Friday, February 28, 2014

A Boy and His Blankie

My little Jesse man is a blankie boy! Our 3 older kids were never attached to a blanket, but our two little guys "need" their's every night. At times it can be frustrating...especially at bedtime and one of them is missing - the blankets not the boys!! The other day, my little guy wasn't feeling the best and I looked at him and his blankie in a whole new way.

I had the thought - my boy and his blankie should be a picture of a girl and her God! I'll admit my first thought in response was something like "Isn't that a bit too much?" But then I started to think a bit more...

In his blanket, my boy finds comfort. He wasn't feeling very good and he didn't want to read books or play with his toys; all he wanted was his blankie and me. He found comfort in what was familiar and it helped him feel better. As a girl, God provides the same for me! "I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live." Psalms 116:1-2

When my little guy is scared, he grabs his blankie and holds it close. As he snuggles in, he feels safe. And friend, isn't the same true when we think of what God does for us? " "Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand" (NLT)." Isaiah 41:10

Every night the last thing Jesse does before heading to bed is get his blankie. It truly is his security blanket!! Just like God is for his girls!! Friends, when we don't know where to turn or who to trust we can take refuge in Him!! "The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him." Nahum 1:7

As I thought more about this I thought about the times we've misplaced our boys' about stress!! But during the time when we don't know they are missing, we're not concerned or worried or honestly even aware that we've lost what is so valuable. Though I hate to admit it, isn't that the case with God too? Just like my son, we know God's importance and value in our lives, but sometimes we are careless. Jesse can set his blanket down, walk away and then forget where it is when he needs it. I'm grateful my 2 year old doesn't need his blankie all the time, but you and I can't say that about God! Though that's the case will you join me in saying sometimes we walk away, sometimes we forget where He is? The good thing is we don't have to tear the house apart to find Him!! God never moves, He's always His girls we must simply go to Him, confess our sins, share our heart and He will restore the relationship! "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

Then finally, my thoughts took me to another frustrating situation...sometimes boy #4 hides boy #5's blankie. I don't think I need to explain the frustration this creates, but let's think for a minute how this picture compares to a girl and her God. Friend, do others ever try to take your relationship with God away? Do they come against your faith? Does Satan ever try to steal it? This can hurt and cause pain for my little man and for me as God's girl. But let us remember - NOTHING can separate us from God! And may we never forget we have an enemy and He is roaring, so may we "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8

Friend, today may you treasure your relationship with God in the same way my son values his blankie!! It's something that provides safety, comfort and security! He needs it when he's sad and enjoys playing with it when times are good! In the same way, God comforts, provides and keeps us safe! He is there in the good and the bad; able to hold us when times are tough and rejoices over us when all is well!! I'm grateful for the picture He gave me and don't think I'll ever look at my little boy and his blankie the same way again!!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What do you do with your gifts?

A look inside my daughter's closet will give you a glimpse of some gifts she's received over the last year - an embroidery kit, a knitting one, material and craft supplies. She is extremely creative and loves to do all kinds of projects, but she often likes to design things herself and thus can avoid patterns and directions. At the same time, she'd love to make the scarf that shows up on the packaging, but she finds the instructions confusing and her mother is NO help!

The other day when I saw these gifts, sitting there not being used, I had a new thought - sometimes my gifts sit on a shelf as well. I'm not talking about last year's Christmas present; I am referring to my spiritual gifts - the ones God has given to me.

If I had to guess, I'd bet you've taken a spiritual gift test at some point in your life. Am I right? For awhile I think that was a hobby of mine. I don't know if I thought if I took it often enough I'd eventually get the right answer or what, but eventually I realized my results were always quite similar.

Encouragement always showed up as number one or two. This made sense as I've always enjoyed sending cards and writing notes, but for some reason I think I thought it was a second rate gift. Like it was not as important as some of the others. In my eyes gifts like wisdom, teaching and discernment were powerful and served a mighty purpose. In a way it seemed like encouragement was the gift that was handed out when all the important ones were gone.

I thought, "Isn't encouragement something everyone can do?" Many people had encouraged me throughout my lifetime...did they all have the gift? I really never stopped to think about these questions, but in time I'd take another gift assessment that only ended with the same results.

Eventually I accepted this, but only recently have I started to understand it. Through the month of January God led me to dig into the topic of encouragement. I sought answers to questions - "What is it? Where do I find it? How do I give it?" And in the process, He revealed much about the gift He has given me.

