Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Greetings!

Merry Christmas 
From Our Home To Your’s!!

Hello Family and Friends,
One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is hearing from you!! We all enjoy the pictures and updates, so thought we’d share ours too. 2014 has been a good year…life on the farm has been busy, overall we’ve been blessed with good health (2 days after typing this sickness hit and a week later hasn't left yet!) and made many memories.

Highlights from the year include - Labor Day camp-out with the Beran’s, Wisconsin Dells with the Biwer’s, coon hunting with Grandpa, sewing with Grandma Marie and shopping with Grandma Judy, fishing at Dalyn’s, AWANA’s, and no dull moments in “Beranville”.

James D. enjoyed his first football season, Joy went to her 1st FCA camp and has officially started basketball, Jaylyn enjoyed playing softball, Jed treasured his puppy, Jake, and learned sometimes life ends all too soon, and Jesse has become the family clown making us laugh daily. J.D. and Joy also enjoyed their first week of summer camp at Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch.

As I list all my little J’s, I am thinking of another baby J…one we focus on at Christmas time. The familiar song says, “What child is this?” and a popular verse answers this question - Isaiah 9:6 tells us, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

There are many things that can consume our mind this time of the year, but we are attempting to focus on the one thing…Jesus! Our faith in Him is what will carry us through the good and the bad. He has provided strength, peace and joy in the year that has passed and we trust He will do that in the year to come.

We pray this Christmas you are able to enjoy time with family and friends!! In 2015, may we all get to know the One we celebrate - Jesus, the Child born in the manger who came to be Christ our King and Lord our Savior!
                                                                                            Merry Christmas!!

                                                                                       Blessings from the farm,
                                                                                                    Job, Jill,
                                                                                       James D. (11), Joy (9),
                                                                                          Jaylyn (7), Jed (5)
                                                                                               and Jesse (3)

“I want to know Christ, yes to know the power of His resurrection and 
participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death…” 
Philippians 3:10

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Look at the Wise Men

If you grew up in the church or set up a nativity for Christmas, I'm guessing you know about the wise men. Perhaps like many, you could tell me - they were three men from the east who brought gifts for Jesus. You may even mention magi and astrologers along with gold, frankincense and myrrh. But friend, do you realize there's more to these men than we grew up understanding?

We find their story in Matthew 2:1-12, please take a minute and read it in your Bible or simply click HERE to read it in its entirety. These words may be familiar, but I want to challenge you to dive a bit deeper with me. Over a week ago I was challenged by 5 simple words when I read this statement - "Wise men still seek Him." I'd heard this before, but God used it to take me on a journey and I pray He does the same for you. Let me ask you a few questions and I encourage you to think about your answers before reading my thoughts.

Who were the wise men? These men were magi also known as astrologers who traveled from a distant land, which reminds us Jesus came for all. Researchers don't know how many...the song "We Three Kings" gives us a number, but Scripture does not. It is estimated they traveled nearly 1,000 miles and arrived when Jesus was 1 or 2.

Why did they come? In verse two we find our answer - they came to worship! One commentator also mentioned how they knew something of Jesus and wanted to know more.

How did they find Him? They followed the star, asked questions and knew what the prophet had said -"But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel."

How did they respond when they found Him? Verse 11 says, "On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him.Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." There is a definite sense of reverence and the idea that they understood this truly was no ordinary baby. Also interesting to note the difference in their reactions to the two kings - they bowed for the baby Jesus, but that is not mentioned in their interaction with King Herod.

What lesson can we learn from them? Seeking is something the wise men did and is what we are called to do...may we learn from and be encouraged by the example they set. Seeking takes time, work and effort...we must persevere if we want to find Christ and see God. They presented gifts that were valuable to Jesus, do you? Do I? Matthew Henry said it well, "What God favors us with, we must honor Him with."  In verse 12, we are reminded of another important truth when it comes to our faith - "And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route." The wise men listened to God rather than following King Herod's orders; friends may we too live to fear and obey God, not man. 

As I've studied the wise men a bit more and learned a few things I never knew I've been encouraged and convicted. I haven't mentioned verse 10, but that short sentence hit me like it never has. Here we read, "When they saw the star, they were overjoyed." Their joy didn't come when they found Jesus, they were overjoyed when they saw the thing that would lead them to Him. As I thought about this, God impressed on my heart that the Bible was my star and too often my reaction is no where near to the wise men's. Praying you, and I, will experience joy when we see His Word because we know it will help us find Jesus.

In closing, I hope this little look at the wise men has been beneficial for you and I pray you take sometime and think about these questions. This Christmas may be the wise women who still seek Him!!

Why do you seek Jesus?

How do you respond when you find Him?

What can you give Him? 

Some words to encourage you as you seek Him, the One who loves you, this Christmas season - 

"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." Deut. 4:29

"I love those who love me,
    and those who seek me find me." Proverbs 8:17

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ordinary Days

Most days around our house are pretty typical...farm chores, homeschool, meals, laundry, a sports practice or church activity. I hesitate in using the word "normal" because no day is ever the same, but our life is pretty ordinary. I don't know about you, but sometimes when things are "ordinary" I can lose focus and motivation. The other day I was encouraged to do something else in my ordinary...to look for Someone.

In a devotional, Wendy Blight challenged readers to pray a simple prayer and I did. In the early morning hours I offered up these words, "Lord, let me see You in the midst of my ordinary." Our day progressed and early on I was intentionally looking for God, but nothing out of the ordinary showed up. 

By late afternoon, my intentionality had faded, but my desire to complete the tasks of the day was strong. I was sitting in one room working on school with our 3 oldest kids while our little boys played in the other room. Suddenly Jesse, our 3 year old, ran into the room, shouted in his deep little man voice, "Mom, come here, me have a present for you." Without even giving me a chance to say, "Just wait a minute," he grabbed my arm and took me to the tree.

There I found a blanket covered "package"...one that looked similar to those I've seen in the past and Jesse did his "Ho, Ho, Ho!!" He helped me open the gift and was thrilled to help me find Jed, his 5 year old brother. 

Without even "looking" I instantly saw and experienced God do an extraordinary thing in our ordinary day. One, and most importantly, He reminded me of Psalms 127:3...children truly are a gift from Him. Jesse was so excited to "give" me his brother and Jed grinned from ear to ear as I "received" him. The thing is my kids are gifts I need to embrace and enjoy daily not just when they wrap each other in blankets and hide under the tree. 

I have to admit Christmas is a time that can stress me out...I'm not a great shopper so gift buying brings pressure, there's the money involved and time it all takes. The season brings more excitement to my kids which some times translates to frustration for me. But as God did an extraordinary thing in our ordinary day, I was reminded of the simple pleasures we can find and the joy they bring. 

Finally, through His answer I was reminded that He is always there and like I shared in my last post He is always working. The thing is I'm not always looking! How about you? Today will you join me in asking God to open the eyes of your heart so you can see Him? I believe He will show up!! Stop by to share what He does in your ordinary life!

