Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Royal Party!

Today marks my little girl's 8th birthday! It's amazing how time flies...Jaylyn has grown from our little Peanut (she was born a month early weighing just over 5 pounds) into a tender-hearted, softball loving, active young lady who loves others and Jesus. Her faith, desire to share it and curiosity to learn more teach me much. As I thought about her birthday, a post from the past came to mind. I pray these words bless you as they do me! And now 5 years later, I'm grateful to say my little lady now has two birthdays - today when we celebrate her physically entering this world and in October when she gave her life to Christ! 

A week ago our little Jaylyn celebrated her 3rd birthday! It was an enjoyable day for all of us! She was excited about everything and thankful for even the littlest thing! "Peanut" was a princess and the party was hers!! She even sported a nice princess crown most of the day!

I'd have to say the crown is fitting for my little girl of royalty! She is beautiful, inside and out! Most of the time she's tenderhearted and she really wants to help. Jaylyn is soft-spoken and usually expresses herself more with her eyes than her words. She's a little girl we love and thank God for!

As I thought about my little girl turning 3, I realized she is growing up! She knows her colors, is learning her shapes and wants to do everything her big sister does! And when I look at her 3 month old brother it's obvious that she is not a baby anymore! She is becoming more independent every day!

In my reflecting during this last week I've thought of another birthday that took place a couple of months ago - mine. Not the one with candles, cake and cards, but one that's more significant than that - my spiritual birthday. It's been 10 years since I gave my life to Christ and my what a decade it has been!

I have plenty of thoughts to share, but for now my focus is this - a party for the princess. Honestly it makes me laugh to type those words, it made sense for my little Peanut, but this basketball loving, jeans wearing tomboy has never, and I mean NEVER considered herself a princess! I don't think I even dreamt of it as a child!

But as we celebrated our own little Princess's birthday I wondered if God had done the same for me. We know He is our King, so as His daughter, I am a princess and so are you! Perhaps like me, the title makes you laugh and that's OK, the important thing is understanding what that means.

You, my friend are royalty! Your Father, the King, loves you more than I love Peanut, my princess. Even if others (and even you) don't see it, He knows you are beautiful. The King created you and made you in His image! When others won't listen or can't understand, turn to Him and trust in His plan.

As I thought about these princess parties my mind made some comparisons - God sees me the way I see my child! He knows the good and bad, but loves me anyway. He cries when I hurt and is honored when I obey. I help Jaylyn learn, grow and mature and He does the same for me.

There were many similarities, but one difference came to mind - my little girl is becoming independent and will do so more and more as the years go by. But me on the other hand, I depend more on my Father than I ever have! In 10 years I have grown as a person, matured spiritually and learned much about faith, but little by little my desire for independence has decreased. Unlike my 3 year old, I realize I am not in control!!

In the years ahead I know my little one will only continue to need me less and less, but I pray every step of independence only leads her to take another step towards complete dependence! I look forward to more parties for our princess (and her sister too!) not just ones that celebrate the day we held her in our arms, but also the one that marks the anniversary of when she welcomed HIM into her heart!!

Here's a quote that sums it up quite well,
"In C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian, a child named Lucy encounters Aslan, the Christ figure of the Narnia stories, after not seeing him for a long while. "Aslan, you're bigger," she says.

"That is because you're older, little one," answered he.

"Not because you are?"

"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."

The more mature in the faith we are, the bigger God will be for us. As our vision of God becomes clearer and we understand his enormity, we learn to rest in Him. We grow in our ability to depend completely on Him and know that with a God as competent as the God we find in the pages of Scripture, the universe in which we find ourselves is truly a safe place for us." Kenneth Boa

My little Princess and her pup!!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Just say it...

Welcome to those of you stopping over after reading my devotional, More Than Words, at the Encouragement Cafe. It was a joy to share a bit about my little guy's new favorite game - "Love Ya, Beat Ya!" (You can read it HERE.) I'm working to enjoy these moments, but I'm also still learning in the midst of them.

