennium began, I really thought 1 Corinthians 7:8, "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do," was a verse God wanted me to live out. I was willing to submit to His plans.

Once I got to the place of surrender, God began to reveal the plans He had for me. In April of 2000, I went on my 2nd date and by November of the same year, I was engaged. On July 28, 2001, I became Mrs. Job Beran. 

Today, 12 years later, I look at this picture and have so many thoughts...

We looked so young! 

I can't believe I had wedding pictures taken on a tractor...growing up the only words I ever said related to marriage - "I'm never going to marry a farmer!!" (Word of advice - Never say never!)

I'm so thankful God's ways are better than mine!

I'm reminded that He truly does have a plan for us and He works in ways that we can't imagine!

I'm so grateful that God saved me from what might have been and has blessed me in ways I never expected.

I look at this picture and I see love...not because our marriage is perfect (I may or may not have grumbled when Job left for a week on our anniversary this past Sunday), but our God is!

I also see joy...not because our life is always fun and free of pain, but because the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Finally friends, I see hope because I know it's God that brought me to this place. And if He can take a young woman who's depressed, lonely and contemplating suicide to a 25 year old woman who's willing to give up her life for Him, HE can do anything.

Now as I look at where all this has lead, I'm grateful because I know His work is not yet done, but I also believe He will be faithful to complete it!

Team Beran - The J Crew

Reflecting on where I've been leaves me excited for where I am going. Thinking about what brought me to where I am reminds me that God is in control, but I still need to submit and embrace His plans. Remembering all He's done leaves me grateful...God is the One who intervened and saved me from myself, my sin and the way of the world. He's changed me, drawn me near and blessed me through it all.

Friend, can I ask you - how'd you get to where you are? Think about it, thank God and give Him some glory today!!