In the meantime, my little guys were more than happy to reenact the story I described above...next to Jesus, I have to say they are the best gift ever!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Always Working

Last night, my husband and I put the kids to bed like we do most nights. One of my little guys begged me to snuggle a bit and I did. Nearly twenty minutes later I headed back down expecting to find Job watching the football game; he wasn't. I figured he'd headed to bed himself, but he hadn't. Then I heard pounding coming from the basement and knew that wasn't a good sign.

I found my husband and also found out we had a problem - on a night when the temperature was expected to be near zero our furnace was not working. I did what I could to help and as I stood there getting chillier by the minute holding a flashlight that only worked when it wanted to thoughts went to my kids. They were all warm in their beds and had no idea of the problem that was taking place in their own home and the work their dad was doing to take care of them.

As these thoughts ran through my mind, God put another one on my heart - "Jill, you're just like your kids. You are unaware of the things, the problems, going on around you and you don't see half the work I do for you." I type those words and they sound king of mean, but friend as God whispered them to my heart they were good and reminded me of the powerful, loving, kind Father you and I have in God.

Like my husband does for our kids, He is always looking out for us, protecting us and providing for us. He longs to take care of us and does. My kids see their dad and often join him in working through the day, but last night they had no idea he was working on their behalf. The same can be true of my understanding of what God does...at times I see His work, others I join Him in it, but last night I was reminded of the truth in John 5:17, "But Jesus replied, 'My Father is always working and so am I."

About an hour into our work, I was ready to give up. We'd been able to get our old furnace running, so we had heat, even if it wasn't efficient heat I knew it would get us through the night. I'd looked at the manual and though it was the English version it seemed like a foreign language to me. The wires, cords, buttons and switches had left my mind a mess and I was pretty sure if we hadn't solved the problem yet it wasn't going to happen.

Job, on the other hand, was driven to figure it out and get it fixed. As I watched him work, I was given another important lesson. God knows everything. I may look at my problems and see the mess, think it's impossible and be ready to give up. God on the other gets it, He knows exactly what to do. What looked like a mess to me was something my husband had knowledge about and as long as I did what he asked (hold the flashlight and get him tools) he could do the work. And friend, God is the same only on a bigger, perfect scale. Our situations, our lives might look like a mess, but He knows, He understands and He is able.

Today I pray we will remember that our Heavenly Father is always working...He loves us, cares for us and will provide for us. May we thank Him for that and choose to trust Him with all that is not working in our lives today. It may seem to take longer than you'd like, but He will come through and provide exactly what you need. And may just teach you a lesson or remind you of a promise in the process!!

"We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves Him. They are the ones God has chosen for His purpose." Romans 8:28

Thursday, November 27, 2014

When Thanksgiving is Hard

Thanksgiving is a day that always makes me think and it has become my favorite holiday. I appreciate the simplicity (no gift-buying pressure) and treasure the memories. Fourteen years ago on the eve of the big day Job surprised me when he asked me to be his wife and four years ago we learned we were expecting our 5th child. This holiday holds memories that our dear and represents a concept that is critical, but today I was reminded that sometimes Thanksgiving, and giving thanks, can be hard.

A childhood friend, who I grew up with, went to school with and later coached with lost her dad...15 short months after losing her mom. My heart hurt when I read the news...Chuck was one of a kind! "Sir Charles" and I always enjoyed a good conversation...he kept people on their toes and loved them from the heart. I can "see" him now as memories race through my mind and again the tears fill my eyes. I think of his 3 daughters and 2 sons and the pain they must feel. I've never been in their shoes and can't begin to understand, but the situation has me thinking.

Thanksgiving, like I said, is my favorite holiday, but sometimes the things we love are hard. Today, a day many were looking forward to and enjoyed, was hard for my friend and her family. And friend, there may have been moments that were hard for you as well. Moments when you found yourself missing loved ones who weren't there. This was my 2nd year without my grandma B and yesterday as I prepped and worked in the kitchen I thought of her. I missed her, and though I'm thankful for the memories, I'm reminded sometimes remembering is hard.

For my friend this day will forever be marked, Thanksgiving may always be hard. All this had me thinking about the bigger picture...Thanksgiving may be a single day on the calendar, but God longs for it to be a constant state of the heart. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, "In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 

We often wonder what God's will for us and here He clearly tells us...it's not a job or a ministry, a place to live or a trip to take. It's not a complicated task, but it is a difficult one. We are instructed to give thanks in everything. Today when I spoke with ones I love and spent time with some as well, it was a fun thing and honestly, an easy thing to do. But tomorrow, next week or next year when I'm personally living out the bad news it won't be enjoyable, but God will still expect it.

Friend, His will for you and me, is to give Him thanks. How can we do that on days that are not created with that focus? On days when it's hard? I'll admit I've wrestled with these questions today as my thoughts drifted to my friends who were planning a funeral instead of enjoying a feast. I struggle living out the command when my kids and I are having a bad day.

I found myself asking God, "How? How do I do this, give YOU thanks in EVERYTHING?" And then He reminded me of a verse our pastor shared last night at our Thanksgiving service - James 1:2-5. It says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." 

I'd been studying the beginning of this passage, but the last verse really hit me. Considering our trials pure joy is another thought that is quite contradictory to our human emotions and something I struggle with. Perhaps you do too. If so, be encouraged by verse 5. Friend, when we don't know how to give thanks in everything or how to consider our trials a joy, we need to ask. God will guide us, direct us and provide for us. That truth alone is something to be thankful for. 

Friend, I pray your Thanksgiving has been blessed, but if it's been hard I'm asking God to draw you near and use HIS WORD to speak to your heart. Go to Him now with the hard stuff, the trials, the painful memories and ask Him for wisdom, He will provide. And then on this night of Thanksgiving, do the thing we are created to do - give Him thanks. 

Thanking Him for YOU now.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We Need Words

Words have always had an impact on me...growing up encouraging ones could really motivate me and angry ones would leave me crushed. Since junior high, I've enjoyed putting my thoughts on paper...using words to fill my journals. Prior to getting married, Job and I went through the "Five Love Languages" and I was not surprised to find out words of affirmation is my primary language. And just this week I was reminded why we need words.

Wednesday afternoon I posted a picture to Facebook of a moment that had touched my heart. My daughter, Joy, (10 next month) had her nose in a book that has blessed me and led me deeper into God's Word. She's had this book for 9 months, but just really started reading it. I've been praying about my kids making their faith their own and when I saw her jotting down answers to the questions, God reminded me He hears and answers.

This was a wonderful moment for me as a Mom and from her comment I knew Wendy Blight, the author of Living So That, appreciated it as well. Later on that day, I sent her a message sharing more about the story behind the picture and then moved on with life.