It's true...everyone can encourage and we all are commanded to (1 Thes. 5:11), but some are given this as a gift. (Romans 12:8) And Biblically to encourage means so much more than giving someone a pat on the back. This is a gift that can help others become more like Christ and lead to great ministry. See Baranabus for an example in the book of Acts.

Friend, this isn't a post about encouragement, but I pray it does encourage. Specifically I'm asking God to help you not just identify your spiritual gifts, but more importantly to understand them. My daughter hasn't knitted that scarf because she doesn't know how to use the tools and do it...friend, God has given us gifts to use as tools, but if we don't understand how to use them He can't do His work through us!

Take some time to think about the gifts He's given to you...pray and ask Him to help you understand them so that you can use them!! Remember every gift God gives is good and comes with a purpose...don't let it sit on the shelf or get buried in the closet!!

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully."
Romans 12:6-8

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Choices We Make

Choices - we each make thousands of them a day...some are big, some are small, some easy, others hard, but each one is important. The other day I found myself thinking about my last post. I shared about my call to action, a new ministry and a bit about Wendy Blight's new book. As I was thinking, life around me was was day 2 of the blizzard, all 5 of my kids were a bit on edge and my two and a half year old has decided to give up napping. (So the kids may or may not have been following my lead!! :)

In about a ten minute stretch I think I broke up 2 fights, corrected one act of disobedience and heard my baby ask "Why?" at least 10 times. As the volume in our house increased and the chaos seemed to grow, I thought of the subtitle of Wendy's book - "Making Faith Filled Choices in the Midst of a Messy Life." Friend, I was in the midst of a messy day, but I'm sorry to admit I couldn't claim the first phrase of the title quite so confidently.

In the midst of the mess I was reacting, responding and making choices - some were faith filled, but others were faith-less. It was then I had the thought - "The choices we make determine the legacy we leave!" And in that moment my mind shifted from what my children were doing wrong to the mistakes I myself was making. And friend as I reflected, I saw how each one of my mistakes could be traced back to a choice I had made.

The following choices didn't all lead up to my frustration, but take a minute with me and think about the choices we face throughout the day -

Do I choose to spend time on Facebook or do I choose to read a book to the little faces in my house?

Do I connect with friends from far away or do I spend time building a relationship with the ones I love?
(With these two I'm not saying drop FB or forget long distance friends, but perhaps like me you need to be reminded to keep first things first.)

Do I devote myself to ministry or do I make my home my first place to minister?

Do I tune out my son as he talks about the latest thing he's going to invent or do I listen to him and let him know I care?

Do I spend an extra hour in my warm bed or do I discipline myself and get up to spend quiet time with Jesus?

Do I react out of anger and let my emotions get the best of me or do I act in love and let God work His best through me?

Do I spend time with my husband and invest in our marriage or do I do what I want and live with the pain that's created?

Do I consume myself with the urgent or do I choose to focus on what and who's important?

Do I choose to hear the lies that speak loudly or will I listen to the Voice of Truth that whispers to my heart?

I could go on, but I'm guessing you get the idea!

Friend, as I thought about this I was reminded that Wendy's new book is about so much more than what I shared in my last post. My words were true...her study played a part in God leading me to step out in ministry, which is good and important, but I also want you to know it applies to everyday life. And honestly isn't that the part that is always messy?!?

Take this picture for example, I wish it was staged, but it's not. It's a real-life look at my house. I'd instructed one daughter to start folding clothes, then went into a different room to help my oldest and came back to find this -

My little Mr. Mischievous, who's smile is always sweet, but actions can be otherwise, decided to have some fun and big sis decided to join in. Now, I could have lost it and in the past I have, BUT GOD had me pause and led me to make a choice that was faith-filled and one I pray will leave a legacy that impacts others and pleases God. I chose to see it as two young people having fun and doing childish things and after we enjoyed the moment I chose to teach them a lesson - our actions have consequences and had them clean it up instead of choosing what would be easier (and faster) and just do it myself.

This may not seem like much, but friend as we make faith-filled choices over and over a difference is made. Others see this, learn from it and experience God's love. And one choice at a time you and I are leaving a legacy.