 The Official "Love Ya, Beat Ya" Inventor
You see, though my little guy needed to understand that love was more than words, I've been reminded that I too need to say, "I love you." I grew up in a loving home, but we rarely expressed it. I tend to be a private person who finds it hard to share from my heart and express appreciation. God's helped me grow in this area and now I can easily say the 3 little words to my husband and children, but I still struggle sharing them outside the walls of our house.

As I was thinking about this, God brought someone to mind to start with and led me to share through writing. I began putting my message together and then believed the lie that it didn't matter, so I set it aside. In time, I found myself writing again and suddenly in mid-sentence an old question entered my mind, "What will she think?" I recognized this and realized I was worrying about what others would think and then a new question entered my mind, "Jill, would you appreciate these words?" I sensed a quick "Yes" and went on to finish the message.

I then whispered a prayer and hit send. Then more thoughts entered my mind and I found myself wondering why this was so hard, why it felt awkward. I'm sure culture and past experience have something to do with it. In our world today these words can be thrown around rather easily. They can be empty, which is why we must not just love with words, but in deed and truth. I want my "I love you's" to be genuine and carry meaning. I pray when I whisper, or write, these three little words they are fulfilling Ephesians 4:29.

As I continued to reflect, I had a new thought...sometimes "I love you" is hard for me to say because it's also hard for me to receive. Saying this familiar phrase and hearing it have some similarities. I'm in the process of preparing a message about our worth and I'm learning how understanding who I am and where my worth comes from is connected to my experience with love.

Ultimately this all goes back to God - 1 John 4:8 tells us, "God is love." He is the One who loved me while I was still a sinner. (Romans 5:8) He is the One who loved me enough to send His Son to die. (John 3:16) He is the One who loved me first. (1 John 4:19) I don't have to earn His love, He lavishes it on me, and you. (1 John 3:1) He longs for us to believe this and receive it.

Friend, as we do that we can share it with others and impact the kingdom. Like my lil boy we must realize love is more than words, but as I'm learning using words to express our love is important too. Do you appreciate hearing "I love you"? If so, chances are the one you share them with will be blessed as well! Is there someone who needs to hear you say, "I love you"? Just say it!!

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. 
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." 
1 John 4:7

Monday, January 19, 2015

Still thinking about keeping score...

First of all a big thanks to each of you who shared in response to my last post. It was one I didn't want to write, but God showed me it was one He used. Friend, keeping score in our marriage, friendships or family is not good. It is something that will only bring the relationship down and drive the people apart. In sports, the score separates the teams...in life it divides the individuals. Keeping score also impacts our relationship with God. And last week, He showed me another way this little habit can cause problems.

Friday, I went to the dentist...never my favorite thing to do, and found out there's work that needs to be done. That's what always happens, when I go there. Job, on the other hand has wonderful teeth and never has an issue. So after receiving the estimate, I was depressed. Honestly, it ruined my day. I let it anyway.

That opened the door for Satan and he flooded my mind with crazy, wrong thoughts. Words about my worth, Job's potential response, and lots of other lies. Soon I wasn't just depressed, but overwhelmed and feeling like a failure.

Thankfully, after a few hours of Satan's attack, God brought a verse to mind. (Side-note - here's a prime example of why it's important to study and memorize the Word. If it's hidden in our heart, we are able to pick it up and use it as our sword when Satan attack. See Eph. 6) He reminded me of 2 Timothy 2:15...a verse I had studied and taught about earlier in the week.

Here Paul tells Timothy, and all Christians, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of Truth." Friend, if you've never dug into this verse I'd encourage you to do so...it is FULL of wisdom as we journey through life and walk in faith.