As the evening unfolded, my oldest and I had a few not so fun moments. He disobeyed and I was frustrated. He acted and I reacted. He spoke up and I grew angry. We talked about the struggle, but didn't solve the problem. Bedtime came, we prayed and I said, "Good-night. I love you." He was silent. I reached the door, looked back and said, "I really do." He gave me a look I don't like to see and one honestly I rarely do; one that seemed to say, "Whatever."

I went down the stairs as tears fell from my eyes. I felt terrible. I was sure I was failing as a Mom and feared what lies ahead. All I wanted to do was crawl in bed. As I moved towards my goal, I stopped to shut down my computer and noticed I had a message back from Wendy. Her words went straight to my heart and brought Proverbs 16:24 to life.

I was reminded that I have done something right. The picture she saw did say something about me as a Mom...my daughter, well all my kids are being exposed to and taught the Word. They know God created them, loves them and has a plan for them. They understand they are sinners and Jesus died for them. I am trying to do what I believe is right...Satan wants me to think I'm a failure, but through encouraging, life-building words from a friend God reminded me that though I make mistakes they don't define who I am.

After a couple of short sentences helped me regain perspective, God continued to speak. Satan had been condemning me, but now God was convicting me. He assured me the beautiful pic I posted on Facebook really did say something about me as a Mom, but also gently and lovingly showed me the picture etched in my mind as I said, "Good night" to my boy said something as well.

It said I'm not there yet...like my boy I have room for growth and improvement. I'm not perfect and my Father does not expect me to be...I should be a parent with the same philosophy. I may have the gift of encouragement, but my words can also be critical...especially of the ones I love. Friend, these are not easy things to share and they are even harder to deal with, but yet I know this is good.

How can I say that? Let's go back to the picture at the top of this post...my daughter is not the only one reading Living So That, I'm studying through it as well and this week my memory verse is - James 1:2-3, "Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of faith brings perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Friend, last night was a trial for me as a Mom...it wasn't the first and I know it won't be the last. God is working in me and my son and I trust He will be faithful to complete it. (Phil. 1:6) I am able to press through this knowing He has a purpose, is doing a work and providing me with words.

I'm grateful for the words from people around me that prove these verses are true -

"The tongue has the power of life and death..." Proverbs 18:21
"Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances." Proverbs 25:11
"Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24

I'm blessed and in constant need of the words found in the WORD because...

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughy equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16

"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

And now rather than listening to Satan's words that leave me feeling low, I'm lifting words from God up to Him in prayer and He is renewing my mind, changing my heart and working in me.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Lord I pray the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart would be pleasing to You. Please empower me to not let any unwholesome word come from my mouth, instead I long to speak ones that will glorify You and build others up, especially Job and the kids. Finally Father, I pray for you to give me a longing for your Word like the deer pants for the water...help me thirst for the Living Water knowing You will fill me up. Thank you Lord for the way You work, continue to speak to me through Your people and especially Your Word...open my ears to listen, tender my heart to receive and prepare my feet, heart and mouth to obey. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Do you understand your need for words? Especially your dependence on the Word? I pray you do and I'm asking God to bless you with a word from Him today!! Thank you friend for joining me and allowing me to share a few words with you!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Just Wondering

"Mom, you know I really am 'Wonder Woman!'" are the words my 7 year old daughter said to me. I wasn't sure where this was going because as far as I knew her understanding of this superhero was nonexistent. So I responded with nothing and then she proceeded to say, "Because I really do wonder a lot!!!"

Well, if those are the words that define 'Wonder Woman' then I am her as well!! My little lady comes by her deep thinking quite naturally and friend I've found myself wondering quite a bit the last few days. Saturday was the funeral of a wonderful friend/neighbor/sister in Christ and as we celebrated her life and legacy I thought about mine. Yesterday marked the 6th year anniversary of the death of my grandma Biwer and I found myself reflecting on much.

As I thought about this I remembered something my other daughter said a few years back...we were heading to the visitation of an elderly man from our church when Joy, probably 6 at the time said, "Why do we go see dead people?" We explained the whys of our actions, but her words have always stuck with me...too often when we make the choice to take time for people it's too late.

Friend, none of us, or are loved ones, are guaranteed tomorrow so we'd better be intentional with today. Psalms 90:12 says, "Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

All my recent wonderings have left me with the desire to be more intentional with the things I do and say. I long to make a difference for Christ and shine His light; I know that must begin here right where I am at. I also believe God is showing me I need to do a better job of speaking up and really sharing my faith...someday "I'll do it later" won't be an option. He's also showing me there is much I can learn from the people around me...others who've walked with Him for years and experienced things I never have. They have wisdom I could glean from, but I have to be intentional and ask questions and listen to the answers.

So friend, let me start with you - Tell me about your relationship with Christ. What has been the greatest challenge as you walk in faith? What have you learned through it? What advice would you share with me as a wife, mom or believer?

I could go on, but I'll stop with that and finish with the other thing God is showing me I could improve upon...sharing my appreciation and saying the things I too often leave unsaid. A week before her passing, Janet called me and wanted to talk...she told me somethings I never knew and spoke words that touched my heart.

So friend, whether I see you face to face or know you from far-away, I do appreciate you and the connection we share here. I'm grateful for your encouraging words, wise insight and the opportunity to join you on this journey. I pray for you and thank God for you!!

Today I'm asking Him to use my wonderings to make you think as well. May we each be intentional with our time and diligent with our gifts as we walk in a way that is worthy of our calling.

Finally some encouraging words that I just read this morning -

"This earthly chapter is not the end of the eternal story; the pain of death will one day be only a memory." Unknown

"Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity." John Milton

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand  firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

She gave all...

In the last two weeks I've learned of the passing of two precious people, Bobbie and Janet. They were both in their 60's, were each deeply loved and are now deeply missed. I knew Janet personally and learned of Bobbie from a mutual friend.

They were both women who loved the Lord and served Him to the end, but from the world's perspective their lives looked very different. If you were to google Janet, you'd find her obituary. If you did the same with Bobbie, you'd find pages of information - websites, books she'd authored, interviews and words from famous people. Some might be quick to say one of these women had more of an impact than the other, but let's think for a minute what God is saying.

Without a doubt, I believe as each precious sister entered heaven they heard the words we all long to hear, "Well done good and faithful servant." (Matthew 25:23)

As I've reflected on the loss of Janet and Bobbie, God's brought much to mind, but for now I'll simply share two Scripture passages. First of all from Psalms 116:15, "Precious in the sight of Lord is the death of His faithful servants." The NLT says it like this, "The Lord cares deeply when His loved one dies." I remember reading these words 8 years ago when my grandma passed away and being encouraged that God cares too. This time we long to avoid, the season that brings pain, tears and grief is precious in God's eyes. It's a homecoming for the ones He loves and calls His own and it's a reminder for me of the hope we have in Him.

The other passage that comes to mind when I think of these two specific women comes from the Gospels...you can find it in Luke 21:1-4 and Mark 12:41-44. It's here we find the story of the widow's offering. Neither Bobbie or Janet were a widow, but from what I know they each gave all they had. And more importantly they lived the life God called them to and glorified Him in it.