All these words about choices make me think of a song that was sung at our wedding - "As For Me and My House". Thirteen years ago my husband and I made a choice and commitment to serve the Lord. I thought I knew what that meant, but now 5 kids later I've learned a lot and I know God still has more to teach me!! Friend, if we want to make choices that will matter we must first choose to serve the Lord!!

When we make this choice, God will provide us with the desire, ability and strength to do it!! And He will give us countless opportunities to prove it!! If like me, you realize there are still times you make choices that are faith-less, but yet have the desire to change join me in a making a choice God will bless. Look into getting Wendy's new book "Living So That" - I pray it will help us each make faith-filled choices that will lead to a Godly legacy!!

To learn more about "Living So That" visit Wendy's website by clicking HERE. To get a taste of her book sign up for her FREE 5 Day Devotional by clicking HERE. To pre-order a copy click HERE.

Friend, what are your thoughts about the choices we make? How are you better able to make faith filled choices in the midst of a messy life?

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, 
so that they may see your good works 
and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." 
Matthew 5:16 (ESV Emphasis Added)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"A Call To Action"

"We must continually move forward in our faith. It is when we stand still or slide backward that we open ourselves up to Satan, the enemy of our souls." Wendy Blight

This is a quote that contains much truth and is a concept our pastor touched on awhile back. He said following Christ is a bit like a fish swimming upstream. And friend, let me ask you, "What happens to the fish if he stops?" Right, he goes back and loses ground; the exact same thing happens to you and me when we stop moving towards Jesus.

Accepting Christ, having faith and going to church are not enough; we must have a relationship that is growing and thriving in our ordinary everyday life. How does this happen? By getting into God's Word...using the Bible, God will teach, reproof, correct and train. (2 Timothy 3:16) This is something many of us know and believe, but it's not something everyone does.

I'll admit there was a time Bible reading was something on my to-do list. There was a time I read God's Word for information without experiencing transformation. Thankfully God has given me a hunger for His Word and a desire to really study it! Today, I'd like to share a tool He's used to take that passion to another level.

In November of 2012, I took part in Wendy Blight's online study called "Living So That - Our Call to Action." (Read those words HERE.) Last week I pulled out the folder that held the study along with my prayer journal and I was blessed to walk down memory lane. I was reminded of the "So That's" we studied - God Spoke So That, Trials Come So That, Pray So That and Live So That. I thought about how I can no longer read the Bible without noticing a "So That" verse. And most importantly I realized all God had done as I dug into His Word.

He'd opened my eyes to things I knew, but really didn't understand. He showed His faithfulness as I reflected on prayers that had been answered. I had taken the time and Wendy's study had given me a tool to really get into God's Word and as I did His Word got into me. He changed me from the inside out. He spoke to me about how I can live so that He is glorified and His kingdom is impacted.

The "Call to Action" that closed each lesson really challenged me and encouraged me to live out what I'd learned. Titus 2:3-5 has been an important verse to me for years, but it was in this study that I learned why it was important. Friend, do you know why the older women are commanded to train the younger? SO THAT the Word of God will not be maligned. This new found knowledge took my passion for mentoring to a whole new level and nearly 6 months after the study I stepped out in action to do what God had called me to do! With God's leading, I started a Titus24U group at our church where women of all ages gather together to study, worship and pray SO THAT God's Word will not be maligned.

Friend, this is just the beginning, but I'm excited to let you know you can do this study for yourself! Wendy's new book, "Living So That - Making Faith Filled Choices in the Midst of a Messy Life" will be available March 4. I want you to know this is not another book that promises you answers instead it will point you to the One with the answers! It may not lead you to start a ministry, but through it you will move forward in your walk with Christ!! You will get into God's Word and it will get into you!! You will read and pray powerful prayers...ones that God will answer! You will be encouraged, comforted and even convicted...all things we need and God wants!

This past summer I had the joy and privilege of working with Wendy as she spoke at our women's event and friend she is a woman with a passion for the Word, a desire to share and the gift to teach. God's Word has transformed her and she prays it will do the same for you!! So today your call to action -  visit her site to learn more about her new book SO THAT you can keep swimming upstream!!

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, 
so that they may see your good works 
and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." 
Matthew 5:16 (ESV Emphasis Added)

My Joy was so excited to meet Wendy this summer and friend you'll be grateful to meet her on the pages of her book!

Monday, February 17, 2014

What breaks your heart?