God used it to renew my mind in 3 different ways. First of all He started with the last little phrase - "who correctly handles the word of Truth." In the Greek, correctly handles means to rightly divide...the words were often used in tent making and meant to cut the material and piece it together perfectly. I was not doing this...at times I wasn't even applying the Word. I was allowing Satan to define me by my looks, which is counter to Scripture, (1 Samuel 16) and I was NOT taking every though captive. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Then He moved to these words - "who does not need to be ashamed." Friend, let me tell you I was feeling ashamed. As God spoke to my heart about this, He also brought up keeping score. In the world keeping score may seem great when I'm the person winning, but when I'm the one who's losing shame can come, it will come and that is not good. In His Word, God tells us we do not need to be ashamed. Let me say, my husband wasn't making me feel ashamed, but Satan was. He lives to divide us and will use any method he can...including having us keep score. Friend, back in Genesis sin entered the world and Adam and Eve experienced shame (Gen. 2:25); Romans 3 tells us we are all sinners and since sin brings shame we all experience it. But we don't need to be ashamed...dig into God's word to find freedom from it!!

Finally, He closed up our lesson together by reminding me of what I need to do. I need to set the score book down and focus on doing my best to present myself to God. In the Greek, the word we translate for present is one that means "to show, put up for inspection". They describe it as a bride presenting herself to her husband. I'll admit I never enjoy presenting myself to the dentist...he sees things nobody ever does, he knows where I fall short when it comes to dental hygiene. Oh but friend, there will come a day when I present myself to God. (You will too!) And a trip to the dentist doesn't come close to comparing to that!!

Friend, if you are tempted to keep score...let me encourage you to stop - it only divides you and the other person, sets you up for failure and keeps you from doing your best. As I've been writing this, thoughts went to Psalms 34:3...the verse I claim for my marriage. "Glorify the LORD with me, let us exalt His name together." When I'm keeping score with my husband...this can not happen. But if I view Him as a teammate, we can work towards our goal. Sure there may be days when Job's the MVP and I find myself on the bench, but if the ultimate goal is glory for God it really doesn't matter. Friend, today I pray we let God take care of the score so we can focus on doing our best and winning for Him!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Post I Didn't Want to Write

Over Christmas I found myself dealing with a struggle I thought I had overcome, but over the last 20 days I've noticed the battle is still there. For nearly 2 weeks prior to Christmas we had sickness in our house and it wasn't the 24 hour flu. People (my husband and 5 kids) were sick for 4 days at a time...looking back I'm grateful we had some overlap!!

Through it all I'm thankful I stayed pretty healthy and I also realized there is a reason I never pursued nursing!! I also discovered another thing...sometimes I still struggle with equality. Early on in marriage I knew this was true; I hate to admit that I was an official score keeper in our house. I knew how often Job did something fun and what extra money he spent. Then along came kids and it seemed I was the one tied down...the one who gave up my job, some hobbies, my freedom. It pains me to type that, but friend that was reality. I compared everything and had the mindset that things should be equal.

Thankfully God opened my eyes to the sin that was in my heart and the reality of Genesis 3:16 in my life. Our heavenly Father also helped me open up and share my struggles with Job. We've come along ways since those early years! But last month God helped me take what I believe will be a big step in really overcoming this wrong mindset.

You see as I comforted and dealt with sick children, my typical Christmas prep work was left undone. We had baked cookies, but never really got around to frosting them. Decorations were left in the box. Traditions were forgotten. Sickness consumed our days...or so it seemed.

When the kids weren't sick they were disappointed with the change in plans and missing traditions. To be honest I was a frustrated and tired Mom and again had to surrender control. I wanted to make my kids better. I wanted to make Christmas perfect. I wanted everyone to be happy. Everything I wanted to do, I couldn't.

Christmas eve came and one of our little guys still wasn't 100% so I stayed home from Christmas Eve service with him and his lil brother. That was hard and again I found myself keeping score in my marriage. I didn't say anything to Job, but as the grumblings went through my mind and as my little guys drifted off to sleep God put a verse on my heart.

Philippians 2:6-8 came to mind, "Who, although He (Jesus) existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

The phrase, "did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped" hit hard and would not go away. I wasn't seeking equality with God, but I sure was with my husband. In my eyes his job seemed easy...he had been sick for 4 days, but I'd been taking care of sick kids (and him) for a long time. He provided finances for presents, but I did all the shopping, hiding and wrapping. My focus was ALL wrong...that's what keeping score does...it puts you against them. Friend, our husbands are not our opponent - they are on our team!! Trying to keep things equal and wanting all the good it seemed Job was experiencing led to problems too.