Like I said from the outside their lives were very different...one gal speaking from the stage to many and the other serving the kids she babysat for 33 years. Now that their lives are done, they are both being missed by many, especially by those who knew them personally. Ones they'd loved, served and prayed for. They each had children and grandchildren of their own, but they also both impacted countless others and treated them as a Mother does.

As I've thought about the lives these women have lived I've been encouraged to think about mine. They each walked with humility, sought after God, spent time in His Word and prayer and followed where God led. They used the gifts they'd been given and trusted God in the good and the bad. They shared their faith and praised God in the storm. They were wives, moms, friends and women who made a difference and glorified God. They were women who served an audience of One, stood before Him and are now with Him.

My heart hurts as I think about not seeing Janet or hearing her wise, encouraging words. And I sympathize with those who will miss Bobbie in a similar way. But I'm also grateful for my connection with them and for the reminder to be intentional with the life I've been given. I've found myself asking God to help me remember my days are numbered as well and praying that He will help me give all I have just like Janet and Bobbie did.

Friend, what you and I have to give looks very different, but I pray our effort and attitude is similar. Knowing, if that's the case, the effect will be the same God will be glorified in our lives and others will be blessed as we live out the legacy we one day will leave.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Is It Humility?

Welcome to those of you joining me from The Encouragement Cafe where I am again sharing about humility. If you'd like to read my devotion titled, "What is that?" click HERE.

As I wrote, we must understand humility if we are going to live humbly. Though I wrote the words in the devotional months ago, God recently taught me a lesson about this...last weekend to be exact.

My husband, Job, is an elder at our small county church, which means once every few months he is in charge of setting up communion. This role means I am responsible for making a loaf of bread...something that is NOT a gift of mine.

By Saturday afternoon, I had successfully made two loaves of bread...the kids were thrilled to enjoy one for supper and I did what every mom of hungry kids would do with the other - hide it! Time came for baths and the bedtime routine, so I set the bread out on the counter knowing it'd be easy for Job to find when he left to set up.

With baths over I dressed Jesse, my 3 year old, and sent him off; then I did the same with Jed, my 5 year old. As I finished cleaning up I heard Jed, "Mom, come quick, Jesse eatin bread!!!!"

Instantly, I knew exactly what had happened. I entered the kitchen to find this...

A flood of thoughts entered my mind, but it all came down to, "What are we going to do?" Minutes later Job  came in and his first reaction was far different than mine...he laughed, which only added to my frustration. At 8:30 I put the kids to bed and then returned to the kitchen.

Thankfully I had one more loaf of frozen bread dough; I found the directions and moved forward with the fastest baking plan. At 11:30 PM I opened the oven and found what I called, a "Humpty Dumpty" loaf of bread...I don't know what happened, but it looked bad.

Honestly I wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn't fall. I knew there was nothing I could do so I went to bed...a short time later Job came in from a late night in the field. He saw the bread, didn't say a word and then I asked him, "What are we going to do?" He assured me it would be alright.

I went to sleep asking God to work it out...I wasn't sure how that would happen - I'd already contacted my three bread making friends, we are an hour from the nearest store that would have a loaf of homemade looking bread and church was at 8:30. Yet there was a part of me that knew it would be alright.

At 4 AM I woke up and knew I was to get up and try again. This time I found a recipe for my bread machine, prayed as I added the ingredients and returned to bed asking God to do it. By 6 I was back up, put the dough in pans and let it rise. During this time, my brother-in-law stopped by and asked for the communion bread...Job had asked him to take it to church. I wrapped up the "Humpty Dumpty" loaf and Satan reminded me I wasn't cut out to be an elder's wife.

Time kept ticking away as I did the dishes, while I stood at the sink I thought about the devotions I was sharing this week - both were on the topic of humility. I specifically got to thinking about what humility really is and more specifically what it should like in the situation I was in. God had me, a recovering people pleaser with a life long approval addiction, on this one. "Why was I making another loaf of bread?" was the question He put on my heart.

I would like to say it was because communion is important, it's a holy sacrament and something I want to do right to honor God. I also remembered the widow how didn't give much, but gave all she had and wondered if God was telling me my messed up loaf was enough. Friend, those things are all true, but I know I was also worried about what others would think.

So when my daughter looked at the nice freshly baked loaves of bread and asked, "Which one are you going to take to church?" I simply responded, "I might not take either one." She, the girl who inherited a bit of my addiction, was shocked and asked, "Why?"

I told her what God had been showing me about humility and how I really didn't know my answer to His question. Then I explained how our actions might look humble, but if they come from a prideful heart it's not humility at all. She looked at me a bit confused and then left to get ready for church.

After our conversation, I had peace about the whole situation and was prepared to leave it in my husband's hands...thinking he'd say it wasn't a big deal, nobody would notice and we didn't have time to switch it anyway.

He came in from chores, entered the kitchen, and called to me in the other room, "Why don't you run this loaf down to the church right now." I didn't ask any questions and then did what he said...I knew submitting to my husband was the humble thing to do.

Time for church came and after a powerful sermon we took part in the breaking of the bread. As our pastor echoed Jesus' words from the last supper and lifted the loaf of bread...I had peace. I had heard God's voice at 4 AM, followed His directions and made the bread for Him. I gave Him the best of what I had and He was pleased with my perseverance.

He wants and deserves our best...friends that's not always easy and rarely does it come without trouble, but if we humble ourselves it is possible. When we do this He will bless our obedience and be glorified by our actions.

Friend, I pray you are encouraged to really think about what humility is...may we never forget that it is directly connected to the fear of the Lord. May we move past worrying about what others expect and focus on giving God what He deserves. What does God deserve from you today? Your obedience, your praise, your thankfulness, your heart, your time, your money, your 5th loaf of bread? I don't know, but God does - ask Him and then pray for the humility to make it happen!

A few more thoughts on humility -
"God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us." Martin Luther

"Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil's reach as humility." Jonathon Edwards

"I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves - one above another - and the taller we grow, the easier we can reach them. Now I find that God's gifts are on shelves - and the lower we stoop, the more we get." F.B. Meyer

"He who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11

"God...gives grace to the humble...Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up." James 4:6,10

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time." 1 Peter 5:6

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thoughts from the Day

Welcome to those of you joining me from the Encouragement Cafe! It's a pleasure to be sharing a devotional there today! If you'd like to read, "How Low Can You Go?" click HERE.

Friends, I typically like to have a blog post to accompany my devotions, but today I'm at a loss of words. I'm writing this on Sunday night after a visit with Janet, a humble, Godly woman from our church. She is sick - tomorrow marks 4 weeks in the hospital and they are now talking about Hospice care.

It was good to see her and even better to visit with her. Her memory is good and faith is strong, but her body is failing. She says everyday I wake up and ask, "Lord, why am I still here?" She knows there is a reason, but struggles with the want to understand. She is ready to meet her Savior and is doing all she can to share Him with others.

Many thoughts went through my mind as we made the hour drive home. My heart breaks for her husband, Arnie, who held her hand as we conversed...hanging on to moments that are fading away all too fast. There were also thoughts about family and friends who are not ready to die, but like Janet are now one day closer to that day than they were before; thoughts about myself and the things that are most important in life. Finally, thoughts about Jesus the One who's humility brought us the reason for hope.

And friend, I'll admit as I type the tears are falling. Death is hard, but friend it's real. It happens all the time...sometimes it shocks us and others life let's us prepare, but regardless of the timing it is difficult. But remembering this reality can be helpful, it can help us focus and keep things in perspective.

Today Janet can't walk across the room, but I know she'd beat me in the "Humility Limbo"! Her life is coming to an end, but her focus is on Christ and others. She's still praying for others, reaching out so things aren't left unsaid and assuring others of her love for them. She's trusting in God, relying on Christ and sharing her faith. She's let go of her plans and embraced His.

Friend, I feel my thoughts are scattered, but my prayer is that you'd spend some time today thinking about humility and ask God how you can live that out. As we lower ourselves, we lift Christ up and friend that is what we are created to do and in the end it's all that will matter. Also, if you'd pray for Arnie and Janet, along with their family and friends, I know they'd be grateful.

I'll save the best words for last...ones that come from God instead of me, ones that remind me of Janet and encourage me - "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the self, the unfading of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Are you worthy?

"Have you ever felt unworthy? Why? What led to these feelings? Are you worthy? Where does worth come from?" These questions guided our discussion the other night at Titus24U and I was reminded, though Satan wants us to think we're the only one who struggles with this, it's something we all battle. The reason for our feelings may be different, but the pain and damage these feeling create is the same.

I've struggled with feeling unworthy for as long as I can remember...there were times I felt not good enough, not smart enough and not pretty enough. I've let failures, comparison and my past label me. I've allowed roles, my performance and others' thoughts define me. I've strived (and failed) to keep up with others and meet their expectations. All of this has played a part in feeling unworthy, but what's always been at the top is the struggle with my looks.

I grew up as a farm girl and a tomboy and my looks proved it. Numerous times I was mistaken for a boy and each time that happened the hurt went deeper and insecurity grew stronger. I no longer look like a boy, and though my looks changed my thoughts about them never did. Looking in the mirror has been a struggle and receiving compliments from my husband has been a challenge.

Over time God has been working on my heart and teaching me His Truth. Over 5 years ago, He intensified this lesson at the county fair. My brother-in-law found a pic of me from my high school days and he thought it would be fun to show my husband and kids. They all laughed, but inside I fell apart. In my mind, I heard, "Look at you." A list of doubts and old insecurities came to mind and then there was a whisper to my heart, "No Jill, look at Me."

A day later I found myself reading the story of Peter walking on water. (Matthew 14:22-33) As he kept his eyes on Jesus, he did the impossible, but when his eyes wandered to the things around him, he sunk. God taught me that day the same happens with me. When I focus on Him, I can do what He asks and trust what He says, but when I look at the stuff around me...including old pics, I start to sink. (Read the entire story HERE.)

This lesson helped and I made strides in this area as time went by, but nearly 2 months ago I was reminded I'm still not an overcomer. I had made plans to connect with a far-away friend...we'd connected via FB and email, but talking on the phone was a new thing. The idea seemed crazy and I didn't understand why God was leading me to do this, but yet I obeyed and asked my friend if she wanted to chat. She agreed and we made plans to connect.

The day I was to call, I saw a picture of her - a beautiful, Godly woman I respect and these thoughts ran through my mind - “She’s better than you. You don’t deserve to be her friend. She was a Baylor Beauty and you, well you’re a Riceville Reject.”

Thankfully, I immediately recognized them as lies from the enemy and proceeded with my plans. After enjoying a conversation with my friend, my mind returned to the thoughts that mirror ones I’ve struggled with all my life. Thoughts that say, “I’m not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, you fill in the blank…“ Ones that basically say, “I’m not worthy.”

I realized this and asked God, "Why? Why does my mind always go there? I know Truth...but yet, do I believe it? Help me Lord. I know Satan has me with this, but I trust You can free me." That cry for help was the start of a journey.

Perhaps you’ve struggled with this as well? Maybe comparison, sin, shame, other’s words and actions, looks or failure have kept you from thinking you don’t measure up or that you’re not good enough. If so, will you join me as we look at what makes us unworthy?

First of all, just a little language lesson - in Greek, worth, axious (axeeos),  means -  deserving, suitable and due reward. So join me in what God taught me about what worth is, where it comes from and who can label us unworthy.

W - Who is worthy. "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (Revelation 4:11) Our worth begins with knowing the One who is worthy - Jesus!! (Additional verses - Revelation 5:12)

O - Our connection to Him. "So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) Elohim, God, our creator made us in His image. Take some time and ask Him to show you what that means. Friend, the more we get to know God the better we will know ourselves.

R - Redemption’s Price Tag"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you for your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (1 Peter 1:18-19) The other day my daughter's friend was talking about the gift she gave her dad. She'd bought him a shirt on clearance, but left the original price tag on it. Her dad saw it and immediately said, "I'm not worth that." Immediately I thought about us doing the same with God...how that must hurt His heart. Think about the price He paid to make us His own...friend, He didn't find us on the clearance rack. He bought us with the blood and by the death of His Son. Meditate on that and take a look at 1 Corinthians 7:23 and Acts 20:28 as well. 

T - The One in me. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20a) Friend, if you struggle with your worth, for whatever reason...let the Truth of this verse sink deep into your heart. Jesus and His spirit live in YOU...YOU are worthy!! (Additional verses - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Ephesians 1:13-14)

H - How our worth is measured. "Anyone who loves their father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me." (Matthew 10:37-38) Friend, I've read this verse countless times and God has used it to lead me to obedience in the past, but as He led me on this journey of truly understanding my worth these words were a game changer. I've allowed numerous people and thoughts say I'm unworthy and perhaps you have as well, but get this - only Jesus has the power to say it!! Jesus doesn’t count us out based on worldly standards. Friends, He measures our worth by our love for Him and obedience to Him. Did you get that? He won’t disqualify us because we carry extra pounds, have crooked teeth or failed to earn academic honors. The world looks at the outer appearance, but God looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) Society pushes us to perform, but Christ died for us while we were still sinners . (Romans 5:8)

Friend, I pray the brief summary of what God has been teaching me is one that He uses for you as well. We must remember who He is and be who He created us to be! Thinking we are unworthy...for all the wrong reasons, can be prideful, leads to insecurity and is sin. But God is the God of grace and mercy, run to Him to today...He sees you, He knows you and He loves you. He calls you worthy!!

If you'd like to go deeper into this, here are a few verses to start with -
Words about Worth - 2 Thessalonians 1:5,11; Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 139; Isaiah 43:1-4; Matthew 16:24-28; and 1 Samuel 16:7

Words about Walking Worthy - Ephesians 4:1-3, Philippians 1:27, Colossians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:12, 4:1; Romans 12:1 and 1 John 2:15

Finally friends a prayer for you and me - Heavenly Father, Lord I come to You now and approach Your throne with confidence. I ask for knowledge of Your will, spiritual understanding and wisdom. I ask this so that I may live a life worthy of You and please You in every way. I long for You to help me understand who I am and pray that You’d help me see myself the way You do. Keep me from looking to others, actions or accolades to find my worth, but help me love and obey You so that I am found worthy in Your eyes. Lord, You are worthy and I give You all the praise, glory and honor. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Saturday, October 18, 2014

In Honor of My Husband

"Glorify the LORD with me, let us exalt His name together."
Psalms 34:3

Today my husband celebrates his birthday and God's put it on my heart to pay him a little tribute here...my prayer is it honors him, glorifies God and speaks to you.

Job would be the first one to tell me not do this...he is a private guy, who knows the spotlight belongs on Christ and I pray that will be the case as I share a bit about the light that shines from my husband.

We just celebrated thirteen years of marriage this summer and we have known one another since I was in junior high. I always thought he was a good guy, but now I know he is a Godly man.

He is a man who seeks after God, studies His Word and applies it to his life.

He's a husband who loves me, believes in me, is patient with me and listens to me.

He's a Dad who makes time for his kids, sees their gifts and builds their faith.

He's a son who respects his mom, misses his dad and builds on the legacy he's been handed.

He's a brother who always has time for family and never turns up on opportunity to help.

He's a farmer who loves his job, enjoys God's creation and works hard to provide.

He's not perfect, but he perseveres. He makes mistakes, but then seeks forgiveness. He works hard, but always takes time to rest.

He laughs and helps me find joy in the everyday. He prays and trusts God will answer. He appreciates the gift of faith and lives faithfully.

Job is the guy I love and appreciate, but I hate to admit he's the one I too often take for granted. Daily he does things to bless me and works hard to lighten my load, but the thanks don't always come. Life is busy and my kids are needy, I'm sorry to say Job doesn't always come first. (He should be before the kids...not God!) So on his birthday, I'm committing to not just blessing him today, but in the year to come. I long to pray for him, serve him and choose him before the other people and things in my life.

I'm grateful for the man God brought into my life, but I don't want to simply think that thought, I want to live it. Friend, if you are married, I challenge you to do the same. What does that look like in your life? Is there something you to need to do? Something you need to quit doing? Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church, what can we do to make it the beautiful illustration God created it to be?

Today on my husband's birthday, I've printed out the "30 Day Husband Appreciation Challenge" and am asking God to use it in the month to come. I trust He will bless my husband, strengthen our marriage and change my heart. If you'd like to do the same, you can find it HERE. We don't have to wait for our marriage to be in trouble in order to make it better!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In Honor of My Friend

Today a friend is celebrating her birthday...as I thought about her and thanked God for her I reflected on how God has impacted me through her. I could express my thanks to her (again), but I've decided to come here and share some lessons with you. It's always good for me to remember; I pray it will also be encouraging and insightful for you, a way to honor her and glorify God.

God Connects Though The World Divides
My friend and I really have an unexpected friendship...miles are between us, seasons of life divide us and our past experiences really haven't connected us, but God. God has united us...He's brought us together and shown me yet again what it is to be in the family of God and be blessed with another sister in Christ. Though we don't share the same name, town or backgrounds we have the same Father in Heaven and that my friend is a wonderful connection. The power of the Holy Spirit is amazing and I'm grateful for the work He's done in my life.

Our Words Matter
My friend's words have blessed me in various ways...they've encouraged, comforted and instructed me. She has spoken Truth to me and pointed me to the Bible, words that truly transform. My friend has also reminded me that my words matter as well...my gift of encouragement really does make a difference and is one God can use. Proverbs 18:21 is true, "The tongue has the power of life and death..."

God Uses Our Story
My friend has quite a testimony and she uses it for God's glory. Her's is not the story anyone would choose, but it is one God has used. And as I've thought about this, I've been able to see how He has used it for three different things. One, and most importantly, He's used it for His glory. My friend uses her words and connections to shine a light for Christ. She is not ashamed of the Gospel and thus is able to do what she's been created for - glorify her Creator. Our good God blesses her obedience and uses my friend's story for her own good. It's been a joy to watch my friend succeed in her endeavors and grow in her faith. I often hear her say, "Blessings follow obedience." She shares these words because she experiences them! I've been blessed to be on the receiving end of the 3rd and final way God uses our stories...for others' growth. I've been impacted tremendously through my friend's story...hearing of her experiences and watching her live out her faith have touched me immensely. Her story has given me hope, reminded me of Truth and taught me countless lessons. It has also challenged me to allow God to use my story for His glory, my good and others' growth as well.

There's Power in Prayer
My friend has a heart for prayer. She is quick to lift others up and willing to share the role prayer has played in her life. She has taught me much about prayer and God has used the prayers she's prayed for me. A few years back I remember her praying, "tender her heart" and something along the lines of "help her see herself the way You (God) do." I wasn't sure I needed the first part, but knew the latter was necessary! God understood exactly what I needed though and has continued to answer these prayers and many more. My friend has also taught me there's much power in praying Scripture and because of that lesson my prayer life has grown.

We're Leaving a Legacy 
It can be easy to say, "I want to leave a legacy", but the older I get the more I realize that wanting to leave a legacy is not enough. We all leave a legacy...that's a given, but we can choose if it's a good, Godly one or not. My friend is doing that...she's impacting those around her with her words, actions and prayers. She's a woman of faith who is building the kingdom and discipiling believers. She's never echoed Paul's words, but when I read these verses I think of her.

"Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1

"Join together in following my example, brothers and sister, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do." Philippians 3:17

"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:9

When I'm my friend's age, I want to be like her! Not because she's perfect or has a wonderful life, but because she's shining her light for Christ, keeping her eyes on Jesus and growing in her faith. She has taught me much as a Christian, wife, Mom and friend; I pray I've shared a bit of those lessons with you. I encourage you to think about the Godly friends who impact you and thank God for the work He does through His body!

I also challenge you to think about the kind of friend you are...do you take time the time to invest in the people God connects you with? Are you aware of the impact your words have? Have you let go of the story you want and embraced the one God has given you? Do you allow Him to use it? Are you a friend others can count on for prayer? What legacy are you leaving?

It's great to thank our friends with words, but it's more powerful to show them with our actions! I've let my friend know she's appreciated and I've shared some lessons with you, now I pray I can do some of the things she does. I'm asking God to help you, her and me live out Ephesians 4:14-16 - "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does it work."

This blog post is part of Michelle DeRusha’s #MyFaithHeroine contest, in connection with the release of the book 50 Women Every Christian Should Know. Find out how to participate here. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Watch Your Step

Walking through the cattle lot has never been something I've enjoyed. The other day as I tip-toed around the mud and other "messes" a few thoughts entered my mind. I went back in time and could hear my sisters teasing me about getting dirty. I could see my son laughing at me as he stomped right in the yuck I worked to avoid. The third thought was a new one and it's come back a few times.

I believe it was God who brought this thought to mind as He used the scene as a picture of my spiritual walk. It was as if He was questioning me, "Why are you so careful to avoid physical messes, but let up a bit when it comes to spiritual ones?" If you were to ask my husband, he'd tell you I will do all I can to avoid getting my boots dirty when I'm in the cattle lot. (In case you didn't know, cattle lots are rarely clean.)

I watch my step. I consider my path. I take my time. I take the long route if necessary. Though my family doesn't always appreciate it, I do. I'm grateful my boots stay clean and now I'm thankful for the lesson God is teaching me through this.

Friend, as you and I walk through life, it'd be beneficial to apply this strategy as well. Not because we don't want to get dirty, but because we want to be wise and ultimately because we want to follow Christ. It's easy to say that's what we want to do, but if we're going to do it we must be aware of our surroundings, we have to keep our eyes on Him and watch where He's going.

I'm a homeschool Mom and this last week in school God took these thoughts a step further. For history, we are reading a book called Tirzah and it's the story of the exodus told from a young Hebrew slave girl's perspective. The book has made me think about this familiar story in a whole new way...especially about the crossing of the sea. I'm not sure why, but I've always had this glamorous picture in my head of Moses leading the people through. That is not at all how it's described in the book; Tirzah talks about stumbling over debris and getting stuck in seaweed.

We really don't know what all took place, but can we agree that following Jesus tends to be much more challenging than it is glamorous? Friend, as we follow Him, we must watch our step. We must be careful. We must be aware of our surroundings.

As I thought about the Israelites getting tripped up and stuck in the Red Sea, my mind went to work. I too get tripped up and stuck...sometimes it's with physical things and others it's my thoughts. Stepping into a pile of wrong thoughts makes a much bigger mess than stepping into the stuff that's in our cattle lot. But I work much harder to avoid the latter and I've found myself asking, "Why?" Honestly, a couple of minutes at the hydrant and that mess is gone!

This week I've been challenged to take my thoughts captive and to watch my step in regards to my thinking. And I want to continue this in the days to come. Thankfully I don't have to tip-toe through the cattle lot every day, but that's not the case when it comes to the thoughts in my head...they are always there and I must live out 2 Corinthians 10:5b if I want to watch my step, "Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 

And friend, we won't be able to do this without the help of the Holy Spirit or wisdom from the Lord, so today will you join me in making Psalms 119:105 your prayer? "Oh, Lord, make Your Word a lamp for my feet and a light on my path." He will show us the way we are to go, but we must watch our step and follow where He leads!

I've been watching my step in the cattle lot for years and my boots stay clean; I pray this is the beginning of watching my steps spiritually so my heart stays pure. Asking God to help you do the same!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Believe - A Short Study

Hello Friends, Titus24U is the name of my blog, but nearly 2 years ago it also became the name of a women's ministry held monthly at our church. This unusual name is one God put on my heart nearly 8 years ago and focuses on two passages from chapter 2 of Titus. Verses 3-5 tell us about women training women and verses 11-14 are basically the Gospel in a nutshell. Since my relationship with Jesus and those with other sisters in Christ have been valuable in my life, I have a passion to encourage others to connect with God and one another as well. I pray I do that on my blog and as I lead our group.

So anyway, last week I shared about the month's plans for T24U on Facebook and I was struck that the majority of feedback came from far away friends. I thought about that for awhile and prayed about it too. Now God has led me to share the outline of what we discussed and took home for further study. I'd love for you to join in the conversation, but more importantly I pray this gets you into God's Word!

Our topic for the night was BELIEVE...something God had been challenging me to understand better and live out more. It can be easy to say we believe, but much more challenging to live out our beliefs. Belief can be a complicated topic...we can believe in God and we are commanded to believe Him. We may believe Jesus died, rose and saves us from our sin, but do we believe the same resurrecting power works in us today?

Awhile back my husband said something to me about my looks, which I've struggled with all of my life. I listened to his compliment, but really didn't respond; so he said, "You don't believe me, do you?" I was silent and then he quickly added, "You don't believe God either, do you?" Friend, it can be easy to say I believe God's Word, but am I willing to believe Him and claim His Truths for myself? How about you?

More recently, I've been convicted of doubting (not believing) what He's called me to do. I'll admit, I think way too much...the former algebra teacher in me loves to figure things out, but that's not what God wants me to do. He wants to trust and obey...even when A + B does not = C! He longs for me, and you, to believe! And friend, that is not a one time thing, it's something we must do time and time again. Every situation, every opportunity and every thought is a chance to believe God. If you want to learn more about who we believe, how we believe or be encouraged to strengthen your belief, I invite you to dive into the questions and Scriptures below. God's Word is living and active...He will speak to us!

Dear Heavenly Father, God, thank you for choosing me to be a believer. I'm grateful for the gift of faith You've given and ask You to strengthen it as I study your Word. Lord, I admit, sometimes I doubt and I ask you to use that doubt to draw me to you. Help me recognize the times I'm not believing You Lord and fill my mind with Truth about who YOU are and the power You posses and the plan You've created. Father, I pray You would use this study transform hearts today. In Jesus' Name, Amen

“The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” John 6:29
(Tense denotes continuation rather than a single act. NIV Commentary)

Define BELIEVE -

Who/What do you believe?
John 11:27
John 12:44
John 14:11
Heb. 11:6

Why do you believe?
1 John 3:23
Is. 43:10

How do you believe?
Romans 10:10

Why don’t you believe?
Luke 8:13
John 12:37-43

What are the benefits of believing?
John 1:12 John 11:25-26
John 3:16 John 11:40
John 4:39-42 John 17:21
  John 6:35-36, 47 John 20:29
John 7:38 Romans 4:3

How do I strengthen my belief?
John 20:27, 31
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Mark 9:24
Romans 10:17
John 13:19
        John 15:5

Be Encouraged!! If you are a believer, Jesus prayed for YOU!! See John 17:20

What is God asking YOU to BELIEVE? (A verse, a command, a truth…something about Him, you or your circumstances.)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

What God Can Do...

The other day I found myself in awe of what God was doing...I looked at my life and smiled. I've been blessed with a wonderful husband, 5 great kids, amazing friends and family, a loving church home and opportunities I never expected.

Now before I paint a perfect picture, I want you to know though I love the people in my life and am blessed by them, they are people similar to the ones in your life - they challenge me, upset me, try my patience and sometimes let me down. And I do the same to them...we are humans living in a fallen world. I'm grateful for the opportunities I've been given, but they haven't come without stepping out of my comfort zone, battling fear and facing rejection. So my life, like your's, is far from perfect, but I've been reminded it is good...because God is in it.

This time of reflection led to memories from years ago because you see God hasn't always been in my life. Well, not in the center like He is now. I grew up believing there was a God, but didn't know Christ personally until nearly 15 years ago.

In September of 1999, I was in my 2nd year of teaching junior high math and coaching the 7th grade volleyball team. I often wore a smile on my face, but depression clouded my heart. My friends were getting married and I feared living life all alone. I longed to make a difference, but struggled with not being good enough. I tried to please people, but rarely experienced joy myself. I worked hard, but my strength was never enough.

One night after a rough day in school and a worse night in the gym, I hit the bottom. I contemplated taking my life and ending it all - the pain, broken heart and depression nobody saw. God intervened and stopped the plan I'd created...the night I thought would be the end was really the beginning.

I found medical help for depression, opened up about my struggles and began to pay attention to the work God was doing. It wasn't long and Psalm 40:2 became real in my life - "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire; He set my feet on the rock and gave me a firm place to stand."

My mind began to clear and my perspective started to change; after a few months passed my life was no longer the same. God worked in amazing ways, made Himself real and drew me close. Eventually, Romans 10:9 became a reality in my life - I confessed Jesus as Lord and believed in my heart. I was saved. Initially I didn't understand what this all meant or where it would lead, but as I look at my life through the rear view mirror I am amazed. And I have a glimpse of what God can do.

Friend, these memories bring tears to my eyes, but I pray they bring encouragement to your heart.

God can take what is broken and make it whole. He can open the eyes of the blind and heal the heart of the hurting. He can change your life and encourage your soul. He can open doors and do the impossible. He provides peace and brings joy. He creates connections and changes us from the inside out. He can give a quiet girl a voice and use my mess to share His message. He can save and strengthen. He offers forgiveness and blesses obedience. He can take one who's insecure and help her become humble.

I could share a story for each of these points, but I pray you can see the power our God possesses and I'd love to encourage you to look back on the life you've lived and work God has done. It has been good for me to remember...I appreciate the memories, but I needed the reminder of God's faithfulness. Though God has done much and changed my heart immensely, sometimes the old me returns. I worry, I doubt and I fear. I'm impatient and insecure. But God, He never changes and tonight as I reflect I'm reminded of this from Philippians 1:6, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Some days I look at myself and can get discouraged when I realize I'm not there yet, but tonight I'm encouraged because God's not done yet!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"What's on your heart?"

"What's on your heart?" When is the last time you thought about this? Have you thought about it? Do you know? Does it matter?

This is a question a friend posed to me the other day and those four words have my attention. I'll admit, I was caught a little off guard when she asked, but I did share what God had brought to mind in a quiet moment of prayer before we connected on the phone. 

A few hours passed and God again brought that question to mind; this time I had many thoughts go through my head. I was grateful my friend cared enough to ask and I was challenged to really think about my answer to her question.

Good things and hard things, reflections on the past and worries for the future all came to mind. Things I need to do as a wife and a mom, people and relationships, personal struggles, dreams and doubts sum up the list I jotted down. 

As I thought about this a few verses came to mind - 

"Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind." Psalm 26:2

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 2:23

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." Matthew 5:8

I'm not sure anyone has asked you this question, but I believe God knows the answer! Friends, He sees our heart...it's an added bonus when someone asks what's on it. He knows what is weighing us down, what brings us joy and what our motives are. He examines our hearts, it's good for us to do the same.

In Proverbs we are instructed to guard our heart and it's hard to do if we aren't aware of what's on it.  If we are holding on to lies or replaying doubts in our mind they will weigh on our heart. As I thought about the things on my heart one thing that came to mind was the thought - "I'm not good enough." If I don't recognize this for what it is, a lie from Satan, I won't guard my heart against it. As you examine your heart, look for things that don't belong and guard your heart against them.

Finally, I've been encouraged as I remove what doesn't belong from my heart, I can better see what does. I can see the people as ones God loves; I can see the problems that God can work through; I can see roles God can use, I can see the me God created me to be. But best of all, when my heart is pure I can see God. And friend, you will too.

After I pondered her question for a day, I told my friend she should be glad she asked when she did...my answer had grown with every hour that passed. Initially her question was a surprise, but now I know it was a gift! So may I share it with you today and ask, "What's on your heart?" I'd be honored to hear your thoughts, but more importantly you'll be blessed if you really think about the answer. Take some time and make a list of all God brings to mind...I pray He will direct your thoughts, guard your heart and open your eyes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Lesson From My Little Man

He's not a "Baby", but he'll always be my baby!
"Mom, me a baby?" asked my 3 year old little man as he entered from the other room.

"No," I responded.

He looked up with appreciation and quickly left the room only for me to hear, "See I told you me not a baby. Mom said."

These were words aimed at his older (by not even 2 years) brother. They'd been arguing about something and Jed, the big guy, resorted to calling Jesse, the little guy, a name. Once the younger told the older what Mom said the argument was over and the farming resumed.

Though my little people returned to their "work" God pushed pause on mine. He used my little man's question to teach me a lesson. This is what He had me thinking about -

Jesse hadn't even stopped to let Jed's words soak in. He didn't let this name affect him or make him question who he was. The label was not one he accepted. Instead my little guy immediately went to the one he could trust, the one who knew who he was and an authority figure who would assure him of truth.

As I thought about this, God had me think about the times my identity is mistaken and I receive the wrong labels. Friends, I hate to admit, but my son didn't learn this skill from me. Granted I haven't been called a "Baby" in years, but I've battled with labels like "Not Good Enough", "Not Smart Enough" and "Unworthy" in the recent past. Many years have passed since my little sisters called me names, but Satan sometimes does it daily. And when this happens, I haven't been real quick to seek a second opinion.

The quick observation of my son has taught me quite a lesson! I'm the authority figure he trusts and friend, God is the same for you and me. Jesse believes who I say he is and is not, why don't you and I believe our heavenly Father when He tells us the same?

Friends, I've learned countless lessons from my 5 children, but this one is big. It's such a picture of something God has had on my heart the last few years - we must find our identity in Him! He knit us together in our mothers' wombs (Psalms 139:13) and knew us before we were formed (Jeremiah 1:5), let's go to Him to learn who we are!

When circumstances, sin or Satan call you a name or define you wrongly, may you be encouraged to immediately go to the ONE who knows and ask Him if that is who you are. Friend, listen to our Father's answer and then like my little man stand confidently in the label He gives you!

In case you need a few reminders of what He says -

"I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father." John 15:15

"But to all who have received Him-those who believe in His name-He has given the right to become God's children." John 1:12

"And when you heard the word of truth - when you believed in Christ - you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit." Ephesians 1:13

Friend, I pray we will all be encouraged by the lesson God brought to life through my little man! I'd love to hear one of the favorite verses He uses to tell you who you are!!

Brothers...and usually friends!