Have you ever really thought about this question? Truly, what breaks your heart? What is your answer? This is something I've been thinking about, but I'll admit it's something I prayed about before I really thought about.

Late last year I heard a song I've heard numerous times, but that time the words really hit. Seven of them in particular! They were, "Break our hearts for what breaks yours." This became a prayer of mine, one I even elaborated on in my journal, but as time passed I'm sorry to admit my thoughts of it did as well.

Fast forward to the last ten heart had been burdened and the weight I felt was heavy. It seemed my eyes had been opened to something that was wrong, to teaching that wasn't right. I had no direct connection to this person and tried telling myself that it really didn't matter...I could simply choose not to listen or read any of this person's material. 

That sounded simple enough, but for some reason I couldn't let it go. I care about the people who look to this person for teaching and am concerned about those associated with one I question. 

These thoughts went through my mind and I found myself asking a familiar question, "Who am I to judge?" These are words I've considered often...others are more educated, more experienced and better equipped to make this judgment. And the biggest reason to disqualify myself? I'm not perfect either!!

I even thought about what the Bible says, "Judge not or you to will be judged." (Matthew 7:7) As I thought about this another verse came to that is not as familiar and isn't quoted nearly as often - 1 Corinthians 5:12-13. Paul says, "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.

These are strong words and they had me thinking. Friend, the world tells us not to judge, but in His Word, God tells us there are times to judge. We are to "judge" our fellow brothers and sisters. If, better yet when, we see sin we are instructed to point it out. We must do this in Godly way and after we've prayed for wisdom and direction, but Christians are instructed to keep one another accountable. 

As I found this situation weighing on me more and more I finally called out to God and asked, "Why?" In the wee hours of the night, He reminded me of the prayer I'd prayed months ago. A prayer I prayed, wrote down and honestly then forgot. I had asked Him to break my heart for what breaks His. 

I believe that's what He's doing! And He has been using this situation to make me really think about what breaks His heart. I've been thinking about this, reading the Bible to study about it and have come up with one simple answer - SIN!! 

Friend, sin breaks God's heart and it should break ours! As we think about this, let us remember another passage I've recently dug into - Matthew 7:3-5. These verses say, Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." 

You and I must FIRST address the sin in our own lives before we confront another, but we can't let our sin disqualify us from helping someone else. Verse 5 tells us that. Removing the plank from our own eye is only the first step and by doing this we will see clearly to do what we need to do next - remove the speck from our brother's eye. 

Friend, I encourage you to think about what breaks your heart. Is it what breaks God's?? Ask Him to help you examine your own heart. Are you in anyway breaking His? If so, deal with the sin. If not, don't turn your head or close your eyes to sin, but instead remember what God does. He responds to sin and saves us from it. By pointing out sin to a fellow believer you can remind them He is able (and willing) to do the same!!

Today, let us be thankful for the One who is a friend to sinners and may we follow His example and be a friend as well!! "Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours!!"

Thursday, February 13, 2014

New Twist, Old Tradition

Earlier this week we celebrated my oldest's 11th birthday...I can't believe J.D.'s 5 years from his driver's licence and 7 short years from graduation. We had a good time celebrating and remembering. And today I wanted to share a bit about a tradition that helps us remember.

When my son was born I wrote him a letter and shared about the day, our thoughts and emotions. And each year on his birthday I write him a letter. (I do this for the others as well.) I typically share about things they did, what they enjoy and how they interact with their siblings. I assure them of my love, but honestly admit struggles too. As the years have passed, the kids have added messages to their siblings and we've done some fill in the blanks - "When I grow up..., I like..., My favorite..."

Then at some point on their birthday we pull out the folder and start at the beginning..."The Day You Were Born" takes me back every single time. As do the birthday letters...we laugh as we recall stories and remember the things they did and said. With each passing year it's a tradition the kids enjoy more. This year before Joy's birthday, J.D. even asked if I had her letter written yet!

It's fun to remember and look back on the times that have passed, but this year I've added a new twist - at the end of the letter to my child, I write a prayer for them. It's specific and includes Scripture, and most importantly will someday be answered!

I pray this new twist is one my children will someday appreciate as well. Obviously they enjoy the funny stories, but I know one day we'll all value the prayers that will produce results. I think about 5 years down the road when we're reading this year's letter...I'm sure the stories will bring smiles, but I trust the prayer will bring tears.