As I thought about Jesus' example all of this became clear and God revealed one sin after another. He also reminded me - if Jesus, who is God can give up His desire to be an equal, I need to let it go as well. I need to empty myself and be a servant....and friend, if you call yourself a believer, God expects you to do the same.

Now don't take me wrong...this is not a license for someone to take advantage of you or harm you, but instead an opportunity to live like Jesus did. A chance for us to embrace God's sovereignty and share His love. Oh friend, I know this is not an easy task...it can be simple to read these words and agree with them, but when sickness hits, changes come and life is unfair - it is hard!!

But friend, Jesus, the One who didn't strive for equality or keep score with us, died so one day we could go to heaven. That is not all though, He died so today He could live in you and me. Friend, the power that resurrected Christ is in us. It will help us put the score book down and will equip us to serve others, especially the ones we love the most!

My prayers for us today is to live out Ephesians 5:1-2 - "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Thoughts about Worth

Welcome to those of you joining me from the Encouragement Cafe today. It's an honor to be sharing a devotional there...you can read it by clicking HERE. I'll ask you the question that is the title of the devo - "Have you ever felt unworthy?"

My answer is a BIG ole YES! But I truly would love to hear your experience with this struggle that I've come to believe we all experience. Next month I'm going to be sharing about this very topic at a Valentine's Tea and I'd appreciate learning more about others' battle with these feelings. So please share in the comments or send me an email at jillberan@yahoo.com - thanks!!

A couple of weeks back our pastor preached on Philippians 3:17 where Paul says, "Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do." I grew up idolizing (I now know that's a bad thing) basketball players and coaches...I followed their example and wanted to be like them. When I became the varsity player and later a coach, I took the responsibility of being a role model seriously and strived to set an example others could follow.

My days in the gym are over, but this recent sermon has me thinking about the example I set because people are still watching - especially 5 youngsters in my house! Our pastor instructed us to think about who's example influences us and as he shared I was grateful for the people God brought to mind. Ones who encourage, speak Truth and point me to Christ. People who follow hard after God, read His Word and follow His lead.

Then he encouraged us to think about the example we are setting...what do people see when they look at me? Am I walking a walk I want them to walk? Do I want them to imitate me?

Friend, the things we do and say, the life we live and the One we serve are important. People are watching. We are setting an example. The question is - Is it a good and Godly one?

These questions brought to mind a time from years ago...back in 2009 I had a conversation with my daughter Joy who was days from turning 5. She had tried on a new dress and told me, "I'm not pretty." I remember being shocked that such a young child could already struggle with these thoughts. I also remember God speaking Truth to me as I shared it with her.

Five years have passed and I wish I could tell you we never had this conversation again, but I can't...actually as she continues to grow and approach the teen years it seems to happen more. She's actually added another line, "You're just saying that." Those are words I know all to well! Though they don't often come out of mouth, they have run through my mind.

Friend, you and I can share Truth with others and tell them who they are in Christ, but we also must believe it and live it out as well. It's important for me to tell my daughters who God says they are, but those words will have more power when they see me living them as well. Today will you join me in embracing your WORTH and setting an example for others to follow.

"You are altogether beautiful,my darling; there is no flaw in you." Song of Solomon 4:7

"Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord." Psalms 45:11

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Start to 2015

Another year has come to a close and again I'm thinking the same thing - "It went so fast!"  At the start of each year, my mind often goes to thoughts about living intentionally. It seems so easy for time to go by and I look back and see how it was wasted. I would never throw money away like I do time. How about you?

Friend, our days are numbered and once they are gone, they are gone, there's no going back. Thankfully God doesn't want us to live with regrets, but He does expect us to learn from mistakes. So this year what changes do you want to make? How will you use the 365 days 2015 holds? 