God is faithful and will answer my prayers in His time and in His way and because of this new twist to an old tradition I look forward to Him building our faith through it all.

Friend, perhaps your baby is past 11 and you think it's too late to start this tradition, let me encourage you it's never too late!! Next month I'll turn 38 (can't believe how fast I'm growing up!!:) and though I've never received a prayer as a present, I think it would be the perfect gift. And the thought of reading it a few years down the road is quite exciting. It's important to be able to look back and remember the silly stories, but especially the powerful prayers!! This is a tradition that helps you do just that!!

If you have a tradition that does the same, I'd love to hear about it!! Please share!

Finally, this makes me think of a verse a friend recently shared with me - Exodus 16:32 says, "This is what the LORD has commanded: Fill a two-quart container with manna to preserve it for your descendants. Then later generations will be able to see the food I gave you in the wilderness when I set you free from Egypt." God is no longer giving us manna, but by writing and sharing our prayers we can show future generations what God can and will do!!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Remembering My Regrets

In my last post I wrote about remembering God's faithfulness, but last night I found myself remembering my regrets. As I watched a high school basketball game, I could not believe 20 years have passed since I last sported the "Wildcat" jersey. This year's team was playing, but in my mind I was remembering a team from the past. It was fun to share a few highlight memories with my daughters...we were conference champs and I had some individual success, but whats lingered in my mind is the regrets.

I'm not dwelling on these regrets in a bad way and I understand I can't change the past, but I believe God has me remembering them for a reason. I know some will say they have no regrets because God uses all things for our good and His glory; I agree with that Truth - He can work bad from good, but I also know I'm a sinful being who lives in a fallen world. Friend, you and I will make mistakes and chances are we may even have regrets.

But God can even use them! Last night I believe He had me remember my regrets so that I would not repeat them. In high school and through much of my life I've often been the one who is quiet, intimidated and fearful. I've worried about what others would think and have often doubted myself. As I remembered my days on the basketball court I thought about coach often referred to me as a quiet leader, but always encouraged me to share my love of and enthusiasm for the game with my teammates. I played with intensity and aggressiveness on defense, but offensively my fears limited me more than the opponent did. In our backyard I took shots and made moves I never did in the gym.

I didn't beat myself up as these thoughts entered my mind, but I have found myself praying and asking God to help. I want Him to keep me from looking back and having the same memories in another 20 years. The memories I'm making now are no longer linked to a game, but instead I think about my role as a Christian in the game of life. I have a passion for faith and a love for Christ and God wants me to share that with I? Will I? God has gifted me and is calling me to do things...some that seem hard, others that intimidate me and a few that leave me thinking what will everyone think. Will these thoughts and challenges hold me back and leave me with regrets? I pray they don't!

How about you? What are some of your regrets? I challenge you to think about them and as you do pray and ask God to teach you something from them. Ask Him for strength not to repeat them, but instead help you remember them so that you can learn from them.

Remember regrets are not bad...they can lead to repentance. (2 Corinthians 7:10) And don't forget though regrets are often remembered, they don't need to be repeated!! Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Walking in Faith

Do you ever sense God leading you to a place you're not sure you want to go? Perhaps He's asking you to do something you don't feel qualified to do. Maybe you don't feel worthy of the task He's given. When this happens, what do we do?

We must seek His guidance - go to Him in prayer and listen. He will show us what to do and confirm His direction, but you and I must be aware, listen and look for His response. It will come in His Word, through His soft whisper and by way of words from a trusted friend. 

Another thing that will help is remembering what the Lord had Joshua do at the Jordan. He told him, "Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight." (Joshua 4:2-3)

Do you remember why they were told to do this? We find the answer in verses 6-7, "to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

Friend, in the moment when God is leading you into the unknown, look back and remember the places He's led you through. Let His faithfulness in the past give you courage for the present and hope for the future. If He calls you to something, no matter how big, hard or scary, He will lead you through it. Keep your eyes on Him and allow Him to work through you! 

Let us remember, and live, 2 Corinthians 5:7 - "For we live by faith, not by sight." (NIV) For a fresh look at the verse, The Voice says, "The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes."

And friend as you walk in faith don't forget these powerful words Paul shared in Philippians, "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." Today, let us walk where God leads and trust what He does!!