Philippians 3:13-14 says, "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Friend, the past is past...in His Word, God instructs us to forget it, but He also directs us to strain and press on. 

I'm not sure how many people are heading into the the new year thinking about straining...that word takes me back to New Year's Day early morning basketball practice over 20 years ago. It was the practice we all dreaded, but as an athlete driven to succeed it was something I did. Oh, to approach my walk with Christ with the same discipline, dedication and desire. Friend, may 2015 be the year you and I press on. May it be the year we don't just set lofty goals and dream big dreams, but one where we commit to straining, to doing the work that growing in faith requires. 

There's no 3 step program to accomplish this, but seeking God, starting our day with Him and staying focused will help. A few years back, Wendy Blight shared her New Year's prayer and it's become something I do as well. It's a simple way to start the year, but also a powerful tool as we walk in faith. As the year goes by I pull it out and pray it from time to time and when the year is done it helps me reflect on all God has done. 

Yesterday I started thinking about the prayer I would write and 4 M's came to mind - myself, marriage, mothering and ministry. This morning as I wrote my New Year's Prayer, I gave the 4 M's to God and shared what He put on my heart. I trust this prayer will be answered and know it will be a tool He will use in the year to come. Friend I encourage you to visit Wendy's site to learn more about this (click HERE) and I pray you will consider writing your very own prayer as well. If you want to live the year with God and for Him, we must start it by praying to Him!!

Dear Heavenly Father,
Lord, You are good, You are present and You are working. Thank You for walking with me, equipping me and using me in the year that has passed. As 2015 unfolds, I pray that I would keep my eyes on You and continually renew my mind so that You would continue the work You’ve begun. Thank you Father for being the One who is always there…Your Word says You will never leave or forsake me and You haven’t. May I trust in You with all of my heart; take away my desire to lean on my understanding. 

Lord, I know you are again drawing me out of my comfort zone and I ask for focus…help me tune out the lies and dig deeper into Your Word. May it be a light unto my path. Help me be like Mary and respond with obedience and do the good works You’ve created me to do. Help me be like the wisemen and seek You. Help me be like the shepherds and share Your good news. As I walk the path You’ve planned may I do so while praying continuously. May this be a year that I draw closer to You and allow You to do more through me. Help me run the race with endurance, perseverance, purpose and discipline. Open my ears to hear from You and tender my heart to receive all You have for me.

Father, I also lift up my marriage to You. Continue to draw Job and I closer to You and one another. May we truly desire to be a picture of You and the church. Help me lay aside my selfish wants, humble myself and put him first. Unite us with a passion to follow You, love You and serve You.

As another year passes, my kids have grown older and mothering changes and in ways gets harder. Lord, I ask for wisdom…help me be the Mom that each of the kids need. Give me patience and help me be consistent. Give me eyes to see them the way You do and equip me to help them grow closer to You. Help me be an example who walks the walk and a teacher who points them to You. I long to encourage them to be the people You created them to be. Draw us closer to You and strengthen all the relationships that exist in our house. 

Lord, I also pray for the ministry You’ve called me to. First and foremost I pray for priorities…help me always remember my home is where it all begins and matters most. I also ask for wisdom…help me know when to say “Yes” and when to say “No” so that I can do what You call me to do. Lord when I do step out I ask You to give me the words, whether I write them or speak them, and the courage to share them with passion. As I share my story, may I encourage others in theirs and equip them with Your’s. Help me remember Lord that I serve an audience of One and help me strive to please You, not man. Father, like Joshua help me be strong and courageous and do what You’ve commanded me to do trusting You will not leave or forsake me. 

In the year to come may the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart please You Lord and may they also build up the body and bless those who hear. Lord thank you for drawing me closer to You, breaking down some walls and helping me grow in my faith in 2014. Your love is incomprehensible, but I’m grateful for how You give me more and more understanding as I walk with You. Help me embrace it and share it Lord. Father, I give this year to You and boldly ask You to do more than I could think or imagine. I love You, I trust You and I need You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen